Stay organized throughout the school year with these tips to tackle your children’s artwork and school paperwork from Professional Organizer Allison Weigensberg.Read More
Do you get completely stressed and anxious during the lead up to an awesome vacation? (FYI, I have both hands up over here!)
While family trips and vacations are meant to help you relax and give you a much needed break from everyday life, the time leading up to that trip can be full of worry and mini (or major) freak outs.
As a mom of three little ones that travels multiple times a year I totally get it. That is why I decided to put together this list of travel and packing tips designed to keep anxiety at bay and allow you to fully enjoy your vacation!
Stop Stressing, You’re Going To Forget Something
While the following tips are meant to help you prepare, you need to take a breath and acknowledge the fact that you will forget something, someone will cry because of it and it also won’t be the end of the world.
Invest In Packing Cubes
This is my number one tip when asked about traveling (solo or with kids). I have never had anyone come back to me and tell me that they regret using packing cubes. They are basically magic little dividers that go into your suitcase and allow you to pack and unpack with ease. Oh, and when you use them roll your clothes. Trust me, it’ll save you space and wrinkles.
Plan For The Unexpected
I always have a change of clothes for myself and the kids in our carry on. I bring enough to get us through a couple of days in case the unthinkable happens and our luggage doesn't make it to the destination. Obviously this depends on where you’re going but for our upcoming beach vacation I would be sure to include: bathing suits, sandals, extra clothes (ESPECIALLY underwear), sun hats, toothbrushes and toothpaste and any daily meds.
Pack An Airplane Go-Bag
I know that your instinct is to bring a million snacks and activities onto the plane to keep you and your children occupied and out of the hangry zone, but in reality once you are sitting in your seat it won’t necessarily be accessible to you. Pack a small kit/bag/packing cube within your carry-on that has only the essentials. Make sure that you can easily keep it at your feet or in the seat pocket in front of you. This way if the seatbelt sign is on for a while you can still get to your stuff. Basically, bring enough to get you through an hour or so with no tears. I will generally use packing cubes and large plastic baggies to organize my carry-on but within that I will set aside one cube/baggie that I will pull out once I am settled on the plane. Typically in mine you would find: my phone, earphones, one magazine OR book, mints or gum, lip balm, hand cream, one snack and water. For my kids: Ipad, headphones, take-off treat (gum or candy), coloring/activity book and a few markers/crayons, water, and a few snacks. I also make sure to have some wipes accessible, both to wipe my kids’ hands and the hard surfaces around us.
Organize Your Cords And Electronics
Our phones and tablets are travel essentials. But they won’t do you much good if your battery dies or you can’t find your headphones. I have this nifty travel case that allows me to make sure that all our chargers are in reach and not tangled. If you don’t have or want a travel case you can use cord ties, or even rubber bands to keep your cords tangle free and then just place them in a clear plastic baggie to keep them together.
Download Before You Go
While we’re on the electronics topic don’t forget to download shows, movies and music to your device before you head out on vacation. I know it seems kind of obvious but you’d be surprised how many people forget and end up killing their data to do it while on the road. I would have some seriously bored (and subsequently annoying) kids if it weren’t for Netflix. We always make sure to download enough movies and shows to get them through the trip.
Keep Travel Documents Together
Nothing will get you a dirty look faster than when you hold up the line of anxious travelers as you search your bags for your airline tickets or passports. Save yourself some stress and pick up a passport holder for you and your family. I keep all of our passports in there, one inside the next, all open to our picture page. I also keep any other necessary ID cards there, along with some money for the airport/taxi, etc, airline tickets and any other relevant travel documentation. This passport holder always goes into the same spot in my travel bag so i don’t have a panic attack about where it went. If you have a hard time remembering which pocket/bag you keep it in say it out loud or tell a travel buddy.
Choose Neutral Colors And Don’t Overpack
I know how tempting it can be to bring every article of clothing you own so that you have choices. But the truth is that you won’t wear even a fraction of it. How many times did you return from a trip only to realize that the majority of what you packed remained untouched?
Choose items that you can mix and match fairly easily and that are easy to re-wear. Unless items are obviously soiled you can wear them a few times between washes. Check out this list from Good Housekeeping:
While we’re chatting about what to pack let’s get realistic about shoes. You DO NOT need a million pairs of shoes, you don’t even need five pairs for that matter. Pack one pair of comfy walking shoes, one pair of dressier shoes (you can even do one pair or flats and heels if you must) and one pair of weather appropriate shoes (winter boots, sandals, rain boots, etc). Shoes are bulky, so pare it down.
