Like a UFO, we have no idea how to categorize these items.

Special Guest Contributor

Organizing for Fall

By Amy Schoen, Professional Organizer
I was not organized for most of my life. At a recent dinner with a childhood friend, she recalled a memory of opening the closet in my bedroom and immediately getting buried by a waterfall of clothes, stuffed animals, paint supplies and games. I was a creative, social and impatient kid. Cleaning and organizing my room seemed like a waste of time. If I could stuff everything in the closet and get the door closed, it worked for me. If things didn’t fit in the closet or under the bed, my ‘system’ of random piles took over.
Fast forward to married life in the Bay Area with 2 kids and a full time job. The harsh reality of the fact that my ‘stuff and shut’ (in a closet, drawer, etc..) and ‘toss and go’( into a random pile) way of life no longer worked. I found that coming home was exhausting and overwhelming. Stuff seemed to be everywhere but what I needed was never in the right place.
I knew there had to be a better way. I needed to get organized and develop systems that worked for our hectic life. So, I made it my mission to study all I could about organizing. During my research, I found that I had some bad habits. But, with a few changes and a little effort, I could set up our home to run more efficiently.
Heading into fall is a good time to start some new organizing habits. It’s time to pack up the summer vacation toys and supplies. It is also the time when lazy summer mornings are a thing of the past and getting everyone out the door is the first hurdle of the day.
Here are some organizing tips for packing up summer supplies:

  • Where do these things live? Designate a spot in the garage, basement, somewhat out of the way, if possible.
  • Containers – I am a fan of clear plastic bins with labels. 
  • Are there supplies that you did not use and could live without? If it can go straight to donation, super. If not, designate a bin for unused items or put a piece of colored tape with the date on it. If you still haven’t used this item in 2 years, it’s time to say goodbye.
  • Does it need to be cleaned, fixed or restocked? Put this in a project bin so you know it needs attention before you store it for next season.
  • Pay attention to what your kid(s) will want to use next season. 

Will they grow out of an item? If you have hard time saying goodbye, have them play with it on a warm weekend, take a picture and then pass it onto donation. Make space for new memories.
Here are some organizing tips for getting out the door in the morning:

  • What are your systems? Come up with your family Launch Plan to ‘Get out the door’
  • Do lunches need to be made?
  • Do backpacks and/or diaper bags need to be stocked and ready to go?
  • Do coats, shoes, hats, need to be packed?
  • These are all questions that you need to ask. Once your systems are defined, it’s time to map out where your systems belong and the steps involved to get them done. 
  • Who is responsible for the systems? While the entire family is responsible for understanding the systems, it is important to share system responsibilities amongst family members. 
  • Once kids are old enough, this is a good time to hang low hooks for backpacks and coats. Also, show them how to empty their lunch box at the end of the day.
  • Think about: Where is this system set up in your home? Are all of the lunch supplies in one place? Is there a place where the backpacks, diaper bag, coats, etc. are put away? 
  • Try to minimize the steps in your systems.
  • Keep needed supplies in a convenient place. 
  • Include restocking supplies the night before or once a week.

Remember, the collective goal is ‘Getting out the door’. If your system doesn’t work, change it.
There are no hard and fast rules here. Be creative and come up with systems that work for your family.

Amy Schoen is a Professional Organizer in the East Bay. Owner of Spaces By Amy. Feel free to contact her with your organizing questions at amy@spacesbyamy.com


Restaurant Review

Taqueria Las Comadres

Taqueria Las Comadres in Montclair Village is one of our go-to places and we’ve had a pretty good run so far. This small restaurant can get pretty packed and at lunch and dinner hours—there is usually a line out the door. Don’t let this discourage you, though, it moves quickly! Its reviews are either really great or really not-so-great, but we’ve had altogether satisfying experiences. The burritos and tacos are a big hit with our kids and we have found that all of the yumminess of the burrito can be found in a tostada, with none of the guilt or heaviness in trying to eat the whole burrito because it’s…just….so…good. The prices are very affordable and weekends bring great seafood specials. It must be said that I usually avoid the guacamole and chips, preferring what we have at home (sad are the times when guacamole is watered down and chips are not gratis.) If you are looking for a quick meal in Montclair, especially if you just want to fulfill your burrito cravings and pick something up and head home, this is your spot.

