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From the Expert

Christine Daves with Think Organized
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Putting Summer Away

As summer winds down we often find ourselves looking for storage solutions for the patio chair cushions, pool supplies, beach towels, bug spray, sunscreen, bike helmets, picnic gear, sandals, etc. Storing off season items, in out-of-the-way spaces, can make space for the muddy and salt-covered snow boots, winter coats, ice skates and ski equipment that will be showing up in a few short months. A few things you might consider when putting things in storage:

  • Winter isn’t that long, even in Minnesota. You will likely be getting the summer things out in just 5 or 6 months. Find a place to store items that are out of the way, but not impossible to access. (Although not being able to find your off-season items does provide a convenient excuse to buy new – if that is really what you want!)
  • Avoid using cardboard storage boxes when possible. If water or rodents get into your storage area cardboard does not stand much of a chance. Clear, sturdy plastic bins can keep your things dust, water, and rodent free.
  • Consider the weight of what you are storing and how bins will be kept. If you are stacking bins of heavy items, maybe your SCUBA weights, then invest in high quality bins that will not crack under a lot of weight. If you are storing your outdoor throw cushions, or if bins will be on shelves with nothing on top of them, then you don’t need to invest in super strong bins. (Although you might consider how your storage needs could change over the next few years. Having stronger bins does increase their longer-term usefulness.)
  • No matter if a bin is clear, semi-clear, or opaque, label it! I personally like to use Clear Adhesive 3″ x 5″ Index Card Pockets. (Available on Amazon.) That way I can change the label by just updating the card. I do not get residue from old tape or sticky labels, or hand-written notes that have been crossed out and re-written.
  • If a bin is going to be used for one thing, long term, I like to print 1” labels with a label maker. I have a Brother P-Touch label maker and use it for labeling things in almost every room in the house!

I love the winter but admit that putting away the gardening and yard supplies, emptying the hoses, etc. are not my favorite tasks. I think it is because we have the in-between time. Those few months where it is too cold for summer activities, but not cold enough to get our ice skates and skis out. Which makes it a perfect season for pulling out the bin of puzzles and scrapbooking supplies. Great activities for those in-door days!




Back to School!

My family frequently vacations in August. Many years we would return right before the school year started to find the Back-To-School section at Target almost empty. Then we would run to Office Max, Staples, and even Walgreens – until we found every binder, folder, and notebook, in the right color, on the school supply list. Now that my son is a senior in high school, he doesn’t need much in the way of supplies and if he does he can run out and get them on his own. I miss those trips – however frantic they may have been. Those fresh new supplies seemed to set us up for a successful year when anything was possible!

The start of a new school year is a great time to review routines, expectations, and responsibilities. It gives us a clean slate for introducing new activities that build kids’ independence. Is this the year they start to make their own lunch? If so, do they know how? Do they get a fancy new lunch box for it or will they use recyclable paper bags? What snack items are easy to include so your child is cable of putting together a complete lunch?

Does your child wake up independently? If not, should they? Do they need a lot of time in the morning or, like my son, do they prefer sleeping until the last-minute – leaving just enough time to brush teeth, throw on some clothes and hopefully get their shoes tied? (I don’t recommend this, I gave up on the idea of a healthy breakfast years ago.) If you want your child to take on this new responsibility, will a certain type of alarm clock make that easier? What happens when they sleep through it?

I enjoy leaving little notes in my son’s things every now and then. But are there things that go beyond a little note which could really brighten your child’s day during a tough week? A new set of Barbie pencils? A small pack of Pokemon cards? A little surprise to let them know that mom and dad (or grandmother, uncle, neighbor, etc.) are thinking of them. Having these items on hand is an easy way to show support and love when they need it. It is amazing how much an unexpected bag of Skittles can help your child accomplish!

This is also a good time to set your child up for success with homework. Do you want your child to have a quiet, secluded spot to study? Or do they need some parental oversight? I remember my son sitting on the far side of the dining room table so I could not see his computer screen – but there were windows behind him so the game he was playing was perfectly reflected in the window. We went to plan B after that. It might be worthwhile to review expectations about when homework needs to be completed. Before time with friends or gaming? Or in the evening? What will set you, and your child, up for a successful, but pleasant, school year?

