Get Focused

Plan to make productivity a priority

(Family Features) Although there are many reasons to feel stressed in the workplace, productivity is often at the root. After all, productive employees are often perceived as the most valuable employees and when productivity fails, it tends to put everyone on edge.

Concerns about productivity are broadly founded. They may be related to your self-assessment of your own performance, or it could be that a manager is demanding more. Or maybe you’re collaborating with a team of peers and are struggling to find your footing, and collectively productivity is down.

Productivity is not only good for business; it’s good for worker morale, too. A productive work day can produce a sense of accomplishment and pride, and may result in a less stressful work environment. You can take a proactive role in improving your own productivity with these ideas.


1. Face a challenge head on. Procrastination can be the ultimate roadblock to productivity. For many, that means saving the least desired task on your to-do lists for the end of the day. However, by the end of the day, it’s too easy to delay the task until tomorrow. Instead, start the day with your least desired task. This is when you’ll have the most energy and you’ll kick off your day feeling accomplished, ready to tackle whatever comes next.

2. Be intentional with your time. It may seem counterintuitive, but taking breaks can help you have a more productive day. When you feel your energy start to wane, give yourself a timeout. Take a 15-minute walk, run the stairs or spend some time drawing in your notebook. Over the course of a week, pay attention to your schedule and start to plan your meetings and tasks around breaks so you’re working during periods of the day when you’re the most energized.

3. Capture ideas when they come. Let’s face it: not every great idea arrives at the ideal moment. While it’s possible to key your ideas immediately into your smartphone, that can come with multiple obnoxious distractions. However, trying to recreate that flash of inspiration at a more opportune time more often than not falls short with missing details.

An option like the Bamboo Slate smartpad allows you to write naturally with pen on any paper without the social media notifications and email alerts. With the push of a button, you can then convert your handwritten notes into “living” digital files. With Wacom Inkspace, you can organize, edit and share your notes and sketches on your enabled smartphone, tablet or other devices. In case you’re not near your mobile device when inspiration strikes, you can store up to 100 pages on your smartpad and sync later. Learn more at

4. Identify areas for collaboration. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. The key is knowing yourself well enough to know when you need to ask for help to be more productive. Wasting time on tasks you don’t excel in can slow everyone down. Rather, find others whom you can collaborate with and learn from to help you improve your productivity over time.

5. Stay organized. When you’re working under continuous deadlines, things can really start to pile up – literally. Digging through a mess to find the report containing the data you need or the invoice to cross reference is a waste of precious time. Allow the clutter to build during the work day if you must, but make it a goal to never leave the office without bringing some order to the day’s chaos. Coming in each morning to a desk that is de-cluttered and ready for the day ahead can be a big productivity booster.

Learn to Make Lists with Purpose

List-making has long been revered as the classic time management tool, and technology makes it easier than ever to blend this analog task with your digital world by using smart notebooks like the Bamboo Slate to create an online to-do list.

Consider these three list styles to determine the approach that best fits your work style to put you on your way to more productive days:

Categorized lists. Most people start with a daily to-do list, focusing just on the most urgent tasks for the day. Once you’ve mastered that approach, try looking ahead to the future to help you meet your goals. For this technique, you might consider an annual list or even a life list to help put the big picture in perspective and make it more manageable to accomplish your desires. Others go so far as to categorize their time to focus their attention on different types of tasks on different days.

To-do vs. done lists. Another option is to use lists to catalog both the items you need to do and those you’ve already completed. A “done list” can be a motivating factor in pushing forward with your to-do list by letting you see your accomplishments in writing.

Bullet journaling. The bullet journal approach is a four-step process designed to make the to-do list less of a chore and more efficient. A step-by-step guide shows you how to create more productive lists you can easily reference in the future.


4 Tips for Summer Tire Safety

(Family Features) As temperatures start to rise, checking your tires’ air pressure can help protect them from the heat when hitting the road this summer. Whether you’re trekking cross-country or simply to and from work, the more heat your tires are exposed to could mean potential trouble on the road.

The friction from your tires rolling, turning and braking combined with higher pavement temperatures and worn tires can lead to tire blowouts. Knowing the condition of your tires can help keep your vehicle well-maintained as well as you and your family safe on the road. When it comes to tire safety, it pays to know your numbers.

“Customer safety is our No. 1 priority,” said Mark Marrufo, vice president of brand marketing at Discount Tire. “Drivers should know how to maintain their tires and when to replace them when worn to ensure they don’t compromise safety when driving in summer temperatures.”

To help stay safe on the road this summer, know your numbers and follow these easy T.I.R.E. tips: tread depth, inflation pressure, rotation, education.