Open Monday – Saturday 10am to 9pm
Sunday Noon-7:30pm
Taqueria Las Comadres 2081 Mountain Boulevard, Montclair, Oakland CA 94611 (510) 339 9002

Estate Planning

Protecting Your Newborn From Birth

In the process of becoming new parents, many couples become experts at planning – scheduling the birthing classes, planning the nursery, even choosing a preschool. There is so much to think about before you welcome your new child.

Unfortunately, one of the most important things you can do to protect your child is often overlooked:  an estate plan.  Here are five important considerations you need to discuss with your estate planning attorney when setting up an estate plan once your new baby is born:

Guardians and trustees.  Parents who delay choosing a guardian for their children usually do so because they cannot agree on that “perfect” choice.  Get comfortable with the fact that there is no “perfect” choice – and remember, you can always amend your choice if you change your mind.  If you don’t choose, a court will choose for you.  When choosing a guardian or trustee, you need to think about selecting someone who shares your beliefs and who will naturally be a part of your child’s life.  And you need to make sure whomever you choose is willing to take on the responsibility of raising your child if you are unable to do so.

Education.  The cost of college is already sky-high; can you imagine what it will be like in another 18 years? You probably want to start saving right away, either through a 529 plan or an educational trust so you can realize some tax benefits while you save.

Passing on your assets.  Assets cannot pass directly to children under the age of 18, so you will need to think about setting up a trust and naming a trustee to manage the assets you would leave your children. You also need to examine your beneficiary forms for retirement accounts and insurance policies to be sure they’re up to date. Even if you name them in a will, the beneficiary form for these accounts will determine who inherits.

Avoiding probate.  Talk to your attorney about setting up a living trust so your heirs can avoid probate and assets can pass directly to them.

This information is brought to you by Cassandra C. Massey, mother of two young boys, Personal Family Lawyer, and trusted advisor to many families in the Bay Area. As your neighborhood Personal Family Lawyer, Cassandra offers a unique process for families to ensure your children are always cared for by people you know, love and trust if anything ever happens to you.

Cassandra offers a free 2 hour Planning Session where you will discover how easy it is to get your affairs in order and protect your children from birth. She will help you make the very best personal, financial, and legal decisions for your family throughout your lifetime. Call for your free planning session today at (510) 992-6773 or email her at info@masseyestatelaw.com.

Exercise for Injury Prevention

Special Guest Contributor, Dr. Elon Bartlett

by Dr. Elon Bartlett

I hate to say it, but you are getting weaker by the day. If you imagine yourself 20 or 40 years from now, it’s easy to imagine that you’ll be weaker. That seems like something that will happen in the distant future, but it’s actually a slow and gradual process happening today. Unless you’re getting stronger. Those are your two choices, getting weaker or getting stronger. There is no “staying the same.”

In my practice as a family chiropractor, I see people everyday who’ve injured themselves doing something that they’ve done a thousand times before. They might have been gardening, or vacuuming, or swinging their kids around in a circle. What I have to explain to them is unless they’ve been working out to build strength, their clever body has been efficiently breaking down muscle tissue to reduce metabolic demand.

Meanwhile, their kids have been getting bigger and bigger. Unless you want to put your kids on the “no food” diet, yours are too. So it’s inevitable that one day you’ll arrive at the intersection of your weakening body and your heavier kids. Even if you rarely play with your kids, your body wants to be only as strong as it needs to be in order to meet your typical demand. Without increasing muscle mass, the things you need to do in life will get more and more difficult. Even sitting at a computer all day will wear you out.

