Thursday, December 23, 2010

Adoption Update

On November 26 my family and I left on our journey to Southern China, Guangzhou City, where we met and adopted our 9 year old daughter, Shanna. We returned safe and sound as a family of 6 on December 11.
 I wanted to share some photo highlights of our trip. Thank you all for you patience while I am on my "maternity leave". I am so thankful for the time off, as there has been much to do to since we returned home, especially in the midst of the holiday season. 

My whole family is doing great. The children have all gotten to know and love one another and it is rewarding to watch them interact on all levels. Shanna is a delightful child, full of joy and promise. She is a fast learner, and though she speaks Mandarin, she is learning English very quickly. She loves books and dolls, puzzles and all sorts of fun. She will start school on January 3rd and cannot wait!!! She asks me every day when we put her little sister on the bus "Shanna school??" I was a little afraid of how I would feed her, but she seems to be happy with the American dishes and is learning to eat things like raw carrots, cheese sticks, mashed potatoes, etc, all textures and tastes that are new to her. She eats well with chopsticks and is slowly switching over to fork and spoon. She is very proud of herself for learning all these new skills.

Having four children in the house fills up every corner, so from an organizing and time management perspective, it has been a challenge and as I always tell all of you, it is a process, not an event (for example- I woke up at 5am to get this post finished and make the final menus for Christmas Day dinner and the next day brunch-I have to hurry before tiny feet pad down the stairs!).

Unfortunately, my basement flooded while we were gone, and the carpet had to be ripped up, so that created even more chaos. I am following my own advice and focusing on the most important things that need to get done, (laundry, meals, school preparations and things with deadlines). One of the most helpful things I did was to box up anything I do not need in the here and now and stack it in a corner so I can deal with it when I have a minute. I labeled each box so I knew what was inside and I only put things in that I knew I would not need to see for 6 months or I simply did not know where to put. I collected my 2+ weeks of unopened mail in a clear, shallow bin and opened and sorted it as time allowed. Despite all of these strategies, there is still much that I just have to let go of, and I hope that it helps those of you who can relate to this know that even with the best of plans and ideas, it is still challenging to stay organized. Hang in there, do what you can and have a positive attitude. Call me if you need help! I am looking forward to contacting the people on my waiting list mid-late January.

So here is a photo tour of our trip:

Packing to go!! Space bags!!
Actually these are not brand name, but click here and see them. They worked out great and were much cheaper.
It took hours to get everything in the right place!
But somehow we did it.
Boarding for Beijing!
Somewhere over northern China/Russia. 14 hours of flying- Newark to Beijing over the North Pole!!
Shanna being brought in by a nanny to the Center of Adoption Affairs just before we met her.
Greeting her for the first time. On my birthday!! 11/29
Proud Mei Mei- little sister!
First Kiss!
Loves BaBa Daddy!!!
And GeGe (guh guh) Big Brother.
Getting to know each other and  looking through her backpack.
Proud Jia Jia (geeuh geeuh) big sister.
Do I look happy???
Our new family of six, plus Ni Ni (long i) Grandma
It's like a pile of puppies on Daddy.
Traditional Chinese Dresses.
Fun walking around China.
They just love being together. The beds were narrow, but the girls were fine with that.
A photo with our Guide, taken on the grounds of the hotel.
At a park.
Dancing is a very popular activity for older Chinese people in the park. They retire around 60 and gather to play cards, dance and play music. They welcomed us in and taught us their moves!!
Many people bring their birds in cages to the park for fresh air and companionship.
A beautiful statue to pose with.
Giggle girls- more typical.
Serious girls-less typical.
Proud Mom.
Almost done with all the steps. Consulate is the last stop to get the visa home for Shanna. When she arrives in the US she is a full US citizen!
The long trip home. Only 12.5 hours this time because of tail winds. Still long.....
Waiting in Newark for the flight home. Tired, but very  happy.
Finally home. Loving everything.
Cake made by our dear friends who had a party for us the next day.
The kids and Eric look great. I need a nap!!
Fun at home with Bitty Babies!!
Fun in the snow- Quite a change from tropical Guangzhou which has a climate like Florida.
Getting to know the gerbils- she calls them "me louw shoe" which means "Mickey Mouse"!
The joys of family. They cannot be measured. Every child deserves one.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Recycle Your Computer Equipment at Goodwill

Do you have an old computer sitting around because you are not sure what to do with it?

Below is a quote taken from the Reconnect website, describing their program available across the US. On the site you can put in your zip code and find locations accepting used equipment near you.

