Bingo and Brickfest

Why giving “stuff” is not a good idea – give experiences instead

 When my kids were growing up, we gathered with family in Phoenix, Arizona for Thanksgiving. The Friday following Thanksgiving, the 10+ children would gather for the annual bingo game hosted by Aunt Diane. Aunt Diane was the best aunt, generous to a fault. She would arrive in Phoenix with a suitcase full of bingo prizes that she had gathered over the previous months. These bingo prizes would include super balls, candy and hot wheels when the kids were young; jewelry and basketballs when the kids were older; and gift cards when the kids were teens. Although the prizes were very cool, the value of this experience was not the prizes but the shared experience with the cousins. The annual bingo game created a connection between  the cousins that they would never forget and long cherish.

 As we enter the holiday season, we have many gift giving options…we can give our loved ones “stuff” or we can give them experiences. I advocate giving experiences because of their lasting value and ability to transcend time and space in our minds and memories. Experiences enrich relationships and create bonds that will be the foundation of lasting connection.

 Here are three categories of experiential gifts that will create lasting memories:

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The Gift of Events

Two weeks ago I took my grandson to the annual Brickfest at the NRG Stadium in Houston. This event is a celebration of all things LEGO and it was a heaven for my little guy. He was able to revel in the worlds made of LEGO bricks by LEGO artists. He was able to contribute to LEGO mosaics and race LEGO cars down a track. And he was able to play in a swimming pool full of LEGOs. Are there special events that might interest your loved ones? These might include tickets to fairs, rodeos, theater, concerts and sporting events.

 The Gift of Trips

A few years ago, we gave my mother-in-law a trip to Park City, Utah as a Christmas gift. With the passing of my father-in-law a few years previous, we felt that a little trip with our family might be just the right medicine. On this trip we visited historic sites, ate yummy food, shopped in Park City, explored the Olympic sites and enjoyed the beautiful Wasatch Mountains. We bonded with my mother-in-law and she was able to connect with us. Where does your family want to go? Would you be willing to exchange a boatload of gift-wrapped items for a trip to your favorite place?

 The Gift of Tradition

Like the annual Bingo game, traditions are memorable and bring connection to family and friends. These traditions might include eating at a special restaurant – we eat waffles at the Seabrook Waffle House every 4th of July – or the tradition might include having a movie marathon over Thanksgiving weekend. Other traditions might include making certain food, performing service or watching movies on a certain day. Our family watches the movie “Christmas in Connecticut” every Christmas Eve, a tradition started years ago when we were living in Connecticut, far from home. What traditions do you have and how have they brought your family together?

As this holiday season approaches, think of what you can do reduce the “stuff” and increase the connection, bonds and love through the gift of experiences.

November 2019

Back to School and Beyond

The summer has come and gone… and we find ourselves back into the swing of life with new school schedules, fewer sunny days and the holidays looming ahead. As we contemplate the speed at which our summer has disappeared, perhaps we can take a minute to breathe and set some goals for the new school year.

Here are some ideas that can help you have a more organized and stress-free school year:

 School Supplies

Are your school supplies scattered throughout the house? Gather your school supplies into one location and create a homework station. For younger children, this station might consist of paper, pens, markers, crayons, rulers, scissors, tape and glue. For older kids, this station may include a computer, iPad, printer and power cords. Having these necessary items in one place makes homework time more effective and productive.

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Are you ready for the onslaught of art projects and homework papers? Set up a mini intake center for all of the stuff that will appear in your kid’s backpacks. For the art and homework papers, do a quick sort (keep or not keep). Mark the keepers with the child’s name, date, age and grade. Place the keepers in one place – a file, box or drawer – one per child. At the end of the school year, ideally during the summer, have an organizing session with each of your children. Each child can pick 10 special items (homework or artwork) from among their keepers. Mom or dad can choose 10 items. These 20 items will represent your child’s work for the year. Place these items in a binder, file, or better yet, scan and make a digital book – “Kenna’s 1st Grade Year.”

 Control Center

Living in Houston, we live in the shadow of NASA and we are often reminded of their “Command and Control Center.” The Command and Control Center is the place where information is gathered and disseminated, where direction is given and received. We could all benefit from having a “Home Command and Control Center.” This control center is the place where we find calendars, backpacks, dance bags, lunch boxes, sports equipment, umbrellas and other necessary items. The core item is, of course, the calendar. For our visual learners, paper calendars are ideal for representing our daily schedules and appointments. By color-coding – each family member gets one color – it is easier to keep the schedule organized. White board calendars also work well and better accommodate changes to the schedule. Whichever you choose, meet weekly to map out the family calendar. From this control center, we can march into our daily lives with all of the items we need for success.

September 2019

How We Can Best Honor Our Loved Ones

Best practices for dealing with sentimental items

My beloved father passed away earlier this year. This experience changed me forever and I have an even greater reverence for the sanctity of life and the importance of cherishing our loved ones.

In my work as a professional organizer, I am often asked to assist my clients in handling items that belonged to a loved one who has passed. These items have included china, artwork, clothing, furniture and books. I love to hear the stories that go along with these items and feel honored to assist in paying tribute to these amazing individuals.

Today I would like to share 3 principles which might guide us as we remember and honor our loved ones.


We need to understand and respect our need to hold on to sentimental items. These items represent the life of a cherished person. The item may be something they loved, something they wore, something they earned, or something they used. These items may represent an experience that we shared or it may be a gift that they gave us. We must honor these memories.


We do not honor our loved ones by keeping everything they owned - every coffee mug, every t-shirt, every medal. Select a few items that best represent this person. This may be the favorite coffee mug or book, the t-shirt they wore to your 8th birthday party or their most prized medal. We do not need to keep the entire china set, but perhaps just a few place settings.


We do not honor someone by boxing up their possessions and storing them in a hot attic or in the back of a closet, only to be opened by our children or grandchildren decades from now.  We honor our loved ones by interacting with the items that we select to best represent them. We honor our loved ones by incorporating these important possessions in our daily lives. Rather than boxing up that china, let’s display a portion of it in a china cabinet and use it on special occasions such as our loved one’s birthday. Rather than packing the artwork, let’s display it so that we can enjoy it every day. Rather than displaying the coffee mug, let’s use it for our own coffee and remember our loved ones as we do so. Interacting with these valued possessions allows us to remember our loved ones on a daily basis and is the best way to honor them!

July 2019