Everything is made up of systems; from the Circulatory System in our bodies to the Solar System in space, to the necessary Septic System. Systems are crucial to life! They are also crucial to an organized life. Just like we couldn’t live without our Respiratory System, we can’t live in an organized way without systems for our belongings.
If we think in terms of organizing survival, we’ll realize the importance of using systems. Now, coming up with the ‘right’ systems is trickier. This is where most people draw a blank, and where Organizing Professionals come into play. Here are a few things to think about when trying to figure out what systems are right for you.
- How you function in your space – How do you use the space you have? A person who does a lot of baking and cooking would create kitchen systems that are much different than the person who prefers to eat out most of the time.
- What’s working – Think of any systems you have in place and why they work. If you put your keys in the same place every time you come home and therefore never have to look for them, that’s a working system.
- What’s not working – Isolate the main problem with the disorganized areas. Is it lack of time? Then a simple system is best. Are things hard to find? You may want to consider hidden/visible storage system options.
- Consider active vs passive space – the things you use regularly (toilet paper, pens, dishes, etc) should be in your active space and the things that are used infrequently (holiday decorations, ski clothes during summer, serving platters, etc.) can go into your passive space.
We all strive to put things away, but we don’t do it because, often, we don’t know where ‘away’ is. We blame it on being generally disorganized, not having time or not taking the time. Creating homes for everything and systems to get those things into their homes will eliminate the “where does it go” blues, as well as piling and clutter areas.
R – Real
Let’s be real here!
Do you feel like you have too much stuff?
Is it taking over your space?
Are you unsure how it got to this point?
Do you feel like you should be able to handle it on your own?
Are you stuck?
If you answered yes to the questions above, then, realistically, you need some help. There’s no shame in it! If you needed to lose some weight, would you feel bad about getting a personal trainer to help accomplish your goals? If you had a toothache, would you avoid going to the dentist in the hopes that it will just fix itself? Would you torture yourself by doing your own taxes? We hire people to help us do the things we have trouble doing ourselves or that we just don’t want to do. They help us with the needs we have and we help them put their talents and knowledge to work and pay their bills – It’s a symbiotic relationship!
Our brains are all wired a little differently. I have a very smart client. She and her husband are both doctors. They have 3 kids and not much free time. Every time I work with her, she tells me I’m brilliant for figuring out a solution to a particular organizing issue she’s having. She often wonders why she can’t come up with these solutions. I tell her that we each have our strengths. I certainly couldn’t perform surgery!
I try to be a do-it-yourselfer every chance I get, because I like figuring out how to do things. However, my brain seems to shut down at the thought of numbers. I used to make myself do my own taxes, but it made me miserable and I wasn’t getting all the deductions I could get because I just didn’t know what I was doing. Now, I happily take all my paperwork to a tax preparer and don’t have to give it a second thought! That gives me more time to spend doing the things I need and want to do. And I’m confident that the money I spend paying someone else do my taxes, is returned to me in the form of tax deductions and time to work with clients!
There are people out there with expertise and knowledge on just about everything! Organizing, taxes, finances, health, etc. So get real about what’s keeping you down and get a Professional to help turn it around! Oooo, that rhymed!
Q – Quick
In our speedy society, we aim to do as much as we can in as little time as possible; get a quick bite to eat, grab a quick shower, quickly run to the store. However, organizing your home doesn’t sound like a quick thing to do, but it could be…
Here are 5 quick organizing tips:
- 2 minute rule- If something takes 2 minutes or less, do it right away.
- Put a read newspaper in the recycling bin
- Put a dish in the dishwasher
- Hang up a shirt
- Quick purge – if you put on a piece of clothing and it doesn’t look good on you, put it into a bag for donation right away.
- Mail rule – When the mail comes, open it immediately and decide what you need to do with it next…Recycle, file, pay, reply, etc. Then put a sticky on it with that direction.
- Running Errands – Keep all return items in your car, so they’re with you when you happen to be driving by that store. If you have multiple errands, go in order of where they’re located so you’re not driving back and forth across town.
