• 11 Ways to Help Your Kids Spend More Time Outdoors

    If you’re like a lot of adults, your favorite childhood memories probably include spending loads of time outdoors. Doing things like swimming in lakes and building forts in your backyard. Why is that’s less true for our children today? If your kids are spending less and less time outdoors, keep reading.

    Only 6% of children ages 9 to 13 play outside on their own in a typical week, according to The Nature Conservancy. Among preschoolers, almost half aren’t taken outside by their parents for a walk or playtime each day, says a study published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

    That same study found that the factors affecting outdoor play probably aren’t what you’d expect. Family income, neighborhood safety, and hours spent watching TV had little effect. What mattered was having plenty of playmates and parents who exercised regularly.

    What can you do to help your kids spend more time outdoors? Take a look at these ideas for encouraging your children to go outside.

    Benefits of Outdoor Play

    Build healthy bodies

    Sun exposure provides Vitamin D, which builds strong bones. Physical activity also promotes motor skills and agility.

    Develop strong minds

    Spending time outdoors has been found to stimulate creative thinking, problem solving abilities, and higher IQ scores. It’s good for mental health at any age.

    Connect with nature

    Direct contact with plants and animals can help children to understand and value the environment. They’ll be more likely to make responsible choices as they grow up.

    Outdoor Activities Close to Home:

    Add water

    Kids love getting wet. Even if you can’t build an inground pool, you can spray the hose for your kids to run through.

    Do messy crafts

    Paints and markers can be tough on your living room furniture, but almost anything goes outdoors. Draw chalk game boards on your driveway. Create clay vases or paper mache animals. Fool around with face painting or tie-dying.

    Eat al fresco

    Meals give you at least 3 opportunities a day to pull up a chair outdoors. Serve breakfast on your deck, and make lunch a picnic on the grass.

    Talk with your school

    Many schools have cut back on recess time. Advocate for recess, outdoor sports, and other programs that help students spend time outdoors.

    Limit hours online

    While moderate TV time is usually okay, observe reasonable boundaries. Set a curfew on any screen time before bed, and limit internet usage apart from schoolwork.

    Allow for downtime

    How many activities are your children enrolled in? Block out hours for unstructured play in between dance lessons, language classes, and science labs.

    Outdoor Activities Away from Home:

    Take a hike

    Walking and hiking are great exercise at little expense. Keep comfortable shoes in your car so you can go exploring when you come across something interesting.

    Visit a park

    Take advantage of local and national parks. Look up what amenities they offer like pools, fountains, and workout circuits.

    Go camping

    Invest in some tents and other basic gear to see if your family likes sleeping outdoors. You can plan longer and more adventurous trips as you become more experienced..

    Plan active vacations

    How many vacation days do you have saved up? Choose destinations where your family can spend significant time outdoors. Go snorkeling in the ocean or skiing in the mountains.

    Ride your bikes

    Take your bikes out for leisure trips or even to run some errands. Check out the bike trails in your community, and make sure to wear your helmets.

    Help your children to enjoy more fresh air and unstructured play in the great outdoors. They’ll be likely to grow up happier and healthier and achieve more.

  • 9 Tips for Managing Your Marriage During a Crisis and Hard Times

    Marriage requires an effective balance of separateness and togetherness. The proper ratio varies from couple to couple. Too much time together can be as challenging as not enough. How do you manage all of this? And how are you supposed to do this during hard times like a pandemic, *cough cough*?

    Divorce lawyers are reporting a huge increase in inquiries from unhappy people wanting a divorce. Luckily, there are steps you (and I) can take to decrease the odds of becoming a statistic.

    Tips to avoid allowing the pandemic to crush and ruin your marriage:

    Have activities you do separately

    Odds are that you’re spending plenty of time together. In your previous life, you might have struggled to find time to spend with your spouse. It’s possible to have too much of a good thing, especially if you have a smaller home. Spend some time apart each day.

    This is simple to accomplish. One of you goes to the store while the other one stays home. When the shopper returns, the person that stayed home can go for a walk or mow the grass. There’s a couple of hours of peace right there.

