Preparing For High School 


When my three boys went to high school, they all seemed to have variations of the same nerves. Worried about the upperclassmen. Worried about the locker combination. Worried about walking in between classes in a bigger school.

But today there is even more to worry about now with social media and cyber bullying. What is a parent to do? All those hormones and our own insecurities about our high school experience leaves us not knowing where to turn. I had a great high school experience and each of my kids have as well. I think if we set our kids up for success, they will be successful. If we fill them full of anxiety and horror stories, their experience will be less than stellar. 
I spoke to a group of middle school students this spring on preparing for high school. I asked my three kids for their best advice as well as did some research of my own. Here is what we came up with.
1. Take high school credits seriously. Your future self will thank you for studying and pushing through to get that "A." You may not understand now how important it is, but when you are a Junior and looking for colleges you will have the epiphany of why working so hard for that "A" was worth it. 
2. Color code binders to match folders and notebooks for each class. My middle son did this all on his own. I bought him white binders and primary color folders and notebooks, a set for each class. He then took a permanent marker and put a dot on the spine of each binder with the color of each class to correspond with the folder and notebook colors. That way when the binders were in his locker he could quickly scan the spine and grab the one for the right class.
3. Set up a family command center. Spend the last few weeks of summer looking at how to better streamline the family schedule. Talk to friends and neighbors now about carpooling. Don't think you have to do everything, bring in reinforcements to help schlep the kids. 
4. Pack the night before. Always make sure your backpack is ready to go the night before. Better yet, pick out your clothes as well. There will be mornings that you want to hit that snooze or you over sleep, you will be glad that you prepped the night before and are ready to dash out the door and not be late.
5. Look at your grades weekly. This is important for both parent and student. Find out how best to look at the grades, usually an online portal. Don't look at the end of the semester and hope for a miracle. Keep on track weekly, so that there are never any surprises.
6. Use your smartphone to keep you organized. The smartphone is an organizer's dream. Photos can be taken of the class schedule and locker combination so you never have to worry about it again. Set reminders for important tests or quizzes. Send mom or dad a quick text to tell them how much you love them and not just ask for money.
7. Find the study spot that works for you. Not gonna lie, mine was in front of the TV. I liked the background of the television. It forced me to focus more. Each student has different needs for study space, and respect that. Even though my kids had a desk in their room, none of them ever used it. Usually I would find them sitting at the kitchen table or island so that they are a part of the action of the household.
8. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Because I had two kids on IEP's, they were accustomed to asking for help. It takes a strong person to ask for help. Schools areset up to help you be successful. If you are struggling in math, talk to the teacher and see what services are offered. And please do not wait until it is too late to ask for help. Do it as soon as you feel some difficulty.
9. Make a note so you don't forget. I like to put reminders not only in my phone but also on post it notes. I then put the notes in places where I don't forget. I like to see the note so that my brain isn't full of trying to remember not to forget, that I actually forget other more important things. 
10. Don't procrastinate. Yes I am guilty of procrastinating. Yes I have certain offspring of mine that are guilty of this. Procrastinating is OK as long as you do not stress out about it and create stress for others. Having a group project and being late on your tasks is never a good idea. If you are a procrastinator, set up rewards for yourself for coming in on time or early. I am a fan of positive reinforcements! 
11. Equip yourself with the right tools. Two of my kids have auditory processing disorder. Which in essence means they have a hard time hearing when there is background noise. My middle son found that by wearing noise cancelling headphones his life has been changed forever, his words, not mine. You may need the right kind of pencil or pen to write with. Plan ahead so that you make sure that you have what you need before you need it. 
12. Proper amounts of sleep are essential. Don't think being a night owl is cool. It isn't. There is nothing wrong with telling your friends you can't stay out late because your parents have set a time for you to be home. My youngest loves to sleep and he knows when he is tired and he will come home and go to sleep.
Just remember the most important tool for the transition is having a good means of communication between the parent and child. You want your child to come to you with their struggles and share with you. Or even have other adults in their life that they can share with. I found out some bullying of my youngest son because he shared with his older brother and his older brother told him to tell us what was going on. I am so glad he did as we took swift action and it ended. Find those pockets of time to visit and check in on each other. It doesn't need to be hours on end. Often a ride to school in the morning can create memories. Create those pockets of time and enjoy the organized transition to high school. 
To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,
MS. Simplicity
Melissa is a Productivity Consultant and author living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 
Melissa's e-book on Kitchen Organizing can be found on Amazon.

