Tuesday, September 1, 2015

In Case Of Emergency In A Technical World

Social media and technology are changing the way that we plan for our eventual death. We use to only be concerned about where the will is kept or where the information for the bank accounts are kept. Gone are the days where the majority of us keep our papers in a safety deposit box and all we need to do is worry that the key is given to the right person. Now it is much more complex and if you are not savvy you could easily become frustrated. 

I read a very interesting article about managing your social media accounts when you are dead. It is something I had not thought about before last week. I consider myself young and I see death as a far off event. Yes I have had some tragedies happen where some of my friends have died unexpectedly. And every once in awhile I am reminded of this as a post will creep in when someone writes on their wall, or it is their birthday.

Did you know that you can set up your Facebook account to be deleted or memorialized if you pass away? I like the idea of having a memorialized account. Having such an account puts the word "Remembering" by your name in your profile. Your content stays and is shared to the same audience it was intended for. It does not show up in birthday reminders or People You May Know section. I like this option.

You can also choose to have your account deleted upon your death. There are steps to put this into place now before your death. Check with Facebook on how to do this.

Another option is to have a legacy contact. That is someone that you put in charge of your account upon your passing. They are allowed to write a pinned post, respond to friend requests and update your profile picture and cover photo. They cannot log into your account and remove posts or remove friends or read your private messages you sent. I followed the steps on Facebook to do this and it took me one minute.

What about your smart phone that is password protected? I have an iPhone 6 that opens with a password or my fingerprint. This is the only way my phone can be opened. I don't try to hide it so all of my kids and husband know what it is. For heavens sake even the guy sitting next me on my flight knows what it is. But truth be told, I don't know what my husbands is. Although there is not any information I would need from his phone. He will need my phone more than I will need his phone. But consider sharing your phone password with someone.

Another area of concern is all those darned passwords that we have. Yes there are apps that can remember your passwords for you. I easily have 50 accounts with passwords. We have them all written down on an excel document that is printed. Does it need to be updated? It sure does.  My husband has this amazing ability to remember numbers and passwords. It is his party trick, but he is starting to forget. Passwords now mock you with their "strength" detection. So you try harder and harder to insert numbers and symbols all while losing your mind in the memorization. I for one am going back to the old school method of paper and pen and working on updating the passwords.

It is funny when we think about all the new things that we have to worry about in case of an emergency, it becomes overwhelming! When my kids were little all I worried about was having a will and life insurance. Now I need to add to the list the social media accounts and passwords.

So this week let's keep it simple! Go and buy yourself a fire proof water proof safe and start putting all your important papers in it.  Get the kind that is a file box so that you can file the papers in it. Get some hanging file folders and label. Make sure that all titles and passwords are kept here. Make sure that your family knows where all these papers are. Don't have them everywhere around the house. Have one central location and keep all of the papers there. You do not need every account statement from the last year. Usually the account and any passwords is enough to get your family started. Not sure what you need for each account? Ask your banker or investment person or your insurance agent. One call will help you get it figured out. Give the gift of organization that will keep on giving even when you can not be there.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,


MS. Simplicity

Melissa is a Productivity Consultant living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 


It is Ok To Procrastinate and I WIll Tell You Why

I have a disease and I am ok with it. I call it "Procrastivity." Procrastivity is defined as "significantly enhanced productivity achieved through intelligently and creatively applying intentional procrastination." This is me on as a deadline approaches...my pulse quickens...the ideas are exploding in my head...the great ideas are coming fast and furious...I am able to organize and make sense of it all. Up until the final hours of the deadline my creative juices are at a standstill. But then a switch is flipped and I am highly creative.

I laugh when I am preparing for a work project with a friend of mine, she has it planned weeks in advance and takes hours of planning. Where I sit an hour before and get it all done. This is a skill that needs to be mastered. Not everyone can do it. I started perfecting it in college. As an English major I had to read a lot of books and write a lot of papers. My final semester I took 21 credits and was planning a wedding and applying to law school, procrastivity was my friend. I could not have done it all without that skill.

