Just a quick note to let my readers know that I will be on vacation – it’s that major change I mentioned in my last post! – for a few weeks. I’ll see you back here in the second half of October 🙂
Ch-ch-ch-changes! There’s a big change happening in my life as I prepare for my upcoming wedding. It got me thinking about the way in which significant events can be a springboard for making other changes in our life.
Good or bad, changes have an effect on us. Whether expected or out of the blue, we still have to deal with those changes. How do you react to change?
I invite you to look at change through the lens of disorder vs order, clutter vs space, a muddled head vs clear thinking. Does change affect your relationship with *things*? Change may disrupt your daily routines and create physical and mental disorder in the short-term, and this is perfectly normal; are you able to recover and return to your routines relatively quickly and easily?
What if you notice, though, that some routines are not serving you as well as they have in the past? For instance, if your modus operandi is to be in JIT mode (Just In Time, or Flying By The Seat of Your Pants), but you long to feel more relaxed, then you can use major change as an ‘excuse’ to adjust how you operate. You can use this major event – a birth, a death, a career change, a marriage, a split – as an opportunity to say “life’s too short to waste my time looking for things I can’t find” or “life’s too short to always be anxious about getting to meetings or finishing projects on time”. This is an ideal opportunity to find ways to be more productive with your time and energy.
Professional Organizers are also Productivity experts. As well as helping people organize their homes to work for them instead of against them, Productivity Coaches like me can also help busy professionals and academics organize their thinking so they get more clarity, and manage projects so they are completed on time. Productivity Coaching is one of my specialties, and which I can carry out via Virtual (remote) Organizing. I’d be happy to arrange a phone call if you’d like to learn more.
In the meantime, think about a recent or upcoming major change in your life, and how it may trigger a much-needed change in the way you operate. Pull out a pad of paper and start writing – there’s something magical about thinking on paper… if you let your thoughts flow without censoring them, your subconscious will help you out. You may see things that surprise you!
In the past couple of weeks I’ve been concentrating on fast tips through “Saturday Solutions” on my Facebook page instead of my bi-weekly blog post. They are highly useful and I didn’t want you to miss out. Here are the topics:
Saturday Solution 9.9.17 – Help For The Rainy Season
Saturday Solution, 9.2.17 – How to Spend Less Money on Clothes
Makes sense… it’s the start of the new school year, and the evenings start to draw in. What better time to think about making internal improvements, having made improvements to your exterior over the spring and summer!
Organizing isn’t just for physical items. You can organize your learning and your thinking, and this will help you achieve your goals.
If you’re unfamiliar with, or just want a reminder of, some good “study” techniques as you launch into your self-improvement, here are some basic guidelines:
1. First and foremost, determine your goal(s). Without doing this, you won’t know if the activities you choose will actually be worth the time and effort. For example, if you want to improve your cooking skills and you also want to lose 30 pounds, you’ll know the answer to “Should I take the cake frosting class, or the hearty soup class?”
2. What’s your deadline? Is it realistic? Really??
3. Now, create a schedule. Be realistic about this as well! Be sure to include practice time, reading time, thinking time, whatever you need. Post this schedule where you’ll see it; add it to your digital calendar if you use one. If you use a digital calendar, it helps to set email alerts for specific activities (I have a rule: if I receive an alert, I have to do it!).
4. Decide what your milestones will be, so you know when to give yourself a reward. What reward will you give yourself when you finish that book or online course? It could be a food treat, going for a walk in a nice park, seeing a movie, buying a new pair of socks, etc.
5. It’s common in self-improvement projects to note and reflect on “aha” moments. Use a notebook (small enough to carry with you) to keep track of activities or behavior that help (or hinder) your progress. This enables you to see how you learn best so you can apply this new info in the future.
6. To make sure your learning sticks, create a review schedule – use it or lose it! Having completed an online class or read a specific chapter, for example, review your notes an hour later. Review them again before you go to bed (you continue learning in your sleep!). Review the next day, a week later, a month after that, then six months after that. This review schedule lets your brain focus on something different in each review. By the time you’ve finished the six-month review you can probably toss your notes – yay, less clutter!
You’ve achieved your goal – well done!
“Virtual Organizing”. Have you heard of it? Want to know more about it?