    Avoid doing things that you know irritate your spouse (you know the ones)

    You know what your spouse doesn’t like, and you might even do those things on purpose now and then just for spite. But, now isn’t the time for passive-aggressive behavior.

    Why poke the bear when you can’t get away from the bear? Increasing the level of resentment is just foolish.

    • Put a stop to any criticism. The same goes for criticism. It’s understandable that you might be frustrated with each other, but why take it to another level when it isn’t necessary?

    Have you ever received any personal criticism that strengthened your relationship with that person? Doubtful.

    Stay busy

    Bored and annoyed is worse than comfortably busy and annoyed. Find something to do and put your attention on that task. It’s a more productive and enjoyable way to coexist. Idle minds have a tendency to become agitated.

    Argue outside of the home

    If you’re going to fight, do it somewhere else. The kids will appreciate not having to be part of it. It also avoids emotionally contaminating the home. It’s less comfortable in the home after an argument has occurred. Argue somewhere else and preserve the sanctity of your home.

    Keep the house tidy

    A cluttered home is more stressful for everyone. Encourage everyone to pick up after themselves and there will be less tension in your home. Everyone in the house should have a couple of chores to do each day. A tidy home is a more peaceful home.


    Communication is always important. It’s more important now than ever. Try to have at least one meaningful conversation each day.

    What makes a conversation meaningful? Both of you are glad you had the conversation. You can have a meaningful conversation about the weather or garbage cans, as long as you’re both glad you had the conversation afterward.

    Establish some routines

    Keep a routine. It’s going to be a different routine than before, but a routine is still important. Get everyone out of bed by a certain time. Have a dinner routine and a bedtime routine. Keep everyone on some semblance of a schedule.

    Be kind

    Everyone knows how to be kind. Be especially kind during this challenging time.

    Marriages are challenging even under great circumstances, and we’re not living in great circumstances right now. A little prevention can go a long way toward preserving your marriage.

    Be sure to give each other the alone time that you both need. Place a premium on communication. Be kind. This is good advice for any marriage under any circumstance, and even more so during troubling times.

  • The Ultimate Guide To Let Go of Clutter and Organize Your Whole Life

    Our outer life reflects our inner self. How is clutter affecting your life right now? How’s your mental well being contributing to the clutter around you?

    Hundreds of thousands of us have a psyche that is out of control.

    Research from Princeton University found that clutter decreases productivity as the neural circuits in the brain have multiple stimuli competing for attention. The more ‘stuff’ on your desk (or in your home), the more difficult it is for your brain to focus on the task at hand.

    Does clutter affect your life? If so, be honest and gentle with yourself – adding shame to the problem only makes it harder.

    Disorganization and clutter cause many challenges, including:

    1. Personal health – stress and sometimes illness or injury

    2. Mental health – mood, overstimulation and hyperarousal, stress, shame, and self-defeating thoughts or behaviors

    3. Time management issues – wasted time looking for things and decreased productivity

    4. Relationships – strained relationships, including spouse or partner, housemates and children, as well as social relationships

    5. Career – decreased productivity, increased stress, lack of attention to detail, and time management issues

    6. Finances – buying multiples, buying things you don’t need, paying people to help you get and stay organized

    7. The list continues…

    Also remember that most things exist on a continuum (mild, moderate, severe). You don’t have to be on the extreme end of the spectrum to have a challenge with clutter. Nor do you have to experience clutter in every area of your life.

    Clutter may not be negatively affecting your social life, but it may still be a challenge if it affects your career, adds stress to your life, or causes strife with your family members.

    We’re going to focus on: 

    ✓ Identifying the many issues related to clutter

    ✓ Strategies to correct and manage clutter

    ✓ How to get housemates and family members on board

    ✓ Letting go of things

    ✓ Staying and correcting the course

    Clutter: What and Why?: Defining the Problem

    Clutter is subjective

    If my house is messy but clean, I may not consider it cluttered – just lived in. If you’re a minimalist and have only the necessities, you probably think my house is cluttered. 

