The alphabet of organizing! Or, how to simplify your life one letter at a time!
But it’s such a bargain! How many times have we all said this when faced with deciding whether to buy an item that we KNOW we don’t really need? We try to convince the rational and organized part of our brain that we should buy it because it’s a great deal and that we’re actually doing a good thing by buying it because we may need it someday! Right? Well, I’m here to tell you that a bargain is only a TRUE bargain if you can make good use of it! This means that buying that glass Llama statue at 60% off is only good if upon seeing it you exclaim “I have the perfect place to put that”, and it will complete your animals of the world that spit collection! Otherwise, it’s not a bargain; it’s just another thing that will need to be dusted and will eventually end up at a garage sale.
Marketing is set up to make things irresistible to that disheveled little devil sitting on our shoulder and poking us with his spear (that he go for ½ off at a clearance sale). However that guy is nowhere to be found when you are knee-deep in bargain basement items…in your basement!
Have you ever bargained with a family members, trying to convince them that you will take care of the clutter engulfing the kitchen table, after you finish more ‘pressing’(aka…more interesting) things? If this sounds familiar, then you are the one that comes out on the short end of that bargain, because that clutter will be waiting for you when you run out of pressing things to occupy your time. And then they’ll be even more of it! So, really, you just bargained some more work for yourself. There is no need to bargaining yourself out of fun activities, but if you plan it well, you can have your fun and an organized space!
Here’s a good bargain for you: How about setting aside time in your day/week/month (whatever works best) to schedule organizing time. Put it into your calendar in big letters. Don’t plan anything over it and don’t reschedule it to do something more ‘pressing’, like clipping your toenails (although that really should be done at some point). Like Nike says…”Just do it”! Not sure where to start? Follow Mary Poppins and “start at the very beginning”. Pick a room; pick a spot in the room and get to work!
Don’t be a victim of marketing bargains!
Stop bargaining more work for yourself!
Strike a bargain where you win over clutter!
So begins my alphabet of organizing! I am going to teach you how to simplify your life one letter at a time! This will be fun(I promise)!!
A – Accept
Before you can do anything about your clutter, you have to acknowledge it and accept the fact that it’s a problem and needs to be dealt with. Without this first step, you won’t get very far. If you walk around your home and there are piles of things everywhere and you’re not sure why you’re unhappy all the time, accepting that it may be the clutter in your space can help turn things around.
Accepting help is the next step. I have had people call and tell me how much they need my services and even go as far as setting up and initial consultation, only to cancel right before the consultation because they can’t fully accept that they need help. When they cancel, it’s always with another time to reschedule, but they end up canceling the reschedule date as well. This cycle continues for several rounds until they can honestly accept the help.
I had a client who came to me for help organizing her home office. She said her daughter tried to help her, but it didn’t go very far because it led to a fight and her daughter yelled at her. This is a very familiar scenario! You’re ready to accept some help and turn to your family/friends first. This is very logical, but usually ends up backfiring, as in the case of this client. When she came to me she was a bit skeptical, because her daughters help left her feeling very disappointed and nowhere closer to organized. She asked me how working with me would be different, so I made her a promise that I wouldn’t yell at her (I didn’t mention that don’t yell at any of my clients), which put her at ease right away. We were successful and everyone walked away happy (including the daughter, who was relieved not to have to do any more organizing).
Accepting your limitations in all things actually helps to accomplish those things. Not everyone is good at everything and sometimes you have to ask for help! I have a brilliant client who’s a doctor, but she constantly marvels at my ability to see things in a way she can’t see them. I tell her that everyone has their skills and talents. I couldn’t do what she does and she can’t do what I do, which keeps us both in business!
Accept that you may have an issue with clutter!
Accept help from others to organize the clutter!
Accept your limitations in dealing with the clutter!