- Basket system – get everyone in the household a basket. When you’re cleaning things up around the house, toss each family members items in their basket and have them put their items away at the end of each day.
See, organizing can also be a quick process! There are many more tips such as these! If you liked my tips, please subscribe to my Tip of the Week newsletter, delivered to your inbox every Monday (no SPAM guarantee!). Just click the Organizing Tip of the Week link on the right side of the page.
This piece is contributed by Fix.com, a lifestyle blog devoted to helping readers make life easier. From home repairs to health, Fix provides a daily dose of improvement.
Preparing to Host a Better Party
Throwing a party can be stressful, and often the stress doesn’t fully set in until the party has begun and you are dealing with a handful of situations at once. Welcoming your guests is all about anticipating their needs, which comes with time and practice. But by doing some research in advance, you can circumvent some of those issues you may encounter and skip ahead to being a master party host! Note: this advice is coming from a person who once hosted friends for drinks without thinking to acquire a corkscrew ahead of time.
Being a gracious party host starts with making room for your guests. Often you won’t realize until after an influx of party-goers arrives that you haven’t designated closet space for coats, or an area for people to put their purses. It’s only when your artfully-arranged appetizer table is littered with clutches, and your entry way is a disaster zone of shoes and coats that you realize something is amiss.
Start by clearing your own shoes and jackets out of the area where people will naturally deposit theirs (that’s where they will end up unless you direct guests otherwise). If you’re short on closet space, try doubling up your hanger space by attaching a hanger to each current one with a soda can tab. Pro tip: use this system to move your own bounty of coats out of the way, as guests may not be quick to pick up on your clever new system!
The other key area to make room for guests is your fridge. If your fridge light is out and you can’t reach it because there’s too much food in there – that’s the first sign you need to make some room. Take it as an opportunity to throw out old food, condiments, and flat soda. Cleaning the surfaces of the fridge is a good idea, as it will be a high-trafficked spot. The same goes for the freezer: make sure there is at least some room for beverages that need cooling quickly (like wine!) and always have ice on hand. If the party is scheduled to begin in 15 minutes and you realize you forgot to arrange ice (while clinking some in a glass for your pre-party drink), you have two options: begin transferring the ice you do have to a Tupperware container and start freezing new ice, or text an ally and ask them to stop for some on the way.
For party hosts who don’t keep the cleanest of homes, a horrifying phenomenon can occur: all of the signs of a lived-in home that seem totally reasonable to you on an everyday basis suddenly become glaring displays that you’re sure your guests are staring at. Every stray fingerprint on glass or strand of hair that escaped the vacuum is visibly shaming you.
In order to host a gathering that won’t result in silent judgment from your acquaintances, you must present a clean living space. Now this doesn’t mean you need to meticulously keep house the week of the party like a 1950s housewife, since you’re not a regular party host – you’re a cool party host! The key is to make your home appear clean to guests. Any spot in your home that you don’t use on a regular basis needs attention. If you normally eat meals in the living room (no judgement, I do too), the floor around your kitchen table is sure to be a haven for seaweed-like piles of hair and dust that will become immediately apparent to guests when they pull a chair out. It’s the spots you suspect the least that will betray you in the end.
The Week of the Party
Make it easy on yourself early in the week by eliminating clutter from your living room, kitchen, and hallway. At least then the inevitable cleaning flurry will be started with a fairly blank slate. If this means shoving piles of mail into a drawer – so be it. For me, hosting a party is pretty much part of my regular cleaning schedule! You can even take it as far as doing a full purge of extra clothing, coats, books – any items that are contributing to a cluttered look and collecting dust.
Speaking of dust, tackling it early in the week will make your life easier. Used dryer sheets make an excellent impromptu dust rag, particularly for electronics such as your TV. Every time you do laundry, dust a little-seen area of your home such as baseboards, shelves, and the TV stand. You can make a game of it: see how much mileage you get out of one dryer sheet and then try to beat that record!