People wonder how I can get so much done, it is because of my procrastivity. Oh yeah, you are thinking to yourself that you have it as well! I also believe it can be inherited. I know my youngest son has it. He is often working on projects the last minute just like me. I don't yell at him and I don't become frustrated, I get him. My husband on the other hand doesn't understand and becomes frustrated with our ways. He is a meticulous planner and gives great attention to detail.

But here are my tips if you want to see if you are a procrastivity person:

Be confident. Know that you will do a great job and knock the project out of the park. Don't doubt yourself, this is the time to know that what you are creating is fantastic!

Start small. My advice is to not test and see if you have this skill when you have an important deadline. Do not set yourself up for failure. Give yourself the space to try it bit by bit on smaller projects.

Do not have other people relying on you. You can not do this if you are working with people who need you to get your work done in order for them to complete their task. This will drive your coworkers to have a strong dislike for you. Particularly the planners out there like my husband.

Tune out all distractions. I can not be worried about what is for dinner during this time. I am hyper focused on my project. The door to my office is closed. My Facebook account is shut down and my phone ringer is off. I can not be pulled away when I am in this enhanced productivity state.

Create pretend deadlines. When I know I need to get a project done that has no deadline I will create pretend deadlines. Because I work for myself I don't always have deadlines that a boss sets. But rather I am the boss and I know to move a project forward I need to create that mythical deadline to get my creative juices going.

If after reading this you are thinking I may be a bit bizarre to think that I can function like this. Guess what?  You are not a procrastivity person and I suggest you don't try it. You will not like it.

It is my hope that I have created some understanding out there. I do not procrastinate because I am lazy, but rather the opposite is true. I am able to be more productive because I am intentional with my procrastination. So if you have a child like me, and they are getting good grades and waiting until the last minute, be ok with it.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Melissa is a Productivity Consultant living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

One Thing I Did to Make Family Meal Time Easier

I am approaching that stage in life where my birds are flying the nest and dinner time continues to evolve. My oldest is a foodie and when he lived with us our meal times were fun and exciting for me. So when he left our home the contents of our dinner changed. Then there was the fussy middle one who only liked white food and the youngest who was an occasional adventurous eater. That left my husband and I who are foodies missing out of the food adventures that we had created when our oldest lived with us.

Now that we have just one at home with us, and he is rarely home at dinner time my husband and I are looking for that gourmet adventure again. Often we found it by going out to eat or ordering takeout. But I missed cooking and knowing what goes into my food. Then I discovered meal delivery services.

I have received my first box and my second box is on the way. I ordered from a second service that will arrive next week. Here are some thoughts on what I have discovered so far.

Portion sizes: For me the portion sizes are perfect. My husband also has been pleased with them. If there are three of us eating, I will simply have half of the protein and share with my husband and our son will eat the other portion. We can easily stretch the meals from two to three. One night there was four of us, so I made two sets of meals. It was a perfect solution.

Ease of ordering: There is an app that makes ordering even easier. Take meals out of your shopping cart or add things in. You have control over the day of the week for delivery. Some weeks Wednesday works for me and some weeks Thursday works for me.

Fun of trying new foods: I love the descriptions such as "Tender chicken breasts are coated in flour, briefly sautéed, and removed from the pan, which is then used to make a Marsala reduction sauce with fresh garlic and mushrooms. You'll deglaze the pan by adding wine to the caramelized, tasty meaty bits (referred to as a "fond" in chef speak), to dissolve them into a flavorful sauce.

Premeasured amounts:  I get the perfect amount of cilantro or the perfect amount of heavy cream {yes I said heavy cream.} Often I am stuck with too much of a specific item and I cant figure out how to use and I create waste.

Freshness: I was a little hesitant when I received buns for the turkey burgers, however I was pleasantly surprised with how fresh they were even days later. I had a little issue with one item, but when I personally buy the same at the store I have the same issue.

Dietary restrictions: The choices are there for those who need gluten free or vegetarian. Want to eat low carb, they have options for you as well.