It is once again time to go back to school, for some (thankfully not me). This means squeezing back into old routines or establishing new ones. Whether you’re an adult going back to school(yay you!), have kids just starting school(where has the time gone?), been going through the school thing for many years(when are they going to college already?!), starting college (no, this is not time to go crazy), or even a teacher(yea, you need to be organized too)…routines and systems are the key to making an easy shift from summer relaxation to school schedules! Here are a few things to help make the transition easier:
1. Systemize Sleep. Start implementing a regular bed time and wake-up time 2 weeks before the start of school. Ease into the routine by inching closer to the goal times within the 2 weeks. Waking up kids that like to sleep in a bit earlier each day will get them used to getting up early for school. If you’ve abandoned the alarm clock for carefree summer months, use the 2 weeks to get yourself ready for the habit of rising with the alarm (and, yes, you can push ‘snooze’ a couple times).
2. Create a Central Calendar. If everyone in the family is used to flying by the seat of their pants during summer, creating one central spot for everyone to see what’s going on and where they need to be, will help bring things back to order. Make sure the calendar is in a place where everyone can access it and that everything of importance gets put on the calendar. This should cut down on the ‘who needs to be where, when’ confusion.
3. Prepare Your Papers. Many schools require immunizations records, physicals, class registrations and tuition records. Make sure you know the requirements of your school before the first day, so that you’re not caught saying “I didn’t know anything about that”. (On a tangential note, I have a reoccurring nightmare that I go to my first day of high school without my class schedule and have no idea where I’m supposed to be all day long. Hmmm…)
4. Minimize Morning Madness. If there is usually a mad dash to get ready and get out the door in the morning, try making some preparations the night before. Pick and lay out clothes. Pack lunches (except for anything that can get soggy and gross overnight, yuk). Set out breakfast dishes. Pack the backpacks and bags so that permission slip and homework won’t get left behind. Create a space near the door to leave everything that needs to be taken the next morning, so you can just grab it and go.
Just a little preparation before the start of the school year (or just after it starts, for the procrastinators) will decrease stress for the entire year! Wouldn’t that be awesome?!
When people find out that I’m a Professional Organizer their response is “I need you!”. My response is always “I can help you!” However, somewhere between this initial conversation and actually starting the process to get organized a lot of people withdrawal. I’ve spoken to fellow organizers to see if this happens to them, and every single one of them say that it has. This made me stop and think of why this would be…is it too expensive? Certainly money is a deciding factor for a lot of things. Is it an issue of not having the time? People definitely are increasingly busy these days. Then it occurred to me…they just aren’t ready! I firmly believe that there isn’t a soul alive that couldn’t benefit from being more organized (myself included). Just like I believe everyone could benefit from therapy at some point in their life! However, both are huge, life-changing undertakings that need to be entered into with an open mind and willing spirit. And some people just aren’t ready to do that.
Some people think they’re ready, but their expectations are that and organizer will swoop in and wave a wand and make the years of clutter magically go away. As much as I would love to be the organizing fairy godmother, my wand seems to be in the shop. So, we (you and I) must roll up our sleeves and get in there and deal with it! We must deal with what to keep and what do let go of. We must distinguish between sentimental items and junk. We must deal with the clutter and the feelings about the clutter. And then we must deal with how to keep it clutter-free.
This means that you have to ask yourself…do you want it to be better or do you just want to keep trying to forget about it? Is the physical and mental pain caused by the clutter big and bad enough to go through the pain of going through that clutter? Are you ready to take on the burden of releasing your ‘stuff’ if it leads to relief after the stuff has been released? These are tough questions to ask yourself, but the answers will show if you’re ready or not. It’s ok if you’re not. But if you are, money won’t be an issue and neither will time. You don’t have to be a hoarder to be ready! No amount of clutter is too small if it causes you stress! There will undoubtedly come a time when you are ready to take action and rid your life of the clutter, and then you will know that in the end, it will all be worth it!
Are you ready?
According to a 2010 West Virginia University article “disorganization results in 80% of the clutter in most homes”. And a 2008 Article in the NY Times states that “getting organized is unquestionably good for both body and mind”?
Many people live in small houses, where being organized is absolutely crucial. However, even if your rooms are big and spacious, keeping everything in order will simplify your life and improve both your mood and your sense of comfort. Two spaces that seem to confuse and confound most people, as far as organizing goes, are bathrooms and garages.