The Final Countdown
When it comes to the day of the party, it’s time to tackle the kitchen and bathroom: the two non-negotiables. There’s no real way to fudge your way through cleaning a bathroom, so give yourself enough time to do it right. Once you’re finished, clear away all signs that you are a person that inhabits the space, except for maybe a toothbrush – think show-home vibes – and don’t forget to put out extra bathroom tissue in a visible spot!
For the kitchen, there are two approaches, and it depends on how much food you’re preparing in advance. If you’re putting out a fairly large spread, it may be best to get everything ready first and then do the dishes and clean the countertops. If you’re making a low-key appetizer or two, do a base clean earlier in the day, and save preparing the food for the last minute; your friends can help you chop things if they arrive early. Quickly stash the few kitchen implements you used in the dishwasher, an out-of-reach cupboard, or even the microwave if you’re really daring.
Right Before Guests Arrive
Make sure you have some sort of smell-disguising plan in place to cover up your food prep. Particularly if you just prepared a delicious, garlicky bruschetta mix! Having a scented candle (and lighter or matches) on hand is your best bet, or do a final lap of your home with an air freshener. If your home tends to run hot, lower your thermostat to account for it, or vice versa if it’s chilly, as the temperature may change drastically when several people arrive. Finally, make sure your music system, whatever it may be, is plugged in and ready to go – you don’t want to be soliciting your friends for their Spotify passwords as soon as they arrive! Sidenote to guests: don’t ask for your host’s WiFi password before you’ve even properly greeted them – serious faux pas. As a host, however, consider writing your WiFi network and password on a piece of paper and sticking it in an obvious place like the fridge door. “It’s on the fridge!” is a much easier answer than “A0Z32w3Mor56”!
Once your guests are trickling in, the party is on whether you’re ready or not. Get ready to relax, pour drinks, and have fun. After all, it’s a party – people know what to do!
O – Overwhelmed
This months blog post comes from Garage Storage Solutions. Garage Storage Solutions, LLC is a garage storage and organization company serving the Denver area’s homeowners with solutions and tips for an organized garage.
One of the most common barriers to a project is the feeling of being overwhelmed. When we are overwhelmed, we get anxious and start dreading the task at hand. That’s when we quit. It’s hard to get past this feeling once it starts, and it’s even harder to restart a project we put down once we got overwhelmed. Here are some ideas to avoid feeling overwhelmed when you take on a big organizing and de-cluttering project.
First, remember to take it slowly. When you walk into a room filled with “stuff,” you may have the tendency to think, “I’ll never get this done! This is impossible!” The truth is, these thoughts usually lead to you walking away from the room and never even starting. Instead, tell yourself that you CAN do it, and you can do it one box or shelf at a time! It’s important to not overwhelm yourself by trying to take on a bigger task than what you have time or energy for. Set a timer for a small chunk of time; 1 to 2 hours is best, or whatever works best for you. If you feel good enough to continue after that, then do it, but if not, pick another day/time to continue.
To help you ‘go slow’ and avoid overwhelming yourself, it also helps to set time aside on your calendar. Decide how much you can realistically set aside each day without over-stressing yourself and then prioritize what needs to be done first, second, and so on. When you have a schedule that you can look at and even mark off as you go, you can see your progress, and that will encourage you to continue. Having this visual schedule will keep you on a progressive journey to completion.
Another great tool is to enlist the help of others. Having a family friend or a Professional Organizer work with you, or just having somebody to report to and be accountable to has been a proven method to help in a lot of different situations, from children doing their homework to trying to lose weight! Having someone working with you will help keep you on track if the task does get hard and you start to feel like giving up.
Finally, remember that sometimes we just have ‘off’ days. Some days we just need a break, or are too busy to get around to the project.. If you get behind, or if you just need a break, don’t beat yourself up about it! Don’t feel that just because you missed out on a single task the rest of the day or week is ruined. Just move that task to a different day and try again.
De-cluttering and organizing can be a big, sometimes scary, process! Avoid getting overwhelmed and bringing the whole project to a halt, with the above tips. You will be glad to have a plan and will feel a lot better about getting the chaos under control again.
