Five Productivity Tips for Working From Home

For many our new normal means we’ll be working remotely for the foreseeable future. Working from home can be a wonderful experience for both employer and employee, but it’s important to be fully prepared for the challenges you might face, such as having your documents e-filed or having all parts of your home, organized for peace of mind.

A major problem is how to remain productive when there are so many distractions at home that can get in the way of your work. Stay on target with these five productivity tips and give yourself grace if you can’t manage them all. They’ll help you stay focused and get the job done.

1. Have a Dedicated Office Space

Whether you have a room set aside to be your office or a section of a room dedicated to work, it’s important to have a place to “go to work.” Be sure to have all the office necessities there: a desk, a comfortable chair, computer and telephone, filing or storage solutions, office supplies, and adequate lighting. This room or space should put you in a work mindset, so when you go there you’re prepared mentally to do your job.

Related: Get Inspired. Here’s How to Create a Home Office Out of a Spare Room

Your custom office space should appeal to your work ethic and mindset. While a TV is generally distracting, some people work better with background noise. You know yourself better than anyone – just be reasonable and practical about the setup.

In other words, don’t just pull out your laptop and work from your bed in your pajamas. That might put you in a state of mind to update Facebook or even drift off to sleep!

2. Set and Enforce Boundaries

When you’re working from home a major productivity-buster can be the people you live with. The child who wants your attention. The pet who wants to hop in your lap or go out for a walk. The friends or family members who call just to talk because you’re home. To combat these distractions, it’s important to set and enforce rules for when you are working from the comfort of home.

If you have a door, close it. If you don’t, try hanging a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the back of your chair or set up some other notice that you are not available. Distractions are the downfall of productivity, and working without some healthy boundaries will cause more harm than good.

Post a schedule so others can see when you’ll be taking a break or are finished. Tell family not to call unless it’s an emergency. Enforce these rules from the get-go so they become a habit for everyone.

3. Set Regular Working Hours

Just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean you should roll out of bed at 10 a.m. or take a two-hour lunch break. Schedule hours to work, just as you would in an office setting. Set your alarm, take a shower and get dressed, and eat breakfast before you begin work. This will help put you in a mindset for working, not lounging.

No matter your profession, there will still be deadlines to meet. Set reminders that you have responsibilities and stick to a schedule. Do take a lunch break, but keep it to a reasonable time, no longer than an hour. Take this opportunity to eat, spend time with family or make those personal calls. If family is adhering to the second tip, they will know that this is a time you are available.

4. Keep it Clean

It’s tough to be productive when your desk and office area is a cluttered mess. Be sure to keep your desk clean and clear of any clutter. Keep a trash can nearby to toss unwanted items and a filing system to keep your important papers organized. Have an in-bin for items that need your attention. Make sure only work-related items are in your office; no kids’ toys (which could attract the kids) or piles of junk from elsewhere in the house. Your office space should be for your work only!

Related: Filing 101: Organizing Paperwork

At the end of each workday, take a few minutes to put things in their proper places so you have a clean slate the next morning, not a mess from yesterday to deal with.

5. Eliminate Background Noise

Noises and other distractions will kill your productivity. Crying children, noisy lawnmowers and email alerts can all jolt you out of what you need to be doing. Turn off all alerts and vow to check email only at certain times of the day, such as first thing in the morning, before and after lunch, and at the end of your workday. Have your personal cell phone send all messages to voicemail during working hours.

If you live in a noisy household or neighborhood, consider a set of sound-cancelling headphones so you can truly work in peace. You can also invest in a good white-noise machine to replace distracting sounds with soothing ones, or run a small fan for the same effect.

For more tips on  how to make working from home a productive and convenient experience or for help organizing your home-office environment visit In Order to Succeed’s website.


Tiffany Sorensen brings
In Order to Succeed to the Midwest

Get to know Tiffany Sorensen, In Order to Succeed’s Project & Regional Manager Launching our Minnesota Office.

IOTS: So you grew up in MN and have recently moved back. What’s special about the area that makes you want to call the “Twin Cities” home?

With husband Bruce
and bridal party

TS: First and foremost, last year I married someone born, raised and residing here! Aside from that, Minnesota (MN) has always been a home base for me.  Even with all of my moving around as a child, my extended family was based here, and I would spend every holiday and as much of the summer as I could either in the Twin Cities or “Up North”. When I had my own children, the routine remained the same and they too came to think of MN as their home base, no matter where else in the country we were residing.

Family is a big part of it. I read an article once about the percentage of native Minnesotans that leave for extended periods and end up eventually returning, so I guess I can be added to that statistic! I appreciate the robust offerings of sports, culinary, music and theater that exist here, and I am a huge fan of all things lake related.

My time spent in the desert has really made me appreciate (three of) the four seasons; I admit I am not much of a fan of winter past January 1st, so I am happy for opportunities to travel during the colder months!

IOTS: As founder and partner of a full-service tradeshow and event production company in Las Vegas, what types of clients did you work with?

Vail Colorado visit with Cooper
Vail Colorado
visit with Cooper

TS: My clients were largely entertainment based initially, HBO, MGM, The Disney Channel to name a few. Over the years, as the business expanded, and I relocated to the East Coast, clientele grew to encompass professional sports, hospitality groups, music and other live festivals and events.

