Archive for the ‘Planning’ Category

Planning

May 27, 2014

Do you have a plan for the day? Do you have a general idea of what you’re going to do or what you want to accomplish today? I’m sure you have places you have to be – perhaps work or appointments – that are accompanied by a specific time. That takes up part of your day. What about the rest of your day? Do you have friends you want to call or meet up with? Do you have errands you want to do? Perhaps you have a project like reorganizing a room on your mind. How or when will you get started? How will you get the other things that are swirling around in your mind done?

Planning is the key to getting things accomplished. Think about it. You schedule a dentist appointment, doctor’s visit, a haircut and the list goes on. You set aside time to take care of these appointments. So, how about setting aside time to get things done at home?

Recently, I was working with someone to reorganize their laundry room. I knew this was going to be a large (lengthy) project so rather than try to accomplish it in one day which would have been overwhelming we set aside time each day during the course of a week. We broke the project down into small manageable steps. You never know exactly how long each step will take and, in fact, one of the steps in this laundry room project took a little longer than anticipated.

Our first step, which should be the first step in every reorganization of a space, was to remove everything from this laundry room – other than the washer and drier, which we left in place. Then we sorted the items we had removed. Once we knew what was going to return to this room we were able to talk about how to organize these things. It’s important to creatively use the space you have. We decided that installing shelves about the washer with an additional shelf and clothes hanging bar above the drier would allow us to put everything away neatly.

We planned time to shop at The Container Store for the elfa shelving system and then we planned time to install the shelves and put everything away. The laundry room reorganization was a huge success! All the items are put away. The room looks great!

Do you have something in mind that you want to tackle this summer? Take a little time and write down all the ideas you have swirling around in your mind. Make a prioritized list of these ideas and decide which one you want to tackle first. Then make a plan. Schedule the time to implement your plan. Remember it may require that you spread this out over several days or maybe even several  weeks. If you plan it, it can happen!

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Time to Garden!

April 1, 2014

I think Spring has finally arrived in Atlanta. We have had a few days of beautiful sunny weather and the forecast is for more sunny days this week. I’m a sunshine girl so all this bright sunshine makes me really happy! I’m also a gardener. I’m itching to get out and create some changes in my garden. There are a few variety of plants that I’d really like to add to my garden.  I’m also an organizer. I know that first I have to take a good look at what is coming up in my garden. I need to assess which plants can be divided and thinned to make room for a few different plants that I’d like to have. I’ll also take a look at the shrubs to prune back a little to create a little more space. Then I’ll make a plan. I’ll look at my calendar and schedule some time to work on the different aspects of this gardening project. Breaking this project into small, achievable steps so that I have accomplished a task by the end of each planned work session. Once I’ve thinned and pruned to create room for the new plants I’ll go and get them!

How does this relate to organizing? Well, to complete this project I plan the steps I need to take and then schedule them – as I would with any project. I ask what is the vision for this space? How do I want it to look when it is completed? Also, as I would when organizing a room or an area in the house, I first assess the situation, then figure out what fits in the space. Does anything need to be moved to another room or donated out  to make room for the new items being brought into the space? Only after I have these answers and have completed the initial steps can I go shopping for the supplies (in this case, new plants!).
My final step is to plan the maintenance schedule. Yes, I do have a maintenance schedule for my garden. Just like maintaining organization in a house the different areas of the garden must be maintained or they grow out of control. The weeding, clipping and pruning has to happen on a regular basis during the growing season. How do I fit this into my already busy schedule? Well, the daylight lasts longer at this time of year and I pay a little less attention to the inside of my house during these nice weather months and a little more attention to my garden.
Do you have a gardening project in mind? How will you fit it into your schedule? What tasks do you trade off so that you can spend more time outside? Let me know, I’d love to hear back from you.  

Feeling Overwhelmed?