Instant Gratification Takes Too Long

In a world of instant gratification, I would ask us all to take a breath and wait. I have found that if you can push past the urge to purchase, you will find yourself saving money by making fewer purchases. Today I am wearing a new pair of shoes. Shoes that I waited for four months to purchase. Since I purchased them two weeks ago, I have worn them five times. Last month I bought another pair of shoes that I bought because I wanted them. I wanted the rush of having a cute new pair of shoes. I bought them within minutes of trying them on. I wore them the next day for exactly two hours and I have not had them on since. They were a bit too high and I walked like a newborn giraffe in them. They were an instant gratification purchase that I now regret. 


When my boys were little they watched the release dates of video games. I implemented a wait and see policy on the purchase of the games. I created obstacles to prevent them from purchasing on the release date. I have used the "save your money" philosophy to get them to realize the cost of the item. Often when they had to use their own money, the desire decreased. 


I also have straight out told them we will wait for a few days after the release of the game. I used this delay most often for my oldest son who had a fixation with a particular line of games. I knew we could go out and buy the game for him. But I also knew he needed to learn to wait. We are the parents. In a world of instant gratification, we have to strip that urge away.


I watch this unhealthy obsession with the newly released Pokemon Go game. The amount of downloads this game created was record breaking. I am all for playing a fun game, but at what expense? People are getting physically hurt as people are becoming distracted in their walking while playing this game becoming slowly addicted. Law enforcement officers are warning people to not drive while searching for Pokemon. Wait a few weeks and see if the obsession goes away. Delay the instant gratification that society is telling you to download and play and not miss out on the fun. 


Before we tell our children they need to wait, we ourselves need to learn the lesson. Try waiting days, weeks, months or years before making a purchase. I did this three weeks ago with a shirt I tired on at one of my favorite stores. It was full price and I didn't want to pay full price for it. I came back two weeks later and it was marked down by half. Waiting in this case saved me money. 


With larger wants and desires for our children, we like to have them come up with half of the money. My youngest wants a car and this summer, I told him we would match his funds in order to purchase a car. As of today he has saved zero dollars and we are out zero dollars. When my oldest wanted a new viola even though he already had one, I told him we would match his contribution. He mowed lawns for the summer and came up with a nice sum of money that we matched. He purchased the viola and cared for it and never left it on the bus and as a senior in college he still plays in its orchestra.


So the next time you get an urge to purchase something, wait. See if you are purchasing because of instant gratification or for some other reason. Believe me the voice in your head will try to rationalize with you needing the item. You will play games telling yourself that this purchase is a necessity. But just pause. Wait the days, weeks or months and see if that purchase is really a necessity. 


To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,




MS. Simplicity



Melissa is a Productivity Consultant and author living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 


Melissa's e-book on Kitchen Organizing can be found on Amazon



Becoming A Minimalist

Hi, my name is Melissa and I am a mom of three and a wife of one and we have clutter. I now only have one child left at home so the clutter has decreased greatly. While my kids were never messy, we just always had a lot of stuff. Having a kid comes with stuff. There are birthday parties. There are holidays. Society says on these occasions to buy your kid more stuff. So having celebrated 59 birthdays (the age of my children added up) you can imagine we have accumulated some stuff.


But I am happy to report that you do not need to live like that. You can start to say no to consumerism and keeping up with the Jones's. Will there be an overnight answer to living with less? No. But I am all about gathering information and coming to an informed decision as to what works for me and for you.


The more I work with clients I am convinced that I am working with tired people. They are not lazy, they are simply tired. They do their best. They want to live with less but they just don't know how. Often it is a voice that is stuck in their head telling them that the secret to happiness is to have more stuff. But when I dig a little deeper by asking important questions I usually find out there is some mental clutter from years ago they are still carrying with them.


