Giving Back During the Holidays

The holidays are the perfect time to help those less fortunate than ourselves. Giving back not only helps others, it makes you feel good! If you are inspired to make a difference in someone else’s life this holiday season, here are a few ideas:

1. Adopt a Family: Many charities, like the The Salvation Army have an Adopt-A-Family program during the holidays. When you sign up, you will be matched with a financially struggling family. You can shop for the family, and deliver their gifts on Christmas morning! How fun would it be to see their happy faces?

2. Donate a Tree to Our Troops: The Christmas Spirit Foundation will allow you to send a Christmas tree to our troops who cannot be home for Christmas. All you have to do is to go to a participating tree lot and purchase a tree. It will be sent via Federal Express overseas to our troops! For more information go to Trees for Troops!

3. Clean Your Clutter and Donate It! This is a win-win situation. Clean out your closet for the New Year. Remember it is safe to assume that if you have not worn an item in the past year, you likely are not going to wear it again. Donate your gently used items to the The Salvation Army. What no longer works for you can be a real treasure to someone in need.

4. Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen: There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the faces of the people you help and having an exchange with them. When you volunteer at a soup kitchen, you will have the opportunity to prepare a hot meal for the homeless, and get to serve it them! This will be the first meal many of these people have had in many days. Seeing their faces of gratitude is one of the most rewarding things ever. Go to DoSomething.org and find a soup kitchen near you.

5. Make Greeting Cards for Hospitalized Children: Get out your watercolors, glitter and stickers! Make some fun colorful cards with a heart felt message inside for children that have to spend their holidays in the hospital. Any hospital welcomes this during the holidays. Or contact Cards for Hospitalized Kids for guidance.

 

 

Simplifying the Holidays

Once Halloween is here, the next two months can feel like a blur. Are you ready for the holidays? For many of us, the holidays are a stressful time of year, and become more about getting it all done, than truly enjoying what the season is about. However, with a little advanced planning and the proper attitude, the holidays can truly be a fun and magical time for you and your family. Here are a few tips to make it happen:

1. Adjust Your Expectations: Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. We put ourselves under immense pressure to set the perfect Thanksgiving table, or give the ultimate gift. This does nothing but wear us out before we begin! Consider your priorities this holiday season, and decide what things are really important to you. This can include cherished family rituals, or attending a holiday event. Let the less important details go and focus on your priorities first.

2. Create a Master To-Do List: Start off the holiday season by creating a master to-do list, which includes everything that needs to be done. This list can include anything from gifts to shop for, parties to attend, and any other special holiday activities. Set yourself a deadline or due date for each item to help keep yourself on track.

3. Create a Holiday Command Center: Somewhere in your home, create a holiday command center. In this space, you will include all your wrapping paper, greeting cards, lists, a phone, computer and an address book for instance. Keeping everything holiday related in one central area helps you to stay organized, and also saves time. How often do you start wrapping a gift only to realize your cant find the scissors or tape?

4. Think Ahead: The more prep work you can do ahead of time the smoother your holiday season will be. Wrap your gifts as you purchase them rather than on Christmas Eve! In planning ahead, don’t forget your kitchen. Clear out the clutter in your pantry and refrigerator, and slowly start assembling special holiday ingredients that you know you will be using. If you have an extra hour on Sunday, make a batch of refrigerator cookies. Then when unexpected guests come by all you have to do is pop them in the oven.

5. Out With the Old, In With the New:  As you unpack your holiday decorations, discard anything that is worn, or in ill repair. As you set up your wrapping station, throw away old paper scraps and tangled ribbon. This will not only clear your space, it will show you what you need to purchase this holiday season. It’s a good idea to keep a running list of items that you will need as you do this, so you will be ready to shop when the time comes.

 

 

 

 

Simple Ways to Streamline your Day

Do you hit the ground running when you wake up? Are you moving hurriedly through your day from the moment your alarm goes off until you collapse in bed at night? You are not alone! Here are some easy ways to streamline your day and hopefully restore a little more calm to your life!

1. Don’t Answer Emails in the Morning. Many of us check our email and facebook page right when we wake up. In order to control your time and your stress level, you need to take charge of your electronic communications, rather than being a slave to them. Designate a specific time during the day to read through your emails and respond. You may need more than one check in period throughout the day, but the key is to designate a set period of time and stick to it.