These projects gave me the opportunity to work both “back of house” with talent and production aspects, as well as “front of house” with sponsors, activations, logistics and the like.

Additionally, I worked with several small corporations and individuals creating and managing hospitality events both in the U.S. and abroad, as well as with several well recognized brands to create unique customer engagement experiences.

IOTS: Have organizing and designing spaces always been a part of your life?

Celebrating with daughter Payton
with Daughter Payton

TS: Yes. Organization is a critical aspect in every role I have served. Both live events and design project management contain so many moving parts that are subject to change at any given moment, even with the most perfectly executed plans.

If a project is not organized at the beginning, it becomes very difficult to keep on track when those inevitable curveballs arise. I had the opportunity to project manage a 200,000 sf build to suit in Las Vegas several years ago. I was involved in everything from groundbreaking to conference room furnishings, working hand in hand with our construction firm. The project was completed on time and on budget. In 2015, I took part in the massive undertaking of producing what is known as “The World’s Largest Music Festival,” and their first foray into the United States. Though these two projects seem very different, organization skills were critical to the success of both.

I have also built and renovated several homes, and as previously mentioned, have an abundance of experience moving throughout my life. I have served as the designer on all of my home builds and renovations, specifying sourcing and procuring everything from toilets to throw pillows, and have worked closely with my GCs to manage each project.  

Senior Night Football with Wyatt
Senior Night Football
with Son Wyatt

IOTS: You have personally moved many times so what’s your best piece of advice for a successful one?

TS: As an adult/post-college, I have moved 13 times! At the risk of sounding like a sales pitch, I have to say that I wish I had a company like In Order to Succeed (IOTS) by my side for those moves. Having true pros managing the nuts and bolts of a move allows for financial efficiencies to be realized, and the peace of mind can truly be considered priceless. Aside from that, moving is stressful no matter what the circumstances. I still have dreams where I realize I have left items behind at a former residence and I am tasked with retrieving these items immediately!  As with most other stressful life situations, I find it best to focus on the positive; look at a relocation as a fresh start and new opportunity and know that somehow it always gets done!   

IOTS: What attracted you to IOTS?

Breakfast with Denise Caron-Quinn
Breakfast with
Denise Caron-Quinn

TS: Staying organized makes me more productive and more relaxed. Coming home to a beautiful space always seems to convey a sense of peace and warmth no matter what other chaos may be occurring. I have always felt it is important to have a home that is just as welcoming to its residents as it is to its guests. I have moved A LOT, starting from childhood, and I always looked forward to the opportunity to space plan and decorate my new room, making me feel at home no matter where home was. 

The philosophies of IOTS align with this point of view, and the broad range of services we offer allow me to shape and concentrate my efforts in areas I enjoy most. It also enables us to provide the proper teammates to fill in the gaps in other areas in order to provide our clients with a “one stop shop.” In addition to that, it also is just a pleasure to work with such an intelligent, kind and fun group of people!

IOTS: What are you most excited about accomplishing as you introduce IOTS to Minnesotans?

Run with celebrity designer Thom Filicia and my fellow RWAV Co-Chairs
Having fun with celebrity designer
Thom Filicia & fellow
RWAV Co-Chairs

TS: I am looking forward to establishing new relationships with both corporate and residential clients, and the opportunity to provide a fresh, holistic and fully comprehensive approach including private and corporate concierge services, interior styling, event creation and execution, renovation management, home or office organizing and beyond.

Whether working on a VIP client or employee team building event, collaborating with real estate agents and contractors on moves and renovations, or readying a space for a seasonal homeowner, I am excited to bring the expansive talent, experience and resources of IOTS to the area.

IOTS: Please tell us about some of the philanthropic work that you do and charities you are involved with.

TS: I serve on the board of an organization called Tuesday’s Children which was founded on 9/11/2001 and assists in long term healing via resiliency programs to those affected by traumatic loss or terrorism, including the support of Gold Star Military Families. I recently served as co-chair of our annual gala in NYC.

Another cause that is near and dear to my heart is “Rooms with a View,” an interior-design and culinary event that supports the missions of Southport Congregational Church. I was the co-chair for this event for seven years.

As my youngest child is now in his senior year of high school, my career of volunteering for various school and sporting endeavors is culminating after most recently serving as Parent Liaison for my son’s football team and on the committee of the school’s annual fundraiser.

Have yourself a merry little Organized Christmas!

Greetings and Happy Holidays! The holidays are our single most favorite time of the year. The eggnog, the music, the reindeer sweaters, not having enough power outlets for all your electrical decorations…. magical. There’s no time like it, which means it can get pretty unorganized and stressful pretty quickly.

I have compiled a list of five simple tips to get you organized and in the right mindset this holiday season. You’ll be ready take on whatever the sugar plum fairy throws at you (even the sarcastic remarks from your mother about your cooking).

