Traveling for vacation – Plan it out!

We had a large (20 people) family vacation that I organized for a major birthday. To say that planning was involved would be a complete understatement.  There was planning the “hotel” reservations (actually timeshares) for everyone – which was tricky enough to find a place where we all could stay.  Then there was the usual car rentals and flight reservations.

This was far from a “let’s just take it easy vacation” to more of a “let’s plan it all” vacation. We really had to plan because we went to Disneyworld.  Pre-reading really gave us some great tips, like checking out sites for various things like crowd calendars, where to find discount tickets, and dining options.

The last time I went to Disneyworld my children were probably 8 and 10.  In 20 years things have changed, and there are more international visitors too!  Back then we just wandered around from one exhibit to the next.  Now we had to plan what rides we could go on based on very young children’s heights, and then actually decide which ones were more important to get Fast Passes (new Disney system to get into a faster lane thru “time reservations”.)

 For Disney trips

Then there was the online planning through the My Disney Experience app and touring plans app which tracked our dinner reservations, sent reminder messages,  and even told us line wait times for various rides.  I liked the old days of just walking around.  But planning dining reservations seemed to be a must  if you didn’t want to wait hours to eat!

General Vacation Organizing Tips

Because there was so much just from everyone’s timeshare reservation, car rentals, plane flights, crowd calendars, weather, dining reservations,  etc.; I actually found that using a notebook with plastic/vinyl dividers helped to organize all the aspects of the trip.

For your summer vacation, be sure to plan – between reading books, Excel spreadsheets, a binder, and apps, it took all resources to plan this trip, and there was still things we didn’t do.  Don’t forget the raincoat and sweatshirt!  Mother Nature doesn’t care about your plans; she changes her mind –  it was cold and rainy some days.  Oh, and don’t forget the medical phone numbers and meds, we still had to order meds due to new problems.  Planning helps, but the unexpected happens.



List it!

Like any other project with a definite deadline, I planned ahead. After 3 months of antibiotics not working, I am having sinus surgery this Tuesday.  Surgery might be outpatient, but it still means rearranging things.

First, I made a list of the things that needed to be done before surgery.  I like to list Business in the left-hand column and Personal in the right-hand column on a paper pad about 5×8.  The idea of writing it down vs. putting it on the computer Task List seems to help me when I’m under tight deadlines.  I think it’s the visual in me that says I need to SEE the List and writing vs. typing seems to reinforce it in my head.

It also helps to take into account results – i.e. I know I won’t be able to bend down or lift much for several weeks, so adding to the list of things to do was Clean the House on Sunday.  (Mission accomplished.)  That included another important item – clean the whole bed – washing the blanket and comforter as well as the sheets for maximum health (no sneezing germs still around).

Of course it also means preparing for the day of surgery – choosing button-down clothes, reviewing pre-surgery information and picking up pain pills.

I know I won’t feel like doing much the day of surgery, or days after, so I will want some distractions besides watching TV.  I created a third list – Bedside Setup.   I like to listen to audio books so I chose several to put on the night table along with a CD player and Radio Shack speaker (will not want to wear headphones with ice packs on my face.)  Plus I am adding some print books to read and my tablet (need full charge) to read emails or look up anything.   Though I just realized as I am writing this that wearing glasses may not be comfortable for a day or two.  (Guess TV series catch-up might not happen.)

So in essence, there are 3 lists:  Business, Personal and Preparation.  Your Preparation might be for an upcoming business trip, meeting, or just preparing for tomorrow.   As a former Girl Scout Leader = Be Prepared.

What’s on your To Do List?

Do you also need to be Prepared?


PS  I’m not prepared for my husband to take care of me.    I’ve always had to take care of his health issues – should be interesting.


2014 – Time to Get Organized

One of the top goals people set for 2014 is:

“This year I am going to get organized.”   

That may be a very large goal that could take all year to accomplish.  So how do you get started?

There are several ways to becoming better organized.

1.  Do it on your own.

Maybe you are good at organizing items.  Your problem may be making the time to do it.  The first step is to break the goal down into smaller parts.

Next, set aside a certain amount of time each week to organize.  When you organize for an hour or less, you barely get started before you are done. And the next time it is as if you are starting over by reviewing what you have done before you can continue.   The longer you can work in one stretch, like 2-4 hours, the more you will accomplish.  Try setting aside longer blocks of time to accomplish more faster, especially if what you want to organize is a large job like your whole office or your whole house.


2.  Add more knowledge

You may have some organizing ideas, but may not feel you know enough to really get organized.  Reading books written by productivity experts or professional organizers can boost your knowledge and make the job easier because someone else has suggested what to do.  This knowledge is often general and not as specific as you may need, but it may kickstart your own ideas on how to personalize your organizational needs.  (Organizing For Dummies® does give many detailed tips about getting organized.)