2. Use a Daily Planner. If you do not already use a daily planner, you should give it a try! Also, many phones have apps that can help organize your day, create to-do lists, and keep track of daily reminders. One great app is called reQuall, which works on most commonly used cell phones.

3. Make Time Spent Waiting Productive. Whether you are sitting in traffic, or waiting to pick up a child from school, that down time can be extremely productive if used correctly! You could use this time to brainstorm, make to-do lists, or plan meals for the week ahead.

4. Plan Your Grocery Shopping. We all have to run to the store for a quick item here and there, but to minimize this time drain plan for one big shopping trip per week. Make a list and pick a time when the store is least crowded, like first thing in the morning. A little advanced planning can save you hours a week and also saves gas from running back and forth to the store.

5. Start the Night Before. To streamline your mornings, start your day the night before. Make the kids lunches, and plan their outfits (and yours). Pack your briefcase and have the coffee pot ready to go. Its amazing how these little adjustments save time and stress!

 

 

Easy Tips to Get Organized

Let’s face it, we all could use a little help getting organized. Between our work, home life and trying to carve out a little personal time, we are all operating at warp speed. Getting organized will not only help you move more quickly and efficiently throughout your day, it will also give you something we all need more of, peace of mind!

Here are some simple tips to get you started:

Take Action!

One of the biggest obstacles we face in getting organized is procrastination! Strive to do a little bit every day, and simply start. Often just crossing one item off your to do list can motivate you to continue the process.

Start Small

You can make significant progress with your organization efforts in just minutes a day. Pick one small area to focus on, such as a desk drawer, counter top, or one area of your closet. Give yourself fifteen minutes to sort and organize. Do that every day, and you will be more organized in no time.

Everything Has a Place

If there is not a space designated for a particular item, it will sit out and create clutter. If you don’t have a place to store the item, it might be time to start getting rid of possessions that are needlessly taking up space.

Planning

A little bit of advanced planning can make your day go a whole lot smoother, and help you stay more organized. Pack lunches the night before, plan your family dinners in advance and make one trip to the grocery store, etc. Planning ahead not only helps you stay more organized, it helps alleviate a lot of stress!

Leave Your Emotions Out of It

Clutter is directly tied to our emotions. Often we are emotionally attached to our belongings, and hang on to things needlessly. It is important to be honest with yourself and leave your emotions out of the organization process.

Be Accountable

If you find that organizing is too much of a challenge, consider enlisting the help of a friend to keep you focused. Someone guiding you through the process and asking the tough questions can help you stay honest with yourself!

Why Go Green?

If you listen to the media these days, you may be feeling the pressure to “go green.” While many understand this is generally a good idea, they may not fully appreciate why. Here are a few compelling reasons to make the effort.

Making New Stuff Takes Huge Amounts of Energy. Stop for a minute, and realize that most everything you see around you was man-made, and has an environmental impact. Making greener choices protects our forests, supports biodiversity, and reduces the amount of waste going into our landfills.

Nature Recycles, So Should You. Remember that nothing is ever really thrown away, it ends up somewhere! While reducing the amount of stuff we consume on a daily basis is an important first step, finding good uses for what we throw away is important as well.

Real Food Not Only Fuels You, it Helps the Planet. Did you know that organic milk has 68% more omega-3 fatty acids that regular milk? Eating seasonal, local, organic food is not only infinitely better for your body, it has global consequences. Buying locally reduces greenhouse gas emissions that are used to ship food in from other locations. Buying fresh also reduces the need for packaging, and saves huge amounts of energy that are used to process foods.

Water is a Precious Resource. We often take water for granted, and assume that it is a given right that it will exist in abundance. However with global climate changes, for many areas around the world the availability of water could change. Bottled water alone is responsible for significant global greenhouse gas emissions created from shipping, consumes energy to process the petroleum based plastic bottles, and clogs our landfills with plastic. Swear off the bottle and you will have made a significant difference in terms of helping the planet, as well as save money!

You Absorb Up to Four Pounds of Cosmetics Over Your Lifetime. Did you know that your skin absorbs up to 60% of the products you use every day? Using plant-based products not only helps the environment, but also greatly reduces the toxic load that your body contends with on a daily basis.

