Do you know your prime time?

22 June 2017

What's your prime time of peak productivity?

This month, my personal theme is discipline and I’ve been working hard to keep up with the 30-day challenges I set out for myself on June 1. It’s going well. I’m particularly proud of the fact that I’ve done at least 30 minutes of genealogy research daily and that I’ve blogged four times a week (twice on this blog, twice on Organize Your Family History) every week this month.

One of the reasons for my success is that I’ve come to realize that my prime time of peak productivity is before 9:30 a.m. I do my genealogy research first thing in the morning, which I think is a fabulous way to start the day. I set a timer. If I didn’t, I might do research all day!

After genealogy, I blog. I’ve been trying to plan my blog posts for the week, so I don’t have to spend time figuring out what I want to write about. That planning is definitely fluid; nothing’s set in stone. Next I do the five to ten minutes of exercise I’ve committed to (baby steps) and only then do I turn to my task list to get going on other priorities.

Some mornings I have to leave the house earlier than others, so I adjust the time I get up (and, accordingly, the time I go to bed) so that I have enough time to get those things (and any other priority tasks) done before I leave the house. It helps that it’s June and it gets light so early. I’ve been getting up around 5:30 a.m. It’s a lot easier to get up when it’s light outside!

Your prime time might be late at night. Or smack dab in the middle of the day. Whatever it is, I urge you to try to reserve that block of time for tasks that require your focus and energy. That’s not the time to slot in appointments for the convenience of others if you can avoid it. Protect your prime time on your calendar.

Keeping a task list so that you know what you need to accomplish during your prime time is really helpful. I’ve been really good about this in June and I feel focused and not stressed. It’s a great feeling.

I blogged about powering through my task list first thing in the morning back in November. I feel fortunate to have come up with a strategy that allows me to balance my personal and professional goals with client and family time.

What’s your prime time?

Photo of a sunrise by Teknorat via Flickr

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Reflections after a year in our new kitchen

19 June 2017

A year ago today, our kitchen renovation was complete and I finished unpacking our stuff into the new kitchen. A month or two later, I wrote a blog series about the renovation. I just re-read the series and relived the joy of that project. Honestly, it was a bit of a pain while we were going through it, but the results were absolutely worth the hassle and the money.

A year later, we’re still loving the kitchen. My favorite storage features are still favorites. I hadn’t mentioned how much I like the trash/recycling pull-out cabinet in the island. It’s so much better than having two trash cans on the floor, which is what we had before. The other thing I love is how easy it is for me to empty the dishwasher each morning because almost everything is stored right near the dishwasher (a huge departure from our old kitchen). I love that we have ample space to store everything. It’s amazing what a difference in quality of life it make when you create a highly functioning kitchen.

Unlike our old kitchen, the countertops in the new kitchen stay quite uncluttered. I think that’s because there’s a place for everything and it’s easy to put stuff away. And when countertops stay clear, they don’t attract random stuff. The exception to that is the counter that runs along the wall from the kitchen to the radiator. (We call that the bar area.) It has started to attract some clutter—things that didn’t really have a home, like a single copy of a Sunday New York Times purchased for its puzzles, the recipe cards that came with our trials of Hello Fresh and Blue Apron and the full-color book/program you get when you go to Opera Theater St. Louis. But it took me less than ten minutes this morning to clear off a six-month accumulation. So that’s not bad!

One improvement we added was a bar for our dishtowels, which we put on the far end of the island. We used an appliance pull that matches our cabinet and drawer pulls. That’s worked out great. Here’s a photo taken after I decluttered the bar counter (with special guest appearance by Bix):

There are only a few things I think we’d do differently if we had it to do all over again.

  • We might have selected a different countertop because the solid-surface LG-Hi-MACS scratches easily and is heat-sensitive. I’m not sure what we should have chosen instead; we haven’t discussed that.
  • I’m not crazy about the Allure vinyl plank flooring we chose. I think it looks fake. If I had it to do over again, I might have chosen vinyl tile or vinyl wood plank that doesn’t look distressed. I don’t mind that it’s vinyl; I’m just not crazy about how the one we chose looks. But I really do love that it’s waterproof.
  • I kind of wish we’d designed a place for Bix’s food and water bowls because that water bowl has been kicked more than once. But I haven’t spent much time trying to figure out what we might have done. We’ve ended up placing them at the near end of the island, where we store his food. That’s working out pretty well.

