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AuthorScott Roewer

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A Simple Plan For Linen Closet You’ll Love

You know those detergent commercials where a woman opens her linen closet and breathes in a deep whiff of freshness… and all the hope that it implies? If that image of organization makes you laugh uncontrollably or even hide your face in shame, we’ve got the lowdown on linen closets to make your reality more like the fantasy.

Step 1

Begin by clearing it all out and sorting through the mess of towels and sheets, blankets, pillows, and table linens.

Step 2

Determine what is worth keeping and what should be retired.

Step 3

When the shelves are completely emptied, wipe down each shelf and dry them thoroughly.

Step 4

Then, before putting anything away, group your linens together by set and, if you like to be super organized, then by room as well. To be truthful, I don’t do this, but it is helpful in really large homes or if you have sets that are used only in one room, and one room only.

Step 5

When you know what to put back in, first consider where to put it all so each category is logically accessible based on how often you reach for it. Everyday items should be kept at eye level, and items used less frequently can be placed up top shelf (in zippered bags, to keep them dust-free). Don’t overstuff shelves so that there’s no room to reach in and slide out what you want.

Ideally, linen closet shelves should be adjustable, so you can configure a height of about 10 inches for short, manageable stacks of sheets and table linens, and 12 to 16 inch shelves for towels. At the top or the closet, shelf heights of 18 inches or more can hold bulky comforters and extra pillows. If your shelves are fixed, the easy addition of shelf dividers and wire baskets that hang from the shelf edge offer customized storage options, depending on what your personal linen collections require. You may need to relearn how to fold something so it fits your particular closet shelves better.

Step 6

When everything has a home, it’s time to get to labeling. Why label? Because if there’s a slight chance that anyone else puts something away, you want that person to know where to place the linens. So, Labeling your shelves is key to maintaining the order you’ve just created. Items should be easily identified at a glance so you never waste time hunting for what you need. Similarly, you shouldn’t have to open a box or drawer to find out what it is inside. Use removable adhesive labels or cardholders to clearly mark each box and/or shelf. Hangtags are great for wire baskets that don’t offer a place for peel-and-stick labels. We like to buy pretty paper, print the label and then laminate them for stability.

Important Organizing Tips for Your Linen Closets

Before you start putting everything away again, consider applying these tips:

  • Fold towels and bulkier items in thirds, for easier stacking. The uniform appearance brings instant organization to your shelves. If your space is narrow, rolling towels creates extra space and still looks tidy.
  • Store sheet sets tucked into a matching pillowcase to keep them neat and easy to find. Or, place the fitted sheet and pillowcases inside the flat sheet, so it is one tight bundle. If you prefer to see each item in a set, consider cinching stacks with coordinating ribbon. Folding linens with tissue in between helps avoid wrinkles.
  • If you have antique tablecloths in storage, use acid-free tissue paper to prevent fabrics from discoloring. Line shelves with it, or wrap the antique linens individually to prevent them from yellowing. Ideally that will be placed inside a plain white pillowcase for keeping them clean.
  • Inside the closet door is a great place to create prime storage and an opportunity to make decorative linens that would otherwise be hiding on shelves visible. Hang an over the door towel racks to keep linens neatly displayed.
  • Shop in other rooms of your house for organizational items to repurpose. Office trays make the perfect shallow storage for make up and toiletries, and wire pan racks can be used to keep stacks of sheets from toppling over.
  • Linens become stale in storage so place a box of baking soda on a shelf to absorb odors and use several cedar blocks throughout the closet for their aroma and to help deter moths. Give them a light sanding every couple of months to refresh their scent. Sachets also work to add subtle fragrance to linens and keep boxes smelling fresh.

Whether you have dedicated built-in storage or a freestanding armoire, you can turn your linen closet into a breath of fresh air and banish the mayhem of a closet-turned-catchall. Make transforming your closet your weekend project and share your before and after photos with us! Tell us what frustrates you about your linen storage or which solutions have worked for you in the comments below.

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Tips to Prepare Your Spooktacular Halloween

?????Great scary movies, creative costumes, and copious amounts of candy will conjure a spooky good time for everyone this Halloween season. There are plenty of moving parts to get organized ahead of time, so follow these tips for frighteningly good time.