  1. Don’t forget to check your tire’s tread before hitting the road. Tread depth refers to the amount of tread on a tire, which can impact handling, traction and stopping distance, especially on wet roads. Most new car tires start with 11/32 inches of tread. If your tires don’t have at least 2/32 inches, it’s time to replace them. Use the “penny test” by sticking a penny upside-down in a tread groove. If Lincoln’s entire head is visible, your tread is worn beyond the legal minimum requirement and it’s time to replace your tires.
  1. Check your tire inflation pressure at least once a month to make sure they are at the appropriate inflation pressure. Low tire pressure leads to decreased steering and braking control, poor gas mileage, excessive tire wear and the possibility of tire failure. Temperature changes affect tire pressure. For every 10 degrees of temperature change, tire air pressure changes 1 PSI (pound per square inch).
  1. To increase tread life and smooth out your ride, rotate your tires every 6,000 miles or earlier if irregular or uneven wear develops.
  1. Stay educated on your tires and what you need to do to keep them safe. Inspect your spare and consider a roadside assistance plan. Some cars come with run-flat tires, which enable continued driving with no air pressure for up to 60 miles at speeds up to 55 mph, but most vehicles are equipped with either a space-saver spare or tire repair kit. Check your trunk to see what your vehicle contains. Drivers unsure of the condition of their tires should consult an expert, and visiting a Discount Tire location for a free safety inspection is a good place to start.

To locate a store near you, schedule tire service appointments or search tires and wheels by size, brand and style, or by vehicle year, make and model, visit

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Discount Tire

5 Time-Savers for Busy Teens

(Family Features) A break from the regular school routine may be a welcome change, but for many teens, summer is just as busy as the school year. Jobs, athletic activities and social events can keep that so-called “break” jam-packed with action.

Time management is essential, but there are some other easy steps teens can take to save time and make sure there’s at least a little room left to kick back and enjoy all that summer has to offer.

  1. Get organized. Precious minutes tick away while searching for lost keys or phones, or finding the perfect shirt for a night out with friends. Taking a little time to get organized will pay off in the long run. Create a specific place, such as a shelf or basket, to hold items that get used every day so you always know where to look. Also take time to put away laundry and hang clothes, and skip the wasteful rummaging that results from an untidy room and closet.
  1. Be prepared. Even when you’re on the go, taking care of yourself is important. Create a portable pack, whether you’re headed out for a day at the beach or an impromptu camping trip, because pimples are unpredictable and can appear at a moment’s notice. Make sure your skin stays clean and clear by including an easy-to-use, mess-free OXY On-The-Go Acne Stick, which is conveniently packaged in a slim, solid form and clinically proven to kill acne-causing bacteria so you can spot-treat acne at any time. Learn more at
  1. Use screen time wisely. It’s easy to get sucked into hours of catching up on social media or pulled into a game where you’re trying to conquer just one more achievement. Avoid getting yourself into a time crunch by simply setting down your phone or controller when you have other obligations. Save the screen time for a break or treat it as a reward for accomplishing a task.
  1. Keep a schedule. Flitting from one spot to the next all summer long can make it tough to keep track of where you’re supposed to be and when. Writing down details like your work schedule and game times can help ensure you never miss a beat. You can also use your schedule to keep track of to-dos like registering for fall classes or chores around the house.
  1. Make time for meals. Skipping meals isn’t only unhealthy, it’s likely to slow you down when you get hungry and have to stop for a snack at an inconvenient time. Look for healthy on-the-go foods that you can eat in transit, or dedicate a little time one day a week to prepare snacks and meals for the week ahead so you can still stay nourished when you’re in a time crunch.

A busy summer may not feel like much of a vacation, but if you work to manage and save time where you can, you’ll be able to carve out some much needed rest and relaxation.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

OXY Skincare

5 Tips to Stop Waking Up Exhausted

(Family Features) It’s no secret that finding time for the recommended eight hours of sleep is easier said than done. More often than not, your time asleep is limited by your busy schedule. If you are lucky enough to squeeze in a full eight hours of shuteye, you are still not guaranteed to wake up feeling refreshed.

While some responsibilities are hard to shake, setting yourself up with the right routine can vastly improve your quality of sleep and combat the issues keeping you up at night:

  1. Lighten up: If it’s never light in your bedroom, you may be confusing your body’s circadian clock. The circadian clock regulates how alert you are due to the light and darkness in an environment. If you keep your bedroom dark during the day or use black-out curtains, this can act as a signal to your body that it should be asleep. Swap out your curtains for a lighter color or keep your shades partially open –natural sunlight in your room can help you wake up in the morning.
  2. Out with the old: Approximately half (49 percent) of Americans have had their mattress for five years or more and while people struggle with sleep for a variety of reasons, your mattress could be keeping you from getting a good night’s sleep. A quality mattress, like the Beautyrest Platinum Hybrid Mattress can give you the support you need to wake up feeling refreshed. It offers a “cool to touch” surface while also providing the support and pressure relief necessary to make sure that once you fall asleep, you stay asleep.
  3. Tune out: Everyone’s guilty of binge-watching their favorite TV shows from time to time. While you may satisfy your curiosity by catching the ending of your favorite series, you may not be so happy when you wake up groggy after staying up too late. Set an alarm for 30 minutes before you want to go to sleep and when the alarm goes off turn off your TV and get ready for bed. Limiting screen time before you fall asleep can also avoid disrupting your body’s level of melatonin, which controls sleep cycles.
  4. If you snooze, you lose: Hitting the snooze button even once in the morning can make you feel groggy throughout the day. By hitting snooze, you are prompting your body to start another stage in your sleep cycle without giving it enough time to fully recover. Try downloading an app with a smart alarm to make sure that you are waking up during a lighter stage of your sleep cycle.
  5. Cut the caffeine: While there is nothing quite like coffee for an afternoon pick-me-up, having caffeine after 2 p.m. can impact both your sleep quality and quantity. Instead of having a cup after lunch, take your coffee break earlier in the day or consider switching to decaf.

