Monday, February 21, 2011

Breaking Family Routines

Of course, as a professional organizer I am a big believer in routines, but I think abandoning routines once in awhile can be a good thing. I include our family in the group that doesn't take advantage of all of the wonderful museums, free and low-cost recreational park activities and the many other enriching family programs that are available every weekend in and around D.C. We tend to fall into our regular a.m. routine of reading the shrinking paper and enjoying our coffee while the kids watch cartoons, before all of the normal weekend activities start like b-day parties, sports practices and play dates.

This weekend we diverged a bit from our routine mainly because our youngest had been cooped up all week with an especially harsh stomach virus, and I think we all needed to do something different. We went down to the Building Museum on Saturday because they have a Lego exhibit that we haven't seen yet and they were hosting Engineering Family Day with lots of fun activities planned for kids. Though parking was a bear, the day was so much fun. I think it fed a spark our son has to the building professions, and we all walked away learning something. It was great to experience this all together as a family. I had to laugh that I did learn how to make structurally strong columns out of a sheet of paper and my daughter and I made many of them yesterday securing her second level of her firehouse she made out of a cardboard box.

We never made it to the Lego exhibit, as we ran out of time, but all agreed that we will be back to take in that exhibit. I strongly recommend a visit to the Building Museum.

Also, another great source I've discovered for local activities is the Patch. It is a local, on-line newspaper and there are many neighborhood versions that are available. I happen to read the Huntington-Belle Haven Patch.

I think this past weekend was an eye opener for us and one we will want to replicate with regularity. I hope we can do it!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mise En Place for Organizing Success

Good chefs and organizers have something very important in common. We both employ a technique that is commonly used by professional chefs called mise en place, which means "everything in its place". Designating a place for everything is at the core of organizing because without this important element proper systems can't be set up.

Something I see a lot as an organizer is many clients will pile things or stuff items in places because either they aren't sure where the items are suppose to go, a home was never identified for the items or they intend to put it away and the put away pile becomes daunting. The ramifications of not employing the mise en place philosophy is that organization will be elusive, never ending, and overwhelming when it doesn't have to be. Also, you will probably re-buy things you already have because you either can't find the item when you need it or you think you don't have it in the first place.

So what should you do? First, I recommend in any room that you are organizing to do a thorough purge, only then can you see what truly needs to be organized. The second step is identify any storage in the room to see if it can be utilized better, if other items can be rearranged to free up more space, and then determine if more storage needs to be purchased. The last step is ....mise en place - put everything away. This last step is the icing on the cake! A logical home is determined for every item needed in the room. I realize it isn't as straight forward as I've written, but if you keep this process in mind, you will be able to employ the mise en place strategy in no time.