  1. Get prepared for maximum fun! Brainstorm a master list of everything you want or need to accomplish to make the most of this Halloween’s fun factor. Consider the parties (yours, friends’ and schools’), costumes, pumpkin carving, decorations, and all the related supplies and errands you’ll need to cover.
  1. Start with the obvious. Let’s be real… it’s all about the candy. Buy your treats early and you won’t get stuck with the dregs. Ask your family for their preferred brands and bring home exactly what you want. Then find a safe place to hide it all until you’re ready for the trick-or-treaters. If you need goody bags for a kids’ party, organize them now so you don’t find yourself short on time when the 31st rolls around.
  1. Dress it up! Besides the calendar-condones sugar high, the next best thing about Halloween is the costumes. Talk to your family now about what they want to wear, to get an idea of how much time you’ll need to prepare. Are you going to buy, rent or make your own? Set a budget and start collecting materials you need to accessorize… and don’t forget the make up! If you’re doing it yourself, set aside some time to practice beforehand so you’ll look your festive best come when it’s time to get dressed.
  1. Decoration are essential… so don’t skimp. This is an over-the-top décor kind of holiday and a little forethought can make your home that much more boooo-tiful! There’s tons of inspiration out there so look around before you shop. And choose which areas of your home you will be spookifying… don’t try to spread your decorations too thin or you’ll dilute the spook. Pull it all together by choosing a theme like haunted house, graveyard, or a dark fairy tale… then go crazy!
    If you have a stash of go-to props bring out those spiders and cobwebs now. Take stock of what you have, how they look after a year in storage, and note anything that may have gone missing. Add the items you need to replenish to your master list. If you’re just starting your collection this year, don’t forget an appropriate storage container to keep your goodies in good shape for next year.
  1. Carve a pumpkin! Making jack’o’lanterns is fun for all ages and designs range form the simple to the stunning, so challenge your inner artist and create a show-stopper for your stoop this year. If you want to wow the kids, find a template of their favorite characters online and make a personalized pumpkin just for them. Try artificial candles to illuminate your creations and you won’t have to worry about the hazards of any unattended flames.
  1. Find the nearest haunts with the most Halloween fun. Check your local papers or the Web to scope out the Halloween festivities in your area. If you know where you’ll be celebrating, start planning your costume and anything you’ll be bringing to the party.
  1. Check your local listings. Nothing gets you in the mood like a scary movie marathon. Choose the best from cable’s scariest scarefests or plan your own Netflix night with family or friends. Be sure to have plenty of Halloween-themed snacks on hand including a preview of your fun-sized favorites.

There are so many ways to enjoy this Halloween. Please let us know what you and your kids are looking forward to most and how you plan to celebrate. Do you prefer to turn to tradition or are you going to try something new this year? And, of course, we want to know what you’re going to wear!

Wishing you all a safe and healthy Halloween.

How To Organize Your Kitchen Pantry

How to Organize Your Kitchen PantryYour kitchen may have a large, beautiful pantry with all the space you’ll ever need, but if you don’t know how to organize it well, it can become a black hole instead of a beacon of light. Having a well-organized pantry means your household will never run out of the staples, so you will always have what you need on hand.

Organizing your pantry is all about knowing what your family’s basic, “go to” items are, and then determining the best way to store them, based on your available space and the frequency with which you go through those supplies.

When planning to stock your pantry efficiently, think of your must have kitchen items in two categories: edible and non-edible and begin by taking stock of what you have and how often you use it. Consider which items provide the most convenience (have you ever gone more than a couple of days without paper towels?) or the best protection against unforeseen circumstances (your kids bring home six unexpected teenage guests after school… what do you feed them?). If you’ve planned well, your pantry will hold enough paper goods and non-perishable items to restock any on-hand supplies that may suddenly run out.

Pantries don’t require you to invent a complex organization system. A few simple steps will help you make the most of the space you have.