Packaging: The box while recyclable, the inside parts are not. I can only use so many reusable ice packs and I can only donate so many. This really bothered me as I like to live a green life. But then I thought about how much food I waste and for me this was an even trade.

Cost: The cost can seem daunting at first. However many of these boxed meal services offer discount and coupons as well as savings when you refer someone. Be sure to check before you sign up. My husband is not convinced that we will save money. I think in the long run we will be saving money if we take into account meals that we eat out.

Location: I live in Fargo and I can only use a few of the meal services. We are limited in the upper Midwest but check out a few to see what your options are.

Learn new cooking techniques: I love to cook and know how to cook, but my kids don't have all the nuances down. When kids take FACS {family and consumer science class} there is no way that they can cover everything. Now I can hand them a recipe card and the instructions are basic and very easy to follow. This also works for spouses. So when I am not home I can have him prep the meal with no explanation from me. I call this a marriage saver!

Grocery shopping: I love grocery shopping but this does save time for those who do not enjoy grocery shopping. I still need to go for our basics and snacks and lunches so it doesn't eliminate all grocery shopping.

Takes out the time of meal planning: Meal planning takes time. We typically cook the same things over and over again.  I love the fact that creative side dishes come with the entrée. I sometimes get lost in Pinterest and the possibility of a great meal. One night we had an edamame puree that I never would have made, but was very delicious and I would consider making again.

What I love about all of this is that it gives me options. When I know I am going to have a busy week I can order the meals and know that when meal time comes I have it covered. I also love the idea of giving it as gifts come the holiday. Know someone who had a new baby? This would be a great gift to give! Our goal is to get my husband and I back to cooking fresh meals and sitting at the table having a conversation.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Melissa is a Productivity Consultant living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Organize Those Glasses and Cups

Have you taken the time to organize your entire house? Yeah me neither! I call myself a work in progress. Am I more organized than the average person out there? Well I am, but I am also married to someone who thrives on organization. I think I have purchased about every organizing book out there in the market. I have read them, but for the most part I am left not knowing where to start. I have analysis paralysis.

Over the past several years I have been formulating ways to help people get organized on their own without me there to hold their hand. I want to help more people then I have hours in the day. My solution was to write a book, but on steroids. I wanted something that would encourage people to take action and move forward. Not just collect dust on the shelf of good intentions.

I came up with an online class that is self paced, meaning you decide the speed that you want to go. If you want to do it all at once, you sure can. But most people liked to chip away a bit at a time. I have worked through this call with a group of women with great success. They did it over a year ago and their kitchens have stayed organized.

What would you find as a typical day of organizing in the online class? Something that would take you 15 minutes to an hour depending on the day. Here is a sample of one of the lessons.

Gather all of your glasses and cups from every nook and cranny in your house.

Wipe out the cabinets.

Pull out any that are cracked or chipped. You could easily cut a lip and bacteria can live in those cracks.

Now put all like items together. All the coffee cups in one section, all the drinking glasses, all sports bottles, all the specialty glasses such as wine glasses, etc. Begin to look at these as sets. Do you have one lone juice glass that nobody uses? Do you have coffee mugs and nobody drinks coffee? Do you have glasses with your bank’s logo on it that you never use? Think about the ones that you actually use and donate the rest.

Now place all of the ones that are left in a cabinet or in rows. For example, put the coffee cups on the right, the juice glasses on the left and the drinking glasses in the middle.

Think about alternative storage ideas. Wine glasses or mugs can be hung upside down from the specialty racks created just for this purpose.

Do you have adjustable shelves? Make sure that you are not leaving empty space in your cabinets and adjust in order to take advantage of all the space.

Place the glasses that are used most often within arm’s reach for the members of the family. If you have small children, you may want to place their glasses in a lower cabinet.

For glasses that you use often make sure that they are close to the dishwasher for ease of unloading.

