Organizing: Best of Summer

Summer vacation is a great time to get organized!

Summer vacation is a great time to get organized!

Just today I helped a client, who is selling her house, clean out a little kitchen closet. Peeking in, it wasn't so bad, nothing to be ashamed of AND when we attacked it. . . WHOA what energy, motivating thoughts and pride did it unleash. When we were done we had generated 1/2 a bag of trash, 4 boxes of donate and 1/4 bin of recycling. As we stood back together and looked at our work we were filled with satisfaction, pride and energy to attack something else. We underestimate what a cheap and wonderful drug sorting, purging and organizing our stuff can be. (And no side effects!).

Here's a breezy summer listicle to get you thinking about tidying up before school starts

1. You don't have to begin with the end in mind. When we walk into our kids messy, cluttered, over-stuffed room we don't have to KNOW what to do. One thing professional organizers are really good at is sorting as WAY to figure out what the answer is. The answer comes THROUGH the sorting up into our brain, NOT from our brain into our sorting. 

2. If you need sorting primer, please click here!

 3. When we start we often get mad at ourselves that we didn't do it earlier so we ruin a perfectly good organizing session by ending it with beating ourselves up. Guys, sometimes our stuff needs to ripen or marinate. Sometimes time is exactly what those papers needed to get either thrown our put in the new memory box. Speak nicely to yourself. Here's a little piece on how Turmeric from 2007 showed me how discouraging I am with myself. 

4. Kids act like it's Filene's Basement, but want it to be Barney's. Less is more to them. Kids will use more art supplies the less they have of them. Artfully display them on an empty kitchen counter, just a couple things, don't say a WORD and watch how they suddenly use those oil pastels Nana gave them last Christmas. (Marketing is very important when it comes to kids).

5. Organizing is one of those tasks, like weeding, that is more fun if there is a group. If you have trouble getting started, don't go it alone, ask a fun friend or a non-judgey relative, or a professional organizer to come and help. When we try to go it alone we get lost in thoughts, in perfection, in the memories.

6. Anything you can do now to decrease the clutter before the school year starts will pay off in spades. A clear physical space promotes calm AND creativity.

Lies, Lies, Lies. . Yeah!

Newsflash, everyone lies! (at least a little, often to themselves)

Newsflash, everyone lies! (at least a little, often to themselves)

Summer Lying Scenario

Mom gives child $10.00 for a trip to the pool with friends.

Upon child's return, Mom sees change in the pool bag.

Mom sees child later and asks about the pool, what happened, what he did and then this little nugget: "If there is change, please leave it on the counter."

No change is on the counter.

Mom, the next morning, very casually asks, "Um, was there any change you might have forgotten?"

Child says: "Nope"

OMG, NOW what to do?

First of all, do not ask questions you know the answer to! If I could magically change the scenario it would start with.

Mom: "Hey hon, I saw some change swirling in your pool bag, leave it on the counter before dinner."

It's disrespectful and frankly, is totally ineffective, to try to catch kids in lies. Catching kids in lies does not make them honest. Instead, think of being honest as a training opportunity, not a morality test. When our kids fail the morality test of fibbing, we usually launch into a tirade of anger and shaming. The focus for the child moves from the money to protecting himself from Mom's explosion. The child thinks, "I can't tell Mom anything, she flips out!"

Instead, consider confessing to a transgression (being honest after you have done something you know will upset your parent) as a skill (not a do or die, one shot, morality test). If it's a training situation we can expect that our kids probably won’t get it right the first time.  People tend to confess to others who remain calm. Calm does not mean condoning. Shall I repeat that? Calm does NOT mean condoning.

Now that Mom has learned this new information, what happens next? In a quiet mom, just Mom and child.

Mom: “Hey hon, I saw money in the pool bag before I asked you to put the change on the counter and now there is no change? Can you tell me about that?”

If he lies, Mom could leave it at that, or say: “Ok, if you remember differently later, let me know.”