Let these 5 tips help lead you to festive success:

1. Make a list and check it twice

One of the best, tried and true ways to start succeeding in all of your organizing needs is to make a list. Santa’s got it down pat, he’s a very organized man dealing with so many little ones across the globe. Make a list (that you won’t lose) of everything you need to get accomplished for each month. Groceries, gifts, appointments, etc. If you thrust it all into one singular sensation of a list, you’ll be able to prioritize more successfully and be set. So be your own Santa this year and check your list twice. Who knows, maybe you’ll do so well, someone will leave you a plateful of milk and cookies.

2. Sing synchronized

We all have smartphones, am I right? And if you don’t, you’re probably reading this blog on your tablet under a rock. A few of my favorite apps are Google Cal and ICal. Putting every single schedule, appointment, meeting, party date, brunch date, dinner date, sale date, release date, etc. for every family member into your calendar will help you know what’s coming up next and how soon you have to prep for it. Any kind of smartphone on the market now lets you synchronize every smartphone in the family, so what one adds to one’s schedule, everyone can see & know about it.

3. Try something new

Before the hustle and bustle of the holidays ignite, before you start thinking about your New Year’s resolution, before you start giving yourself ulcers thinking about the lines you’ll have to face at the Apple Store, embark on an experience you’ve never explored before. Take a road trip to a magical festival or drive-by a light show, take a loved one to a famous landmark or concert, or just sit home and try a new recipe with Martha Stewart. You’d be amazed at what a fresh new experience can do for one’s perspective.

4. Indulge a little

“It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” Johnny Mathis and I get it. Need I say more? It’s a time for being thankful, giving, sharing, reflecting, spreading love and Christmas cheer. So, who says that can’t be directed towards you by… well… YOU! You’re with you more than anyone else is throughout the year, so why not do something extra special for just you this year. You’re one of the lucky ones that has survived another glorious year, so go ahead and splurge for that spa day, get that new Samsung 50” TV you’ve been wanting. You deserve it. Alright, go! I’m kidding, not now, finish reading this lovely blog first, then go! Taking time for you might be just what you need to clear your head for everyone else’s wants.

5. Help Others

Tis’ the season to be jolly and is there any better way to be jolly than making others happy? Bueller? Bueller? I didn’t think so. The Holidays are a great time to purge your things as you scurry around to make your house clean for the relatives. So, grab one of those extra-stretchy heavy-duty trash bags and fill them to the brim with glee, hop into your gas guzzling sleigh, and donate your treasures to a homeless shelter, a Goodwill drop-off, or a national organization like Operation Christmas Child. You’ll end up free of all the things you don’t want anymore, have more room for newer shinier things, and you’re helping someone who is less fortunate. It’s a win-win.

I hope these steps will bring you to a brighter Holiday Season and provide you with less clutter tangibly and mentally. Until next time. A very Merry Christmas to you all and a Happy New Year!

Jonathan Cobrda

Thrift Shops Recycle, Reduce, Repurpose, & Restore

Americans love stuff. As professional organizers, we know anecdotally what the numbers bear out: although our homes are getting larger, we have far more possessions than we have space for. A recent article in The Atlantic notes that, in 2017, “the average size of a single-family house in America was 2,426 square feet, a 23 percent increase in size from two decades ago” and that “there are around 52,000 [self-storage] facilities nationally; two decades ago, there were half that number.” The television show Hoarders, now in its ninth season, chronicles the lives of those Americans whose relationship to stuff has reached a physically and psychologically unhealthy level. Websites like Craigslist are loaded to the brim with a cavalcade of items for sale, but it can be awkward (and potentially unsafe) to invite prospective buyers into our homes. So, after we’ve cleaned up, taken inventory, and decreased our clutter, what should we do with the clothes, furniture, and knick-knacks with which we’ve decided to part? That’s where the thrift store comes in.

According to the Association of Resale Professionals (NARTS), nearly twenty percent of Americans shop at thrift, consignment, or antique stores each year, generating more than $17 billion in revenue. In 2014, the nation’s best-known thrift store, Goodwill Industries, reported in excess of $5 billion in retail sales at more than two thousand stores and online. NARTS notes that “there is no typical resale shopper, just as there is no typical resale shop [because] no one is immune to the excitement of finding a treasure and saving money.”

But donating your lightly used items to a thrift store is about more than just clearing out your personal space. By definition, thrift stores exist to serve the communities in which they are located. (Generally, consignment and antique stores are for-profit, while thrift stores are non-profit.) Profits from The Carousel, a thrift shop affiliated with the Southport Congregational Church in Connecticut benefit the church, the charities it supports, and the greater community. If you shop at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store in Minneapolis, Minnesota, you’re helping thousands of residents of the Twin Cities whose families have been impacted by poverty. On their website, the Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center (SPARCC) Treasure Chest in Sarasota, Florida notes that not only do one-hundred percent of proceeds fund their services but also that “SPARCC participants receive vouchers to shop for free for the items they need.” And in New York City, the United War Veterans Council (UWVC) runs a recycling program in which the revenue from sales of donated items supports the program’s mission to “provide all veterans and their families with the care, recognition and opportunities they have rightfully earned.” Deborah Menich, the executive director of the UWVC’s recycling program, explains that the “UWVC collects approximately 12 million pounds of clothing annually,” which both “expands the diversion rate of unwanted items in landfills” and provides jobs to local residents.