3.  Get professional help by hiring a productivity expert.

Many people can organize their home but can’t organize their office or their files.  Productivity experts can help you get better organized because we have developed systems to help streamline your organization and can customize it specifically to your needs.  Sometimes hiring an expert is the best and fastest route because it will get done quickly.  (In fact, I needed to talk to a tech expert this week when my internet would not connect and my basic knowledge of restarting my router and modem did not solve the problem.)


Are you ready to get organized this year?

Which method will work best for you considering your time is valuable?

Happy 2014!


What are your goals?

It is the end of 2013 – time to evaluate the past year and set new goals. Your goals could be in any of these areas:

  •   Business / Career
  •   Education           
  •   Family
  •   Financial
  •   Home
  •   Personal
  •   Physical               
  •   Religious /Spiritual
  •   Social


If you set goals in 2013, think about the past year:

  • Which goals did you accomplish?
  • Which ones did you not achieve?
  • Which ones do you want to stop doing?


Now write down your 2014 goals.  People who write them down (vs. keeping them “in the back of their mind”)achieve them.  When you write your goals down,  you make a commitment to yourself. 


For 2014, 

  • What new goals do you want to set?
  • Which goals do you want to keep doing or renew?

Set your goals and keep your targets in sight.


Happy New Year!








Holiday Travel Time

Many of you will be traveling for Thanksgiving or the holidays so you will understand this blog.  I just returned from 2 weeks of visiting family in 3 different states.  We wanted to go in October before it got really cold, but one set of relatives lives in Union City TN where they just opened Discovery Park of America  on November 1st  (worth checking out – 50 acre museum).   I checked the weather for all 3 states and told my husband it was going to be cold.  For some reason he thought a drop from 90’s and 80’s in Arizona to 50’s and 40’s in VA, TN and MO didn’t warrant more than a windbreaker.   He ended up borrowing  a heavier jacket until we shopped for a new one -and gloves! (Of course he owns at least 6 heavy jackets, but they were all staying toasty warm in the closet at home!)  And you know he only brought 1 pair of shoes for 2 weeks, but he lived with that oversight.


I wasn’t sure just what to pack for the trip either.  Should I take heavy winter clothes like for Jan or Feb or would November be the “fall” in-between weight?  I decided the best choice was to bring both short and long sleeves as well as sweaters to layer so I could swing either way.  After all once you live in warm weather all year, you forget whether 50’s and 40’s is cool or freezing to you.  (The answer is “freezing” when you drop 30 degrees– even if it isn’t below  the traditional freezing temp of 32 degrees outside!)


Quick Packing Tips:


Check the 10-day forecast for each destination.  You can even print the forecast so you know what days to wear your warmest clothes.


Pack sweaters to layer

The weather can change on your trip and your closet is at home.  Packing sweaters will help extend your wardrobe and keep you warm in cold restaurants during summer weather.


Keep gloves in every coat.

Left gloves at home in a warmer coat?  Keep a pair in each coat and never leave home again without them.


Bring a change of shoes

Give your feet a break.  Pack dress, casual/walking, and gym shoes.  Then change shoes and your feet will feel better.


Keep a packed bag of cosmetics/toiletries in small sizes.

The easiest way to forget something is to not pack it.  Having a bag of travel toiletries already packed means everything is there.  Just replace items when you return from a trip – or add one like adding an extra small can of shaving cream for the next trip in case the first one runs out.  Even buy a second hairbrush – better to have one in the suitcase than not have one!  That’s one item that is easy to forget, you use it that morning and then it doesn’t get packed!  (You know I had to buy one at an airport once and my hair just didn’t turn out as good as when I use my regular hairbrush.)


Pack some underwear and at least a shirt change in your carry-on – just in case.

We took a “bump” to get a free ticket when the airline overbooked.  It was only a 5-hour delay, but if it had been an overnight bump, our luggage would have been there without us.  If your plane has unforeseen mechanical failure or your luggage is lost, having a change of clothes will feel really good when they put you up in a hotel! 


Tag your luggage and your carry-on pieces.

Use both an ID tag with your name and address as well as some type of colored identifier – like colored shoe laces.  It makes it easier to identify your luggage at airports and hotels.


Have a safe and fun Thanksgiving!

Computer Organization

clip artMy computer is back from the store tonight where it has been for 9 days.  They said it was not a warranty problem but I needed my operating system redone – for a charge not covered by the warranty. of course. So now I have to download all my programs again, and they didn’t really say anything was wrong -a few registry problems.   Couldn’t even duplicate the problems I had – i.e. blue lines on screen, computer freezing, etc.

The desktop looks nice without all those icons – and yes, that’s one of my organizing rules – no documents on the desktop – just frequently used program icons, but it seems like there were still 2 columns of icons.