When money is doled out again, you might have a conversation about whose money it is, or give him only the money he can spend and you don't care about change, or ask him how he wants to handle the change. Children feel so respected when we START with asking THEM how they want to handle things. We are often surprised how willing they are to cooperate when they are in the drivers seat and don't FIRST have to endure one of our lectures (as amazing as it probably is!).

When it comes to honesty, the trick is to have a relationship with our child where they can tell us the truth. So don’t be overly disappointed or devastated by the lying, and don’t yell at them. Take it in, consider, circle back. Say it with me now, “Take it in. Consider. Circle back.”

The Consider and the Circle Back is where the relationship building power is. We aren't letting kids 'get away' with anything, we are learning about who our kids is.

Where can we practice being someone who can handle the truth*?

*Often, it's those of us that are sneaky, or tell white lies, or don't give full information that often are obsessed with getting our kid not to lie.


3 Ways We Accidentally Dis-Respect Our Kids

1. Ask questions we know the answer to

If you know your child took the cookies, the money, the brother's t-shirt, it's very disrespectful to ask. Catching people in lies does not teach people not to lie. If you know the answer to the question phrase it as such, "I saw the oreos were all eaten, I was looking forward to sharing them. We'll be taking a sugar break for a week." "I am assuming there was change from that trip to the Safeway, please leave it on my desk." "Joe's Supreme t-shirt needs to be washed before he comes home from camp on Saturday."

2. We Are Nice

We ask them to clean their rooms, they don't, we buy them new clothes. While we are buying the new clothes we remind them that we expect them pick up these clothes, after all we've done for them. Then, guess what? Their room is still totally messy and we completely ADDED to their insanity. That is disrespectful. Being NICE is not always respectful (recovering nice people out there, click here for a little re-fresher).

3. We Are Disappointed

You guys, they want us to love and admire them. They do, they really do. When we think they will do better because we are disappointed in them, we are both WRONG and we are draining the relationship. They are little, they are emerging people, and I'm betting we aren't so perfect either. Expect the tantrums, back-talk, procrastination, the bad grades, the messy rooms, the disorganization. Instead of being disappointed, be curious, ask questions. Maybe re-read The Only Shocking Part, you'll get a good giggle along with some good info broken down by age group.


Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.
— Viktor Frankl

Usually, us parents either hand freedom over without the corresponding responsibility (give them a phone without knowing they can either help pay or act responsibly with it), or we are heavy on the responsibility but stingy with the freedom (you are in charge of your own laundry, but you have to do it my way, when I say it's time).

This July 4th let's balance out the two. Here's some examples to get you thinking. . .

Phones are purchased AFTER child has earned/saved some of the money needed to get it. AFTER the child has shown they are reliable with the parents devices (stays on age appropriate websites, forks it over when it's time, has minimal breakdowns over the handing over of the device). Child shows responsibility BEFORE they are given a GIANT freedom that most GROWN-UPS have a hard time managing THEMSELVES!

Child is in charge of his laundry.  Child chooses when to do it, child can watch tv while clothes are being folded (they might take longer then one show to sllloooooowlllyyyyyy fold their clothes).  Child then experiences the delicious freedom that comes with the laundry responsibility. 

Child's room is a disaster, parent can decide that there will be no more money spent on clothes because the parent is unwilling to add to the mess. Child experiences the lack of freedom to purchase new clothes when the responsibility is shirked for caring for the current clothes he has.

When a child wants a new freedom, brainstorm a matching responsibility. When you give the child a new responsibility, brainstorm a new freedom that comes with it.

“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.”
– Abigail Van Buren



Turmeric . . . . 2007 . . . . WHAT?

Speak nicely to me little spices! (originally posted March 2015)

Speak nicely to me little spices! (originally posted March 2015)

This weeks Nifty Tip comes in a small personal story with an expiration date of 2007.