For more tips to wake up feeling refreshed, visit

Simmons Beautyrest

Room-by-Room Refresh

(Family Features) Spring is a sensible time to refresh and restore your home after heavy indoor use during winter. It’s also an opportunity to conduct overdue home maintenance and achieve a sense of accomplishment.

Tackle the project room by room with these tips from the experts at Office Depot to make the work feel more manageable and ensure you complete a thoroughly satisfying job.
The main entrance, whether it’s the front door or a mudroom entrance off the garage, tends to become a dumping ground where items are shed with each trip through the door. You may have to wade through some clutter to make headway, but after a thorough cleaning of the furniture, floors and walls in this space, your next challenge is making sense of all the mess.

One solution is assigning designated storage spaces for each family member. A series of plastic storage boxes or cubby-style organizers can help contain possessions like shoes, backpacks, handbags and more. Rely on stylish hooks or a coat tree for extra storage. Put your finishing touch on the freshly cleaned entryway with some pops of color and personality, such as cheerful wall art and a welcoming rug.

Home Office
If there’s any room that comes close to the clutter of the entryway, it’s the home office. A major difference is that generally, office messes come in the form of paperwork, and paper can actually be organized quite easily.

Sorting is the best first step, so you know exactly what you’re up against. Create piles for all the different types of paper you’re likely to encounter, from bills and to-do lists to the kids’ school work. Separate other items by category, such medical records and financial documents or art supplies and books, into piles of their own. An option such as the 3M Weighted Desktop Dispenser and Organizer can help keep supplies like pens, tape, paper clips and sticky notes neat and tidy.

There are dozens of options when it comes to home filing systems. Consider keeping current documents in a location you can access at your fingertips, such as a hanging file drawer or a desktop filer. Labeled tabs and color-coded folders can help make frequently used documents more easily accessible.

For archival materials, such as tax returns and insurance policies that you’re likely to consult infrequently, a secure but separate storage solution makes more sense. Drawer labels and colored hanging file pockets paired with a categorical or alphabetical organization system can make it easy to dispose of unwanted clutter without tossing important papers.

Once you’ve dealt with all the paperwork, don’t overlook important details like dusting the computer desk and screen to make your freshly cleaned office extra inviting. Adding a stylish, functional centerpiece like the See Jane Work Kate Writing Desk can also help you stay organized now and in the future.

Because it’s likely the most used room in the house, the kitchen sees a fair bit of cleaning year-round. However, in any busy household it’s easy to let deeper cleaning slide. While you’re tackling the rest of the house, take time to give the kitchen its due. Mop the floors, disinfect all surfaces and remove clutter that has accumulated, including old and out-of-date food from the refrigerator and pantry.

Because consumables are such an integral part of this space, it’s a good idea to use green cleaning products that won’t leave harmful residues on your cooking surfaces or distribute contaminants into the air.

When warm spring weather arrives, throwing open the windows to circulate fresh air can be one of the most welcoming ways to wake up the bedroom after long winter months. Freshly washed linens and a flipped or rotated mattress can also give the room a freshness you can see and feel.

Beyond the typical chores like vacuuming and dusting, don’t forget dusty baseboards and make sure to wipe down any glass or mirrored surfaces for extra shine. Another way to make a big difference is organizing items that exceed the storage capacity of your furniture. In the bedroom itself, a trunk at the foot of the bed or a wardrobe organizer that complements your other furnishings is a smart bet.

In the closet, you can repurpose common office supplies and organizers to make the most of limited space. For example, adhesive hooks are perfect for handbags, necklaces and scarves. Lightweight shelving or cubbies make it easy to confine shoes, and for an assortment of accessories and knick-knacks, try stacking plastic bins. Another idea to maximize drawer space in your dresser: move undergarments and socks into a portable storage cart with trays or drawers that fits neatly in the closet.

Multi-Purpose Rooms
Sometimes space dictates that each room in the house cannot be dedicated to just one purpose, but combining multiple spaces – such as a home office and craft room, den or storage area – can often lead to clutter accumulating. Start by organizing things into piles based on which part of the space is best suited for each item. An option like a Realspace Mezza Mobile File cabinet can help you file away documents and by aligning multiple cabinets together, serves as a versatile workspace, craft area or television stand.

