Wednesday, April 29, 2015

If You (Don't) Love it, Set it Free
At the heart of any organization project is a decision -- to keep, or not to keep. Finding systems, shortcuts and containers that complement your styles is important, but even the best of these containers is neither bottomless nor infinitely expandable. Like it or not, going through the "stuff" and determining what to keep and what to toss (or dispose of otherwise) is an important step toward getting organized.

And for many people, this is the most difficult part of organizing -- just ask an I love stuff person. The mere mention of getting rid of anything is painful to those who love stuff because each item holds a memory or significance, endowing it with a life of its own. 

Cram and jammers and I know I put it somewhere organizers, on the other hand, are usually able to be more heartless about this task (unless, of course, their personal style is I love stuff!) They may not like the labor involved, but their "out of sight out of mind" outlook makes it easier for them to separate trash from treasure. I love to be busy folks and drop and run organizers may also have little difficulty making the "keep or toss" decision, as their organizational struggles arise more from a lack of time than from an attachment to their things. And we I need to see it people are often delighted to get rid of things because it reduces the pile and, along with it, the feeling of being overwhelmed by how much we have to do.

That's not to say this is a simple task. Even for those who may find it easy (or even cathartic) to de-clutter, the task can be time intensive. If getting rid of things is hard for you, begin by taking stock of what you've accomplished over the past two months. If you've been reading along and chipping away, you've probably already let things go -- containers that weren't earning their keep, things you came across during a Give it Five! session, items that had no home -- and so you've already passed go and are well on your way. 

Photo: jdurham via Morguefile
Next week, we'll dig in (no pun intended) a bit more deeply, but for now, let's start with a list of expendable items. All of these can be thrown away or recycled relatively painlessly:

  • Things that are torn or broken , or missing pieces
  • Half a pair of anything
  • Things that are outdated (e.g back issues of magazines)
  • Things  you no longer use or need
So far, so good? If so, and if you've recently been working on the large, rectangular spaces in your bedroom, you might want to add "clothing that no longer fits or is out of style" to your list. Unless you really do want to throw it away or have a destination in mind, set it aside for now -- just for now.
If this is really hard, do what you can and congratulate yourself. Throwing things away is the most traumatic way for some of us to divest ourselves of our extras. If you find any of the above categories to be more magnetic than expendable, try choosing just one category or even just a few things you think you can manage; then, celebrate your successes. Or, set a goal for yourself -- say, ten items -- and see if  you can meet or surpass it. Every little bit helps.

Next week, we'll talk about finding new homes for the things that no longer belong in our homes. Meanwhile, if you've got a great suggestion for a way to give your old stuff new life, please share it in the comments below. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Organization Extra: Professional Organizers
In the world of organizing, there are these wonderful creatures called professional organizers. They come to your house and consult with you about how to clear your clutter and live a more organized life. They offer classes and strategies and, I suspect, live in glass houses where there would only ever be a mess if someone threw a stone.

Needless to say (if you've been reading these posts), I'm not one of them. Throw a stone in my house and it's likely to end up on a pile of papers. But I'm working on it. And hey, my large rectangular spaces are looking good.

I took an online class on professional organizing once. It was interesting, but it made me squirm. Nowhere in it was there a word about following my style or my default habits. And as someone who's spent a great deal of her adult life trying to transform myself into a Type A organizer, I know the old tricks don't work for me.

But I know there are good eggs out there. Professional organizers like Julie Morgenstern and some of my HGTV favorites who don't have a leave-no-clutter standing rule at the expense of their clients' better judgment and favorite things. Organizers who send out newsletters and motivational emails and  sticky notepads with "Today I Will Do One Thing" imprinted on them. Organizers like my friend Cindy Bernstein at Aim 4 Order.

Okay, so Cindy and I have never met face-to-face, but we've chatted via email enough for me to know that if I were going to bite the bullet and hire a personal organizer, Cindy would be the first one I'd call. In the meantime, I subscribe to her e-newsletter and read all of her great ideas there and on Facebook. I especially like the fact that she suggests good homes for things I'm ready to say good-bye to...

...but more on the L of STYLE (Let it go!) next week.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Just One Thing

This post first ran on the Porch Swing Chronicles in December 2013. (There are no piles on my desk now :-) 

Sitting on my desk, amid haphazardly stacked papers and files is a cute little Post-it Note I got from professional organizer Cindy Bernstein:

Yesterday's note has four things crammed into the bottom section. On one I used last week, I ran out of room at the bottom and started filling in the white space around the words at the top.

