Thursday, March 31, 2016

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys for Spring De-Cluttering

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile

Are you a spring cleaner? Personally, I much prefer organizing to cleaning, but when I clear the clutter from a space, I find myself magically motivated to take the next step, and clean the space as well.

If winter clutter is blocking your spring cleaning, where do you start? Here are three ideas.

  • In the space that matters most. Where will you get the most bang for your organizing buck? Maybe it's in the bedroom, where clothes and shoes from multiple seasons have been mixing and intermingling, sucking the peaceful feeling out of a room where rest should come easily. Maybe it's your office, where tax documents and papers have made themselves at home alongside the regular piles, making you want to close the door and go work somewhere else, where clear space already exists. Starting in the place you most want to reclaim is one option.
  • In the space that drives you crazy. This may overlap with the space that matters most, making your decision that much easier. Or, it may be a place in your home that has become a dumping ground -- one you're not quite sure how to fix. Taking the mess apart, piece-by-piece, and figuring out what you're dealing with may lead to the solution you're seeking. If you already have a spring cleaning mentality, you might want to do this in one big session. Or, if even the thought of doing so is too intimidating, set a timer and chip away at it until time's up. As you work, think about what needs to stay in the space and what belongs in another location, and, at the end of each session, make sure to put away the things that should go somewhere else. Shrinking the pile will give you both a sense of accomplishment and a clearer idea of what tools you'll need in order to maintain the space once you've finished organizing it.
  • In the space that seems do-able. If you've been waiting impatiently for spring since the groundhog popped his head out, you're probably not interested in projects that keep you indoors for long. But, when you come back inside at the end of the day, you want the peace and relaxation that emanates from organized spaces. Or, perhaps you're overwhelmed and don't know where to dig in first. You might want to break a big project into smaller chunks, or perhaps choose a smaller project instead. This might be a good time to employ the Give it Five! strategy, or to tackle a cluttered space while you're inside doing something else (sort through that stack of mail while dinner's cooking, for example). 
Wherever you decide to start, be sure to take a step back and enjoy your handiwork when you finish. Maybe even celebrate a little. Restoring order to a space creates a wonderful feeling of accomplishment, and when you do it with STYLE, you can look forward to continuing to savor that feeling.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Hard Habit to Break
I've been writing this blog for over a year, and thinking and writing about organizing by STYLE for nearly a decade, and yet I keep doing it. I can't seem to help myself.

I keep buying books about organization.

Why would I do such a thing? It's not as though I'm looking for solutions; I know what works for me and, more important, I know why it works. I see it in action every day, and I'm convinced of its effectiveness.

So, why would I spend money on the latest and greatest in a long series of books that all seem to say the same thing?

  • Habit. When I first started thinking about organization, I did what I always do when I want to learn about something. I sought out information. I read books and magazine articles and watched HGTV. Slowly, I narrowed my collection of books to handful of titles by a small number of authors who "got it." They understood that one size, one tool and one method doesn't work for everyone.
  • Love of the subject matter. I'm fascinated by the topic, no matter the source. I like seeing what other people have to say about organization. Sort of. Sometimes, it takes me less than five minutes to determine that an author's perspective is not for me, no matter how big a bestseller the book is.
  • Morbid curiosity. Some day, I hope to turn this succession of posts into a book, and so I keep checking on what's out there and who's publishing it. I open each new acquisition with trepidation, and don't fully relax until I see that what's inside isn't really new, at least not to me.
There's a new book on my table right now. It arrived yesterday. I flipped through it quickly this morning, and rolled my eyes. Then, I flipped it over to see who'd published it, and it was from a big, reputable house. Envy and confusion washed over me. 

But, who knows? Maybe that's it. Maybe that's the magic elixir that will get me off my rear and nudge me to get this book, this concept, these ideas out there. Again.

So, I'm going to ask you a favor. If these posts have helped you, would you let me know? You can do it publicly with a comment below, or you can message me privately via my Facebook page.

That feedback might just be the cherry on top of my elixir.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Finding Homes for Homeless Items

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile

Yesterday, we looked at the strengths of each of the styles when it comes to finding the right homes for our things. Today, I'd like to distill the concept of homes and locations to three key ideas I shared when I first wrote about location and homes on this blog almost a year ago. Pairing these guidelines with your personal and organizational styles will give you both guidelines and starting points for putting clutter in its place.

Every item's home should be logical. A home is logical when it:
  • 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.
  • Choosing logical homes makes it easier to be consistent -- to put every item in its home every time. It helps us to practice Don't put it down, put it Away! on a regular basis because "away" makes sense based on our styles.

    Logical homes also contribute to efficiency. Storing items where they're most often used and storing frequently used items in prime locations saves time, while using a container that's the right size saves space. Both of these contribute to an organizational system that's easy to use.