Hot Tips
  • I have a family of water drinkers. Each time someone gets a glass of water they take a new glass out. Often the top of my dishwasher is full of glasses on the top but not yet full of plates on the bottom. I think I need to implement my mom’s philosophy where each person had a cup that they used for the whole day to drink their water from. Her cup was the brown Tupperware one. How much energy and water could we save if we used the same glass all day long? How many glasses could you get rid of if everybody only had one?
  • Height: if you have children make sure that they are able to reach the dishes that they use. When my children were little I put all of their dishes, cups, glasses in a lower cabinet for them to reach. They could even unload the dishwasher and put their own items away. As they grew taller, the dishes started to go higher as well. Now the lower cabinets are full of infrequently used items. I am tall and I like my most used items in the upper half of my kitchen. For those who are lacking in height, they would tend to favor the lower half of the kitchen.
Set aside time this week to see how it works to get this section of your kitchen organized. If you are looking for the rest of the days you can visit here or email me for the link.

Blog video link is here.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Melissa is a Productivity Consultant living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Five Things I Did To Add More Time Into My Life

{my #1 time saver}

Even though I wrote a very honest blog a few weeks about using the word "busy" with me one of my best friends just texted me and told me she has been so "busy" lately. Clearly she did not take the time to read my blog and be put on notice how that word grates on my nerves.

Added to that I had a friend tell me last week that she didn't know how I got everything done. I really don't see myself as "busy" anymore. I have days that are really full. But for the most part I am doing what I enjoy doing. When people look at my life they see me as busy, but in all reality I lead a pretty organized life. I decided about three years to start making conscience decisions on what I do with my time and money. Because of these choices I believe I have developed deeper relationships with the people I love.

1. I don't spend time shopping. I found that when I went to my favorite big box stores I spent on average a couple hundred dollars. Then I would go shopping for clothes and spend even more money. I realized that I purchased things because I was bored. I stopped going to the big box stores unless I needed to buy my specific type of laundry detergent. I go for the one item and get in and get out. When I need to buy clothes, I shop with friends in one afternoon and I am done for another year!

2. I got rid of cable. Our family has been cable free for several years. When we did it people weren't streaming like they are now. We did it because we realized we spent too much time watching TV. I felt that my DVR was holding me hostage. I would find a television show I enjoyed and hit the record button and all of a sudden I would have 17 seasons of shows to watch. I felt guilty. Plus my husband always wanted to free the space on the DVR and bothered me to watch my shows and get them off. No more cable and no more pressure to watch my recorded shows!

3. I stopped saying yes out of guilt. I have kids that are in activities. I spent my years as PTA president trying to give back to our community. The times that I said yes to things out of guilt I found was taking over my life. Now I say yes to things because I want to, not because I think I should. You may have seen me being a greeter at our summer theater production of "Mary Poppins." I was there because I wanted to be there!

4. I edited toxic people out of my life. Yes this was super hard as I felt those people were in my life to teach me a lesson. But one day I realized perhaps those people were in my life to teach me to get toxic people out of my life. This editing included Facebook too! I spend a lot of time on Facebook for my work and I hide or unfriend people who post messages that I don't want to see in my newsfeed. Life is too short to read about people being dumb or cruel.

5. I hired someone to clean my house. Speaking the fact that I have someone clean my house use to embarrass me. I am not lazy and I am not super rich, which I assumed people with a house cleaner were. Oddly enough I use to clean for people to help bring in extra income. But what I found is that I hate cleaning my house and it takes me three days to do something that takes my house cleaner three hours. I respect her for what she does for me as it is a true gift to clean other peoples homes.

All of these things added together have added countless hours back into my life. I would be remiss to not mention that I have an incredibly supportive spouse. He deserves more than a number on my list! He makes what I do look easy. Having supportive people in your life can really save you time. Now instead of watching TV on the couch we are both in the hammock under the deck reading a book. You will find us volunteering together and not shopping! Take some time this week and find what you can edit out of your life to create more time doing what you love to do!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Melissa is a Productivity Consultant living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Back To School Planning is Key!

The back to school shopping commercials started before school even let out! Each year I tell myself this will be the year that I will be on top of things. This is the year that I will not find myself in the aisles of Target with crying school age children, or is it the parents that are crying? Last year I bought my youngest son's school supplies downtown Minneapolis the day before school started because I forgot in the midst of moving my middle son to college. I am here to say that was a big mistake.

