Saturday, January 18, 2020

An Organized Year

The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals, of which I'm a member, designates January as Get Organized Month. Getting organized is a common reoccurring resolution individuals have because we recognize to get organized allows us to do more and not be distracted by unimportant tangible and intangible things. Just about every magazine and news outlet leading up to the new year and stretching into the first few weeks of the year focuses on strategies for getting organized.

I think the solution to become organized is to weave it into your daily and weekly routines. I also believe it is important to regularly organize throughout the year so that it becomes part of life. Here are my top 10 organizing strategies:

1. Make your bed. It provides a psychological lift and a sense of accomplishment at the start of the day. It is also welcoming to see at the end of the day.

2. The most important organizing strategy is to designate spots or homes for everything. Everyone in the home needs to know where everything goes and to actively participate in putting things away.

3. Everyone in the home needs a landing spot for their stuff preferably by the door so that bulky items such as backpacks, school books, work items, keys, purses and other are kept together in each person's designated spot.

4. Spend 10 minutes at the end of the day putting everything away. It will pay dividends to your mental health to be able to relax and not be distracted by clutter.

5. Use some kind of planner - digital or paper - but consistently use it.

6. Keep a complete list of tasks you need to do and update it regularly. Identify weekly what tasks are top priorities that are urgent and must be done and schedule them in your week to get done.

7. Open your mail daily over your recycling bin and near your shredder. Manage the mail that comes into your home by calling the companies directly that you don't want to receive mail from or utilize services such as Paper Karma, stop direct mail pieces through the National Do Not Mail List, and register with the Direct Marketing Association.

8. Do quarterly big sweeps. These are larger projects such as cleaning out the pantry to weed out expired food and doing an inventory of your
freezer so that food isn't wasted. Another quarterly sweep project is managing closets. Go through your clothes as the seasons change and make sure that everything is in good shape and that you plan to wear each article of clothing - (if not donate it). If you have kids organizing toys is a quarterly sweep project. If you get your kids involved you will teach them to use their things and to let go and share their things with others if they aren't.

9. Create finite spaces to help keep spaces tidy. An example is to use a tray on a counter to corral items and create a habit to only put things on the tray, not on the counter, and process them regularly off of the tray.

10. Only have things in your home that reflect you and to channel Marie Kondo, "spark joy". Regularly edit your rooms and closets so that you can use and enjoy what you have and not let your things rule your life.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Worst Linen Closet Ever

Access to our attic requires dismantling our linen closet in order to get to out of season clothes and decorations. All of the closets in our home are small, and we don't have a garage, so unfortunately we do need to store some bins in the attic. Over the years, I have culled down the bins and have encouraged us all to move towards an all season wardrobe, with fewer clothes, so that we store less up there.

Getting my daughter ready for sleep-away camp, and not finding her plastic travel soap dish that I thought was in her travel bag in the linen closet, forced me to yet again reorganize our mess of a linen closet. I took everything out and purged old linens, towels, threw out expired over the counter medicine, and grouped everything I was keeping by category. I went from open baskets to closed plastic boxes that will keep everything contained better (if my kids use the lids), and allow for easy removal when we need to access the attic.

Though I never found her plastic travel soap dish for camp, I did end up with a much improved linen closet that still isn't optimum, but is a lot more pleasant to use.

Before -

After -

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Spring Organizing Bug is Catching

It is a cold, dark April day and it feels like February. Though it is hard to think Spring on a day like today, it will eventually feel like Spring, and hopefully we will finally be able to put away our cold weather clothes. I know many of you have probably gotten the Spring cleaning itch, which for many of us includes going through our clothes, and other household items and donating or selling things that don't speak to us anymore. I do think many of us get the Spring organizing bug because we have spent many months inside and now it is an opportunity to throw open our windows and not only bring more light in, but make our rooms feel lighter.

Spring also represents a time for a restart to not only get our homes in order, but to refocus on goals that are important to us. I contributed to an Alexandria Living article on this very topic.

Another way to make our homes feel lighter is to process paper daily, or several times a week. Better yet, keep it out by getting e-statements and utilizing services, a good one is DMAchoice, to get off of junk mail lists. Spring time is a great time to go through files and put together a few bags of documents to be shredded. Take advantage of the many free, Spring shred days in our area. A good one is sponsored by my bank on April 21st from 9:00 - noon, Commonwealth One Federal Credit Union, on Eisenhower Avenue. It is open to the community and you don't need to bank there.

Happy Spring and happy organizing!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

10-Minute Drawer Clean-out

I created a mess all over my kitchen floor when I reached for a set of measuring spoons and along with them came an assortment of monster straws, that my kids had long aged out of, taking up valuable real estate in my kitchen drawer. I decided right then this drawer was first up to try out my claim that mini organizing tasks can be done in 10 minutes or less.

I first took everything out of the drawer and sorted it into donate, keep and trash. I ended up with a decent size bag of stuff we don't use to give to the Green Drop and a few items were broken so they went in the trash and the remaining keep items, I sorted into categories. I cleaned out all of the gunk and crumbs that collect and seem to multiply in utensil drawers, and then put all of the items back in their respective categories.

I went slightly over 10 minutes, but I now have a drawer that we go in frequently that is clean, organized and not over-stuffed. One drawer at a time, it can get done!


Saturday, January 20, 2018

Creating an Important Document Road-map

The not-so-fun tax documents are starting to come in and it got me thinking about my files and papers and how I need to get them organized for 2018. Yup, I haven't done it yet! What I did do a few years ago though is some big picture organizing of all of our family's important documents and I created a road-map to explain the how, what and where to manage it.