My husband cleaned up our first floor when I was out running errands on Saturday.  I walked in, saw what he had accomplished and I was INSPIRED to tidy something myself.  It'd been a good year since I last cleaned and purged my little pantry.  As I stood there, looking at my own pantry, I heard myself say things that might sound familiar, "I should have done this months ago, I'm a bad person.  Look at all those shopping bags, I never use them, but I can't throw them out, I think I'll just jam them back up there on that top shelf because I alonehave to save the earth.  Oh my gosh, that balsamic vinegar got all over the shelf, this is gross, this is sticky. I'm gross. Why didn't I notice this before?!  Ugh, I don't feel like cleaning, I just feel like tidying, this is too much.  Ok, little spices come over here, let me look at your teeny tiny expiration dates . . . . 2007  . . . #%#&&#%^@%$@@!! Tumeric from 2007, and that is when it EXPIRED, who knew when I bought it.  Paige, you are so disorganized and wasteful and you should have used that $7 bottle of turmeric.  You know what, I'm a mess, I need a diet coke and lie down. I'll do the pantry tomorrow, when I feel up to it."

So much judgement, so many opinions, so many thoughts slowing down a perfectly fun and fabulous 30 minute organizing project.  If that tiny pantry wasn't mine, if I hadn't bought the turmeric myself, if the balsamic vinegar spilled on someone else's shelf, if the paper bags were jammed up in a client's top shelf. . . well, here is what I would have said. "Oh, I love this teeny tiny pantry, so efficient.  Ok, too many bags, which don't you ever use?  The Chipotle ones?  Ok great, let's recycle those, keep one bag of grocery bags in the basement for the book sorting project, keep what fits in this slot and pitch the rest.  Ok, looks like vinegar and oil tray needs a re-boot, where are you paper towels, this will only take a second.  Spices, get over here! Wait, hold on, I need my reading glasses.  HAHAHHAHHAHAHAHhahahahhaha did you know this turmeric expired in 2007, how funny? What was it for?  I know, I buy those $7 spices for one dish too, hysterical!"

Do you hear the difference?  We can be so mean to ourselves and then not only are we organizing the pantry (or our taxes, or the pile of papers, or the bookshelf) we are also berating ourselves, wishing we were different, feeling guilty and coming up with solutions that are too big and tiring -- We will never buy over priced spices again, we will tidy the pantry once a week, we will always clean up the spills RIGHT away.  All that judgement, berating and scheming steals our energy away from simply tidying up, wiping down, sorting, pitching and enjoying our tiny slice of organized pantry. No wonder we give up, have a diet coke and lie down.

May I suggest the next time you bump into an organizing issue in your house you pretend it's not yours.  It's your dear, dear friend's, and you are just helping them out.  Do you feel yourself relax?  Do you hear the encouraging and understanding words you are saying?  Do you see yourself getting a little something done, moving on with your day and patting yourself on the back when you cook dinner and your pantry is neat and tidy?  That 2007 turmeric need not defeat us!!

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Me? Why do I need a parenting class?


1. Parenting classes remind us that raising kids IS challenging, and we aren't the only knuckleheads out there confused and frustrated.

2. We learn about a variety of resources - books, workshops, classes, online seminars, podcasts that can infuse our parenting with inspiration and new ideas.

3. We see the universality of all our experiences. Rarely is a parent educator surprised by a question or a problem, because it's the same stuff over and over - messy rooms, problems with friends, picky eaters, no sleepers, homework avoiders.

4. We laugh together, because it IS funny. Seriously - it's funny the parent/child dance. Now, it's not funny when it's you, but it IS funny when we can see together the hilarious things we do to try to get a four-year-old shod and fed before 8am.

5. We can see ourselves more clearly - and that's where change happens. Change happens when we are in the middle of our very own lives - no excuses, no over-dramatization, no soft focus. In the safety of a big group we can quietly notice where we might be too demanding or too permissive.

5.5. It gets us out of the house and aways from the children (tee hee - but seriously, you deserve a break today.).

From past participants:

"I will really benefit from this and so will my child. I think I will approach parenting with a greater sense of options and more compassion, openness and hopefully, patience. Thank you! This was really excellent and well worth it."
"Role playing and listening tools provided concrete ways to interact with my kids in a less emotionally elevated way."
"I plan to implement many of the tools/strategies immediately (but gradually!). I found myself up last night reflecting on the first night, and had energy and enthusiasm this morning when I saw my kiddos. I definitely plan to attend future PEP classes."

