Latest news

Managing Hobbies

No comments

By Kristin Backert

Recently, a friend (and Thinking Organized colleague!) dragged me out to be social and enjoy the nice weather. We were chatting about books while eating some froyo, and she mentioned that she’d read about 100 books last year. Now, I love reading as much as the next person, but 100 books?! How on earth did she have the time? Was she secretly a robot? I immediately felt guilty about not reading nearly as much as my possibly-a-robot friend, and I started plotting how I could get close to 100 books this year.

But as I sat and plotted, I ran into a problem. Namely, I have so many hobbies that if I tried to just focus all my efforts on one, I’d be forced to neglect the others (or I could just avoid sleep altogether). Reading, puzzling, crocheting, and running all take up good chunks of time, not to mention any new hobby that decides it wants to join my life. If I didn’t want to cut back time on a hobby but also wanted to increase how much attention that I devoted toward others, I would have to come up with some sort of plan.

This is all still a work in progress, but my initial plan to Increase Reading Time looked something like this:

  • Reading: go to bed earlier so that I can have at least a solid hour of reading time. Depending on the text and how I’m feeling, I can knock out a few chapters every night.
  • Puzzling: when the work day is over, take a few minutes to relax and puzzle. Focus on one section for maybe 20 minutes to clear my head before dinner.
  • Crocheting: while watching TV, work on my current project! Do this for about 30-60 minutes each night if possible, or every other night.
  • Running: wake up early to run and beat the heat of the day. Depending on the temperature and whether I’ve busted my knee again, the amount of time that I’m outside will likely range.

A lot of this depended on me altering my morning and evening routines, which seemed doable. Once 9:00 pm hit, I aimed to get ready for bed, giving myself about a 20-minute grace period in case I was working on something and couldn’t stop exactly at 9 pm. Then, I set my alarm early enough so that I’d be out the door by 8:00 am to head to a running trail. While I don’t love waking up early on weekends, I have really loved exercising in the morning; it somehow makes the rest of the day that much easier to get through. And while it definitely feels weird to sometimes be in bed before 10 pm, I’ve absolutely loved having so much time to just sit there and read.

While I don’t think that I’ll hit 100 books this year, I feel better knowing that I’ve thought through how to divide my time amongst my favorite hobbies (other than figuring out if my friend is a robot…I can sacrifice that pursuit…for now). There are just so many things that I enjoy doing, so if I manage my time properly, I know that I’ll be able to tackle them all!

Erica MechlinskiManaging Hobbies

Making the Most of Summer Days

No comments

By Gaby McLish

Looking for a fun way to practice executive functioning skills with your child over the summer? Look no further! Everyone has one day during the summer whether it be the weekend or a day off from camp where you think to yourself…why didn’t I plan anything? In times like these, it’s actually a great opportunity to get input from your children and have them plan a day or an activity. Putting your children in the driver’s seat may seem scary, but with the right support and enough planning, it can be a rewarding and fun day. Here’s what you can to do to make it happen:

  1. Talk to your children: Ask them to think of something that they would really like to do this summer. If they have more than one idea, they can make a list and pick a few (if they’re all doable in one day, great! If not, pull out a calendar and see how you can space these days out).
  2. Brainstorm: Take some time to have your children think about what they’re going to need to make their day happen. Here are some guiding questions you can have them answer:
      • Where are you going?
      • What are we going to do there?
      • What makes this a good activity?
      • How will you get there?
      • How long does it take to get there?
      • Do you need money for your activity?
      • If yes, how much?
      • What time do you need to be there by?
      • Who is going with you?
      • What day are you going to go?
      • What do you need to bring with you?
      • What will the weather be like?
  1. Make a Plan: Once these questions have been answered, they can serve as a roadmap for planning the day. If your children (with some help) can identify and execute all the things necessary to do the activity they’ve picked, then they can get to it! If they need more support, it’s a great opportunity to work with them to troubleshoot the difficult parts and discuss alternatives for next time. You can help them think of things that they may not have considered, such as money for food or an activity to bring during downtime.
  2. Talk about what they accomplished: Let’s say that your children decide that they want to meet their friends at the pool for the day. They will need to pick a time to meet, set their alarm to get there on time, consider ways to get themselves there, and remember to bring sunscreen, among other things. Successfully planning this activity, even partially, is an accomplishment, and you can discuss how this mindset can be applied to other areas of life (i.e., how could you use these skills to get to school? Pack a bag for a trip?).