Virtual Organizing (VO) is a relatively recent trend in organizing. There are a limited number of organizing professionals that offer this as a core part of their service. I’m one of them.
VO is essential remote organizing. We call it Virtual because, done properly, it’s as if the organizer is in the room. I coach you, and you put the coaching into action.
The reason this approach is so successful is that effective organizing comes from effective planning. And planning can be done anywhere – I don’t have to be physically in the room with you, but you get full access to my brain. As a coach, this is the most important asset I have!
Here are some specifics of how the process works:
• I carry out an assessment for potential VO clients, just as I do for onsite clients. The difference is that you send me pictures of your space. The rest is the same – we ask each other questions, and we decide whether we can work as a team.
• We are efficient in our time together – VO sessions typically only last 1-1.5 hours. During that time, we plan what we’ll be working on so that you can easily carry on without me.
• I provide VO clients with a report at the end of the session, with their reflections, my observations, and their homework – this helps ensure the client stays on track.
Being virtual, I can work anywhere in the US. I’m available (in the Pacific NW) some evenings and part of the weekend. Payment is made via the website or over the phone. Sessions are via Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, or other video conferencing platform.
If you want a taste of what VO is like, I am offering a free 15 minute session so you can get a feel for what we might be doing and how we may work together. If you’re interested in this option, send me 3-5 photos of the space (just one space) that you want to focus on, and we’ll arrange a time for the taster session.
If you’re curious about VO, get in touch!
Did you know that this is National Simplify Your Life Week?
You may already know what items or activities you could eject, but knowing how to remove them is the stumbling block. In the spirit of National Simplify Your Life Week, here are two steps that will help you move towards having a simplified environment and lifestyle, and thus more time and energy for the things you need and want to do.
Find your incentive. Why do you need things to be simpler? –> Being clear on your goals means you are able to make decisions more easily. The easiest way to find your incentive is to think about your life goals and work backwards. For example:
- If you want a healthy retirement, what can you be doing now to make sure you are healthy when you retire?
- If you want to give your kids a loving and supportive home environment, what would it take to accomplish that?
- If you want a life partner, what could you do to make that happen?
- If you want to leave a legacy, what steps will you put into place to make it happen?
You may not come up with answers that are immediately easy to implement, but if you unpack them, you’ll find steps within them that will help you work towards those goals. (TIP: It helps to put these thoughts onto paper, or talk your reasons through with your spouse or a close friend.)
Take an honest look at your commitments. –> Establishing your boundaries also contributes to making decisions more easily. For example:
- Which commitments are truly essential to achieving your life goals?
- Which can you graciously bow out of?
- Before taking on a new commitment, ask yourself “Is this the most important or valuable thing I could be doing to get me to my goals?”
OKAY, I HEAR YOU…
“What do life goals and calendar commitments have to do with clutter and organizing?” Well, ‘organized thinking’ is just as important as de-cluttering and organizing your possessions, papers and computer files. The reason is that planning (in other words, organized thinking) can often make an organizing project far more successful than just making a stab at it here and there. (Think: an organized kitchen = healthy eating; morning routines = less stress for kids.) Another reason is that, if you see the connection between what you do now and what you want to accomplish in the future, you are more likely to be committed to de-cluttering and organizing your home because it supports your goals.
I’d be happy to arrange a Virtual (remote) Organizing session to coach you – through a short exercise and a few questions – as you identify your life goals and review your commitments. A great next step would be a second Virtual Organizing session to identify ways to organize your home and your to-do list to support you in achieving your goals. Contact me for details.
Whether on your own, or through Virtual Organizing sessions, these steps will kick-start a more simplified and enjoyable home and lifestyle!
Originally posted as a Saturday Solution at https://www.facebook.com/ThePotentialCenter/, this is such useful info that I’m posting it here as well 🙂
Start Planning NOW! for the new school year. Here are your Top 10 Tips for getting a head start:
- Lay out clothes the night before.
- Prep lunch the night before and have your kids help (which get them into the prep habit too J)
- Pack backpacks the night before. Charge phones on top of their backpacks each night so they won’t forget them in the morning. This also helps enforce the ‘no devices in the bedroom’ rule.