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Stuff You Didn't Know Your Kids Could Do!

It's TRUE! They can do more than you think!

It's TRUE! They can do more than you think!

FORMS: Kids 11 and up can start filling out their own medical/school/camp forms. It's true. We have to go over, edit and correct them, but they certainly can fill out their names, know their address, find out what an insurance card is and copy it. Give them time, don't rush them, don't criticize, maybe have them use pencil and bada boo, bada bing you will have an 18 year old that knows what the heck to do when they go to the health clinic themselves.

MAKE TRAVEL PLANS: Clicking is for everyone! The sooner they are comfortable online checking out deals, dates, scenarios, layovers, the sooner they will be ready to make and execute their own exciting lives. Start with letting your kiddo check in to this summers flight. Have them peruse different tourist sites and pick one, entrust them with getting tickets for that sunset sailboat ride.

PREP DINNER: I have found that the meal delivery system, like Blue Apron, is a great way to get a reluctant teen in the kitchen. It provides all the instruction so us parents can walk the dog while they prep the meal. Some families are so inspired that they ditch the Blue Apron after a while and they have a bona fide teen cook on their hands.

What else guys? What do your kids do that surprised or delighted you? Share the stories and inspiration, summer is such a great time to try new things!

Ready, Set, Summer! (Part 2 of 2)

Chores: Holy moly begoly, kids can do a lot around the house. They would probably do a lot more if we just chilled out. As in, stop criticizing, micro-managing, doing things over, demanding they care as much as we do. If we thank them for the effort, provide lots of freedom on how to do the new responsibility and just basically all around ZIP OUR LIPS we might be surprised. Now, I’m not saying if you don’t criticize, micro-manage, do things over or demand that they care that you will find yourself living with your very own Alice from the Brady Bunch. I’m just saying that if you don’t criticize, micro-manage, do things over, or demand they care you might just find that people are willing to help carry in the groceries, or prep the salad, or walk the dog, or call the orthodontist, or run to the post office, or check in for that flight (YES! They can do stuff other than trash and recycling).

Waking up: Kids 6 and over can wake up to an alarm clock. Do not fall for the “I need my phone for an alarm clock.” Let them practice waking up on time when you are not super upset if they are late. We all have a different way of handling waking up. Some of us pop right up and rip the band aid off. Others love the twilight luxury of snoozing and laying ½ awake and ½ asleep (my husband calls this – ‘planning my day’). Each person needs to know who they are as they become more and more responsible for themselves. One of my kids has learned he’s a professional ‘snoozer’ so he sets multiple alarms to set himself up for success on important days. All of us learn more from our own experience than from lectures and warnings from someone else, no matter how well meaning!

Self-Care: As important as AP classes and enrichment activities are, knowing how to take care of our self and conjuring up the self-motivation to take care of our self is a skill. It can be learned, practiced, improved and mastered. There is an epidemic of kids who don’t know how to do their own laundry, can’t call an adult on the phone, or think it’s a beneath them to tidy up their own rooms. Summer is a great time to pass on some of these responsibilities to our kids. NOW, we want to PASS ON the responsibility and not heave ho in a fit of anger and judgment the responsibility. Let's see it in action . . . 


Say This:

Jimmy, I’ve been so disrespectful micro-managing your life. I’m sorry. I’d be willing to show you how the laundry machine works on Saturday before your soccer game, it should take no more than 10 minutes, does that work for you? (If it doesn’t, find another mutually agreed upon time and then FOLLOW-THROUGH). I am un-willing to keep nagging you about putting your stuff into the bin, so after you are trained I will happily continue doing all the laundry on Mondays that is in the bin, sound ok to you?


Don’t Say:

Listen Buster, you are 13 and don’t do anything around the house. The LEAST you could do is your own laundry, capice? (Then nag, remind, cajole and ask if the laundry is done, WHEN it is undone lecture on their laziness and disrespect. After you are good and tired of that, do their laundry. Lather, rinse, repeat.)

Ready, Set, Summer! (Part 1 of 2)

It won't be long now . . . . 