    Should I happen to watch an episode of Hoarders, I will feel really good about my house and myself. It’s all relative. 

    For our purposes, let’s assume the definition of clutter to be specific to the challenges previously mentioned. 

    You may have a mild challenge with clutter if you experience one or two of these:

    ● It causes stress in your life.

    ● It creates strife with your housemates.

    ● It takes up more time than most people spend on their things.

    ● It results in limiting your social interactions.

    ● It costs more money than most people spend on similar things.

    ● It affects your work or productivity on tasks.

    If clutter affects three of these areas, your problem is likely moderate. More than four and the clutter problem is severe.

    So – think about your life. How serious is your problem with clutter? 

    Why is Clutter a Challenge for You?

    You may not think it matters why you have a challenge with clutter – just fix it already! But in many ways, it’s important because it helps you understand how to address it.

    For example, if you live in a small, cramped space you may not have enough storage for even the most basic things. The solution to that challenge is very different from other causes of clutter.

    Perhaps you’ve inherited a lot of things when a relative died or have been the recipient of things passed down through the family.

    Heaven forbid that you’re on every mailing list possible and buried under catalogs and newspapers. 

    Maybe you kept all your college textbooks, research papers, and supporting articles from undergrad and graduate school – just in case you need an obscure reference that didn’t make it onto the internet somehow.

    Another scenario – you’re a bargain shopper and have stocked up on everything imaginable. Or, you plan to recycle things that you’ve held onto for years.

    It’s possible that you learned to hang onto things when you were growing up. Many people who grew up during the depression or had parents who grew up then stockpile things that are on sale.

    True hoarders have a compulsion to keep things for sentimental reasons or to fill a void left by deprivation, either material or emotional. This is extreme and beyond the scope of our discussion here.

    The more significant the problem, the more likely you will need outside help to get organized. That could mean family or friends to help haul things away or a therapist to address deeper issues. 

    Sorting through the piles and choosing what to keep, what to donate, and what to toss can be a long, painful, exhausting, and overwhelming process. 

    So, think about why you have more stuff than you need. This will help you develop a plan of attack.

    Remember – everything is on a continuum. Your situation may be relatively mild compared to others, but still considered a significant problem for you.

    Start the Decluttering Process

    Taking stock of the job that lies ahead seems to be the starting point for most people. Let’s get started …

    Where is the Clutter?

    Is the clutter confined to one or two rooms?

    The garage? Basement? 

    Extra bedroom? Attic?

    Is the clutter on every surface in the house? All rooms and in stacks on  the floor?

    Every room ceiling to floor? 

    Maybe storage shed or two?

    What is the Clutter?

    For some, the problem may be a surface-level mess and for others a literal pile of stuff hiding more stuff. For hoarders, it’s even more complicated and may require professional assistance.

    Identify your challenge (it may be one or all of these):

    ● Things on surfaces need to be trashed, filed, shredded, passed on, or handled (mail)

    ● Stacks need to be trashed, filed, shredded, passed on, or handled

    ● Stockpiles of ‘stuff I may need’ or extra reserves need to be put away, given away, or trashed

    ● Family treasures need to be sorted, passed on, donated, thrown away or put away

    ● Piles of things that may be useful/recycled need to be sorted, trashed, donated, or passed along

    ● Things you haven’t needed or used in years need to be trashed, passed on, or donated

    Who Causes the Clutter?

    Is this your problem? Someone else in your home? All of you? 

    It’s important to recognize what you can and can’t control. If you live with someone who keeps everything ‘just in case’ or ‘to be recycled someday’ or ‘in case of the apocalypse’ or ‘it was on sale and we need it,’ it can be difficult to convince them to change their ways. 

    They’ll need to be willing to make the changes and work through these questions to identify why and how to change the behavior. As you likely know, it can be complicated. 

    Many couples and families spend a significant amount of time trying to clean up the clutter of others who aren’t ready, willing, or able to let it go and/or stop it. It can cause much family strife.

