Tag Archive for: solutions for living


The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

I was raised in a very tidy family.  My grandfather had polio and thus my father was raised in a home where clutter was not an option, because if my grandfather tripped on something “lying around” he could be seriously hurt.  My grandmother took it to some extremes (like waxing her garage floor), but the net result was a tidy dad that instilled the benefits of being organized on me.

I am very environmentally driven.  I have a hard time being productive or functional if my space is uncomfortable.  I keep my office, home and car reasonably organized.  I know where the bills are that I need to pay, the ones that I have already paid, where my spare car keys are, and what I have in the fridge and freezer that could pass as dinner.  I can usually answer the “mom, where is the ???” question and keep commonly used items in consistent places.  I label things to make search and locate easier, and so that I can blame the kid responsible to avoid the “wasn’t me” response (when they were little they had one color each for bowls, plates and cups and they still have different colored towels). Having four teens and four pets, sure our house is in constant need of tidying, and getting my kids on the tidy train hasn’t always been easy.  I try to give them some freedom over their bedroom, but once a week it needs to be “cleanable” and we have a special needs dog with an affinity for smelly socks (not clean ones), so at the least, they need to keep their dirty clothes safely stored in their “dog-can’t-reach” laundry bin.

I believe though that being organized is more than a skill, it is also a lifestyle.  Like being active, or being a non-smoker, deciding to be organized is a conscious choice, then it requires commitment to get and stay there.

But like all “lifestyle choices”, this too can get derailed.  As an occupational therapist “organization” often is incorporated into our treatment of clients, and this takes many forms.  Sometimes it is organizing items into reachable places from a mobility device, or to conserve energy and reduce the pain caused from lifting the heavy pots from the bottom cupboard. Sometimes it is mail, email, and paperwork to ensure urgent items get addressed and bills continue to get paid.  Maybe it is just putting like items together to make it easier and more efficient to find things (especially with cognitive impairment or depression that can make initiation, motivation, and memory impaired).  If we are gearing up for a home renovation to address accessibility needs, sometimes purging, sorting and storing or discarding items is necessary to make room for the upcoming changes.

Marie Kondo ( has become a Netflix, YouTube and internet sensation with her “Life Changing Art of Tidying Up” book and series.  She coaches only keeping items that “bring joy” and offers some suggestions on how to sort, fold and emotionally process keeping things we love, and letting go of the things we don’t. While I am not sure filing a utility bill, organizing my doggie poop bags, or emptying the overflowing bathroom garbage are things and items that “bring me joy”, I love her approach to folding and agree that your home should be filled with items that reduce, not increase, your level of stress. In the end, being organized is efficient because when you can find things you are not spending that emotional, cognitive and physical energy “looking around aimlessly” all the while getting frustrated, or worse, tired and angry.  The time you save by being able to navigate and find the things in your own home quickly can be spent on other meaningful, purposeful and joyful activities.  And that is where I agree with Marie that organizing can help us to “choose joy”.


Are You Capturing the Moment… or Missing it Altogether?

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

I love the song “Scare Away the Dark” by Passenger. Some of the lyrics have powerful insinuations: “we should stare at the stars and not just at screens”…”we want something real not just hashtag and twitter”…”we are all slowly dying in front of computers. I believe there is significant truth to what he is saying. The technology pendulum has swung so far in the direction of obsession and I am personally looking forward to it bouncing back to some form of neutral.

If addiction is defined as “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice that is physically or psychologically habit-forming to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma…” or “usage of something that is beyond voluntary control” then I would argue that technology applies, and many people have a serious problem.