Over the past several years, there has been some concern that thrift stores do not resell all of the donations they receive. In a recent article for the Huffington Post, Ray Tellez, Goodwill’s vice president of retail operations in southern California, reassures customers that items do not move directly from Goodwill’s retail stores to a landfill. Instead, those items are sent to a Goodwill outlet store; if they remain unsold, they are recycled. (Goodwill estimates that their recycling efforts keep more than 42 thousand tons of textile waste out of landfills each year.) Sustainability expert Jacqueline Tran reminds us that “people don’t realize most clothing is made from plastic…When it goes into a landfill, it’s just going to sit there for a long time.” Donating those clothes—and ensuring that they are reused or recycled—is an important step toward creating a more sustainable world.

Thrift stores help their communities, offer places for people to connect with one another, provide employment and volunteer opportunities, and encourage good sustainability practices. They should be the first places we think of when we consider how to declutter, simplify, and organize our lives. Those seemingly simple donations of new or gently used clothing and goods can help to create real, meaningful, positive changes, both in our communities and across the country.

For a list of thrift stores in your area, visit or google “thrift stores near me.” To read more about how In Order to Succeed can help you reach your organizing goals, click here.

Ben Gott is an Education Specialist and Organizing Consultant at In Order To Succeed

6 Tips For Domiciling In Your New Second Residence

Many people prepare for a move by cleaning, organizing, packing, arranging movers, and much more. Being prepared and having the right moving professionals to help you are keys to a successful and stress-free move. There is a great deal of consideration and thought that people put into moving their tangible items into a new home. However, there is an entirely separate consideration for those who are keeping their current home but moving into a new place, especially if the home is in a low-tax or no-tax state for income taxes or estate taxes.

In situations where you are becoming a multi-homeowner, it is very important to think about which residence will be your domicile because you can have multiple residences, but you can only have one domicile. Your domicile is the residence that you will call home and it is where you will center your life. Domiciling in a low-tax or no-tax state is a nice benefit of a move but there are some things you should do to ensure you do it successfully. We’re providing 6 tips to get you on your way to becoming a resident of your new state.

Get A New Driver’s License or ID

A good first step to establishing the home in your new state as your domicile is updating your license. Transfer your license or ID to your new state and turn in your other ID. This can usually be done at the DMV and most states will require you to forfeit your old ID when they give you a new one or at least give it some indication that the old ID is now void.

Register Your Car, and Insure it in Your New State

While at the DMV getting your new license, register your car in the new state to keep your records up to date. After it is registered, contact your insurance company and inform them your car is now registered in your new state and should be covered there. In addition to being good steps towards domiciling, these things are required by law in most states.

Settle Into Your New Place

Find new professionals in the area – doctor, lawyer, accountant, financial planner, dentist, etc. Register to vote in your new district and revoke your old voter registration, then go out and vote in the elections. Volunteer and get involved in your new community.

Update Legal Documents and Banking

Update the address on your personal accounts, your national address record, bank and brokerage accounts, health insurance, workplace records and any other important documents. While updating your address with the bank, move your account to your local branch. If they do not have one, establish a relationship with a new bank. Once you have your bank, move your safety deposit box.

Double Check Requirements For Your Old State

This is one of the most important parts of the process. It is not just about taking steps to make your new state home, it’s really about taking steps to revoke your residency from your prior state. A new state is usually happy to have you, it is great for them to have your money coming into the state. However, your old state will not want to see that money go, especially for high earners. You should be extremely thorough and diligent about taking all precautions necessary to leave your old state and minimize the chance of an audit.

Spend Time in Your New State

Taxi-Bird-IOTSMake sure you are spending more time in your new state and less time in your prior. Many states will have a threshold to determine statutory residency. This means you could still end up a resident of your old state by just spending too much time there and then you would owe them income taxes. As an example, if you were to keep your home in New York or Connecticut and move into a new home in Florida, you could owe taxes to your old state if you spend more than 183 days there during the year. TaxBird is a great app to help keep track of this. It is simple to set up and is an easy, automatic way to keep counts of your days in each state and monitor your progress towards residency thresholds. You can find out more at

These tips are a really great start to establishing your domicile in your new state, but this list is not all inclusive. There are many factors that are used when considering residency of a state for income or estate taxes and it requires good standing in all of them to avoid residency in your former state, which is the real goal. It is important to understand all of the factors for your specific states and have a plan in place to mitigate the risks of an audit. Your new accountant and attorney should be able to help make sure you’re covered. Happy savings!

What is TaxBird?

TaxBird is the easiest way to keep track of how many days you spend in each state for state residency tax purposes. Quick, simple setup. Real-time, automated day counts. Detailed end of year reporting. Available now on the App Store. Coming soon to Android. More information at

Meet Jared

Jared Carr is a technology professional with a background in product development and marketing. 

3 Tips on How to Help Your kids Succeed in School by Getting Organized

Tips-to-Help-Students-Succeed-Study-Blog-3As the end of the school year approaches we know to anticipate end of term projects and final exams.  As parents and former students ourselves we understand that along with these increased demands comes stress and the disruption to normal routines.  These changes can be particularly unsettling for your student and your family. While it is ultimately up to your child to figure out which practices work best for them to keep up with the current situation of things, you too can contribute your quota to their drive for success.