Tame Your Toiletries
Do not bring a full sized bottle of shampoo for a weekend getaway. Use travel-sized products or transfer your products into smaller containers. Take a mental note of about how much hair product, face wash, wipes and diapers you use in the weeks leading up to your trip and pack only what you need plus an extra 20% or so. Especially if you can buy what you need at your destination relatively inexpensively if you run out. I have even had clients ship items ahead of time or pre-order from Amazon to their destination.
Make A List (but don’t go nuts)
I don't find it particularly useful to make a detailed list of every item I need to pack. What I do find helpful is to make a note of things that I normally wouldn’t bring on a trip. For instance I won’t write down that I need to pack underwear but I will add pool floatie and goggles as it is not as intuitive for me. I use Anylist as my shopping list already, so I simply make another list for when we travel.
Don’t Wait Until The Last Minute
I like to gather things slowly as I think of them so that I’m not scrambling at the last minute. Try putting a bin or laundry basket aside and filling it with items you need to pack leading up to your trip. This way it’s all in one place and ready to be packed, there's nothing worse than running around the morning of and looking frantically for your stuff!
Be Organized At Your Destination
I never travel without my drawer organizers. But I don’t use them for drawers! I use these magical little boxes to keep toiletries and loose items neat and together in the hotel. They fold down to practically nothing, so are super easy to pack but have amazing structure so can keep everything in place while you travel.
Happy (Organized) Travelling!
Are you looking for more packing and travel resources? Check out the links below
As featured on Huffington Post
I absolutely love organizing toys, I find it one of the most satisfying projects. I also absolutely hate organizing toys, because it can be soooo frustrating. I feel like if you're a parent and reading this you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s the same feeling that you get right after you spend hours getting the house tidy, and everything is put away and the floors are clean and it has that nice fresh feeling to it. . . and then the kids come home. And it is all ruined. Instantly. Organizing toys is kind of like that, all your hard work can go right down the drain before your eyes.
Now, I’m not saying that playroom disaster is inevitable (even though it kind of is) I’m just saying that you need to have realistic expectations of the outcome. So with all that being said, here are 5 things that this Professional Organizer wants you to know about organizing toys.
1. This Isn't A One Shot Deal
Remember that movie “Groundhog Day”, the one where Bill Murray relives the same day over and over again? Well, it’s kind of like that. Kids needs change and interests change over time. So you're going to have to do this again and again. The way that I organized toys for my older kids when they were babies and toddlers is quite different for the way I have them now at age (almost) 5 and 7. And then when you throw my 11 month old into the mix all bets are off. Be prepared that you’re going to have to adjust as you go and also as they grow.
2. You're Going To Piss Off Your Kids
Well, maybe. Unless they’re like my kids and have become accustomed to me uprooting their toy system on a regular basis. Your kids will probably be annoyed, but I can almost guarantee that they will play better with the stuff they have once your have curated their collection and they can actually find what they're looking for. Kids don’t need a lot of toys or games to play happily and productively. Just look at what happens every time you give them a giant cardboard box. They tap into their creative little minds and happily play with it for hours, if not days. So take solace in the fact that organizing their toys into a way that makes sense will pay off in the long run.
3. You May Have To Be Sneaky
I'm not usually an advocate for getting rid of people’s stuff behind their back and you should try to let them play a role in some of the decision making process of what stays and what goes. But you may have to throw some actual stuff out without telling them. Let's just keep in mind that their brains are not fully developed yet so their ability to make decisions about what to keep/donate may not be reasoned. Heck most adults can barely make those decisions. You do want to consult with them and have them be engaged in the process but just remember who the adult is in the situation.
4. Set Realistic Expectations
My 8 month old knows exactly where to put her toys back when she's done playing with them. Said NO ONE EVER! Micro-organizing your baby’s toys is just asking for trouble. All kids do at that age is put things in their mouths and dump their toys out of the bins that you so diligently set up. So while it’s perfectly realistic to expect a 4 year old to put the ‘pretend play’ items back in the right spot, or a 6 year old to put his action figures back in their bin, the same is obviously not true of the really little ones. I like to try and keep baby/toddler stuff accessible and at their level and not stress too much about if their blocks are commingling with their animals.