So, why not start organizing in the Bathroom
The bathroom is one of those forgotten rooms, especially when thinking about storage. However, with a bit of imagination you will be able to utilize all the possibilities in your bathroom space. For instance, you could add a series of wall shelves, which would allow you to display all those colorful bottles, candles and jars that too often end up packed away for lack of space.
A small bathroom may benefit form a larger mirror, or even a mirrored cabinet, if there’s room for it. Let’s be clear, this is not about ending up with an overcrowded space, made up of shelves and cabinets. It is, however, about using every part of the room to it’s fullest potential!
Moving on the the Garage…
Start from scratch, think about what your garages main purposes are…car parking? storage? You will have to make some choice here; If it’s main purpose is to house cars, then you may need to get rid of some of the things you’ve been storing there? For instance, when it comes to gardening, ask yourself: How many gardening tools do I really need? Do I have duplicates? Another option, for those of us without green thumbs is to simply hire professionals to take care of your yard, which will save you both space and time!
If the garage is used for both car parking and storage, organize the space in sections. Purchase cabinets, shelves and whatever else you need to make your garage functional and… beautiful (this may be a stretch, but why not?). Once again, be creative!
No matter the space you’re working with, remember, there is nothing you can’t change with a little imagination, some elbow grease and the proper storage items!
Blog contribution by FixItYourself.com.
The garage is often the most underutilized and most cluttered area of the home. It usually becomes a dumping zone and an organization project filed under “To Do”… never. Some homeowners can’t even fit a car in the garage because of the mess. With the spirit of Spring Cleaning on the way, now is the perfect time to organize your garage. With the help of a few simple tips, you can achieve a clean, organized, and fully functional garage.
Decide & Donate: First things first. If you haven’t used an item in the last 3 years, chances are you won’t be using it in the next. Using this rule of thumb, you will rid yourself of a lot of unnecessary clutter. Go through your items and create a “can’t-live-without” pile and a toss pile.
Before completely dumping all your toss pile items, consider donating them to a local charity. Charities can always benefit from gently used and useful items, and usually give you the opportunity for a tax deduction.
Separate & Designate: Now that you’ve gotten rid of excess items and are left with what you can’t live without, separate everything into piles by category:
– Holiday/Seasonal Items
– Paint & Other Home Project Supplies
– Outdoor/Camping Equipment
– Yard Tools
– Home Improvement Tools/Power Tools
– Sports and Activity Equipment
– Laundry Supplies
Decide where in the garage is the best place to store each category. Designating a place in the garage for each category creates a more functional space and will help you locate items much more easily. It’s best to store less frequently used, seasonal items out of the way, since they are only used a few times a year. For more frequently used items, such as yard tools and laundry supplies, it’s best to store them in more easily accessible areas.
Make Use of Wasted Space: The garage is full of potential storage space. Potential being the keyword. Most homeowners are not taking full advantage of all the space in their garage for storage. Take advantage of walls and ceiling space to store everything up off the floor and on shelves, hooks and overhead racks.
Overhead racks are great for storing less frequently used and seasonal items out of the way, yet still easily accessible when needed. Most overhead racks are easily adjustable to fit any garage height. Utilize shelving and hooks for storing more frequently used items down lower, yet still off the ground. Yard tools and bikes hung on hooks will be just a quick grab away, instead of a time consuming dig through piles.
Bins & Labels: Even with everything stored and organized in its designated place, it can be difficult to remember what is in that plain brown box. Try using clear plastic bins, making it easy to identify its contents. If you’d prefer a more uniform look, use solid colored bins with visible labels for easy identification when needed.
By designating a place for everything and maximizing on the wasted space in your garage, you can achieve a fully functional space that fits all of your storage items as well as the car, the garage’s intended resident.
Blog contribution by: Garage Storage Solutions, LLC, a garage storage and organization company serving the Denver area’s homeowners with solutions and tips for an organized garage.
In our paperless society, we have more paper than ever! While we can do almost anything we want or need on a computer, we’re still inundated with paper that we have no idea what to do with. The biggest paper-related issue I see on a regular basis is mail. A lot of people do their bill paying online, yet still receive paper statements. I recently had a client who was moving and needed to go through her things and do a big purge before the movers came. It turned out that she had boxes and boxes of unopened mail, dating back to the 90’s! She has been paying her bills online for quite some time and wasn’t sure what to do with the paper bills… keep them?, Throw them away? Shred them? So she would just throw them in a box and seal the box when it was full.