February 18, 2014

What do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed? Do you walk away from whatever it is that is overwhelming you? Many of my clients are challenged by that feeling of overwhelm. It doesn’t matter if it is piles of paper, too much to do and too little time, too many emails to respond to or deal with or too many household chores when you’re feeling overwhelmed you don’t know where to start.

My advice is to pick a place and start small. If we’re talking about household chores, look at your calendar, figure out how much time you can give to this task, turn on some music that you love – it should probably be upbeat – something you can (and want to) move to, set your timer for the allotted amount of time, and start. You don’t have to finish. When the timer goes off you’re done! Do the same thing again everyday for a week tackling a different spot each day. Before you know it those household chores won’t be so monumental.

Use the same technique to conquer your piles of paper. Start with one pile and for a specific amount of time. Label each piece of paper with its next action. File it appropriately. I’ll talk more about filing paper next week. The point is if you start tackling the paper a little bit at a time you will get control of it.

If your to do list has too much on it and that is overwhelming you try to delegate some items. Then, look at the tasks you can’t delegate and prioritize the list. Now, pull out your calendar and schedule a few of the tasks each day. Taking action on these items will reduce your feeling of overwhelm. Try to only have two or three of your ‘to-dos’ scheduled on any one day. It’s less imposing when you have only a few things to take care of.

Small steps can have a big result as long as you keep taking those small steps forward! Give yourself permission to only do a little bit at a time. Don’t think about ALL you have to do – that is overwhelming. Focus on the small tasks you’ve set aside to tackle today. Do them, reward yourself and be done.

Let me know if this helps reduce your feeling of overwhelm!

Stuck at Home?

February 12, 2014

Here we go again. I’m in Atlanta and listening to the news reports of the catastrophic storm that is hitting this area. I’m so thankful that the media has given us ample warning this time and that most everyone has followed their advice to stay off the roads. I’m sure you remember the pictures and stories of just a few weeks ago when so many were trapped on the highways around Atlanta.

So, what to do… I’m at home as are many. Are you wondering how to occupy your time? I have some suggestions.

1. Catch up on your paperwork and filing. Take this day when you have to be at home and really clean your desk. Take everything off and only put back those things which you need. Make a pile of things to follow up on – bills to pay, invitations to respond to, emails to answer, documents to file. Make a folder with anything tax related to tackle when you’re ready to prepare your taxes! Take a little break after you clean your desk. Then go back to it and tackle one section at a time. When you’re finished – celebrate! Treat yourself to something wonderful!

2. If you have children at home get out a board game and play the game with them. You could also involve the children in going through their toys, games, stuffed animals. Help them figure out if there are games with missing (never to be found) pieces that should be tossed. Maybe they have outgrown some of the toys and games. Perhaps there are games or toys which they no longer really want. Put those aside to give to younger cousins or to donate to your church nursery school or another charity you support. You accomplish several things by doing this with your children: you teach them how to cull their belongings and you teach them the benefit of giving to others. 

3. Sort through your winter clothes (and your children’s). Put aside anything that still fits and that you still like but that needs mending. Make a separate pile of clothes that don’t fit, are too old, or that you no longer love. These go to a charity of your choice or if they are really tattered – into the trash.

4. Get out a project you’ve been working on and tackle the next step! I have a few more hours work to do on a needlepoint tapestry I’ve been sewing for the past year and am looking forward to finishing it today!

In other words, put this time that you are housebound to good use. No need to be wondering what to do with this day that you’re stuck at home. I’ve told you what I’ll be doing, I’d love to hear from you how you spent your time.

Maintenance is Key!

February 5, 2014

Are you thinking about getting your home really organized? Do you like the thought that once all your belongings have a place to be you will be able to find what you need when you want it? As a professional organizer I think these are beautiful concepts. The caveat here is that once everything is organized you must maintain the system.