Regardless of the result, summer is a great time to try something new, so make sure that you and your children make it a fun experience!

Erica MechlinskiMaking the Most of Summer Days

Everyday I’m Puzzlin’

No comments

By Kristin Backert

Readers, by now you know that I’m an old geeky woman at heart. I crochet, read comic books, collect Pokémon cards…I am a multifaceted individual!

And today, I’m here to share one of my old lady hobbies: puzzles. I’ve loved puzzles ever since I was a kid; anytime that I went to a dollar store, I’d stock up on new 500-piece puzzles (anything less than 500 pieces is for babies, obviously). As a kid, I’d throw on a CSI, Law and Order: SVU, or Project Runway marathon and just lose myself for hours. Sure, my back would be aching and my hands would have carpet imprints on them, but it didn’t matter. Puzzles were just such a fun way for me to pass the time.

As an adult, I’ve started to think more about why puzzles have been such a big part of my life. In addition to passing the time in a way that didn’t rot my brain (per my parents), I’ve always loved the challenge that they pose. Going through the box to first locate all of the edge pieces and figuring out where they go, deciding which portion of the puzzle to work on next (always choose a solid color block to work on!), figuring out how the shapes all go together…puzzling is all about staying organized and adjusting your plan if the first one fails. There are still times when I’m positive that two pieces just have to fit, but no matter how many times I try, there’s always this tiny pinch of space between the pieces that signals that they are not, in fact, best friends.

Above all, puzzles are a great way for me to relax. Sure, there are tons of frustrations – why won’t these two pieces just fit?! – but the ability to sit for a few hours, or even just a few minutes, and solve a low-stakes problem is incredibly soothing for my brain. For however long I spend sitting on the floor (or table if you’re fancy enough to lose an eating space), I can take a break from all of the things running through my mind and just focus on what’s in front of me.

Now as an adult, I’m coming to appreciate that feeling even more. When life feels stressful, it’s comforting to know that I’ve got a surefire way to help relax and calm my brain down. So, if you’re looking for some stress-relieving, executive-functioning building activities to try this summer, then invest in a puzzle! Here’s the most recent puzzle that I completed to help inspire you, complete with my ancient puzzle board (seriously, I’ve had this board for at least a good 15 years):

Erica MechlinskiEveryday I’m Puzzlin’

Spring Cleaning? More Like Seasonal Cleaning!

No comments

By Cassie Castro

I believe that your physical environment reflects your internal headspace, and for that reason, I enjoy seasonal cleaning… not just Spring cleaning! I have tons of cleaning and organizational rituals – daily activities like making sure my bed is made before I leave for the day, weekly tasks like vacuuming and washing sheets, and monthly goals like deep cleaning the bathroom. I find cleaning and organizing to be very therapeutic and calming.

I look forward to all of my cleaning rituals, but I get excited about seasonal cleaning the most. This is the time when I systematically tackle each room of the house, inventory what’s inside, and purge to give away for donations! I endeavor to live minimally (but I sometimes get lost in the chaos of retail therapy and trending Amazon life hacks). Here are my favorite seasonal cleaning guidelines:

  • Work in one room at a time, targeting one space of the room at a time. For example, if you’re planning to start in your bedroom, start with one section of the dresser before moving on to the next. The last thing you want to do is start going through and inventorying too many things that you feel overwhelmed and give up!
  • Take everything out of their designated storage spaces. Create three piles: keep, throw away, and donate (and if you wanted, a sell or repair pile, too).
  • How do you determine which item goes in which pile? As Marie Kondo, the famous organizing consultant, suggests, if it sparks joy, keep it! If you haven’t used it this season or last season, check for quality to donate or throw away. If you’re holding onto it because of its monetary value, look to sell or regift it.
  • If you’re having trouble letting go of something sentimental, take a picture of it and then let it go.
  • Set a goal for what you want to accomplish each day… Keep chipping away at it!
  • Put on your favorite playlist and have your friends or partner participate by helping.

Now that you’ve minimized the clutter in your space, you can reorganize your belongings and move on to phase two: deep cleaning! This means that it’s time to break out the cleaning supplies, dusting and polishing tools, and the vacuum. More on that for my next blog!