When I ask the client with a huge board game collection that is out of control and needs organizing why she has so many. At first she doesn't know why and then I probe a little deeper. Suddenly she is crying as she talks about playing Monopoly as a child with her dad who has passed away. Or the client with enough wrapping paper to wrap presents for the rest of her life. We discover that she never received many gifts as a child and so when she gives ones she wants to make sure that they are beautifully wrapped.


One place that I look to for my inspiration is with The Minimalists. These are two guys who are spreading the word of living with less. I have heard them speak on two occasions and have watched their documentary. When I am with them my wheels start turning in my head. They ask provocative questions about our possessions and really leave us with a lasting message of living a meaningful life with less stuff.


I have written posts about some of my favorite bits of advice from them like the 20/20 rule. The rule is simple: if you can replace something for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes you can get rid of it. This goal with this rule is to really focus on what you actually use. It is fun to walk around your house with the 20/20 rule in your head. And believe me your will have some funny conversations in your head about what you can get for $20 in less than 20 minutes from your home. Please keep your spouse!

Another favorite of mine is the 90/90 rule. Another seemingly simple rule that gets my mind working. If you have not used an item in the last 90 days and you are not planning on using it in the next 90 days, get rid of it! Like my prom dress with the big bow on the butt. Like I am ever going to wear that in the next 90 days! Adult prom is not my thing, ever!

Right here these two powerful rules will generate some serious purging.





To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity



Melissa is a Productivity Consultant and author living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 



Melissa's e-book on Kitchen Organizing can be found on Amazon


More Ways to Organize that Mental Clutter in Your Life 

For most of us we understand the concept of being more organized. We can comprehend that everything needs to find a home. But do we ever stop and think about the mental clutter that is blocking us from our best life. There are things in our life that are like roadblocks stopping us along the way. I call them squirrels or psychic clutter. If you have seen the movie “UP” you understand the concept of having squirrels in our lives; the distractions that keep us from being focused. The psychic clutter just nags in your mind taking up space.


Here are some questions with some examples to help you figure out what is your mental clutter:


·       What isn’t working? I have friends who hate to do laundry. They get to the point that they have so much dirty and not enough clean that they go and buy new socks and underwear. Clearly this is not working.


Solution: Figure out why it isn’t working. Is it an issue with time? Do you hate the laundry room because it is dark and in the basement? Do you dislike your washer and dryer? Do your kids go through too many outfits in a day? It will take some time to get to the bottom of why things aren’t working. Start asking questions and get to the bottom. Sometimes the solutions are easy and sometimes they will be more difficult. Keep pressing forwards.


·       What is broken? When I had three little boys at home I would often have a pile of mending to do. Holes in jeans that needed to be patched or a button that needed to be sewn on. There they sat, in their pile in my bedroom on my bench. Taunting me each time I passed it. Making me say to myself that I have got to get that task done. I often would catch myself shaming myself and wondering what was wrong with me. Wondering why I couldn’t get these simple tasks done.


Solution: Make a decision. Either decide to mend or don’t, but the shaming isn’t getting you anywhere. Figure out the next step to get the task done. Do you need to call someone for help? Sometimes it is simply finding the right person to help you. Or it might even be just removing the broken item orm your life entirely and knowing how to properly dispose of it. I think of the broken pair of glasses that I have in my drawer. They are not doing anyone any good in my drawer. But I know of an organization that takes old glasses and repairs them and donates them. In fact there is a drop box for the glasses at my grocery store.


·       What makes you cringe? I remember owning a set of furniture that I didn’t love. It was in our family room and every time I went in my basement I saw the torn hole in the cushion. Even though he cushion was upside down I still knew it was there. Then one day I got a wild hair and took my furniture down the street to a neighbor’s garage sale and sold the set. I didn’t have the money for the new set, but I was willing to have an empty room that no longer made me cringe.


Solution: Fix this as soon as possible. That energy from the cringe would eat you alive. As soon as I realized what made me cringe it was so much easier to deal with the issue. It is was not until I took the time to figure out could I find the solution and stop having it take up mental clutter in my mind.