Students need a balanced environment to thrive, more so at this time when their senses are stoked, and nerves rattled.  As a mom or dad, who’s aiming to be supportive, fostering a conducive environment that functions as a place of refuge – so to speak, is one of the most essential steps you can take to complement your son or daughter’s efforts towards success.

The First Part of Creating an Organized Environment is as You Might Have Guessed – Getting Organized!

The notion of final exams and its attendant complexities can mount pressure on your student and cause them to be disorganized. It’s not unusual to see your child’s room muddled in a heap of clutter, and while this can be justified as stemming from a lack of time, it is actually unhealthy and known to cause a significant drop in productivity because it in very literal terms, muddle the brain’s ability to perform optimally. As a parent, this is where you step in. Help your child create schedules and timetables that reinforce a balance between work, play and positive social and environmental interaction. Sure, they may be trying to rack up extra study time to cover all aspects of their syllabuses, but that doesn’t mean everything else should be relegated to the back burner.

Eating Healthy is Preparing Healthily

Tips-to-Help-Students-Succeed-Study-Blog-1A nutritious and balanced diet is the body’s own octane booster to heightened performance. More importantly, however, unhealthy diets especially those saturated with fats, the type you get from over consumption of things like fast foods, snacks, cakes and processed pork or chicken products are linked to a higher incidence of aggression, depression and heart disease. To prevent the onset of these (which are already a risk given the heightened levels of stress), it is essential that you;

•  Provide your family with nutritional foods and supplements

•  Enlighten them on the dangers of maintaining an unhealthy diet

Moderate the Tech Exposure

Technology can be potentially detrimental to your kids and adult children, most especially when there’s a need to focus and burn the midnight candles, and several researches exist to corroborate this fact. Back in the days, study time was ‘study time’ there were no mobile phones, no notifications or calls to put students off. Today mobile phones and computers are required for most assignments.  They are integral part of the study environment but along with them comes unwanted distractions and noise. That’s not to say this is entirely nocuous but the key to technology (as is with most other parts of life) is moderation. Limit just how long your kids can be tethered to their technology or television and place an enforceable embargo on how much time they spend on their devices. Your kids should know that time spent online is valuable time – their efforts should be directed at making the most use of it.

In addition to these, don’t forget the importance of positive reinforcements. Your child needs all the encouragement he/she can get. So while you go about tuning the environment, don’t forget to rub it in with bits of the ‘you can do it’ and the ‘keep focused.’

To learn more about how to creating an organized home environment that enhances student Performance on final projects and exams, please email or call us today! 

Five Habits to a Happier 2018

In a few short weeks, holiday gluttony will give way to guilty feelings and itchy fingers.  That’s when we will all sit down to write a set of aspirational goals for 2018.  Working out more and spending more time with family are commendable objectives, but if you are disorganized, you often mismanage the time necessary to achieve these new goals.  Amy Esper, professional organizer, move manager and co-head of In Order to Succeed in Sarasota, FL will let you in on five new habits that will improve your life quality and make the time it takes to get to the gym and play with your kids.

1. Don’t Let Guilt Hold you Captive to Things.

Being sentimental is commendable.  Holding onto everything that is sentimental is a slippery slope.  Throw away that shredded duck pillow that your mother had on her couch 20 years ago.  Your memories are with the person, and not the thing.  Share your stories of the fun you had on the couch chatting with your mom as you laid your head on that pillow.  It is not enough to put it in your basement or attic.  Get rid of it!  Slowly go through items that you stored and part with them.  Your loved ones will be so proud that you did!


2. Don’t Bargain Hunt!

Frank Woolworth opened America’s first discount variety store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in June 1879.  Today there are over 250 discount chains worldwide and countless online stores constantly advertising sales.  Saving money on things you need is smart.  Buying things on sale that you don’t need is not.  Practice smart shopping.  Don’t go to the store without a list- even if it’s just in your head!  Resist the temptation to go off list.  You will have more money in your pocket and less clutter in your home to clean around.


3. Get your Children on the Chore Train.

It’s never too late to teach your kids to do for themselves.  Tired of making four beds in the morning or packing three lunches at night?  Me, too.  Start small and give your kids incentives.  For toddlers, get a jar and let them fill it with pennies after each completed task.  If your kids are older, increase their bedtime or curfew for chores well done.  New research shows that it takes 66 days to create a habit, so get going!  The kids will feel proud and you will have more time to do fun things with them. Check out our other tips on the Five Ways to be More Organized Parents.


4. Don’t Wait to Put Everything in its Place.

Stop putting things in temporary spaces.  When you walk in the door of your home or office, put everything in its place.  Your keys go in the dish or on the hook.  Your briefcase goes on your desk. Your coffee mug goes in the dishwasher.  Your shoes belong on their shelf and your clothing goes in your closet or in the dry-cleaning bin.  Why wait?  It’s only going to accumulate.  Keeping things in their place avoids the large clean ups that occur on the weekends when we want to relax and enjoy each other’s company.