On a recent holiday, the evidence of this was immense. On one occasion I saw three young women on a horse-drawn carriage ride (a $50 experience I might add) and they were all looking at their phones. Were they texting, tweeting, posting on FB “loving my horse-drawn carriage ride”, or maybe playing candy crush, Instagramming a photo, or taking a selfie? Or the families sitting at dinner looking down, using their devices, essentially ignoring each other. Or the guy at the theme park videotaping his experience – he was even videotaping while a photographer was taking their family photo! I am not sure it matters what these people’s intentions were with their devices, but I felt that in perhaps trying to capture these moments they were missing them completely. Look around, talk to each other, take in the sights, sounds, smells, be mindful of the fragility of life and take a moment to be grateful for the experience. Connect. Engage. Smile at a person, not just a screen.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for capturing moments. But some moments need to be captured by our eyes and filed in our brain, not just on a device, memory card, or online. The concept of being present includes enjoying moments while you are in them – without living in the past or obsessing about the future. How can we do this? Enlightened Living suggests that being present involves recognizing that we can only do ONE thing at a time and thus we should engage wholeheartedly. Taking a photo while trying to absorb a moment are two tasks that cannot happen simultaneously. Thus why people feel that “life has passed them by”…they were never there to fully experience it in the first place.

So every once in a while check your addiction. Step away from your phone. Take technology away from your children. Leave it at home. Don’t take it on vacation. Set rules for technology behavior. In our house, we have significant rules for screen use, including a 17 clause contract our daughter signed in getting her first cell phone at age 14.  Some of the important clauses include: 

  • Rule # 1: The phone cannot be used to be mean to anyone – directly or indirectly.
  • Rule # 2: Proper grammar and spelling must be used when communicating.
  • Rule # 4 and 5: The phone is not allowed upstairs and cannot be used during family or meal times.
  • Rule # 9: I will not use my phone to take photos or video of people without their permission. I will not post or share photos or video without the consent of the people in them.
  • Rule # 15: I will follow classroom and teacher rules for phone use when at school.
  • Rule # 16: I understand this is not an appendage and obsessive use will not be tolerated.
  • Rule # 17 is a list of reasons for repossession.

My 14 and 12-year-olds read the contract together. At the end, my 12-year-old said: “so, what CAN she do”?

Do you feel sorry for my kid? Don’t. The real reason for the contract was not because she needs to be rigidly structured, but because I, as a new parent of a kid with a cell phone, was not comfortable with the entire concept in the first place. At 14 (and younger) kids are not developmentally able to understand and grasp the full impact of this new power in their possession. That is why there are recommended ages for Facebook (14), and age-specific laws for driving and drinking. They are young, naïve, immature, and still learning the ways of the world. I have a responsibility to be her guide, as effortful as that is. In the end, the contract worked to set out the expectations, establish boundaries, communicate about safety and proper use and helped us recognize the need to adapt as a family to the transition of now raising teenagers, not just “kids”. But my true intent was to make sure that I don’t teach her, or worse, model for her, that technology trumps experiences, replaces in-person relationships, or is a valuable way to tick away the proverbial time bomb that is life.

So, try if you can to capture moments by being present, and by using your born faculties to photograph, store and file your memories – not just a device. Check in with yourself at times about your behaviors, track these, shock your system with some detox, set some boundaries and try to unplug.


Previously posted July 2014


What is Hygge and How Can it Help You Survive Winter?

Hygge (pronounced hue-guh) defined as, a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture), is becoming very popular.  Its basic principles revolve around creating an environment that is comfortable, full of love, warm, and cozy – sounds like a great way to make it through a cold Canadian winter if you ask me!  Learn more about Hygge and its benefits in the following care of HealthLine.

HealthLine:  What the Heck Is Hygge and Why Do You Need Some This Winter?


Weighted Blankets and Sleep: The Experts Weigh In

Weighted blankets have been used for many purposes, including a source of sensory input for those with Autism Spectrum Disorders and to reduce symptoms of anxiety.  Recently, there has been an increasing trend toward using weighted blankets as a solution for those who struggle with insomnia.  But, do the blankets hold up to the hype when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep?  Take a look at the following from Psychology Today which delves deeper into the use and effectiveness of weighted blankets for sleep.