Yes, I know that defeats the purpose. But in my defense, all of the things on the bottom were related. One category = one thing, right?


It's a wonderful concept, this determining the most important thing on the to-do list, then focusing on it, finishing it and checking it off. But, when multiple roles (mother, wife, writer, professor) converge, finding that one thing is a challenge.

I suppose I could use one note for each role, but I fear that by doing this, I am again defeating the purpose.

Of course, there's nothing on the note that says the thing I write down is the only thing I'm allowed to do...but that one thing often leads to another...and others present themselves as the day moves along (or careens by, as the case may be....)

Photo: pschubert via
And since I know I'm not the only person who finds herself in this predicament, I thought I'd share my strategy. It's very simple, really.

I'm going to use this notepad. I could just as easily use a piece of scrap paper, but since I have this cute little notepad, I'm going to abide by it. I'm going to write down the one thing I really want to get done before the day is over.

It won't stop me from making other lists, or cramming as much into a 24 hour period as I possibly can, but it will help me to check something off my list, at least once a day.

And who knows? Maybe I'll even write something fun on the list some days. 

I will do one thing today: Eat chocolate.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Closets and Drawers, Part 2
When I started writing these posts, I had three junk drawers. In one room.

In my defense, they weren't actually the traditional junk drawer with a hodgepodge of things from stray receipts to nail files to thumbtacks. Each drawer contained specific sorts of things, but the drawers themselves were a mess, separately and collectively. More junky drawers than junk drawers, they were clutter catchers, and, in the state they were in, they were a waste of prime real estate. The sad thing was that they'd been this way for years. I'd fallen into the habit of putting certain things in certain places, and I only realized how little sense it made when I needed space for a new crock pot and had to re-assess my available storage space.

No matter what room or piece of furniture they reside in, drawers are a blessing and a curse. Like closets, they are open, rectangular spaces, and as such, they make it far too easy to drop and run, cram and jam or stash our stuff "somewhere" -- and then close them and hide the evidence.

Regardless of our personal and organizational styles, large, rectangular spaces work best when we can see what's in them, which is one reason professional organizers frown on junk drawers -- singular or plural. Fortunately, there's one simple strategy that can make a difference. Like Give it Five! and Don't put it down, put it away! this idea can be personalized to fit your life and styles:

Divide and conquer.

Admittedly, I have an I need to see it bias, but I think the drawer organizer might be the best thing ever created. Okay, when you factor in caffeine and chocolate, it might only make the top ten, but my point is that simply subdividing the space inside that drawer so that you can see what you have makes the whole space work better.

Consider the flatware drawer in your kitchen -- forks, knives and spoons all neatly cocooned in their own little subdivisions. If we don't give a second thought to putting our flatware away that way, it's not such a leap to organizing our other rectangular spaces in a similar fashion.

Take my recently rehabilitated junky drawers. I have everyday flatware and nicer stuff. The everyday knives, spoons and forks live in the kitchen drawer described above. The nicer ones (now) have a home in a dining room drawer that wasn't subdivided. I lined the drawer with shelf liner and added narrow plastic bins from the dollar store. The drawer looked so good after I was finished that I periodically opened it up when I walked by just to see how organized it was.

The drawers in my bathroom are similarly divided with plastic (i.e. wipeable) bins of various depths and sizes so that when I open the drawer, I can not only see what I have, but I know where it goes when I'm finished with it, so I'm more likely to put it away.

Those bins at the end of last week's post? Yep. I got them -- or, more accurately, grabbed an unused one from the basement, purchased a second one in a contrasting print and ordered a third from Thirty-One (I even splurged and got it embroidered because now I know it works for that space). My sweaters fit inside and the shelves in my closet look so much better. When it's time to put summer clothes away, I'll simply change the contents of the bins. For now, I'm adding bins one at a time, and not buying new ones until I fill the ones I have.

I had the right idea in one of my junky drawers, but hadn't carried it out fully enough. I had a bin for collecting receipts and another with candles in it, but the rest of the drawer was a free-for-all. Mistake. That was an invitation to junkiness. Cleared it out, relined it (nicer spaces stay organized longer), found bins that fill and subdivide the space....much better.