  1. Begin by decluttering your pantry. Determine what is useful and which items are just taking up space, making it harder to find the important things you actually need. Throw out any expired items, or any foodstuff you haven’t touched in nine months or longer. (If you haven’t been inclined to use that quinoa since you bought it last year, chances are you’re not going to cook it next week either. Let it go.)
  2. Arrange what is left in logical groups so you’ll know where to look for something when you need it: all canned goods go together, jars with jars, and so on.
  3. Make sure it’s all visible… so you don’t forget you have it! Visibility is what makes a pantry truly functional. Collect smaller cans or bottles and store them in slide-out baskets or on a hanging door rack. Label higher shelves if you can’t easily see what’s up there, and add a Lazy Susan to deeper shelves to prevent things from disappearing into the dark spaces in the back.

Maintaining your organized pantry is simply a matter of tracking your usage. Keep your pantry filled with valuable supplies, instead of those hopeful alternatives that you end up never using. Take inventory of what non-perishable items your family uses most, by tracking the in and out of food products and other sundries for at least a two week period. Fill the pantry with back-up quantities of each storable item they go through regularly. If you find a new product you like, make sure to buy extra (twice as much as you would need before your next trip to the grocery store) and stash it in the pantry. A good rule of thumb: if there is an open bag or box in the kitchen, there should be a second in the pantry. This only works if you have storage for the extra items. Without the storage space, you’re creating extra clutter in your pantry.

An organized pantry will save you time and money, and can make meal planning and grocery shopping easier. Have you made the most of your kitchen pantry? Is it filled with items that you need often, or are its contents covered in cobwebs? Share your tips for creating a dream pantry in the comments below and inspire our readers to get their pantry in shape for a happier, more organized kitchen.

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Organizing And Maintaining a Healthy Medicine Cabinet

Organizing And Maintaining A Healthy Medicine Cabinet (300 x 293)Your medicine cabinet is a miniature closet that holds your most personal products and tools, and yet it’s often the most neglected spot in your bathroom. If you want to take yours from vertical junk drawer to organized awesomeness, follow these easy steps… and give nosey visitors cabinet envy!

  1. Start With a Good Purging

As with any closet organizing effort, you’ll want to start with a blank slate. Empty everything out and give the interior a good, disinfecting scrub. Get rid of anything that you don’t use. Toss lotions and lipsticks of suspicious origin, or nailbrushes that have been with you since the Bush administration. Get ready to put back only what you use most often, and find another space for things that get pulled out less frequently, in baskets under your sink or in a nearby closet.

  1. Taking the Medicine out of Your Medicine Cabinet

Despite its name, this is not the smartest place to store your prescriptions or over the counter medicines. Drugs are perishable and their efficacy can be affected by the humidity and changing temperatures in your bathroom. You should keep a stock of remedies on hand to be prepared for minor illnesses, colds, headaches, etc., however, store these items in airtight containers elsewhere in your house, like your linen closet or refrigerator, and always out of reach of children and pets. (Read the product label for storage guidelines.)

A note about storing medicine: It’s important to keep these perishable items current, so mark your calendar and check expiration dates every six months. When discarding old medications, the safest way to dispose of them is to wait for a FDA Drug Take Back Day … better safe than sorry! For complete information on how to dispose of drugs, visit the FDA website.

  1. Determine What To Move Back In

This prime real estate known as your medicine cabinet should be reserved for the most important or favorite daily use items. It may be contact lens solution or facial moisturizers, mouthwash or frizz-control cream. Whatever you reach for most often when standing over your bathroom sink, is what should live in your medicine cabinet.

  1. Fit is Fabulous!

Adjust the shelves to accommodate taller items like shaving cream and toothbrushes. Add small risers to make the most of the available vertical space and use clear organizers to collect small items like cotton swabs and nail files, to keep the shelves uncluttered. Glass surgical jars are great for keeping items dry and sanitary and affixing a small magnet inside the cabinet door means you’ll never have to search for tweezers, scissors or bobby pins again!

  1. Make it Manageable

It’s likely that you purchase your most frequently used items like hair products or makeup remover in large quantities, which can make them difficult to store on shallow medicine cabinet shelves. Use smaller bottles that fit your cabinet’s shelves and dispense a couple of weeks’ worth of product into them at a time, then stash the larger supplies in your closet, leaving the cabinet and countertops clutter-free.

When was the last time you cleaned out your medicine cabinet? What do you reach for every day? Share with us your top three can’t-live-without-them products from your medicine cabinet in the comments below.

