Let's Reflect on the Year

I want to hear from you! What did you tackle this year that has made a huge difference? Maybe you moved and managed to unpack all your boxes and get organizing in your new home. Maybe you mastered your schedule and haven't been late to a meeting in months! Maybe you finally started the process to go digital and get rid of that filing cabinet.

What have I done that's made a difference for me organizationally?

- I moved, and did unpack all my boxes!

- I got rid of my wall calendar this year, and even though I still glance at the wall sometimes, I have everything I need in one calendar.

- I went through all my childhood memories. School papers, toys, you name it. It's neatly sorted and packed such that I can grab something if I want to take it out.

- I finally started writing down business processes, so someone else can do some of it!

The Quickest Time Management Tips Ever

It's hard to stay on track. It's hard to be on time. It's called time management because we have to pay attention and actually manage it. But, it can be easier:

1. Schedule everything into your calendar. I mean everything, if you have to. When to exercise, when to watch your favorite TV show, who to call back on the drive home from work. It can seem labor intensive to get started, but once it's habit, you forget to do things a whole lot less.

2. Color code, if need be. If you're juggling multiple calendars, color code to make things easier to visually separate. If multiple people are on one schedule, each person is a different color. Or, if it's just yours, different tasks get different colors. For example, appointments are red, birthdays are yellow, and people to call back are green.

3. Be realistic. A lot of us think it takes less time to do things than it really does. I'm guilty of this far more often than I'd like to admit. I always think I can get squeeze in a few more emails or phone calls before walking out the door than I realistically can before I'm running late.

4. Practice. Like I said, it's time management. If you've ever managed a project or a person before, realize that your calendar is both!

5. Shut out distractions. Mute your phone or TV. Hang up a sign on your cubicle that says "Busy! Come back later!" Do whatever it takes to make sure you complete your task on time.

The Quickest Utility Closet Organizing Tips Ever

It doesn't really matter if you have a whole closet devoted to "utility." Most of us don't have the space for that. However, we usually do have a cabinet, drawer or shelf with that designation. How can we get a quick hold on them?

1. Make sure the items don't belong some place else. If you have a sewing kit somewhere else in the house, then make sure needles and thread go there, and not here.

2. Get rid of duplicates. If you only have two hands, you probably don't need six hammers.

3. Question the use of tool boxes. Sometimes they help; sometimes they don't. If you have a bunch of loose tools and hardware, a tool box may be your solution. However, if you have stacks and stacks of plastic boxes with one tool in each (think a drill or sander), then it might make more sense to store them in another way.

4. Contain like items. An organizer's first rule of thumb. Tape near tape, string with string, and so on. You know the drill by now!

5. Keep chemicals high-ish. Glues, greases and whatever other solutions are in your utility area should be stored well out of reach of kids and pets, when applicable. However, don't keep them so high that you have to tip a bin to get them out. No one wants to spill de-greaser all over themselves!

The Quickest Bathroom Organizing Tips Ever

Linen closet or no, there's still things you keep in the bathroom and/or use for hygiene. It's gotta go somewhere! Even if you have a pedestal sink and feel like there's nowhere to store anything, we can make do:

1. If you don't like how it smells/feels/reacts with your skin, get rid of it. If it's a product you feel confident you're not going to use again - no matter the reason - there's no need to keep it.

2. Condense bottles. Are you a culprit of having multiple half-used bottles of the same product?
Combine them into one bottle. Have a thousand travel size shampoos you want to try and an almost empty shampoo bottle? If it's all the same, pour them all together (and create your own, new custom scent!).

3. Try using a basket. If you have deep selves or cabinets, or even just a lot of little tubes and bottles, contain them in a bin or basket. It's such a pain to reach for one thing, and a dozen others topple over.

4. Utilize the walls. If you're short on counter or cabinet space, consider using what wall space may be available. Hanging shelves, hooks or narrow cabinets can make a world of difference.

5. Donate to a shelter. Whatever hygiene products you don't want, someone who has none will gladly use.

The Quickest Paper Organizing Tips Ever

Paper. We all have it, whether we want it or not. Most of us don't want it. Some of us do, though! And, that's totally fine, as long as whatever paper we do keep, we keep in an organized manner. Paper's tough, too. We're never quite sure what to keep or for how long...and we end up keeping it all forever. Time to take control!