    When we use our styles to pair the right space with the right container, we make it a whole lot easier to find what we need when we need it.

    And isn't that pretty much the definition of organization?

    Wednesday, March 23, 2016

    Location and the Styles
    Today at, my STYLE Savvy post is about location -- finding the right homes for our things so that we can live up to the old adage, "a place for everything, and everything in its place."

    I don't know about you, but I've always found that phrase (attributed to Benjamin Franklin, by the way) intimidating. Nothing like a little perfectionism to make us feel bad about an almost clean space. Maybe Benjamin Franklin was a minimalist (he did travel a lot). Or a Type A organizer.

    But I digress.

    For our purposes, let's eliminate the perfectionism inherent in the second half of the philosophy and focus on the first part: A place for everything. This is the part we can make happen when we tackle the Y in STYLE ("Yes, it has a home!") and apply our styles to our systems. 

    What does that look like? As always, it depends on your styles.

    I love stuff people are good at putting things together, sometimes in unconventional ways, which is a key concept behind choosing good homes for their things. Often collectors, folks with this style already understand the importance of storing similar items together, and may come up with creative combinations that make storage fun. 

    I need to see it people are good at putting things where they can see them, and therefore, find them. Building systems on visual cues (like labels and color coding) can help folks with this style to make the transition from putting things down to putting them away so that they worry less about another adage: out of sight, out of mind. 

    I love to be busy people are good at categorizing. Keeping track of the supplies for their many activities gives them lots of practice at deciding which groups of items should go where. Running from one activity to the next has usually convinced them of the importance of this concept, which allows them to grab and go.

    Designed by freepik

    Cram and jam people are good at simplifying; if it's all in one spot, it's easy to find. Learning to separate their belongings into containers by category allows them to expand their storage and protect their belongings.

    Drop and run. people are good at backtracking to find things. Retracing their steps (which they do often) may lead them to determine locations that make sense, based on where they naturally drop things, allowing them to build a system based on their natural habits. 

    I know I put it somewhere people are good at putting things away, making them great at finding homes for things. Learning to make those homes logical, rather than haphazard, is the key to their location success.

    Every once in a while, we need to be reminded that even if our homes don't embody the "a place for everything, and everything in its place" philosophy, we're moving in the right direction. Finding consistent, logical homes for our things is possible when we remember to view our styles as strengths, and plan our systems accordingly.

    Thursday, March 17, 2016

    3 Keys Thursday: Tax Time

    Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
    I spent hours on Saturday organizing my notes and receipts for taxes. While my Type A organizer friends are already getting their refund checks, I'm still dragging my feet, finding plenty of other things that are more exciting than getting my tax paperwork together.

    In some ways, though, it wasn't really that bad. Having learned my lesson after the disaster that was tax planning 2013, I came up with a system that I (mostly) use which minimized the amount of time I had to spend tracking things down. I only ran into trouble when -- you guessed it -- my system was incomplete or I'd put off doing something that could now no longer be avoided.

    How did your tax system work this year? If it needs a few tweaks, consider these three tips.

    • Be true to your styles. You knew I was going to say that, didn't you? Whether it's file folders, an accordion folder, an app or shoe boxes labeled by category, pick something easy to use. Otherwise, the system will break down long before you need to sit down and pull everything together. 
    • Categorize. Again, whether it's file folders, an accordion folder or shoe boxes labeled by category, keeping things separated by category all year long makes it much easier to summarize   things in an organized, manageable fashion. Even if you cram and jam everything into shoe boxes, using separate shoe boxes makes the eventual sorting process much easier.
    • Print it out. PayPal's monthly statements made my record-keeping so much easier. The one change I will make for next year is printing them out sooner -- monthly or quarterly -- so they're already in my files when I need them. Printing as you go also saves you from unexpected problems -- like the receipt that I could no longer produce because an email issue earlier this year resulted in the loss of a block of emails that included that receipt.
    Cohdra via Morguefile
    I'm happy to report that the system I developed in response to the marathon tax paperwork session of 2013 is working well, and that Saturday's session wasn't nearly as painful as I expected it to be. With a few tweaks, 2016 will be even better. 

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

    A Few of My Favorite Tools
    Maybe it was the tax paperwork (which you'll read about tomorrow) or maybe it was the weather, but I was in an organizing mood last weekend. I've always enjoyed organizing, but since I've started using style-based strategies, I like it even more. I know which tools work for me, and I'm quick to say "thanks, but no thanks" to those who suggest strategies that sound great but don't work for me (binders and file cabinets, anyone?).