How To Prepare For Your Kitchen Renovation Project: Get Organized Now Or You Could Regret It Later

Get Organized for Your Kitchen Remodel (300 x 300)A kitchen remodel is no small undertaking and without proper planning and preparation, your dream kitchen can quickly turn into a nightmare. Before you get started, consider these tips on how to plan a smooth and successful renovation.

Before You Plan, Dream

And dream BIG! Check out design magazines and collect photos of the spaces that inspire you. It’s always good to start with an “if money were no object” vision of your dream renovation. Although such extravagance may not be in the cards for you right now, you can often find a couple of lower-cost options to replicate elements of your ideal space.

Whether you’re dreaming of upgraded appliances or new cabinetry, thorough research is crucial to making the right decisions. Determine which splurges are worth it by asking around and reading as much as you can online. With some choices being about function (appliances, plumbing and electrical changes) and others being strictly aesthetic (glass front cabinets, new backsplash), it’s important to know what your top priorities are. Make a list of your must-have items, like that new stove or a dishwasher, and make sure you don’t compromise on what’s most important to you.

Style matters, but in the kitchen, functionality is king. Assess how you use your kitchen to identify what improvements would have the greatest impact. Are you an amateur chef who could benefit from a second sink for food prep, or are you a cookware collector who is interested in improving your storage options with soft-close drawers to replace your cavernous lower cabinets? If available space or finances don’t allow you to have it all, make sure you prioritize well before you get talked into purchases you don’t really want or need.

Before You Buy, Budget

Before you meet with any contractors, or visit any showrooms, have a realistic budget set for the project. Once you’ve identified your budget, you may still be in the dark about what it will afford you in terms of materials and labor. While every job is different, on average, kitchen renovation budgets break down as follows:

  • 29% on cabinetry and hardware
  • 22% on design and installation
  • 16% on walls ceilings floors, doors and windows
  • 14% on appliances and ventilation
  • 10% on countertops
  • 9% on electrical and plumbing

Be sure to leave a healthy contingency in your budget for unexpected overages.

Schedule

Consider the timeline of your project and how it lines up with the rest of your life. Are you planning to be out of town? Have houseguests coming in? Do you have a big work project coming up that will require great concentration and cannot be disrupted by construction noise and workers traipsing in and out of your home? Discuss these concerns with your contactor so you can prepare to work around any potential conflicts.

Choosing a Contractor

Finding a reputable contractor is key and the best place to start is by asking for recommendations from friends or family. And check with the Better Business Bureau, as well as local building associations in your county and state. Be sure to check out past projects, industry reputation, ask for copies of their insurance policies, and ideally, see if it’s possible to contact past clients for their take on what it was like to work with the company. Once you identify a few potential candidates, schedule consultations to see whom you feel is a good fit. You want someone you’re comfortable with and who inspires trust, to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

There is a lot to consider before undertaking a renovation, and the best thing you can do beforehand is to get educated. Check out resources such as the National Association of Homebuilders to find out green building options and certified building professionals, and the National Kitchen and Bath Association for tons of useful information and inspiration.

We always recommend having your plans reviewed by a third party, like a professional organizer. Organizers can review the plans to make sure your mixer will fit in the cabinet, your favorite platter will fit in the new glide out organizer and that you have enough utensil drawer space. It’s cheaper to catch the design flaw before the first piece of wood is cut.

Are you gearing up for a kitchen renovation or have you already completed one? Perhaps you’re a kitchen designer and have some suggestions? What was the most unexpected challenge you faced? What advice can you offer someone just getting started? Share your stories below so that others can benefit from your wisdom and experience.

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Organizing And Preparing Your Home For Fall

Organizing and Preparing Your Home For Spring (300 x 300)You may be sad to see summer go, but we know plenty of people who prefer the crispness and the colors of fall. As your lazy poolside afternoons are traded for evening inside by the fireplace, take a few simple precautions to make sure your home is prepared for the changing seasons.