·       What is a commitment you made but have not fulfilled? This is the kind of mental clutter that can eat me alive. I will say things like every Wednesday is family meal night and then something comes up and I cancel. I do that enough and let down the members of my family and they see me as someone who makes empty promises.


Solution: Only commit to things that you know that you can accomplish. It is good to push yourself but don’t bite off too much. Think about taking baby steps. Start with fulfilling smaller commitments and move forward from there, pushing a bit each time. So if your goal is to get healthy and go to the gym, a commitment of going to the gym 7 days a week is not realistic if you are not going even one day. Create ways that you can succeed and have forward momentum. Find pockets of time.



This week take the time to focus on what is taking up residence in your head. Don’t just ignore it and push it aside. Clear out that mental clutter and make room for what is important. Now where did I put the car keys?




To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,



MS. Simplicity




Melissa is a Productivity Consultant and author living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 


Melissa's e-book on Kitchen Organizing can be found on Amazon.




Parenting An Adult Child with a Chronic Illness 




When my middle son was diagnosed with Crohn’s in October of 2012, I really was clueless about what it was and its lifelong implications. Crohn’s is one of those illnesses that you have maybe heard about or know someone with it, but until you have a loved one diagnosed with it, you don't really understand. It is a chronic illness, something that he will have to think about for the rest of his life until they find a cure. Something that as a young man has forced him to already think about the path he is going to go in life.


He now realizes how important having good health insurance is. While his friends complain about having a cold, he becomes frustrated that they are complaining about having a simple cold where his immunity is now compromised and a simple cold is no longer a simple cold to him. He now is very interested in political elections and how a candidate’s view on healthcare coverage is the most important issue when it comes to whether or not he supports the candidate. He now is concerned about student loan debt and whether he can afford to have student loans and be faced with a pre-existing medical condition and possibly no health care coverage.


Years ago when I was trying to wrap my head around all of this, I received words from a friend who also has his own chronic health condition. These bits of wisdom was what I was searching for as we go on this journey. Often I feel powerless and I do not know what actions I can take. I am the mother, I am supposed to take away all of my child's obstacles. But what I am reminded of is quite simple; I can't take the obstacles away, only guide him on his path with love. We all have something in our life that we struggle with and grapple to get answers for. Our struggle isn't unique to us and the advice we were given also is not unique just to us, as I think others would enjoy the same advice. I like to get advice that I can sink my teeth into. I like knowing that I am not powerless, and there are in fact things that I can do to make this easier for my son.


I had to revisit the advice that I received as I was faced with the difficult task of letting go of my son when he was in the midst of a health crisis. He was less than 12 hours from boarding a plane to Hong Kong for the summer and we were in a strange city in an unfamiliar ER seeking relief for an issue he was having. I had to watch him get on a plane, against medical advice, and just believe in all my heart that he was going to be ok. This advice was timeless and still holds true today.


Be real and not too positive, so that he knows that you know that it sucks. I am one of those moms who has always been real with my kids and I don't hide the truth from them. I always want them to know the facts and what their options are. When I was in that ER that night I kept exhaling deeply and my son looked at me and asked me what was wrong. I told him I kept forgetting to breathe. Besides one look at my face and you would be able to tell how stressed I was. I would be a horrible poker player as the tell is right in my eyes. I realize I can't hide my own feelings about how much this sucks. And sometimes when things in life suck, we just want someone to acknowledge that this is one of those times that sucks.


Be positive and not too real, so that he knows that you are there for him and that you have his back always and that you will him to a better place. There is a fine line to walk with the information that we have and the information that we could potentially have. We are in a society where Web MD is at our finger tips 24/7 and sometimes having too much information is a bad thing. There are so many sources that when he was first diagnosed it was so overwhelming. I would freak myself out and that was doing nobody any good. Instead I have put my faith in our medical care and in doctors that we trust knowing that we are being seen by doctors with knowledge of cutting edge research that is coming. We were reminded when he was first diagnosed that many Crohn’s patients struggle with holding a job. We push that out of our head. We know of people who are very successful with careers who have chronic illnesses and we plan on him being one!