While subdivision isn't necessary for every drawer, cupboard or closet in the house, it helps keep catch-all rectangular spaces organized.
There's really no need to spend a lot of money to do this. Sure, you can go to The Container Store, (and I've purchased drawer organizers when I was fortunate enough to find exactly what I wanted), but bins from discount stores work, as do gift boxes, shoe boxes and cardboard dividers. Think back to the containers that work for you and determine how you can adapt them to subdividing your large, rectangular spaces.
  • As an I need to see it person, I'm partial to unlidded containers that I can color code, label or see through.
  • Subdividing helps I love stuff people to organize collections and keeps supplies for the I love to be busy person's many activities easily separated and accessible. 
  • When the rectangular space is subdivided I can (literally) drop and run and my I know I put it somewhere husband has a better chance at remembering which "somewhere" he put something in. 
  • As with other containers, size will be essential for cram and jammers -- too big and the visual is gone, too small and, well, just forget it. It'll never happen.
After many weeks on the Y of STYLE (Yes, it has a home!), we're ready to move on to the part of the process most of us have a love/hate relationship with: Let it go. (Don't worry. I'll be gentle). Chances are, you've already done some of this: if you got rid of containers that weren't working for you or reorganized a space, I'm sure you let some things go along the way. Next week, we'll talk about ways to make that as painless as possible.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Non-Organization FYI

From time to time, my publisher drops the Kindle price of my novel, Casting the First Stone (which has nothing to do with organization), and this is one of those times. If you're looking for something to read in between organization projects, check it out while it's on sale :-)

Organization Extra: Closet Inspirations
Inspired by this week's thoughts of organized rectangular spaces, I tackled three of my (kitchen and dining room) drawers yesterday (when really all I meant to do was empty the dishwasher). Now, if only the dining room table looked as good as the insides of the drawers!

I've also been spending some time on Pinterest, looking for pictures of drawers and closets that inspire me with not only the end product, but how easy it would be to replicate. This board is a work-in-progress; it's very small now, but I'll keep adding to it during future Pinterest binges.

And that was the driving force behind today's Saturday Special. I wanted to find something photo-heavy -- pictures of closets that look good, but don't require a budget that rivals a month's pay, and would be do-able for someone (like me) who suddenly gets inspired to make a change, but only has a few hours to kick off that change.

Since HGTV's (now defunct) Mission: Organization (recommended by my sister) got me started on this journey, it seemed only fitting to use an HGTV resource today. And for those who dare to drool, check out the last picture in this Babble piece!

Whatever you're doing with your Saturday, have fun! And, if you're making progress on your organizational journey, please share your successes in the comments here!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Making it Manageable

Art by Bruce Van Patter
This post originally appeared on The Porch Swing Chronicles in May 2013.

I have a terrible habit of focusing on what I haven't done instead of acknowledging what I have done, failing to see progress until it is monstrous in size. But my recent attack on my office counter, combined with preparation for the courses I've been teaching and a little divine intervention at church last weekend reminded me that there are simple strategies I can use to attack big tasks so that I can see the progress I make, even when the going is slow.

If you're struggling to complete a monumental task, try one of these strategies:

Turn a big task into a small one. Remember all those family sitcoms where siblings who had to share a room staked their claim by drawing some sort of line down the middle? Try the same thing with a big task. Depending on what it is, you may not be able to use tape or string to make your mark, but mentally set aside one part of the task to tackle first, then stop when you are finished. Visible progress is hugely satisfying.

Chunk it then check it. Or, go one step further. Break the whole project down into its component parts and list each task. Then attack the project bit by bit, checking off each task as you go. If one chunk is too big, break it down further, but be sure to check off each step as you accomplish it. Large tasks can be daunting, and progress can be difficult to see, but checking a task off the list acknowledges the progress you've made.

Assign it a time. Organizing guru Julie Morgenstern advises that you need to schedule things if you want to them to get done. Once you've decided on your starting point, write it in your calendar as you would a medical appointment or lunch with a friend.

Make it routine. Do you already have some things you do at the same time every day, or even every week? Extend this concept and make the big job a standing appointment until it is finished.

Play Beat the Clock. Maybe it's the educator in me, but I'm a big fan of setting a timer and working till it dings (or plays a jazz riff, in the case of my iPhone timer). Sometimes I stop when the timer goes off, but sometimes I keep going. For me, getting started is the hardest part, so once I get rolling, I sometimes ignore the timer.