Psychology Today:  Do Weighted Blankets Really Ease Sleeplessness?


O-Tip of the Week: Stay Hydrated with These Helpful Hacks

Our O-Tip of the week series delivers valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

For the month of January, our O-Tip series will provide you with ways to kick bad habits and establish good ones.  This week we talk about hydration and how to get your 8 glasses (or more) each day!

We all have heard of the “eight glasses a day” rule, but is this the right amount for everyone?  The answer is not as simple as you think.  Depending on your age, overall health, and activity level you may actually require more.  At the least, this year, create the habit of ensuring you consume at least 8 glasses of water each day.  Try one or more of the following strategies to see what works for you:

  • Track the habit!  Use our habit tracker to stay accountable to your goal of drinking 8 glasses per day.
  • Set alerts on your phone, fitness tracker, and/or smart home device to remind you to have a glass every 2-3 hours.
  • Always have a glass of water before you eat something.  Thirst can disguise itself as hunger, so try water first!
  • We love the simple hack of using a permanent marker to indicate times of day on your water bottle to remind you how much how much to have and when.  Like the one pictured here care of

If you would like to learn more about the importance of hydration and your unique requirements check out our previous post, Help with Hydration – How Many Glasses Do You Really Need?


O-Tip of the Week: Butt Out and Never Look Back

Our O-Tip of the week series delivers valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

For the month of January, our O-Tip series will provide you with ways to kick bad habits and establish good ones.  This week we tackle one of the hardest habits to kick – smoking!

According to Smoke Free Ontario, smoking kills approximately 13000 people in Ontario each year.  However, the good news is that the number of smokers continues to decrease yearly.  How can you become one of the quitters? 

A good friend of mine just celebrated her one-year anniversary of being smoke-free after 20+ years as a smoker.  For years she discussed wanting to quit but admits she couldn’t bring herself to do it because of FOMO (fear of missing out).  It wasn’t until she realized that there was nothing to give up and everything to gain that she was able to finally kick the habit. 

Smoking is an addiction and quitting is extremely difficult.  Many need to try different approaches before finally kicking the habit – for my friend, it was the book the “Easy Way to Stop Smoking” by Alan Carr that led to success.  Some other proven ways to butt out are discussed in our post, National Non-Smoking Week– Be a Quitter!


Giving Back this Holiday Season

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

Tis the season for me to carefully balance my dislike for the Holiday season with my desire to not bring those around me down with my “baa-hum-bug” attitude.  My hate-on for Christmas started in my late 20’s probably around the time I had four kids under age 5 and through some lack of communication among my family, my kids had like 15 presents to unwrap EACH.  No, I am not complaining that my kids have access to such “abundance” by some very loving and well-meaning people, but with this display of affection comes a parent’s concern that their child will love Christmas because of the stuff.  And the more stuff they get, the more they want.  The more they want, the more they miss the point on the difference between want and need and the more they expect the “bar” to be raised with each passing year.

So, in my search to not pass on my “hate-on for the holidays” gene to my children, I landed on charity and acts of service to balance the fact that they, like most of their friends, live in abundance but still need to be mindful and grateful that they get a lot of what they want, while “needing” nothing.  After all, most of us can give something and there are so many options for this.  This new approach has been helping me to beat the Holiday Blues for the last few years.  It helps me to slow down, reflect, and be mindful and grateful for the things I have and can provide others, and for the pleasures of my own life. 

But in stepping out and getting my girls involved in local charities over the holidays, I have realized that there is an art to “giving” that can have the most impact.

Here are my Top 5 Things to Consider when Giving Back This Holiday Season:

Donate Money – good and responsible charities are appreciative of every dollar.  From the Salvation Army Bell Ringers to putting in a payment online or in the mail.  Money does help.  Search online with your kids to find a charity close to your heart, and have every member of the family donate.

