Monday, April 27, 2020

MOM'S LIFE Facebook Live Video- 4/27/20 - Organization Information and Resources

Notes and Resources for Mom’s LIFE Facebook
Live Video- 4/27/20
Kelli J Gavin - Home & Life Organization 

11 Things to Ditch NOW.

*Baby stuff and baby clothes. If you are done having kids. Pass them on to someone who needs them. Don’t hold on them for years and years. Yes, a special outfit or two, but not 6 bins.

*Greeting Cards. Pull out a special few. Super special occasions, or from people who you miss.  I kept three for each kid from mom that have beautiful notes written in them in her beautiful script. 

*DVDs, CDs, VHS Tapes. Come on now.  We do have a bunch of dvds and vhs tapes at my house because my special needs son loves them. But they also are kept in one location.  When it comes to CDs, load them onto your cloud or iTunes or whatever you use and get rid of the stacks and free up the space. 

*Books. Ah. Books. My downfall.  When we can meet face to face again, consider a book swap. Donate to your local library or your neighborhood Little Free Library. Donate kids books to your local schools. Magazines are great for local nursing homes and care facilities and for the library magazine exchange bins. 

*Unused craft supplies. Now I know some of you accidentally just audibly gasped and were tempted to shut this live video off when I said that.  But be real with yourself. You know what you like and what you use.  You will not use it all. Donate donate donate. Sell what you can and part with what remains untouched. 

*Damaged dishes and ridiculous stained Tupperware and mismatched lids.  You don’t have to keep the dish just because it matches your set. Set it free.  And get rid of the excess, the junk- the unused and broken stuff from your cabinet. 

*Jewelry and Accessories.  Okay. I am 44. I lived through the 90s where huge necklaces and bulky earrings and shoulder pads were amazing.  Part with what is not longer in style and with what you no longer wear. Our tastes change. And that is okay. You don’t have to keep the excess just because you spent money on it at one point in time. 

*Forgotten candles. Do you have a shelf full or bin?  Throw them out.  Do it now.  Don’t tell me you plan on burning it down and using the glass canister it came in. Most old candles smell and once again, get real with yourself.  You don’t need 17 of them. 

*Empty journals and office supplies. WHAT? I swear I just heard more gasping and 6 people unfriended me. You have too much. It takes up too much space. You will never need 1894 rubber bands.  I am a writer and I will never use the 352 unused notebooks and journals. 128 boxes of Ticonderoga pencils.  Give them to your local school. Donate. Donate. Donate. 

*Travel toiletries.  You don’t need them and you only use the hand lotion. Donate them to the local shelter or food shelves as they also need hygiene and toiletry items. 

*Mugs.  Come on now. Go to your kitchen.  Count those mugs. Not just the glass ones, but the mugs you bring with you in the car. -You have too many. You know what ones are your favorite.  Keep those, now box up the rest. - Okay. Now box up a few more. 


Examples of what you can do in 5, 10 or 30 minutes. 
What can you do in 5 minutes?
You can make an appointment.
You can buy a present online.
You can sort and throw away junk mail.
Answer two brief emails.
Respond to 4 text messages. 

What can you do in 10 minutes?
You can make two phone calls as long as you don’t get a Chatty Cathy on the line like me. 
You can dust your bedroom.
You can select 25 books you no longer need.
You can clear off your desktop.
You can review your calendar for the week.

What can you do in 30 minutes?
You can balance your paycheck.
You can pay bills. 
You can meal plan for two weeks.
You can clear out three drawers and get rid of what is old or not worn.


When you are focusing on organizational projects in your home, it is very important to be aware of time bandits. The notorious habits that rob you of your time and take you away from the matter at hand. 

*Taking on more tasks than you can possibly handle.
*Never delegating.
*Losing sight of your current priorities. 
*Not having the tools or supplies on hand that you will need before you start a task.
*Being interrupted and sidetracked.
*Leaving unfinished tasks for a later unspecified date.
*Watching television or Netflix.
*Compulsively checking your phone or social media platforms.

These things steal your attention and sometimes disable you from being able to complete your important tasks of the day. 


24 great fast tips about home organization from One Good Thing.

