Increase Kitchen Efficiency With Ease

As the festive season approaches and the calendar begins to populate, it’s important not to allow the stress of entertaining large groups to become a burden. Below are four tips to help organize a kitchen and host with ease, creating a functional space for family and friends to enjoy.

Plan in advance

Set aside time early in the week to plan the menu, from simple appetizers to the main entree. Grocery shopping apps, like AnyList, allow the whole family to share and build lists together — which can help avoid any last-minute trips to the grocery store. Also, try to identify dishes that can be prepared in advance so more time can be spent away from the kitchen when guests arrive.

Maximize storage and counter space

Optimize counter space by designing small stations for easy access to the necessities. A coffee bar “nook” complete with Keurig cups and mugs can help kick-start a busy day. Storage near the fridge should be stocked with foil and containers, ideal for packing up leftovers after a large party. Reserve the island counter for meal prep and the cabinets below for serving ware and glassware storage.

Keep all staples in arm’s reach

Cooking can be made simple by organizing the essentials. Keep similar tools together, such as bakeware and cookie sheets in one drawer, and pantry staples in another. Spices and herbs should be alphabetized and stored near the stovetop to effortlessly add flavor. For those with design in mind, opt for open shelves to showcase dishes and small kitchen accessories, such as succulents and cookbooks, while keeping everything within reach.

Simplify kitchen cleanup

Cleaning is often the most time-intensive chore in the kitchen, but if designed right, can be a breeze for home entertainers and kids alike. The Delta Foundry Kitchen Faucet complete with ShieldSpray Technology, available at the Home Depot, offers laser-like precision to contain splatter, meaning less soaking, scrubbing and shirt swapping. (BPT)

Stress-Busting Tips to Stay Organized While on Vacation

Vacation is supposed to be fun and relaxing, but more than half of Americans say vacations cause them stress, and 46 percent say stress interferes with their enjoyment of traveling, according to a survey by HomeAway. Vacation stress comes from multiple sources, including crowded airports, making transportation arrangements, booking lodging and more.

However, staying organized while traveling can help relieve some of the stress of juggling so many details and moving parts. Here are ways you can stay organized while traveling, and feel more confident that you have control of your vacation plans.

Prior to departure

* Make an itinerary with important information, such as flight numbers and times, hotel phone numbers, check-in and check-out times, prices, ticket numbers and phone numbers for attractions you’ll visit.

* Gather together travel guide info. If you’re still a fan of paper, create a packet of travel guides and maps for the area you’ll be visiting. Or go electronic and download guides and maps on your smartphone.

* Remember to make arrangements for your home while you’re away. Discontinue newspaper and mail delivery, put lights on timers and ask the local police department to do vacation checks on your home.

Packing organization

* Pack a few days before your departure. Waiting until the last minute to pack can make you feel rushed and stressed — and increase the chance you’ll forget something important.

* Make a checklist of everything you need to take with you and check off each item as it goes into your bags. Organize your checklist by when items can be packed — well in advance (for seasonal clothes you don’t need at home) to last-minute (toiletries).

* Plan outfits and take items that can be mixed and matched with each other.

* Before critical items go into your bags, outfit them with technology that will help you keep track of them. TrackR pixel is a coin-sized item tracker that attaches to virtually any item — from car and house keys to wallets, passport cases to handbags — to help you keep track of important items while traveling. When downloaded to your smartphone, the TrackR app works with the item tracker to help locate the tagged items. You can use the app to locate tagged items, remind you to take items with you and even locate them on an in-app map. If you misplace your phone, simply press the button on the tag, and it will make your phone ring so you can find it. To learn more or to purchase online, visit www.thetrackr.com.

On the road

* If you’re traveling with the whole family and have a lot to carry, consider making each person responsible for a different, age-appropriate, item. For example, parents can manage large bags, teens and tweens can handle carry-on items and young children can be responsible for any small entertainment or comfort items, such as stuffed animals and carry-ons with coloring books and Crayons.

* Keep all passports in one place and have a single, responsible party manage them. Attach a TrackR item tracker to passport cases to ensure you can always find these critical items.

