Thursday, January 18, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: Getting Started in STYLE

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Is 2018 your year to organize by STYLE? Here are three key components (and three links) to get you started.
  • Claim your styles. Decide which personal style and which organizational style best describes you. You may have traits of others as well, but begin by determining which styles you most identify with.
  • Decide which one dominates. I'm an I need to see it/drop and run person, but typically, my I need to see it style prevails. If I keep that in the forefront of my mind when I clear clutter and restore organization, I'm more likely to set up a plan that works long-term.
  • Choose the right tools. To break the drop and run habit, I need to find tools that allow me to see what I'm looking for. Since away is as good as forgotten, any container that keeps things out of sight gets ignored in favor of the dropping and running that allows me to see what I need. If, however, I do something as simple as using a file box with an open top, putting things away is easy, and, though they're more out of sight than they'd be on top of my desk, they're easily accessible, and still a little visible as well. 
When you're feeling overwhelmed, go back to basics. What are your styles, and what are they crying out for?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

18 Things to Try in 2018

The semester has started, the play I'm in has not ended and the list of things to do over break still has a few items remaining. With all of this overlap in projects and preparations, I'm not feeling the organizing vibe. But, when I look around, I definitely see progress when I compare this year to last year. (I also see two fully decorated Christmas trees that need to be taken down, but that's another story).

Since it's still January, the month of resolutions, I thought I'd suggest a few things to try this year so that this time next year, you can look at an imperfect, lived-in space and smile at the progress you've made. No need to be a perfectionist and try all eighteen -- just choose a couple that speak to you.

And, by all means, do #9 and #18.

 1. Embrace your styles.
 2. Don't put it down, put it away.
 3. Find a solution to one problem area.
 4. Clean out one closet.
 5. Get rid of 365 things. Too many? How about 52 -- that's just one a week.
 6. Buy a planner you really love and use it.
 7. Use small chunks of time to clean up small spaces or make progress in larger ones.
 8. Resolve to spend an hour a week making progress on a large space, like a garage, basement or attic.
 9. Do something fun just for you.
10. Declare one hour each week "organizing time" and use it to tackle all the nagging little projects you never quite get to.
11. Make one area of your house -- a counter, a shelf, a desktop -- both organized and attractive.
12. Resolve to keep one surface clutter-free.
13. Assign homes to three important items you waste time searching for.
14. Splurge on one container that really fits your styles.
15. Find the perfect purse or work bag.
16. Make a packing or grocery list template.
17. Find permanent homes for ten homeless items.
18. Be patient with yourself. Organizing is, after all, a process.

Other ideas? Goals of your own? Share them in the comments below.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Questions to ask When it's Time to Troubleshoot

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Lately, I've been losing things. This is unusual for me, and it's typically a sign that I'm too busy to keep up with everything that needs to be done. Although it's annoying, it's a wake up call that I need to step back and figure out a way to turn things around.

Because I know I've reached a point in my organizational journey where my systems work -- as long as I use them, -- I don't need to throw up my hands and start from scratch. But, no matter how good it is, no system is self-maintaining. I've learned that when things start to get rough around the edges, it's time (or, sometimes, past time) to troubleshoot and ask myself some key questions:
  • Do my systems fit both my styles and my lifestyle? If they fit my personal and organizational styles but require a more time-consuming process than my schedule permits, it might be time to revamp. 
  • Are my systems overwhelmed? Did I choose "just right" containers, or tools that allow me (and my possessions) room to grow?
  • Is this a temporary problem? Certain times of the year and certain seasons of life are more hectic (and therefore more chaotic as well). If "this, too, shall pass," is there any point in revamping your entire system?
What are your signs that it's time to troubleshoot?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

One in One Out: Making the Holidays Fit

Alexas Fotos via Pixabay
'Tis the season for making resolutions. Is organization one of yours?

Putting away holiday decorations and finding space for all the goodies Santa put under the tree might be one of the first challenges of the new year. If the stroke of midnight on January 1 is your signal to put away the holiday decor, you've probably come face-to-face with this challenge already. If you, like me, are a late undecorator (not one, but two trees are still up at my house), perhaps you're putting off dealing with this task.

In my pre-STYLE days, when I was first reading voraciously about organization, I learned the "one in/one out" rule. For every new thing you bring in, something else needs to go out.

Sometimes, it's an even exchange. Replace the old pair of black slacks in the closet with the new pair, or replace a clunky old desk with a new, streamlined version.

The exchanges don't have to be even, though. While it's a win in the space wars if the two items are similar in size (or, better yet, what you're getting rid of is bigger than what you're bringing in), one in/one out is simply a good habit. Since few of us can keep adding new possessions indefinitely without running into space issues, getting into the habit of replacing something old with something new helps keep things under control. In addition, it sets up a system in which we're consistently evaluating what we have, making us less likely to buy what we don't need.