    If the clutterer is you, you’ll have to be committed to not only getting control of the current situation, but also ways to prevent it from happening again. This requires changes in thinking and behavior.

    Develop a Strategy: Get Prepared

    It helps to get everything you need before you actually begin the active process of decluttering. Otherwise, you may have to stop to get supplies and it can be hard to start again.

    ● Trash bags and/or boxes 

    ● Markers and labels

    ● Clear, stackable storage bins 

    ● Various sizes of zip bags

    ● Shredder

    ● Small trash can for every room

    ● Organizers for magazines and files

    ● File cabinet (if needed)

    ● Shelving units for garage, basement, attic

    ● Bookshelves or bookcases

    ● Cannisters

    ● Over-the-door hooks for towels, coats, or whatever

    ● Mail organizer

    ● Drawer and shelf organizers

    ● Caddies for shower and cleaning products

    ● If you’ll be cleaning as you go (recommended), buy all cleaning products and supplies

    ● Label or set up bags or boxes for: Donate – Trash – Recycle – Pass On – Handle

    Get anything else you need to organize what you keep – but not to keep things that you don’t need!

    Get Everyone on Board

    If your spouse, partner, or other housemate is part of the problem, you’ll need to get them to support your efforts. In fact, this likely won’t work long-term without their buy-in.

    Many people who disagree on what is and is not ‘junk’ learn the art of negotiation. They compromise on things that are important to them and let go of the small stuff.

    Some people allow their kids to have a playroom for their toys to keep them out of the other areas. Periodically, it’s a good idea to go through the toys and either trash or donate any that are broken or not being used.

    Another good rule for kids and toys or adults and tools/books/knick-knacks is to give away one thing before buying another. That helps us think more about what is important to us and prevents adding to the clutter. 


    Involve your kids in the process before the big day or weekend. Start by talking to them about why you’re decluttering. Help them understand the difference between needs and wants.

    There’s a lot of pressure for kids to have the most and the best. The sooner you help them learn to resist and change that way of thinking (even if they learned it from you), the better. Be prepared for pushback but stay on track. 

    Speaking of toys, you may want to ask your kids to choose 3 (or whatever number) toys to keep and give away or trash those that are unused or broken. Help them understand how giving to others who have less benefits both you and them.

    Kids who are used to having anything and everything all the time will resist this and try to sabotage your efforts. This is a time to be the grown up and make decisions based on what is best for everyone. 

    Is it really necessary to have toys and clothes that haven’t been used in months or years? 

    Explain your reasoning to let go of some things you’ve held onto and model positive behavior and decision-making.

    Should I Sell It?

    Many people decide to have a yard sale and keep things for the sale.

    However, keep in mind that yard sales are a lot of work for little return! Most items in a yard sale are priced at only a few dollars. It’s generally not a good return on investment of the time and energy it takes to do the sale. And, you end up with a lot of things that still need to be donated anyway.

    If you have a few bigger items that may bring a decent sum, consider selling them online or to a local used or antique goods store. It is much easier and more cost effective than a yard sale. 

    Choose a Day and Recruit Help

    Ask for help if you have widespread clutter involving several rooms or a garage, basement, or attic with tons of stuff. Plan to work all day or all weekend if needed. 

    Arrange off-site child care if possible. Kids can make the process more difficult in many ways – especially if decluttering involves their toys.

    Offer pizza and beer (or whatever is appropriate) for your friends who agree to help. 

    Be organized so that they feel good about making progress. If you’re tackling different rooms, put someone in charge of each room. 


    Prioritize. Start where you need it most. 

    For some people, that may be an office (at home or work). Others may want to start with the room in the house where you need the space most – living room, dining room, or kitchen. Or, the room where you stash everything out of sight.

    If you have multiple rooms, make a list with the priorities. You may want to have a separate sheet of paper for each room – for more lists! If you need to make a path to the room, do that by filling trash bags or boxes labeled: trash, recycle, donate, and pass on. Things that need to be kept and organized should go in one place. Setup a stack to be filed, handled, or put away. 

