Easy Ways to Organize Your Workspace

Whether you have a home office or just a small corner that serves as the family work station, keeping it organized is key to getting things done. These simple tips will help clear out the clutter and make the most of your space.

Supplies and Demand. From paper clips to reams of paper, everything needs a place to go. Dumping it all into one drawer doesn’t really help you find things when you need them.
* Prefab drawer organizers don’t always fit the drawer sizes you have, so make your own. Use small containers such as mini loaf pans, small plastic baskets or other small square or rectangle tins and boxes. They’ll hold paper clips, thumbtacks, stamps, sticky note pads and plenty of other small desk items.
* For desktop storage, use jars, small vases or decorated cans to hold pens and pencils. They’re small and can add an interesting visual element to your work space.
Cut Cord Clutter. There’s nothing like a tangle of electrical cords to make an area seem even more cluttered.

Wireless Charging Station. To tame the cords needed to charge up electronic devices, go wireless instead. Powermat helps eliminate dead batteries, constant plugging/unplugging, loss of chargers and tangled wires. With real-time wireless charging for phones, games, music players and other popular electronic devices, Powermat allows users to charge multiple devices simultaneously, charging as fast as or faster than the device’s charger. It senses when the device is fully charged, and stops sending power so that it not only saves energy, but protects from overcharging.

The Powermat system pairs an ultra-thin mat with a sleek receiver that attaches to each device, enabling users to simply drop and charge. Custom receivers are available for the iPhone, iPod, Nintendo DS and Blackberry devices. These and over one thousand other devices may be charged using the convenient Powercube, a universal receiver that comes standard with every Powermat. Available in Portable or Home & Office versions, Powermat makes a great gift for any anyone looking to de-clutter their home or office. The Powermat’s suggested retail price is $99.99 for mats and $29.99 – $39.99 for receivers. Visit www.powermat.com for more information.

Go Vertical. Why spread out if you can spread up? Look for ways to take advantage of any vertical space you may have.
* Even one wall shelf can add some much needed storage space.
* Put up a wall-mounted message center, or create one with a small bulletin board, a write-on board, and a wall file.
* Stack equipment, but don’t cover up any venting. Use small chair-leg protectors as spacers in between to let air circulate and prevent overheating.

It doesn’t take much – and it doesn’t have to cost much – to get your workspace organized. A few simple fixes and you’re on your way to a more productive day.

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Design Your Life

(Family Crossings) – If you ask most women to write their ideal job description, consistent raises, more family time and more “me time” would be essential.

These three essentials are at the top of working women’s wish lists, according to the 2008 Ask A Working Woman Survey, an annual online survey conducted by Working America.

The 20,000 survey respondents echoed what so many more working women are feeling these days. They want more time with their families, but can’t afford it. They want some time to themselves, but can’t get it. In fact, 72 percent of the working mothers surveyed said they had less than an hour to themselves a day.

These are some of the very reasons that millions of women have turned away from traditional nine-to-five office jobs and have found exactly what they’re looking for in the home-based business of direct sales.

Direct selling is simply person-to-person selling, without the middle man of a retail store. Most often it’s done through fun and casual home parties where people gather to eat, talk and shop together.

At a time when the U.S. economy is in recession, the stock market is down, unemployment is on the rise, consumer confidence is low and legendary retailers are closing their doors, the direct sales industry is strong. With stable, proven and growing companies, direct sales offers an opportunity to earn significant income quickly with minimal investment and risk, and more personal and family time.

More and more women have found the direct sales industry to be an attractive career option. In 2007, U.S. direct sales exceeded $30.8 billion. Of the more than 15 million direct sellers nationwide, 87.9 percent are women. Approximately 90 percent of direct sellers operate their businesses part-time, leaving them more time for family and themselves.

From recent college graduates to stay-at-home moms, working professionals to retirees looking for something more satisfying, women are finding that with a career in direct sales, they can design the life they’ve always wanted.

Success Story

In 1997, Bonnie Kelly and Teresa Walsh were two stay-at-home moms looking for a way to earn extra money without sacrificing personal and family time. They started Silpada Designs, a direct sales company specializing in handcrafted sterling silver jewelry.

Today, Silpada is the largest direct seller, and one of the top retailers, of sterling silver jewelry in the United States. In 2008, the company exceeded $265 million in retail sales. Its more than 27,000 U.S. representatives had more than 275,000 home parties, distributing more than eight million pieces of jewelry.

Kelly and Walsh turned a passion for jewelry into a business that provided financial freedom, flexibility and, most importantly, a way to infuse some fun into every day – a goal for any woman trying to juggle work and home life while maintaining her own sense of self.