She had just been moving from place to place with these boxes and accumulating more as time went on. When we were finished she had close to 20 boxes of recycling and about 15 boxes of shredding. She was unbelievably relieved and was committed to not continuing this mail storage pattern, now that she knew exactly what to do with the new mail that came in.
If you are having a similar issue and just not sure what to do with a backlog of mail, here are some easy tips that will help!
• Go through the backlog – either by yourself or with help from friends, family or a professional. Shred everything that has any account numbers, social security numbers or credit card numbers. There is no need to shred things that just have your address, because your address is public record anyway. Recycle the rest.
• Decide what’s important to keep and what’s not – bills that have been used for tax purposes should be kept with the taxes for that year. You only need to keep tax information dating 7 years back (unless you have had some tax issues in the past, then consult your accountant).
• Set up a filing system for the keeps – make sure they system is simple to use and has enough room for everything you want to keep as well as new things that come in.
• Stop all mail that you don’t need – if you have a backlog of magazines and you want to read them, stop all your subscriptions until you’ve caught up. Go paperless on your bills if you’re already paying them online. You can always print out any statement online if you need to. You can also sign up at DMA Choice to help stop the junk mail you’re receiving.
• Adopt the ‘do it now’ mindset, moving forward – Don’t pick up the mail unless you have a few minutes to go through it. Once you have it look at it immediately and sort into shred, recycle and keep piles. Put the shred and recycle into bins you have set up, right away. Figure out what to do with the keeps…file, pay, respond, etc. Put sticky notes on each pile with the action that needs to be taken and a date to get it done by.
It can be daunting to look at a big pile of mail from who knows when. It feels easier to just hide it away and not think about it, but unless you plan to abandon your home and everything in it, you will have to deal with it at some point! If it’s too much to tackle alone, call a Professional Organizer. We do/see this stuff every day, so don’t be embarrassed or scared. It will definitely be worth your time and money!
It’s the 2nd half of January, which is usually when those well-intended resolutions you were so excited about at the end of December turn into revulsions, as you think about having to actually KEEP them.
Fear Not! It’s all about perspective! If you view your resolutions as dreaded to-do items, your well-intended resolutions will fall into the resolution abyss, not to be seen again…until this time next year. But, if you look at them as challenges and strategize ways to accomplish them, while staying on the resolution-making high of December, you will be a success! So how is this done? Because you asked so nicely I will let you in on the secrets of resolution-keeping.
• Make your resolutions attainable and specific
o Not attainable (unless surgery is involved): Losing 10lbs in 10 days.
o Not specific: Be more productive.
o Attainable and specific: Keep your inbox at or below 100 emails at any given time.
• Establish routines
o If you want to lose weight…
– Routine: Set specific days and times to work out and stick to them.
– Not a Routine: Planning workouts around the weather or your TV guide.
• Figure out the goals of your goals
o Success is not the same as perfection
– A successful person: Sets SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely.
– A perfect person: Does nothing, because nothing can be done perfectly.
• Review your resolutions
o Set aside time throughout the year to review your resolutions and see if they’re still important to you or if you’ve outgrown them.
– Important resolution: Work to organize one area of my home each month.
– Not important resolution: Watch an episode of Downton Abbey each month (unless, of course you stand to benefit in a monetary way from this).
• Reward your efforts
o Earning a reward goes much further than just being handed one or taking one you don’t deserve. Reward yourself for your accomplishments in reasonable, non self-sabotaging ways.
– Good reward: An evening out with friends (or alone, for us introverts) after getting to your goal weight, or inbox number, or project deadline, or whatever your goal is.
