Vacations are supposed to be fun...right? As a bit of perfectionist, I used to find it hard to relax and enjoy time with my family on vacation because I was so focused on everything being just right. I'd plan a jam-packed schedule, stage the perfect pictures, and get mad if everyone wasn't having a good time. In the summer of 2016, we took a vacation to Atlanta, Georgia and had a fantastic time! When I got home, I made a list of dos and don'ts from our trip, so the next vacation could be just as fun. The next time I got ready to plan a vacation, I re-read that list to help make that trip just as good as the last. Now every time we get home from vacation, I add to the list. I now have two years of tips from big and little trips. Not only is it helpful to plan future low-stress trips, it's also a lot of fun to reread the list and reminisce about past vacations.
Getting there and back
If you're flying:
If you're driving
Once you've arrived
I hope some of these tips will help your next family vacation be a little more organized! Consider making your own list of travel dos and don'ts. My list has helped me not to forget things, plan for the unexpected, and have a better plan so I can relax and have fun! If you have more tips, please share in the comments.
In honor of Father's Day, I wanted to share some tips I've learned from my dad over the years. He's the guy who passed on a love of labeling things to me, and he has so many great ideas for keeping things organized!
On a serious note, I'm so blessed to be my father's daughter. He and my mom have been married for 42 years and my dad has been the best example of hard work, good morals, and generosity that I could have asked for. He was an involved parent attending countless piano recitals and school activities, driving our family on summer road trips, moving me in and out of my college dorm room, walking me down the aisle at my wedding, providing advice on car purchases, and helping with lots of repair projects! He's now a devoted Grandpa and setting the same examples for his grandchildren.
Top 10 organizing tips from my dad:
1. Label your board games
You know when you're playing a game that has questions on cards and someone starts suddenly knowing all of the answers and you realize someone put the cards back on the wrong end of the box last time you played. Well, my dad has a simple fix for that! Simply put a piece of masking tape on whichever end you designate the front. To make it even clearer, write "FRONT" on it.
2. Keep track of dates of purchase and maintenance on your owner's manuals
For large purchases, most of us keep the owner's manuals. My dad has always written the date of purchase and noted and maintenance and the date on the cover. You could also staple the receipt to the manual. Not only is it interesting to see how long things last (he had the manual from his record player from the 1970-something), but it's helpful when dealing with warranties, or knowing the timing of preventative maintenance.
3. Hang a tennis ball on a rope from your garage ceiling
My dad has a nice garage and he maximizes the space in front of where the cars park with built in cabinets and hooks on the walls. To keep my mom from pulling the vehicles in too far (and likely also to make sure the vehicles were in far enough not to get caught in the closing garage door), he long ago installed a hanging tennis ball. You pull the car up until the tennis ball just taps your windshield, so you know you are parked in the perfect spot.
4. Customize your belongings to fit your space
The bathroom I used growing up has an area that juts out just past the tub (which my dad did on purpose when he built the house, of course, for plumbing access.) The problem is the only rugs that would fit in the space were too small to really do any good. No problem, Dad to the rescue! He cut a notch in the rug so it fits perfectly against the wall and a side benefit is that it can't slip around either. This applies to so many things in my parents' house beside rugs. My dad coined the phase that my brother and I still jokingly use, "You know what a guy could do..." Whenever he said this, you knew he had a great idea!
"You know what a guy could do..."
5. Don't let sentiment cause clutter
My dad is somewhat of a minimalist. He doesn't care for a coffee table in the middle of the room or many knick knacks sitting around. My dad had a decent sized record collection, some of which he'd had since he was a teenager. They were stored in a wooden cabinet with sliding doors. Several years ago, he wanted to use the record cabinet for another storage purpose (in the garage on that wall in front of the vehicles - thank you hanging tennis ball for keeping it safe!) In order to use it for garage storage, he got rid of the records. I remember feeling sentimental about him getting rid of them and they weren't even mine. He didn't let sentiment cause any unnecessary clutter. I'm grateful that my husband and brother got several of the records for their own collections!
6. Research and analyze which is cheaper and better - fixing/refurbishing or buying new
This one may only apply if you have the ability to fix things yourself. If you know my dad, you know he can fix just about anything! There are times that most people would have just gotten a new (insert whatever is broken in your house) but my dad did the research to fix it. For instance, he put a brand new bottom in the bathtubs instead of replacing them. It was cheaper and less work in the long run than tearing out the old one and installing a new one. There are times though, were you've fixed as much as you can fix, and it's just time to buy new.
7. Label generously
My dad has been making labels as long as I can remember! His go to is masking tape and a sharpie. Putting labels on things helps to identify them (the reason spices of similar colors are labelled in my mom's spice cabinet) and helps us remember where things go (this is why I label my clear bins in my refrigerator - I certainly don't want my raw meat to ever go in the bin where my yogurt is supposed to go!) I have to admit, I did think my dad took it a little far when I saw that he had labelled the tape dispenser, "TAPE."