As you undeck the halls and ring in the new year, what part of the old year can you let go of?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys of a Working Organizational System

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
At the beginning of this week, I sat down and set writing goals, personal goals and a few other goals for 2018.

I did not set organizing goals.

I'm not sure that's necessarily a bad thing; organizing by STYLE is my ongoing organizing goal. And, although I'm drowning a bit in the transition from Christmas to New Year's to a new semester, the  things that are working outnumber those that aren't.

How can you tell if a system is working? Here are three ways.

The side effects of your default styles are minimized -- or better yet, gone. Pile-ups, mystery locations, crushed, torn or broken items and that horrible feeling of being completely overwhelmed by stuff are wispy memories when your system is working. If those side effects (in my case, that would be pile ups and visual clutter) are re-emerging, that's often the first hint that a system needs to be tweaked.

You use it on a regular basis. Good systems are easy to use and maintain. If you're bypassing the system, a key component of one of your styles is probably going unaddressed. Set aside the "shoulds" and plan realistically. Maybe that metal file cabinet that keeps everything hidden is a great tool for your spouse, but if you pile things on top of it instead of opening the drawers, maybe a file holder with an open top is a better fit for your style.

You can find what you're looking for.  To me, the true test of being organized is that you can find what you're looking for in five minutes or less. Smoothly running systems earn their keep in saved time and reduced stress. If you have to go on a scavenger hunt for something every time you need it, it may be time to re-think the location you've chosen. This is also true when the supply of something has overrun its container or when you remember where it is, but it takes you more than five minutes to dig it out.

So, I guess my organization goal for 2018 is pretty simple: create more of the above. It's the best way I know to win the war on clutter.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Three Kinds of Time

jarmoluk via Pixabay
Last week, as I contemplated getting back into the swing of things as the old year ended and the new year began, I decided that there are three kinds of time. There's peak time -- time when we're awake, alert and motivated. Then there's intermediate time -- we're awake, but alertness and/or motivation are lagging. Finally, there's down time, in which trying to accomplish anything is an uphill battle, at best.

Peak time is, understandably, the best time to get things done. When this occurs each day varies from person to person. (Even though I'm a night person, my best time is late morning and early afternoon). If we aim to be productive, peak time is the time we should protect and the time during which we should schedule our most taxing tasks.

From a productivity perspective, intermediate time holds a lot of promise. Even if concentration and/or motivation aren't at their best, plenty of tasks don't require peak concentration and motivation. Routine household and organizing tasks, for example, like emptying the dishwasher, doing laundry, sorting mail and putting things back where they belong can be allocated to this type of time. Sometimes, getting started is the hardest part and once we get going, we get a second wind. If not, and we run out of steam before completely finishing the task, at least we've made progress.

While it might seem like a waste of time from a productivity perspective, down time is the time that makes productivity possible. We weren't meant to run nonstop 24/7 and, without time to simply relax and regroup, we quickly deplete both peak time and intermediate time. Finding those time slots and stamping them "Mine, all mine!" is key to keeping things in balance.

Next time you look at your to-do list, keep these three kinds of time in mind. What belongs in peak time? Intermediate time? What time slot will you brand as "Mine, all mine"?

Thursday, December 28, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Key Steps on the Path to "No"

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Yesterday morning, I wrote about learning to say no. By bedtime last night, I'd already said yes to two new things. In my defense, neither is a long-term commitment, and in one case, it was just the right thing to do.

Still, it seems as though this goal, like many others, might be harder than it sounds. Perhaps there might be some intermediate steps I need to take on the way to my big goal.

Pause. So often, those of us who say yes do so automatically. Simply stopping to think can keep us from making a snap decision that leads to a task that's not such a snap.

Say maybe. Lengthen the pause by not committing either way until you've had some time to think. The bigger the task, the more reasonable "let me think about it" becomes.

Delegate or teach. This works only when you haven't already committed to taking on the task in the first place; reneging on a task you promised to accomplish can come off as irresponsible or even obnoxious, especially if it's not handled delicately. But, if someone else is equally capable of doing the task in question, handing it off can be a very reasonable alternative, especially if the other person is willing to take it on. If someone else is interested in learning how to do the job, taking a few minutes to teach them what to do or assist them in getting started can save you hours of time later on.

If you decide to say no, remember that a little honesty and a lot of kindness go a long way. Explaining an overpacked schedule is preferable to making excuses. Expressing a desire to help at another time or in another way (if you are willing to do so) can make today's no more palatable.

Finally, whether the answer is yes, no or maybe, make sure it's for the right reasons. Balance is key: balancing time, balancing tasks and balancing care for others with care for ourselves can lead to a life that's not only fulfilling, but relaxed enough to enjoy.