5. Don’t Believe Everything You See On Pinterest
While I love Pinterest for its amazing ideas and awesome inspiration it can sometimes be a bit too good to be true. Headlines like ‘10 Genius Toy Organization Hacks” and “Super Easy DIY Toy Organization” can be a bit misleading. Not everything works for everyone and I often find that when my clients try some of these pinterest-perfect ideas it leads to feeling of disappointment and failure. Just because a system works for someone else doesn’t mean that it will work for you and your family. Try to think critically about the way your kids play with their toys and if this pretty image you’re seeing will work in the space that you have. Take different element of different ideas and morph it into something that makes sense for you.
Good Luck & Happy Organizing!
As featured in Huffington Post
I often say that there is no magic wand to get you organized. And there isn't. But there are a few tricks you can use to maximize the space that you already have that can seem like magic (kind of).
Clean Out Your Junk Drawers
Or your junk-closet, or junk-room. Seriously people, you have NO IDEA how much free space you can unlock by simply going through these areas, throwing out the actual garbage and organizing what is left.
I recently reorganized a client’s kitchen and we cleared out no less than eight junk drawers. Eight!!! They had no idea what was inside these drawers and would waste so much time looking for their stuff. To make it worse they would then buy new stuff to replace what they couldn't find. Where did I put that calculator? Not sure, let’s buy a new one. Where did those chip clips go? Ummm, I don't know, but now we have to throw out all those open bags because they have gone stale. So much money gets wasted. So much time gets wasted. I value my time in a very serious way and I certainly don’t have time to waste looking for things, and I’m sure you don’t either. Clean those drawers!
Invest In Good Hangers
Okay, so by invest I really mean spend $50 to $75. Not really much of an investment when you think about it to increase the space in your closet. Why buy new hangers? Why not just use the mishmash of what you have collected over the years from the drycleaners, the Dollar Store and your parent’s house? Because they are ugly and they take up too much space (and I said so!)
Nice slimline hangers take up way less space in your closet, which means you have more room for your clothes (not that I'm advocating buying more clothes). Plus, it looks really pretty and uniform when all of the hangers match. People are 90% more likely to maintain a space that looks nice (I may have just made that statistic up but based on my experience it seems like a realistic estimate.)
Double Your Shelf Space
My two favorite ways to do this are by using bins and under the shelf baskets. Why do I love bins? Let me count the ways. . . .
They allow you to put things in a small space without it looking messy. They allow you to easily group like items together. You can pull them out to easily access the contents so they double as makeshift drawers. They come in lots of colors, patterns and materials so you can change the look of the space easily and lastly, they look nice!
Now, onto the under-the-shelf clip on baskets. These are another great way to increase your space. No installation required, no damage to your existing shelf. It is easy to move them around as needed and you can find them almost anywhere. They are great in the linen closet, pantry and bedroom closet.
I don’t know about you but I seriously dislike having things on the floor (mops, brooms, school bags, towels for the dog’s paws). My favorite way to open up that space is to grab some wall and go vertical. I use hooks everywhere. My favorite are the ones from Command Brand that aren’t permanent and don’t leave marks on the wall (no affiliation or anything, I just seriously love their products). I have one near the back door for the dog’s towel. On the inside of the closet walls and doors for cleaning supplies, towels, oven mitts, even tank tops. Hooks are so simple. They remove a step from the process of cleaning up or accessing your items, no hanger to deal with, no bin to open, just hang it up and go! So easy.
I also love going vertical with paperwork. Get those files and papers that require your attention off your desk and counters and onto the wall. The side of your fridge, an out of sight cabinet wall, the inside of your kitchen cabinets. These are all great spots to pop up some file folders. You can even use the Command strips to put them up if you're a commitment-phobe like me!
Stop The Inflow Of Stuff
Ok, so this one isn't really a hack, it’s more of a philosophy to embrace. But I’m sneaking it in here anyways. Really start to think about the stuff that you are bringing into your home. We all like to be prepared by having back-ups or to stock-up when one of our favorite products go on sale, but try to set limits to these purchases. There is a trade-off. The more you buy, the more stuff you accumulate in your home and the less space you have to live in. It is the stress you feel when you open your kitchen cupboard only to have a box of crackers fall on your head. Rethink your purchases. Be hyper-critical of what you bring home because we tend to fill the space we have; so it doesn’t matter how much bigger a house you’re moving to, or how many storage lockers you rent, you will fill it if you don’t curtail the influx of stuff. And the easiest space to organize is the space with nothing in it.