Thursday, November 8, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Organizing by STYLE

DodgertonSkillhause via Morguefile
As I work on the book version of Organizing by STYLE, this poor blog is definitely taking a hit. Today, I was working on a chapter based on these 3 Keys posts and I got to thinking about how these posts came to be.

One of my favorite places to write is on the screened-in porch of the condo where we stay at the beach. Three summers ago, I was working on this blog during one of those beach trips when I thought it might be fun to distill each of the styles down to three key ideas....

And 3 Keys Thursday was born.

So tonight, while it's still Thursday (but barely), I'm sharing three key ideas for keeping Organizing by STYLE going, even when it feels as though it's taking a hit. If I can do it with this blog, you can do it with your home, office, car....

You get the drift.

Look around. Acknowledge your successes. When we organize by STYLE and it works, it lasts. Sure, there’s always more to tweak, more stuff to organize, more spaces to improve, but once we figure out what works, it gets easier. Then, we can replicate our successes to create the order we desire.

Decide what comes nextOnce you create a system that works for you, it becomes self-sustaining, and you can move on to the next organizational challenge. Some days, it feels as though all we're doing is running from one pile to the next -- and some days, we are. Be patient.

Let the spirit move you. Though we can't always wait for the mood to strike, there's nothing like being in the right frame of mind to spark motivation. So maybe the thing you're doing isn't the thing that was at the top of your list -- or maybe you're finally getting to it at 11p.m. The important thing is that something gets accomplished.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Reflections on a Love of Stationery

CongerDesign via Pixabay
When I was a little girl, I used to go to the five and ten with my mom. My mom didn’t drive, so we’d walk downtown — or at least that’s how I remember it. Though I loved walking up and down all the aisles to see everything this amazing store had to offer, the stationery aisles were always my favorite. If memory serves, that was where I found my flowered binder in fourth grade, splurging on pink looseleaf paper to put inside it.

Later in elementary school, I discovered the stationery store about eight blocks away from the five and ten — one big place that put single aisles of school supplies to shame. I could literally buy paper by the pound, a concept I'd never before imagined. I could mix and match by color, size and texture.

These days, I indulge my love of office supplies in the stationery aisles at Target and office supply stores. Though I've outgrown my affinity for pink looseleaf paper, as a writer, I'm particular about the pens and notebooks I use. My collection of notebooks, folders, sticky notes, pens and the like probably rivals what I found in those stationery aisles so many years ago. 

There are some loves we never outgrow.

About a decade ago, when I was teaching organizing by STYLE to my elementary school students, I brought a bit of my love of office supplies to my fifth graders. Each month, I offered a school supply giveaway, with one winner in each fifth grade classroom. This gave my students an opportunity to experiment with different organizational tools, but I got a payoff, too -- it was a lot of fun to watch my students get as excited about school supplies as I had at their age.  

These days, organizational supplies have moved far beyond binders and pink looseleaf, which is a boon to all of us who organize differently. In most areas, five and tens are long gone, replaced by dollar stores, office supply stores and, of course, Target and WalMart. Much as I enjoy my weekly trips to Target and my time spent wandering the stationery aisles there, it's not quite the same as meandering through the five and ten.

Finding the "just right" tool for each of our organizational needs can be a challenge but, for me, sometimes it's still as much fun as walking up and down the aisles of the five and ten.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Surviving a Six-Day Week

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Last night, I crept up to bed after my husband was already asleep (the norm when a night owl marries a morning person). He stirred and, before rolling over again, wished me a happy November 1.

Suddenly, I was wide awake, and none too happy about it.

I am entering the month of six day weeks. I've got lots of good stuff going on, including spending this Saturday at the York Book Expo and going to a concert in New York City but, unless I make some adjustments, my writing time will take a beating (not to mention the stuff around the house I usually on Saturdays). The semester will be ramping up at the same time, too, and the holiday season is just around the corner. 

When it rains, it pours.

No matter how valuable or enjoyable the activity that leads us to "lose" one day out of the week, we can be left feeling behind schedule, and a tad stressed out in the week that follows as we try to "catch up."

When this happens, it's helpful to remember to do a few things as you tackle your "six-day week":

Breathe. Tension and stress do absolutely nothing to help us accomplish our tasks or reach our goals. In fact, they often do just the opposite. Breathe, try to relax, and tackle one thing at a time.

Triage. I'm not a medical professional, so my understanding of this term is limited to my extensive experience watching television medical dramas. Fortunately task triage is much less intense than triage in the emergency room, and boils down to three questions: Who matters most? What matters most? and What has a deadline?