Also, take time to check for broken items or ones you haven’t used in a while and determine what can be repaired, donated or discarded. Once everything has been properly sorted, store any items that didn’t previously have a home. Hanging items that are used often for crafting is one way to make creative use of your space and free up space for additional furniture or storage, such as shelving or attractive totes.

Find more storage and organization solutions at Office Depot and OfficeMax stores or online at

Office Depot

4 Projects to Breathe New Life into Your Home

(Family Features) As warmer weather approaches so do opportunities for homeowners to get outside and get to work on the home projects they’ve been dreaming of throughout the cold and rainy months.

If you’re eager to dust off those tools, wash the paintbrushes and get to work outdoors, here are four projects to revive and restore and your house:

Spruce up your outdoor space. Many homeowners use their deck or patio as an extension of their living room in warmer months, so reviving this area of your home is a great way to welcome warm weather. If your patio furniture is still in good shape from last year, give it a good clean with soap and water, then spray it down with a hose. If entertaining is your forte, consider adding string lights and a metal bar cart to your space, making your home the neighborhood go-to for outdoor parties and barbecues.

Give the deck a makeover. A lot of dirt and debris can collect on the deck during less-used months, so, first and foremost, you’ll want to clean your patio or deck with a deck cleaner, rinse with water and let dry. Always be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for deck cleaning products. Then, to protect against the elements and ultraviolet light, use Paramount stain-and-sealant-in-one from Pittsburgh Paints & Stains, a super premium stain that offers advanced protection and durability. To truly extend your living space to the outdoors and create a seamless transition, use an outdoor stain color that is similar to any existing hardwood floors inside your house. With more than 70 stain colors in the line to choose from, this is the recipe you need to highlight the natural beauty of your home’s woodwork.

Start your garden. Warmer weather means the return of bright colors and fragrant greenery. What better way to add curb appeal and a pop of color to your home than by planting your favorite flowers? If planting a garden doesn’t strike your fancy, simply purchase a beautiful bouquet and place it in a highly visible area of your home, such as the living room, on your bedroom nightstand or the kitchen table.

Add some color. By the time warmer weather rolls around, we crave a bit of brightness. Thanks to breakthroughs in technology from Pittsburgh Paints & Stains, Paramount super premium interior and exterior paint-and-primer-in-one products allow you to complete your paint job with just one vibrant coat that also provides excellent ultraviolet and weather resistance. With almost 900 colors available in the color palette, there’s never been a better time to freshen up your home and achieve a high-end look and lasting protection without breaking the bank.

There’s an incredible amount of satisfaction that comes from improving your house and getting the job done right the first time with top quality products. Learn more about Pittsburgh Paints & Stains Paramount products, available only at Menards, at

PPG Paramount

10 Steps to a Better Backyard

(Family Features) Follow these simple steps for building your dream escape – right in your own backyard. For more inspiration and ideas, visit

Discover digital inspiration. Take advantage of online resources, such as DIY blogs and home improvement websites, to spark your creativity. Browse social platforms, like Pinterest and Houzz, and peruse online photo galleries to see what others have done to get inspired and help bring your vision to life.

Enlist an expert. Much like you might consult an interior designer, deck contractors can help make your dream outdoor space become a reality. Unless you plan to build the deck yourself, the first item on your to-do list should be hiring a contractor. When researching contractors, look for someone that specializes in decks – conduct interviews, review portfolios and gather references.

Make low-maintenance a high priority. Everyone wants to spend time outdoors, but no one wants to spend that time sanding, staining or replacing worn out wooden deck boards. For enduring beauty with minimal upkeep, consider high-performance composite decking, such as Trex. It resists fading, staining, scratching and mold – and won’t rot, warp, crack or splinter.

Factor in function. Plan your outdoor space to align with how you’ll use it, whether that will be for relaxing, entertaining, dining alfresco, etc. Consider all-weather cabinetry and outdoor storage for added convenience. Additionally, think about factors such as views, sun/shade and entryways that will have an impact on your design layout.

Frame your space. While railings provide a necessary safety function, they also serve an aesthetic role by creating a decorative frame for an outdoor space and defining the setting’s style. Simplify the selection process with these expertly curated railing looks that pair beautifully with popular decking colors.

Forego the folding chairs. Make your backyard more comfortable with inviting furniture pieces. Mix and match a variety of weather-resistant outdoor pieces – from benches and Adirondack chairs to cozy couches with colorful cushions – to provide multiple seating options and create a welcoming atmosphere.

Heat things up. One of the hottesttrends in outdoor living is incorporating warming features into outdoor spaces. Create physical and ambient warmth with candles, tiki torches, lanterns and firepits.

