Thursday, April 2, 2020

3 Things Thursday: A Twist on a Thursday Post

PIRO4D via Pixabay
There's nothing like a massive lifestyle change to get me thinking. And this evening, I'm thinking about a few things all this time inside working online has revealed to me about myself. They aren't three keys, exactly, so they're a slight departure from my usual Thursday post, but I promise to relate them back to style.

I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I love my MacBook, my phone and my iPad. I'm also learning to love some of the tools I'm using for online learning but, when things don't go smoothly tech-wise, I get frazzled very quickly.
What does this have to do with styles? This, combined with my I need to see it personal style, means I still go for the paper back-up. I have a paper grade-book to back up the online grading platform we use. Given the choice between the planner on my phone and a paper planner, I go for the paper planner every time. When I make lists, they're on paper; I have entire notebooks dedicated to lists. While I appreciate all technology has to offer, at the end of the day, I'm a hybrid girl.

rayedigitaldesigns via Pixabay

I get frustrated when my work flow isn't efficient. When my husband moves my stuff, I become irrationally annoyed. I've been chalking this up to being just a tad (?) high maintenance but, lately, I've noticed a pattern that has to do with more than just the twelve inch difference in our heights.
What does this have to do with styles? I tend to set things up (and put things away) in accordance not only with my I need to see it and drop and run styles but also with the flip side to my drop and run organizational style: grab and go. I don't want to have to move a pile of stuff to get to something I need -- it's bad enough when I create this situation for myself with piles of papers. When I've laid things out (or put them away) just so, I rely on being able to see and/or grab what I need when I need it. When that doesn't happen, my work flow is disrupted and I get grumpy.

ArtsyBee via Pixabay
I can both completely ignore some clutter, and get completely distracted by it. There is a pile of homeless items on the counter in my office that has been there for an embarrassingly long period of time. I know eventually I'll do the necessary sorting and home-finding that makes it disappear, so it annoys me only mildly. But relocate that pile somewhere else in my house (on the steps leading to the second floor of our house, for example) and my reaction is decidedly less laissez-faire.
What does this have to do with styles? I could tie this (like so much else) back to my I need to see it personal style but, the truth is, it has more to do with a different concept: it's a process. There are rooms and surfaces in my house that I've worked hard to de-clutter. As the process of organizing my house goes, I have checked those places off my list, marking them as organizational successes. As a result, I have no desire to go back. One small thing out of place in the living room or more than two or three pieces of mail on the mail counter is enough to pull my focus and render me incapable of walking past that spot without intervening or, at the very least, making a mental note. The latter is actually worse because it nags at me until I set things right.

Our personal styles (I need to see it, I love to be busy, and I love stuff) are the "who" behind our organization. Rooted in the way we look at the world, they, along with our organizational styles,  drive how we organize.

But our personal styles go deeper, driving not only how we organize, but how we approach life. This is one reason why organizing is a personal endeavor, and why one set of rules -- just like one pair of shoes or one organizing tool -- doesn't fit everyone. Organizing isn't just about "how"; at its heart, it's also about "who" and, when we embrace that, the whole process gets easier.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

True Confessions Wednesday: Pile or System?

True Confession #22: My drop-and-run systems are often just piles in disguise.

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking for a place to store my daughter's gluten-free stash without doing a major kitchen storage overhaul. My eyes lit on the bins underneath my mail counter, two of which were only partially full (room to grow), so I reached into the middle one, pulled out a pile of magazines and voilĂ ! Problem solved.

Except now I have a pile of homeless (and probably outdated) magazines.

For now, this pile is on the steps leading to the second floor of our house. Last weekend, I was good at picking up a new magazine every time -- okay, many times when -- I passed the piles but as the week got busy, the pile got neglected.

I could just add it to one of the (many) other piles of reading materials I have but I keep holding out hope that its current location will catch my I need to see it eye so that I solve the problem rather than compounding it.

Getting back to my original confession, the concept of piles in disguise is not entirely bad. After all, when you think about it, most organizing systems for papers are organized piles. Binders. File cabinets. In/out boxes.

My magazine bin.

The trick is to keep the pile organized in whatever way works for your styles. I have one bin that is all catalogs so that when I get the mail, every catalog either goes there or gets recycled immediately (Don't put it down, put it away). When I'm looking for a catalog, I look in the bin (the home for catalogs) and when it gets full, it's time to go through the catalogs and get rid of duplicates (two from the same company) and anything outdated. This is a pile in disguise (the bin being its disguise) but, since it's not haphazard, it's also an organized pile. The bin contains everything, matches its neighbors and leaves things looking better than a random pile of magazines would.

As for the pile sitting on my steps? Now a random pile, it was an organized pile before I sacrificed my bin for the greater good. How was it not random in the bin? Only certain magazines got slipped into that bin so that if I were looking for one of those issues, I'd know where to find it.