Seize the moment. In the mood to tackle a task that wasn't on the list? Go for it! As long as the task you initially planned to do isn't time sensitive, it pays to put that motivation to work, particularly if the project you're tackling instead is one you weren't looking forward to.

Mix and match. Pair two tasks, one desirable and one undesirable. Do the one you don't want to do first, then reward yourself by doing the one you enjoy.

Do it as you go. This is my favorite clutter-busting trick. When I have an area in my house that has accumulated clutter, I play a little game with myself. Each time I go by, I have to pick up one thing and put it away. I can pick up more than one thing if I want to, but everything I pick up, I must put away - where it belongs - not in another temporary holding zone.

Give credit where credit is due. At the end of each day, take a few moments to acknowledge what you've accomplished. If you have trouble replaying your day, make it a point to jot down a couple of words about what you're doing as you do it, then review the list at the end of the day.

It's sometimes hard to see the baby steps we've taken on the road to success, particularly if the road is long, but success breeds success, and the only way to reach the destination is to figure out how to take it step by step....and maybe stop for a Starbucks along the way.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Big, Rectangular Space
Imagine a typical bedroom. What large storage spaces come immediately to mind? 

Closets and dressers, right? Great for some styles, but a nightmare for others.

If they're a nightmare for your style, what do you do? These aren't exactly organizers you can replace at the dollar store. 

Ah, but you might be surprised.
Take another look in the closet. What's neat and what's not? Are clothes hanging from the rod, or strewn across the closet floor? Are shoes lined up in pairs, or tossed haphazardly? Can you see what's in your closet at a glance, or is your closet more like Fibber McGee's?

If you're a cram and jammer, that last description probably fits. If you're an I need to see it person, clothes are probably hanging from the rod, but they may be hanging from other hangers, too, as you mixed and matched in an endeavor to put outfits together. And the I know I put it somewhere person may find all sorts of forgotten treasures tucked in among the clothes.

So how do you make these large spaces work? 

Let's begin with the closet. At its most basic level, a closet is a big, rectangular space. Once upon a time, a Type A organizer decided that closet should come complete with hanging rods and a shelf (or more, if you have the luxury of a walk-in closet). And the Type A organizer, a rule follower who likes hanging rods and shelves, lived happily ever after.

Maybe -- just maybe -- you're not a Type A organizer. If you aren't using the space as it is, redesign it to suit your style. 

Take another look in the closet, keeping in mind that everything you see is a style clue, not a character flaw. What parts of that rectangular space are you using well? 

Cram and jammers might love the lone shelf -- so much so that it's packed with clothes. And the rod? Well, it may have clothes on it, too, even if they're draped over the rod rather than hung on it.
I need to see it folks may have the opposite problem. Because hanging things on the rod allows them to see what they have, the rod may be packed. It might even be "coded" by color or season. The shelves may be sparsely populated, so the owner of the closet can see what he or she has, or they may house a haphazard mix of colors and fabrics. If the I need to see it person has figured out his or her style, the shelf might even be neatly organized. 

Similarly, I know I put it somewhere organizers might actually be using this particular space very well, with the possible exception of those buried treasures. But, if they remember that the closet is where those treasures are housed, and they have space for them there, who am I to say that they should go somewhere else?
If your closet is working for you, take a moment to celebrate. Maintaining an organized closet is no small feat. If it's not working for you, it's likely that the set-up is the problem. Re-think. Re-organize. What would work better? Can you use your containers to make that happen?

Next week, we'll talk about the personal styles when it comes to closets and drawers, as well as ideas for rearranging the narrow rectangular spaces that are drawers. Meanwhile, here are a few things to think about.

Standard issue isn't always standard. Do you need to ditch the rod? Add another one below it for shorter hanging things? Add more shelves? Roll in some clear drawer units?

Divide and conquer. If you're storing more than clothes in your closet, how can you create distinct, logical homes for everything that's housed there so you can find what you need quickly?

A season for everything. If your closet is overstuffed with clothes for all four seasons, what might be a logical home for your out-of-season items? 

But I live here! Is your closet a logical home for everything that's stored there? 

One final caveat. I'm not suggesting a complete (expensive) closet overhaul -- just a re-vision of your space and how you're using it. Even if you can't replace your closet itself with organizers from the dollar store, you might find a few things there that will help you whip this large, rectangular space into shape in a budget-friendly fashion. I'm thinking that the bins below might be a great way to organize my closet shelf.

