5 Simple Things to do in January to Organize Your Year

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As you may have noticed if you’ve been in the checkout lane of the supermarket or read your weekly Target ad, January is the time to get everything organized, from matching your towels, boxing up your winter clothes, cleaning your bathroom, and traveling with your baby. January is the time that all of those things go on sale. Maybe they think you’ve put things off for the holidays, and now you need their expertise and sales to get things back in order. Some of that is probably true. We’re getting prepared for my daughter’s birthday party this weekend, and my husband asked about putting the Christmas tree away. My answer was an emphatic NO! For one thing, I like the tree. For another, it went up late, so I want it to remain a little bit longer. And for the last thing, if we put away the tree, we’ll have to put away the presents that are neatly being kept under it and it will take two weeks to get rid of all the pine needles (even artificial trees shed). I prefer the “Christmas mess” over the real cluttered mess that we usually have. However, there are other ways to begin the new year’s organization process even if you still want it to be Christmas.

1. The Mail. Deal with it! Bring it in the house, open it, read it, file it. If it’s junk, throw it away. Yes, now. If it’s sensitive information, shred it and then throw it away. You don’t have a shredder? Rip it into little pieces and mix it in with your food garbage. Make identity thieves work for it.

2. Lists. I swear by lists all year long, but January is the worst. Some things aren’t on the calendar yet. Things from school come home at the last minute (like tonight’s dance and sleepover – thanks for the notice!). My current list is too long to include, but some of the items are food shopping, vacuuming, workshop tomorrow, unpacking from last weekend’s retreat, clean off table for party, make goody bags, and take a shower.

3. Plan your week’s meals from what’s on sale in the supermarket ad. Go shopping once for the week, although you may need to replenish milk and bread. For a great sale, buy two and put one in the freezer for next week.

4. Take advantage of January’s stock up sales. If you have the space, it is much cheaper (and easier) to buy the huge package of toilet paper rather than the four pack that will run out before you’re barely home. Target has a lot of buy two of this, get a $5 gift card. Paper towels, garbage bags, laundry detergent, dish washing liquid, shampoo, soap. You save the money from buying the larger item and you also save the gas from not going when you run out.

5. Clear out the pantry and freezer. How many of your items are expired? And I don’t mean by a couple of weeks, but I bet there’s stuff from a couple of months, even a couple of years. While you’re clearing these out, do not donate expired or near-expired items to food pantries. They will only have to throw them out. Try and donate longer lasting items. The fall is the big rush to donate for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but food items are needed year round.

What are your best organizing tips for the new year?

Travel – Kids’ Fun Bags

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​For those of us in the US, the next two weeks have us frantically preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday. For a holiday that is supposed to be a time to settle in with our loved ones and reflect on our lucky we are, how grateful we are to have our needs and wants met as well as to think about how to help those less fortunate in meaningful ways, it sure is a stressful, anxiety-filled, busy time. For the US, with so many diverse cultures, ethnicities, and religions, Thanksgiving is one of the few things that we share. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, but we can all be a part of the Thanksgiving mindset. We are all thankful for something, and one of those things is where we are privileged to live. Many countries around the world set aside a day for thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving in the US is also the busiest travel day of the year. We are waiting in lines at the airport, on the highways, at the convenience stores for that last cup of coffee to get us there. Those of us that travel with kids know how difficult it can be to map out the route, pack the snacks, and keep the kiddos entertained over hill and dale on the way to Grandma’s (or whomever’s) house.

While we were on vacation this past August, I set up a small paper gift bag for each of my children, a travel bag that they received once they were in the car and we were at least one hundred miles from home. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how this was going to go over. Their ages at the time were 22, 14, and 13, and they each have their own phones that alternate entertaining them and boring them to tears. I did think that maybe they were too old for this sort of thing, but still, I thought it would be something different.

They surprised me. Even my oldest seemed to like his travel bag. He’s not one to complain anyway. I sneaked a look into the back seat, and saw him perusing each item curiously, and I knew that no matter what else, this was a success!

What did I include, you ask?