Let there be light. Lighting is another effective way to add warmth, ambiance and safety to an outdoor space. Designed for easy installation, Trex Outdoor Lighting provides sophisticated silhouettes for enhancing decks, railings and landscapes.

Go high-tech. With the increasing popularity of home automation, it’s only natural that this trend should migrate outdoors. There are now a wealth of electronics and entertainment systems designed specifically for outdoor use, and available at all budget levels.

Create a unique space. Just like you would for interior rooms, infuse your personality into the design of your outdoor space. Choose colors and patterns that reflect your style and customize with personal touches, such as pillows, throw blankets, art, tableware and plants. Switch accessories seasonally to keep your space fresh and fun.


New (School) Year, New You

(Family Features) Forget Jan. 1. Parents know the real new year begins when you can smell the fresh pink erasers and hear the clatter of brand new pencils on still-smooth notebook covers.

Even if you don’t have kids in school, the end of summer and the beginning of fall is a great time to reassess, realign, hit the restart button and make resolutions that will help carry your family smoothly through until next summer – or at least until the holidays.

Here are some tips from parents about resolutions they’ve made for the coming school year:

Learn to love mornings
My Life and Kids blogger Anna Luther said she used to hate mornings.

“It was a disaster,” she said. “There was a lot of yelling, a lot of missing socks, a lot of arguments about eating a good breakfast – it was just not the way to start a productive, happy day.”

Luther decided to turn the first – and worst – hour of her day into one of the best by waking up earlier, exercising and turning on music.

Luther also changed the way she looked at breakfast.

“It doesn’t have to be from scratch,” she said, “but it does have to have protein – and be fast. We love frozen breakfast burritos, for example.”

Empower the kids
Luther said that another thing that made mornings exhausting was that she tried to do everything herself, from finding socks and brushing hair to heating up healthy breakfasts.

But kids are eager to help, she said. Just like adults, they feel empowered when they can do things for themselves.

Luther decided to empower her kids and simplify her life at the same time by creating “Get Ready Buckets,” which hold everything they need to get moving in the morning, from hairbrushes to socks.

That same message of empowerment can simplify and improve other stressful times of day. Do the kids walk in the door hungry and cranky and leave you feeling the same way? Stock the freezer with hearty snacks, such as El Monterey Taquitos, that kids can heat up on their own.

Appreciate others
Blogger Kristyn Merkley of Lil’ Luna, has resolved to show the teachers in her life how much she and her family appreciate them.

“Our teachers put so much time and effort into their jobs,” Merkley said, “and we’re so grateful for that.”

While she usually gives teachers a gift card at the end of the year, she doesn’t wait until then to send notes and emails with a simple, “Thank you.” She also makes sure to say thanks in person – and in front of her kids.

Make fun a priority
There are plenty of must-dos on your list every day, but is fun one of them? Merkley said it should be, and she’s making family fun a resolution this school year. She collects activities on her blog that kids and adults can do together and plans family fun nights around them.

“When we laugh and make things and learn things together,” she said, “we’re making memories. I want my kids to remember their childhoods as more than just getting to school on time and cleaning their rooms.”

Be a team
Kristy Denney, of the Boys Ahoy blog, is raising three wild boys, as she calls them. But even the wildest of kids wants to know that you’re on their team – and they’re on yours. Denney and her husband, Brett, chose a family motto for the school year so that everyone on their family team knows what they’re working toward.

As their motto, the Denneys chose, “Work hard and be nice.” It’s simple, succinct and sums up what they want for their family.

Fuel up with real food
Kids have to eat, and most insist on eating three or more times a day. Denney said she loves to cook from scratch, but she doesn’t want time in the kitchen to keep her away from her family. So, this year, she’s resolving to focus on what’s important: real ingredients.

“Sometimes I’ll buy the ingredients myself to cook from scratch and sometimes I’ll look for foods I recognize on the label,” she said. “When I pick up El Monterey Signature Burritos, I see ingredients like fresh-baked tortillas, real cheddar cheese – foods I would buy anyway for my family, so I feel great about that.”

Make snacks work hard
Jess Kielman, who writes the blog Mom 4 Real, said that snacking can sometimes be a problem in her house. Kids (and adults) sometimes snack because they’re bored – or just out of habit, so she’s reining in snack time and making snacks work just as hard as meals.

“Protein and real food – that’s what I’m going to look for in afternoon snacks,” she said. “Something that fills the kids up and gets them ready to get back out the door and play, or buckle down and do their homework.”

Cheer on #momwins
Kielman said that this year her resolution is to start giving herself a little more credit for her “mom wins,” big or small.

“Checking off every last thing on my spring cleaning checklist is a win, for sure,” she said, “but so is a good, smooth morning with my family. So is a sit-down dinner that didn’t stress me out. So is feeling good about what we’re eating. So is every little hug. Those are all #momwins, and I’m going to give myself a little pat on the back for every one.”