N – NO
The organizing word for ‘N’ is “NO”. I bet you’re wondering how this relates to organizing…well, learning how to say “NO” is a huge part of becoming and staying organized, not just in your space, but also in your life! Here’s how it works:
- When going through your things and deciding what to keep, say “NO” to keeping things out of guilt…like that ugly vase your BFF gave you for graduation or the life-size portrait of Bugs Bunny your aunt Rose painted for your room when you were 3. If you don’t like it, want it, or have a place for it, say “NO” to keeping it!
- Say “NO” to keeping ‘someday’ items. If you have an outfit you intend to wear for that ‘perfect’ occasion, but you haven’t worn it because you have no idea what the ‘perfect’ occasion is…it’s a “NO”! Stockpiling things for a possible zombie apocalypse is a definite “NO”!
- Say “NO” to impulse buys! If you see it and are drawn to it, before you put into your cart, ask yourself…”Do I need it?” “When/how will I use it?” If you can’t come up with immediate answers to those questions, say “NO” to buying it.
- When someone asks you to do something and you feel overwhelmed by the request because you already have too much to do, say “NO” (respectfully). The same goes for kids…they don’t need to have an activity every second of the day. According to an article in Health and Fitness Magazine, ““America is an achievement-oriented culture,” said Dr. Gina Manguno-Mire, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Tulane University Health Sciences Center. “Success is defined by accomplishment, and that mindset starts at a very early age. Today, we see both kids and adults who are so structured that they just don’t seem to know what to do with free time, so they fill it with activities.””
- If your stuff has outgrown your home, the answer is not to get a bigger home or more storage! This means that saying “NO” to more space puts you on the path to saying “NO” to more clutter and saying “YES” to reducing what you already have.
If you have the word “NO” in the back of your mind every time you even think of bringing more things in to occupy your space or more activities to occupy your time, you will stop to consider the consequences of doing it, which will put you on the road to organization. If you declutter with the word “NO” in mind, you will be able to part with more things, making organizing a much easier task.
No guilt keeping!
No ‘someday’ keeping!
No impulse buys!
M – Multitasking
There are definitely opposing views on the subject of multitasking. Some people believe that it’s efficient to be able to do several things at one time, while others feel multitasking takes attention away from each task. PBS even did a piece on whether multitasking is bad for us, while the New Yorker had an article on multitasking superstars. Some people really enjoy being hyper-productive and others like to just focus on one thing at a time.
I am a multitasker, and while I feel I am fairly adept at it, I don’t necessarily recommend it for everyone. What I like about it is the ability to keep myself engaged. Sometimes, I’m working on something (let’s say a blog post) and I temporarily run out of steam or ideas or my butt hurts from sitting. I like to be able to switch gears for a bit and get something else done, like pay a bill or do a bit of research on an upcoming vacation. The break from the main task is inevitable; it’s what I do with the break time that makes me more efficient. I could be surfing Facebook during that time (ok, sometimes I do), or I could be reordering my check books. Some might not see this as multitasking, because the activities aren’t happening concurrently.
Multitasking can mean different things to different people. Some multitasking is acceptable, like taking notes while listening to a lecture, while some isn’t, like eating soup while driving down the highway. While watching TV, I often do other things, like look on my phone, or color or eat. I am not less efficient at any of those things whether I do them together or separately. Other multitasking can be more of an interruption than anything else. Constant phone/computer alerts about email is distracting, because it makes you stop what you’re doing to either check that email or think about checking that email. I’ve turned off all the alerts and, instead, go to email when I have a few minutes to devote to it.
It’s been said that women are better at multitasking than men. It’s a common occurrence for a woman to take care of the needs of several children at once while still cooking dinner. Men, on the other hand, don’t seem to hear the phone ring while they’re watching sports. Top health says it’s because men’s and women’s brains are built differently.
If you find the idea of multitasking appealing, the key is to figure out which tasks fit together well. Tasks that require attention to detail and concentration should be done on their own (like balancing your checkbook and doing your taxes). Simple tasks can be combined with other simple tasks (like walking on a treadmill and reading). The majority of people (myself included) aren’t good at all types of multitasking, but are good at some.