So learn from my mistakes and use these five easy steps for getting your kids organized for school:

 1. School supplies: The stores are now stocked with all the school supplies they’ll be getting in for the season.
  • When to go: Now is the time to go while the selection is the greatest and the sales are hot. Avoid – at all costs – shopping on weekends or weeknights during the supper hour. The best time to go is an hour before the store closes. This forces you to get in and get your shopping done without the hassle of crowds. Another great time to shop is right when the store opens. If you have a kid who must have the latest and greatest, you have to go now – do not delay! Try breaking your child of the habit of always having the latest and greatest because if they always receive the latest and greatest, they come to always expect it. Here’s an idea: how about buying their school folders and notebooks in their favorite color instead of what is trendy?
  • Backpacks: I buy good quality backpacks for my kids at Lands’ End (http://www.landsend.com/), and they last for three to four years or longer. My junior in high school is still using the one I bought him in kindergarten! Granted, I have boys, and they don’t always require the hippest trends, but the backpacks I bought for $50 each haven’t cost me anything for the past ten years because…get this…the backpacks don’t fall apart, they aren’t trendy, in fact they are now seen as retro!
2. School clothes: When I was a kid, I got my yearly clothes budget at the beginning of the school year, and that was it. I had to make it last unless I picked up extra money babysitting. Now kids are inundated with clothes year around: Christmas, birthdays, Easter, fall clothes, winter clothes, summer clothes…clothes, clothes, clothes! My best advice is to not buy any new pants until at least October. With the way kids grow, you want to make those pants last as long as possible. Until October, most kids can still wear shorts or skirts to school. Buy a handful of new shirts that gives them the feeling of getting new clothes. By waiting to do the majority of your clothes shopping until October, you’ll be able to find those “post back to school” bargains that the stores are trying to get rid of in order to make room for…you guessed…more clothes.

 3. Create a system for the paper clutter now: Do you know where you are going to put the lunch menu, papers you want to keep for their memorabilia box or put in a scrapbook? How about ALL those cute art projects?
  • School menus, treat schedules, team practices and other schedules: Tape them on the inside of a kitchen cupboard. This allows easy access without the clutter on the fridge.
  • Memorabilia box: Purchase a large Rubbermaid container that either can contain one year’s worth of papers or all of the elementary years’ worth of papers. When the keepers come home, you now will know exactly where to put them.
  • Art projects: Have an area of your house where you display the art projects. Keep them on display for a few weeks, and then “rotate” them out, putting in new ones. What to do with the old ones? Either place them in a memorabilia box or purchase a large art portfolio to place them in. Another great idea is to create your own art portfolio out of tag board with three of the ends taped shut. You could create one for every year. Better yet, take pictures and discard!
  • Worksheets and tests: Use this easy test to determine if you should keep the daily papers that your child brings home: if it brings a tear to your eye, keep it; if not, toss it. For example: your child gets an A+ on a spelling test after he/she has been struggling all year to learn the spelling words. This is a keeper! Your child brings home coloring sheets or other busy work that is assigned; toss it. The first time he/she wrote his/her name: that is a keeper. The good news is that by the time they enter middle school, the paper clutter dwindles to a trickle, and then by high school it suddenly becomes nonexistent… and then you wonder if your child is really going to school each day or hanging out at the mall.
4. Establish a homework zone: Where does your child best study at? As a kid, I liked doing my homework in front of the TV. My mom did not understand that, and we battled constantly on that issue. If your child gets good grades and doesn’t struggle in school, let him/her do homework in front of the TV. Maybe your child needs absolute silence to study. Find a quiet place in the home where homework can be completed without the distractions of siblings and other family members. Maybe your child needs to be moving all the time. Find a good rocking chair or stability ball for him/her to have movement while completing school tasks. Just remember that each child is different, and just because it works for one child does not mean it will work for another. Be flexible and patient so that both you and the child can have a good school year.

