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Just as farmers are hard at work harvesting their crops from the field, so too can we start to prepare for the coming winter. With the official start of Autumn less than a week away, I am sure there are many among us that have turned their minds to getting ready for the shorter, cooler days and long winter nights that are on the way. It is time to put away shorts and tanks, and prepare for the cooler temperatures that Fall. Perhaps you should take a page from area farmers and work by the light of the Harvest Moon this week to get your life organized for Fall.

By the Light of the Harvest Moon

Apple chips are a great way to capture the taste of warmer days come the chill of winter

If you are going to work by the light of the harvest moon, why not start with harvesting some of this season’s bounty from the fields yourself? Grab the family and head out to pick apples, pears, or a pumpkin or two. Another option is to hit a farm stand or farmers market to cash in on all the season’s best produce out there. Once you get it home the fun really begins. While eating the produce fresh is satisfying, if you have brought home 10 lbs of beets or a bushel of apples, you might want to think of other ways to use all that yummy goodness. Why not try your  hand at canning this year! Tomatoes are a simple choice to start with in the canning department and a great way to save some of the many pounds of juicy vegetable (fruit?) to enjoy in the depth of winter. Apple sauce is another easy option and will be appreciated in any child’s lunch all winter long. If canning isn’t your cup of tea, you can always freeze corn, beans, berries, tomatillos and other fresh produce, to savour later. Yet another option to capture the summer’s best is through drying. I bet there won’t be anyone else with dried pear chips at school, but they will be lining up to taste your delicious creations!

Autumn is the perfect time to reorganize your closet

Once you step out of the kitchen, head to the bedroom. You might still want to be wearing shorts in the afternoon, but sweaters are pretty handy first thing in the morning. You may think that you can put it off for a bit, but I think its time to say goodbye to your summer wardrobe Londoners. This is a perfect time to assess, clean and organize your closets too, by the way. If there are items you never wore this past season, pull them out and put them aside for your donation pile. Stained, ripped or threadbare articles can be tossed. All other summer attire can be stored for the season. Think storage totes with tight-fitting lids or vacuum packing items to reduce the space that they take up in storage. Next step is doing a deep clean of your drawers and closets. Empty your drawers and replace your drawer liners. Dust closet shelves once they are empty. Invest in closet organizers to maximize your space available. Don’t forget to vacuum your space while you are at it. That will mean a clean space to replace all your sweaters, long pants, wool skirts and other pieces of your Fall/Winter wardrobe. That way you can also see what you have and know if you need to replace or buy other must-have items this Fall.

Fall Colours don’t have to be drab in your home

The chill of the harvest moon also reminds us that cooler nights are ahead. It’s time to throw down thicker area rugs, hang curtains to keep the day’s heat inside even after the sun has set for the day, and perhaps change-up the palette of your decor. Maybe a splash of pumpkin in a cashmere throw might warm up your beige living room. How about other accent pieces (ie, vase, candles, picture frames) in Samba, Sunflower or Deep Lichen Green to bring the outdoors in. And before you are shivering too much, order a load of firewood in anticipation of sitting fireside this coming winter.

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The bell has rung. School is back in. And while parents couldn’t have been happier in the morning yesterday, by afternoon reality had a chance to kick in. It is time for back to routines, back to extracurriculars, and back to homework. All that free time you just envisioned got sucked up into the hoopla of the rat race. Welcome back!

How do you keep ahead of the daily grind? Are you a scheduler, with a desk planner highlighted in multi-colours for every person in your household? Do you do your best by freezing meals when you can in anticipation of the kid’s practice nights? Or are you a fly by the seat of your pants kind of organizer, never sure what day of the week it is, let alone what is for dinner tonight? How about a few tips to make the transition back to school and routine easier for everyone involved.

Time for some “Time Management” in your Routine!