1. Make Your Bed-Straighten out the sheets, fluff those pillows, and smooth out your duvet. It takes about 30 seconds, and it makes a huge difference in how clean and organized your bedroom feels.

2. Pick Up Clothes-Go around the room (or around the house, if you’re feeling ambitious) and pick up all the clothes off the floor. Put them in your hamper if they’re dirty, or hang them up if they’re still pretty clean.

3. Put Laundry Away-Take a few minutes to put your clean, folded laundry in the drawers and closets where it belongs.

4. Put Shoes Away- Take the mountain of shoes in the entryway or laundry room and put them away. 

5. Corral The Remotes-Does anyone else seem to have a million remote controls floating around their living room? Spend a few minutes gathering them all together and placing them in a pretty box, bin, or tray. (And make sure to inform the family that all remotes will be stored there from now on, so they know where to put the remotes when they’re done with them.)

6. Start A Clutter Collection System-Take a few minutes to address problem areas or items in your home. Anywhere that mess seems to accumulate can be a good candidate. Then put something in place to help control the mess. For instance, if you have throw blankets that tend to get left out, put a basket somewhere in the living room. You can toss the blankets into the basket each night before you head off to bed.

7. Establish A Donation Area-Set aside an area or container in your house for items that you want to donate. It can be a shelf, a box, or a corner of a closet. It’ll help encourage everyone to help with your decluttering efforts, and it’ll keep the clutter hidden until you’re ready to make the trip to Goodwill.

8. Organize Your Cords-Have an unsightly mess of cords around your desk? Grab some Velcro, zip ties, rubber bands, or Command hooks and sort that mess out. It only takes a few minutes, and you’ll feel so much better once it’s done.

9. Store a Collection-Do you have a stash of candles, water bottles, board games, or other items just sitting around somewhere? Find a place to keep them organized, like an over-the-door organizer, a dedicated shelf, or a storage container.

10. Declutter Your Desk-Take a few minutes and get rid of some of the clutter on or around your desk. Put pens and pencils in a pen cup, recycle unneeded paper, and straighten up stacks of books or papers.

11. Hang Up Hooks-Need more places to hang stuff like scarves, purses, or cords? Take some time to hang up a few adhesive hooks! They’re easy to install and will definitely help control the clutter around your house.

12. Clean Out Your Fridge-Take out anything in your fridge that is expired, past its prime, or smelling less than fresh. The main culprits are usually produce and leftovers, so check those first.

13. Toss Out Stale Food-Go through your pantry and toss out anything that’s stale or past its expiration date.

14. Clear Out A Junk Drawer-If you have a junk drawer in your house, take a few minutes to empty it out. Group like items together, and toss out anything you don’t need or recognize. Corral similar items together in small plastic containers or drawer organizers before putting them back in the drawer.


15. Clear Out Unused Mugs- We talked about mugs!- If you have a kitchen cupboard that’s full to bursting of mugs, travel mugs, or other drink cups, take a minute to clear some of them out. Start with anything you haven’t used in the last 6 months, then adjust your limit if necessary. Set them aside in a box to donate when you have the time.

16. Organize Food Containers-Organize your collection of food storage containers. Make sure there’s a lid for every container, and set aside borrowed containers to return to their owners. Before placing your containers back in the cupboard or drawer, stack them up by size to make them as space-efficient as possible.

17. Label Your Waste Bins-If you’re always getting your trash bins or recycling bins mixed up, take a few minutes to label them. You can use paper labels or a label maker, then post the labels where they’re plainly visible. Not only will the labels help you, but it will help guests and other family members too.

18. Clear Out Cosmetics-Go through all your cosmetics, toiletries, and other personal care items. Toss out anything you don’t use anymore, and anything that’s past its expiration date.

19. Organize Your Wallet/Purse-Dump out the contents of your wallet or purse. Toss out any garbage, old receipts, and empty chap stick tubes. Put away any random items that have found their way in too. Once you’ve cleared out all the junk, put the important stuff back in an organized fashion. I keep a zippered small bag that contains meds, band aids, ointments and lotions, my iPod mini, and my eye drops. That way I don’t have to dig and the contents of my purse remain semi organized. 