Here are some essential pre-fall prep steps you should consider for your home:

  • Planting for Fall – Planting for a fall garden is a great way to start preparing your yard for the dormancy of winter. Choose vegetables that mature quickly (about a month) and that will thrive in cooler, pre-frost conditions, such as kale, lettuce and beets.
  • Prepare your Firewood – Before you bring your firewood in from the porch or garage, make sure it’s ready to come inside by carefully checking for bugs (termites, carpenter ants, and powder post beetles). If you find evidence of insects, burn the wood immediately (outdoors) or just move it all far away from your house, and leave it to rot. If the wood is deemed bug-free, sweep out your fall storage area, and restack it with this year’s wood on the bottom, and last year’s drier wood on top.
  • Clean and store outdoor summer items – Take care to drain garden hoses, clean patio furniture and summer toys, and cover them before you store them, so they’re clean and ready to go next year.
  • Clear Rain Gutters – A pre-season cleaning will make subsequent cleanings throughout the colder months go much easier.
  • Protect underground sprinklers and septic systems – Flush them out before the cold sets in by blowing air through the pipes to remove any standing water. This can prevent the costly repairs incurred when underground pipes freeze. This is also a good time to pump septic tanks, before frozen ground and snow cover makes it difficult to reach.
  • Seal and protect points of entry – Have a look at all your external doors and windows to see where drafts could be a problem. You can hold a candle near the frame (from inside the house) and if the flame flickers, it’s probably due to a draft. Replace any worn or ineffective weather stripping to prevent drafts and the inflated heating bills they can cause. Remove window and door screens to prevent winter damage and make any necessary repairs now, before you store them away. While you’re at it, give the external window a good washing too.
  • Seal your driveway – Protect it from the elements now, and it won’t look so weather-beaten when the warm weather returns.
  • Make sure everything you need is in top working order before you need them – Have a pro inspect your furnace now, instead of waiting for the first cold snap of the season. Buy enough furnace filters for monthly changes to ensure maximum comfort and energy savings. If you have gas heat, have a pro check the pilot light, burner and chimney flue, where carbon monoxide byproducts exit your home, to make sure it’s venting properly and protecting your family from carbon monoxide collecting in your home. Drain the sediment from your hot water, too.
  • Change Your Filters – Central air systems are either dirty from constant use, or stale from sitting idle, and could be collecting mold and mildew. Replace the air filters to prevent from circulating dirty air around your home. If you have baseboard heat (forced hot water heating) have it checked and have anti-freeze solution topped off to prevent heating pipes from freezing when the heat is not in use. Also, use a simple vinegar solution to rinse humidifier filters and water basins.
  • Winterize your air conditioning – Cover your outdoor central air unit for winter and remove window units to prevent warm air from leaking out and drafts from seeping in.
  • Get the carpets clean – October is a great time to schedule a professional carpet cleaning because the warmer afternoons can help carpets dry quickly. It’s also a nice way to prepare your home for upcoming holiday guests and entertaining.

Did we miss anything? What is your best pre-season tip to prepare your home for fall? Share the tasks you love (or dread!) in the comments below, and let’s help each other get ready for an outstanding autumn this year.

How To: Organize And Store Your Summer Wardrobe

How to Organize and Store Your Summer Wardrobe (300 x 300)The air is turning crisp again and you know what that means – sweater weather is coming! It’s time to make room for coats and other cold-weather gear in your closet and pack away your sandals and swimsuits. Take care to store everything properly and you can make sure your warm weather favorites are ready to go next summer.

PREP YOUR THINGS BEFORE PACKING:

Prior to storing anything, it’s always best to clean it. Left to fester, even small specks of dirt can turn into stains, so never store off-season clothes until they’ve been washed. Prevent insects by skipping the starch, as the smell may attract critters in storage. Stashing a small sachet of dried lavender will also help to repel moths and keep your stored clothes fresh. Dry cleaning natural fibers like silk and linen before putting them into storage will kill any moth larvae that may already be present. Some dry cleaners offer seasonal clothing storage. If you take advantage of this service, request a detailed inventory of your items so you can account for everything next spring.

In addition to laundering everything, take care of any tears, fallen hems, missing buttons or other tailoring tasks before you pack it away. You’ll be glad to unpack mended, wearable clothing next year, instead of unpacking errands!

STORE IT AS YOU WORE IT:

Whenever possible, store your clothes in the same manner you had them in your closet. Keep hanging clothes on hangers and stash them inside a cloth garment bag. Keep folded clothes folded, or save space and prevent creases by rolling them up instead.