For more breakfast, snack and dinner ideas to help you keep your family resolutions, visit

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (family eating)

El Monterey

Feel good about clearing clutter

(Family Features) Whether spring or summer, extended breaks from the day-to-day routines are great for making new family memories. They are also great for taking some time to recall previous ones often found in items around the house.

From those old baby clothes and toys to books and dusty tech you haven’t touched in years, these “memories” may be cluttering your home. Spend some time as a family and clear out what you no longer need. For some extra motivation, approach your cleaning with a fresh perspective: donating your gently-used items will help others while freeing up space for new memories.

Get on your way to a cleaner, less cluttered home with these tips:

Take it one room at a time. Whether you live in a modest apartment or a sprawling single-family home, overhauling your entire living space at once is an overwhelming prospect. Instead, focus on one room at a time with a timeframe that makes sense for your schedule.

Don’t save the worst for last. Avoid the temptation to leave your messiest catch-all room for the end. Instead, tackle it first and spend extra time thinking about where you can reassign some of the clutter, so it’s not all accumulating in a single room.

Give items meaning. Take a cue from stylist, author and TV host Emily Henderson and implement a rule that items you keep should be at least two of three things: functional, sentimental and beautiful. If an item is none of these (like an old food storage container without a lid), toss it. Especially if you are low on space, only hang on to those items that serve two or more roles.

Sort your stuff into piles. In every room, you’ll find items you need to keep close at hand, others you’d like to keep but could be stashed away, things that may have value to others and stuff that simply needs to be trashed.

Look for ways to give back. While it sometimes makes sense to resell unwanted items online or through a yard sale, donating is another way you can give these goods a second life and help bring warmth, happiness and smiles to others. Through its Glad to Give program, the Glad Products Company makes donating easy because you can fill a Glad ForceFlex bag, stretch it and stuff it with just about anything you want to donate. Clothing is one of the best things to donate so others can make better use of the gently-loved items you are hoarding, Henderson said. Unless a garment has been worn in the last four seasons, donate it. Other prime candidates for donating: toys, sports equipment, DVDs and home gadgets.

Organize what remains. Once you’ve cleared the clutter and determined which items will stay, find attractive ways to create order and manage the mess. You can choose from a wide range of organizational options – everything from shelves and baskets to storage furniture and closet systems – to help make the most of your space and reveal more inviting rooms that make you feel comfortable at home.

Find resources for giving back, and schedule a free local donation pickup for an organization of your choice, at

Photo courtesy of Rachel Hollis, The Chic Site


Tips to Get Your Yard Summer-Ready

(Family Features) Although you may be itching to get back outside, before you can relax there’s work to do. After enduring the wear and tear of fall and winter, most yards need attention to get back into summer shape.

These tips from the experts at Sun Joe will help you clean up your entire yard in time for summer so there’s more time to enjoy the great outdoors:

  • Garden – Prepare your planting bed by using a tiller before seeding. Loosening up existing soil helps water and nutrients reach your new plants’ roots. Better yet, add some manure before tilling to create a healthy growing environment.
  • Trees – Spring and summer are all about new life and dead tree limbs hanging around your home can kill the mood. Instead of climbing up a rickety latter with clippers, keep your feet planted and use Sun Joe’s cordless Pole Chain Saw. This lightweight chainsaw allows you to saw off dead limbs and let gravity do the rest… just make sure to stand back using the 15-foot extension.
  • Mulch – Use the mild weather of spring before it gets too hot to lay down or freshen up the mulch around your plants. A thin (2-3 inches deep) layer of mulch around your landscape will help keep roots cool in the upcoming summer months and warm when cooler weather inevitably returns again.
  • Grass – When your grass is recovering from the long winter, you should wait until your soil dries out before starting work on your lawn because being too eager and working on soggy soil can harm already tender new grass roots. Once your grass is alive and growing, mow only once you need to – grass is at its healthiest if you cut no more than a third of the blade. Get your timing right and your neighbors will notice that the grass is always greener on your side.
  • Driveway/Patio – Over the winter months, mildew, grime, dirt and stains have grown in your outdoor spaces, reduced curb appeal and destroyed your yard. Sun Joe’s line of easy-to-use electric pressure washers can make your spaces look brand new, delivering thousands of pounds of water pressure to demolish every square inch of dirt from your driveway, your patio, your sidewalk and even your home’s siding.

For more inspiration and ideas for cleaning up your yard, visit

Sun Joe

Rev-up the holidays with 5 return-proof gifts

(Family Features) If the thought of holiday gift shopping makes you want to bail on celebrating at all, it’s time to rethink your approach. Even though your gift list seems like a challenge, make it your mission to earn the title of Ultimate Gift Giver this season.

Fuel your holiday spirit and rebel from the standard gifts with unique items that break the mold. Skip the aggravation of shopping at traditional retail stores, and get your hands on the season’s hottest gifts that reflect the unique style and personality of each person on your list.