“It’s all about empowering women with a wonderful business opportunity and creating lifelong friendships,” Kelly said. “Silpada means ‘the best of everything,’ and that’s what we really try to focus on. It’s more than jewelry, it’s more than a job. It’s a lifestyle.”

Walsh adds, “We believe that success doesn’t come from the degrees you have or the initial investment you make, but from a passion to design the life you want. You can make your goals and dreams as big as you want them to be or as simple as you need them to be. With a company like Silpada, if you want a little time away or dream of redecorating your house or need to take on your family’s expenses, you can.”

Kelly and Walsh want to encourage women of all ages to take charge of their lives and consider a home-based business. “It’s a way to achieve financial freedom, increase self-confidence, and maintain a work-life balance that blends with any lifestyle,” Walsh says.

“We are inspired on a daily basis by our representatives’ emotional stories about how owning their own business and having control of their income has had a positive impact on their families,” Kelly said.

To find out more about Silpada or to learn about becoming a representative, visit www.silpada.com.

Tips for choosing the right direct sales company for you

It’s important to take your time evaluating any direct sales company you consider joining. Bonnie and Teresa offer these tips to help you find the company that is right for you.

Passion for the Product. Join a company that you feel confident sharing their product. How do they ensure high quality and uniqueness? Does the product have a lifetime guarantee? The more passion and confidence you have in your product, the easier it is to sell.

Initial Investment. Evaluate the cost of beginning your own business, how quickly you can expect to recoup your initial investment, and what the company offers to continue to support you as your business grows. Ask what incentives they have in place for new representatives to support them in the beginning of their business.

At Silpada, for example, representatives do not carry inventory. Their initial investment is for their jewelry that they can wear and display at their home parties. On average, representatives make up their initial business investment within the first four to six home parties.

Fair and Competitive Compensation. Ask questions regarding the direct profit, override commissions and pay structure of the company’s compensation plan. It’s important to feel confident that the company you choose has a fair and competitive compensation plan and that you can continue to increase your earnings as your grow your business.

Great Customer Service. Your customers are your current and future business, so it is important that the company you choose is customer focused. Make sure to ask questions such as: What does the company do to support its customers? Do customers have to pay for their returns? The better your customers are taken care of the better your business will be.

Training and Support. Ensure that the company you join is dedicated to helping you achieve the success you are looking for. What type of training do they offer? How will they support your business? Is there a cost involved? What types of training events are company sponsored?

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

The Power of Clean Water

(Family Crossings) – A cool, refreshing drink of water is something many people take for granted. But what if we didn’t have access to safe drinking water? Up until 100 years ago we did not. In fact, it was often dangerous.

For thousands of years, people all over the world tried different ways to filter drinking water to purify it. But it wasn’t until the 19th century that scientists discovered germs and learned that they could carry disease through water and other media. Filtering wasn’t enough.

Waterborne illnesses such as cholera and typhoid once killed thousands of Americans each year. During the four years of the Civil War, for example, 75,000 people came down with typhoid, and more than 27,000 died from it. In 1900, typhoid claimed another 25,000 lives.

In the early days of the 20th century, chemists found that adding small amounts of chlorine to drinking water destroys bacteria, viruses and other disease-causing microorganisms.

In 1908, Jersey City and Chicago became the first U.S. cities to use chlorine to help provide safe drinking water. By 1941, chlorine disinfection was being used by 85 percent of U.S. water treatment systems, and typhoid was nearly eradicated.

Continue reading The Power of Clean Water

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

DIY Home Improvements

(Family Crossings) – As you look around your home, it’s hard not to notice all the minor flaws. Maybe you want to move to something bigger and better, but your realtor thinks you’re better off staying put for a while. You don’t have to wait out the market in a house that makes you cringe. Instead, real estate expert and author Loren Keim offers a few simple tips to help you turn a flawed house back into your (temporary) dream home:

Honey Do it Now – As you walk through the home, you’re bound to see little things that have been on the “honey do” list for years: the dripping faucet, broken closet shelves, ugly caulk in the bathtub. Set aside one weekend to tackle all these minor repairs; the house will instantly seem newer, and when it does come time to sell, you’ll already have these things completed.

Treat your Windows – Send those dated mini blinds packing. New curtains, drapes and modern blinds may be the quickest, easiest and least expensive method of changing the entire look of a room. Old or worn window treatments can make a room look drab and dated, but a bold new style or color can instantly update a room.