I know, I know -- they all matter. It all matters. 

But you know what? It doesn't. Some tasks and some people take precedence. To quote Stephen Covey, "Put first things first."
Stop worrying about what you can't control. This includes other people being miffed because you didn't do what they wanted you to do. It's hard enough to make decisions about what comes first without trying to second guess other people's interpretations of your choices. And often, they're trying to make the same hard choices you are...which means they aren't even thinking about what you're doing.

I know. Easier said than done. The ideal situation is to have just the right amount of stuff to do each day with none that carries over into the next day, the next week, the next month.

Wouldn't that be wonderful?

But we aren't robots, and there's much more to life than checking things off our lists. Luckily, breaking out of routine -- especially if it's to do something fun -- can recharge us. From a time management perspective, it can make us more efficient as we jettison the stuff that's not so necessary in order to get the important stuff done. 

So, this week, I'm ramping up my writing time during the week to make up for the time I'll miss on Saturday. If I weren't on deadline, I might just label the Expo "writing related" and worry less about "lost" writing time. Even better, since we turn the clocks back this weekend, I'm recapturing an hour.

It's not much, but I'll take it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Revisiting Those 18 Things for 2018

Photo credit: TheDigitalArtist via Pixabay

In writing last Wednesday's blog post, I came across a blog I wrote last January focusing on "18 Things to Try in 2018." So naturally, I got to wondering how many I'd actually done.

At the risk of embarrassing myself, I'm going to take a look.
  1. Embrace your styles. Always :-)
  2. Don't put it down, put it away. I actually repeat this to myself so I remember to do it. I don't   do it every time, but I'm making progress.
  3. Find a solution to one problem area. See #11:-)
  4. Clean out one closet. Hmm...not yet.
  5. Get rid of 365 things. Too many? How about 52 -- that's just one a week. I haven't been counting, but I have made a dent in my catalog pile and made one multi-box clothing & household goods donation. I have another pile of things to give away in the basement -- just need to finish packing it up and get it out. I'm pretty sure I've made the one per week goal, but some of those things were pretty small....
  6. Buy a planner you really love and use it. I was just talking to my dad about this last week! Because I've gotten in the habit of buying school year planners, I had to buy a new planner at the end of the summer. I thought for sure I'd find one cheap after all the kids had gone back to school, but I ended up picking out one that was larger than what I thought I'd wanted...and full price. No regrets :-)
  7. Use small chunks of time to clean up small spaces or make progress in larger ones. Story of my life! 
  8. Resolve to spend an hour a week making progress on a large space, like a garage, basement or attic. I still have another two months, right?
  9. Do something fun just for you. I wrote the original post when I was rehearsing a show. Nine months later, I still get together with my castmates at least once a month.
  10. Declare one hour each week "organizing time" and use it to tackle all the nagging little projects you never quite get to. Um...that would be a no.
    Alexas Fotos via Pixabay
  11. Make one area of your house -- a counter, a shelf, a desktop -- both organized and attractive. Yes! I bought basket with a lid and handles to corral all of my projects in the family room so I don't have papers all over the table. It works :-). I also transferred my daughter's paperwork from a plastic bin to a fabric bin that looks nicer and fits into the organizational set-up already in place. Finally got that set-up "just so."
  12. Resolve to keep one surface clutter-free. When I first looked at this one, I didn't give myself much credit, and one quick glance at my desk or my dining room table would tell you why. But after a little more thought, I realized that this is true, although it's true of only some surfaces. There are spots I've cleared off and made to look nice and those places remain clutter-free because I remain dedicated to making it so. Is every surface clutter-free? Not by a long shot. But the resolution is for one surface. Even though I have work to do, I've exceeded this expectation, a testimony to the concept of setting goals that are achievable.
  13. Assign homes to three important items you waste time searching for. Not yet.
  14. Splurge on one container that really fits your styles. See #11.
  15. Find the perfect purse or work bag. Yes! I switched from the work bag that looks nice to backpack that looks not quite as nice, but doesn't make my back hurt.
  16. Make a packing or grocery list template. Does the one I made years ago and stopped using count?
  17. Find permanent homes for ten homeless items. Who's counting?
  18. Be patient with yourself. Organizing is, after all, a process. Now that I can do.
What organizing accomplishments are you proud of?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Establishing Consistency

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
In yesterday's post, I came down on the side of flexibility when it comes to list-making. But since organizing requires both flexibility and consistency, how do we establish consistency, if that's our goal?