 5. Set expectations: Let you kids know now that when they walk in the door, they should hang their coat and backpack up and bring you all of the papers to sort. Do you have a child who needs to do homework as the first thing upon arriving home? How about the child that needs to eat as it seems like school lunches were not that appetizing that day? There is also the child who just needs to let his/her brain unwind by doing nothing but veggin’ in front of the TV. I heard there is also the child who comes in and practices his/her musical instrument every day….I have not seen such a child so I do not believe this to be true. Some children do better waking up early and getting the homework done or practicing the musical instrument in the morning. The key is to figure out what works best for each of your children and then communicate what you expect so that the routine can begin as quickly – and run as smoothly – as possible.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity


Melissa is a Professional Organizer living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

I Am An Organizer, Not the Clutter Whisperer

{going through a client's received cards came the revelation that her husband liked to buy her the same card}

Recently I was asked if I have ever walked out of a client's home. The answer is yes. But not for the obvious reasons. The house wasn't too messy. This wasn't a hoarding situation. This was a person who wanted me to take their clutter and reorganize it. Alert: I am not the clutter whisperer.

What I am is that expert who will hold the garbage bag open for you while you throw things away. We will talk through how your mother will still love you after you donate the clown cookie jar that scares your children. We will dig down and figure out why you are still holding onto every greeting card you have ever received.

You will have resistance to me when I suggest you get rid of things. I will have you justify why you are keeping things. You will speak the words as to why you are keeping the items. You will realize on your own that you don't need that item. All while I hold the garbage bag open for you.

I will have you focus on items that bring you joy or have value. We will not focus on keeping the items that bring you sadness. Usually these are items associated with guilt and loss. Do you have saved obituaries in the paper of people you knew or the memorial brochure from a funeral? How do these items bring you joy or have value?

Often the items that bring us sadness are in a storage unit somewhere across town or boxed up in the attic. You are paying a monthly fee to house these that you resent. Did you know that storage units were the fastest growing segment of our real estate in this country. It is time to visit those storage units and empty them out. You may need an expert to hold the garbage bag open for you while you do it. We will work through the memories and decide what you should keep and what you are ready to dispose of. We will not try to rearrange and find you more space in the storage unit.

I do not want to be known as the organizer who helps clients create well-planned hoarding. I want to leave your house with bags of items to go to good will. I want to leave you with the feeling that you lost 20 pounds in three hours just by getting rid of clutter.

When I start with a client I work with them in three hour blocks of time. In the three hours I see my clients go through three different. They typically go from resistance to understanding to full on clarity. If I can not get them past the resistance part I need to leave, they are not ready for me.

So imagine we are sitting with a client who has a banker sized box full of greeting cards that he has received over the years. Some are cards from his kids, some are cards from his wife, while more cards are from his now deceased parents. I ask my client what is his goal with this box. He replies that he wants to keep his favorites and get rid of the rest. We then spend some time discussing what the favorites should be defined as. It could be humorous ones, it could be handmade cards, it could be ones with words beyond a signature written on the inside of the card.

I then give a random number of how many cards would be realistic to keep and get the client to agree. There may be some negotiating on this number, but there usually isn't. And we start working through the box. It is slow going. Each card is a decision to make. More cards are kept and few are discarded as this point. But then we start to gain momentum and more cards are placed in the discard pile. We have reached the understanding phase. They know that they can't live with all of these cards. They know that they only want to keep the special ones. We get to the bottom of the box and they realize that they have many more then the agreed upon number.

We now go through the stack that they kept and this is when clarity comes. They suddenly understand what cards truly bring them joy and what cards they can now get rid of. They crave having the meaningful cards. They can reach that agreed upon number with ease. The struggle from a few hours ago is gone. There is a sense of pride and understanding that they could get through this daunting task.

So if you are ready to have an expert hold the garbage for you while we get to the bottom of why you are keeping items, call me. But if you want me to swirl your clutter remember that I am not your well-planned hoarding expert.

MS. Simplicity

Melissa is a Professional Organizer living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

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