Good for the Community
Good for the Environment
Good for You

"Reconnect is a residential computer recycling program that offers you an easy, convenient and responsible way to recycle your used computer equipment. You can drop off any brand of used equipment (in any condition) at participating Goodwill donation centers in your area. It's free, and you'll get a receipt for tax purposes. What's more, you'll be helping protect the environment and benefiting your community at the same time." Reconnect disposes of all electronics in an environmentally responsible way.

For dropoff locations and hours in Western New York, click here.

Please keep in mind that while they take precaution to safeguard information by cleaning hard driving using industry standards, the only way to truly be sure that your information is secure is to erase the hard drive yourself before donating it. I asked Eric Vaccaro, President of American Micro, Inc, a full service computer installation and repair in Williamsville, NY for advice on erasing the hard drive. He suggests using a disk-wiping program.

"Basically what these programs do is run algorithms that overwrite the drive many times with dummy data. There are usually different algorithms to choose from, but I usually use a department of defense standard one, which runs for three passes over the drive. No one can read your data after this.The process cannot be run in windows. The program is provided in a file called an .iso image. That image is then burned to a CD and that CD is put into the computer while it is booting up. The program then runs at bootup before windows loads." Eric currently offers this service for $75.

For those of you who are interested in trying it yourself, or learning more about how this works, you can watch a video about Active @ Kill Disc and download a free version of Active @ Kill Disk. A professional version is available for $30.

Prior to using any disc wiping program or donating your computer, make sure that you have backed up all data to another source.

For help with any organizing project, Simply E-mail or Call Linda! 716-631-5619

Friday, September 17, 2010

What Can We Learn From the Garden?

Click here to see this garden last spring
Did you ever look at a garden in the prime of the fall? Gardens grow and change so much over the course of the previous season. Taller plants migrate in front of shorter plants and more aggressive varieties crowd out more timid growers. Beauties that may have been showy in earlier weeks turn leggy and straggly. Collosal weeds take hold and surprise us with their presence and vigor. Such is the typical garden. This is a natural process.

Our lives and homes are the same way.

Without warning an active household can suddenly take on the appearance of an overgrown garden at the end of the season. One day, you might look at your kitchen, hallway closet, entryway, kids' room, garage, etc., and say "How did this get so bad??". Well, the answer is something I say to all my clients: "Organizing is not an event, it's a process." Just like the garden. Everything grows, accumulates, dies, needs to be replaced, cleared, renewed. Don't fret when its time to purge, sort, and reorder. Rejoice! It's a time for new beginnings and to see things in new ways. Who knows what joy will grow when given the room to spread?

For help with any organizing project, Simply E-mail or Call Linda! 716-631-5619

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Yes" and "No"

We have demands on our time. We only have so much time. Time is a container and tasks are the items we need to fit into our container. Some of us have very empty containers compared to the amount of tasks that we have in them, but most of us have tightly filled containers with large and tiny tasks packed together so very little room remains.

In order to maintain balance and productivity (not have our container spill over the top) we must be cognizant of how much we have agreed to put into our container. Many things may be beyond our choice, such as time at work, cooking and cleaning, but we often add in other things that pressure us and add stress, under the guise of hobbies, kids activities, social commitments, volunteering, etc.

I can't tell you what to say "yes" or "no" to, but I can suggest that when you say "yes" to something, you balance it with a "no" to something else (and don't feel badly about it). Just like a "one in, one out" philosophy for your belongings, your time deserves the same disciplined treatment. Just like an overstuffed drawer is difficult to use; an overstuffed life is just as hard.

For help with time management or any organizing project, Simply E-mail or Call Linda! 716-631-5619

Friday, August 6, 2010

Unwanted Medication Disposal; Saturday, August 7, 2010; 9am-1pm

"The Erie County department of Environment and Planning and other local agencies are encouraging people to bring in their expired, unused or unwanted prescription and over the counter medications to the Erie County Law Enforcement Training Agency from 9am-1pm Saturday for proper disposal.

The Training Agency is on the Erie Community College North Campus at 6205 Main St., Amherst.

Medication discarded incorrectly can cause environmental hazards, including endangering water supplies of local municipalities. And unwanted medication left in the house increases the chance of accidental poisoning and the potential for misuse, according to information from the county Department of Environment and Planning."

(Taken directly from the Buffalo News the week of August 1, 2010)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Packing & Preparing to Leave for College

College packing is just like any other major project. If you start early and do a little bit at a time, it doesn't need to be overwhelming.