Erica MechlinskiSpring Cleaning? More Like Seasonal Cleaning!

You Have One Week for Your Creative Idea!

No comments

By Julia Simak

It’s Spring Break! Your friends may be off eating pasta in Italy or tanning on a beach in Florida, but your family decides to take this time to catch up on life and have everyone pursue their most creative passion. Too much time has passed since you last sat down with your thoughts and dipped into your creative hobbies. It has just not been  the right time… well, the right time may be now! With a plan in place, you can embark on a journey of pursuing a craft that you’ve always wanted to do. Whether you’re interested in learning how to knit, bake a three-layer cake, or learn French, keep reading to learn the most efficient way to plan your Spring Break!

Step 1: Brainstorm
Spend some time getting inspired! Although you only have a week, any long-term plan needs a place to start. Whether you go for a nature walk, explore the nearest city, or go down a YouTube rabbit hole, make a list of anything you find that catches your eye. Don’t limit yourself – even if skateboarding looks difficult, add it to your list if you’re legitimately interested in it. Also, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to become an expert with your chosen creative pursuit in the course of a week; maybe Spring Break is spent solely on identifying potential options and then creating a shortlist. It’s up to you to decide!

Step 2: Get Organized
Lists, lists, lists… and make a list of your lists! Everything can and should be organized in a … you guessed it… list. There are many variables to consider when beginning a new hobby. For example, what research do you need to do before starting? What materials do you need? Where can you acquire them? Where is the best place to work? Who do you need to contact? The list goes on. Once these questions are answered and the lists are filled with valuable information, you can move to the next step.

Step 3: Time Management
You have one week. Seven days to fulfill your lifelong dream of crocheting life-sized frogs. Take out a weekly calendar and start planning! Here is an example:

Your weekly plan can and should change depending on the goals that you’ve set for yourself. For example, if you didn’t have time to buy yarn on Monday because there was a huge storm, you can shift your plan around so that you can go to the store on Tuesday. As you’re tackling each step, remember to have fun!

What creative endeavor will you pursue this Spring Break?

Erica MechlinskiYou Have One Week for Your Creative Idea!

Valentine’s Day Preparations

No comments

By Madeline Albertine

When I hear someone mention “February,” I immediately think of Valentine’s Day and how this holiday can mean a lot of different things for people. When I think back on my childhood, Valentine’s Day often meant classroom parties at school. We got to show up with personally decorated boxes and pass out cards and candy to all of our classmates. I loved taking ownership over creating my box and selecting what goodies to pass out during the big day. Valentine’s Day is the perfect way to engage students in planning fun activities, whether it be for a school party or a fun family celebration!

In order to get your children involved in the holiday, talk over plans for the day: Do they need to bring candy to school? Are all families chipping in $5 for a pizza party (with the pie shaped like a heart, of course)? Can you prepare for a dinner together as a family? Whatever it may be, this can be a great opportunity to practice executive functioning skills!

For school
Involve your children in the process of creating a Valentine’s Day box, selecting cards to pass out to classmates, and choosing the best candy to hand out. Whether you have them write out a list of supplies that they need to creatively put materials together from scratch or simply take them to the store with you to choose their own materials, help them take ownership over this activity! They can also make a list of their classmates, along with something that they truly enjoy (think soccer, whales, rock music), so that each card can be super personal. Below are some great inspirational boxes that remind me of what I did when I was in school. Use this as an opportunity to spend time with your children and be as creative as you want!

For home
Does your children’s school not celebrate Valentine’s Day? That’s okay! My family always used the day as an opportunity to show our love and appreciation for one another. My dad often got us candy, my mom created cards for each of us, and my siblings and I got to pick what we ate for dinner. This is a great way to involve the whole family in a day of planning to have a special evening together. Challenge your children to make personalized cards for each member of the family; see if they can make cute puns about dad’s love for golfing, mom’s love of tennis, or a sibling’s love of Minecraft. Finish the activities by encouraging the kids to take charge of baking a special dessert for dinner.

Make this Valentine’s Day one to remember by working together. Create lists of supplies needed to celebrate in the way that you choose. Then, once supplies are gathered, sit around the table and enjoy creating crafts or eating a delicious dessert together. After all, Valentine’s Day is all about showing those you love that you care!

Box Ideas