5. Sell It!

Those kindles your kids bypassed for iPads?  The jeans you can’t quite squeeze into?  Don’t let them clutter your surroundings.  Recoup some money for them and make way for new hobbies you can share with your loved ones.  Facebook marketplace has replaced Craigslist as the best place to sell your goods locally.  You can post anything from an old camera to a car in less than five minutes.  It feels so great to free up space and get your items to people who will use them!  There is also a new game in town when it comes to clothing sales.  Move over eBay, the Poshmark app is here. Place your item for sale with a few clicks and when it sells, print the emailed label, package your item in envelopes (available for free at your post office) and place it in your mailbox.  The best part?  Poshmark allows you to transfer your earnings to your bank account in minutes!

10 Tips to Simplify Your Holiday

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Or is it?  Most of us look forward with anticipation to the excitement and time off that the holiday season brings.  In our minds we are capable of baking and decorating like Martha Stewart, selecting Oprah-inspired gifts for everyone on our lists and wrapping them like Mr. Bean in Love Actually.  Realistically, even if we possessed all those skills, none of us have the time to make it all happen while maintaining our sanity.  We need to simplify our season.  As most of these tasks fall on females, it is no surprise that according to a January 2006 survey, women (44 percent) are more likely than men (31 percent) to report an increase of stress during the holiday season, citing lack of time (69 percent versus 63 percent), lack of money (69 percent versus 55 percent), and pressure to give or get gifts (51 percent versus 42 percent) as primary stressors.

Why do we feel an acute shortage of time in this season?  According to research, it’s because people volunteer more during the holidays; spend less time socializing with friends; having increased family obligations and significantly increase the time and money spent shopping, decorating and sending greetings.  What we really value most during the holidays, as per Odyssey, is:


PLAN BB-10 tips

  1. Being with family.
  2. Cooking with loved ones.
  3. No school.
  4. Shopping for holiday gifts.
  5. Decorating the house.
  6. Presents.
  7. Holiday movies on television.
  8. Holiday desserts.
  9. Holiday drinks.
  10. Enjoying the Lights.
  11. Holiday music.
  12. Being in the holiday spirit.

So how do you get back to the joys of the list above?  Simplify your life and add more “fa” to your “la” by following our ten tips below.

1. Say “No”.

Saying no is easier than you think and will save you from long nights of doing things you don’t want to do or staying awake at night worrying because you forgot to do them.  Let’s practice.  Your friend: “Can you make a Maltesers Christmas pudding for my party?”  You: “No.”  Your husband: “Honey, can you pick up some gifts for my mom and a few colleagues?”  You: “No.”  Your son or daughter: “Mom, can you be the stage mom for my school’s Christmas play?”  You; “No.”  You get the idea.  Of course, you should say it nicely, with a smile and add an “I love you,” but the point is that there are so many things for which your time is obligated during this season that you need to prioritize and simplify your schedule.  Don’t stretch yourself thin and neglect spending time with those you love doing the things you really love.  No one remembers the expertly decorated tree or present.  They remember the laughs you have over a delicious dinner, the movie you snuggled up watching and the game you played all night.

2. Ask for Help.

No woman or man is an island.  We all need help.  Ask your partner or kids to help with the decorating or baking.  It does not always have to fall on you just because it has in the past.  You might get some grunts, but who cares?  You’ve been cursing under your breath for the past five Christmases.  People simply do not offer to help anymore.  Our devices have made us somewhat oblivious to human cues.  Ask for help.  If you don’t, you won’t get it and you will resent the very people you want to enjoy.  You may not think this will simplify your season, but if you let go a little and ask, you will not only gain time, but you may have fun engaging in those tasks with your family.

3. Plan.

I like spontaneous decisions for travel and date nights, but not for family gatherings like Christmas and Hanukah.  Jot down or electronically transcribe a quick list of to dos and associate a timeframe with each.  Write down when you will get your tree, decorate outside and in, bake cookies, shop, and plan the special holiday meals.  For example, my family always gets our tree the weekend after Thanksgiving and decorates it slowly for two days.  It eases us into Christmas.  Then over the next week and before December 1st, we decorate the house inside and out.  Next, we begin shopping for our children, because let’s admit, it’s pretty much all about them.  We affix a deadline for the end of shopping to make sure we have time wrap our gifts, which occurs the week before Christmas.  The cookie baking takes place a few days before Christmas and we plan our meals three days before (as we buy a lot of our sides to again simplify our lives and spare us some time).  You get the idea.  Have a plan and roughly stick to it.  That way, you won’t get that panicky, rushed feeling on your first day home from work.  You can enjoy each phase as it comes, knowing you have time in between to relax. Check out our other tips on Making Better Use of Your Time.

4. Calendar It.

Once you have a list worked out, calendar it.  For those of you who don’t use google calendars, get on it!  You can color code your entries for work, family and personal and share them with your loved ones.  This way you can include the activity, the address, the travel time, and any notes you may have in the margin.  Now, I am not saying that your significant other won’t still ask you where he’s supposed to pick up the catered food, because if he’s like mine, he will.  At least he or she will have the opportunity to see when and where (with a quick click to navigate him or her there) you would like him or her to help.  If the items are more nebulous, use the “all day” button and a range of days in which to complete the task.  It really helps you feel centered and in control of your days during the craziness of the season.