    In addition, I surround myself with tools that I know will work. Here are a few of my favorites.
    • A label maker. Sure, you can hand print, but not only are printed labels easier to read, they also make everything look neat and uniform.
    • Accordion folders. These formed the basis for my tax paperwork and came in handy for storing old presentations I uncovered while cleaning the basement. They work well for corralling not only papers, but index cards, receipts and small notes -- and there's no need to punch holes or worry about things falling out the sides.
    • Topless bins. What other kinds of bins would a drop and run organizer use? My favorite find was file bins that allow me to see the (often color-coded) files they house, helping me transfer the concept of filing papers to an I need to see it-friendly method. Open containers make it as easy to put things away -- where they belong -- as it is to put them down -- where they don't belong.
    How about you? What are your favorite organizing tools?

    Thursday, March 10, 2016

    3 Keys Thursday: The Key Concept Behind the Styles

    Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
    Maybe you're a newcomer to this blog, and you're just beginning to figure out your primary styles. Or, maybe you've been reading for a while and are in the process of putting your styles to work for you. Or, perhaps you've made it all the way to Easy Upkeep and you're wondering why some days, the upkeep isn't so easy.

    So today, let's cut to the chase and take a look at the governing principle behind each organizational style, and what that means in terms of creating -- and maintaining -- a plan.

    • I need to see it organizers are afraid to put things away. To us, out of sight truly is out of mind, and things get lost or remain undone. The solution: Work visibility into every organizational plan. Color-code, label, use clear containers -- anything that keeps things away but in sight.
    • I know I put it somewhere organizers love to put things away. They crave clutter-free surfaces and safe places -- so much so that they'll put things out of sight at any cost just so they look organized. The solution: Logical homes. Put it away, but put it away right. Put it where it makes sense, not just where there's space, and manage that fear that you won't remember which safe place you chose by using memory joggers like labels and color-coding.
    • Cram and jam organizers vacillate between leaving things out and putting things away. "Away" is simple for the cram and jammer -- everything goes in one place until nothing else can possibly fit. The solution: The right container for the right job. Work on moving from one catch-all container to dedicated containers based on topic or item. The system can stay the same -- all of the things pertaining to one project or topic can go into one container -- but give yourself room to grow so things don't get wrinkled, crumpled and torn. Clear containers might also help.
    Regardless of style, the bottom line is the same: make life easy by choosing containers and systems that work with your default style. By using what comes naturally as an asset rather than a liability, you can create a plan that reduces clutter and stress. Best of all, it's easier to keep up with because you and your styles are on the same team.

    For more on containers and the organizational styles, click on Charts at the top of this page.

    Wednesday, March 9, 2016

    Can I Have More than One Style?

    Created with Canva
    When I first share the styles quiz, I frequently get the question, "Can I be all of them?"

    The answer is yes...and no.

    While it's possible to have elements of each of the styles, most of us end up with one predominant personal style and one predominant organizational style. These styles lead the way for organizational systems that play to our strengths.

    So, does that mean we should ignore the elements of the other styles that pervade our personalities? 

    Absolutely not. While our predominant styles form the foundation of our organizational systems, the traits that are true to other styles broaden the range of tools (especially containers) that work for us. Combining the tool options that work for our primary styles with those tha work from other styles allows us more choices and helps us to infuse creativity into our organizational plans. 

    For example, my predominant personal style is I need to see it. I also identify with both of the other personal styles, loving both stuff and busyness. While the tools I choose need to work with my I need to see it style, I might also choose some of the fun, unique containers favored by those with an I love stuff style -- but they still have to work with my need to see things. No matter how pretty, cool or unique the container, if it doesn't work with my primary style, it will be an obstacle rather than a tool.

    My predominant organizational style, on the other hand, is drop and run. Focusing on this style helps me to rein in my I know I put it somewhere tendencies. And, since I often drop and run because I'm busy, I can use the strategies that work for the I love to be busy style to enhance my drop and run systems.

    Confused? Here's the simple version. Use your primary styles -- one personal style and one organizational style --as the foundation of your organizational system. Then, use your tendencies from the other styles to build on that foundation, adding variety and creativity while staying true to what works.

    Oh -- and don't forget to have fun.

    Thursday, March 3, 2016

    3 Keys Thursday: 3 of My Favorite Packing Tools

    Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
    Sometime last summer, I bought a notepad out of a dollar bin somewhere. It's a packing checklist, with the phrase "I Love to Travel but I Hate to Pack" at the top of the page.

    That about sums it up.

    Packing is one of those things that inspires both my procrastination and my perfectionism. I need to find just the right combinations and just the right bags. In addition, I'm always afraid I'll forget something, so I either start tossing things into a bin a week ahead of time or I wait until the last minute. There's rarely an in-between.

