Friday, October 24, 2014

Decluttering After A Divorce

I recently had a friend over for dinner who has gone through a divorce and I peppered her with questions. I am always fascinated by divorces, not because I am planning one, but simply because being a family law lawyer was a part of my life for so long. I like seeing how people can get divorce right and I want to learn from what they did in order to give advice to friends in similar situations. I have seen too much of how divorce can go wrong...and it isn't pretty. Not only isn't it pretty but it is expensive and can leave lasting trauma for all involved. Divorce is a part of our culture. When we get married, we all plan on being married to this person for the rest of our lives, but sometimes things happen. Sometimes no amount of therapy can fix it. But besides all of the emotional stuff, what do you do with the physical stuff?

Chances are you were given gifts for your wedding that are a reminder of your now "failed" marriage. You were given gifts from your now ex and you don't know what to do with them. Or maybe you purchased things together that you ended up with in the separation. My advice would be to treat the physical possessions like you would anything else in your life that reminds you of a loss. Sometimes the physical objects are a comfort and sometimes they are a hindrance to living your best life.

Here are a few steps to get you thinking and moving in the right direction:

1. Give yourself time. Making snap judgments are never a good idea. A year is an adequate amount of time to simply put the decisions on hold while you grieve the loss of the marriage. Don't bag stuff up in trash bags and throw in the yard when angry. Wait and grieve and process.

2. Decide if you can keep the item without having negative thoughts. If whenever you pass the couch with the stain on it, does it make you angry towards your ex? Or do you pass the bedroom set and feel happy and relaxed? Realize that objects create emotions and separate the good from the bad.

3. Can you live without it. You may need the kitchen table to have dinner with your kids even though it may remind you of some bad memories. But sometimes the fact that you need it may outweigh the negative thoughts. Perhaps you can paint the table so that it takes on a new look and a new memory?

4. The guilt of wondering if you should return the object to the person who gave it to you. If you had a relatively short marriage, you perhaps are feeling guilt in having wedding gifts that were never used. My personal opinion is that if you went into the marriage with the best of intentions and you were blindsided by the end of the marriage, the last thing you need to worry about is guilt over gifts. If you do feel guilty there are ways that you can shed the guilt. Find a worthy organization that could use the gifts and donate them. Or just realize that nobody is judging you and they love you and wish you the best. If the blanket they gave as a wedding gift is an object of comfort, then use it. Nobody gives a gift with the intention of causing stress or guilt. Tell the guilt to hit the road once and for all.

5. Holding on to a name. For women there is often the name change associated with marriage. It is a process to change all of your documents back to your maiden name. But if you are using the excuse of not changing your name because you ordered a new pack of check blanks, you may need to dig a little deeper. A name can almost be an object that needs to be dealt with.

6. Photos. I am a sentimental fool for photos and I don't like hearing that people destroy photos, especially if here are children involved. Put them in a box and store somewhere to give your kids someday. Sometimes out of sight is out of mind! If you have no kids, only go through the photos when you are no longer angry. There may be some with your parents or friends that you want to keep.

7. Wedding dress. I have been married for almost 25 years and I don't know what to do with mine. I don't want to have baptismal gowns made as I have my baptismal gown that I would rather my grandchildren use. But this large dress (yes I was married a the end of the 1980's) is preserved in an equally large box. When we donate items, we always want to know that someone else will cherish the item. Finding the perfect dress is hard. But a dress does not make a as Elsa reminds me in "Frozen"....let it go...let it go....

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,


MS. Simplicity


Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Four Things That You Can Do Today To Help You Sleep

I don't know about you but I seem to have that nagging voice in my head that is on a never ending loop. I also know that I am not the only one with this nagging voice in their head. When I work with my clients, I find that they too have the same voice in their head. I am surprised when I ask them about these simple things how many of them have not done them. So do me, and your family, a favor and complete this list soon.

1. Have a fireproof/waterproof safe. Too often I find social security cards and passports in a junk drawer. Common sense tells us that is not a great storage solution. Gone are the days for all of us having a safety deposit box for these documents. Big box stores sell safes for under $100. Place your titles and other important papers in your safe. All those papers protected in one safe place gives peace of mind.

2. Have your photos stored on an external hard drive. I love how small these are now and how they have fallen in price. There is no reason that your important documents and memories should not be stored off of your computer. Nothing hits you worse than having a computer crash and knowing that your computer is loaded with Susie's first birthday photos. Back those photos up and bonus points if you store it in your new safe!