1. A small, plain, paper gift bag, about the size to fit a paperback book. I didn’t put their names on the bag so I could re-use them, but I did attach a colored paperclip to each one so I’d know who’s belonged to who since some items were child specific. The bag could also be used for their garbage that tends to accumulate on the floor at their feet.

2. Bottle of water

3. Small unlined notepad and a pen

4. Candy – M&Ms, Swedish fish, Skittles, something that came in a package with many small candies.

5. Package of Mini-Muffins.

6. Granola bar

7. A half sheet of paper with a list of apps they should download that were related to our destination. If Grandma lives in another state, it might be interesting for them to check out a few new apps, maybe a game too.

8. A folded paper with list for a Scavenger Hunt. They really (all of them) had great fun with this.

9. Netflix password.

10. Some things that I included for our vacation that I would not include for the Thanksgiving holiday were: a card with the hotel information on it, the phone number for weather information for my daughter who is interested in such things, Tim Horton’s gift card for $5 but any fast food gift card would do, and a packet of their vacation money.

What would you include? Share below!

My Essential Packing vs. Nellie Bly’s

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​Prompt: Author, Matthew Goodman was asked this by Random House in the interview about his book, Ninety Days….

How would you answer the question?

RHRC: Nellie Bly carried only a single handbag for her trip around the world. How would you pack for such a trip? What would you consider the essentials to be brought along?
My answer follows, and as with many of my writings, it veered off the very specific topic of what essentials should be considered to bring along. I may give this a go as part of my summer writing. It would be nice to see if I can stick to a limited topic and a deadline, so lets’s give it a deadline of July 10th. Sound good? It must be; I just felt my anxiety do a little somersault.

I’ve traveled alone only a handful of times, and in those times, only once was I not meeting someone else or staying in somewhat familiar surroundings. That one time was the adventure of a lifetime, and I learned a lot about myself and my abilities. Unfortunately, packing was not one of those things that improved over time. I always take more than I need and more than I should.
Since that first whirlwind solo trip across the Atlantic to meet my college roommate, I continue to keep a list during and after each trip of all the things I brought that I did not use as well as all of the things I forgot. The former list is always much longer than the latter.

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My Easter Bag

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​It’s hard to believe that Easter was only one week ago. Most of my Holy Week was spent in church between morning prayer services, the parish community dinner, evening prayer and mass. There is a lot going on and a lot packed into the second half of the week following Palm Sunday. The three days of Holy Week prior to Easter Sunday is called the Triduum, which is basically one long service beginning on Holy Thursday with the sign of the Cross and ending at the Easter Vigil on Saturday night the same way. At our parish we have hospitality or receptions on Saturday morning and evening, the former in celebration of the lighting the Easter fire and the latter in celebration of welcoming the new members to the Catholic church through the RCIA program.

It’s very fulfilling and spiritual, but it’s long and it’s tiring. Since my first Vigil, one of my yearly customs is that I will bring a small tote bag along with my usual purse to carry a water, cough drops, tissues. I’ll add my worship booklet so I have it for the entire three days.

At some point during Holy Week, I’ll realize that I don’t really need my pocketbook if I toss my wallet and kindle and phone and other necessities into the tote bag. That way I only have one bag to carry and keep track of.

Genius, right?

Well, every year, I’m surprised by the time Saturday afternoon rolls around at how heavy this tote bag is. I don’t realize it’s getting heavier as I add things one at a time until the very end when I go to grab it out of the car, and it pulls me back in.

Here is a picture of it when I arrived at church for the lighting of the Easter fire on Saturday morning:

The inside of my Easter bag on Holy Saturday morning. (c)2019

It has my large wallet, kindle, hearing aids, extra batteries for the hearing aids, clipboard and pad if the urge to write grabs hold of me, a pen, packet of tissues, bag of cough drops, daily reflection book for Lent, cell phone, rosary, Triduum worship aid, any of the other worship aids that I’ve collected during the week, bottle of cold water, umbrella for the upcoming rain (it wasn’t raining when I arrived but it was raining very hard when we all went outside to light the fire). I think there may have been a few other odds and ends in there. All I know is it was really heavy by the time I pulled it out of the back seat.
Admittedly, and embarrassingly, this one week later, it still has stuff in it, and needs to be completely emptied and put away. It doesn’t have much, but still, it’s long past time.