Think about this another way. If you have a car you need to make sure it has gas in the tank. Every now and then the car will need to have the oil changed or undergo a routine servicing so that the car continues to run smoothly. The car will also need to be washed so that you can see clearly out the windshield – front and back. If there is trash in the car – like food wrappers, empty water bottles, or soda cans they can be thrown out so the car can be vacuumed. It’s also good to remove the trash so you have room for people and other things, like groceries, that you really want to carry in your car.

Your home is much the same. You can’t expect to organize once and be done. Schedule a few minutes every morning to make sure the bed is made, dirty clothes in the hamper, and the dishes washed and put away or rinsed and put in the dishwasher. Plan these chores into your morning routine so that when you return home from work you don’t have these chores to tackle before you can begin preparing for dinner.

Schedule a few minutes in the evening to sort the mail. Take the time to at least separate out the mail to be recycled or shredded from the mail that needs attention – like bills or invitations.

As you go from room to room in your house if you see a few things out of place put them where they belong. You’ll thank yourself later. A few things are easy to attend to. That will only take you a short time. It’s when things are left out of place that they tend to multiply. Then it will take you much longer to take care of the out of place items. Don’t indulge yourself by saying “I’ll do it later”. In my experience, later never comes.

Plan time into your day everyday to clean and maintain one room of your home. Just as it’s impossible to organize once and be done it’s impossible to clean once and expect your furniture to remain dust free. It doesn’t take long to dust and vacuum a room when it’s done regularly. As you’re cleaning the furniture put aside anything that has lingered in the room and doesn’t belong there. When you’re finished cleaning take the time to put those out of place items where they belong.

Rotate through the rooms in your house taking care of one a day. Doing this regularly means that nothing is actually that dusty or dirty and it won’t take you very long. This way you don’t have to dedicate an entire day to cleaning your house. It’s much more rewarding to spend your day off doing something you want to do – maybe something fun with a friend or family, maybe something indulgent like a spa treatment, maybe some gardening… the possibilities are endless.

If you have a spouse or partner and/or children involve them in the maintenance routine. Teach them to put their belongings away. You can make a game out of it. Put on some good music and let everyone know that now is the time to gather things up if they are out of place and put them away. Let each person have a part in keeping your home clean and tidy. Doing this you accomplish several things. You teach your children how to pick up and put away and you teach them to care for their home in a responsible manner.

Remember the key to having a clean and well organized home is maintenance. Create the system and then work it.

Why Organize with a Professional Organizer?

October 30, 2013

Do you have an area in your home that never seems to get organized. Things are generally out of place. You don’t know where to begin to make it better so you don’t. The problem area either remains that way, gets worse, or perhaps a friend offers you a suggestion and one day you tackle it.

Well, this is something I hear often from clients. They feel they should be able to get organized on their own – by themselves. They are embarrassed that they need to have a certified professional organizer come into their home to help them.  They ask why can I tackle these projects with you here? Shouldn’t I be able to make a plan and follow through by myself?

My answer is that it is easier for you when you have a trained professional organizer to guide you. When you’re working with your organizer, the organizer can help you think through the steps in a project to achieve your goal. We talk about how you envision using the space, determine the belongings that stay in the space, remove items that don’t support the stated activities in that space and figure out what you’re doing with those things. If you’re keeping them – where do they belong? if you’re not keeping them we can help you figure out if you can recycle, donate, consign or dispose of them.

Finally, your professional organizer is a cheerleader. Someone who will encourage you as you work on a project to see it through to completion and then celebrate with you. Change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to complete large projects.  Having an objective professional working with you makes the process much less overwhelming – easier to deal with. To find a professional organizer in your area visit: http://www.napo.net or http://www.challengingdisorganization.org

 

 

The Holidays are Coming!

October 15, 2013

Have you noticed that advertising and talking about the holidays has started already? In the October issue of Better Homes and Gardens there was a short paragraph about grocery shopping for the holidays. It mentioned that you can save money by buying some non-perishable ingredients in bulk now before the holiday rush begins in earnest.