    Avoid putting all those things in a box and leaving them for another day. 

    How To Eat an Elephant

    On the big day, set up the main rooms with your supplies and discuss how to begin with your helpers.

    Give them specific instructions about what goes where, what stays, and what goes. If it’s mail, it may be easy enough to identify junk mail to recycle, loan or credit card offers to shred, and bills to be handled. If they don’t know what to do, they can put it in a pile to ask you about.

    Books and magazines are hard for a lot of people to let go of. Some of us have hundreds of books that have been boxed and unboxed and moved and stored for ages. 

    You may need to go through the books and magazines yourself. Just remember that most non-fiction information is available online now and most fiction can be obtained from the library or purchased as an ebook. 

    Even most magazines and newspapers are published online – so why must we keep hard copies of everything? Something to consider. 

    Friends of the Library and many used bookstores accept books for credit. Also, there are lots of family and women’s shelters that appreciate donations of newer books and magazines.

    Where to Begin

    Some people start at the top and work their way down. Others start at the bottom and work up. Let the people who are doing the work in each room decide unless there is a reason to do it a specific way.

    Starting at the bottom, meaning the floor, is a good plan for those with stacks and boxes on the floor. Once the floor space is cleared, it may be easier to sort through things.

    After the obvious clutter is removed, you may have to go through knick knacks and personal items to choose what stays and what goes. Try not to think about it too much. 

    Deciding What to Keep

    Ask yourself the following:

    ● How long has it been since I used this? More than 6-12 months (except clothes and shoes, appliances, or other items used infrequently, such as a working lawn mower that you use seasonally)?

    ● How likely am I to use it in the next 6-12 months?

    ● Is there a way to borrow or use one should I need it?

    ● Depending on what it is – can I replace it if needed for less than $xx?

    ● Is it something someone else may need more than I?

    ● Is there a reason to keep this (pass on to my daughter when she starts a family)?

    Family Treasures

    These can be complicated. In some cases, people are very specific about what goes to whom and when. If that’s the case, you may need to honor their wishes and find a way to store things, so it doesn’t take over your life and home. 

    In some cases, it might be useful to pass along things now. Particularly if they’re useful and your loved one can benefit from it. Jewelry, china, and such may be welcome at any time.

    You may also want to have a candid talk with your adult children about your belongings. Talk to them about what they want to keep and if there are things you can donate or liquidate now. 

    In some cases, things we believe to be important to pass along are things our loved ones have no need (or space) for. You may find that they would prefer (or need) the money if it is something valuable. 

    As people are living longer, many are downsizing as they age. They often find they no longer have the space to keep things once held dear. Furniture styles and home sizes have changed so much that grand old antiques may not fit in the space or preferences of your loved ones.

    Now What?

    By the end of the day or weekend, you should have bags or boxes sorted into piles. It is important to take them to the identified location immediately, lest they sit there indefinitely. Take a load or two to the trash and recycling place. Get someone to drop off the donations. 

    As for the things to handle, file, organize, or store – your work continues. If you do it within the next few days, it’s more likely to get done.

    Carve out some time each day to work on it. Use labels and file folders and clear bags and boxes to identify things. Put them where you can find them! 

    Work on one thing until you finish it. Start with the things to be handled – and handle them. Pay bills, make phone calls – do all of them at one time. When you finish handling all those things, move to the next stack and work on it until you complete it.

    Do the same for each room of the house. Work in one room to finish up what your helpers started, if needed. If you need to go through each knick-knack or books/magazines, finish it before moving to the next room.

    Find a way to celebrate as you finish each room, but avoid going out and buying something! Get a pedicure or go play golf. Have a latte at the coffee shop.

    When you finish the whole house, go out with the family and celebrate! Do something fun, such as going to a movie, zoo, aquarium, museum, or other entertainment venue.

    Staying the Course

    Unless you develop new habits, your house will look the same within a few months. It takes a concerted effort to prevent this.

    Course Correction 

    It’s easy to backslide and let things get cluttered again. The trick is to catch it before it gets overwhelming.