1. Keep anything for taxes for seven years. I'm not a lawyer or an accountant, so check with yours to make sure you know what you need for your own taxes. In general, if you needed it for a deduction or proof of income (W2, 1099, etc.), you should keep it for seven years with tax documents.

2. Keep most anything else for a calendar year. That's pretty much everything else. Utility bills, bank and credit card statements, other bills. Unless you need proof of purchase (say for a sofa or diamond necklace), receipts can go once your monthly statement is settled and any returns have been made. But, if you feel more comfortable, keep them for the calendar year. 

3. Keep vital records forever. That includes birth, death and marriage certificates. Estate records, wills, power of attorney paperwork. Medical records (test results and diagnoses, not bills or explanation of benefits).

4. Shred account numbers or social security numbers. If something has only your name and/or address and/or phone number on it, you can recycle or toss it. Shredding takes time, and frankly, anyone with the internet can find your name, address and phone number.

5. Label things. When you make folders or bins or files to contain the papers you want to keep, make sure it's labeled! It doesn't have to be difficult: Taxes, Health and Bills can suffice, as long as you know what's in there. If multiple people are accessing the files, make sure everyone knows what the labels mean.

The Quickest Kitchen Organizing Tips Ever

Everyone uses their kitchen. Even if you don't cook, you likely still fill the fridge with food or set your bags down on the counters. Even if you have a studio apartment and your kitchen is really just a sink next to a stove next to a refrigerator, it still counts as a kitchen. We all have one. Chances are, something in it has annoyed you at some point. Couldn't find something? Mystery goo on the cabinet shelf? We've all been there. So, let's get through it quick and easy!

1. Donate anything covered in dust. If it's been that long since you used it, do you really need it? It's likely you haven't been enjoying it if it's been long enough to catch a coating of dust. Someone else is probably looking for that exact pressure cooker/fondue pot/Cookie Monster cookie jar. Let them have it, because you're not using it.

2. Trash anything broken. If you don't know how to fix it or it's more expensive to fix it than to buy again, don't waste your time. I realize we live in a society that relishes in disposable products, and I'm all for trying to save and reuse what we can. But, take a realistic deep breath and ask yourself if you're making life easier by hanging on to this project.

3. Recycle all the random lids for which you can't find matching bottoms. I don't think we need to talk more about that. Do you?

4. If the food has changed color or smell, toss it. If you want to go by 'Sell By' or 'Use By' dates, please do. If you'd rather go by your senses, trust your sight and smell. Jarred things that have separated, spices that aren't the right color and liquids that have a layer settled on the bottom can all get emptied in the trash or disposal.

5. Wipe it all down. You'd be amazed by how much different a space can feel just with the wipe of a rag. A quick wipe of cabinet shelves and drawer bottoms will add an instant, quick lift to your entire kitchen. Don't forget the inside of any bin or container, too. Stop that mystery goo in it's tracks!

The Quickest Toy Organizing Tips Ever

I don't care how old you are, you have some kind of toy in your home. Your kid's toys, your toys, your dog's toys....they're all toys. And, if you honestly can say you don't have any toys in the house, then maybe get one. Just one.

1. Like with like. Every organizer will tell you this. Balls with balls. Dolls with dolls. Cars with cars. Just to see how much you have of what, if nothing else.

2. Indoor v. Outdoor. If it's a toy that gets dirty, muddy or wet, consider keeping it some place that can handle that. The garage, a storage bin on the deck, the basement all work. If those are available to you, consider where ever you keep other outdoor items like shovels or gardening supplies.

3. Supervised v Unsupervised. Is this a toy that needs someone else around beside the person/pet using it? If it's something you wouldn't want your cat playing with on their own (like a string they might ingest), make sure it gets stored accordingly. Likewise, I'd bet that you want to keep the glue and glitter away from tiny fingers that will gladly make their own glitter-glue and redecorate your living room with it.

4. Little tiny pieces and parts. If no one can identify them, you probably don't need them. However, if the thought of tossing out random little parts makes you a little nervous, toss them all in a baggie. Label it with the date and store someplace you'll find it in six months. If you haven't gone looking for any of the parts in that time, you can feel better about letting it go. 

5. How much do you really play with? When's the last time you played with nine footballs? Do you use all three sets of golf clubs? And, does your dog even know she has a basket filled with ropes? You really only need to ask yourself that: how much do I really use?

