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Conquer Clutter: Top 5 Organization Tips for a Clutter-Free Home
Lisa Canning

Keeping the family home organized can be a super daunting task—especially when the kids outnumber... more

Conquer Clutter: Top 5 Organization Tips for a Clutter-Free Home
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Keeping the family home organized can be a super daunting task—especially when the kids outnumber the adults (like they do in my house)! Here are my top tips for conquering the clutter so you can stay sane.

TIP 1: Streamline the Front of the House
I heard it said once that the behavior you have when you first enter the house (what you do with the mail, your purse, kids’ school forms, etc) can have major implications on the enjoyment level of the rest of your evening. To stay super streamlined, assign one shelf per family member in a closet or freestanding storage unit where bags, keys, etc. will go. Limit the number of shoes and coats in the entranceway to two per family member. Commit to purging stray items that inevitably end up where they don’t belong every week. This will make getting out the door an efficient process.

TIP 2: Paper in Its Place
With two school-aged kids and my own bills and mail to keep track of, I find it pretty overwhelming to stay on top of permission forms, handouts and due dates. To keep paper organized, I have a binder with divider tabs for each family member, and a three-hole punch in a drawer very close to the front door. When paper comes in it is dealt with immediately—it either goes into recycling, or is hole punched and filed according to child in the binder. This keeps things from disappearing in a sea of paper and makes looking up important dates really accessible and top of mind.

TIP 3: Creative and Stylish Toy Storage
In my house, we store the majority of the toys in the basement. We do this so that we can keep our open concept living room/kitchen as clutter free as possible. This is a major factor in how sane I feel on a daily basis—knowing there is one room that is not entirely covered in toys is a great comfort to me. But inevitably, toys migrate their way into this space. So to keep the space looking stylish, I found some interesting/sculptural wire and wicker baskets that integrate with my décor (Bouclair Home and HomeSense both have great options). These versatile and stylish baskets can also be used for blankets or books once toys are outgrown.

TIP 4: Integrate Kid Gear and Décor
Visual clutter contributes to the chaos too, and while I love bright colours, sometimes the neon shades that kid gear comes in can be a bit jarring on the eyes. Think about integrating items like baby bouncers, swings or seats in colours that are neutral, or match your décor. I’m currently loving the Nuna Leaf that comes in lots of trendy colours and Graco gliders that come in soft neutral shades. (Our friends at The BabyPost.com are giving away a Graco prize pack, including a Graco glider. Enter here for a chance to win.)

TIP 5: Commit to the Daily Tidy
Being clutter free is a commitment, but one that is so worth it for your peace of mind. Take 15 minutes at the end of each day to declutter. What I have to assist in my daily tidy is a large 2’ high basket (again in a neutral colour that matches my décor). Every day, I go through each room and collect items that have migrated and don’t belong in the bedrooms or living room. Everything out of place gets thrown into this basket. If energy allows, I put things where they belong that evening. But if I’m super wiped, at least everything is collected in a basket ready to tackle the next day.

Lisa Canning is an interior stylist who specializes in 2-hour, in-home interior design consultations in the GTA where she helps clients find strategies to make their space suit their goals, family's needs and budget. A mom of 4 (soon to be 5!) she shares her tips on making a space beautiful and functional on her blog Lisa Canning: Blueprints for a Beautiful Life.
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How to Raise Kids to Have a Healthy Sense of Self-Esteem
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Many of us were raised by parents who felt that children should be seen and not heard. They may have believed that if we were encouraged to stand in the spotlight, the attention would go to our heads. Nowadays, parents push their children not just to be their personal best but to outshine everyone else and to rise to the top. This is understandable in light of strong competition in the university system as well as in the workplace. In other words, if you don’t get the highest marks in your class or if you’re not a leader, you may get left behind. This belief is not unfounded. However, in the process of raising children to be fierce leaders and better than the rest, parents may unintentionally be neglecting to teach other important values such as empathy, consideration for others and teamwork.

The trick to raising self-confident and motivated children is to understand how and where to draw the line between boosting their self-esteem and causing them to overestimate their abilities, or to have an over-the-top need for affirmation or admiration.

Consider the following:

When your child comes home with an A on a test, and you respond with something like, ‘I’m not surprised. You’ve always been more intelligent than your friends. You’re top of the class I’m sure.’

Unfortunately, a response such as this sends a message to your child that he or she is better than everyone else. Children who internalize this may become snobby or aloof. This attitude will ultimately not help them in the real world where it is better to appreciate others’ strengths and weaknesses and to show humility.

Instead, focus on their accomplishment. Say something like, ‘Wow, your hard work really paid off’ or ‘you must be proud of yourself.’

After watching your child perform on stage or on the field, you say something like, ‘What would your team do without you? You make them look good!’

This response would unfortunately encourage your child to believe that others cannot function without them around. This does not promote teamwork or humility and gives the child an inflated sense of self. Although you may believe that your child is better than the rest, not everyone will.

Instead of focusing on their performance as being better than others, it may be wiser to say something like: ‘You were all so in sync with one another. It was a pleasure to watch. What great teamwork!’

Also, rather than praising everything your child does or waiting for a positive ending to comment, encourage them during the process. If you notice that their writing skills, for example, have improved, share what you are seeing along the way, as in ‘I can see how hard you’re working at forming your letters.’

In this way, you are focusing on process rather than end result. If you constantly praise your child’s work, he or she may become a praise junkie and constantly look for affirmation and validation from others. This may set tehm up for disappointment and frustration in the real world when they don’t get showered with all the validation and approval they’ve gotten from you.

Sara Dimerman is a psychologist and provides counselling to individuals, couples and families. She is one of North America's most trusted parenting and relationship experts and the author of three books: Am I a Normal Parent?, Character is The Key and How Can I Be Your Lover When I'm Too Busy Being Your Mother?: The Answer to Becoming Partners Again. Learn more or listen to advice from Sara and her colleagues by searching for 'helpmesara' podcasts on iTunes or visiting www.helpmesara.com. Follow Sara on Twitter @helpmesara.
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