I don’t recall all the programs I need back on here.   It’s easy to come up with the basics – Microsoft  Office and Outlook, but then there are others like my video program, Camtasia,  Drop Box, antivirus programs, malware programs, back-up programs, camera programs, etc.  What other icons did I have?  Do I really need the C drive?

The one good thing is that I created a password list in Excel that I could easily refer to.  That list reminded me of what programs need to be re-installed.    Of course, Windows Update will probably be running all night.  I have 153 updates to do.  Wow.  Guess I need to hop to bed and let it get started.

Lesson to be garnered here:

Lesson 1:  Make a password list and refer to the list to know what programs you need to re-install.  Don’t install programs you haven’t been using.

Lesson 2: Clear the desktop by limiting the icons.  Do you need 3 icons about your printer?  Will you really order your ink supplies direct  from HP or somewhere else?

Do you need shortcuts to programs you don’t use but came with the machine  (those were the first ones I deleted and uninstalled!)

Lesson 3:  Do not save documents on the desktop – put them in My Documents.  Spend extra seconds to get them organized in folders and not scattered on the desktop.

We spend too much time on the computer these days.  The first place to start is to organize the programs and desktop.  It’s much more pleasant to actually see your desktop!

Next –  onto organizing the electronic file folders!

Happy Organizing!

Every Choice (Decision) has Pros and Cons

It died; and the time to make decisions was thrust upon us.  When making a major decision – business or home –begin with a list of the pros and cons.  And often you have to weight the list because all items are not equal.

You wouldn’t think organization was going to play a major role in choosing an appliance, but it really does.  The repairman said it was not worth replacing the condenser because the refrigerator was too old.

I started with a list of Pros and Cons, with a little obvious weight decision (use a scale of 1-10).  What is important to you with 10 being very important.

Top freezer

Pro – Freezer items are on 2 shelves and at eye level.                                            9 in my book

Con – No outside water/ice maker for quick drinks.                                      10+ for me – I refill ice at least 6x to keep water cold

Notice the Con here weighs more (scale of 1-10) than the Pro.  This is very important as this would be my top choice, but I refill my water glass more than 8 x a day because I like very cold water.


Side by Side

Pro –  Lots of small shelves in both refrigerator and freezer.                                        8 -more organized = easier to find

Con – Can never have large items that really need 2 of these shelves to go across                 10+ for me

OK if you aren’t the one who makes the family holiday dinners or parties)


Bottom Freezer

Pro – Don’t have to bend for everyday items from refrigerator.                                                       5

Plenty of space for large items for dinner parties.                                                                    10+

Con – Items piled in bottom sections – hard to see what you have.                                               2


My personal preference is still the Top freezer.  I like to be at eye height and have 2 shelves for separation. I had a Side-by-Side, and every time there was a family gathering, it was hard to put in large items, especially entrees — so I had kept an old top freezer in the garage with the larger refrigerator shelves.


Start with Elimination:

I eliminated the Top freezer because of the ice maker.

Then I eliminated the Side-by-Side because of the lack of wide space for large items.


As much as I did not like the idea of digging for buried treasure in the Bottom freezer, I felt it was my best choice to have the large shelves in the refrigerator section.

Comparing Bottom Freezers.  The major companies now make more choices than just 2 bottom bins.

You can get an extra top pull out section with 1 or 2 drawers (some have extra ice makers/bins).  This means the bottom bins are not quite so deep and helps separate more items for better organization.

You can also get a wide pull-out shelf that has little depth but useful for large items like pizza or small frozen items like packages of corn, frozen peas, hot dogs, etc.  This pizza area comes built into some doors putting the pizza in sideways – top to bottom – but I am not sure what other items could go there.)

Having both a top section with 2 more drawers, the pizza middle shelf and less in the bottom 2 “pile” bins, ended up being the best choice.  I still dislike the piles of food – but the top 2 drawers help it be more organized and less of a pile.  BTW, we rarely have pizza – that slide out tray is useful for other items like flat frozen foods.


Another decision – The extra refrigerator/freezer in the garage is old and will one day die, so a larger unit in the house would mean I might not need to replace the one in the garage.   Decision – buy the largest refrigerator to eventually have only 1 refrigerator/freezer.

Once bought, there are new decisions – what goes where based on shelves and door bins. Decisions, decisions.

Happy decision making.




Back to School – Everything in its Place

Your student needs to be organized for the new school year.               MPj04394030000[1]

Here are some quick tips for getting a better start:



Quiet Zone

Have a place for your student to study that is quiet and free from distractions.  TV, music, electronic games and noise take away from concentration.   While students may have to share a computer, a separate desk for each child will make their study time easier.  Each child will have different homework and different organizational needs depending on their grade and how much they accomplish at school.



Help your child with a paper calendar as well as an online calendar.  Visually seeing activities on dates will help them stay on schedule.