It won't be long now . . . . 

What? Wait, Paige, it’s May 9th, “whatchyoutalkinbout Willis?”

It’s coming sooner then we think. If we have kids at home we know, remember, can anticipate the joys and sorrows of summer. Luck favors the prepared.

Devices: Think, where do they live (tip: in public spaces, not in bedrooms, this goes for us too!). Think time boundaries (off by 9, devices live in our bedrooms at night, cuts down on the inevitable sneaking). Strict on boundaries Sunday night – Thursday. Chill and relaxed Friday – Sunday evening. More responsibility given and accepted by the child (chores, homework, cooperation) equals more freedom (time and privacy) around the device. This works the other way too, child stops being responsible, device freedoms diminish.

Clothes: Statistically, we all wear 20% of what we own. We bitch about the other 80% that’s on the floor, not put away, un-washed, laying in a puddle NEXT TO the laundry bin. Delete, donate, pass on. Danger zones to watch out for in the clothes department: it was expensive, someone we love gave us an item we don’t love, it used to fit us, I love it FOR them (meaning, I want them to wear it, they don not). Donating Danger Zone:  thinking we have to donate to exactly the right person, in the exact right way, at the exact right time. Need more inspiration to delete, donate and pass on? I got you! Children (and their parents) are more LIKELY to put away clothes in drawers/closets that are 2/3rds full and not jam packed. If you have a child who hangs things on hangers without being reminded, nagged or cajoled, please call me. I would like to meet them.

Enrichment: Most of our children would like us to love and admire them and NOT to teach and enrich them. I get it, I bought those Summer Bridge books too, if they work, keep doing it. If it’s a relationship drainer, let it go and read a fun book aloud or doodle, or bake. Again, parents are for love and support. Let’s resist the urge to constantly improve and instruct.

Schedule: Ditch the magical thinking that summer affords ample time for you to be the new you YOU were always meant to be. Patient, organized, loving, soft-spoken, on time, in control. We are still just us, even when the daylight has been saved. That said, summer is a great time for training kids/ourselves to meet some new challenges in the next school year. (“OMG, why is Paige talking about September ALREADY?!”)

Part 2 next week will examine this awesome opportunity summer affords for TRAINI

We are Not Alone!

We all could use a little help from our friends, even Bentley!

We all could use a little help from our friends, even Bentley!

Recently I had an email exchange with a parent. I gave her a bunch of thoughts, resources, ideas and inspirations. I closed out the email with, "You are not alone." Of all the thoughts, resources, ideas and inspirations, the ONE that she needed was, "You are not alone." Sometimes this parenting thing can make us feel all alone and isolated, ESPECIALLY when we have problems. Here are a few thoughts, resources, ideas and inspirations to help us remember we are not alone.

Parent Encouragement Program (PEP): PEP has educated thousands of area parents through multi-week classes, short workshops, time efficient bootcamps and now, a stable of online classes you can watch live, or purchase for later. I took my first PEP class in 2004 and became a leader in 2006. The information, the resources, the ideas have influenced every area of my life. I learned, we don’t have to have all the answers, we don’t have to be ashamed of our parenting problems (we all have them, they can’t be avoided, they are part of the journey). We don’t have to figure it out in private. Going to a class, sitting with other smart and educated folks discouraged in the parenting trenches, can open the door to new idea, new horizons and frankly, lighten your load. When we are less stressed we magically become more effective parents with a bigger capacity for compassion, humor and joy.

The Self-Driven Child, Stixrud & Johnson: Hands down, this is one of the best parenting books I’ve read recently. Motivating, clear, compassionate. It’s filled with research, anecdotes, personal stories, inspiring ideas and practical ‘to-do’s. They discuss sleep, homework, and devices, to name a few topics of interest. You will see a path to supporting without enabling, or letting-go without abandoning. If you have tweens buy it NOW. I wish I had had this resource 5 years ago.

