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In honor of the new year, I’m going to start a new section on my blog that focuses on organizing for us parents. Nothing keeps us more in touch with the power of a good system then doing it for ourselves now and again. Like Sensory Organizing Systems, we’re going to focus on small changes that make a BIG impact. With Simply Organized Enough, we’ll look at problem areas / challenging tasks and focus on organizing one small section that will impact the whole space or task as a whole. For me, 2015 is all about doing less but achieving more!
CLOTHES MONSTER IN THE CLOSET
Often, when I’m am working with an organizing client on a problem area, it almost always comes down to one main issue. Like other areas in life, the 80/20 rule applies to organizing problem areas – 20% of the area causes 80% of the problems. If you can find that 20% and adjust it, the whole space will work much more efficiently.
My house is no different. Here’s an example of this 80/20 rule in my own house – the master bedroom closet. My husband wears business clothes to work – some that can be machine washed and some that need to be dry cleaned. Knowing his work clothes could not go in with the everyday clothes in the hamper, he kept them separate but with no definitive home, they all end up mixed up on the closet floor. When it came time to try to figure out what was what – the task took longer, was more frustrating, and was often done at the last minute. This one small area was causing 80% of the challenges with this task.
With Simply Organized Enough, I’m just going to focus on this one small area, use items I already own (if possible), and make a simple yet visual system.
LAUNDRY BAG SYSTEM
Here’s Why It Works:
UTILIZES CURRENT SYSTEM & TAKES ADVANTAGE OF UNUSED SPACE
Working off where the clothes were already piling up (working off the habit that is already in place for my husband), I’m going to use the floor space under his hanging rod. Shoes that were in this space were put on a shoe rack that runs along the back wall of the closet. The front floor and low hanging space here was free game for me to use.
USING WHAT WE HAD & INEXPENSIVE PRODUCTS
Looking at what I already had around that I could use, I found a great Contain Yourself reusable shopping bag from The Container Store (http://www.containerstore.com/shop?productId=10026217&N=&Ntt=reusable+shopping+bag ). It’s significantly bigger than most reusable shopping bags (17-3/4″ x 7″ x 18-1/2″ h), holds up to 30lbs, and it features two sets of handles; two long shoulder straps and two shorter carrying handles. Knowing I needed 2 bags for this systems, it was easy and inexpensive ($1.99 per bag!) to pick-up one more.
VISUAL & SIMPLE SYSTEM
The system was completed with: Two Large Binder Clips for labeling the bag (which I already had). I used large binder clips from Staples ($4.59 for a 12 pack) – http://www.staples.com/Staples-Large-Satin-Silver-Metal-Binder-Clips-2-Size-with-1-Capacity/product_329502 Two laminated labels – one for each bag (using my laminating machine). In my house, labels need to be big and in your face : ) The labels could have also been make with simple luggage tags or paper gift tags that could be attached on one of the carrying handles on the bag. Example of JAM Paper Gift Tags ($8.50 for 6 pack) – http://www.staples.com/product_38422?externalize=certona
The key to this system is the study, portable bags with carrying handles. Once each bag is full, it can be carried either to the car for the dry cleaner or to the washing machine. Visual and portable makes this system a win. Here is a system that is inexpensive (even if you had to purchase the 2 bags and the sturdy paper gift tag labels, the total cost is $12.50), took about 10 minutes to create and install, and reduced 80% of the problem task. A visual, portable system + keeping with up dry cleaning / laundry = BIG Impact to daily life. Here’s to Simply Organized Enough and to small changes for more peaceful days ~
For people who are good at taking care of our sensory kids, we are often not very good a taking care of ourselves. This is the part that never gets talked about but it is as important (if not more important!) as all the things we do to support our sensory children.
Here’s my top 10 Self-Care To Do List (with a few book suggestions mixed in):
1) YOU JUST DID THE HARDEST PART Just by having the courage to say you need help right now, you have already shifted the dynamics of your experience.
2) WHAT YOU ARE FEELING IS NORMAL Know that all that you are feeling is completely normal and comes with the special needs territory!! We have an amazing ability to feel like we are the only ones going through something, but we’re not. Know that.
3) WE ARE HIGHLY SENSITIVE TOO! 9 times out of 10, us parents are very sensitive also. This sensitivity can be something we’ve always had or can be the result of navigating life with a special needs child. The more we can understand and support what overwhelms us, what we need help with, the better for our sensory kids (they can feed off our energy so easily!). So let me remove any guilt for you about taking time for yourself – it will undoubtedly help your kids. When I am in a rough spot – I do the worksheet that is in my book (meant to help us understand our kids) to understand where I am, what are my triggers right now, and what times of day are pushing me over the edge and I try to add in 2-3 things for me, for my emotional regulation. 2 Books I love about understanding our own Highly Sensitive Profiles are: – “Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight: What to Do If You Are Sensory Defensive in an Overstimulating World” by Sharon Heller. (Heller is a trained psychologist and also lives with sensory defensiveness herself!). http://www.amazon.com/Loud-Bright-Fast-Tight-Overstimulating/dp/0060932929 – “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine N. Aron Ph.D. One of the trail blazing books on highly sensitive people. Gives a great picture of how to understand your sensitivities and how to set up your life to support them. http://www.amazon.com/Highly-Sensitive-Person-Elaine-Ph-D/dp/0553062182
4) SIMPLE THINGS WORK! Think simple and small changes. Sometimes it’s a bitch session with a friend or 10 minutes of complete quiet a day. If before dinnertime is a nightmare for your family, try to make dinner ahead of time and have it ready to go. Taking one thing off our plate at a stressful time of day can totally change how we navigate the stress.