Splash of Color – A home can be completely transformed by the addition of the right colors. A fresh coat of white paint on the ceiling brightens a room and gives the illusion of height, while bold wall colors drastically change the look of an entire space. Paint wall and door trim in a contrasting color to make it stand out, or match the wall color to blend into the background. Beware: dark colors generally make rooms feel smaller and liberal applications of wallpaper tend to make a home look old.

The Grass is Greener – Most realtors will tell you that beautiful lawns help sell homes because they make an entire house look new and fresh. Give your lawn an inexpensive makeover by trimming bushes and trees, weeding the garden and planting colorful flowers. Additionally, remove any large plants that hide the home’s façade and add new mulch to flower beds to really make the exterior pop.

Spread Out – A major reason people move is for more storage space. However, you can add hundreds of square feet of storage to your current property with an outdoor shed from Lifetime Products. These sheds are weather-resistant, lockable, ventilated and they cost a mere fraction of what you’d spend on a home addition. They also have decorative shutters and a wood grain finish, so they’ll look great in your newly-manicured lawn.

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Children Who Give Back

There’s a saying that charity begins at home. And when it comes to raising children to be generous, giving people, that expression is quite literally true.

Schools, clubs, religious organizations, nonprofit organizations and civic groups often involve students in fundraising efforts or donation drives, but the best way to raise caring kids is to be a caring role model at home. When it comes to volunteering or donating money, for example, children are more likely to follow their parents’ lead. The Corporation for National and Community Service says that nearly nine out of 10 young people who give their time have parents and siblings who also volunteer.

Major corporations are also lending a hand to encourage and support volunteerism by young people. One example is Build-A-Bear Workshop and its Huggable Heroes program, which recognizes young people between the ages of 7 and 18 who are giving back in their communities and beyond, and rewards them with scholarships, charitable contributions, networking opportunities and leadership training.

“Kids today are very aware of what’s going on in the world and want to make a difference and we wanted to create a program that recognized their worthy efforts – large and small,” said Maxine Clark, founder and chief executive bear at Build-A-Bear Workshop. “We’ve found that the first step is often as simple as identifying a problem and taking action to resolve it.” And it doesn’t always have to be about raising money.

Whether it’s deciding to collect suitcases to give to foster children after seeing them carrying their belongings in a trash bag, or working to assemble packs filled with goodies and school supplies to send to children whose lives have been torn apart by a natural disaster, kids are finding creative ways to solve problems.

These are just a few real world examples of young people making a tremendous difference in the lives of others. Here are some easy ways to help your children put their feelings into action and develop a lifestyle of caring.

Let them choose a cause.

Children are more likely to stay with something they are really interested in. Whether it’s working with animals, bettering the environment, reading, the arts or sports, help them find volunteer areas that they’ll enjoy. Does your teenage son love soccer? Perhaps he can coach a team of underprivileged kids. Does your daughter love animals? Maybe she can start a drive to raise funds and supplies for a local rescue shelter.

Make it a family affair.

Doing something together can bring the whole family closer together.

  • Volunteer as a family to rake the neighbor’s yard, help sort food at a food bank, or set up a lemonade stand or a bake sale to raise money for a cause your family is passionate about.
  • Sponsor a child through an international organization that provides clothing, food and education for children. Your family will get pictures and updates about that child, and you can take turns writing him or her letters.
  • Set a family fundraising goal for the year. Decide as a family to raise a certain amount to support a specific cause. Keep a big jar on the kitchen counter so that everyone can drop in their spare change and parts of monthly allowances to help meet that goal. At the end of the year, count it all up and turn it in together.

Get others involved.

  • A growing number of children are engaging their friends in charity work by turning birthday parties into opportunities to serve. Instead of everyone bringing presents, they bring a toy to donate to children in need or new clothing for a homeless shelter. Everyone still has a great time with games and cake, and they feel great knowing they’ve helped someone else.
  • Another fun way to let kids help other kids is to host a charity bear-making party. Schedule a birthday party at a Build-A-Bear Workshop store with the goal of having the children make special animals that they will donate to a children’s hospital. To make the giving even more special, they can make one of several stuffed animals that give back – sales support animal shelters nationwide, the World Wildlife Fund, First Book and other children’s literacy initiatives, or children’s health and wellness programs.

There are thousands of young people taking action and making a difference every day. Some of them receive recognition but the best reward they get is seeing how they’re making their world a better place.

Actions speak louder than words. Help your kids make a difference by taking action today.

Think Locally

There are opportunities to help in your own community. As a family, do some online research and make some phone calls to find out what local groups need and how your family can help.