– Bad reward: All-you-can-eat anything
Do you dread the holidays? I’ve heard many people over the years, tell me about their not-so-jolly holiday problems. For some, it’s disliking being alone, and for others it’s dreading being with family. Some hate all the hustle and bustle of the season and others get overwhelmed by all the ‘thoughtful’ gifts that need to be bought for loved ones. Unfortunately I can’t help with that lonely holiday feeling or even with the family-overload problem, but I can help with the running around and the gift-giving issues! Coming from a small family, I didn’t have many shopping dilemmas, but I know this is a big problem for those with large families (and extended families). Having to buy gifts year after year for the same people can make you run out of gift ideas and make your loved ones run out of storage for received gifts. So, here are a few ideas that don’t take up any space, and may even help free some up!
• Online vouchers for activities: Groupon, Get My Perks, Amazon Deals (and many others)
• Travel: Groupon Getaways, Travelocity (to name just a few)
• Fitness memberships: Yoga, Crossfit, Gym membership (the possibilities are endless)
• Classes: Cooking Classes, Craft Classes, Any other classes you can imagine
• Donations in someone’s name: Red Cross, Humane Society, American Cancer Society (There’s a charity for almost any cause you can think of)
• Junk Removal: Clutter Trucker (They do a great job)
• Cleaning Services: Find the service that fits your needs
• Organizing: Simplify Me, LLC (Shameless plug…but I really can help)
Experiences and services make much fonder memories than ‘things’, they’re great for the person that already has everything and they don’t take up any space in someone’s home! Face it…does your dad really need another ugly tie, or would he rather have an Exotic Car Driving Adventure?? Could your aunt use a little help tidying up or decluttering her home, or are you getting her another potholder?
I have been fortunate enough to go on 2 international trips this year which has made me think about being organized when traveling. And, since the holidays are a time of travel for many, what better opportunity than this to talk about being an organized traveler. For some, traveling is a hassle. You have to book flights, hotels, excursions; get passports, international calling plans for your phone, money belts. You have to pack for weather that may or may not be, while still leaving room for souvenirs, and not going over the allowable luggage weight limit. There is a whole lot of organization that goes into taking a trip!
So, as an experienced traveler and organizer, I have learned a few do’s and don’ts about organized traveling.
…Make a packing list well before you need to pack, including things that need to be purchased and done before you leave (packing the night before a big trip assures you will be at Walgreens at midnight getting things you forgot you needed).
…Roll your clothes and use packing cubes in your suitcase –Rolling your clothes saves room and keeps them from getting wrinkled and the packing cubes keep outfits and ‘like’ things together (so you won’t need to dump everything out of your suitcase to find a pair of socks).
…Make photo copies of the front and back of your important documents (passport, drivers license, credit cards, insurance cards) and keep them separate from the originals. If the originals are stolen or lost you will still have identification and the proper information to cancel cards. (There’s nothing quite like being stuck in a foreign country with no ID).
…Pack all the important things in a carry-on bag (medications, valuable, electronics, documents, money); plus, pack a days worth of things in your carry-on in case your luggage is delayed (Having to wear the same clothes you just wore on an 18hr flight while you wait for your bags is not a good vacation starter).
…Call you credit card companies to let them know where you’ll be and how long you’ll be gone so they don’t flag your card as stolen and shut it down.(No one likes the embarrassment of a declined card).
…Overpack (you don’t need the same shirt in 3 colors). Pack things that can be worn multiple times and in different ways.
…Wait until you get there to find out where you will be staying (unless you want to sleep in the airport or a hotel lobby). Things book up quickly and finding a hotel when you’re jet-lagged is not how you want to start your vacation, so book at least your first nights stay.
…Bring a lot of cash. Almost every place takes credit cards and pulling out a wad of cash only invites trouble (and new friends…so maybe it’s not that bad).
…Wait until you need to use your phone to figure out how to call and how much it will cost you.(You don’t want to get a surprising cell phone bill when you get home just because you didn’t know your carriers rules).
…Try to weigh your suitcase on a regular scale by itself. It’s important to know how much your suitcase weighs before you get to the airport, but putting it on your household scale will not tell you an accurate weight. Either, get a luggage scale, or, if you want to do it quick and dirty…weigh yourself, then weigh yourself holding the suitcase and do the math.
There are many more tips and tricks to staying organized when traveling, but the thing to remember is that the more organized you are before the trip, the smoother and more enjoyable your trip will be. Now go see the world!