3. Have your internet passwords written down on old school paper. You heard me right, paper. I am all for you keeping them stored on your phone or in a handy app. But what if you lose your phone, or it crashes or heaven forbid you die. I have had clients who have not been able to get into their loved ones phones after they die because it was password protected. Write down the important account information and passwords and place them somewhere safe, like in your new safe!

4. Have a will. Maybe it is the lawyer in me or the mom in me that wants everyone to have a will. They are easy to prepare and  maybe I am silly and think if you have it done, you will never need it. Even though I am a lawyer I had a lawyer prepare one for me. It gave me peace of mind knowing it was done. We made the calls to our family that we would want to raise our children and got it written. It took less than a week. You can have the law firm store it or you can store it in your new safe!

These are all simple things that should take you no time at all to do. Start with buying the safe and work down the list. I promise you that you will sleep better once you have these things complete.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,


MS. Simplicity


Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Empty That Bucket List

Picture I took while in a balloon!

I am a firm believer in the bucket list. This is the list I have in my mind of things I want to do or accomplish. These are my dreams. These are things that are often so out of reach, I don't think I am ever going to accomplish them. I have a friend who thinks bucket lists are a waste of time. However, he has vast resources and if he wants to do something, he just does it. But I like the dreaming. I like the sense of working hard to make my dreams come true. I have been mindful of them and I have been chipping away at my bucket list a bit at a time. Most are random opportunities that seem to just arrive at my feet.

Some are listed in my subconscious and I don't even realize that they have been added to the list in my mind. For example I had a friend that is part of a chase crew in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. I remember saying in passing that I would love to do that some day. Well last year I got the chance and I was given two weeks notice to make it happen. I remember looking over at my husband and asking him if I should go. His reply was priceless and one of the reasons I love him so, he said "how can you not go?" So away I went for a grand adventure.

My main bucket list item which I have been working on for several years now is to travel to all 50 states by the time I am 50. I was inspired by a friend and I thought it would be fun to see if I could do it. My rules are simple, I must do something more than visit the restroom in the state.

People have big goals and some have small goals. It really doesn't matter as they are your goals. Here are some bucket list items that I have seen from friends and clients:

I want to leave my corporate job and work for a non profit. Leaving a well paying job is a hard jump to make. For many, it is near impossible. But sometimes you just need to have faith and make the leap and know that the wings will appear.

I want to be a stay at home parent. For many, this too comes down to money. I walked this path and I must say it wasn't easy but it was rewarding. We lived without many things that some take for granted. We lived in an apartment and were resident managers to have our housing covered. We only had one car. We didn't have cable TV. We found a way to make it happen.

I want to go back to school and be trained for my dream job. See if you can take classes on the side to work towards your degree. In the world of technology you would be surprised at the options that are out there.

I want to run a 5K/half marathon/full marathon. Well as the saying goes, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Same thing with training for a race. You break it up into manageable pieces and start doing it a bit at a time.

I want to travel to exotic locations. Start spreading the word that you want to do this. All of a sudden you will have a friend who has a business trip in Belize and she invites you to go along with her. Be ready to say YES!

I want to become a great photographer. Start looking for photography classes in your local community. Start asking photographers that you know what is the one thing that you should do.

I have even seen examples of "let's together" lists. This is a list of things to do together. Some ideas are to kiss in the rain. Watch a sunset. Make sushi. How fun would this be to make with your special someone or your child?!

My intention here is to not to get you to create and work on one more list of things that need to be done. This list should be something that is fun to do and you look forward to doing the items on your list. If you list is slow going, don't beat yourself up over it....just keep going!

As for my list, my husband suddenly is faced with extra time on his hands as he maneuvers his next path in life and we are taking time to work on my bucket list together. We leave on a trip this week to cross 6 more states off my list. Having someone to share your dreams and list with is so important. That person of support is there to give you the extra nudge. Life is all about dreaming and I am reminded of the saying, be careful what you wish I wish for really great things!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Life of Missed Opportunity

I was reminded last week about the company Kodak. Remember them? They had cornered the market on photo paper and photo processing. And then the digital camera came along and to add fuel to the fire of their company collapse, the cell phone with great cameras. People simply stopped processing their pictures. Kodak missed the turn and their company never fully recovered. I am reminded of Kodak every time I organize a junk drawer. My theory is that in every junk drawer in America is a roll of undeveloped Kodak film. When my clients hold this film in their hands, they all look at me with a sense of overwhelm. They aren't sure what to do with it and they simply toss it in the garbage. Their reasoning is, if it was important they would have developed it by now.