  • Hospitals: toys and art supplies for children
  • Senior centers: cards and artwork to brighten up rooms, hugs to brighten up someone’s day
  • Food banks: Call and find out what items they need the most.
  • Schools and libraries: Some inner city children don’t have access to many books. Find out if a book drive will help in your area.
  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Work At Home Mommy

So, you decided to work at home because you want to have more time with your children, but it’s not as easy as you thought it might be. Everyone is telling you that you are crazy – that you cannot work and parent at the same time. You are afraid that you will not be able to give proper attention to your work and that your children will feel neglected.

Let’s face it, there are no easy choices for mothers who work, but mothering and managing a home business is possible and working at home could be the best way for you to manage your multiple priorities.

10 Ways To Have Happy Kids While You Work At Home

1. Begin a work routine. Begin a work routine as soon as possible after your baby is born. Even if you don’t have a business yet, spend time reading, typing on your computer and talking on the telephone during set work hours each day. Children accept what they are used to and if they see you working from a young age, they will be more likely to accept it as part of their day. Working at the same time each day will help work become part of your daily routine. Keep work sessions short at first and extend them as your children get older and more self-sufficient. If possible, work first thing in the morning, and during nap or sleep times. Schedule child-centered activities right after work periods.

2. Voice mail or answering machines.
Install a business telephone with voice mail or answering machine – and a hold button. Business phones need to be answered in a professional manner. There is nothing worse than screaming kids or a mother screaming at her children to be quiet during a telephone call. Even if you are calmly explaining why your child has to wait, don’t do it while someone listens on the other end of the telephone. Turn off the bell on your business phone during times you are spending with your children. When there is too much household noise or distractions let the answering machine or voice mail take your messages. Return calls when the house is quiet and under control. If you are speaking on the telephone and an interruption happens, put the call on hold while you solve the problem.

3. Be consistent. Be consistent and stop problems before they start. Gentle rules for work times are appropriate and necessary. An infant’s needs must be met immediately, but even slightly older children need to know that you don’t always get what you want at the exact time you want it. Make sure your business phone looks very different from your home phone so that when your children see that phone to your ear they will know that you should not be interrupted. Before you make or take a telephone call, try to make an announcement: “Mommy will be on the phone for a few minutes. Please – no yelling and no interruptions.” Teach your children which things they can and cannot touch in your office. Create rules that are fair and enforced. Don’t wait for bad behavior. Let your children know what type of behavior you expect to help prevent problems. When your children know you mean business, they will cooperate.

4. Don’t lock yourself away.
Let your children see you working and assure them that you are available for short interruptions. Schedule work that requires quiet and complete concentration for times when your children are asleep. If you integrate your business into your home life, you will be able to “hang out” with your kids while you work. It may not be quality time, but sometimes the quantity of the time you spend with your children is just as important.

5. Choose work that you can start and stop. If your work requires daily deadlines or constant telephone conversations, you will need to have child care either within your home or outside. If you can take mini breaks to dress a doll, give a hug or help start a new activity, your children will feel like you are accessible but busy. Why work at home if you cannot take time out to soothe a sick child or even take a day off once in a while?

6. Make your work area special.
Make your work area special for your children. A playpen full of toys that can only be played with in the office or a drawer that is just theirs and filled with surprises can help keep your child occupied but close to you. A miniature of your desk with a real phone, toy typewriter and junk mail can make a preschooler feel special. A TV and DVD player with special programs that can only be viewed while you work can always save the day.

7. Encourage supervised independence. Children must learn independence, but the children of a homeworking mom can learn to be independent under watchful eyes. Set-up your home so that it is possible for little ones to get their own drinks, make a sandwich, baby sit for a younger sibling or wash some unbreakable dishes. They will develop a feeling a accomplishment and you will be able to get a little more work done.

8. Take your work with you.
It’s a beautiful day and you want to go to the park. Keep a basket or briefcase filled with work that you can take to the playground or even your backyard so that your kids can play while you are there to oversee their activities. Cell phones and laptop computers allow you the luxury of a virtual office. Take advantage of these working wonders and work while you are on the go.

9. Busy hands, happy hearts. If you are doing work that does not take much concentration but does keep your hands busy, use that time to sing to your baby, talk to your toddler or help with school work. Eventually, your kids can help you and you can all sit around a table and work while you interact -similar to the way quilters work and socialize at the same time.

10. Involve your children in your business. It is always easier to accept what you understand. As soon as your children are old enough, explain what you are doing and encourage their involvement. For example, let your toddler turn on your computer each day. As your children grow, they will learn how to use your equipment and begin to absorb business principles which will help them throughout their lives. When you have success, share it with them and let them choose a new toy or go out and celebrate in a special restaurant. If your children can see tangible benefits, they will want you to succeed at your work.

  • Share/Save/Bookmark