As I've mentioned before, this blog is therapeutic in that writing about what I need to do often gives me the nudge I need to do the thing I wrote about. With some time off next week, maybe I'll tackle that pile and not only get rid of it, but read its contents. Or maybe tonight I should just take the whole thing back in the family room and get rid of whatever's in there that I know I won't read anyway, assuming those items actually exist. Either of those would be progress.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys for Keeping the Home/School/Work Fires Burning

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
As a work-from-home(ish) person, I'm used to being on my laptop a lot. But now that my classes (the non-work-from-home element of my work life) have gone online, I'm on it all the time.

I'm all computered out. 

Now in week 2 of both my self-imposed quarantine and the ever-evolving online version of my class, I've developed a few guidelines for those of us who thought we had this work-from-home thing figured out but are now finding it a tad overwhelming.

Follow the rhythms. Your circadian rhythms, that is. If you are someone who automatically wakes up at the same time each day and sticks effortlessly to a routine, you're all set. If you (like me) are not, don't feel guilty about setting your work hours around your body's natural clock -- at least as long as you show up for any required meetings.

Listen to your body. I can feel all these extra hours in my back, shoulders and eyes, and I need to remind myself to move regularly, whether it's just looking away from my screen or getting up and walking around. Who knew a(nother) load of laundry could be good for me?

Seek balance. Like many other families, mine is working from home -- all three of us. Small potatoes to many families, but that's triple the number of us usually at home during the day. Since we're all on different schedules, it's easy for each of us to get tunnel vision and for any (or all) of us to  be working at any given time. Finding time to spend alone and together, at work and not at work, on the computer and away from it is important. This is especially true when the tool we use for work can be the same one we use for play. Without the physical break between work (or school) and home, we need to make a concerted effort to create one of our own. 

How about you? What tips and tricks have you discovered for making your multipurpose home/school/office smoothly?

Want more? Visit my Porch Swing Chronicles blog for my post, 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

True Confessions Wednesday: How is Endless Time Not Enough Time?

True confession #21: I'm here 24-7 and my house still isn't completely organized. 

I thought for sure that when we were all required to stay home and socially distance ourselves that it might finally happen. I might tackle all the piles, sort through all the stuff and create clear space as far as the eye could see.

In the past eleven days, I have left the house only once -- to go to the grocery store. Meanwhile, back at our small Cape Cod, organizing to-dos remain on the list. The dining room table has been cleared of its egregious piles (because my daughter is using it for her Zoom sessions) and only a few scattered items of mine remain. I clear my desk every night, the mail pile has shrunk, and we spent three hours cleaning a section of the basement last weekend, but perfect organization has not yet become a reality.

Maybe I need eleven more days? Eleven days without teaching responsibilities that include learning how to use online tools?

While that would help, I'm pretty sure that still wouldn't do it. And I'm pretty sure I'm looking at this wrong, too. Only a few scattered items of mine remain on the dining room table, I clear my desk (which was a haven for piles -- and a dusty one at that -- only a few months ago) every night, the mail pile has shrunk (and needs about ten more minutes of dedicated time to disappear entirely), and we spent three hours cleaning a section of the basement last weekend and generating more trash than we can legally put out in a week.

That's progress.

Sure, I have a list of organizing projects -- probably longer than the list of things I've accomplished -- but that's how life works. There is always something to do, and that's as true of organizing as it is of anything else. And, if I'm honest, most of those projects haven't made it out of my head and onto my list yet because I'm occupied with all the changes our current circumstances bring.

So, for now, I'll focus on what I have done, even as the things I haven't done seem to scream at me as I walk past. The ones that scream most loudly (or are suggested by someone else, like our basement, which was my husband's idea) will make it to the list (first) and, eventually, to completion.

Or, more accurately, disappearance. But it always has been, and remains, a process.

No matter how many hours I spend in the house.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys for Using Organizing to Create an Environment You Want to Live In

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
One of the main goals of organizing, though we don't often think of it in such terms, is making peace with our stuff. Balancing what comes in with what goes out. Finding homes for things and creating routines so we don't live constantly surrounded by clutter.

Creating a home we want to live in.

This will look different for each of us, depending on our styles. While some of us dream of clear surfaces as far as the eye can see, others are happiest surrounded by a few of our favorite things. Either way, the three ideas below can move us toward homes that are havens, even when storms rage outside.

Keep the things you love...  So often, we equate organizing with getting rid of things, but that's only part of the equation. The things we love are part of what makes a house a home and stripping things down to the bare bones doesn't work for everyone. If you love it, don't set it free. Find it a place of honor where you can appreciate it and set something else free instead.