* Carry a small journal to help keep track of notes about places where you go, changes in plans or reservations, receipts, tickets and more.

* Pack a small bag for snacks and water. Vacation travel often involves waiting, whether it’s at the airport for a delayed flight or in line for a popular attraction. A small snack bag can help prevent hunger-fueled frustration and lack of focus.

Some stress while traveling may be unavoidable, but staying organized while on vacation can help ensure you feel as little stress as possible — and leave you plenty of energy to enjoy your trip. (BPT)

 

5 Organizing Tips to Help Tame Back-to-School Chaos

From school supplies and first day outfits, to lunch boxes and carpool schedules, back-to-school stress and to-do lists can seem endless. This time of year, moms and dads are feeling the pressure to get organized, no matter their natural tendency: neat freak, hopelessly messy or anything in between.

“As the summer sun begins to fade, that back to school anxiety creeps in for parents. There is so much to do and so little time,” says Debra Johnson, a Merry Maids home cleaning expert. “We want to make sure that all moms and dads – whether they work full-time, stay at home, are frantically busy or cool and laid back – feel equipped to get back in the school year groove.”

Back-to-school time is the perfect opportunity for parents to shift gears and reorganize. It all comes down to your cleaning personality type on how you handle it. Here are some expert tips for every type:

Neat freak: Messes go against your very nature, and this time of year can put your temperament to the test, not to mention your cleaning skills. Instead of stressing over where to stash the keepsakes your kids will surely come home with this year, plan ahead and create color coded files for each child. Send glue, glitter and other mess-making supplies to school in clear baggies. Stash a stain-removal stick in the backpack of older kids to pre-treat ink stains and make laundry less stressful. Do you ever run out the door without lunches? Fix that by setting a food prep day (Sunday afternoon) where you and the kids pack lunches and place them in a desired area in the refrigerator and pantry. Make it easy to grab and go each morning and keep those hungry moments at bay.

Closet stasher: A closet stasher may look like a neat freak, but don’t be fooled – their messes are hiding in the closets and under the bed. Take time to dig into storage areas and cabinets to create an organized space for the family. Use plastic bins or baskets with labels on the front to divide the games from the books, and create a special shelf where extra pens, paper and other school supplies can be kept handy throughout the year. Kids will appreciate the independence of knowing exactly where to go to get what they need for homework and school projects. And remember, your kiddos might be following in your footsteps so be sure to check under the beds and behind the headboards for any treasures they may be hiding.

Busy bee: When you’re juggling work, homework, after-school activities and home cleaning, some days it’s tough to even find matching socks. While the back-to-school season can heighten the chaos, it’s also a perfect opportunity to ta ke control of the time you have. For example, have the kids put in the laundry while dinner is cooking, or encourage the kids to clean the dishes as you finish preparing dinner. Create a family calendar to keep track of everyone’s schedules, and place a whiteboard by the door to remind you – and your kids – of important things to take with you before heading out the door. Letting the kids lend a hand will help them feel empowered to do more as they get older.

Summer straggler: As vacation time comes to a screeching halt, a summer straggler usually waits till the last minute to kick back-to-school prep into gear. For you, it’s best to prioritize a to-do list, and check things off one by one. It’s OK not to get to everything right away, but keep making progress until your entire list is complete. Overwhelmed by getting your house in order and tackling that to-do list? Don’t be. Call a professional to help with the deep cleaning, so you can focus on getting the school year off to a great start.

Team player: From preschoolers to high school students, everyone is involved in getting the home ready for the new school year. Have the kids switch it up a little and take on each other’s chores, try something new or take on more responsibility. As kids get older, they are able to take on more challenging roles, from just folding towels to actually doing the laundry, or from setting the table to loading and unloading the dishwasher. Make it fun and keep things fresh by creating a handy helpers box; fill it with slips of paper highlighting various household chores and then let your kids pull out their assignments each week. Rewards are a great way to incentivize the kids to empty the box by the end of the school week.

With the right attitude and approach, you can make back-to-school time less stressful for the whole family. For more expert tips on home cleaning, visit merrymaids.com.