Here are a couple of helpful resources that I found

Packing for College Checklist
on The Planning for College Destination (Copyright 2005 by Sallie Mae. All rights reserved.)

What to Pack for College- What to Bring and Not Bring
By ,

And if you are just beginning the College Search and would like some assistance sorting through the options and maximizing your financial options, Lori McGlone of Coast to Coast Educational Consulting can help. Her business guides students through each stage of college planning-financial and admissions, individually adapting to meet the needs of all types of students.

For parents who are sending their kids off this year, Lori suggests encouraging students to engage in wellness activities, such as athletics or clubs, similar to what they were doing in high school, to help them build their social networks and relationships and feel connected to their school.

Talking to your children about how credit card companies will target college students with offers and try to get them to sign up for credit cards without their parents knowledge. This can be dangerous and expose kids to problems with debt which can be difficult to reverse. Openly discussing it and encouraging them to work with you if they are considering a need for credit can prevent many problems.

Contact Lori at or (716) 881-4296

For help with any organizing project, Simply E-mail or Call Linda! 716-631-5619

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Erie County Prescription Drug Drop-Off - June 19th in Clarence, NY

This information was taken directly from the Buffalo: Mom's Like Me website. (Please note: the site says the drive ends at 11am and it actually ends at 1pm).

"Do you ever wonder how to safely dispose of unused or expired prescription drugs?  Throwing them in the trash or down the drain where they can contaminate land and water is not an option.

On Saturday June 19th from 9:00 to 1:00 pm you can drop off unused prescription medications in the parking lot of the Eastern Hills Mall near the main entrance.  This event is sponsored by the Clarence Central School District in partnership with Erie County.  Numerous community organizations are contributing resources and manpower.  All county residents are encouraged to drive through and drop off their unused drugs to the pharmacists on hand in an anonymous process.  You won't even have to get out of your car.  For more information call the Clarence Youth Bureau at 407-2162."

For help with this or any organizing project, Simply Call Linda! 716-631-5619 

Monday, May 17, 2010

You’ve Got Junk Mail!!!

When you come home after a hard day, the last thing you want to see is a pile of junk mail waiting to be sorted. Many people will stack the current day’s pile on the previous day’s pile and postpone this arduous task to a more conducive time (like never) and the stacks quickly multiply. Important mail (letters, bills) can get lost in this overwhelming sea of paper clutter. I posted about this topic before and it can be viewed here.

Here is one important step you can take today to take back control of your mailbox.

Visit and register for an account. You can add multiple names/addresses to one account. Through that account you can request the removal of your name from the three major credit bureaus marketing lists (so that you get less of those pesky credit card offers) and e-mail solicitation lists. Also, you can request specific companies and catalogs remove your name. If you click on the How it Works button on the "Give Your Mailbox a Makeover" page, it will walk you through how to get started.

Opt-outs completed online remove you for five years (you can print out and mail a permanent one, if you prefer). I redid mine because I couldn't remember how long it had been and I figured it could not hurt. It took about 15 minutes and it is well spent. Due to my previous opt out efforts, I receive very little junk mail, but I am hoping to receive even less. It takes about 90 days from the date of removal to see results, so be patient and hope to see less in the summer!!

Good luck!!

For help with this or any organizing project, Simply Call Linda! 716-631-5619

Monday, April 12, 2010

Living with (some) Chaos

Click here to see this garden in the fall
I just love the springtime. It brings me such joy to shake off the winter blues and bask in the warm sunshine. I love to uncover the garden and get it ready for the bulbs and shoots that start to poke their way through. Along with the springtime weather outside comes a big change inside the house, too. Suddenly, there are shoes and jackets everywhere as people start to shed their bulky layers  for sundresses, tee shirts, and shorts and shoes for bare feet. And the delivery of a huge pile of dirt in the driveway gives way to the reality that some of the inside chores are going to suffer as that pile gets moved and dealt with. The constant traffic from the front door to the back door, through the kitchen results in dirt, clothing and general tableware strewn about from our children who are helping themselves because we are busy. Laundry piles up and dinner is delayed. Adding to the mix include the "extra" children that we encourage to gather at our home on the trampoline or swingset. It puts a smile on my face to see them all enjoying the weather and reviving forgotten activities, as I push my wheelbarrow full of dirt to and fro.