    People who are most successful changing behavior long-term have a limit – a line they will not cross. With weight loss, that may be a certain size or weight. For clutter control, you can decide what that looks like.

    What’s your line in the sand? How do you get back to where you need to be? What leverage do you have with roommates to be part of the solution?

    Things to Remember

    ● Productivity is negatively affected at work and at home by clutter.

    ● Clutter affects mental and physical health in many negative ways.

    ● Family and social relationships may be negatively affected by clutter. 

    ● Clutter can take a toll on your finances.

    ● You can lose up to an hour a day looking for things due to clutter.

    ● Problems with clutter are on a continuum – mild, moderate, severe.

    ● Even mild challenges with clutter can have a negative effect on your life and career.

    ● Organizing and staying organized requires everyone be willing to do their part.

    ● Sometimes compromise is necessary to manage what/who you have little control over.

    ● Ask for help! Friends, family, and professional organizers may be 

    very helpful.

    ● If the problem is extreme, mental health assistance may be required.

    Good luck to you and never be afraid to reach out!

  • Preparing Your Child to Stay Home Alone

    Staying home alone is a milestone in a child’s development that rewards their growing sense of responsibility and helps them build confidence. These are some signs a parent can look for to determine if your child is ready to take care of themselves for short time periods along with steps for getting your child and house ready.

    How Do You Know If Your Child Is Ready To Stay Home Alone?

    Know your local laws

    Kids develop at their own individual pace so legal restrictions are just part of the picture. Many experts suggest that ages 10 to 12 is a typical threshold period for starting self-care. Your local police department or Child Protective Services agency can advise you on the laws for your jurisdiction.

    Determine if your child is willing

    Ensure your child wants to stay on their own. Otherwise, the experience can backfire and create more fears and anxieties.

    Examine your child’s track record

    Look for evidence of taking responsibility and demonstrating sound judgment. Does your child get himself ready for school? Is his homework consistently done on time with minimal supervision?

    Steps To Take With Your Child

    Test it out first

    Build up to leaving a child alone for long stretches. Start out with quick visits to a neighbor or trips to a local store. Discuss any issues that arise. Praise them for managing on their own and looking after the house.

    Rehearse and practice difficult scenarios

    Train your child on how to answer the phone and door when no adult is present. Get together and role play about how to call 911 and respond to other emergencies.

    Discuss all the rules

    People of all ages are more likely to obey rules when they participate in making them and buy into the reasoning behind them. Many kids also need occasional reminders about anything that occurs infrequently.

    Schedule check-ins

    Create the feeling of supervision. Ask a neighbor to check in while you’re out. Require your child to call you when they arrive home or if they plan on going out.

    Develop a guest policy

    Ban all guests if you think that’s safest. Otherwise, you may want to specify which individuals are allowed over and limit the number at any one time.

    Plan activities

    Boredom can lead to trouble. Give your kids something to do, so, for example, they’ll play a board game instead of making prank phone calls.

    Steps To Take With Your House

    Post emergency numbers

    Stick a list of important contacts on the refrigerator door and by each phone. Include the police and fire departments, your family doctor, and your own numbers. Limit internet access. Some parents prefer to shut down internet access completely. In any case, talk with your kids about staying safe online and remaining alert to their surroundings.

    Provide safe snacks and meals

    Put the stove off-limits to younger kids. Leave them with food that’s ready to eat or can just be heated in the microwave.

    Remove hazards

    Double-check that matches and prescription drugs are out of reach. Get rid of any toxic products that you’re unlikely to use.

    Secure all windows and doors

    Check that everything is locked, including the garage. Give a spare key to a neighbor in case your child loses their own. Teach kids to go to a neighbor’s house and call the police if they see a broken window or other signs of a possible break-in.

    Work schedules and other obligations make child care challenging for many families.

    If your kids are ready to stay home alone, taking care of themselves can be a great solution that encourages a healthy sense of independence. Otherwise, provide adult supervision until your family is prepared for this big step.