- Enforce bedtime – A solid night’s sleep makes getting up easier. Plus they’ll be able to focus once they’re in the classroom and have enough energy for the rest of the day.
- Invest in… doorbells – yes, that’s right. I came across this hack: Buy a wireless doorbell and put the bell part in your kids’ room. Set the sound to ‘gong’ and press it several times in the morning to wake them up. Saves you running up and down the stairs!
- Simplify breakfast – Batch cook or bake at the weekend, and then reheat during the week. Good foods for this are breakfast bars, overnight oats, and frittata muffins. Here’s my frittata muffin recipe: In a greased 12-cup muffin tray, place a mixture of finely cut sauteed veg – broccoli, mushrooms, onions, cauliflower, fennel, zucchini, carrots, peppers are all good choices – in the bottom third of each cup. Add a sprinkle of grated cheese. Beat 6 eggs with ¼ cup of milk, salt and pepper – add to each cup leaving approx ¼” space at the top (the muffins will puff up). Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until nicely brown on top. Each mini-frittata is equivalent to ½ an egg.)
- Store extra gear in the car – stash typical overlooked items and tools (e.g. socks, hairbrush, barrettes) into an over the seat organizer for those times when you need to get your kids ready on the go.
- Have a family calendar – Capture field trips and other important events on a fridge or wall-mounted calendar so they don’t sneak up on you. If your family is tech-savvy, Cozi is a family-oriented digital calendar that syncs with multiple phones.
- Stay on top of signatures – Ask your kids about permission slips, tests or reports cards the evening before the morning rush. Set up a family folder or inbox and train your kids to put important papers there when they come home.
- Be consistent – Routines enable you to go on auto-pilot so you can put your mental energy elsewhere. Think about routines you can established around washing, dressing (see #1), eating, brushing teeth, and gathering contents for backpacks and gym bags (tip: having a landing zone helps with this).
You’ve probably heard of Minimalism, which is the art of living with less. But are you familiar with “Essentialism”? While Minimalism is about having fewer things, Essentialism is about having the right things and getting the right things done.
Greg McKeown, author of the popular book “Essentialism”, conveniently uses the analogy of organizing your wardrobe: in the same way that we sort our clothes based on either the joy of wearing them or the likelihood of wearing them again in the future, so we can apply this principal to what we do in life and at work by asking, “Will this activity or effort make the highest possible contribution towards my goal?”
Essentialists know they can’t have it, or do, it all. They know that only a few activities are exceptionally valuable, so they spend time exploring their options, choosing the non-essentials they will eliminate, and then creating a system for handling the “wardrobe” of their life.
When organizing, people are often challenged by the fact that they own this ‘thing’ – that they’ve paid good money for it or have had it for some time, or received it as a gift – versus the need to de-clutter. This “endowment effect” means we overvalue something simply because we own it. What if we took the Essentialist view and instead asked ourselves “If I didn’t already own this, how much would I be willing to pay or sacrifice in order to obtain it?” or “Do I keep gifts out of habit? I’ve always assumed it’s made a big difference to the person who gave me the gift, but will they even notice if I no longer have it?”
Deciding to reduce your possessions – or your options – can be daunting, but cutting is the very essence of decision-making. When we are taught growing up that “thou shall not waste”, there is no need to make a decision… we keep it all. When we have to deal with a finite amount of physical or mental space, that’s when we need to decide what is no longer essential to our wardrobe, our living space, or our life and career goals.
I’m not saying that decision-making is easy. But once you have a good routine in place, you’ll get exponentially greater results. Here are a couple of examples:
- If you normally dump your keys somewhere and then can’t find them, hang a small key rack next to your front door and hang the keys there as soon as you walk through the door. That alone could save you 45 minutes a month in time spent searching for your keys… that’s 9 hours a year!
- If your handbag/tote bag gets heavier and heavier every day (think of what that’s doing to your back!), find a suitable basket or bowl into which you can empty your bag at the end of the day. The next day, put only those items you need back in the bag. If you swap bags often, this will also reduce the number of things you buy because “oh darn, that’s in my other bag” and you end up buying more of those items than you need. Imagine buying a new lipstick – even a cheap one is $6! – once a week … you could end up to spending $312 a year on lipstick you don’t need!! (Not to mention wondering where to put 52 tubes of lipstick!)