The cover of the November issue of Real Simple magazine talks about holiday entertaining made easy. Real Simple magazine is referring specifically to Thanksgiving but really you can apply the tips to other holiday gatherings.

I was shopping at a mall in Atlanta over the weekend and saw many holiday displays. One store had Christmas bears for sale another was selling Christmas tree ornaments and even had several decorated trees on display already! I was really flabbergasted! Christmas on display before Halloween.

Does all the advanced warning of the holidays’ arrival put you into panic mode or does it make you want to organize yourself early?

There is something to be said for making your list in preparation for the holidays. When you start preparing in advance you allow plenty of time to get things done without stress and you give yourself time to do things at a reasonable pace rather than rushing through. Another benefit to preparing in advance is that you save money. If you’re buying gifts for family and friends you can save money when you take advantage of seasonal sales. When you wait to the last minute you may indulge in impulse buying – just to get it done.

If we’re talking about Halloween make list of the candy you’ll buy, the costume you’ll rent (if you dress up), and the decorations for your front door (if you decorate). Make a note on your calendar to buy your pumpkin and set aside time to carve it. Thinking about these chores or tasks allows you to mentally prepare to actually follow through and accomplish them.

What about your list for Thanksgiving, Channukah or Christmas? Thanksgiving could be really easy if you’re not hosting a dinner! My recommendation is to think about your plan for each of these holidays

. What is your vision for each of the holidays?
* Will you be hosting an event?
* Do you like to attend certain plays or programs (like the holiday lights at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens)?
* Do you like to decorate your house – inside and out?
* Do you like to give homemade baked goods as gifts?
* Do you want to send out holiday cards?

All these wonderful traditions take time. It’s possible to do them all but take a look at your calendar, factor in your daily routine and then schedule time to dedicate to the traditions that will bring your vision for the holidays to life. Only schedule those things that honestly fit your vision and your schedule. Be sure to allow time to simply relax and enjoy!

“Focus on What’s Strong, Not What’s Wrong”

September 25, 2013

I attended a conference last week hosted by The Institute for Challenging Disorganization in Denver, Colorado. I go to this conference every year. This group, of which I’m a member, always gets fantastic speakers and this year was no exception. One of the speakers, Lee Shuer, gave us all the above quote during his presentation.

Don’t you think that if people in general would focus on what’s good and strong and think less about what’s wrong we’d all be a little more content? Think about it. As a student teacher I learned that if I wanted to get a classroom of six year olds to lower their voices I would have greater success if I complemented the children who were using ‘inside voices’. Using positive reinforcement worked like a charm! This technique works equally well with teenagers and adults. My mom used to say “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”. I, in turn, used to tell my children “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all’. I still believe this to be true and practice what I preach!

 It all boils down to the same thing, doesn’t it?  Saying something nice is just as easy as saying something nasty. It might take a little more thought and creativity to come up with the nicer comment as, it seems, the negative comments come so quickly to our lips.

Since this conference was attended by many professional organizers, therapists, coaches and related professionals this quote resonated with us all. It was good to be reminded to bring focus onto our clients’ strengths. Point out to them the things they are doing well. Teach them how to focus on their strengths. For anyone, focusing on what is done wrong only serves to depress or dishearten the individual. This is not to say that things don’t go wrong sometimes but dwelling on those things is counter-productive.  Learning to move on, letting the negative things be over and done, is a powerful skill.

When a client wants to work with me to de-clutter their home I ask them to describe how they want their home to look and feel. Then we review  their priorities. Finally, we create a plan and work methodically through the different spaces – celebrating each and every accomplishment. Together we focus on my client’s accomplishments, even the smallest step toward a stated goal. This enables the de-cluttering to move forward all the while positively reinforcing and teaching organizing skills.

 

Wins!