Store your off-season clothes in containers that breath. We prefer fabric or canvas storage bags. Another alternative is clear plastic bins, that allows you to easily identify your items and protects fabrics from the three biggest threats: water, mildew and bugs. If you’re buying new containers, take the time to measure your storage space before you buy them! You’ll want to make sure to get the right size to slip under the bed, and that you make the most of your vertical storage space, if you’re planning to stack them in a closet.

If you’re reusing boxes you already have, wipe down the interior of each box with a disinfectant cleaner and toss in a few cedar oil-infused inserts to deter bugs. Luggage that you only use on occasion is also a good choice. If you’re worried about bugs, consider putting clothes in vacuum sealable bags first and then store them in the suitcase.

KEEP CALM AND LET IT GO:

Before you give up valuable storage space to that beach cover up that you haven’t actually put on for the last three summers, ask yourself “When was the last time I wore this?” If you can’t remember, then let it go. Collect it in your donation bag, or save it for a post-summer “swap meet” with the girls. Before you say goodbye to your tank tops, t-shirts, and summer dresses, though, compare them to the fall pieces you’re pulling out and see if they’ll work for your upcoming seasonal layered looks.

You may feel wistful packing away your fair weather wardrobe and looking at the snowy days ahead, but think of it as an opportunity to reorganize and refresh before you head into the new season. Tell us what you’re looking forward to most about sweater weather or share your best tips for successful wardrobe swapping and storage in the comments below! We would also love to see a photo of your seasonal clothing storage. Share it on our Facebook page with the hashtag #GetOrganized

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Your Guide To Organizing The College Research And Application Process

College Research and Application Process (300 x 300)If you have a high school junior in your house, then you’ve figured out by now that this is the key year for college planning. The process can be a well-orchestrated symphony, or a white-knuckled roller coaster ride, depending on what you and your kids do together to prepare for success.

Getting organized now will position your soon-to-be freshman on the right path to college.

You and your child will be communicating with many different colleges and advisors, so create a dedicated email address that you can both access, and use it for all your college-related correspondence. To choose an address that gives an appropriate impression, think of something straightforward and skip anything funny or suggestive. Also, designate a location to collect all incoming snail mail from or about colleges, and get in the habit of reviewing the contents regularly.

Help your kids design a map to matriculation.

The best first step toward a successful road to college is the creation of a family College Calendar. Sit down with your kids and a laptop, wall computer or a large white board – whatever works best for you all – and create a College Calendar to outline every date or deadline throughout the college research and application process.

Plan weekly and monthly action item lists so it’s easier to stay on top of college-related tasks and conduct regularly scheduled strategy sessions with your student and set and track goals related to the application process. This is going to be a collaborative effort, and with applications, campus visits, interviews and more, you are going to have a lot of moving parts to coordinate. Having a plan in place early on will make things run more smoothly.

Brainstorm with your student on topics such as:

  • What are the most important criteria for choosing a college
  • Which programs or resources will make the most of the college years
  • How many in-person/online college fairs or presentations do you want to attend
  • Where are the potential financial aid sources
  • Who can be considered as recommendation sources (mentors, advisors, teachers, employers, etc.)

Get ready for the long game.

The key to getting organized is not taking on more than you can handle at any given stage of the process. Below, we’ve covered some key activities you and your high school juniors should be working on over the next year. It is by no means an exhaustive list, so be sure to fill it in with the unique subject matter specific to your kids.

FALL

  • Schedule upcoming tests and study/prep. Plot important test dates (PSAT, SAT, ACT, AP exams, etc.) on your College Calendar.
  • List all colleges of interest. Begin with the main criteria (consider location, cost, available majors and special programs). Rank them in order of importance.
  • Research financial aid options. Create a list of all grants, scholarships, and loans that you want to look into. Narrow down the opportunities for which you and your student are eligible and map out deadlines on the family’s College Calendar.
  • Meet with their Guidance Counselor. It’s important to get on the same page as your kid’s counselor this year, as they are about to embark on the college application process.