30 Days of Nano – Day 2

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What’s your minimum that you need to just sit down and write?

I need a notebook/journal/document folder and a pen or keyboard. My notebook fits in my purse, and I pack away an extra pen and a pencil. I don’t normally use a pencil, but they don’t run out of ink, so they’re a good emergency backup.

Have your minimum supplies with you so you can always sit down and write some words, a brief stream of consciousness, a ten minute free-write.

Write daily.

And to write daily, be ready.

April: Quiet, Rebirth, Reassessment: Reflection

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​I reassess how things are going at various times throughout the year. I think some of that attitude is due to therapy, the constant thinking on how I’m doing, how I’m feeling, what’s new, what’s stale, etc.

I usually start with Rosh Hashanah and look back again at New Year’s

Spring is another good time to reassess how things are going, personally, professionally, spiritually, whatever needs assessing. I’m constantly assessing and reassessing my prayer life (when, how, what’s working, what’s not), my family life (discipline, family time, housekeeping, vacation plans, if any), and my writing life (outlines, content, major changes). Those are probably the three biggest for me.

What in your life needs a reassessment?

Ask yourself these questions:

Is this still working for me?

If not, what is it that’s not working?

What changes will help me move forward?

What can I do to do/be better? (Sometimes, it’s simply a minor thing, like getting up half an hour earlier or even wearing a favorite scarf or pin.)

The sun is shining more, the winds have died down, and it’s a bit warmer out (not this year in the Northeast, but we can hope for the coming change). It’s a good time to make changes when we’re coming out of our winter shell.

What changes will you make this month?

Putting Together Your Writer’s Kit

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​Towards the end of this week, my biannual writing group returns for the spring. That weekly sojourn for a few weeks to recharge the writer and see what we can do. In addition to that, this month marks the first time I’m embarking on Camp Nanowrimo, the summer camp version of November’s event. This is a little different, a little more at ease. I was invited to a cabin in Tennessee, so I thought I’ve never been to Tennessee, why not. (Just a quick note: the cabins are virtual – it’s a chat room with a few like-minded writers.Unfortunately, I won’t be traveling to Tennessee.) It will give me the impetus to do more with my Wales book, maybe get an outline or an ongoing theme, but definitely something.

With these two embarkments and my commitment to this site, I need to get my writing tools in order so that they can easily be adapted to any environment: home, library, coffee shop, cabin in the woods.

In the past I’ve used a first aid kit that I’ve gotten for free at Target. They usually have them readily available in the spring, and are often on sale – buy three items, get the kit for free. It’s a good deal, and if you actually pay for the kit, it’s not more than $6.

Currently, I’m using a slightly bigger version – this one is a Bible case. I’m sure you’ve seen them in the religion section of any bookstore. They’re large enough to fit a Bible, a notebook for Bible study, pens, etc. The one I use, I found at a bargain warehouse for $6.99. It fits everything I need, and it’s small enough that I can toss it into a tote bag to go wherever I need to. It also has a handle like a handbag, so it can be carried on its own.

None of the bags, or writing tool kits need to cost a small fortune if you know what you need ahead of time and can search for your most important specifications.

And, of course, you can reuse something you already have hidden in your closet.

The basic layout of my tool kit is that it zips around, and has one flat pocket on the outside back. Inside, I can open it to lay flat. On both sides is a slip pocket. In the center spine is an attached fabric bookmark. It is religious in nature, but if that bothers you, it can be removed with scissors. On the right side of mine, over the slip pocket, is a clear half pocket and four loops for writing instruments. 

Depending on how large your items are, you might be able to fit a cell phone and very flat wallet inside. That way, you only need to carry the case. I usually can’t do that, but one day, maybe.

What do I carry to make my case a writer’s tool kit?

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