These last couple of weeks have been a time of reflection for me personally due to some life changes. I have had to look at life with a new set of glasses. A pair that is full of potential and possibility. I am living each day with fullness and gratitude. I am spending some major quality time with my husband and we are learning just how strong our marriage and partnership really is. I do not want to look back at my life and see it as missed opportunities. I say yes and I grab on and go for it. I take the time to develop the film!

But I can't help but look at my work with clients and reflect on the missed opportunities that they have been faced with. Often these opportunities are missed simply because of life that has gotten out of hand. Here are a few examples of what I have been witness to.

Missed social events: The party invite comes in the mail. It is glanced at quickly as the mail is grabbed and thrown on the kitchen counter. Weeks later you realize as you see postings of pictures to Facebook that you missed the big event. Where is that invite? Still in the pile on the counter.

Tip: As you see those important invites take the time to write down the important info on your calendar or phone. We clip the invite to one clip on the side of our fridge. They are clipped in order with the most recent one on top.

Missed activities with the kids: Your kids ask you to go for a bike ride. You realize that in order to sleep tonight you have got to answer all the emails in your inbox. You tell the kids to ride without you. You finish answering the emails yet you still can't sleep. This time the sleeplessness is caused by the guilt of having said no to the bike ride.

Tip: Make a habit of saying yes to your kids whenever they ask you to do an activity together. The work will wait, the childhood will not. And don't worry, they will soon be teens and you will have all the time to work as they ignore you and roll their eyes {I say with sarcasm.}

You have nothing to wear so you stay home: The laundry is out of control and you have no clean clothes. You miss going to the party because you just can't wear the one lone sweater from the '70's hanging in your closet. You console yourself by going online and buying clothes that you can't afford and you justify it by telling yourself that you never want to miss a party again.

Tip: Do a load of laundry a day. Start the washer before you go to bed. When you wake up start the clothes in the dryer and while you shower and eat breakfast the clothes are drying. Now take the four minutes it takes to fold or hang up the clothes. Get in a routine. If you are overwhelmed by too much laundry, place it all in garbage bags and head to the laundry mat for an afternoon of fun! Take the time to sort and purge your clothes as you realize what is too small and what you want to donate. Take home only what you know your family is going to wear. Stop off at the donation site with the clothes you no longer need, all cleaned and bagged up!

You don't schedule your well doctor visits: All of a sudden your realize you haven't been to the dentist in two years or you haven't had a yearly exam since your youngest child was born, five years ago. Time seems to be elusive with these important exams. A mammogram, colonoscopy, pelvic exam, eye exam and dental exam are all important things to schedule as they could extend your life.

Tip: As you leave your appointment, make your next one. This usually means 6 months to one year out. Take the reminder slip and enter it into your calendar system. As soon as you have the habit of making the next appointment at your previous appointment you will end the cycle of missing those important exams.

So take some time this week and start saying yes to things! Stop the cycle of missed opportunity. Don't be like that outdated roll of film lying in a junk drawer. Be open to possibility and know that there is something great right around the corner and you want to make sure that you have clean clothes and remember the location with your freshly cleaned teeth!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Life After Another Bird Flys Away

I am now one month out from dropping our middle son off at college 250 miles away. When we did this with our oldest son two years ago, it was an exciting adventure. I can now admit that with the middle son it was the apprehension that just about killed me. I was so anxious during the month prior to him leaving that I think I did my family a disservice. I would think to myself, this is the last time we are going to a movie together...this is the last time we are going out to eat...this is the last time we will catch up after a day away from each other. I was wrong! There, I admitted it! I am on the other side now saying it is going to be okay, maybe even more than okay! I still have moments of sadness like last week when we walked into the high school for a theater event and a football game was going on. I remember the fall we had three boys playing football and I thought I was going to lose my mind. I now look back fondly at those days but know that the ones ahead are going to be just as special. Here are some tips that my husband and I have tried to implement.

1. Don't text and call all the time. Every couple of days is enough. The new college student wants to be an adult and having their mom call and text all the time is not making them feel like an adult. Instead turn your attention to someone else. In this case, my oldest son is getting my attention. We have had some really great conversations of late and I would have missed those if I had put all my focus on the new college student.