  • Dedicate a time for homework: Whether it be right after school, following a small snack, after dinner or before bed, ensure that there is enough time to complete any assignments due, and that your child is at their peak productivity for best performance possible when they tackle their homework.
  • Dedicate a space for homework: When homework takes place in a dedicated space, it can be organized accordingly.  Whether that be at the kitchen table while dinner is being made, so a parent can help, at a desk with easy access to a flat surface to write on and computer as necessary, or at a shared space where necessary supplies are handy for everyone, if homework happens at the same place every day you’ll have one less hurdle in getting it done.
  • A scheduler is the best way to keep up with your busy life

    Organize schedules: This might sound self-explanatory, but when activities don’t get properly organized, time management flies out the window. There are plenty of desk blotters out there that have space for everyone’s activities over the week or month. Day planners allow you to see what is scheduled when and where, thus reducing surprises that might throw an already busy schedule off-kilter. Smart phones have plenty of apps available to them that make scheduling a breeze in this electronic age. Even a simple calendar can give you a little structure to make sure that everyone gets to their activities on time, every time. However works best for you, take the time to write it down, so that you know what is going on when in your busy life.

  • Plan meals: Meal planning is not often easy when you have to fly out the door to football practice, swimming lessons or karate, but a little pre-planning goes a long way. If you have people going in multiple directions at once, it might seem crazy or downright impossible to try to coördinate a family meal every night. A little forethought in meal planning goes a long way. Instead of eating at the drive-thru, try freezing individual-sized portioned meals for those on the go. Pull out your crock pot for meals ready when you are at the end of the day. Draw up your meal plan for the week, to eliminate the “what am I going to make for dinner tonight?” dilemma at 4pm. It doesn’t hurt to ask for feedback from the rest of the family too. Fit in everyone’s favourites every night of the week!
  • Fit in some downtime: When we get going at top speed, life can sometimes get the better of us. Homework and extracurricular activities are important for success and to build well-rounded individuals, but a little downtime is important too in order to recharge our personal batteries. Kids need time to be kids. Whether that looks like some quiet time to read, half an hour of TV time, an hour to play outside with friends, or a day with nothing scheduled at all, those breaks from routine are necessary to keep everyone happy and healthy. Don’t forget to breathe people!
  • Family Time is important, so schedule it in!

    Dedicate a time for family time: This time is one of your most important, but often gets overlooked in the hustle and bustle of extracurricular activities, school, homework and life’s other responsibilities. Taking the time to reconnect, whether it is over dinner every night, at bedtime when you read stories, or a once in a week movie/game night, family time ensures that when things get rough, we are all open and there for each other. A united family is a stronger family.

Do you have any other tips that help your family stay organized?

Back to School time is upon us. It is time to pick up backpacks, lunch bags, laptops, school supplies, and more. While kids might like to pick out their own new paraphernalia, parents really just look forward to getting their children back into school and routines. Any parents I know also want the process to be painless, quick, and as economical as possible. So how to go about that? With a little prep work beforehand.

Before the first school bell rings is the perfect time to prepare for a new school year. It is time to take stock of what you have, what you need, plus fit in time to declutter and organize your space, before all this year’s homework, projects and artwork starts coming home again. It won’t take long for life to speed up, so take advantage of the last of  the lazy summer days before it is time to embrace the rat race again. A little preparation now will take you a long way into a more organized school year this year.

Where to Start:

From backpacks, to school supplies – how much should you buy?

  • Go through last year’s backpacks to see what kind of shape they are in. Do you need to buy a new one, or will it last for another year? Same thing goes for lunch bags. Toss it, or clean it so it’ll be good to go again?
  • What did you find in those backpacks? Do you need to file report cards, recycle or shred old tests, or tuck away a special piece of art or project into your child’s memento box?
  • What did you find in the lunch bags? Do you need to buy new freezer packs, storage containers,  or drink boxes?
  • How about the pencil cases? Are they full of holes, empty or still jammed full of pencils, erasers, pencil crayons and more stuff. Waste not, want not.