The gift of freedom
Not all gifts need to fit in a tidy box with a pretty bow. Give the baddest on your list an experience of a lifetime. It may be a skydiving excursion or a rock climbing adventure. Or, for the ultimate thrill seekers, give them a ticket to learn to ride a motorcycle. This is more than just a motorcycle lesson; it’s the start of a new lifestyle. Check online for special deals, adventures and Harley-Davidson Riding Academy motorcycle classes specific to your area.

Stock the cooler and cabinets
Every gift list has a wine or liquor connoisseur on it, so play to your intended recipient’s style and fill the cooler with a preferred drink or two, or a gift set that comes with specialized glasses. Go further by serving up a new barware set, monogrammed pilsners, or bar decor, such as clocks, signs, picture frames or coasters; gifts sure to match the personality of the coolest person on your list.

Fuel a rebellious style
Ditch the same old hat and glove combo and amp up the cool factor with Harley-Davidson MotorClothes for the chicest on your list. The Vintage Leather Biker Jacket boasts unrivaled classic rebel style on and off a motorcycle. For the woman in your life, consider the Lace Accent Hoodie, which offers a cozy winter look and adds flair to any outfit. 

Celebrate with sound
Bring on the good times with some good ol’ rock and roll. A gift that lets the rocker on your list enjoy their favorite tunes is sure to please. There are countless ways to bring them closer to their favorite sounds, from stylish headphones to Wi-Fi speakers. Or, turn back time with a turn table perfect for kicking back to the sounds of classic vinyl.

Present a project
Inspire the tinkerer on your list to get hands-on with the gift of a special project. Let him learn woodcarving or get started micro-brewing beers. Project packages reflecting nearly every pastime you can imagine – even bacon curing – can be found online.

Stepping off the beaten path and opening up your imagination make finding the perfect gift a more enjoyable endeavor – and make your presents immune to the dreaded re-gift and return list. Check out the guide at, which offers something for everyone, whether they ride or not.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (couple walking)


Make your holiday party shine

(Family Features) A table filled with delicious food and dazzling decor surrounded by family and friends is the perfect recipe for a holiday dinner to remember. Once you’ve figured out your menu, be sure to leave time to plan the table decor.

A festive and memorable gathering can be achieved without the fuss by using things you already have around the house. Use these tips to help make your holiday dinner party a success during this most wonderful time of year:

  • Keep things simple. White dinnerware, such as Mikasa’s Ciara dinnerware, which features embossed swirling lines on a durable bone china body, makes a great backdrop to showcase your holiday meal. Look for Ciara, Loria and Ortley white dinnerware sets (16-piece sets) at for $99.
  • Add splashes of color and texture. It’s OK to mix and match patterns, colors and textures on the table. If you have white or solid colored dishes, layer with decorative salad plates or add seasonal glassware or use red napkins, chargers or placemats to create a holiday atmosphere.
  • Be creative with table decorations. Try using things you have in new ways. Scatter candles, ornaments and greenery down the center of the table. Add some holly leaves and berries to a vase or pitcher to complete the look.
  • Don’t skip the details. It’s easy to focus on the bigger elements, but small touches can take your spread to another level. Coordinate details, such as place cards, napkin rings and placemats, with the theme to make your tablescape memorable.

End the evening with a crowd-pleasing dessert, such as this Vanilla-Orange Cheesecake with Cranberry Swirl and Gingersnap Crust.

Vanilla-Orange Cheesecake with Cranberry Swirl and Gingersnap Crust


  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup orange juice, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 24-32 purchased gingersnap cookies (to make 1 cup crumbs)
  • 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 packages (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract


  1. Heat oven to 300°F.
  2. Simmer cranberries, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup orange juice and water in saucepan over medium-high heat until berries burst and begin to break down, about 10 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes, then in blender or food processor puree until smooth. Set sauce aside.
  3. Coat 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Process gingersnaps in food processor until fine; add graham cracker crumbs. With machine running, drizzle in melted butter. Press crumb mixture firmly into bottom of prepared springform pan and about 1 inch up sides of pan. Set aside.
  4. In large mixing bowl, blend cream cheese and remaining sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Scrape sides of bowl, then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in sour cream, heavy cream, vanilla and 1 tablespoon orange juice, then pour into prepared pan. Drizzle top of cheesecake with 1/4 cup of prepared cranberry sauce, then drag skewer, toothpick or knife tip through sauce to create marbled swirl pattern on top. Place cheesecake on baking sheet and bake on center rack until edges are set and puffed but center is slightly jiggly, about 45 minutes. Do not overbake. Turn oven off, crack door open slightly and allow cheesecake to cool inside for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool completely at room temperature, then cover cheesecake with tea towel and refrigerate overnight.
  5. Run knife around sides of cheesecake, then release and remove side of pan. To cut, dip blade of thin, sharp knife into hot water (do not wipe dry) and slice into wedges, cleaning blade between each cut to prevent smearing. Serve with remaining cranberry sauce.