Meditation: Our most powerful parenting tool is our fully developed pre-frontal cortex. Remember, it finishes wiring when we are 25ish. That means we have one, our kids don’t. Our pre-frontal cortex does amazing things like: plans ahead, modulates strong emotions, can predict outcomes based on past experiences. To keep this incredible and underused parenting tool in good shape we must clean it out regularly. Hence, meditation as a parenting tool. It’s hard to do it alone. I use the Headspace app, I’ve heard good things about the app Calm. If you can get your kids to do it with you, even better!

Outside: Whatever your druthers, the park, the bike trail, the pool. Getting out is one of the very, very best parenting tools. When my kids were little I was always a better version of myself at the neighborhood park. We don’t have to ‘shush’ kids when they are outside. We run into like-minded friends who make us laugh and remind us what a giant cosmic joke of a whack-a-mole game parenting is. Nature naturally decreases stress, anxiety and depression. Kids come home tired and worn out and ready for bed (hopefully!)

Remember, we are not alone!


Right Sizing

My favorite dessert at Pizzeria Locale in Boulder, CO. (photo by RBilski)

My favorite dessert at Pizzeria Locale in Boulder, CO. (photo by RBilski)

This amazing, beautiful and delicious dessert is a symbol for me in RIGHT SIZING. You see, I order this dessert and usually share with someone at the table. We enjoy this decadent creation, every last bite. Do we feel 100% satisfied and satiated? We don't, we could totally devour another one. But in the wise words of my house mother when I lived in Luxembourg, "Paige, always leave the party when you are still having fun."  What does that have to do with parenting? I'm so glad you asked!

1. Stuff - Yes, we can jam 20 more books on that bookshelf in their room, but does it really make them a better reader? Yes, they are amazing artists, but does keeping every scrap of everything really honor them or you if it's cluttering the kitchen, their room, your room? I understand they LOVE their stuffed animals, but do they enjoy and take care of their stuffed animals?

2. Nice - Yes, we want our kids to be happy, but if we buy something for them every time we go to the toy store have they learned anything about delayed gratification, or the paradoxical pleasure of hard work and buying it themselves? Yes, they are tired, that's why they are acting like jerks, but if we ignore the mis-behavior and make excuses for them, have they practiced managing strong emotions (and I know for sure us adults continue to have PLENTY of strong emotions).

3. Strict - Yes, we want our kids to know boundaries and respect our authority, but have we overlooked that we might be able to trust them? Have we considered who will nag, cajole, motivate them when we are not around? How can they listen to the voices in their ownhead if we are always drowning it out with our corrections, good ideas and nifty tips? 

4. Attention - Yes, we want our kids to know we love and appreciate and care for them, but if they are our full time projects who is going to live our lives? Us middle-age folks still have some developing, growing and learning to do. The white hot spotlight of parental attention can be tiring and a burden to our children, let's make sure we share the joy and burden of our attention.

Where in our lives can we right size our stuff, our parenting style, our attention? Where can we enjoy every last morsel of deliciousness without over indulging? 

Taming the Overwhelm, part 2 of 2

*Originally published in the April 2018 Glover Park Gazette

*Originally published in the April 2018 Glover Park Gazette

(If you missed part 1 you can find it here)

If we want tame the overwhelm, who do WE need to be? We can’t wait around for everyone else to change first.

Listen: Scramble the letters and what do you get? SILENT. To listen we must not talk, nor may we think about talking. Our kids act, behave and do what they do because of what they think and believe. The most efficient way to know what they think and believe, and to modify what they think and believe, is to listen to what they have to say.

Refrains from commenting: Letting it go, avoiding mini-lectures (even if they are really super duper amazing!). If their shirt doesn’t match their pants, if they spill some Doritos when they are filling their baggie for lunch, when their hair is not your favorite, when they got a B on a test. You guys – lighten your load – every moment doesn’t have to be teachable!

Interprets our kid’s behavior compassionately: If they tidy their room by chucking everything into a “corner of shame”, notice the effort. If they wake up late, remember they were studying for a big test the night before. If they are watching lots of tv, maybe they are stressed (not lazy).

Notices improvement: They brought that C in French up to a B- . They woke up on time this week 2 times instead of zero times. They tried a vegetable. They ignored, instead of hit, their sibling. Focusing on lots of 2% improvements is more encouraging then focusing on everything that is going wrong.