August 20, 2013

Once a month I attend a meeting with several other women. Some of the women have known each other for years and years. They started out decades ago as colleagues and have maintained their friendships. They have a beautiful history together. I joined this group about a year ago. I’m just getting to know most of these women. However, two of the women in the group are colleagues of mine, fellow professional organizers. We three have known each other for about seven years. So, as you might imagine, it’s a very friendly group. This is my goals group. I am so thankful to be a part of this group!

As I said, we meet once a month. The meetings are generally in one of the member’s home and always are timed around a meal. Everyone brings something to contribute to the meal. It’s interesting that no one organizes the meal and it just works out. For instance for this month’s meeting 1 person brought a quiche, 1 brought veggies and dip, 1 brought fruit, and 1 brought chips. There was plenty for everyone and no duplications!

The meeting starts with a thought provoking inspirational quote. The member hosting the meeting finds and reads this to us. Then we start by going around the group and each person states what her ‘wins’ are for that month. Then we go around again and each person talks about what her goals are for the coming month.

I’m talking about this because this month was particularly meaningful to me and I wanted to share my thoughts about it with you. One of the members of our group said ‘I don’t have any wins this month’. The woman sitting next to her said ‘yes, you do!’ and she went on to elicit the wins from her friend.

We all do things that we must celebrate as wins. They may not appear on the surface to be things we feel we have accomplished but think about them again and we might say something like ‘I’m happy I did that’ or ‘ wow! that worked out well!’

Do you make a daily ‘to-do’ list? If you do, then you know the things you have done. Maybe some are routine tasks. Maybe you are working on a project and have broken that project down into smaller portions (measurable, achievable goals) and have completed a portion. Perhaps just getting through the day is an accomplishment.

Celebrate your wins. Remember them. Write them down and tell your friends. So often we talk about the things we haven’t done, want to do, or didn’t do well. I love being a part of a support group, my goals group. We celebrate each others wins and encourage each other.

Are you a member of a group such as the one I belong to?

If you aren’t, maybe you’d like to start one?

Impact of Clutter

July 23, 2013

Picture this…. You have just moved into your new home. All the boxes have been emptied, the cardboard has been recycled, the furniture is placed, books are on shelves, the pictures are hung…. You are home! Yeah!! This is a wonderful feeling – can it last?

Absolutely! All you have to do is remember that when something comes into your home that item must have a place to belong, a reason for being there. Is it useful? Great! Do you love it, is it beautiful, do you plan to display it? Also great!

Sometimes We bring things in (or are given things) thinking they’ll be useful or beautiful only to find out that whatever it is doesn’t really fit in. Then instead of taking it back to the store or giving it to someone else we tend to find a temporary home for the item. Fully, intending to deal with it later. Guess what? Later never comes. The item doesn’t leave our house and turns into clutter.

 

The longer you let these things linger in your home the more you become accustomed to having lots of stuff around you. Maybe you are so accustomed to all the stuff that you don’t even see it any more! Take your blinders off! Plan time every now and then to cull your collections. Take things that you aren’t using and either give them away, recycle them, or sell them.

Sometimes things come into our home because a loved one has passed away and you don’t know what to do with all the things’ from your relative’s home. This is a really tough situation. My suggestion is to take your time and carefully go through the boxes or bags one at a time. If there are pieces of furniture that you love and would like to keep consider swapping out a piece or two of your furniture. Donate or sell the pieces you are swapping out. Remember that the space in your home is not going to expand to accommodate the influx of things.

As for the knick knacks, keep and display the ones that truly mean something to you. Take pictures of the ones that you don’t really love but that you are reluctant to part with because these things meant something to your loved one. The pictures will serve as a place keeper for the memories. Then you can donate or sell the knick knacks you aren’t keeping.

A key component to keeping the awesome feeling of being settled in your home is maintenance. Put things away, return them to the store if you’re sure you aren’t keeping them, and toss/recycle/donate other things to keep clutter from accumulating and having a negative impact on that wonderful peaceful feeling that you first enjoyed when you originally settled into your home.