Donate Items – some charities collect food, clothing, toys, or housewares to provide to those in need.  Time to purge those things you don’t need or use.  But before you donate items, ASK the charity what they need and HOW they want the items provided.  If they want new toys, these need to be packaged and un-used.  If they want them unwrapped then don’t take the time to wrap them – it only adds cost and time for you, and cost and time for the charity to unwrap the item before distributing.  Also, ASK what age groups they have a hard time providing for.  I was volunteering at the Good Shepherd recently and they had an abundance of items for small children, but very few for teens.  If you ask them, they will tell you the age categories they struggle to provide for.  Lastly, be sensitive.  If the charity is serving refugees or people immigrating from war-torn countries, toys that involve violence or war (i.e. guns or tanks) might not be appropriate and will need to be screened out by the charity before providing it to the recipient, again adding time and administration during a busy season.

Purchase Charity Goods – some charities sell “goods” that provide an item with a donation.  World Wildlife Federation sells small stuffed animals to represent an “endangered species” and most of the cost of the animal goes to the charity.  So, for $40.00 my child gets an “endangered stuffie” with a certificate about the animal they have adopted, and the charity gets $32.00 as a donation to their cause.  This is also true of other charities that aim to sell farm animals or agriculture supplies that are provided to third world countries.

Support Events – many charities offer dinners, auctions, or other seasonal events to raise money.  This is a great way to donate while engaging in an “experience” with a friend, partner or as a family.

Donate Time – sometimes donating your time reaps the best reward for you and the charity.  Not only does it provide you with an opportunity to see how the organization operates and allow you to be “hands on” in making a difference, it saves the charity from needing to fund staffing to manage the busy holiday season.  I have been at the Good Shepherd three times this month doing anything from sorting clothing donations, food donations, stocking housewares on the shelves in their store, and sorting toys for their Christmas hampers.  There are many organizations that just need some extra hands during the holiday season and sometimes our time is our most impactful gift.

Next week on our blog we begin our annual tradition of giving back to our readers with the 12 Days of Inspiration.  We hope you find these uplifting stories a source of inspiration and hope this Holiday Season.  

Previously Posted December 2016


Holiday Survival O-Tip of the Week: Make a list and check it twice!

Our O-Tip of the week series delivers valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

For the month of December, one of the busiest months of the year, our O-Tip series will provide you with OT-approved ways to not just “survive the holidays,” but actually enjoy them!  In this week’s O-Tip of the week we take a page from Santa Claus himself.

December is a stressful time of year so organization is key.  Make a list.  Make multiple lists!  Plan it, buy it, store it, and then cross it off your list.  Make separate lists for separate tasks:  cards to send, presents to buy, food to coordinate, functions to attend, decorating to do – then set it and forget it.  Pull out one list a week, tackle it, and then discard.  Repeat.

Try using our printable Holiday Gift Planner to help you stay on track and stress less this Holiday Season.


Why You Need to Talk About End of Life Decisions

You survived the birds and bees talk… what can be more awkward than that?   Having a discussion about end of life wishes is something all adults should do with their adult children, partner, and/or loved ones.  Though the topic may be awkward and something you would rather avoid, without these conversations it is difficult for children, or powers of attorney, to make the decisions you would want if and when the need arises.  The following article care of Chatelaine Magazine reinforces the importance of having these discussions and what they should include.

Chatelaine:  How to talk to your family about end-of-life decisions


Technology – Why it’s Important to Unplug

Our relationships with our smartphones and other devices are bittersweet.  Though these devices seem to enrich our lives in many ways, they also have created numerous problems for our mental and physical health.  Excessive use of technology can lead to serious health problems including addiction, vision difficulties, sleep disturbances and more.  It’s important to try to be mindful of our technology use in order to avoid dependencies.  Check out this infographic, created by Psychologist Barbara Markway, with some great tips to help you unplug regularly for the sake of your health.