Everything Old is New Again

Consignment stores can be a lot of fun if you know how to shop them. They are often filled with unique treasures that you just cannot find anywhere else. Consignment shopping is a win-win because it helps not only the consigner and the environment, but you get to find some great bargains!  With some savvy shopping skills and a little bit of time, you can find some great items and have fun while you are doing it. Here are some quick tips to keep in mind:

1. Be a Regular. It is a good idea to be regular at your favorite shop, as the inventory constantly changes. It is also a good idea to visit the shop at the beginning of a season, when people tend to clean out their closets.

2. Check the Quality. Before making a purchase, inspect the item for any damage, such as broken zippers, missing buttons or loose seams.

3. Consider Alterations. Don’t be afraid to consider altering an item. If something doesn’t fit perfectly, alterations can be made inexpensively, and you still walk away with a great deal.

4. Be Aware of Retail Prices. It is helpful if you already know your retail prices, as well as your labels. This will help you decide if you re really getting a great bargain.

5. Be Creative and Have Fun! Go into your shopping adventure with a spirit of fun and creativity. You may be inspired to try a new style, or a new color! Consignment shopping allows you to take a little fashion risk without breaking the bank.

We are lucky to live in the Bay Area where there are unlimited choices in consignment shopping. Here is a list of shops to get you started! SFBay Consignment / Thrift stores – San Francisco

Honoring our Troops

Cell Phones for Soldiers is a Non-profit organization dedicated to providing deployed and returning troops cost-free methods to communicate with family while serving in the US Military.  

According to their website www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com, in 2011, 593,535 service men and women have been served, thanks to public generosity.

How this comes to fruition, is Cell Phones for Soldiers, collects used cell phones and sells them to recycling firms, and utilizes that money to buy calling cards for soldiers overseas.

There are additional ways that you can contribute for example, by setting up a Drop-off Site, or a Limited Time Drive.  Our service men and women overseas can not talk to their families often. Imagine how one phone call can truly change a life.

Visit their website today and see how you can make a difference in one families life.

 

Where and What to Recycle

Our Theme for the week is purging and de-cluttering.  That said, let me ask you.. How do you dispose of items that you aren’t certain what to do with specifically?  Rather than dumping them in the garbage as waste, and then having those items end up polluting our landfills, let me share with you a valuable resource about recycling household goods.

Just as I’ve said to many of my organizing clients from time to time, that there IS a place for everything and that everything has a place.

Items from your home, such as diapers, junk mail, and everything in-between including hazardous materials, should properly be disposed of to insure that our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to live in a safe and sustainable environment.

Our local Marin Resource Recovery Center (MRRC) offers many choices for disposing of, or properly recycling items, that are no longer needed. Check out their long lists of products to recycle at www.marinsanitary.com. If you are not in Marin County, I’m certain there are other organizations in your area that you can contact (if you haven’t already) that will assist you with your recycling needs.

Make a difference not only in your household, but through your contribution, make a positive impact on your community and the environment. You (and your children) will be glad you did!

 

Remove Day

Today is an auspicious day to purge files and de-clutter.  In Feng Shui, it is considered a “Remove” day.  When was the last time that you purged and de-cluttered your files?  Not only at your business office, but at your home too.  Remove files that no longer serve you, and archive documents that you must keep for tax purposes, and shred or discard unnecessary files or documents.  This will create more space in your file cabinets.

Clutter comes in many forms and paper is not the only culprit.  Do you have items in your home or garage that are broken and that you had “intended” to get repaired more than a year ago?  It’s time to let them go!  What about clothing items that you have outgrown, or your children’s clothes that you were going to gift to a friend who is pregnant, but you just haven’t gotten around to it?  What about worn out cooking utensils in your kitchen, or food items that have expired in your refrigerator or pantry?  These items are clutter too!  Clutter stagnates your “chi” or energy flow.  Let go of clutter, and watch the energy flow back to you.  It will free up your time, so you can be more productive and increase your quality of life.

And how do I know specific dates that are considered “Remove” days, you ask?  Kathleen Horvath, with 5Elements Group, is a Feng Shui Master, and has created a TimeBlazr Calendar System.  The system facilitates decision making and helps you to excel in many professional and personal endeavors. This tool has positively enhanced my decisions for the past two years and has improved the quality of my life.

To learn more about how Feng Shui can be a valuable tool in your life decisions, visit www.5ElementsGroup.com or email Kathleen@5ElementsGroup.com

Have a productive and successful “Remove” day!