Establish as many routines as possible – study time, dinner time, practice time, break time, bedtime, etc.



Many students understand time better with an analog clock (hands) than a digital clock.  Consider investing in one for each student’s room.


Clothes Closet

Help students organize their clothes closet so they can dress faster in the morning for school.  Put like with like and keep shirts, pants, dresses and shoes together.


Landing Place

Have a place for backpacks and bags to be ready to go to school.   You might also include a coat rack for quickly grabbing coats, hats, gloves, or sweaters  as well as umbrellas or snow boots.



Create “bags” – sports bag, scout bag, dance bag – for each child to keep the items they need for those activities like special clothes, shoes or books.  Some large equipment like musical instruments or golf clubs may not be in this location but in the garage.  Always return items to the same place every time the student comes home – unless it is going in the wash!


Library Books

Establish a place for library books – from the school or public library.  The student can take the book somewhere else in the house, but must return it to that spot after using it that night – even if it isn’t due for 2 more weeks!  You will be more likely to see that it needs to be returned than if library books are kept in each student’s room.


Congrats on helping your students!

Need more help now?  see Take Action File + Student File System under the Products page.

More to come on that shortly.



Summertime … and the living is easy

Summertime .. and the living is easy.

Summertime…and the pace is slow.

(Is this song humming in your head yet?)

It’s been 100 plus degrees here.  For over a week now it’s been too stormy, with both rain and dust storms, to even go swimming.

For most people, July and August are great times for vacations, especially if you have school age children.  You don’t want to plan every moment of your vacation because you need some time for both spontaneity and unexpected twists   However, organizing many aspects can make your trip more enjoyable.


Here are some travel tips:

Plan your trip ahead of time: 4-5 weeks for better flight deals. Longer for major holidays like Labor Day or Thanksgiving.  Hopefully you already did this for the summer trip!

Check different travel sites for air, hotel and car rental deals:  orbitz, especial, Travelocity, kayak, trivago,discount hotels,, , etc.But don’t just go on price – check customer ratings when you can – especially for hotels.

Check out deals like the Entertainment Book coupons for car rentals and/or hotels.  In fact order a book for where you are going to get local discounts when you are there.

Call the city’s Visitors Center and ask them to mail you information.  (At least 4 weeks in advance.)  You can always find things online, but often they will mail you a town map. It helps!  (or use AAA Motor Club maps)

Pre-order tickets for events or theater (plays) unless you are going to NYC or Las Vegas where they have great 50% deals for attending the “day of” the event.

Consider taking a history tour of the town.  This is particularly great when there are major historical sites!  Or take the trolley ride that gives you a history of the town while it makes stops so you can get on and off.

Plan some down time.  Don’t be on the go 24/7.  Check out the beach or bring along a book to enjoy!

Pack light – choose a few colors to mix and match and create different outfits.  Pack at least 3 pairs of shoes – 1 dress and 2 casual to change off.  Don’t forget the sunglasses and umbrella!

Last but most important:  Shut off the computer, email and text messages for your vacation.  It’s a vacation – vacate means to empty.  Empty your work thoughts.  Relax and enjoy yourself.

June – Home Office Mess

I had a client this month that needed his office physically organized.

There were items everywhere.  The floor was covered.

The first rule of organization and the first initial in my P.L.A.C.E.(tm)  system is the

P = Purge.

And the first question to ask is:

What doesn’t belong in this space?

It was a home office, yet there were items that didn’t belong in an office:  2 bicycle helmets, 4 baseball caps, sporting equipment, and tools.  All items that needed to be somewhere else – primarily the garage in this case- were moved first. Some items, like gloves and baseball caps, moved to the front hall closet.

Most of the clutter in this case seemed to be electronic items that were no longer being used.  It seemed like he never tossed old items when he replaced them.  And any items that seemed like they might be worth using again, he kept.  So he had dozens of electronic cords, several keyboards, computers, mouses, etc.  Some items were so out of date no one else would use them either!  I don’t think anyone could use a Microsoft 1998 software CD!

And some items were being held onto that weren’t needed: calendars from the last 10 years, business cards that had already been scanned into the computer, etc.  Does anyone ever look at an old calendar and see what you did on June 1st in 2000 or even 2005?  Why do you keep them?

We also found of pads of papers – mostly the ones you collect from conferences, as well as some stickers.  We put those in a pile for his grandchildren.

We amassed 4 large piles:

  • garbage
  • recycling paper
  • recycling electronics
  • and donations


His wife was happy that she can see the floor and will be able to dust and vacuum again!

So what can you learn from this client?  Ask yourself what you are holding onto.

  • What are you keeping in your office – at work or at home?
  • What doesn’t belong there?
  • What don’t you use?
  • What is out of date?
  • What can you give away?



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