5. Pare Down.

Don’t you hate the feeling of cramming a bunch of new clothes or toys into closets and toy bins after the holidays?  As an organizer, I get sick thinking about it.  Take a slow Saturday (ha, I know) in the next few weeks and donate your older items that are outdated and those that are too small for your kids.  Go through the toy bins.  You know the toys that your kids love and those that have been overlooked since someone bought them for their birthday.  Give them away.  There are plenty of families in need during this season who would love them.  Use it as a learning experience for your younger kids to teach them that not everyone is so fortunate.  They will get excited about helping others and have their first philanthropic experience.

6. Out with the Old Decorations.

Christmas is a special time of year and we are all prone to overbuying trinkets and ornaments that make us happy.  BUT, there is no need to have a garage full of Christmas bins. I guarantee you do not even know what is in half of the bins since you take out only the top two winners every year.  You never use it and you aren’t going to.  You know where I’m going with this.  Clear out the stuff you do not and never will, put out.

Do you like it?  Will you ever use it?  Are you keeping it because of a guilt trip your mother-in-law may impose?   Give it to someone you know if it assuages guilt, or donate it.  Either way, simplify your life and let it go.  You will be so happy you did.

7. Volunteer.

Yes, I know I wrote that volunteering was a time suck in paragraph two, but not strategic generosity of time.  Pick your favorite charity and pledge 2-5 hours of your time on a given day.  (Add this to your plan above!) Nothing brings perspective like seeing the plight of those that are forgotten during the holidays.  Again, if it is appropriate, bring your children and show them that your family places value in helping the less fortunate.  Those moments imprint on them.  We can never forget that for those of us that have chosen to have children, our most important mission is raising good little humans.

 8. Skip Some Gifting.

I generally enjoyed shopping before I had children.  I still would if I could justify brick and mortar purchasing while paying a babysitter.  It’s fun to buy yourself things.  It’s even fun to buy for others, but not for everyone at once and in such a condensed timeframe.  If your family is on the large side (like my husband’s family with seven brothers and sisters), skip the gifts.  (Gasp!)  Of course, make sure everyone is ok with foregoing the present swap.  You may be surprised to find that other family members are relieved to cross some people off their lists as they are feeling the crush of holiday presents as well.  If it’s necessary to swap presents between kids, establish a maximum as you would at a Secret Santa party.  It takes a lot of the pressure off and simplifies the time spent with your family.  The focus becomes hanging out and not endlessly opening gifts!

9. Be a Thoughtful and Conservative Gift Giver.

Don’t you hate hauling giant coffee table books home in your suitcase?  So does everyone else!  Don’t give oversized gifts just to give. Think about the giftee and their interests.  Think about logistics.  Can they carry it home?  Will their children destroy it?  Here’s a good one:  Will they like it?  Simply put, put in more thought.

Likewise, save the flashy gifts for your significant others.  People are embarrassed when you bestow lavish gifts on them and they don’t return the favor.  Of course, later you will receive a gift of greater or equal value as the need for comity sets in.  People really do appreciate thoughtful gifts that show that you actually considered who they are before you bought them.  You don’t have to spend a lot.

10. Pace Yourself.

If you’re hanging lights and your shoulders are burning, take a break.  If you can’t imagine baking one more batch of cookies, put the spatula down and put the dough in the refrigerator.  Don’t think of it as giving up.  Everything in life is better in moderation.  Many of us grew up thinking we should not put off for tomorrow what we can do today, but sometimes you are a much nicer person tomorrow if you put off today.  Don’t stress your mind or body by giving yourself artificial deadlines.  This also means you can’t wait until the last second to do something that has to get done by a certain date (See “Plan”).

No matter what annoying occurrence befalls you holiday, above all, try to shrug it off.  A wise confidante of mine has a little sigh sound that he makes when something goes wrong to tell his brain it’s going to be ok.  It’s a high-pitched “hhhmph” with a shrug of the shoulders.  This season is so fleeting and won’t be here again for another year.  Simplify it, but enjoy it.  When you feel stressed, shrug, and say “hhhmph” and get back to watching Ralphie beat the crap out of that mean red-headed kid.

Five Festive Holiday Table Settings Ideas

Holiday table settings are almost as important as the food. Sure, some people take the approach that the holiday table is just there to hold the food and the wine glasses—throw a holiday colored tablecloth on it and voilà! The holiday table setting, however, has the power to set the atmosphere for the entire meal. From formal to casual to somewhere in between we scoured Pinterest to find several gorgeous holiday table settings. Steal ideas from these pretty table settings and visit our Pinterest page for even more inspiring ideas and tips on hosting a stress-free holiday season.

Rosemary Sprig Cards

If you’re throwing a large holiday gathering that includes a sit-down meal, you’re going to want to organize the seating. We love the idea of these Rosemary Sprig Place cards for a simple but elegant holiday table setting.

Candles, Candles, Candles


One of the easiest ways to add some glam to your holiday table setting is with candles. This one from Fab You Bliss is perfect for Thanksgiving and if you switch out the pumpkins for glittery pine cones you have a perfect Christmas centerpiece as well.