20. Rearrange Your Closet-Rearrange the clothes in your closet using a more organized system. I like to put like with like, so I hang all my skirts together, my sweaters together, etc. But if you like to hang by color or occasion, that’s perfectly fine. Use whatever system makes the most sense to you. Just take the time to make sure all your clothes are hung up and put away. 

21. Organize Your Jewelry-Use trays to keep your jewelry organized, or hang it from an organizer or hanger. Anything that gets it up off your counter or dresser. I have  a client who uses a window frame with chicken wire to hang all her jewelry from the wall. Another uses three overturned seashells to house all of her jewelry.

22. Reduce Paper Clutter-It seems like there are always piles of mail, bills, and other stray papers lying around the house. Piles like these can make any house feel cluttered. Sort through the stacks and keep anything crucial. The rest can be shredded and recycled. Check out the for lots of excellent ideas about paper clutter. 

23. Clear Out Coupons-If you have a place that you store coupons and other offers, go through it. Toss out any expired ones, then put the remaining coupons in an organizer of some sort. Stick it in your glove compartment in your car for safe keeping. You’ll be more likely to remember to use the coupons in the future if you keep them there!

24. Recycle Junk Mail-Take all of your old newspapers, junk mail, flyers, etc. and put them in the recycling bin.


I want to share with you four great books that I have found super helpful and my clients also really like them.  

The first one is Life Management for Busy Women- Living out God’s Plan with Passion and Purpose. It is by Elizabeth George who also wrote A Woman After God’s Own Heart. This great book addresses God’s guidelines for managing the seven major areas of your life, (spiritual, body, finances, friendships, relationships and more.) It also discusses practical disciplines for managing your life more efficiently and effectively. And there are quite a few ideas on how to improve your schedule and your life right away. 
The second book is called Clutter Control- Putting Your Home on a Diet by Jeff Campbell of The Clean Team.  This perfect book addresses all areas of your home and enables the reader to focus on everything that they aren’t enjoying because of the state of their home.  It helps break it down in manageable steps so that your home not only becomes more livable, but it also enables you to manage it, keep the clutter under control and helps you to start to enjoy life again. 

The third book I would like to mention is Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. She has written a lot of books and approaches organization for everyone. Whether you have struggled with organization your entire life and now you are ready to get serious about it. Or you used to be organized and you are trying to reclaim your home. Or even if you are basically organized but you are looking for new ways or systems to help you be more efficient. 

The 4th book is my favorite and it is called The Personal Organizing Workbook - Solutions for a Simpler, Easier Life by Meryl Starr.

And of course, the internet is full of amazing information. I love The Fly Lady as she is funny, down to earth, and provides practical organization help.  

Thank you on behalf of Home & Life Organization.

Friday, April 17, 2020

What the Storm Left Behind

When I was a child, I had the beautiful luxury of growing up in the country in Forest Lake, Minnesota.  I loved being surrounded by woods and fields as far as the eye could see. The woods and tree cover provided shelter from the hot summer sun and many hours of afternoon playtime.

Early summer storms were very common and tornadoes would often take out entire neighborhoods on the flat plains of Minnesota.  By the age of 8, I was so used to taking shelter in the basement, I was no longer afraid of any pending storm. I knew that when our parents yelled, "Basement! NOW!" or when they swooped us up, blankets and all in the dead of night, that our basement would be our protection for whatever weather was headed our way.

One night while I slept the way only a child without a care in the world could sleep, my father burst through my door, grabbed my hand and a blanket. Startled, yet completely awake, I reached for my doll and pillow with my other hand.  As we raced toward the basement stairs, I saw my mother and sister in front of us only a few steps ahead and wondered why Angie grabbed a book instead of her pillow. I wasn't planning on sharing my pillow with her, even if she asked me to.  My father closed the door behind him, and never let go of my hand until we were safe at the bottom of the basement stairs.

As we walked the length of our house to go to the couch and bed near the tiny fireplace, I saw that my father had left us to get the wood planks that he would place in the two small windows. The planks were placed to make sure that if the window shattered, glass would not fly in every direction. Before he placed the planks up against the window, he located the bricks to secure them. I saw the brightest lit up night sky I had ever witnessed.  The lightening made it appear to be daytime every few seconds.