WINTER

  • Begin SAT preparation. Review PSAT results with your child and use the included score report to formulate an SAT study plan. Most juniors take standardized tests in the winter or spring, with an opportunity to retake them in the fall of senior year.
  • Assess extracurricular activities and alter as needed. Colleges look for commitment to non-academic pursuits and responsibilities. Make sure your student is sufficiently engaged in varied activities, preferably in a leadership role.
  • Set up a filing system for college information. Create a binder with individual folders for each college to which your child plans to apply. Use this binder to collect all correspondence, and as a go-to resource for tracking deadlines and filing fees, recommendations and essays.
  • Narrow down your target list of colleges. Determine how many applications your child will send and determine all the requirements for each (tuition, information, entrance exams and other requirements, housing options, financial aid, etc.).

SPRING

  • Search for scholarships. The sooner you start looking for scholarships, the easier it will be to select some to apply to during your senior year. When you’ve identified the available scholarship opportunities, note the associated deadlines on your College Calendar.
  • Collect applications. Contact all the colleges on your target list and request applications be sent to your student.
  • Request recommendations. Consider the people who would be best positioned to write you a glowing letter of recommendation. Ask early, before they are inundated with other students’ requests.

SUMMER

  • Plan campus visits. To further narrow down the colleges your student is considering, plan to visit the top contenders together. Look into campus tours at the top 3-5 choices, and reach out to their admissions offices for advice on making the most of your visit. When visiting colleges, plan ahead so make sure you are able to schedule an interview, a tour, and any other on-campus activities that interest you and your child.
  • Start working on application essays. Summer is a great time for your kids to contemplate subjects and substance for their college entrance essays. Have them draft outlines of the possible essays for their applications, to get ahead of schedule and identify trouble spots early on.
  • Make early decision preparations. If your child is planning to apply early decision to a top choice school, make sure they begin working on their application as early as possible to meet the accelerated deadlines.

As your students are going through these important steps, make sure you arm them with the other tools they’ll need to stay on track during their freshman year. Plan to talk with them about topics like how to make smart food choices, and creating and managing a household budget. Helping them adjust to the routine of these life-management tasks now will make it easier for these young adults to adhere to them when they’re away from home.

In college, being organized will put your child light years ahead of the kid who can’t even find their class syllabus. If you approach it together, with clear goals and a sensible schedule, you will be laying the groundwork for an organized approach to college itself. Is your family facing this daunting time of essays and ACT scores? What are you finding the most challenging or confusing aspect to be? Share your stories in the comments below and let others learn from your experiences.

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How To “Be Prepared” And Why You Need To Do It Now!

When the power goes out, aren’t you amazed by how quickly the inconvenience can become truly life disrupting? What if the return of your electricity or clean water supply was uncertain? How long would you last at home with the resources available to you and your family?

2014-09 How to Be Prepared (300 x 300)What does it mean to be prepared?

Although no one wants to incite undue fear in their children, it is important to sit down with your family to discuss the potential crisis scenarios that may arise, and what they should do in such circumstances. Form a plan in advance, because chances are that your family will not all be together when a catastrophe occurs. Review with your family the travel routes to and from school and home, and make sure there is an agreed upon alternative to follow, in case the major roads are blocked during an emergency. Discuss how you will contact each other if cell service is down, where are the designated “safe places” in your community, and how you will all reconvene safely.

The more advanced research and planning you do, the better prepared you and your family will be to reunite safely during an emergency. Inquire about emergency plans at work, school, and after-school programs, or anywhere your family regularly spends time. Even if you’re all together at home when disaster strikes, you may lose access to water, electricity and food supplies for a prolonged period of time. Take steps now to stock your home and office with the right supplies, follow the CDC approved guidelines on food storage, and replace or rotate your stored food on a regular basis.

Best Tips for Maximum Preparedness

  1. Identify Your Risk

Have a look at the hazards that surround you at home, work or school. Use available neighborhood disaster plans to walk through the potential scenarios you may find yourself in.

  1. Learn CPR and First Aid

Take the family to train together in these most important and potentially life-saving skills. Find information on classes through your local American Red Cross chapter.

  1. Create a Family Emergency Plan

Devise a family plan that covers everything from basic emergency contact information and where to meet in case of evacuation, to how to handle special circumstances such as gathering pets or tending to special medical needs.

  1. Practice Executing Your Plan

Now that you have a plan, make sure it works by practicing! Spend an afternoon running through the steps so you’re confident that your family will respond well in case of disaster.