In addition to where your child does their homework, you may consider if they need music playing or fidget spinners. Some students do not do well in silent, bland spaces, while others require it. You might want to consider how much help your child needs with tracking homework assignments. I believe that as parents our goal is to teach our kids how to do things independently, not to do it for them (I have not always been successful  following this belief.)  How can we provide the scaffolding that will enable their growth and independence?

Another area of potential responsibility is getting to school. Is this the year he or she can ride their own bike? If so, who will they go with? What time will they leave and where will they meet? Are there certain roads they need to avoid? Having these things spelled out beforehand can reduce a lot of stress on their first day back at school – not just for them, but for the whole family (and teachers, bus drivers, crossing guards, and everyone else!)

While shiny new school supplies always remind me of my childhood and of the times that my son was excited about things like that, the new year is a chance to encourage new growth and development for our kids. Organizing your thoughts about this now, when you still have a week or two, can help make this a great academic year!

Documenting the Joy of Summer

Summer! It is here and I hope you are all taking full advantage of it! Be that time on the water, at the cabin, or trips to the dog park, now is our limited season for enjoying the Minnesota outdoors without 14 layers and Yaktrax on!

Recently I wrote about the sometimes-overwhelming amount of papers and keepsakes that come home at the end of the school year. Today I want to talk about how to avoid a similar situation at the end of summer.

I have always taken a lot of photographs. It is so easy to shoot 200 photos during one of my son’s basketball games – but then I have 200 photos which is way too many to put into an album that anyone would enjoy looking at. I came up with criteria to help quickly edit my photos. The following photos get deleted immediately, frequently between tournament games:

  • I cannot see his face in the camera.
  • The photo is blurry, or he is too far in the distance to recognize.
  • His eyes are closed.

That usually immediately removes about 2/3rd of the images (especially in basketball, where they don’t stand still very long). Later, at home, frequently when I want something relaxing and rather brainless to do, I will go through the remaining photos and remove those that have funny expressions or just are not that interesting. I try to remember that when I do a photo album, I won’t want more than a few from the game, probably not more than 12 of the entire season. I also consider who, if anyone, will look at these images in the future (probably only my son) and will he have the interest to look at 20 images from each game?

Once the photos are selected they go into a computer file labeled with the name and date: Basketball 081223. After that I will put all of those files into a folder labeled: AUGUST 2023. That folder will have photos of everything we did that month. Of course – this is how my brain works, but it might not be how your brain works. You might want to keep all basketball photos in one folder, instead of organizing it by month. You may have different files for each child or activity or milestone. The right way to do it is any way that will make sense to you.


Another summer souvenir are the certificates of participation for camps, volunteering, or other activities. Or, we may want to hang on to the wrist bands from the water park. Perhaps we add them to a photo album someday or maybe it goes into a memory box for your child. If you like it, and it makes you smile, keep it! You can toss it later. But don’t leave it sitting on the kitchen counter to think about later, because we know that at the end of summer you will have a big pile of things to make decisions about.

I have a very simple file holder that I have separated by year and season. I put things that I want to keep in there. That often includes certificates, invitations, special cards, or anything else that is a happy memory. When winter comes and the weeds in my gardens are not calling me – I like to work on simple scrapbooks. Then I pull things from these files to go in the scrapbook.

Of course, do not feel obligated to keep anything. Some people like to hang on to a lot of things and others do not, and either way is fine provided it supports the type of home and life you want. If you struggle with clutter, then I would be very picky about what I keep. But, if you have someone where to put these things, and you want to keep them, then do so! Additionally, we all know that we have different thresholds for what we can do – never feel guilty for not keeping things or for not making keepsake memory books. You, and your children, family, pets, etc., will get more out of the experiences they share with you if you are not stressed about how they will remember such events in years to come.