As your routine eventually moves onto auto-pilot, you release mental space for creating new routines. This creates an upward spiral – It gets easier and easier to create even more routines and release even more mental space, which means you reduce even more time and stress wasted on unessential activities. The result? More time to spend with your family and on achieving your life goals and legacy.
If you would like guidance on how to make Essentialism part of your daily routine, contact me for an initial conversation.
‘Tis the season for moving! Here are some tips for preparing, packing, labelling, and working with movers that will reduce your stress levels. I’m grateful to my NAPO colleagues for some of the tips incorporated here.
- You will reduce your moving costs if you de-clutter before your move (fewer boxes = less time charged by the moving company). *
- Have area rugs professionally cleaned before your move. They will come to you rolled, wrapped, and ready for moving.
- When disassembling furniture, put hardware in a plastic bag and tape it to the corresponding piece (avoid taping to polished or painted wood).
- Make sure there’s soap, tp, and paper towels in all bathrooms in both homes.
* If you can’t bear the thought of de-cluttering before your move, then do it as soon as possible afterwards. A professional organizer like me can not only help you decide what to winnow out, but also has a good eye for staging your new space. If you do want to de-clutter your old home but don’t have three hours to spend with an onsite organizer, take advantage of my Virtual Organizing service – a one hour minimum, flexible hours, and we create a plan together via Skype, FaceTime, phone, or email, for you to implement in between sessions. Easy-peasy!
- Use suitcases for clothing, linens and books (yes, books – suitcases have wheels!).
- Use small boxes for heavy items, and large boxes for light ones. Place heavier items at the bottom of the box.
- Use colored tissue paper to wrap very small items that could get lost.
- Have several “toolboxes” with packing supplies (e.g. one for each floor or room) so you can easily find what you need and save time.
- Use your own vehicle to move laptops, important papers, family photos, personal firearms, small irreplaceable items, and perishable food (in cool bags or boxes).
Working with movers
- Research movers thoroughly. Look for reviews on Yelp; ask friends and colleagues who they’d use (or not use) again; check the Better Business Bureau website.
- Book well in advance.
- Measure doorways in your new home and give this info to the moving company well before the move.
- Let the movers pack fragile items – moving companies are generally liable only for things they pack themselves.
- Block out parking close to your home; this will avoid movers’ “long-carry” fees.
- If you are part of a van share (more than one household on the van, typically for for long-distance moves) or if some boxes are stored short-term at the moving company’s facility, label boxes with your last name. Number boxes and make a list as movers bring them in so you know – before they leave – whether you are missing any boxes.
- Before the movers leave: 1) inspect the truck for any small items left behind – dresser knobs, cables and shelf brackets, and 2) before signing off on the job, read the fine print and ask questions about anything you don’t understand.
Systems for labelling
Whichever of these methods you use, be sure to create your own labelling system rather than leaving it to the movers to do so you’ll be able to find things easily after they leave. Some of these methods (running from basic to more detailed) will also work well together.
- Have 3-4 boxes that contain essentials – a set of dishes and eating utensils, basic toiletries, a few day’s clothing, etc. Clearly mark these “LOAD FIRST/UNLOAD LAST – NEED IMMEDIATE ACCESS”. That way you are not hunting for things you know you’ll need straight away.
- Mark boxes with the name of the room where you want the box to go. Use ‘generic’ language that will make sense to the movers, e.g. “Small rear-facing bedroom.”
- Assign color codes to boxes and corresponding rooms. Companies that provide moving supplies sell color-coded labels for different rooms of the house.
- Clearly label each box with your name, its general contents, “Fragile” if contents are breakable, an arrow indicating which side is up if it’s not obvious, and where each box belongs.
- Use different color/pattern duct tape. As you pack boxes, tape a piece on opposite corners. (You can also tape on an index card of what is in the box.) Place a sheet of what each tape corresponds to on each level of your new home, as well as the relevant tape (on a plain piece of paper) on the door to each room. Remember to use painter’s or masking tape so you don’t damage the paintwork! Explain this system to the movers.