    Having the right tools is a big help. Here are three of my favorites:

    • A checklist. My little notepad is a bigger help than I expected it to be. I've always made lists, but they've been more the random, don't-forget-to-bring-this variety. A checklist not only makes sure the real stuff gets on the list, but it also sparks ideas for other things that need to make the list as well.
    • Zip lock bags. The quart and gallon sizes can corral everything from snacks and first aid supplies to toiletries and dirty clothes. If we're going to be gone for more than a weekend, I typically pack a box of quart bags and stash a few extra gallon bags in with any food we pack.
    • Small pouches with zippers or drawstrings. I use these mostly for cosmetics, but I also
    • Bags with a distinctive design make it easy to find
      what you're looking for in a full suitcase.
      house my chargers, electronics and all the family medicines in zip-top canvas pouches with waterproof linings. When I'm packing, the bags themselves serve as reminders because each item or group of items travels in the same pouch every time. Perhaps my favorite small pouch use is re-purposing the drawstring bags that linens sometimes come in to use as shoe bags. Bags that hold queen size sheets are the perfect size for one pair of my shoes, keeping the shoes from getting smushed on the bottom of my bag and, at the same time, protecting my clothes from getting dirty. If you prefer to pack your shoes in a separate bag, using these bags keeps shoes neat and unscuffed when you travel.
    Much as I love these tools, I don't think they'll cure my procrastination, but they definitely take the edge off my perfectionism by keeping my suitcase neat and organized.

    What are your favorite packing tools?

    Wednesday, March 2, 2016

    I'm traveling today, so today, I'm digging into the archives for your reading pleasure :-)

    Since this blog has been running for over a year now, I thought I'd go back to the very beginning and revisit the styles quiz.

    If you've joined me recently and haven't yet taken the quiz, now's a good time to check it out. Determining your styles will make the posts here much more useful.

    If, on the other hand, you've been with me from the beginning, it might be time to reassess. The first time many people take the quiz, they come up a little bit of everything. Now that you've been trying some things out, can you narrow your styles to one predominant personal style and one main organizational style?

    If you're secure in your styles and looking for something else to read on the topic of organization, you can find additional choices in my STYLE Savvy posts at, where I post every Wednesday.

    Happy reading! See you tomorrow for 3 Keys Thursday.

    Personal and Organizational Styles Quiz

    Mark each item below as true or false.
    1. You participate in so many activities that you have something to do nearly every night.
    2. The only way you remember to bring things with you is if you leave them out where you're likely to trip over them.
    3. Your closets are filled with things you no longer use and/or clothes you no longer wear, but can’t get rid of. 
    4. Your house looks neat, yet you have trouble finding what you need when you need it.
    5. Your papers -- even the important ones -- are often wrinkled and/or torn.
    6. The flat surfaces in your home tell the story of the activities you've done and the places you've been in the last few days.
    7. When given a pocket folder or three-ring binder, you may tuck your papers inside, but you don't usually put them in the pockets or the rings. 
    8. You can often find lost items by retracing your steps.
    9. You often feel bored when you have unscheduled time.
    10. You have more stuff than room to store it.
    11. You usually put things away, but often forget where you put them.
    12. You often forget things if you don't write them down.  
    13. Your bookshelves house:
    a. anything and everything, as long as it fits.
    b. overlapping sets of “collections.”
    c. books in various stages of completion, stacked so that the titles are visible.
    d. sports gear, sheet music or art supplies, but no books. 
    e. piles of items, with a telltale trail from the door to the bookcase.

    All finished? Now let's compare your answers to the key below. Every "true" is a clue:
    • Item #1 is true for I love to be busy.
    • Item #2 is true for I need to see it.
    • Item #3 is true for I love stuff.
    • Item #4 is true for I know I put it somewhere.
    • Item #5 is true for cram and jam.
    • Item #6 is true for drop and run.
    • Item #7 is true for cram and jam.
    • Item #8 is true for drop and run.
    • Item #9 is true for I love to be busy.
    • Item #10 is true for I love stuff.
    • Item # 11 is true for I need to see it and I know I put it somewhere.
    • Item #12: I need to see it organizers are likely to do this.
    • Item #13a: Cram and jam or I know I put it somewhere; 13b: I love stuff; 13c: I need to see it; 13d: I love to be busy; 13e: Drop and run

    How'd you do? Do the quiz answers match your predictions and observations? For most people, clear patterns will emerge, and the answers will come as no surprise; what they've noticed about the way they organize matches their answers on the quiz.

    Some people are “a little bit of this and a little bit of that.” At this point in the process, that's to be expected. Further observation, discussion and exploration will help you to determine predominant styles. And some people really are a mix of styles, but this can be a benefit.  An overlap can mean more strategies to work with! 

    The most important thing to keep in mind right now is that there are no right or wrong answers on the quiz and that these styles are not personal or organizational flaws. Up to this point, the styles have been stumbling blocks. Moving forward, the goal will be to help you see your natural tendencies as assets rather than liabilities so you can use them as a blueprint for developing a workable, sustainable plan based on what comes naturally. 

    For more on the personal styles, click here. For more on the organizational styles, click here.