For best multitasking results, group like tasks
Multitasking isn’t for everyone
Don’t drive and text!
L – Laugh
While overwhelming clutter is no reason to laugh, you have to have a sense of humor to deal with it! I’ve had many an organizing session that started with tears and ended with laughter. While most people don’t find organizing fun, or even remotely amusing, I do! This is partly why I do what I do and what I try to bring to the organizing experience with clients.
Picture it: We are sitting on your floor going through a box of random stuff. Tedious, right? Not necessarily. Inevitably, there’s something unexpected in the box. Sometimes it’s finger puppets, sometimes it’s brass knuckles, and sometimes it’s a rubber ducky. Regardless of the item, it always illicit a “where’d this come from?” remark from the client, followed closely by a laugh.
Many people approach organizing with a lot of anxiety, especially if they’ve never done it before. That’s natural. Organizing and going through things that you haven’t seen in a long time, is anxiety-producing by nature. All sorts of unresolved insecurities and memories associated with your stuff tend to come up. Since you haven’t been successful at dealing with the clutter, you’re not sure how a stranger could help you. While we can’t (and shouldn’t) just laugh those away, using humor to mitigate some of those issues can ease the anxiety of the entire process. A good Professional Organizer bring many skills to the job, and a great Organizer gets you laughing in the process!
I had a client, early on, who would get very easily distracted. To lighten the mood we decided to call it ‘seeing a chicken’. I’m not sure why a chicken, but it worked. Every time she would drift off from the task at hand, I would yell “CHICKEN!” which always made both of us laugh and brought the attention back to where it needed to be. While you might not think that organizing can be fun (like I do), it’s definitely doesn’t have to be painful.
I’ve recently acquired a plastic microphone that plays “Let It Go” from frozen, just in case someone needs a little extra motivation (and laugh) to part with clutter.
K – Knowledge
As they say “I little knowledge is a dangerous thing”! We read a book or see a video and all of a sudden we can fix anything! But more often than not, we end up making a bigger mess than we started with.
I get asked, daily about my thoughts on Marie Kondo’s Book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. Clients often mention they’ve read it, non-organizers ask what I think of it and other organizers roll their eyes when they talk about it. This post won’t be about the book, as it seems to be getting enough press on its own, but rather to talk about what it signifies for people. Many people believe this book is some sort of secret weapon against clutter. They think that just by reading it, they will make their clutter disappear and be able to live a happily organized life forever more. I mean, it’s right there in the title…”magic”. The problem is that there is no magic wand that will get rid of clutter. If there was, I certainly would have gotten one to help my clients. But just like anything that people struggle with (weight, career satisfaction, happiness), one has to put in the time and effort to achieve what one wants.
Our get-rich-quick society of diet pills and instant meals has made us expect that there’s an easy fix out there somewhere for everything we need, and it’s just a matter of Googling it. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. And in each and every situation of trying to accomplish something without putting in the proper work, there is inevitable failure and disappointment. That’s how I see this ‘new’ organizing method. Mostly, it isn’t new. The ideas have been around for a long time, used by all organizers. It’s just the marketing and packaging that are new. Every client that has read it, has told me that they got very excited and did what it said to do, but it didn’t work for them. And each time I have to explain why it didn’t work.
Here’s what I tell them…The book was written from a cultural perspective different than the one we have in the US. In the US, we are of the mentality that ‘bigger is better’ and ‘more is preferable to less’. For right or wrong, that’s just the way it is. While minimalism is a lofty buzz word goal, it is not the norm. Unless you’re living in New York City, you usually have some space to play with. Space leads to acquiring things, which often leads to clutter, which then leads to feeling overwhelmed, which then leads to trying to find a way to stop feeling that way without actually getting rid of the stuff, which leads to self-help books. Sound familiar? Unless we all plan to move to Japan (or NYC), where space is limited, we will have to find a method that works for where and who we are. While the idea of keeping what “sparks joy” is a great one, this will only help in narrowing down your sweater collection or bookshelf clutter. In my work, I have found that is only a fraction of the clutter in most American homes. What’s to be the fate of the things that don’t spark joy but need to be kept anyway, like tax documents (for 7 years), trash bags, batteries, plungers, etc.? A lot of what we keep is necessary for day to day life.