To Buy, or Not to Buy: 

Figure out what supplies your school already has before running out to buy things you might not need

  • Check on your school’s website for suggestions for what to bring to school; ie. runners, extra clothes, backpacks, binders, etc. Some schools have supplies available, while other classrooms might be begging for boxes of kleenex and any art supplies you might have on hand.
  • With your checklist of what children need, plus inventory taken stock of with what you already have, it’s not a bad idea to check the flyers or look for online sales before you head out the door. Back to school shopping can get expensive, so save money where you can with a little investigative research.
  • Decide if your child will need any other electronics this year. Are your kids ready for a cell phone, smart phone, iPad, laptop or PC? If they are still in elementary school, you might just want to stick with a calculator as your big tech gadget,  but that is ultimately up to you. Check with your school’s policies as well, as you might find that the brand new smart phone that you just bought isn’t really encouraged at your child’s school.

Study Space:

  • Unless you like clutter, you should do a little planning now. Where will backpacks live when not in use? How about lunch bags? Will hooks behind the door work for backpacks, or will they live in your child’s room? Do you have a drawer or cupboard where children can put their lunch bags after they have been emptied?
  • Will your child have dedicated supplies for school and others for use at home? How much will be going back and forth between classroom and home? Can you afford to buy both, or is it more feasible to leave school supplies there, and have a second set of supplies at home?
  • Where will your children be doing their homework when they get it; their bed, the kitchen table, a desk? Will you be helping them with their homework, and if so is there space enough for both of you? Will they have access to all that they need in this study space?

Now all you have to do is start getting the kids ready for when that first bell rings. Bring bedtime back to a more manageable hour, get them excited about seeing old friends and meeting new ones, and have them practice their ABCs and 123s, to see if they’ve still got it. And you parents? Hold your excitement in til the bell rings.

The weather has finally begun to perk up in Southwestern Ontario. Sure we’ve had plenty of rain (way more rain than desired in places like Huntsville and Bracebridge – hope it dries up soon!), but this is the third day in a row that we’ve had sunshine here in London. Even better, the temperatures have snuck into the double digits! You know what that means, don’t you? Sandals, capris and shorts have materialized in droves on winter-pale bodies.

Fashion Statement?

Lord have mercy…

So I get that we are Canadians and that Summer often feels like the shortest of seasons, but sometimes I wonder about people’s fashion sensibility. Sigh. But, I digress.

To get to the point, it is time to give your wardrobe the ole spring cleaning once over as well. Yes, it is finally time to pack up your toques,  mittens, scarves, and snow pants. I would keep your sweaters handy, as I don’t think we are quite done with chilly mornings, but you should be safe saying goodbye to snow tires and brushes for now. Bring on the spring/summer wardrobe!

Here are a few handy tips on how best to tackle your spring wardrobe makeover;

Spring clean your wardrobe

Unburden your wardrobe from its winter woes!

    • Start with a purge. Be ruthless. Pull out anything you haven’t worn in the last six months to a year. If it doesn’t fit, let it go. If you ever fit back into it again, the likelihood of it still being in fashion is slim to none. Think of the real estate you’ll open up in your closet for new items! Toss damaged items or pieces that are beyond repair into your rag bag or the trash bin. Don’t forget to include shoes into this process.
    • Once your closet is empty, get in there and give it a good once over. Time to clean! Sweep and vacuum the floor, wash the walls and baseboards and touch up or repaint as necessary.

How’s this for an Organized Closet?

  • Next step is to sort your newly thinned out wardrobe. In fact, it’s a perfect time to install a closet organization system. Think shelves, hanging organizers, multi-level bars to accommodate everything from long dresses to sweaters, to short skirts and slacks. A well organized closet saves space, time and heartache when you are looking for the perfect outfit for your outings.
  • Time to put it all back again. Before shoving everything in willy nilly, take the time to make a plan here too. Keep that organization going! Keep like items together, like pants with pants and skirts with skirts. You can even match seasonal items, like summer dresses at one end of the dress spectrum and heavier winter ones at the other. For those so inclined, you might even colour coordinate your coordinates.