One of the best gifts I received was an electronic frame. I have an Aurora and it is very simple to use. I can drop photos from my computer or phone right onto the frame. It currently has about 800 photos and it is a delight seeing images from throughout our lives pop up.  We get more joy and laughter from that frame then from any of the scrapbooks I have made. If you love having photos around, that is a great option to consider.

I hope your summer is filled with things that make great memories!

-Christine Daves (July 2023)



Make the most of Summer by relaxing with intent!

It is summer! And after this long, long winter, I want to take advantage of every moment of it! But like our homes, it is easy for our days to get cluttered. This happens to me when I get distracted – usually by social media or something on my phone. There is definite value in taking time to shut our brains down – but when I let myself just fall into a distraction for more than 5 minutes, it eats into the quality of my life! It happens to me with household tasks too. Today I was sweeping the patio and noticed that the grill needed to be wiped down, and the chairs could use some cleaning, and maybe I should re-arrange the flower pots… None of these things are bad, but at the end of the day I look back and wonder why I never got to doing the things I love.

To avoid this, I try to be very intentional about my relaxation. There are many things I love to do, and I want to spend my free time doing those things, not going down rabbit holes on Facebook. I love to garden, visit the dog park, scrapbook, and do almost anything creative! These activities make me feel good. Thus, I try to organize my time so I can relax in meaningful ways.

Here are a few things I do to help me organize my time so those high-priority relaxation activities don’t get missed:

· Keep a post-it on my desk reminding me not to get sidetracked by social media.

· Set aside times of the week that are specifically for family activities.

· Keep a list out of things I want to do and places I want to visit summer.

· Integrate relaxation time into the day – not just after everything else is done.

Summers are fleeting and when fall comes we want to look back on the great memories we made. Furthermore, we don’t know what the future holds, so it never hurts to live in the present – go visit that friend that you keep meaning to see; take your kids on that hike; plant flowers that make you happy; take the canoe out! Or rent one! No one sits on their deathbed remembering that their yard or house was perfect, but they do remember spending time doing the things they loved with the people they loved. Make doing the things you love a priority.

And when you are tired – rest with intent. Nap in the hammock. Read a book. Sleep. Cuddle with your dog, cat or a loved one. Watch Netflix. But do it with intent – so even those lazy days leave happy memories.


Spend time with those you love.

Make memories.

Play outside.

Take your dog apple picking.

Go fishing.

Have a family movie night.

Go ziplining.

Set up the volleyball net.


-Christine Daves (June 2023)




What to do with your kid’s year-in-review!

When my son was young he brought so many things home from school. Artwork, assignments, name tags, or any interesting tidbit that he was sure should be kept forever. I saved a lot, but not everything. It can be hard to know what to keep and what to do with things, but if we don’t make some decisions, we’ll end up with 4 years-worth of papers scattered around the house which can be really overwhelming! The end of the school year is a great time to make sense of this stuff. Here are a few thoughts that might help you get started!

Some people like to save everything their children touched, and others save nothing. Either way is fine and most of us fall somewhere in the middle. Start with considering why you want to keep things. Is it for you to look at in the future and remember what your little one was like? Or is it for them to remember their experiences? What is most significant to remember about this time?

Once you identify what is important to you, and what will make you and your child smile when you look at it in 10 years, then you want to sort things. If your child draws pictures every day, you might not need to save all 300 of them. Pick out your favorites.

To give a deeper picture of who your child was this year, you might want to keep awards, certificates, sports photos, or other items of note with the schoolwork. That will paint a more rounded portrait of your child. I saved items from my son’s summer camps, sports participation, special cards, or invitations he received.

Next, consider how and where you will save them. I discourage cardboard boxes in the basement. I feel there is too much chance of bugs, dust, mold, or something worse getting into those boxes. If your basement doesn’t have any of this, then keep it that way by not giving bugs any reason to come in! (This is especially true with seed art.)

If you use plastic bins to save children’s memorabilia, which is a good idea, take an extra moment to label the box with the child’s name (if you have multiple children), grade, and the year. Down the road it can eliminate a lot of guesswork.

