Family Hospitality

Some people grow up in a family; I grew up in a clan. Both of my parents came from families with ten children, born during the Great Depression or WWII. That makes for a big pack of aunts and uncles who beget 72 first cousins. Now that my generation has children, we can no longer find a place big enough to hold family reunions.

Growing up in a big family is part of the reason I was initially drawn to the organizing profession. Our family get togethers were large events requiring major logistics. I remember when we rented a summer cottage with two of Mom's sisters.  I have two sisters, one aunt had 7 children and the other had 5. In one single cottage that summer 6 grown ups and 15 elementary school aged children shared accommodations and ate three meals a day together.  It was a very hectic, but full of healthy, happy fun.

Growing up in a clan I learned the art of hospitality and event planning.  Family wasn't the only clan; there was a neighbourhood clan of families who lived on our street in Scarborough for over 43 years. Every year we celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and best of all Canada Day and New Year's Eve. My best friend's family came from England and our extended families quickly became one big happy family.

The main thing I remember growing up is that everything wasn't perfect, but it was perfectly pleasant. We were sometimes squished around the dining room table sitting on phone books so we could reach the table. But we had family and we had traditions and most of all we shared memories of wonderful times.

The members of my clan had some weird and wonderful contingency plans to overcome every conceivable obstacle when entertaining large crowds. In a pinch, a laundry tub full of ice makes a great beer station! A couple of bags of ice in the bottom of the washing machine will keep bagged lettuce crisp until dinner time so there will be room for other meal contributions in the fridge. Once the main dish is ready it can be kept warm on the BBQ until the side dishes are cycled through the oven or microwave. Finally a Rubbermaid container in the garage in the winter will keep baked goods fresh or slightly frozen until party time.

I married into another clan; a bustling Italian extended family who came to Canada as refugees after the war. Until very recently, the nucleus of this family shared two halves of a semi-detached house in Weston. There were three kids in one house and four next door; add in the parents, Nona and Nonno and the grand total came to 13 wandering back and forth between the two homes. The sense of family felt very familiar, with food at the centre of most events, so I felt comfortable right from the start.

Not all of the clients in my organizing practice are lucky enough to have grown up in a clan. Too often I meet families who suffer from what organizers refer to as C.H.A.O.S. (Can't Have Anybody Over Syndrome) which originated with books from The Sidetracked Home Executives. These families are ashamed of the way their home is decorated or their poor housekeeping methods or their inability to whip up a meal made from scratch. What a shame! These families and their children are missing out on so much spontaneous fun.

I believe that organizing is an essential life skill and it is never too late to learn. With summer vacation time right around the corner, let go of expectations of perfection and open your home and your hearth to family. The recipe is simple: eat, drink and be merry all summer long.

Dedicated with love to Brenda, Babe, Trea, Marg, Jean, Renee, Anne, Flo and in memory of Helen and Jeannette; I learned from the best.



Organize and Prioritize to Keep Employee Productivity High During the G-20 Summit


For Immediate Release


(Brampton, June 17, 2010) - Faced with finding alternatives for keeping their businesses open during the upcoming G-20 Summit many business owners are grumbling about the inconvenience.  To ease the frustration, Professional Organizer Karen Sencich offers the Top Ten Tips to help business owners harness employee productivity throughout the upheaval.


1.      Ask for employee input about how to organize and prioritize during the days of business interruption. Share suggestions gathered with entire staff. The key is to maximize flexibility.

2.      Employees deemed essential, who must report to the office, will have fewer phone calls and visitor interruptions. This may be the ideal time to clear out files and shred obsolete material. 

3.      In understaffed offices there will be fewer opportunities for face to face meetings which will save time that can be allocated to clear out the e-mail inbox and re-organize computer files. Delete old drafts and categorize information using the same format as the hard copy filing system.

4.      This will also be a good time to dust, damp wipe and disinfect desk, keyboard, mouse and telephone.

5.      Employees assigned to work from home will happily save money on gas, parking or transit and eating out. This may overcome the inconvenience and cost of using home phones and cell phones to keep in contact with colleagues and clients.

6.      The chunks of time usually spent commuting, travelling to meetings, and taking lunch and coffee breaks may make up for time spent watching World Cup Soccer or doing computer work outside on the patio. There is no reason to not enjoy the nice weather!

7.      As tempting as it might be to use the day off as a vacation day, more can be accomplished by leaving the children in daycare and having a stress free day to focus on everything else that needs to be done to catch up on work related issues.

8.      Quickly plow through short term tasks such as updating database contacts or preparing expense reports.

9.      Engage in preliminary planning for long term projects. Leave voice mails or e-mails requesting appointments for follow up once the Summit is over.