Monday, April 13, 2015

White Lights in the Office: Goldilocks Tackles Ambiance
Last week, I strung white lights in my office. I'd been looking for a set since mid-January when I decided that they'd create both the quality and quantity of lighting I was looking for on gloomy days. I'm happy to report that after all that searching, the idea turned out to be every bit as good in reality as it was in my imagination.

My husband, Mr. Functionality, just shakes his head. He doesn't understand why I want Christmas lights in my office. It doesn't seem strange to him that we've hung exactly the same lights outside on the gazebo structure that provides shelter over our patio, just as it didn't seem strange to me that I finally found these lights when Target began putting out its patio furniture. Really, all I'm doing is bringing the same idea that works for me outside into the house. And, if I keep in mind that my office used to be a patio before we enclosed it and made it part of the house, there's a certain symmetry to the whole thing.

This all started because the existing lighting in my office was a sort of Goldilocks and the porridge scenario: the ceiling fixture cast too much light, and the desk lamp didn't cast quite enough. The desk lamp is intense and wonderful for spotlighting specific tasks, but by itself, it didn't create enough overall lighting in the room. I needed more, but just a little bit more. Something that would create a warm, inviting atmosphere, luring me to my desk when I wasn't 100% convinced that I wanted to be sitting there.

A few weeks prior to purchasing the lights, I did a long overdue desk overhaul. While there's still clutter to be busted in my office, the room is taking shape as a sort of haven -- the kind of place I want to work in.
So what does any of this have to do with organization? Form and function. I need to remove the clutter in order to function, but as I do so, in addition to creating systems that work, I need to create a space that works as well. A room I love -- one that fits my styles and preferences -- stands a much better chance of staying organized than a place that's anything less. By wedding form (beauty, atmosphere and aesthetics) and function (organizers that work for my styles and work together a system), I'm creating a stress-free space where my creativity can flow -- a room I want to spend time in.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've decided my desk needs a candle.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Organization Extra: Ten Things Organized People Do Every Day
Are you in search of a new habit that will take you one step closer to feeling like you've got it all together? If so, Ten Things Organized People Do Every Day might just have something that can help.

#3 and #4 get me every time. How about you?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Organization Inspiration

Today's post originally ran in August 2013, when I was just getting serious about writing about the ideas I'd shared with my students.

More than a decade ago, my sister introduced me to a show on HGTV called Mission: Organization. On this show, professional organizers worked with families to bring order to chaos. The best organizers not only restored order, but also helped the families develop systems that continued to work even after the professional was gone. Best of all, these pros never made the homeowners feel as though there was something wrong with them because their living space looked (and perhaps was) disorganized.

I first saw this on Mission: Organization.
Every time I watched the show, I felt the urge to go organize something in my own home. Bitten by the organization bug, I moved beyond HGTV and started reading books and I began to wonder about my students who struggled with organization. What if someone taught them now, while they were still in elementary school, that they weren’t inherently flawed just because organization didn’t come naturally? Better yet, what if someone helped them to assess the skills they already possessed so that they could learn to view them as the basis of a personalized organizational system?

My experience with kids had made it clear to me that they needed something else. Something personalized. Something with a sense of humor. Something fun.

We started talking about styles with crazy names and playing with different organizers -- things besides binders and pocket folders. We identified personal and organizational styles, experimented with containers and organizational tools and shared successes. Simply switching from one tool to another brought everything into focus for a few of my students. The transformation was not only amazing, but energizing. My students were getting excited – about organization! – and developing confidence in their ability to get themselves together. 

When I found this video on The Smead Organomics Facebook page, I was reminded of these lessons, and each child's need to organize in his or her own way. Some kids are traditional organizers and will be just fine -- many will even thrive -- with binders and pocket folders. Others will look a mess when handed these tools, but when given the opportunity to use something else, their world will come into focus, and their papers will follow.

I'm disappointed that Smead didn't feature any boys in this video. The products featured in this clip -- especially accordion folders -- have proven very popular with boys as well as girls, and when they are available in a colors outside the realm of pastels, they make great alternatives to binders -- for both genders.