- This method is more labor-intensive, but if you’re the kind of person that needs to know where things are, or if you need a fast pop-up at the other end (EEK – school starts in two days!), then this system will be worth the effort… Number boxes and note contents in an 8 ½ x 11 notebook or notepad (size matters – you want to be able to find your list easily), along with the room it is to go to. If a mover needs help, you can quickly find the box on your list. Keep using this system after the movers leave – it is helpful if you need to find an item before the box is unpacked.
Have a great move, and enjoy this next chapter of your life!
This week I am morphing the Saturday Solution into a blog post because this topic – our personal “operating system” – goes deeper than time allows in the Saturday Solution.
If you share your home with others, chances are you have different “operating systems”. This can cause some head-butting when it comes to tidying and organizing. Knowledge about our preferences and those of others can help unruffle feathers both at home and at work.
Here are some typical operating systems and how we may cater for them at home. As with all models, they are representative of the extreme – most people are a hybrid, with a preference for one characteristic when it comes to organizing their environment and their tasks.
1) Need to see it –vs– Hide it away
Need to see it – You need to have things out so you can see what you have, or have to do. For example, if you are in a rush and something needs to go on the food shopping list, you may leave the empty container on the counter to remind you to put it on the list when you come back home. If you have three projects to work on at your desk, you may have those three folders open in front of you to remind you of what you need to do.
Hide it away – Seeing a roomful of ‘things’ is visual clutter and a distraction for you. You may need to put things into cupboards or drawers before you can think clearly or relax.
Solution: 1) Be curious about your partner’s/children’s needs and then search for creative solutions. 2) Negotiate. For example, if your child feels comforted by seeing all their toys, agree on a time frame for having everything out before choosing one or two to play with; you will need to facilitate this for younger children, and provide occasional reminders for older children.
2) Type A –vs– Type B Personality
Type A – impatient, high achiever, competitive, procrastinator, easily feels overwhelmed, likes to be in control. Solution: 1) Regularly praise Type A’s for their organizing activities. 2) Have them write everything they want/need to do in one place, like a spiral-bound notebook, on a chalkboard, or on Evernote, instead of on scraps of paper. Every day, have them choose their top 3 priorities and put these on a Post-It note where it is easily seen(a new Post-It every day).
Type B – laid back, patient, collaborative, creative, enjoys games, goes with the flow, prefers “organized chaos”. Solution: 1) Sort closets by arranging clothes and accessories by color and season. 2) Open storage systems work well – create a system of colored bins or boxes in a bookcase or baskets on shelves. 3) Short-term organizing sessions allow flexibility within the day so tidy and organize in half-hour bursts, maybe with music on in the background.
2) Left brain –vs– Right brain
Left-brained people are logical, analytical, organized and systematic. Solution: Encourage the left-brainers in your household to come up with an organizing system that suits their habits and preferences. For example, if the first thing they do when they come through the door is kick off their shoes but they want those shoes handy for another day, ask if they prefer a shoe rack by the door or a bankers box or tote on the steps to take upstairs,… then make it happen.
Right-brained people are creative, intuitive, expressive, thoughtful, and do things randomly. Solution: Give the right-brainers in your home the opportunity to choose an item or place for their possessions that resonates with their artistic or creative side. For example, give a teen the opportunity to find or make something unique for hanging or storing her jewelry.
Some general suggestions:
- Create “zones”, where each person’s essential items have a home. For example, a bedroom may have four zones: sleeping, reading, dressing and working.
- Organize the space to fit the needs of the person who mainly uses that space. For instance, organize the kitchen for the cook in the house, the desk for the one who pays bills, etc.
- Labeling helps ensure that everyone is following the same system. For example, label the front edges of kitchen shelves so everyone knows where to put things. You can also create a one-page file index that shows where to find everything – make sure it is kept in an easy-to-access spot.
Finally, whatever your preference and that of those around you, if you all approach your tidying and organizational challenges from a place of curiosity and enjoy learning about different personality traits, you’ll have way more fun than if you see them as problems.
If you’re still unsure which approach is right for the folks in your household, arrange a one-hour Virtual Organizing (VO) session, and I’ll help you come up with possible solutions. VO is done via a video app (e.g. Skype), email or phone. Email me at Ellia (at) ThePotentialCenter.com or contact me through www.ThePotentialCenter.com to arrange a VO session.