Here are three keys concepts to establishing consistency when it comes to organizing -- and other things as well.

1. Same time. Whether it's making your daily to-list, creating tomorrow's schedule or doing a quick pick-up to get ahead of clutter, doing it at the same time every day can help to establish a habit and good habits are one of the foundations of organization.

2. Same place. Maybe you put your keys or your purse in the same place every day or maybe you're good at using the systems you've set up so that things go in the same place every time. Or maybe you're working hard to find consistent homes for all of the homeless items that keep turning up. All of these things contribute to automaticity, another key part of organization. When we know where things go, we're more likely to put them away instead of just putting them down.

3. Same tool(s) - When we find ourselves using the same tool every time (consistently), that's proof that it works. Once we've established which tools work for us, we can use them everywhere in one form or another. Identifying the attributes of containers that work allows us to quickly find the tools we need to tidy up problem spots.

When it comes to time, flexibility is often the way to go. But, when it comes to stuff, consistency is key. What consistent habits and tools keep you organized?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Consistency or Flexibility, Part 2: Lists

Alexas Fotos via Pixabay
About a decade ago, I sat beside a colleague prior to a meeting and watched her do what so many of us do frequently: make a list. She was making hers on a legal pad and, as I watched her flip the page and continue the list, I began to feel tired at the very thought of her list. I determined then and there that I'd never make a list that long.

Not very realistic, right?

Over the years, I've used lists in a variety of ways. Although my lists rarely approach the length of my colleague's, most are longer than I'd like.

Yesterday's was one of them.

Today, I once again found myself thinking about consistency and flexibility, mostly because my lists are consistently inconsistent. Some days, I create a master list and work directly from it. Other days, I move tasks from the master list to a calendar or schedule, assigning the tasks to specific days or times. Sometimes, I write down my Big 3 and leave it at that. The only thing that's completely consistent when it comes to my lists is that I always make one.

Over time, one of the things I've learned about lists is that different days call for different kinds of lists. Some days, I can't face the master list, so I go with the Big 3. Other days, when I feel as though I haven't accomplished much of anything, I use a backwards to-do list to set myself straight. Then there are grocery lists, holiday shopping lists, guest lists...the, ahem, list is endless.

Clearly, when it comes to lists, I come down on the side of flexibility because, in the end, making lists and using them is more important than what they look like, what I write them on or how long they are. And, since my memory definitely isn't getting better, I'm pretty sure the road to my future is papered with lists.

What are your to-do list habits?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Key Organizational Challenges

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could reach a point where we could say, "Done! Organized!" -- and it would be true? But, in the real world, there are always new things to add, old things to sort and life changes that necessitate re-thinking our strategies. In addition, there are day-to-day obstacles that make organizing a challenge. Here are three of them.

The problem: An overbooked schedule. Try as we might, we often say test to one -- or ten-- too many things. When our schedules get busy, we get tired and, perhaps a bit lazy as well. Even the best systems get ignored in favor of the easiest option.
The solution: Do what you can. Work within your established systems to keep clutter to a minimum and, when things pile up, as they will, don't despair. Give it Five! as often as you can until you have time to set things right. And, when that time arrives, step back and see what you're dealing with before you default to your default. Have you uncovered chinks in your organizational armor? If so, making some adjustments now -- new containers, new location -- might make a difference the next time your schedule spirals out of control.

The problem: Tiny spaces. I love our little house -- most days -- but, oh, what I wouldn't give for a walk-in closet! And our Cape Cod is a luxury home compared to the tiny apartments college students and city dwellers routinely call home.
The solution: The right storage. Look for containers and furnishings that are tall or stackable (maximize vertical space), fit underneath furniture and/or do double duty. Check out places that offer unusual items (import stores, flea markets, consignment shops and secondhand stores) that can fit into small spaces or function as whimsical touches and practical storage. While some kids' furnishings are obviously designed for children, others are often just the right size for smaller adult spaces. In addition, many dorm furnishings can be a lifesaver in small, non-dorm residences.

The problem: Transition times. Holidays and transition times -- back to school, moving, life changes -- bring such promise. Unfortunately, they also bring new tasks to pile on top of our day-to-day responsibilities.
The solution: Lists and schedules. Write it all down, even if it's just one big, long and somewhat intimidating list. Then, little by little, assign the most important of those tasks to time time slots. When we move things from a generic list to a specific time, we're more likely to actually do them.

When challenges and obstacles arise, remember to be patient with yourself. Every baby step forward is a step in the right direction.