5) TAKE YOUR OWN ADVICE This is hard to swallow sometimes but every time I am telling my sensory child to do something, there is a piece of that advice I need to take for myself. EVERY SINGLE TIME. Sometimes it’s just a small piece but I still have my piece so I need to look at that. If I’m telling my child to to find something he loves to do, I need to find something I love to do. When I am feeling sorry for him because of friendship changes, I need to go call one of my friends and make a date to see them. It’s all connected.
6) MAKE YOURSELF A VISUAL Visuals are powerful tools for us too. Make one for yourself and throw it in a nice picture frame that is front and center in your house. When you are feeling overwhelmed and need to get yourself grounded quickly, look at your visual. This will create some space between you and the stressful moment and it changes everything. Maybe it’s a saying like “IT’S ALL GOING TO BE OK” or a picture of your favorite, most relaxing place in the world. Find your powerful visual, print it out, frame it, and use it everyday.
7) SOMETIMES BIG PROBLEMS HAVE SIMPLE SOLUTIONS Get out there and talk to people – be vulnerable. Just like we tell our sensory kids that their brains can make some things much bigger than they actually are, we can do that too about our life with our sensory kids. Get out there and connect, ask for help, find out what is working with other special needs families, and be open to new ideas and perspectives – it really shifts everything.
8) THERAPY FOR YOU “Therapy” can be an art class, a “Colorful Mood Walk” (as I like to call mine) with a friend where you walk and colorfully talk about where you are right now, some retail therapy, or sitting in a therapists office to get some perspective – just get your version of therapy.
9) WORK ON BUILDING YOUR OWN RESILIENCE Learn to trust in this life process. Get a journal. Think back on all the hard things in your life (as a child too!) and write down what they were and what you learned from them. There are gifts in the hard experiences, even the one you are in right now, you just can’t see them yet. One book to check out is “The Resilient Parent: Everyday Wisdom for Life with Your Exceptional Child” by Mantu Joshi – http://www.amazon.com/The-Resilient-Parent-Everyday-Exceptional/dp/1933084251
10) LEARN TO MAKE SPACE FOR LIFE For me, making space for life means not believing every thought I have about my life today. I can take things too seriously, make things too dramatic or big, and can believe my thoughts without even questioning them. Make space with your thoughts – just because you have a thought, does not mean that it’s true. For me, it’s in that little bit of space that truth and wisdom come in.
And most importantly, know that everything I just told you, I need to hear for myself but only every single day. Thank you for helping me see it again today ~
Most schools send home some school work with their students to do over the summer. We all know how hard it can be to get our rigid, anxious, or distracted kids plugged in to doing homework during the school year, let alone over the summer. Thankfully, there are some easy ways we can create some structure, break it down into weekly expectations, and tap into some visual aids. Summer is our chill time too so this falls under Sensory Organizing that helps us help our kids. We know that if our sensory kids know what the plan is ahead of time and can easily find their work supplies, they will be more likely to be successful. And sure enough, it will soon become a part of their summer routine – guessing not their favorite part – but a part nonetheless ~
– Always work with what you have on hand first!
– Fabric Wall Mount Magazine Organizer – I got this one from the Container Store – http://www.containerstore.com/shop?productId=10020391&N=&Nao=20&Ntt=reisenthel
(The wall mount option very important in my smallish house. I use vertical space whenever I can!)
– Over-the-Door Single Hooks – Again to make it easy and temporary (no construction!), over-the-door hooks are a nice option. Just be sure that hooks fit into the tabs on magazine organizer. These hooks are from Walmart – Mainstays brand. (To have my magazine organizer fall lower so everyone could reach everything, I added hooks I had on hand to the over-the-door hook).
– Color Coded Supplies – This can be a good option to personalize for each child. This example shows personalized folders from Mead and All Purpose Zipper Bag from Tech Gear.
– Clear Clipboards – I love clear clipboards because they are visually calmer – I found these at Walmart. To color code these a bit, I used the colored Scotch Tape Expressions Tape. The clipboards can be used as a reading / math log of expected weekly work and work completed.
– Labels / Images – for clipboard and folders.
With the 7 pockets I had to work with, the top pocket holds the pencil cases and then each child had 3 pockets – Work Log Clipboard, Math Page Folder, and current reading book. Simple yet visual and structured is the name of the Summer Work Game. That way, we can get back to the real summer fun as soon as possible. Simple changes for more peaceful summer days ~
I don’t know about you but the amount of clothes I have ruined because I forgot to pull out the “hang-dry only” item from the washing machine before throwing the whole load into the dryer is pretty astronomical. If I can’t remember to do it myself, I definitely won’t remember to remind any other laundry helpers to do it either. So I finally surrendered and tried to think about a visual for me (and my helpers!). Had to be easy, eye-catching, and not a whole lot of extra steps (because laundry itself is enough steps!). So here’s what I came up with:
THE HANG-DRY VISUAL
* Adhesive magnets (business card size) from office supply store. See example below from Staples – http://www.staples.com
* Applicable Image – can use stock photo sites, picture from a magazine, picture image software like Boardmaker or Picture Exchange Communication System. I got my image from istockphoto – http://www.istockphoto.com
* Word Processor or White Labels (labels can be trimmed to fit what you need). I think the image / text combination is often the most powerful for us adults.
* Clear Packing Tape – small piece of tape to protect top of image / label after you adhere to magnet. One I like is Scotch Long Lasting Moving & Storage Tape – http://www.scotchbrand.com
Since most washing machines / dryers are magnetic – this visual works like a charm. When not in use “Hang-Dry Item” visual hangs on top /or under door to washing machine. When a hang-dry only piece of clothing in washing machine, “Hang-Dry Item” visual gets moved onto the door of the washing machine so it visually hits you in the face when time to move laundry to dryer. Now just imagine all the great clothes you will be saving in your future.
Simple changes for more peaceful days ~