As you tackle those back-to-school purchases, help your child consider his (or her) options. If traditional tools aren't required, explore a few different choices, especially if your child has struggled with disorganization. Sometimes the right tool is the difference between disorganized futility and organized confidence. And please -- share your stories of success (or frustration) by commenting below.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Logical Homes, Part Two
When I taught the concept of logical homes to my elementary school students, I asked them to imagine they'd just returned from a trip to a warehouse store, like Costco, BJ's or Sam's Club. As they unloaded everything they (or their parents) had purchased, they managed to find homes for everything except a large multi-pack of toilet paper. Since it was too big to stash anywhere in its wrapped state, they'd need to open it up and put away individual rolls. After storing some of the rolls in the bathroom, and putting most of the rest in a nearby closet, they still had several rolls that needed to be put somewhere. Desperate, they returned to the kitchen, opened the oven door, and, finding the oven empty, decided to stash the remaining rolls of toilet paper in the oven.

Needless to say, even ten-year-olds recognized the foolishness of this decision.

While I doubt that any of you routinely use your oven as storage for toilet paper, I suspect that there's at least one item in your house that's stored in an out-of-the-way place simply because that's where there was room. If you're an I know I put it somewhere person, chances are that's the rule, rather than the exception.

Which brings me back to where we left off last week: logical homes. As always, your personal and organizational styles should set the parameters. A home is not logical if it doesn't work for your styles, and your logical homes might not be logical to someone else (just ask my husband). While we want to move away from actual cramming and jamming and dropping and running, we need to honor those tendencies as we select permanent homes for our things -- especially those we use on a daily basis.

With that in mind, here's an expansion on the bullet points from last week's post.
  • Store things that are used every day in places that are easy to access. "Easy" should be defined by the style(s) of the person who most often uses the item. My husband loves filing cabinets, so his papers are stored there. This works for his I know I put it somewhere style because since nearly all of his papers end up in the file cabinet (somewhere), he needs to look in only one place when he's looking for papers. 
          Notice that I said his papers. As an I need to see it/drop and run person, I see little functional
          difference between a file cabinet and a trash can -- both put my papers out of sight, rendering 
          both containers useless as storage spaces (unless I really intend to throw the papers away, 
          which renders the storage issue moot). Unless I create a more visual filing system for my 
          frequently used papers, they end up in a pile on my desk (or the dining room table), where I can
          see them, and remember to take care of them. For me, a filing cabinet is a logical home for 
          papers I need to reference, but not for those I use regularly.
  • Choose a storage solution (container and location) that makes it as easy to put things away as it is to put them down. The more difficult it is to put something away, the less likely it is that it’ll end up where it belongs. How often have you set something aside to put away "later" because it's too complicated or time consuming to put it where it "belongs"? That's a sure sign that the place where it's currently stored might not be the right home for it.
  • Store things where you use them...or drop them...or naturally put them. When you get the mail each day, where do you put it down? Your mail storage should be located as close as possible to that spot. Frequently used items get prime real estate -- that's why the toothpaste goes in the bathroom near the toothbrushes, but the out-of-season linens go on the top shelf of the hall closet. The less often you use something, the more out-of-the-way it can be stored. (There's a reason we store seasonal items in the attic and the garage, often on high shelves). 
         This isn't laziness -- it's maintenance. The easier it is to put something away, the more likely it 
         is that things will be put where they belong. Simply changing the arrangement of the bins in my 
         bathroom closet solved the bathroom counter clutter problem at my house, but to make that
         happen, I had to think about who was using the system. I liked it the way it was -- but not so 
         much that it was worth picking up after an able-bodied teenager. Remember that the goal is to
         establish a system that's not only easy to use, but easy to maintain.
  • Store similar items together: As with my husband's filing cabinet, if all of the similar items are stored together, you only need to look in one place when you need to find anything in that category. If you need multiples of an item (e.g. a stapler), consider buying duplicates or storing them with other related items in a mobile container (such as a basket with a handle) so that they're easily moved from location to location and you don't waste storage space by storing the same item in multiple locations. Again, style is key. I am so guilty of office supplies in multiple locations in the house, but that has more to do with my office supply obsession than my organization entirely different blog post.  
So what do we do when the necessary permanent storage space (e.g. closet) isn't working? More on that next week.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Organizing Extra: Easy Organizing Ideas

I love finding simple solutions to everyday problems -- especially when those solutions are inexpensive as well. Redbook's "23 Easy Organizing Ideas for Your Entire Life" has simple strategies that will help you find homes for everything from tech cords to sandwich bags. Best of all, the containers featured in this piece aren't expensive; my favorite solution involves an organizer I can pluck right out of my recycling bin.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some cords to corral.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Organization Games

Today's post originally ran in June 2013. And yes, I still play these "games."