Besides the noise of what can only be described as a huge steam engine approaching, the wind seemed to make our house breath.  I worried about the windows upstairs and knew that if the wind hit just right, dad would spend days repairing windows and screens. I wondered if it would storm like this the rest of the night and if we would get any sleep.  A huge crash which sounded like a bomb was heard in the backyard. My dad took my mom's arm as she gasped, "That was so close to the house. What if a tree hit the house?!"

The storm raged on, and our mom settled my sister and I in the back corner on the folding bed with the squeaky springs. My sister began to read the book she had brought downstairs instead of her pillow.  At some point we both fell asleep, as the next thing I remembered was waking to my dad brushing my hair away from my eyes.

"Kelli. Wake up sweetheart. Your mom is making pancakes.  We need to eat and get outside.  We have our work cut out for us today.  Branches and debris are everywhere.  Wear pants and socks and tennis shoes. I told your mom you wanted chocolate chip pancakes." My dad smiled warmly at my sister laying next to me as she began to rouse from her deep slumber. He explained to her what he had just communicated to me.

When I got to the top of the stairs and saw my mother in the kitchen, her back was turned. When she heard me approaching and turned, I saw that she had been crying. Quickly wiping the tears from her eyes, she smiled and welcomed me into her waiting arms.

I ducked to look out the curtained kitchen window. Large branches and even entire tree limbs lay strewn across the back yard.  I may have gasped or made some sort of audible noise, as my mother pulled me closer, "It is okay. We are okay. Our house is okay except for a few roof tiles.  That is what matters. The electricity didn't go out again and it is daylight. We are okay.  We will clear the debris one limb at a time."

Our day was filled with gathering sticks and wheeling full wheel barrows to our property line. We took breaks and washed our hands and faces using the garden hose.  The cold water was so refreshing in the hot sun. Our mom brought us lunch on a tray with lemonade and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. 

My sister and I sat up straight on the back stairs, when we heard our father yell from just inside the wood line.

"Would you look at that! An amazing huge tree has uprooted itself. I bet that is what the huge crash was!" 

Angie bolted first to where she saw our dad enter the woods.  Maybe two dozen or so feet in, was a mammoth fallen tree. The roots, all gnarled and standing at attention as we drew near.

Our dad was smiling ear to ear like a child who had just discovered hidden Christmas presents.  "We still have a lot of work to do girls, but I present to you a new fort." He swooped his arms towards the fallen wonder like the presenter on a game show.

We didn't finish clearing the yard until nightfall, and by that time, the mosquitoes were feasting. Indoor play and television called our names.  After a good night's rest, Angie and I were up with the sun.  Bug repellent applied, we took off to find our dad.  He was already in the woods, clearing low lying branches and twigs.  He had a rake which he had used to remove large bundles of underbrush and relocated it further back in the woods.  I was a bit startled to see an ax propped up against the trunk of a nearby tree. 

Our patient father had waited for us. He showed us that he was planning on removing some of the larger limbs and adding them to the top of the root systems where he had cleared the lumps of dirt. He explained that not as much rain would then enter our makeshift fort. He also laid a large tarp over the soil he had cleared and flattened at the opening of our new abode.

He advised us that it will be dirty for a bit, but after a few downpours, the dirt roots would begin to settle.  I didn't have any idea what he was talking about. All I wanted to do was fetch my dolls and play house in the new fort with my sister.

I love how the woods overtook our fort.  Slowly that summer, it no longer looked like a tree had lost a battle to the wind.  It appeared as if the woods had offered up a gift to children who sought adventure. The fallen tree and woods that surrounded provided hours of entertainment and enabled my sister and I and our few neighbor friends a place to convene. To enjoy nature and the company of other children who loved doing what we did. We played house, we play school, and enjoyed picnic meals together in that fantastic fort.

I miss the days of my childhood in Forest Lake. I miss days filled with adventure and sometimes nothing at all. I miss the chance of exploring and possibly finding another fallen tree.