When an Organizer Isn't Enough

I work with a lot of different people, who all have different belongings in different spaces. Our needs are all different. Our reasons for getting organized are often varied, too.

I find that people I work with are sometimes worried that I'll show up carrying banners, shouting, "I'm going to help them organize now!" It's much less eventful. Even so, I realize that working with an organizer can be a very private matter. Maybe I'm coming in to help after a death or before a divorce. Maybe I'm coming in to help someone with chronic disorganization or depression. There are so many reasons to want more organization in your life; sometimes we have more than one reason, too.

All the same, I'm not a therapist. I listen to the stories you want to share, the explanations of how your space became the way it is, the desires for your new space. These are all important to the process of organizing. However, my skill set ends there. I don't have the tools or language to tell you how to handle a death or divorce any more than the next person. And, I recognize that if you're hesitant to have others find out you're working with an organizer, you may be hesitant to seek other help, as well.

Turns out, there are a ton of resources available now to help you move through that feeling of hesitation or embarrassment. Companies exist completely online to help with counseling. For example, TalkSpace has options for writing back and forth with a personal therapist, or setting up time to chat regularly. You can do it from home, the office, the bus, where ever. No one will see you walking into a particular office, and no one will care if you're in pajamas.

Of course, of course, if you need some guidance and counseling, you should seek a professional who can help plan your next steps with you - in person in an office, or otherwise. Just like working with an organizer, find a good fit for the issue at hand.

It doesn't really matter how you got here; it matters what you're doing about it now.

Holistic Organizing

I recently became a co-leader of a national group of holistic organizers. I will admit that I think I am the least "holistic" in the group, but I also know being holistic means something different to every member. For some, it means using tools and methods most organizers wouldn't consider to be part of the organizing process. For me, it means working with people in a way that makes them feel comfortable, allows them to feel calm in their own space and makes life easier. There's no pushing of my own agenda, and there's no hard and fast systems that must be in place for the project to work right.

But, as I've been a member of this group, I've come to realize that many of those non-traditional methods that we learn about and discuss are things I'm personally interested in or take part in. Maybe there is room to incorporate new ideas into my work with clients.

We discuss topics like room clearing, working with crystals and essential oils, practice centering exercises and when it's appropriate to use these practices. I am learning a lot! I find it interesting to know how color and smell affect a space. I've never applied this to a client's space yet, but I might.

What do you think of these ideas? Is it something that makes sense to you when reestablishing your new space? Or, does it seem a little out there? I'm interested to know more, for myself and my clients. But, I also want you to feel as comfortable as possible in your space - whether you're using essential oils in a diffuser or would never even consider the idea!

The Berenstain Bears...And the Messy Room

I don't know how much you remember about the books you read as a child. Chances are, there are at least a few that stick out: The Giving Tree, Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are. I definitely remember those. Recently, I uncovered another from my childhood The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room. And, although it wasn't exactly what I thought it was, it still made me laugh to know I owned this as a kid.

Of course, I read this! Probably over and over. And so, I read it again, just to see what I thought of it now.

The title page reads, "When small bears forget to pick up, store and stash, some of their favorite things end up in the trash." A little harsh there, Mama Bear! But, let's see what this is all about...

The story begins by establishing that the Bears' home is well kept, clean and neat; everyone is expected to contribute to the state of the house. The one place that didn't quite ring true to this is the cubs' room. Apparently, they try to keep up with the room, but sometimes it just becomes too much. Sounds familiar. The chaos leads to fighting, leads to Mama Bear cleaning up for them, which leads to Mama losing it. Also sounds familiar. Mama threatens to toss it all out, when Papa Bear comes to the rescue. He suggests they store their items in boxes, by type of toy, and put a peg board on the wall. They take action and even label their toy boxes (oh yeah!). Some items end up going in to the trash, but only when the cubs give the go-ahead. The end result is a room the cubs enjoy, have room to enjoy and take pride in keeping up.

Well done, Stan and Jan Berenstain! Papa Bear's methods are almost entirely the same as mine. I would have suggested going through the toys before bringing in a bunch of supplies like boxes or bins. But, the ideas are the same. If anyone is struggling with their child about what organizing means and how it helps the person, the space, the lifestyle, this quick, little book might be the start of a great conversation.

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