The holidays are approaching and I’m in a complete nesting mode. The only problem with cleaning out closets and eliminating clutter is that I now see very clearly the marks on the hardwood, out of place art and burnt-out lightbulbs.
You might be a tad more organized than we are, but in case you’re more of a late shopper…. here are some last minute Valentines gifts that will actually enhance people’s lives. Online personal training, music lessons, language instruction… The lucky recipients of your gifts will be brilliant while being able to be hermits! (But then again, staying home can be pretty romantic…)
Online Yoga Classes: $8-$10/month – Downward dog on your tablet in the living room.
Fiverr: $5 per gig – You could spend hours looking at the weird and wonderful things people will do for just $5.
Rosetta Stone Online Language Course: 6 months $169 – Because the elementary school french is getting a tad rusty.
Ancestry.ca Geneology Subscription: $9.99 – $24.99/month – Doing a family tree has been on your list for ages.
Online music and art lessons at Artistworks: $20 – $30/month – Philharmonic here I come!
PicMonkey Royale Subscription: $4.99/month or $33/year – Easy photo editing, plus you can add mustaches and text to images.
AnimalJam by National Geographic Kids: $5.99/month – A fab educational game for kids.
Online Personal Fitness Training: $11.50 – $29.99/week – Because then you have an excuse to say ‘Sorry I can’t. I’m seeing my personal trainer today.’
NextIssue Magazine Subscriptions: $9.99/month – Hundreds of magazine issues to read on your tablet or phone.
Amazon Prime: $99.99/year – Free shipping, books and movies.
Rogers Shomi: $8.99/month – the new video and TV streaming service from Rogers
Club Penguin: $5.00 – $7.95/month – Club Penguin is an ever-changing world where the possibilities to create, socialize, and play are literally endless.
I don’t like new year’s resolutions because they usually amount to more pressure and disappointment. I try to look at life as progress – are every few years getting better than the last? Are we happy? Over the past two months I’ve been focusing on living simply, eliminating stress and organizing life. Along with drinking lemon water, buying a juicer, there are 10 things the family has undertaken to ensure we are living simply with as little stress as possible.
1. Unsubscribe from as many email lists as possible. Keep the ones that you covet, but recognize that your time – even that 5 second glance to your phone when it dings – is worth gold.
2. Do a closet overhaul. (It doesn’t have to be a What Not to Wear episode where you feel guilty and depressed.) Put anything that doesn’t quite fit in a suitcase labelled with the size and date. Check for stained items, holes, pills and shoes beyond repair. Invest in new, thin felt hangers (Homesense is a great place for these) and take metal hangers back to the drycleaner.
3. Place all of your jewelry on the bed. Separate any broken pieces that need repair, and start a collection of unwanted or broken costume pieces for a little girl in your life. When I was a little girl, a friend’s grandmother did this for me and I was thrilled by my treasures. Polish the silver and clean gold, pearls and gems with a soft cloth. I hung chunky necklaces on scarf hangars and places bangles in shoeboxes.
4. Pull out your makeup and toss anything that is too old. Wash brushes with Dawn and water and dry flat on a cloth. 97.9 % of us, according to a study on the use of cosmetics, are guilty of using make-up after the expiration date, with mascara being the most frequently mentioned product. Products with a higher water content have a shorter lifespan after opening due to the ability for bacteria and microbes to breed in moisture.
Expiration Dates for Makeup:
Mascara (regular or waterproof), liquid, pencil or gel eyeliners: 4 to 6 months
Cream, Liquid or Stick Foundations or Concealers: 6 months to 1 year
Powder-based products (including mineral makeup): 2-3 years
Lipsticks, Lip Gloss, & Lip Pencils: 2-3 years
Cleansers: 1 year
Toners: 6 months to 1 year
BHA or AHA Exfoliants: 1 year
Facial or Body Moisturizers and Serums: 6 months to 1 year
Lip Balms: 1 year
5. Eliminate undue travel stress. Note passport expiry dates in your calendar and apply for a Nexus/Global Entry pass to skip long airport security lines. Keep travel chargers and ziplocks sorted with different currencies from past trips in your go-to suitcase, and have a few key seasonal clothing items at the ready in case you take a trip to a different climate. Check balances on hotel points cards and ensure you are using them to your advantage.
6. Be ready for sick days. Check first aid kits for expiration dates on medicines. Have homemade chicken soup in the freezer. We use the homemade chicken stock recipe from Kitchen Stewardship, which provides incredible healing benefits, including boosting the immune system, aiding digestion, increasing efficiency of protein use and providing easily digestible minerals, including calcium. You also get none of the ‘fake’ foods and preservatives when you make it yourself. Get rid of the dust. Give your kids an extendible duster once a week and give them a quarter if they can cover it with dust from the tops of frames and chandeliers.
7. Grab all of your gift cards and see if some can be amalgamated. If you have a stack of cards you will never use, use Cardswap.ca to exchange them for cards you will use.
8. Are your computer and mobile phone systems working well? I hadn’t backed up files, and my phone and computer contacts were duplicated or not being saved properly. Not being able to find a number for a mom during a playdate or losing precious photos to power surges can be devastating or just stressful. Calling Geek Squad or heading to the nearest Apple or Microsoft store could sort out all of your tech woes. Oh, and write your printer toner numbers in your wallet along with your license plate number. (Or am I the only one who always forgets these?) You can also photograph it all, along with membership cards and parking passes and store the photos in a special account in the cloud.
9. Evaluate the entertainment options. Our family is a bit over the top. We have a huge cable package, a Netflix subscription, Next Issue, and regularly make purchases on iTunes and Google Play. I sat down with the family and we discussed our needs. There isn’t enough time in the week to watch, play and read everything. We decided what is most important (English football and Netflix) and eliminated a few unnecessary distractions from there. It can be worth a call to your providers to check the options. Amazon Prime can cut down on entertainment costs. For film buffs in the US, Fandango is your best friend.
10. Do you and your kids do a weekly activity? We were always searching for shin guards, cleats and ski helmets, so we now have a system. Monogrammed bags for each activity (ours are from Land’s End) are packed and in the mudroom. We take them to the activity and then right to the laundry room afterwards. When the clothes are clean and dry they go right back into the bag and to their permanent home. Ditto for library book bags.
We’d love to hear your tips and tricks for living simply! Write them below and we will choose our favourite at random for a special gift card!