All these later, I still live in Minnesota and we are sometimes plagued by serious weather that always approaches from the west. When building our home almost 18 years ago, my husband and I both knew a large basement was a necessity.  Not only to have room for the possibility of a growing family, but for protection. And quite a few times, when the weather sirens sound, our basement has provided shelter from an impending storm.  Living in a large neighborhood, I no longer find large uprooted trees that could be turned into a fort for my children. We have found a love letter, pictures, trash bags filled with nothing but leaves, small swimming pools, and even a trampoline. We have been able to return the pool and trampoline and even one of the pictures. But we are always able to appreciate the treasures that are left behind by the storm.

Friday, April 3, 2020

When Online Distance Learning Is Challenging for Special Needs Students

Feeling a bit overwhelmed to be honest.  Distance Learning started this week.  Even though Zach has been working from home for almost 3 weeks, the addition of a copious amount of online work has made his learning schedule next to impossible.  I have been working (helping the aging demographic and medically vulnerable in their homes), and am sometimes gone 3 or 4 days a week.  Lily has now completed her first week of Distance Learning, states that she likes it quite a bit and remains engaged.  She holds down the fort while I am at work and tries to help Zach on the few things that he can do without one on one assistance.  She makes him lunch and tries to check in on him as often as she can.

Zach has an amazing mind. With Autism, some days, specific lessons can seem very challenging. The next day, he completely understands it and is ready to move on.  The problem that I am running into is the vast amount of work. I get it. Zach has an IEP and his teachers are doing an amazing job trying to keep him on track to accomplish his goals. I am forever grateful. Where I am struggling is with the busy work.

Two documents we weren't even able to access and I made numerous requests throughout the week and didn't receive any guidance. My kid is an active kid. He walks daily and even watches the exercise videos that have been posted from his DAPE teacher (adaptive phy-ed). He does this as I said, every day.  And he isn't able to go to work right now through his work experience program through school, so they have asked that we takes notes of all the household chores that he is completing. He helps me regardless of whether or not he has a Distance Learning program that requires him to help. Without being able to access the documents, I as his mom, had to create two google docs and send them as an email attachment to those two teachers because there wasn't any other way to submit them. Zach can not do either of these things on his own, so I as his mom had to do them for him.

Zach is doing alright on his math and doing quite well in his reading and journal assignments.  He likes morning meeting and checking in for speech.  He enjoys watching videos that teachers post reading books or asking questions to which he needs to respond.  The problem is, because he has special needs, he isn't able to do any of the other work on his own.  He can do his daily attendance check in and morning meeting. That is it.  Everything else requires one on one instruction.

So yes, love the idea that my kids along with everyone else's kids will be able to continue learning through the rest of the school year. I love that my daughter enjoys zoom class lessons and she feels confident that she can do this. (She is 13, in 7th grade and has needed nominal assistance online.) But online learning doesn't work for my son, and from what I am hearing, many other special needs kids.  They need the eye contact of their teacher, the visual affirmation when they are doing well, the gentle redirection a teacher provides when they get distracted.  They need supervision and sometimes constant help. I am not able to provide it. And many parents are struggling just like I am.

As I write this, it sounds like one big complaining blog post. Our reality is that Distance Learning works for one kid and not the other.  But rather than continue to feel overwhelmed, I need to change my attitude and my approach.  I will not be encouraging Zach to participate in the busy work.  I am not going to stay up until 11 pm trying to make sense of what he needs to accomplish the next day.  And I am not going to tackle every class every day with Zach.

What will I do? I as a parent will remain engaged. I will let teachers know that they are doing an amazing job. I will continue working to help support my family as I also take care of those who are not able to do so for themselves at this time. I will enable Zach to take lots of breaks and enjoy a solid hour on the iPad every afternoon. I will pull him close and hug him when he struggling and compliment him on a job well done.  We will work on math and reading and I will show him new videos online from his teachers.  I will make sure he stays physically active.  But most of all, I am going to keep on loving him. I am going to laugh and play with him. I will let him lead me down a different path on our next walk.  And I will let laughter reign supreme.  If I can accomplish half of these things, it will be an amazing day each and every day. I just need to remind myself of all the things we can accomplish together rather than wallow in what isn't working or what is too challenging.

I Know What That Means- By: Kelli J Gavin for Writers Unite!

I Know What That Means By: Kelli J Gavin After my family moved to Minneapolis three years ago, my parents refused to visit us in our ne...