Understands what is normal, passing and annoying developmental behavior: Two-year-olds say, “NO!”. Four-year-olds have tantrums. Teenagers roll their eyes. Most kids try lying. Most kids don’t really care about chores and won’t do them up to your standards until they pay their own mortgage. Trying to ‘parent’ your child out of these normal developmental stages is a giant waste of our limited parenting mojo.

We are up and ready to go before we start nagging children: We get off our phones. We worry about our own hair, weight, clothes before we criticize or lecture them about theirs. We have our own exciting new adventure where we have to learn something new and make new friends.

When we tame our own overwhelm FIRST, we become the parents our kids need us to be so our house and family can be harmonious (not quiet) and cooperative (not obedient).


Time Management Strategies for Busy Parents

*Originally published in  Washington Parent, April 2018 .

*Originally published in Washington Parent, April 2018.

Dashing from one thing to the next? Constantly running late? Feeling overwhelmed by everyday events, or surprised by forgotten appointments? This is modern-day parenting: too much to do in too little time. As a professional organizer and a certified parent educator, I see parents and families bump into the time problem frequently. Many people (maybe even you) assume that the feeling of being overwhelmed is a fact of life that can't be helped. Fear not - there is hope. A combination of improved time management and engaged parenting can make all the difference in the world.

In working with parents, I have noticed three lifestyle changes that offer big rewards in terms of taming your time. I recommend that you focus on one at a time. Why only one? When we try to "fix" everything at once we start off excited and hopeful, and for a while we can deal with the enormous energy, effort and discomfort required to make major changes. Soon enough, it's all too much. We lose steam, our energy drops and hope turns to disappointment as we let ourselves down. Eventually, we give up and go back to our old ways, feeling defeated and dejected. Focusing on just one of the following three lifestyle changes at a time will enable you to find success and create family harmony in the time you have.


Transitioning from family life to the working world, from our early morning cup of coffee to waking up the children, from checking our work emails to reviewing homework, from reading stories at bedtime to preparing for the next day's meetings - life as a parent is filled with transitions. "The first moments of every encounter matter," notes Julie Morgenstern,  New York Times Best-Selling author of six books, including "Organizing from the Inside Out." "If you are prepared for the first five to seven minutes of reconnecting, you will buy yourself hours of freedom," says Julie. That means before our kids wake up and  before we pick them up at school, we truly stop "adulting" and transition to parenting. Close out, focus and connect. "You have to stop shoving in one more thing," says Morgenstern. The false sense of productivity that we feel at pick-up time when we delete one more email or send that last text will actually slow us down. Lack of connection between parent and child leads to misbehavior, and dealing with misbehavior gobbles up time, energy and good will.

Children are most likely to cooperate when they feel a sense of connection and closeness with their parent, so focus on drawing firm lines around parenting time: forget about email for the moment, put the phone on airplane mode, stay off the laptop. Doing so will open up opportunities for more connection, resulting in less misbehavior on the part of your children.

Special Time

"Special time" is a period of several minutes set aside every week to focus one-on-one with each child. It's a date we put on our calendars and show up for, even if our kid has misbehaved. Special time is predictable, reliable and consistent. I like to think of it as the physical manifestation of our unconditional love. According to Kathy Hedge, Executive Director of the Parent Encouragement Program (PEP) in Kensington, Maryland, "Special time is always the first suggestion for improving the parent-to-child connection. During special time, we turn off all devices and dive head first into our child's world for 20 minutes or so."

How is this a time management tool when we are already too busy? Building the relationship takes time in the beginning and saves a huge amount of time in the long run by radically reducing children's misbehavior. Through special time, we gain our kids' cooperation, help, goodwill and humor. How much smoother would our days be if our family members were more consistently cooperative and helpful?