Because everyone likes to look at before-and-after photos, I’ll run again the pix from the first post in the series last year. We don’t miss the red countertops. And we certainly like having upper cabinets!

From the entrance to the kitchen from the living space:


From the sink:


From the back door:


View of the built-in cabinet:


This last “after” shot shows that we sacrificed our pantry so that we could get the refrigerator out of the way. That was a stroke of genius on the part of the designer.

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Worth repeating: Give your father the gift of time

15 June 2017

This Sunday is Father’s Day and it’s also the second anniversary of the day my other passed away. When I was on the airplane on my way to my mother’s bedside the day she died two years ago, I wrote a post about giving our parents our time, not stuff. Here’s that post. I truly believe that we benefit, as do our parents, when we make an effort to spend time with them, especially on holidays. It’s a much better gift than a tie or after shave!

Father’s Day is Sunday and that always makes me want to encourage you not to give gifts that will become clutter. I think this is particularly true of gifts to parents, who may have an especially hard time letting go of items you give them.

I’ve mentioned before that you can give clutter-free gifts like fresh flowers, restaurant gift certificates, or coupons for services. But today I’m thinking about how wonderful it is to give the gift of time to a parent.

I haven’t lived within a thousand miles from my parents since I was 17 and left for college. I’m not sure I’ve spent Father’s Day with my father since 1980. But this year I’ll be there. It wasn’t intentional. My mother has been hospitalized and I’m rushing there to be by her bedside. The bright spot of that is that I’ll be with my 84-year-old father on Father’s Day this year.

Here’s a selfie I took of my dad, Gene Adams, and me at a basketball game last year. He’s a great guy.

Facing the prospect of losing my mother makes me wish I had more often given my parents the gift of time together. Throughout my adult years, I paid at least an annual visit to my parents. As they became elderly, I upped that to twice a year. This is my third visit this year and I have two more scheduled.

If you have the opportunity to spend more time with your parents than you’re currently spending, I urge you to consider scheduling regular outings (or just quiet visits) together while you can. I’d be willing to bet that they’ll be more special to your parent than any physical item you could give them.

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My secret for making car buying easy

12 June 2017

The secret to making car buying easy

I bought a car on Friday, June 9! That doesn’t happen very often and it’s very exciting. I’m 54 and this is only my fifth car. There’s a picture of me with the new ride, taken at Carmax, the used-car dealership where I bought it.

I decided to get a new car because the car I was driving, a 2008 Honda CR-V with 105,000 miles on it, was getting a little long in the tooth and it didn’t have as much cargo space as I’d like. I carry around a lot of bins and storage solutions and it was sometimes a tight fit. This meant I had to schlep bins from my garage across my back yard and into my basement on a regular basis and I was getting tired of it. The lack of cargo space also meant I wasn’t able to help my team members take donations for clients when the client was letting go of a lot of stuff. So I was ready for a car with more cargo space.

The other reason I wanted a new car was that I sick and tired of walking around the open back doors of the car when I was loading up bins. I have a petite two-car garage. (This is a major factor in this story.) I decided I would benefit from driving a van with sliding back doors.

So what’s my secret for making car buying easy? Limit your options!

One of the hardest things for me about a big purchase (or sometimes even a small one) is dealing with all of the options. I’ve learned that I’m much happier making decisions when I have fewer options.

Going into this, I knew a few things:

  • I want to park in my garage
  • My garage would accommodate a car no longer than a 2001 Honda Accord (which we used to have)
  • I wanted a van (but as a non-mom I didn’t like the idea of a traditional mini-van)
  • I needed to be able to carry at least three passengers, since my husband’s car is a two-seater
  • I needed a bench back seat because my big dog, Bix, likes to lie down when he rides in the car
  • I require heated front seats (I swear I turn the heat on 300 days a year)

Sifting the first four factors together, my research revealed there were about two cars that fit the bill. Hooray! My options were immediately limited.

Those two cars were the Ford Transit Connect Wagon and the Dodge Ran Promaster City Wagon. Both are city-oriented, smaller vans (I live in a city) and both are meant for passengers. My car garage was just big enough to accommodate the long wheelbase model of the Transit Connect. The other small van is the Nissan SV200 but it’s a cargo van only without a back seat.

I visited a Dodge dealership and test drove the cargo van version of the Promaster City. I quickly ruled it out—I was looking for more amenities than the Dodge offered. So I had it narrowed down to the Ford.