2. Plan meal time around the one remaining child at home. When we had several kids at different activities, we tried to always have at least one child at a meal. This was on a good day. If we waited until they were free, we would have eaten at 9:00. Now the focus is on the youngest child. We are in tune with his schedule and if he has practice until 7:00 then we have supper at 7:15.

3. Skype at least once a week. I didn't Skype with my oldest when he left for school. What was I thinking? If you have not Skyped yet, stop reading and go get yourself an account and reach out to your friends and family. It will be like they are in the room with you. True story! On Friday night we Skyped with my middle son and his girlfriend and we showed them the video of the youngest signing from the theater event. We laughed and talked just like we would if they were sitting at my island in my kitchen.

4. Send a care package. I have sent two now and I know that they enjoy getting them. It is a little bit of home when they go get their mail and there is a package waiting for them. I always try to put a homemade treat in the box for them. I first sent rice krispie bars for the first day of school treat, as I have been making them since my oldest started elementary school. No need to stop that tradition now that there are miles apart.

5. Have regular date night. If you are married, it is a good idea for date night to be with your spouse. But if you are not, have it with your group of friends. Just make sure that you are getting out and being social. Our lives do not stop when our children leave the nest, some may argue our live are just beginning!

6. Set up a time to visit. Most schools have parents weekend. Go that first year and see what college in session is all about. Have your child show you around to their favorite places on campus. My son joined a fraternity and I am "excited" to see it. I also want to see where this so called "library" is that he studies at.

Just remember that now is a time that you are a parent to an adult and they want to be treated like one. Remember that they know what is best and you at times will sound like a fool. Accept your role of loving parent and know that they are in the right place; learning and growing just like they are suppose to do. Now get ready for Thanksgiving break for when all they do is sleep for four days!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Having Control of Your Calendar

Too often I see people out of control with their lives. Some people have no choice as they are going through things like illness, divorce, death, working several jobs or even job loss. But for many it is the fact that they are just too busy. But there is hope out there, we can take control of our lives and it starts with our calendar. I recently sat down with my calendar and started filling it in with things that are important to me. For me it started with only accepting work clients during my prime work hours. Hours that I have found that I was at my best. I also scheduled in regular exercise. I found if I didn't schedule it, it never happened. Seeing everything in one place has helped me feel a bit more in control.  I use a paper calendar and have an electronic one as well. I like the combination of both.

Here are a few steps to take to help you regain some sanity and put to rest the word "busy."

1. Take control. Realize that you are the one who is in control of your life.

2. Figure out your non negotiable items. This is your work hours. I add in date night with my husband and quality time with friends and my children. For some it is prayer or meditation. I write these things down in my calendar.

3. Put in time for self-care. This is as simple as making sure you have an annual health exam as well as dentist and eye exams. Preventative care is huge. Exercise is also in this category. Write it down. If you schedule it, the more likely it will be that you will go.

4. Respect time. Make sure that you are on time. I have a friend and he is late for everything. It drives me crazy. It doesn't matter that you think you are a big deal. When you are late you are giving the message that your time is more important than the person who you are meeting. Also make sure that you end on time. If you say a meeting is going to last 45 minutes, keep your word. All of our time is valuable.

5. Find pockets of time. I am the person who is writing a blog post while flying on an airplane. Or I listen to a book that I have wanted to read on Audible while I exercise. Or pay my bills while I am waiting for my son to get out of school. There are those pockets of time that we can grab and get things off of our to-do list.

6. Let others help you. I have someone who cleans my house for me. It is the best gift I have given myself. We got rid of cable which was a bill equal to the cost of having my house cleaned. Best decision ever! Figure out ways to carpool so you are only driving kids one night a week. Know that it is ok to ask for help.

7. Find shortcuts. I am a big fan of the freezer meal. Pinterest has great ideas to help you with this. If you spend a few hours on a weekend planning and prepping you can have meals ready to go for the next two weeks or longer. Schedule that time and see the domino effect of more time in the evenings to help with homework or relax with your spouse or take your dog for a walk.

8. Don't say yes to everything. I once suffered from the disease to please and said I would do anything that was asked of me. But my family suffered and I suffered. I was too busy getting ready for a meeting I didn't want to go to and missing family dinner.

9. Learn to say no. Once I understood that saying no was not a bad thing, it was much easier to say. By saying no to things I didn't want to do, I was able to say yes to the things that really mattered to me.