We all know how important it is to have our critical life documents in place, so that we have them when we need them. However sometimes life gets in the way and this important task gets pushed to the back burner. Working with an organizer can help you check this important task as done. Having a professional guide the process makes it less stressful and painful. However, there are helpful checklists out there for you to do it yourself. The website Get your SH** Together has several.

It is critical to gather all important documents such as wills, insurance, marriage and birth/death certificates (follow the link above for the complete list) and to ensure that important people in your life know where to find them. Gather them all in a secure place and make sure they are updated and protected so that if you need them, you have them.

Road-map Creation - It is essential to set up files and to have a document that reminds you and informs the important people in your life where all the essential documents are kept, how to pay bills, contact information for key people, and how to find passwords so that a stressful situation doesn't become more stressful for a loved one trying to get essential information, if and when you can't. There are 6 elements to create a Road-map for yourself and loved ones.

Insurance - In order to make sure you have the right insurance and that you can get items replaced if you need to, you will need to do a home inventory. There are many home inventory software companies out there that make this process easy, and a good one is HomeZada. Though even a video and spreadsheet of items and model numbers by room would suffice. Check with your insurance company and find out their requirements.

Important Paper / Files - Only create paper and electronic files that are absolutely essential. Create an index of what is filed where to include instructions to find digital paper.

Income / Expense - Create a spreadsheet to describe all assets and all expenses, to include how all bills are paid. If paid on-line - explain if the bill is paid from a checking account or charged to a credit card.

Passwords - Do your loved ones know your essential passwords? Do you use a password manager? Share with your spouse and others as appropriate your master password, computer lock-screen password, bank accounts, credit cards, etc. I can't tell you how many couples I have worked with where they don't know each other's important passwords.

Contacts - Create a list of important people in your life that can help answer questions (accountant, financial advisor, executor, home maintenance providers, etc) and also friends, neighbors and family you want contacted in an emergency situation.

Safe Deposit Box / Fire Proof Safe - Create an index of what is stored here and make sure your loved ones are aware of it and know the code to access the safe, or have a key to a bank safe deposit box. You will want to put the Road-map document here for loved ones to access and you can also send them a copy, as you feel comfortable.

The sense of satisfaction and relief are tremendous when the road-map is complete. I know paper can be overwhelming, but there are a lot of resources out there - both good websites with checklists and professionals that are available to help at any point in the process. Good luck creating your family's road-map and let me know if I can assist.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Baby Steps to Getting Organized in the New Year

Happy New Year and Happy Organizing!

There is so much information how setting broad goals isn't the way to go, to meet New Year's resolutions. If you truly want to make change, the way to go is to set small, specific goals that are doable and realistic that move you towards achieving your broader goals. Resolutions are about change and making any kind of change, especially if it requires forming a new habit, is challenging.

I read an article a few days ago about Jim Webster, a chef and food journalist, who lost 60 lbs by wearing his Fitbit faithfully, and not eating for 12 hours after his last meal of the day. As a chef, he is around food all the time and needs to test what he is making, which can wreck havoc on any weight loss plan. He realized, in his line of work, to achieve his weight loss goal he couldn't follow a rigid diet plan, but he could focus on what he could do, walk more, watch what he eats and not eat after a specific time. He found success and continues with this lifestyle.

Many people realize the importance of organization and define getting organized as one of their New Year's resolutions. The problem is getting organized is a broad goal and can be too daunting especially if there is a backlog of clutter. Once normal life resumes post holidays, those great intentions sometimes fall by the wayside. A better way may be to focus on one small organizing task, like a junk drawer, or entry way table that won't take a lot of time to get in shape, but will still give the emotional lift and sense of accomplishment that something was done towards your goal of getting organized.

As I went to reach for a water bottle yesterday and an avalanche of water bottles fell out of my pantry, I realized my 10 minute project was identified for me. The problem was easy to diagnosis - too many water bottles. We have a home for the water bottles, however it had gotten messy and several of the bottles couldn't fit so they were haphazardly thrown in the storage container. It took 10 minutes for me to take the storage container out, weed out the bottles we don't use, take out the travel coffee cups (moved them to the mug cabinet), and now all of the water bottles with lids fit neatly in the storage container in our pantry. You would have thought I achieved something so wonderful by the lift and sense of accomplishment I felt.

I truly believe that in short, regular scheduled time increments goals can get accomplished. I'll keep you posted on other 10-minute organizing blitzes I accomplish. Here's to getting it done this year!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Why the hiatus from writing? Like most people I too procrastinate and push things of lesser priority, or I don't want or enjoy to do, to the bottom of my to do list. It hasn't been top of mind for me. However, with Thanksgiving on Thursday (how can that be?!), I thought I'd break my blogging fast to express how grateful I am to all my clients - those who have been with me for many years and those who are new clients. I am privileged to meet so many great people, and while I am hired as the organizing expert, I find we learn from each other. I sometimes take for granted the positive feeling I receive when a client is so excited about an outcome of a finished project, or seeing a client who was overwhelmed at the start of the process, be happy and content as a project wraps up. I get so much joy contributing to the process and am grateful for the opportunity to do what I do. May this Thanksgiving bring joy, and continued feelings of gratitude for all that we have in our lives to carry us through the busy holiday season and end of year. Happy Thanksgiving!