If you have time, it can be nice to put everything in a binder or scrapbook that can be paged through. Larger artwork can be photographed and printed so it can be included. The book could be very simple with just items in page sleeves and an inexpensive binder, or it could be a very fancy scrapbook. (Before you put hours and hours into this remember that your grown child might not be sentimental and may have no interest in keeping them – are you ok with that?)

Most importantly, have fun! And if this becomes stressful then either let it all go or throw it in a box and focus on spending quality time with your kids. That will build their character, strengthen their relationship with you, and create memories that will be more meaningful than a macaroni necklace. Happy Summer!

Simple binder with child’s art and schoolwork in page sleeves.

Creative work added to a photo album or scrapbook.


-Christine Daves (May 2023)




The not-so-joyful task of paper management

Many of our parents and grandparents kept every official piece paper they ever received. Bills. Bank statements. Insurance renewals. Academic records. Product manuals, etc. It is ok to keep everything, until it isn’t. Once paper becomes a hassle – once it flows out the drawers of the filing cabinet, and of the second filing cabinet, and starts to pile on every surface of the house – it is taking up too much of your space, time, and energy. Starting to wrangle all your papers can feel very overwhelming causing many of us procrastinate as the piles continue to grow.

This might not sound very helpful, but, in all honestly, I cannot tell you how to manage your papers. I could organize them in a lovely system that would enable me to find anything easily, but if I labeled something ‘Auto’ and you are looking for a file labeled ‘Subaru’, then it won’t help! Instead of a one-process fits all approach, I encourage clients to start with a few considerations.

Do you need it? I do not think there are that many things that we truly need. And I don’t think the consequences for tossing something that should have been kept are that severe. You might have to make a phone call and request a new copy of something; you might need to go online and request a new password to access information; or it might be more of a hassle to return something purchased, but none of these tasks are insurmountable. Personally, I think the number one thing to consider when you are deciding whether to keep something is will you sleep well at night if you don’t have it.Are you comfortable not having it? If not having something makes you nervous, then keep it. (Of course, there are some things that you just need to keep – car titles, birth certificates, legal papers, etc.)

Do you need it here? It is fine to keep something just because. Maybe it makes you smile, represents an accomplishment, or contains phone numbers that are not easily to find online. If you are a person who wants to keep a lot of papers but does not like having them all around you, it is time to consider storage options. Sentimental papers and photos and are a joy to have, but they do not need to be in the kitchen. Use the most accessible spaces for the items that you access regularly….

…. The kids’ sports schedule, the Gutherie tickets for next week, the gym schedule for the month, etc. – this is the information that you need to be able to get to easily. Items that you want to have on hand but might never look at should go in less used spaces. As long as we know where those files are, they can certainly stay in the basement or another out-of-the-way space.

Is it easy to get to your files? If you have a crowded filing cabinet that requires two hands to squeeze a new file into, chances are you won’t. Instead, you might put the papers on top of the cabinet and go on with your day. When considering where your files are kept it is helpful to eliminate any barriers to putting something away. I love file drawers with extra space so I can open a drawer, easily find the correct file, drop the papers in, and go. Putting papers in the right place should be almost as easy as dropping it on the kitchen table. This does mean that you will occasionally need to take time to clear out your files every now and then.

Once you find your files, can you find the right one? I have created color coded filing systems for some of my clients. Each member of the family may have a different color, health information is in red, financial in green, etc. Knowing that a bank form will be in the green section helps the filer know where to look. I personally prefer all my files to be identical, but some people need a colorful system so things stand out. Similarly, I prefer my files to be in alphabetical order, but not everybody thinks that way. You might find things more quickly if they are arranged in order of importance or chronologically. The right format will match the way you think.

There are so many things that can be done to make a filing system that works for you! Before googling ‘the best filing system’ and prior to buying anything, I recommend you spend time considering what you really need and want to keep; what should be accessible; and how your brain naturally organizes information. That will set a foundation to build a system that works for you!


-Christine Daves (April 2023)