10.  How can employees make the most of having a non statutory holiday weekday off? Suburban services will be open for business so book car maintenance or schedule an appointment for the dentist, doctor or optometrist. This will save taking time off work later.


Why New Year's Resolutions Fail

In my opinion, the beginning of the year isn't a good time to commit to life altering resolutions - too often the required changes are too uncomfortable to contemplate.  Trying to commit to saving money or losing weight right after the overindulgence of the holidays is bound to fail. Personally, I find a higher rate of success making "grand" resolutions annually on my birthday.

At the beginning of each birthday year I outline what my goals are in terms of my business and family life. I try to schedule my time, energy and resources in order to spread big projects out over the year and ensure that they don't coincide with special events such as vacations or scheduled family celebrations. Since my birthday is in August that means that by New Year's Day I am one quarter into my new plan. What a psychological boost!

Start out your year with action oriented mini-resolutions focusing initially on short term instead of long term results. Commit to change in small do-able stages and you're more likely to experience success. The cumulative energy derived from completing necessary tasks will propel you towards the bigger goals. Here are some suggestions to integrate this type of planning into your 2009 resolutions.

Renovations - Early this year we will be renovating the kitchen. We planned and designed the layout in the fall and purchased the material before the holidays. The material has already been delivered and the contractors are scheduled. With a little pre-planning we'll have a head start on completing this big goal sooner than later.

Organizing - It only takes a few minutes to organize something so start small and work towards bigger tasks. My husband and I started by winnowing out our closet to remove worn out items and make way for clothing gifts we got for Christmas. The added bonus is that we could pull out the warm weather clothing items we plan to take on our upcoming vacation. You can get the same big bang for the time devoted to sorting piles of paperwork or stacks of photos. These tasks can be done in front of the TV or while listening to the radio.

Personal Improvement - Are you planning to quit smoking or drinking or lose weight?  Approaching a life altering change can be overwhelming so start with small changes that are do-able in the short term.

For example, instead of resolving to lose weight, begin by endeavouring to eat healthier food. The first do-able action step is to research healthy recipes on-line or flip through your magazine or recipe files. Next, determine the food inventory stored in your fridge and the pantry. Use up or toss out food items that don't fit your healthy criteria. Then create a master grocery list of food items that will help you to stick to your eat healthy resolution. With any luck, weight loss will follow as a happy side effect.  

Improved Communications - As a Professional Organizer who specializes in Family Management I can say for certain that poor communication often causes family distress.

Who is supposed to be where, at what time and how will they get there? Who will be home for dinner? These every day time management issues can quickly be resolved with improved communication between family members. We keep a monthly calendar on the fridge that is colour coded with who will be where when. Voice mails, e-mails or texting can also quickly and easily clarify family plans and last minute changes.  

Whatever your plans for the New Year, resolve to take things one step at a time. Record your success and keep moving through your list of things you want to do to improve your satisfaction level.



Organize a Safe Return to School

Safety factors to consider before going back to school in the fall.

Whether your child is headed off to kindergarten or university, the basics of getting organized and establishing new routines are equally important. Get a head start by developing a family safety plan before Labour Day. This is especially important for families who have just moved to a new area or students moving up from elementary to junior high or high school.

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Tackle it Now!

Household updates to accomplish when changing to daylight savings time. 

Often the clients in my organizing practice suffer less from lack of space than from lack of time or lack of motivation to store things away into the space that they have available. From time to time we are all guilty of procrastination or postponing decisions. Left unattended, decisions, paper and piles of stuff simply clutter up our lives.

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Tree and Decorating Tips

Tree and Decorating Tips

Click here for a tree decorating demonstration and some quick holiday tips.

Or watch the fast forward 
9 second version!

Photography and video courtesy of Alan Sencich




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Tackle it Now Tip

Hints for Handling Your Gift List

How do you handle your holiday wish lists? Sometimes the simplest hints are the best. For years I have been using the same easy to implement method.

  • I purchase the tiniest address book I can find and assign one page for each person on my guest list.
  • I record their sizes, colour and style preferences.
  • I include family members, friends, hairdresser and all service providers.
  • I keep the list inside my wallet so it can quickly and easily be updated.
  • Information for stocking gifts is also recorded.
  • I can frequently review what I have purchased to keep my budget on track.
  • As I wrap gifts I check them off!
  • If certain gifts need to be hidden I record where they were put.
  • I also list ideas and purchases of hostess gifts to keep on hand.

There are many benefits to this system. It is lightweight and portable, but most importantly since I keep the lists year after year, it helps me to prevent repeating gift ideas. Who wants to get a sweater or tie year after year?


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