Just remember, you get to choose to add and subtract many things in your life. You don't have to put your children in every activity. You don't have to have a well balanced meal on the table every night. Sanity is important.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

The Organized Student

With school in session, many students are feeling the crunch of having to get it all done with limited hours. We are all over scheduled and over tired. We try to do everything and try to say yes to everything. But remember the power of the word "no".

This year my middle son started college and I write this with him in mind. I remember when my oldest went to college and he said he went from high school wondering what questions on tests he got wrong to in college, wondering what questions he got right. All of a sudden, school was harder and having to balance work, activities and school became more difficult. Most college students work and some even have families. This can be a challenge. Throw in moving away from home and no longer having the nagging voice of a parent reminding them to get the homework done can be an adjustment.

So I hope I have instilled in my children good study habits. My study habits were "wait until the last possible minute and cram everything in and go into panic mode." Hopefully they can learn from my mistakes and make better choices.

1. Find a place to study that works for you. This may mean a quiet section of the library. Or laying on your bed with headphones in. All dorm rooms are equipped with desks, but usually dorm rooms are the least quiet spot. Dorm room desks are used to give the parents the illusion that their child is going to sit there all the time and be studious. As an organizer, I find dorm desks a waste of good space. Multipurpose the space and use it as a bookcase. In dorms, people stop in and distract you and it could take hours to get back on track. If you are a college student and have a family, you may need to be creative with this. It could be early morning hours on your kitchen table before anyone wakes up. It could be a local coffee shop. Experiment and find a place that works for you and your needs.
With laptops and smart phones, we are no longer tied to a desk. My middle son would take a book to the zoo and read. There was something relaxing that he found at the zoo. Being unconventional is ok as long as you are getting the work done.

2. Schedule heads down time. It is always good to schedule things that may be overlooked. Sometimes we just try to fit in studying into empty pockets of time in our day. If we get an invitation to do something fun, we will say yes and those empty pockets will evaporate. But schedule the heads down time. Because what would happen if you had regularly scheduled hours of the day that you use for studying?

3. Keep track of deadlines early on. Make sure you know when papers are due and what dates tests will be. Put them in your calendar system now. Knowing that you have two papers due on the same day will be an important thing to know early on for planning.

4. Turn off distractions and unplug. This could be social media, email and text messages. Once we get distracted it could take us hours to get back on track. If need be, reward yourself and take a break every hour and use the break time for getting plugged back in.

5. Plug in headphones. I find headphones are the universal sign of "don't bother me." When I have my headphones on and my head down people don't approach me and I can focus for long periods of time. I may appear anti social but I am getting work done.

6. Keep your study materials organized. More and more school work is being condensed electronically. We don't go through reams of paper and notebooks. I think this year my middle sons college books cost under $100. Even in high school, my youngest was given a PLD, or personal learning device. His Chemistry class is taught using upside down learning and the instruction is done via video that they watch at home. Class room time is used for questions. So it boils down to making sure your laptop is organized. Learn how to use folders and cloud storage.

7. Know when to join a study group. This was essential when I was in law school. Some classes simply have the need for a study group. Talking to students who took the class ahead of you should help you determine the need. Don't make the group too large or scheduling of the group will become a logistical nightmare.

8. Know when to hire a tutor. Not all classes are easy. Knowing early on that you need help is better than realizing it the night before the final. Finding a tutor is easy. I had a Latin tutor who happened to be the graduated student working with my Latin professor. Colleges want you to succeed and there are resources if you just ask.

9. Take a speed reading class. Sometimes you just need to learn to read faster. I read very fast but comprehend little. My middle son reads slowly and comprehends it all. I think finding the middle ground is perfect and usually a speed reading class is just what you need to find the ability to read quickly and also comprehend.

10. Know when to drop a class. In graduate school, my husband had one class that it took the average person several tries to pass. Unfortunately it was taught by only one person who was highly intelligent but lacked basic communication skills. If you find yourself in that situation recognize it early on and talk to your advisor about options.

11. The mom in me wants to remind you to get plenty of sleep, eat your fruits and vegetables. Hang out with friends who are good influences on you. Limit your alcohol (if of age) and caffeine consumption and increase your water consumption. Take time to exercise and don't have too much fun!

It is early fall and now is the time to evaluate your study habits. Have an organized school year!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Serving the Fargo-Moorhead area as well as North Dakota and South Dakota. Also seeking new representatives for Clever Container in all areas of the country.

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