What’s the best technique to prevent this? A blend of the two most basic types of exercise: aerobic and resistance. Aerobic exercise is great for cardiovascular health and prevents injury by improving coordination. Resistance exercise, which makes life easier, prevents injury by having you be strong enough to do the things you need to do.

Aerobic exercise is characterized by many repetitions, each of which is relatively easy. Jogging, elliptical, and biking are examples of aerobic exercise. If someone bicycled for an hour and got tired, just as they were stopping someone could ask them to do “one more rep” and even if they were fatigued, they would be able to.

Resistance exercise on the other hand, is characterized by a relatively small number of reps, but each one is very challenging. Exercises using weights, resistance bands, or body weight are good examples.  If someone did as many push ups as they could, their second-to-last push up would likely involve some shaky arms, and after their last one they would collapse. If right then someone asked them to perform “one more rep” it’s unlikely they could do it. That’s the difference between aerobic and resistance exercise.

Resistance exercise tends to be more popular among men since they’re not worried about gaining “too much” muscle mass, but I sincerely recommend it to everyone, regardless of gender.

Not only does it prevent injury, but it’s also the most efficient form of exercise for getting a smaller body. Now, I didn’t say “lose weight” on purpose, because muscle is denser than fat, so as people shrink their bodies and their clothes fit better, their weight might not go down, or might only go down a little, but their fitness will go up a lot. Increasing the size of the muscles that span your joints protects your joints from arthritis (wear and tear) and when you are stronger, doing your everyday tasks becomes easier.

For the purpose of injury-prevention, aerobic exercise is not as important. It’s great for heart and lung health, but it need not be more than 10-25% of your total time spent exercising. Aerobic exercise is not as efficient as resistance exercise at helping people get smaller for two reasons. The first is, after resistance exercise your metabolism is higher because you have more muscle mass. But after aerobic exercise, your metabolism goes back down to its original level. The second reason is that most people spend their time doing aerobic exercise at a consistence pace and their body acclimates to that pace quickly.

If what you’re after is improved cardiovascular health and longevity, the best technique is interval training, meaning that you push yourself through several cycles from medium effort to maximum effort. As an example, if you’re jogging, take a minute to warm up, then slowly progress from a medium level of effort up to an all-out sprint over 5 minutes. Then come back to a medium level at which you could carry on a conversation, but then push back up to your maximum. Repeat a total of 4 times and then cool down for a bit. This is a wonderful, and short, aerobic routine.

If what you’re after is injury prevention and a smaller body, focus on resistance exercise. I promise, if you ever feel like you have “too many” muscles, all you have to do to lose them is wait, and they shrink all by themselves.

As parents, the hardest part about exercising is finding the time to do it. For all the fathers out there, first, make sure most of your exercise is resistance exercise, and then make sure you’re taking care of the children while their mother gets some much needed time to strengthen her body. Caring for a baby, even a small baby, is incredibly physically demanding work. She needs to be strong enough to do the job.

For all the mothers out there, remember that you being in tip top shape is a requirement to be able to care for the rest of your family, so you must advocate for enough time to go to a gym and lift some weights. If your little one is tiny, all you probably want to do is get more sleep, but trust me, getting a little bit stronger will improve your mood, your parenting skills, as well as the quality of your sleep. You can do it!

Dr. Bartlett treats all members of the family at Acorn Wellness Center in Oakland. 510-452-2929

Dear East Bay Moms & Dads,


This month we celebrate mothers and all that they do. It’s this time of year that it is important to remind ourselves that we should take care of ourselves every day, not just on a designated Sunday. Whether it’s going for a hike, getting your hair done, getting back into shape or picking up a new book, it’s all important to who you are and maintaining your sanity.

Nothing says maintaining your sanity like getting outdoors—Mark your calendars! East Bay Moms (& Dads!) is going camping! We’ve booked Angel Island in mid-July and Big Basin in late September (the weather should be perfect.) There is also talk about adding a KOA trip in August, before our Parent Resource Fair in Oakland—Sunday August 17th!

I hope to see you soon and Happy Mother’s Day!