Share the Load

Parents, we are often so hard on ourselves and want to make life easy and smooth for our kids. Being busy, having meaningful work and pursuing outside interests can nourish you as well as your family. Kids are often capable of far more than we realize and begin to grow in new directions when we step out of their way. When Hedge took on a bigger work commitment as PEP's executive director, her teens stepped up to the plate and assumed more responsibilities, pitching in to cook dinner and contribute to the family chores. Think about the win-win of creating more time in your day by training kids to take responsibility for chores, self-care and home care. The caveat here is that kids will need time and practice to grow into our standards. If we can learn to love a lumpy bed, appreciate overcooked pasta and not worry about the corners of the living room that didn't get vacuumed, kids generally won't mind pitching in.

Family life is fluid, rapidly changing and unpredictable - that we know, for sure! Sharpening up our transitions, closing out our work day  before we re-enter family life, creating special time each week with our children and sharing the load - these crucial habits will give us the renewable energy we need to keep our family life harmonious, on track and fun.

Tips to Go

Have device-free time in the morning while kids are getting off to school and again during dinner and at bedtime.

Create and maintain a once-a-week special time - one kid with one parent for twenty minutes. Put it on the calendar, let the child direct the activity and watch cooperation increase.

Invite kids to help with chores, self-care and the routines in the house. Learn to love their standards, knowing they will become faster and better as time goes on if we prevent criticism from squashing their desire to help.

Make time for self-care. Meditation, exercise, reading and getting together with friends are all renewable energy sources. Don't overlook them on your parenting journey.

Paige Trevor is a certified parent educator with the Parent Encouragement Program (PEP) and a leader of PEP's "Parenting 5 to 12 Year-Olds" classes. For more information on PEP's resources for parents, see

Mountains: The View and the Crevice


This post is inspired by Jack Petrash's book, "Navigating the Terrain of Childhood". With babies we start in the Outer Banks (are we asleep or awake? is the baby part of me or separate?).  Two's and Fours's are the Appalachian mountains - the peaks of cuteness, walking and talking, the valleys of tantrums and saying "no". The Great Plains is elementary school years where they love us, they mind us (mostly), there is the occasional hail storm or tornado, but it's pretty flat and predictable. The teen years are the Rocky Mountains, majestic and big and dangerous. Here are some random thoughts having spent a good 7 years here.

The View: The view is only achieved by climbing yourself. Also, you can make it to the top and find that it's cloudy, and even though you climbed and you might be in right spot you CAN'T TELL!  Sometimes we just have to wait out the clouds. We can't will them away, or positive think them away, or party them away, or exercise them away. Sometimes we just have to wait.

The Crevice: What goes up must come down. When we have accidentally fallen into a crevice we must remember that to get to the view we must keep going. Imagine being in a deep, dark and steep crevice. After we have looked around and found the crevice inhospitable, we need to slowly, baby step by baby step walk up. It's frustrating because once we DECIDE we want out, we want to get out immediately. If we get airlifted out we actually haven't learned anything except how to wait and be rescued. WHEN we fall back into a crevice (we always do!), then we will have experience and practice taking those baby steps (working out, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, having some fun, doing something artistic).

The Long View: The long view, this majestic view is only available AFTER we have crossed the Rocky Mountains ourselves. (or BEFORE we cross the Rocky Mountains, when all we see is the beauty and potential). We can hear other traveler's stories, we can look at photos, we can go on YouTube and watch clips of other people traversing. But after, and ONLY after we do the hard, grueling, rainy, hot, cold, sunny, hungry, boring, tiring hike can we sit back on the plains and see our path unfurl behind us. Even though we notice only the snowcapped glory in the longview, the crevices are still there, and the crevices are what add the contrast, the gratitude and the wisdom.

Perspective: Perspective is earned & experienced (aka there ain't no shortcut). I thought as a CERTIFIED Parent Educator I might dodge a few crevices, because, you know, I KNOW stuff. I read stuff, I write stuff. There are no shortcuts for any of us. We all have to walk across our own Rocky Mountains to get into adult-hood.

FINAL THOUGHT: Invest in good shoes, enjoy your breaks and your views, be sure to hike with good humored friends that aren't judgy, eat nourishing food, minimize the sugar, booze and caffeine (but don't eliminate them!).