So this is where the topic of knowledge comes into play. Since there is no magic answer, we need to find out what is and is not right for us, organizationally speaking. It’s not just about letting go of things, we need a way to be able to hold onto the things we want and need without letting those things overwhelm our space and our mind. That knowledge will help us far more than a one-size-fits-all self-help book. Let me say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with self-help, but if we could all heal ourselves by reading books there would be no need for doctors, or psychologists or organizers.
Know that there is no ‘quick fix’ to organizing (or anything else in life)!
Knowledge is power, and power needs structure!
To know me is lo love me (just threw that one in for a giggle. Ha!)
J – Junk
As the saying goes, “One man’s junk, is another man’s treasure”. I think that was said by Sanford and Son. Clients often worry about getting rid of things because they don’t want to throw away something they’ve spent money on. I hate to throw away useful things! This is why I like to donate as much as I can to worthy organizations such as Goodwill. I tell my clients that even though they can’t use something, someone else may be able to use it. You may not need or want the Elvis clock your great aunt Trudy gave you for your birthday 3 years ago, but someone may find it at Goodwill and feel like they’ve hit the jackpot!
Everyone thinks their things are worth a lot of money, and therefore hate to get rid of them. But when is junk, really just junk? I say. It’s when the cost of keeping something outweighs the cost of letting it go, or trying to sell it. The cost of an item is not just monetary, things cost us energy (in upkeep), time (in trying to sell them) and emotional distress (in keeping too much). In past blogs I’ve discussed the idea that our stuff takes a toll on our emotional health and can often make us feel overwhelmed and unfocused. Likewise, we can get so bogged down with maintaining our junk that we forget that it’s there to serve us, not the other way around. Clients often tell me they have things they think are ‘worth something’, and are eager to sell them. It’s difficult telling someone that no one is going to pay big bucks for their old toaster or college textbooks from 1978. People also always want to sell clothing and ask me about consignment shops. I’m not a fan of consignment, since they only take items in pristine (and dry cleaned) condition, that are currently in style. Most people seem to want to consign old, worn out clothing from their teen years. Unfortunately, I often have to burst the get-rich-quick bubble by saying most people’s junk is just that, junk. I tell clients that the time and money (if you hire someone) you will spend trying to sell something is worth more than the item. More often than not, the tax write-off you will get from donating it is a much better and less stressful option. If you do choose to take the time to sell your things, a few good spots are Craigslist (for local items), Ebay (for collectors items), Thread Up (for clothing), Rebagg (for purses).
So what if your junk doesn’t fit into a box you can throw into the back of your car and drop off at the donation center? I tell my clients that I will take away and donate everything that fits in my car at the end of each work session. I’ve had clients take me up on that, literally, so that that I leave their home with only enough room for me to fit into the driver’s seat. For those that have bravely tackled a garage-full of junk, there is help in the form of junk haulers. This is an amazing business, which complements the work that we, organizers, do. For a nominal fee, they come to your home with a big truck and muscled employees to remove everything you want gone. The best part is, that they don’t just take all of it to the city dump. Companies like Junk King, make sure everything they haul away is dealt with responsibly. They do everything from recycling old refrigerators to donating your bedroom set. Companies like Gone For Good even have a store where they give you a discount on your haul-away of they can resell some of your old items. Then there’s Clutter Trucker, who specializes in hoarding situations and mandatory clean-outs.
What’s the point? I’m glad you asked! Whether you think of your stuff as junk or treasure, if you don’t need or want it, don’t hold onto it!
Your Junk may be useless to you, but useful to someone else – Donate it!
Is your junk ‘worth something’? – Sell it!
If your junk is overwhelming your space and you – Have it hauled away!