A little more research revealed two things:

  • Heated seats come in the Titanium (top of the line) Ford Transit Connect Wagons only
  • Ford stopped making Titanium wagons with bench back seats in 2014

That meant I had two choices: Get a custom-made 2018 car and wait five months (and pay $30,000). Or buy a used car that is at least three years old. I chose the second option.

So I knew what I wanted. I just had to find it. I looked at craigslist to no avail. But I had a better choice. Carmax. I was able to test drive a 2016 version of the car I wanted and then have a 2014 with 23,000 miles transferred from the Columbus, Ohio, Carmax. I paid $250 for the transfer, but wasn’t obligated to buy it. That car had literally everything I wanted on it and then a little more. It was just under $20,000. The only thing I’m not crazy about is the color—it’s a boring silver. But it could be worse. They make it in a bright red that I really don’t like.

Carmax made everything really easy. And it was a no-haggle, no-pressure situation. I sold my CR-V to a friend and brought home the new Transit Connect just a few days ago. I’m tickled pink.

I started my research on May 27 and brought home the car on June 9. For me anyway, that’s fast and painless.

So my secret to easy car buying is to figure out your wants and needs and limit the options to those things. Then find that car, buying used if necessary. Usually compromises need to be made, especially when you’re buying used, but in my case I made none, beyond the color.

I’m hoping for many good years with this van!

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Help for an organized and stress-free Disney vacation

8 June 2017

My friend and former team member, Julie Hough, has retired her organizing business and moved on to become a Disney vacation planner. I have to admit, I didn’t even know that was an occupation. Now I see the brilliance of it. I asked Julie to write a guest blog post about working with a Disney Vacation Planner. If you’re tempted (and why wouldn’t you be? Her services are free!), I urge you to contact Julie. I worked with her for ten years and know that she is not only very organized, but also kind, generous and extremely fun. She can make your Disney trip fun and stress-free from the moment you start planning!

Using a Disney Vacation Planner

Julie Hough

If you’re thinking about going to Disney World, there are two words that have the power to make or break your vacation. Plan ahead. Even the most carefree and spontaneous people I know have agreed: you have to exercise those organizing and planning muscles if you wish to keep The Happiest Place on Earth from becoming The Most Stressful Place on Earth.

Two families, one who planned ahead and one who didn’t, will come home after a week with Mickey Mouse with two very different experiences. The first will have had the best time of their life, enjoying rides with minimal waiting in lines, navigating the parks with ease, resting and relaxing at their resort pool that offers all the magical extras their kids were hoping for, and creating wonderful family memories that will last a lifetime. The latter will come home having wasted hours of standing in long lines, feeling like they wasted money paying for amenities they never used, frustrated that they didn’t get to see the characters their kids were dying to see because all the FastPasses were gone, and feeling like a whole lot of money was just spent on a vacation that everyone wants to forget.

As a Disney Vacation Planner, the latter example breaks my Mickey-Mouse-loving heart because it doesn’t have to be that way. With some purposeful, thoughtful and knowledgeable planning ahead of time, you can have an amazing Disney experience. Working together, we can get you that magical Disney experience you’re dreaming of, all in an organized and stress-free way. And the best part? My services are FREE.

What’s it like to work with a Disney Vacation Planner? Well, you get the peace of mind knowing someone else is thinking about the details so you can just enjoy your vacation.

Some of the benefits of working with a Disney Vacation Planner:

  • Understanding the different Disney packages so you’re only spending money on what you really want.
  • Receiving advice on the different resorts, helping you choose the best fit for your family.
  • Receiving advice on how to make the most of your FastPass selections.
  • Being reminded of when to order Magic Bands, when you can select FastPasses, when to check-in on line, and even when to pre-order some meals to help maximize your time in the park.
  • Having dining reservations made on your behalf at your favorite restaurants.
  • Arriving with a customized itinerary that helps keep your time standing in lines to a minimum.
  • Receiving Disney insider tips and tricks to make your Disney Vacation the best ever!

I can help you with any Disney destination, including Disney Cruises. As a Disney Vacation Planner, it is my JOY to help your family experience Disney in the most organized, stress-free and magical way possible.