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I'm not a big fan of household chores. I do what I need to do to keep things running, but tend to put straightening things up near the bottom of the list. Consequently, I tend to tidy in spurts, and in sneaky little ways.

Last week's magazine-a-day campaign is a perfect example of one of those sneaky little tricks. The magazines were (once again) taking over more than their fair share of space, so it was time to take action. The action I chose to take was hardly efficient (get rid of one magazine a day for a week), but it worked. In retrospect, I realized that I used the basic behavioral principle of pairing a pleasurable task (reading the magazines) with a necessary one (reducing the clutter). When it comes to theories, behaviorism isn't one of my favorites, but I have to admit that in this case, it worked. By the end of the week, I'd gotten rid of eight magazines -- painlessly -- and jump-started the desire to keep going. I'm aiming slightly lower this week (reading all those magazines took a bite out of my book-reading time), but hoping that going deeper into the pile will mean uncovering outdated issues I can toss without reading.

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One of the women in the organizing class I taught last spring has an even better system -- her junk mail never makes it into the house. She picks up the mail and sorts it in her garage, dumping the junk before she even walks into the house. Lacking a garage, I've never been able to adopt that strategy, but am working to adapt it instead, sorting the mail immediately instead of dropping it onto to a pile and moving on to the next thing on my list. Because I am by nature a drop and run kinda girl, this is more challenging than it sounds.

This drop and run style often leads to more than just magazines and mail piling up, and has served as -- ahem -- inspiration for another one of my pick-up tricks. Since much of the clutter in my house tends to accumulate on my dining room table, which is centrally located on the first floor of my house, I use a simple strategy of picking up one thing and putting it away each time I pass the table. Simple. Easy. Immediate reinforcement.

Oops. There's that sneaky behaviorism again.

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While adopting the Nike slogan ("Just do it!") would probably make things happen a whole lot faster, my silly little methods end up making an unpleasant task more pleasant. I'm sure my naturally organized
friends -- the ones I've affectionately dubbed "Type A Organizers" -- are shaking their heads at my silliness as they sip their iced beverages in their spotless houses, but the rest of you -- the ones, like me, who struggle to keep up with the clutter that seems to be an inevitable part of life -- know just what I mean.

Please, join me in the games. And if they work at your house too, please let me know by commenting below or contacting me on Facebook. I'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Containers, Styles and Logical Homes: Where Did/Does/Should it Go?

Now that you've got the right stuff, it's time to put it to use in a way that will establish a working system. When it comes to matching containers to your personal and organizational styles, the goal is not only to choose the right containers, but also to develop new habits that make the most of what you do naturally.

Remember my bathroom bins? When we organize by STYLE, we work with our habits, instead of against them. Two simple concepts lie at the heart of working with those habits instead of against them.
We've already talked about the first one: the concept of a home for every itemhome is where something “lives.” While the containers we've been perfecting for a month are key to establishing home for our items, they're only half the equation.

In order to get from a pile of random containers to an organizational system, we need to master the concept of logical and consistent homes for all of our things. A logical home is one that:
  • is close to where the item is most often used;
  • is the right size for the item;
  • takes into account how often the item needs to be accessed.
This is the reason we store food in the pantry, toys in the playroom and holiday decorations in the attic. It’s also the reason we don’t store a single pair of socks, for example, in an empty kitchen drawer. Too much space is wasted if we dedicate an entire drawer to a pair of socks, and, since we don’t usually get dressed in the kitchen, it makes no sense to store socks there. Location is just as important in storage as it is in real estate. 

Here are a few things to consider as you establish logical homes for your things:

  • Store things that are used every day in places that are easy to access. 
  • Choose a storage solution (container and location) that makes it as easy to put things away as it is to put them down. 
  • Store things where you use them...or drop them...or naturally put them. 
  • Store similar items together, and consider storing complementary items (things that go together or are used together) near each other as well. 
I'll have more on each of these next week. For now, take a look at some of those things you put down instead of away at your house and do a little strategizing. Do those items have homes? And if so, are they logical homes? Or, when you consider your personal and organizational styles, do they belong somewhere else?