Typically, my tips tell you how to conquer the clutter and order your world. This one is just going to tell you that if you feel like you are living in chaos, that sometimes the best thing to do is to enjoy it! The moments pass so quickly, and despite being a "perfectionist" I have come to realize that tolerating a certain level of chaos is not only possible for me, but even healthy and freeing, and especially for the rest of the family! I know I will pull it back together eventually (and having an underlying system to the household helps with that), and this enables me to have some disorder, even over several days or weeks as things transition from one season or holiday to the next.

Enjoy the Spring!

For help with developing an "underlying system" to your chaos, or any organizing project, simply contact Linda! 716-631-5619

Monday, March 22, 2010

Unwanted/Expired Medication Drop Off Drive

This information came right off of a flyer, given to me by another fellow organizer, Linda Birkinbine. I just wanted to share it with my readers.
Saturday, April 10th from 9am-1pm
Sister's Hospital, St. Joseph Campus (in front of Caritas Building)
Buffalo, NY
For more info call (716) 858-6800 option 3

Accepting controlled substances, expired, unusable, unwanted household prescriptions or over the counter medications. Please bring medications in the original labeled container (blacken out personal information).

Recent news about the detection of prescription drugs in drinking water has caused concern about the impact on human health. Also, storing expired and unwanted medications in your home increases the risk of accidental poisoning and teen drug use. Keep your family safe and help protect our water by disposing of medication properly through pharmaceutical collections.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Managing Adult ADHD through Professional Organizing and Coaching

Maybe you know someone who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; either diagnosed or not. For children, there tends to be a plethora or tools and services at their disposal, but for many adults who have it (and may not know it) simply managing daily life can present a trying set of circumstances.

How does ADHD interfere with optimal functioning, from an organizing perspective?

Adults with ADHD tend to be highly energetic and creative people who love to start projects and involve themselves in several different causes/arenas at once. They thrive on the excitement of chaos and the fast pace of life. Unfortunately, they can't always keep up with the details of the pace that they set for themselves and find that they have misplaced important items or missed important deadlines. Despite really wanting to be successful, they often cope by engaging in more distracting/avoidant behavior, which fuels the cycle of feeling overwhelmed. Often people like this try inventing "systems" but the systems only work for a short time and they then implement a "new" system, on top of the old and so on and so on. Sometimes people are three or four layers deep before they realize there is a problem and by then, they have no idea what is wrong.

Although ADHD is called an Attention Deficit problem, it seems to me to be more of a combination of overfocus on certain things (and tuning out other things) and an inability to perceive essential from unessential detail. This combination creates a situation where someone might spend hours organizing their calendar but forget to stop and make dinner for the family. Often times people like this fail to percieve the passage of time and are shocked when they find that many hours have gone by. These people are sometimes unfairly judged as scattered or lazy (because they don't follow through) but they are usually trying their hardest with their systems, but they just aren't working.

This type of person is an ideal candidate for coaching sessions with a NAPO Professional Organizer. Organizers can very quickly identify personal learning styles and strengths and tailor a system that can work. Often clients know what they need and an organizer will help them discover how to get it; through assessment of  the environment (home or office) and the client's strengths and challenges, with the goal to maximize productivity and work flow. The organizer will also discuss personal priorities and commitments and assist clients to make sound and realistic choices about how to spend their time.

Organizers will save their clients time, money and effort by helping them choose products that will complement their needs, rather than pile up in the closet because they looked good but didn't work. Many clients will benefit most from an ongoing regular weekly, bi-weekly or monthly sessions with their organizer to handle daily personal tasks, especially scheduling, paperwork and financial record keeping. Training goes on during the sessions so that over time the person learns to self-monitor and become more independent with their organizing. This is a good approach because systems may need to be tweaked over time as the client tries things out to see how they work. Open feedback is very important so that the organizer is aware of pros and cons of any intervention. As with any change, new habits are hard to form so the coaching model is an ideal way for the habits to become firm over time. As new habits and skills are developed, coaching sessions are slowly stretched out so that success is maintained.

For help with managing ADHD, Coaching or any organizing project, simply contact Linda! 716-631-5619

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I HATE meal planning!

"Hate is a strong word" I tell my kids. Truth be told, I would rather clean the bathroom AND go to the dentist, than plan meals each week. However, no one else has volunteered to take on this job for my family of five, so I am always on the lookout for ways to streamline the process and make it easier for me. Plus, I like to cook healthy, complete meals and don't like to use a lot of prepared foods.