Come out to a Garage Sale with Heart on May 11th, 2013

Now before you take all those excess clothes and stuff them into the trash can, I have an idea for you – call me! That’s right Londoners, I want your gently used and no longer wanted items. Why you ask? For a great cause, of course. The Royal LePage Shelter Foundation is having a garage sale on Saturday, May 11, 2013 from 8 am – 2 pm at 342 Commissioners Rd W. They are looking for gently used clothes, shoes, books, sporting goods, furniture, toys, tools, artwork, CDs and DVDs, bikes, working electronics and more. The money raised from the proceeds of the sale goes to the Women’s Shelter Foundation. You can drop off items at 334 Wellington Rd S or contact me [(519) 672-9880] for any larger items that you might have to donate. And if you come the day of, there will be a barbecue, coffee and bake sale, plus a draw.

Welcome to 2013!

It’s a brand new year and a great time to get a fresh start on life. New Year’s resolutions aside, now is a great time to take stock of your home and reorganize it. So often we go through life too busy to stop and really assess what we have in our lives. As a new year rolls in, it is a perfect time to assess what we have, what we need, and what we can truly live without. That means purging excesses in order to see what we actually have.

Are you ready to get working? Let’s take a look at a few simple ways to clean your home  for a better more organized you in 2013!

ORGANIZE YOUR HOME

IN 2013

WHAT TO PURGE

  • (Photo by Getty Images, Illustration by Maureen Scance, The Denver Post)

    Take stock of your fridge and discard anything past its best before date. Do you really want to gamble on food poisoning for your family?

  • Move on to the bathroom and take stock of your toiletries. How many travel size shampoos do you really need? Did you ever open the package on that self tanner? Clear the clutter and breathe in a new organized you in the bathroom too.
  • Go through your medicine cabinet and discard any medications that are expired. Make sure to properly dispose of all medicines. If in doubt, contact your local pharmacy on how best to get rid of them.
  • Look into your closet with a critical eye. Say goodbye to anything you have not worn in over a year. That means shoes too ladies! Same goes for all your dresser drawers as well. Seasonal items can be stored in totes or put into vacuum-sealed bags to free up room in your closet.
  • (Image from stepbystepmom.com)

    Along the same lines, check in on your single sock stash. If some of those socks have been without a mate for longer than you can remember, then let them go. They will make a nice addition to your rag-bag or rubbish bin!

  • Attack the paperwork piling up in your filing cabinet. With tax time coming up, you will need to make room for this year’s return! The Canada Revenue Agency recommends that you keep records for a minimum of 6 years. That means you can safely destroy most items that are 7 years or older. Get shredding!
  • Prepare the kids for the big purge in their playroom. All those new toys that they received on Christmas need to go somewhere. The solution is to get rid of old toys that are no longer receiving the love they once were. Include the kids in the process or stealthily fly solo on this mission, but a thinning must occur if there is to be space for your children to play or even see what toys they actually own.

HOW TO ORGANIZE

Now that you have got rid of all that excess, it’s time to organize what you have left. Sometimes a few handy tools is all it takes to create a clean and functional space for your home.

  • (Image from wingwire.com)

    Think baskets for mail, mittens and hats, boot trays for wet footwear, hooks for keys, scarves, purses and backpacks. Put up a shelf for books, movies or games. Be creative and come up with your own ways to organize the essential items your family uses regularly.

  • Decrease paperwork entirely, by going digital. It’s 2013! Save a tree and get current.
  • Keep a donation bin in your house where you can actively collect old toys that are no longer played with, clothing that no longer fits or other items that are just no longer in use. When the bin gets full, take it to Goodwill, Value Village, Habit for Humanity’s ReStore or even better hold a garage sale!

 

Welcome to In Your Neighbourhood!

Allow me to introduce myself. The name is Jim. You want to know more? Well, check out my "About Me" page! Don't forget to take a peek at my "Local London Listings" while you are here too! I update it regularly. Enjoy your visit and drop me a line to let me know you were in the neighbourhood!

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