Planted Centerpiece

holiday table settings
Impress dinner guests at any winter holiday party with a sophisticated planted centerpiece. Add accents of gold or silver for an even more festive setting
Rustic Table Setting

For a rustic and utterly easy to create table setting we love this burlap runner topped with pine branches, pinecones, and mandarin oranges.

Blue Christmas holiday table settings
Stick to a blue and silver theme for an elegant table setting. HGTV Designer Katrina Giles created this easy clean-up table setting by putting white and blue plates against as shimmery black placemats and using a silver snowflake wrapping paper as table runner.For more inspiring table setting ideas checkout “50 Christmas Table Setting Ideas” from AnnaVasily.

6 Ways to Fall Back Into Your Routine

Alabama mom Jena Willinghamm may have been onto something when she posted the now-viral photo of herself in a pool—cocktail in hand—while her three children stood behind her looking sad to be going back to school. As much as we love kids, keeping them occupied when they are out of school and not in camps or programs no short order. But each fall often blows in with new items for your to-do list. Out go summer Fridays and lax bedtimes and in come soccer Saturdays and hectic mornings. You may be surprised to learn that almost half of Americans say fall is the best time to get organized, according to a survey by SpareFoot. In fact, 45 percent of those surveyed said that fall months are organizing prime time. It makes sense when you think of it since at the same time students return to class many businesses are kicking into high gear after a summer slowdown says Amy Esper, professional organizer, move manager and co-head of In Order to Succeed in Sarasota, FL. Amy, the mother of three small children (all under the age of 4) considers fall to be the beginning of her family year since that is the time that that all the new routines kick in for her children as they enter their new classes and programs.

These six tips will help you get back into your groove and stay productive to have your most organized fall yet.

Get your family involved.

No person can keep a whole household organized by themselves; it’s just not realistic. Get your family involved in the organization process. Establish new fall routines with their input. If anything is being reorganized or repositioned, walk your family through where items should go so they can help put things away. Labels are crucial to make sure family members knows where things need to be put away. Use post-it notes until you have a chance to affix permanent labels. We love this portable Epson label printer – it even connects to a laptop for even greater productivity.

There are Apps for That

Hold the keys to a more organized life in the palm of your hand. The app store is full of downloads that help users stay on point. Three (free!) favorites: Todoist allows you to manage tasks and projects anywhere. At home, at school, at work . . .both online and offline and across 10+ platforms. Remember the Milk is another similar type of app that can help you get more done in less time. This powerful app allows users to create and prioritize to-do lists by due date, tag or importance. It syncs to Google Calendar, Gmail and other devices and lets users create groups and assign tasks. Running late? Ask your spouse to hit the grocery store and your teen to set the table. 30/30 launched on the premise that most tasks like checking e-mail and making lunches only take 5 to 30 minutes per day. Map out your day, set a timer and let the app say when it’s time to move on.

Create a Study Spot

Study SpotYour kid may have had summer assignments but the school year brings regular homework with shorter deadlines. To help your child stay on track, create a clean, well-lit and distraction-free space for homework. Short on space? Get our tips on creating a home office out of a spare room. Stock it with pencils, pens, rulers and paper. If your kid is a habitual screen-checker, consider not allowing devices in the room unless it’s required for the assignment. Here are five inspiring work spaces you can create in your home.

Set Bedtimes for Everyone

A stress-free morning starts with a good night’s sleep. WebMD provides good guidelines for age-appropriate bedtimes. If your child is having trouble getting back to a regular bedtime, try gradually scaling back the bedtime 30 to 60 minutes every few days until s/he is hitting the hay at an optimal time. As for you, the National Sleep Foundation suggests adults ages 25-64 get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. The optimal time will vary from person to person, but researchers from Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at the University of California, Berkeley say that REM sleep cycles, the light phase of sleep just before which repairs the mind, typically begins after midnight regardless of when a person goes to bed. To ensure the body gets all the REM and non-REM sleep it needs, try to get find a bedtime between 8 p.m. and midnight. Experiment with a few different times and stick to the one that works best for you.

Prep the Night Before

Organized HallwayWith everything in its place, waking up and getting out the door should be easy… right? Unfortunately not according to most American parents. When the school year starts, 80 percent of parents feel it takes them longer to get ready in the morning than during the summer. And, nearly one in three feel it takes more than 20 minutes longer. When you have kids, back to school routines can make mornings stressful, making organization key to create more productive mornings. As cute as a morning fashion show is, figuring out what you and your kids are going to wear the day before can save precious minutes each morning. Make breakfast and prepare lunches the night before, whenever possible. Throwing together breakfast on the go and organizing lunches for the whole family can make a busy morning even more overwhelming. You may want to go the extra mile by helping your children neatly pack backpacks check assignment lists with them to ensure nothing is missing before bed.

Save a Little Summer

Vacation may be over, but don’t let leisure get lost in the shuffle of soccer practices and meetings. Book a massage, hit a favorite restaurant or just take five minutes a day to look at your favorite photos. Taking time for a breather can get your ready to tackle the next task (and, according to researchers, lowers depression). Keeping a summer mindset as long as possible is always something worth striving toward.