If you’re interested in working with Julie, you can call her at 636-399-9725 or email her at julie@enjoymousetravel.com. You can read more about her services at Enjoy Mouse Travel. She works people all over the world. Oh, and if you have any special-needs kids, Julie has special expertise in taking children with special needs to Disney. Honestly, she rocks.

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Five apps that have lasted five years (or more)

5 June 2017

I have way too many apps on my phone. I’d say I never use at least 80 percent of them. (Obviously, I need to do a big app decluttering one of these days.) But there are some apps on my phone I feel I couldn’t live without. This morning I was thinking about the five phone that I’ve been using on daily (or almost daily) for at least five years. That’s a long time in the life of an app. Hats off to the developers who created such robust apps that have managed to stay really useful without significant changes. (They’ve all been updated, of course.)

Today I’m talking only about third-party apps, not the ones that came with the phone that I also use every day (like camera, timer, weather, activity and calculator). And I’m also not counting social media apps, which are a category of their own.

My go-to iPhone apps, in no particular order:

Milebug I’ve been using this mileage tracker since 2010. I log every business-related trip (which is most of my trips) and simply email myself a spreadsheet at tax time. The habit of taking note of my mileage is deeply engrained and Milebug makes it easy.

Kindle I read a novel every week and I like having my book with me. I prefer to read on my actual Kindle Paperwhite (I like the backlighting), but thanks to the Kindle app, I can read wherever I am, without having to take my Kindle along. If I stop to have lunch by myself, I can read my book on my phone. If I find myself in a waiting room, I can read my book. It synchs with my Paperwhite. It’s indispensable.

Evernote I use Evernote every single day. It’s the backbone of my organizational system and it does a good job of serving as my memory. I prefer to use it on my computer, but when I’m out and about I use the phone app. Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without it.

Sleep Cycle I learned about Sleep Cycle at the 2012 NAPO conference (I blogged about it here) and it’s definitely my app of choice for my alarm clock. I use it every night, though I no longer keep it on the bed with me. I love its gentle wakeup and the fact that I can keep track of how many hours I slept each night.

Square I was an early adopter of Square, the mobile credit card processing system. I so appreciate that it makes it easy for me to accept credit cards (without a monthly fee). A growing proportion of my clients prefer to pay by credit card, so this easy-to-use app gets lots of use.

I’m sure there are other apps I could add to this list (IMDB comes to mind), but I’ll stop there. I started my business 12 years ago and when I think about the technology changes that have occurred in that time that have helped me run my business, I am so grateful!

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The power of the 30-day challenge

1 June 2017


You’ve probably seen the various 30-day fitness challenges that have made the rounds. (I’ve tried the 30-day plank challenge and usually make it about 20 days before getting distracted.)

I think these challenges are popular because they build slowly and they have an ending point. That ending point is critical, in my opinion.

For the last couple of years, I’ve instituted what I call 30 × 30 challenges for my genealogy research. On my genealogy blog, Organize Your Family History, I challenge myself and my readers to doing 30 minutes of genealogy research 30 days in a row. I announced my June 2017 30 × 30 challenge yesterday. It’s my fifth such challenge and I find they’re very effective in ensuring that I don’t put my genealogy research on the back burner.

There’s something about the first day of the month that makes me want to make 30-day commitments. So this morning, I created a list of things I intend to do each day for the 30 days of June. In the interest of public accountability, I’ll post them here:

  • daily exercise (I’ve been trying to implement some back exercises)
  • 30-day plank challenge
  • daily genealogy research (of course)
  • daily effort toward some new products I’m writing and will put up for sale
  • four days of blogging per week (I try to do that every month, but want to make a special effort to do consistently this month)
  • work on Quickbooks daily (after I’ve caught up with Quickbooks, I’ll just record the day’s transactions)
  • clean off my physical desktop daily (I wax and wane on that one)
  • be very mindful in my spending in June; each day in June I will think carefully before spending any money

I’ve decided that my key word for June is discipline. Since I know I have to disciplined for just a month (watch out, world, on July 1!), it feels more like an opportunity and less like a sentence.

How about you? Is there anything you would like to commit to doing for 30 days?

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About Janine

Janine Adams

Hello! I’m Janine Adams — a certified professional organizer based in St. Louis, and the creator of Peace of Mind Organizing®.

I love order, harmony + beauty, but I believe that the way that you feel about yourself and your home is what truly matters.

If you’re ready to de­clutter with a purpose and add more ease to your life, you’ve found the right blog — and you’ve found the right gal.

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