...and find another home for the things you don't. Letting things go is an unavoidable part of the organization process, but no one said getting rid of something can only mean throwing it in the trash. Some of us derive great satisfaction from filling garbage bags with things we no longer want or need and dragging them to the curb. Others prefer a little resale therapy (yard sales, consignment shops) or finding our once-beloved items the perfect new home. Letting go of what we no longer need is necessary; a one-size-fits-all destination or method is not.

Don't neglect aesthetics. Storage can be attractive and functional and the best storage usually is. When choosing the tools you'll use to keep your home in order, think of the mood you want to create. Vibrant? Fun? Funky? Refined? Neutral? If you think that seems like a lot to ask of a container, maybe you need to think outside the filing cabinet. Boring, basic drawers can be spiced up with new knobs. Bins come in a rainbow of colors, patterns and styles. Ottomans with room for toys inside can be sleek, chunky or padded. And those are just the items intended to be used for storage. There's no rule that every object must be used for one purpose and one purpose only (just ask anyone with an I love stuff personal style!) Once you pick up the stuff and put it away, how (besides uncluttered) do you want the room to look? What mood to you want to create?

It's easy to get mired in the practical side of organization, forgetting that organization is a means to an end: Easy upkeep that fits our lives and our styles.

And makes us glad to be in the space we are in.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Way Back Wednesday: One Small Change

Adjusting to a new schedule has left me, well, behind schedule, so I went in search of a post that was worth revisiting. This one pulled me in with its first sentence because, although the post is several years old, I'm having that loving my office feeling again. I cleaned my desk shortly after the designated day in January and have committed to keeping it clear of junk. This leaves me excited to work at my desk, and has made the transition to online teaching a bit easier, too, since I have much less junk to navigate.

But this post isn't about my desk. It's about how one small change, made perhaps in response to a serious dose of cabin fever, can kick off not only a succession of changes, but a feeling of appreciation for our surroundings. 

Lately, I have been loving my office. It all started when the white lights I'd had for a couple of years breathed their last, and I had to replace them. The string of new lights was long enough to allow a new configuration, one that added more light to the room, brightening up the small space. Soon after, I found myself spending more time in my tiny office. Nothing had changed but the lights, and yet the room felt more warm and welcoming. 

The same is often true with a new organizing tool. One small change can start a domino effect. Suddenly, not only is there an improvement in the look of the space, there's an improvement in how the space feels as well. We become excited about the possibilities again and, instead of avoiding a space that was once in need of an upgrade, we feel motivated to expand outward, bringing improvements to other areas as well. 

While it's important for our organizational tools to function well, the form they take and the style they embody matters as well. We're more motivated to use a tool that hits all of these three key concepts. A tool needs to be functional, fitting our styles and working with them, not against them. Its form -- the size, shape and physical attributes of the tool or container -- needs to fit into our physical space, or, in the case of something like a planner, the parameters of our life.

But often, it's the style of the tool that brings us back to it again and again. When we like the look of the container or tool, we're more likely to use it. The more we use it, the more habit-forming its use becomes and soon, we've developed a smooth, workable process that keeps us organized.
So, the next time you're tempted to dismiss a purchase as frivolous, put it through the attribute test.

Alexas Fotos via Pixab
  • Form: Will it work in your space and in your life?
  • Function: Will it fill a need and/or serve a purpose?
  • Style: Do you find it appealing?

When you find something that does all of these things, you've hit the container jackpot and you're well on your way to organizing not only by STYLE, but with style as well.

And that not only looks good, but feels good as well.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

3 Keys Thursday: 3 (Key) Simple Solutions

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Yesterday, I wrote about simple solutions, specifically two I'd recently tried. That got me thinking about other simple solutions and approaches. Here are three that sprang to mind.

Put it where you use it (location, location, location!) To many people, this seems obvious but when we think about the three organizational styles (drop and run, cram and jam and I know I put it somewhere), if we do what comes naturally without building these styles into our homes for things, we create an extra step. When we select logical, accessible homes, we can move beyond dropping and running, cramming and jamming and putting things into the first place we see and set up one-step solutions that work with our styles. Speaking of styles....

Choose tools that fit your styles, not the other way around. It takes a little digging and some creative thinking but it's possible to ditch a tool that's not working and replace it with one that fits our styles. At my house, containers with lids are few and far between because they don't work with my I need to see it/drop and run styles. Drawer organizers (premade and cobbled together) are a staple inside my drawers so I can see what I have. One lovely benefit of this? A sense of calm created by a tidy arrangement of my things.

Take small steps. I love all the steps in my STYLE process, but the most freeing one is take small steps, which gives me permission to tackle things a little at a time. Sometimes I get frustrated because that means it takes longer to whip a spot into space but finding big chunks of time to organize is simply not a possibility in my life, at least on a regular basis. Making progress, even a little at a time, motivates me to keep going.

What simple rules and solutions do you employ to keep yourself organized?