8. Take notes and keep things you want to reference later in a central location
My dad takes notes and records things he wants to remember later. Even if you have a good memory, you can't remember everything! Dad has his own system for reference in an Excel spreadsheet with many, many tabs, where I use Evernote to keep track of things I want to refer to later. Your system doesn't have to work for everyone - just for yourself!
9. Do things the right way the first time.
I say this to my kids often, "Do it right the first time." Often there's a shortcut or an easy way out, and if that can qualify as "the right way," by all means, take that path of least resistance. But too often, the easy way is not the right way, and then you end up having to redo the task or fix a mistake later on. Sometimes tasks take my dad longer than I would expect, but it's done right and it lasts! Several years ago, I had some issues with the caulk around my bathroom tub and my dad fixed it for us (yep, I'm lucky, I know!) It took a lot longer than I anticipated, but because he used the right materials, fixed his mistakes while the caulk was still wet, smoothed it with the correct tool, and waited the appropriate amount of time for it to dry - it looked great, served its correct purpose, and has lasted a long time.
10. Use your talents to help others
As I said earlier, my dad can fix just about anything and everybody knows it! This was demonstrated yesterday when my almost-4-year-old nephew picked up a toy that wouldn't work and bypassed everyone to go straight to my dad and say, "Grandpa this is broken, will you fix it?" Being good at something does usually mean you get asked to help people do that thing, and sometimes that can feel like a burden. Though I can't read his mind, it doesn't seem like he minds when he's asked to help with someone else's project. I think he looks at it as an opportunity to solve a puzzle while helping someone out. He's certainly helped me out more than I could ever thank or repay him for. I think because I saw my dad using what he was good at to help his family and others since I was a little girl, it seems natural to me to share my talents, too. I also think that we improve our skills, become faster and more productive at things when we do them more often - practice makes perfect, right? If we can improve our skills and become more efficient at them while helping someone out, it's a win-win!
My dad has taught me much more than these 10 things (some of them I've written about before) but these are some that I thought you might like to try out. I'm so fortunate to have a dad who has been present my entire life, and it was really fun to think of some of the things he's taught me. I challenge you to make a list of some specific things someone important in your life has taught you - and share it with them! Happy Father's Day, Dad - I love you!
When life gets busy, paperwork is one of the last things I worry about! As a working mom with active kids and couple of side hustles, I have systems to help keep me on track, but when Spring arrives and my weekends fill up, it’s easy to get a little behind. I’ve written before about how to get started with wrangling your paper, purging old paperwork, and even creating a binder system to file it all. The key, though, is regular processing of your paper! I like Sunday evenings because I’m usually home, and it’s a good way to get the week off to a smooth start.
Back in mid-May, I gave myself the day off for Mother’s Day, and I liked that so much that I just kept putting all my papers in the file box and not actually processing them. They were tucked neatly away, but because I didn’t do my weekly review, I started missing things - there was a panicky trip to the bill drop instead of my normal online payment weeks in advance, my kids missed dress up days at school because I hadn’t reviewed the paper that was in my file box, and CVS Extra Care bucks expired before I remembered to use them! I began digging through my file box when I knew a bill needed paid or a form was due rather than processing the whole stack weekly. As time went on, I became overwhelmed by the volume of things I needed to review and file, so I just kept putting it off.
I had a great excuse - I was busy, very busy. But as I heard myself telling my kids just yesterday morning, "if you pick up your room every day, it will never get really dirty and it won’t take very long to clean,” I knew that principle applies to me as well! I need to make getting through the paperwork of life on a weekly basis a priority. If I do it regularly, it won't take that long - probably not as long as the amount of time I waste scrolling through social media on a Sunday evening...It's ok to give myself a day off once in a while, but I have to remember that it's easier on myself in the long run to keep up with my family's paperwork. If I literally don't have enough time to pay bills, fill out a few forms, and file my records, I might need to consider paring down my commitments.
If you have a mound of paper that's been piling up over the course of several weeks and don't know where to start, use these 6 steps to “catch up” so you can STAY caught up!
Empty all your file boxes and baskets, and move your piles to a clear area (floor is the best!)
Separate into piles
Put the relocate items and mementos in their proper places.
Separate the "do" pile into categories to make it more digestible. Examples could be:
Then DO them! As you do each item, the associated paperwork should be put into one of the remaining piles: file, shred, or recycle.
Take the file pile, and get to it! In a previous post, I explained my binder system that may help you. Regardless of your filing system, be certain that each paper that you put in your files is necessary to keep. If it's available electronically or can be scanned, consider shredding it instead of filing. You may not need to clog up your files with every bill, receipt, or statement you receive, but instead you may be able to simply log the information. For example, you could keep a log of your vehicle maintenance instead of keeping every oil change invoice. Read the post about the paper purge for more ideas and some free printables. Sometimes you may keep only the most recent version of a document, so as you file the current one, be sure to add outdated items to either the recycle or shred pile.