Be happy, even when you’re not, so he can see that it is possible to find the silver lining no matter how hidden it is. I realized early on that there is always someone who has it much worse than us. When you spend time in a medical facility you are reminded of that. We see a child with no hair asking the nurse over and over to promise not to hurt him. I see a pregnant woman in the ER who was just beat up by her boyfriend taking pictures of her bruises and I remind her to take pictures every day as the bruises get worse over the passing days. This is life and death up close and it can get ugly. Instead of us being sad, you will probably find my son reading a Dora the Explorer book with a bad Spanish accent while waiting for his IV to start. Not only making me laugh, but the other caregivers around him as well. He is the young man with the nurse making me an anniversary card with crayons while he waits for a procedure to begin. We are the ones asking the surgeon if he could have any TV celebrity be president, who would he choose and why? These are the important questions. My son and I have had some incredible moments together. He is the one who is usually making me cry tears of pride and joy and often of laughter.


Be sad, that you can't take his pain away, but be happy that you gave him the strength and the will to persevere. I am sad. This is hard to have someone you love struggle with this. I have sat in hospital rooms and hotel rooms while he slept and I had tears silently running down my face. I so want his pain to go away. I want him to get his energy back. I want him to gain weight. But I know that he is strong, often stronger than I am. I watched him make the decision to get on a plane against medical advice with painkillers and antibiotics in his bag to sit for hours on a flight to Asia. I didn’t do the ugly cry as I watched him walk through TSA with $20,000 worth of his weekly prescription. I saw my toddler learning how to walk, not a young man leaving the country for the summer. He knows that he will get through this by creating his own path. He rarely mentions to his friends when he is not feeling well. However he does not hide it. He is very open when he needs to be. Never using it as an excuse. He knows that he is strong and that I am there to hold his hand, both physically and metaphorically along the way, to cheer him up when he is down, to reassure him when he is in a place of doubt.


In the time that he has had this medical issue I have learned a few tricks of my own. This is what I know I can do to make this easier for him. As a professional organizer/lawyer/mom I want to make sure that he has the best documentation. We talk about how his smartphone is his best tool for tracking of his symptoms and how important it is to keep track of things as they happen, not looking back and trying to remember. Here are some tips that we have started using to make this easier for us:


·       Have an excel spreadsheet on your phone that you use for tracking medical issues or other side effects. An excel spreadsheet is easy to search and navigate.


·       Use the alarm to set reminders of when to take medications.


·       Use the calendar for reoccurring reminders like ordering medications so that you never find yourself in the Gulf of Mexico in a house full of fraternity brothers waiting for your medication to arrive while on Spring Break (yeah that happened.)


·       Take pictures of the bottles of medicine to refer back when asked what kind of medications are in use and the dosage.


·       Carry a doctor’s letter when traveling to show to airport security or customs agents if needed.


·       With the ability to zoom in and focus on even the tiniest of writing, the camera on a cell phone suddenly turns into a magnifying glass.


·       Pictures of health insurance card with policy numbers and contact information for easy access.


·       Contact information and names for the health care professionals that you are working with saved in your contact list.


·       Clinic ID numbers saved as a note.


·       Taking medical information and scanning it into your computer and storing it in cloud storage so that you can access it when in a doctor’s office from your phone.


·       If the clinic or hospital has an app for you to access your medical records, make sure that it is downloaded.


I go back to this, because as much as I want to take this illness and make it mine, not his. I know that he is the one who will have to learn to navigate with it. So I now sit with him at doctor appointments and I let him do the talking, often in the waiting room. I watch him go up to an admission desk and explain why he wants to be seen. Watching him grow into his own advocate, I am proud and in fact those tears now are ones of pride and joy with only a touch of sadness. And as he reminded me after he read this post that he stays positive regardless of the situation because he would rather be happy and feeling physically bad instead of sad or mad and feeling physically bad. The choice is his.


To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,



MS. Simplicity



Melissa is a Productivity Consultant and author living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 



Melissa's e-book on Kitchen Organizing can be found on Amazon