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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 me, Back-to-School has a slightly different time line. It’s not a full court press for the month August running from store to store and having everything labeled, stocked and ready to go. Why? Because that’s not how most sensory kids (or overwhelmed adults) successfully manage a transition. Here, we need to apply the same strategies to Back-to-School as we do other sensory supports: Break it down, eliminate distractions, and create a visual guide or system (for us and for our sensory kids!). Three key ideas to remember: Focus on immediate needs only, only introduce a few things a week, and involve your child in the process.
From my experience of living with and working with sensory kids, Back-to-School is the three month, not a two-week, process. Our sensory kids are often tangible, concrete learners so preparing ahead of time for something that is not here yet often feels too abstract for them and leaves them feeling frustrated or overwhelmed. Do you know any child that really wants to make a homework station before school starts and before they actually have homework? Part of Sensory Organizing is understanding that we have to see what’s not working before we can set-up the best system to support it. So let’s simplify this Back-to-School Process for our sensory kids (and us) with a slightly different time line.
Central Message Area
Morning Routines / Systems
Getting Ready for New People and Places
Portable Homework Bin
Systems for Getting Things Home and Back-to-School Again
Weeknight Meal Planning
Visual Planning Tools
So for the next 3 Months, I’ll be working off this time line and sharing strategies, visual systems, and colorful examples that support these goals. Here’s to a little more summer and a slow but steady approach to what will be a new, messy, forgetful, frustrating school year chock-full of small victories ~
#sensoryorganzing #sensorychild #backtoschoolthesensoryway
One of the highlights of Summer is travel – trips to see family, check out new places, and try new things. Often, these are also things that can be challenging for many sensory kids. Thankfully, by bringing a few extra supports on the road, we can often soften the new or overwhelming experiences. One easy way to support sensory kids on the road is to bring along a easy-to-make, easy-to-adjust Travel Schedule.
Here’s a simple and portable Travel Schedule:
* Identify the experiences / times of day you think might need some extra support – challenging routines or new experiences and focus on those top 2-3 few times to support with visual schedule. For a child that needs less support, this can be used for a broader, full day schedule. Be sure to mix in some fun pictures that highlight favorite people you might see on the trip and/or fascinations.
* A Small 4×6 Photo Book – you can find these at Home Stores (Target, Walmart, Home Goods), Craft Stores, or on Amazon.com
* 4×6 Index Cards – come in white or colored.
* Picture Images (take your own pictures of your real life tasks, pictures from magazines, stock photos, or image software like Boardmaker – http://www.mayer-johnson.com/boardmaker-software/ , Picture Exchange Communication System – http://www.pecsusa.com/ , or Do 2 Learn (can sign-up for an annual membership on Do 2 Learn!) – http://www.do2learn.com/ . You can also get pamphlets or brochures of places you will be visiting and put pieces of those into the visual schedule.
* Black marker to label index cards
* Tape to attach images to index cards.
* Create one image index card that represents a “New or Special” Activity. This can be your universal sign that something new / unexpected is coming. A visual prompt can give sensory kids time to internally prepare.
Take a few moments each morning to set-up the photo book to support key experiences in the upcoming day. The index cards can be moved in / out of plastic photo protectors very easily and allow you to set a chronological / ordered schedule and adjust as needed. By supporting a few challenging times, you give your sensory child (and your family) the opportunity to have more moments of real connection and joy. And connection and joy is what vacation is really all about.
Simple changes for more peaceful summer days ~
I have a confession to make. I know January 1st brings a New Year with new resolutions and a fresh, new start. Holiday stuff is supposed to be all packed away neatly and the smoothie maker should be running full time – this is especially true at a professional organizer’s house. But at this house, we do things alittle differently and our Christmas Decorations are still up.
As the parent of a child who naturally sees life at the extremes, through all or nothing eyes, I’ve developed some mantras I verbalize from time to time. “Let go of the all or nothing thinking”, “Can we meet in the middle on this one”, “Your way is not necessarily the right way” are a few that come out of my mouth regularly. In the last few years, my kids have learned to recognize when I’m acting in a way that might warrant a few of these mantras turned back on me. One big one was my belief that Christmas ended and the New Year started on January 1.
As I began to look at it through the eyes of a sensory child, I saw what a tough transition January can be. You have a transition back to school (and what a long, academic month January is!), short days and long, dark nights, and to top it all off, all those fun glittery lights and warm holiday decorations get ripped out from underneath you as you brave the cold, dark month ahead.
So here’s why I now give my kids (and myself) an extra week of Christmas Decorations:
- As someone who believes in the power of breaking things down and softening transitions, there is no bigger transition for sensory kids than the one from Holiday break to the January routine.
- Everything looks better at the end of the day with fun, glittery lights – homework, my skin, and the darkness that creeps up at 4pm.
- Writing holiday thank you cards is so much easier sitting by a decorated tree with new toys and gift cards still sitting underneath – nice visual reminders make this chore so much more palatable.
- Sensory kids have a much easier time saying good-bye to the Holidays after they’ve braved their first week back in the routine. They might even help you pack a few things away.
Here’s a New Years Resolution to consider – pay attention to when you are falling into viewing life in the extremes. Have the courage to take your own advice, challenge your old beliefs, and take the softer, gentler way. And bring some fun, glittery lights along for the ride.
Make New Friends………..
Now that the school year is up and running, we will have new opportunities to guide and support our rigid, anxious, and distracted kids as they begin to navigate new academic and social experiences. One of the more common challenges for all types of sensory kids revolves around understanding the rules of friendship. Social rules fall under the umbrella of abstract experiences that can often be difficult for our sensory kids.
Thankfully, we have many things that we can use to help us paint a picture for our sensory kids and one of my favorite tools is popular songs / sayings. Here is the first verse of a popular Scout Song that helps explain the different levels of friendships:
Make new friends,
but keep the old.
One is silver,
the other is gold.
Why this song works so well as a social teaching tool:
1) Short and Direct:
Many sensory kids can have a hard time breaking down the meaning in longer pieces. This song gives it’s message in a direct, simple way.
2) Rating Scale:
A built-in rating scale (Gold and Silver) explains the different levels of friendship in a concrete, tangible way.
3) Visual Friendly:
It is very easy to take this song and create a picture or visual to help your child see gold and silver. You could take it a step further and help your child define what a Gold friend and a Silver friend means to them. How might a Silver friend become a Gold friend? Are they a Gold friend or a Silver friend or does it depend on who they are with? Is it more important to have a few Gold friends or alot of silver friends or somewhere in the middle?
Take a simple song or saying and help create a concrete lesson for your sensory child. These tools are the building blocks for understanding those confusing, abstract life experiences. Look at some of your favorite songs, poems, or sayings and see if they can become a teaching tool for your family. Here’s simple supports for more peaceful days ~