Recycle and shred. This should always be your last step. It's easy to want to do this first because it gets rid of two piles at once, but since you add to these piles through the process, it's best to do this last so you don't have to do this job twice. Shredding is a great job for kids - at least in my house, using the shredder is a real treat!
You're going to feel SO great, when you get through all your paperwork. Just do yourself a favor and don't get in this situation again (but if you do, just re-read this post!)
I began to wonder, had society simply lowered its expectations of service and knowledge (read the post, Why Can’t Things Be Easier?) Or was it because people were so distracted by all the inputs in life that they couldn’t focus on any one task long enough to master it? Or was it because helicopter parenting and the everyone-gets-a-trophy mentality had stopped us from being challenged or encouraged to do our best work? Wow, I was getting cynical, and it bothered me. How could I change my attitude and my pet peeve?
"How could I change my attitude and my pet peeve?"
I began to realize that being annoyed all the time and maintaining a disdain for perceived incompetence was taking a lot of my energy - energy I needed to be competent in my own life. My eyes were opened to my own feelings of incompetence - at work, as a parent, and simply as a 30-something woman. It's bad enough to have that feeling about myself, but to think of the rest of the world not cutting me any slack (because I surely wasn't giving anyone else the benefit of the doubt), well that was just depressing!
A few months ago, I had what many would describe as a very frustrating experience at a doctor's office, but instead of being angry and spewing the story of incompetence to anyone who would listen, I felt calm and had no negative feelings toward the person who made the mistake. I looked back and wondered, had I really grown that much as a person that I could overlook the issue, or was there some other reason? I rehashed the events in my mind....
My baby (6 years old at the time) had his tonsils out, and recovery was going well - until the pain medication prescription ran out. We went to the ENT's office to see what could be done. The kind and gentle nurse practitioner took her time examining my little whimpering puddle of pain and explaining the options to me, his mommy whose heart was breaking a little more with each crocodile tear. She ended with prescribing more Tylenol with codeine for the pain and had to write a physical prescription because the pharmacies wouldn't accept an electronic script for that type of medication (which still perplexes me...)
I had the forethought to call our regular pharmacy (which was near our home, a 30 minute drive from the doctor's office) from the clinic's parking lot to make sure they had the medicine in stock. It's a good thing I called, because they did not have it, and they referred us to another pharmacy in their chain near our doctor's office. We drove there and traipsed through the store to the back where the pharmacy counter was and stood in line only to be told that they didn't have the medication either. They referred us to yet another pharmacy where we repeated the process and heard from that pharmacist, "Sorry, none here." By this time I was beginning to wonder what was going on that no pharmacy in town had this not-very-exotic medication.
I called the pharmacy at the clinic where our doctor's office was located (why didn't I just go there in the first place, you ask? Well, I was certainly asking myself the same question at this point!) They said they had it! My son was still in a lot of pain as we retraced our steps back to where we started from. As soon as I showed the pharmacist that piece of paper, she immediately knew what the issue was. The nurse practitioner had checked the box on the prescription pad that said NO substitutions allowed, so since all of pharmacies stocked only the generic, they couldn't fill the prescription as it was written.
We went upstairs to the doctor's office, and I asked to see the nurse practitioner to get a new prescription. After just a few minutes she raced out from the back waving the new prescription. She immediately said she was so sorry that she'd made the mistake and admitted that she didn't often write physical prescriptions any more and had simply checked the wrong box. She empathized with me and my son saying she could only imagine what we'd gone through trying to get the medicine to make him feel better and she was so sorry she'd caused him extra time in pain. I found myself assuring HER that it was OK and telling HER not to worry.
We quickly got the prescription filled and immediately gave him a dose. As we drove home and he finally fell asleep after getting some relief, I realized that I didn't get angry or label the nurse practitioner as incompetent because she had taken her time and treated us with kindness during our appointment, then when presented with her mistake, she quickly apologized, took responsibility, empathized, did what was necessary to correct the situation, and apologized again. I would recommend this nurse practitioner in a heartbeat because of how she handled the situation.
"Expect the best until proven wrong."
I'm now trying hard not to quickly label others as incompetent, but to rather give them them benefit of the doubt. I want to try to look at situations - and the people in them - differently. I want to try to encourage those who I would typically consider inept to learn more, try harder, and become experts. I want to build up those around me who are feeling insecure about their abilities. What if instead of fueling insecurity by complaining or berating people for not knowing it all, producing enough, or doing it fast enough, I focused on fostering understanding and mutual respect and educating about why things matter to me and to others?
I’m choosing to change my pet peeve, so you’re going to have to REALLY mess up before I label you incompetent from now on! You may wonder what re-framing how I look at incompetence has to do with a life in order - to me it has everything to do with it! Before I can improve myself, become more efficient and focused on my priorities, I have to quit wasting my energy fretting about or ruminating on things I can't control, and I must change my mindset to focus less on the negative. I now try to live by the motto, “expect the best until proven wrong.”
A woman with many roles in life who knows the necessity of keeping things in order!