4 holiday decorating trends to try this season

(Family Features) With the holidays upon us, homeowners and renters are gearing up to deck the halls in celebration of the season. Just as the year-round decor in your space reflects your personality and unique style, your approach to holiday decorating shouldn’t be any different. Whether your design style is cheery and colorful, natural and rustic or glitzy and glamorous, there are many ways to replace traditional holiday decor and make the space feel more like you.

“Bringing your personal style to life doesn’t require an interior designer, and is something you can easily tackle on your own,” said Carrie and Morgan of Ampersand Design Studio. “With a little inspiration and help from damage-free Command Clear Hooks that blend seamlessly into surfaces, you can take your holiday decorating to the next level with ease.”

Carrie and Morgan suggest these design trends to help infuse personality and go all out on holiday decorating this year:

Gilded Modern – This bold and graphic style combines black, gold and brass tones for a sleek, polished look. Upgrade your mantel by hanging a chic and modern wreath as the focal point and surround it with gallery-style framed quotes and simple paintings over gold garland. The high-contrast patterns and simple color palette transcend holiday and can even be left up through New Year’s Eve.

Merry and Bright – Capture the fun of being a kid with a look that contrasts natural tones and plywood against glossy, neon colors. Turn a bare wall into a life-size Christmas countdown made from brown paper bags and boxes color-blocked with paint and hung in a tree shape. The result is a punchy and playful display whose colors glow as bright as traditional tree lights.

Sugar Plum – Go for girly by mixing vibrant pinks and teals with metallic colors and glitter that instantly make any decoration stand out. String together bulb ornaments to dress up a bar cart and set the scene with a complementary backdrop on the wall. The playful and casual set-up conveys a fun, relaxed atmosphere.

Camp Christmas – Embrace the outdoors and the cozy feelings that come with the holiday season by fusing traditional colors with warm patterns. Dress outdoor wreaths and furniture with flannel or buffalo-check patterned fabric reminiscent of winter. Guests from near and far will feel welcome and at home for the holidays.

For more holiday decorating tips, visit

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Tips ‘n Tricks for surviving summer

SurvingSummerWhether you are planning stay-cations or hitting the road for a longer journey, summer is a time of festivities and gatherings.

When getting together with family and friends, take advantage of these tips and tricks for surviving summer.

Be a Summer Shenanigan Prepper

Admit it…music festivals, backyard barbecues and summer outings can get a little messy.

Fortunately, with just a little preparation, you’ll be ready for whatever you choose to do this summer.

Keep a back-up party kit on hand with necessities like suntan lotion, water, snacks and towels, as well as baby powder to help remove sand from your skin quickly and easily.

Also consider buying a pack of inexpensive white T-shirts so you have a low-cost change of shirts that can easily be turned into a rag if the event and your shirt get too messy.

Reward Yourself for Summer Travel

You should be rewarded for your summer travel.

However, you aren’t a magician, so avoid the smoke and mirrors and don’t fall for points-based rewards programs that create an illusion of loyalty.

Points programs often require complicated redemptions and limited ways to collect.

A simpler way to save is participat- ing in rewards programs that offer cash back and automatic discounts that consistently put money back in your wallet.

For travelers hitting the road this summer, BP’s refreshed Driver Rewards program gives drivers three choices for saving — for every $100 they spend, they can earn .25 cents per gallon on future fill-ups.

Plus, BP allows participants to enter their phone number at the pump to make earning and redeeming rewards easy. Learn more at

Live Like Locals

Skip the touristy restaurants on the main drag and look for the diners and dives that locals prefer for a real taste of the area.

Make a point to find out what the locals do for fun at night.

Expand the activities you can choose from by inserting yourself in the action for memorable experiences that you can boast about for years to come.

Avoid Letting Money Melt Away

During hot summer days, purchasing multiple bags of ice can melt your money away.

Plus, why waste time on extra store trips?

Avoid the mess by adding salt to ice water.

Doing so will decrease the melting rate of your ice, making it a great way for keeping things cooler longer during road trips or outings.

For the more adventurous, consider using dry ice to keep food and drinks dry and cold for long periods of time.

Eliminate Bugs, Not Cash

Planning a picnic or barbeque at the park or in your backyard?

Rather than buying costly bug sprays or insect repellent gadgets, mix water and soap in a spray bottle and spritz it on a picnic table and clothes to help keep bees away.

There’s no vacation experience quite like a road trip.

Pack your bags (lightly so there’s room for plenty of sou- venirs), embrace the simplicity of a trip that sets your inner explorer free and put it in drive.

Note: All rewards are valid for a single use only, up to 20 gallons. Any unused rewards are forfeited. May not be valid with other offers. Rewards expire 365 days after the end of the month they are earned. Rewards are earned and redeemable at participating locations with operable transaction networks. Not valid where prohibited by law or in AL or CA. See our Terms and Conditions for further details and our Station Finder for participating locations at

— Family Features