  1. Build Emergency Supply Kits for Your Home, Office and Vehicle

Read our previous Preparedness post for basic guidelines on what to store and for how long. You can also get comprehensive checklists for gathering emergency supplies at Ready.gov.

  1. Don’t Forget Those with Special Needs

Make sure that your Emergency Kits include supplies for infants or seniors, as needed. Medications, diapers, extra blankets, and other unique provisions must be considered.

  1. Talk to Your Children

The best thing you can do to prepare your family is to talk to them. Explain to your kids what possible risks they face and make sure they know how to behave under these stressful circumstances. If the worst does happen, having talked it through with you will make it more likely that your children will stay calm and do what they need to do to get home to safely.

Take the time to become familiar with everything you and your family need to know to ride out even the most inconvenient of potential disasters, and hopefully you will never have to put that knowledge to use.

What do you think is the single most important thing you can do to be prepared? Have you ever been caught in a crisis without being prepared? Share your story below and let our readers benefit from your experience, so that they can be better prepared for whatever may come.

If You Build It, They Will Study: Organizing Tips For Creative Homework Stations

Organizing Tips for Homework Stations (300 x 300)If you want to give your kids every advantage this school year, make sure they have a proper and productive study space for homework. We’ve got some smart tips for creating an organized home study station for your favorite students. Make this your weekend DIY, and keep these things in mind as you go:

Location, Location, Location!

When choosing the right spot for your kids to set up their studies, you’ll want to find the right balance between supervision and privacy. If your kids are still little, you may do well with a small table tucked next to your kitchen counter, but if their homework requires a bit more concentration, consider putting a desk just outside the kitchen. This allows for a bit more privacy, while keeping them close enough for you to monitor their activity, and offer help as needed.

Once you’ve identified the right location, look around at your existing furniture and built-ins to see what could be most easily transformed into a haven for homework. Convert a closet or hallway alcove into a fully-stocked study-centric think tank! Don’t have a kid-sized nook available? Add a fold-down desk to any blank wall and… voila! Akin to the adjustable, wall-hung shelving units that can turn any wall into a fully-functional home office, wall-mounted, fold-down desks are popping up all over. These flexible desk options mean there’s always a study surface at the ready, and the fold-up models offer the added bonus of hiding all the school supplies behind the stashed-away desktop when homework is finished.

Stock up on the basics.

Stock their station with everything your kids might need to get their work done, such as pens, a calculator, a school calendar, and in-and-out boxes for unfinished assignments and for finished projects waiting for parents to review. If you can’t spare the storage space, pick up a rolling cart with drawers and a small shelf, that you can tuck away in a closet when need be. Good task lighting is also essential, and power source availability should be considered if a computer is required.

Form aids function.

Space constraints may be the first concern when choosing where to set up homework central, but you’ll want to consider your kids’ study habits, too. Some students are more comfortable (read: more productive) splayed out on the floor, than sitting up at a desk. Accommodate your kids’ comfort level by adding a soft area rug, or a comfy chair and lap desk, to best facilitate their studies, their way.

Closed space, open mind.

To help them stay focused, try putting your kids in a box… a cardboard box, that is. To cut down on distractions, a few makeshift walls can make a world of difference. Cut out three sides of a large box and place it atop their work surface to create a cubicle-style study center. Use colored duct tape to reinforce the edges, and affix important notes or calendars on the inside of their new cubicle, or let your kids decorate them as they see fit.

Be tacky.

Self-adhesive corkboard wall tiles are a great way to start to instill the organizational thinking that will serve your students well throughout their academic careers. Place smaller cork tiles around your kids’ workspace in a logical fashion, and avoid having the corkboard turn into a pin one, pin all dumping ground. Try designating one cork tile per class, or have one for classwork and one for after-school programs, etc. Teach your kids to rotate calendars and notices weekly, so posted information stays relevant and timely.

Be neighborly.

If you have more than one student in the house, a side-by-side workstation may be in order. Make sure there is ample room for everyone, available outlets for two computers, and plenty of drawer or cabinet space to store supplies. Colored file boxes help hide clutter when the area is not in use and dedicating one color per student will keep things orderly and stylish, too.

Let us know which of these strategies work best in your home, or if you’ve found your own way to create an inspiring homework station for your kids. What unique challenges does your space pose… and how have you overcome them? We want to hear from you, so please share your comments below.

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