I have written about meal planning before- See Four Quick Tips for February 2009. Recently, I learned about from a Professional Organizer friend and checked it out for my own personal use. It is really a neat concept. It is software that you download onto your computer-as of this writing, it was free to try for 30 days, then approx $30 for unlimited use. It not only has many recipes that others have contributed, but it is a container for any recipes that you find on the internet and want to import and keep in one spot. Big Oven has tag indexing that lets you customize and search on any keyword such as bread, chicken, Mexican, simple, winter, etc.  There is a "new recipe" window which helps you type in your own recipes quickly and easily, AND it has a calendar meal planning tool which allows you to drag recipes onto the calendar and then add the ingredients you need for each recipe to a printable shopping list, which groups things according to grocery aisle. With the ability to print meal plans, recipes, and shopping lists, Big Oven has really thought of everything.

In my opinion, the menu planning system has a few limitations; for example, you can see all the meals for a chosen time period in the "print view" but not in the "planning/drag & drop" view, which makes it difficult to see what you already chose for that week. Also, I would like to see a feature that allows one to save meal plans to use over again from month to month, or year to year (as for holidays). Despite this, it is an awesome and useful tool that has really added efficiency to my planning. I print out the recipes I like and display them in an 8x10 plastic frame while I am cooking. It makes it a little easier to see while cooking, and is a necessity if you don't have a laptop on the counter. I file the hard copy of the recipes in a binder marked favorite recipes. Recipes can be printed in a variety of formats, including full page, 4x6 and 3x5 index cards. Rather than retyping many of my own recipes, I simply search on the name of the dish and see if someone has already entered a similar one. Many times I find the exact or near exact recipe. I made Old Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie last week and it was spectacular. My husband said it was "Restaurant Quality" and all three kids cleaned their plates. So while meal planning is a task I like to avoid, doing it successfully and easily is well worth my effort. I encourage you to try Big Oven for yourself to see if it might be something that you can use.

I have also posted about, Hassle Free Dinners, and all of which I still highly recommend.

Happy Cooking!

For help with meal management or any organizing project, Simply Contact Linda! 716-631-5619
Get it Together! Keep it Together! Let Linda Help!TM

Monday, January 18, 2010

Find Small Ways to Simplify Your Life

Happy New Year!

January is National Get Organized Month. It's an ideal time to rethink what is important to us and to take action to change things to improve our efficiency, productivity, space, or simply to reduce the "clutter" in our lives, be it relationships, excess commitments or excess material goods.

I hear from many people that they "just don't know where to begin". I know that feeling. Even professional organizers may struggle when facing a large personal task. Breaking it down into small, manageable pieces is what we do when helping clients, ourselves (or our family members) to accomplish their visions. Matching the expectations and goal to the client (those "getting organized") is very important, too. I have a very good friend who shared with me her recent experience. On New Year's Day she announced to her family of five that they were each going to clean out the Top Drawer of their dresser. I was so impressed with her restraint at not asking (expecting) them to do the WHOLE dresser (which is what I might have done). She instinctively knew that would be too much to expect at once, so instead she set a reasonable goal, they each accomplished it and they were all proud of their success.

I am always looking for ways to rein in my own High Expectations. I am a classic Over Achiever. By nature I complicate my life by adding in when I should be holding steady, or subtracting. I also have realized over the years (as one good friend and organizer recently reflected about herself and it rang true for me, too), despite being good at many things, I am NOT a good juggler. I like to have long periods of intense focus on projects, but obviously, as a wife, mother to three kids, home owner, business owner, pet owner, daughter and a multitude of other undefined roles, it is NOT an option NOT to be a juggler. So over the years I have learned (and am still learning) to make careful choices about where I spend my time, and try to stick with things I like and can blend well into my life. For example, rather than volunteer for lunch monitor in the Elementary School (which quickly learned I did NOT love), I am typing this tip from the comfort of the tiny High School store, where I have a brief, busy time in between the period changes, and relative peace during the 40 or so class minutes and can do some work. It is fun for me to see the kids and their enthusiastic personalities. I get to see the current hair and fashion styles. I cleared up some business with the PE teacher, I read the school newsletter and learned that course selections were taking place now (no, my son had NOT told me) and got to see my son just a few minutes ago. Yes, it is a great volunteer match for me and I am happy to be able to help out in this way.

During 2010, find small ways to simplify your life. E-mail me at and let me know how you do it. If I get enough responses, I can post a list of successes. Or just comment on this post. I will cheer you on!

Cheers to the New Year and Get Organized!

For help simplifying your life, or any other organizing project-Simply Call Linda. 716-631-5619.