Thursday, April 28, 2016

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Thinking "Progress" Instead of "Perfection"

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Boy, it's a good thing I'm not a perfectionist, or the lateness of this post would really bug me!
(Just a smidgen of sarcasm there....)

The sad thing is, I had it all sketched out yesterday, and thought I'd have it posted long before now. But after I finished teaching for the day, I hit the wall, and nothing was possible before a nap. Nothing coherent anyway.

Which brings me to today's 3 Keys, which also happen to connect to the perfectionism I talked about yesterday. On tap today? Three keys to thinking in terms of progress instead of perfection.

Work in short bursts. It's impossible to complete a big project in small block of time -- and that's the point. If you know going in that perfection is not achievable, it's easier to set that perfectionistic mindset aside (easier being a relative term, of course). Better to Give it Five! and see progress than let things sit (or get worse) until you have the perfect time block in which to organize them perfectly. Pat yourself on the back for perfectly completing your time block -- whether it's five minutes or an hour -- instead of beating yourself up for not making the space look perfect.

Use the not-quite-right thing until the perfect thing comes along. It's easy to put off tackling that problem area until you have the right containers, but the longer you wait, the more out of control the space gets. Grab the nearest almost-right container and remind yourself it's temporary, then dig in. Tell yourself you're doing research, because you are. The parameters of the temporary container will help you to determine exactly what you need for that space. Besides, temporary restoration of order really is better than chaos until the perfect container crosses your path.

Do what you can do. My day today reminded me of this one. Many days, there's a big gap between what we want to accomplish and what we actually get done, and it's all too easy to beat ourselves up over that gap. Progress -- any progress -- really is a good thing, and learning to focus on what we've done instead of what we haven't done can make life a whole lot happier.

I'm getting better at conquering my perfectionism one project at a time. How about you?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Perfectionism and Organization

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Are you a perfectionist? Last fall, I did some research on perfectionism and discovered that it's not a one-way street. As it turns out, it's an intricate system of intersecting roads:
  • Self-oriented perfectionists are hard on themselves. They feel they should always exert maximum effort and they should hit the target every time. Down time and unreached goals are not an option.
  • Other-oriented perfectionists impose unrealistic standards on other people. 
  • Socially prescribed perfectionists feel the pressure to be perfect, but it's not self-imposed. Instead, they think that others expect them to be perfect, and they behave accordingly.
In addition to having high standards, perfectionists often engage in all-or-nothing thinking, otherwise known as, "if it can't be perfect, why bother?"

When it comes to organization, this outlook can be a heavy burden to bear. If the only time we feel successful is when everything is perfect, then we're going to spend a lot of time feeling unsuccessful. Or. perhaps perfectionism leaves us trapped in a perpetual state of hopeless disorganization: "If my house can't look like the ones on TV, why bother?"

If this sounds like you, don't despair. The good thing about the organization process is that it brings glimmers of perfectionism with it. Maybe the whole house can't be perfect, but maybe that counter you conquered last week can. Maybe your husband won't buy into your new plan for keeping the top of his dresser totally clear, but maybe your intervention will nudge him to come up with a plan of his own. Maybe your house can't look like the one on television, not because you're not working hard enough, but because you don't have a team of people who are paid to keep your house looking like the ones on television.

Designed by Freepik

So go ahead. Reserve that space (the top of your dresser, perhaps?) that stays perfect -- the one you set up to be just so -- and make that your perfection zone. Then, continue your battle throughout the rest of the house with a goal of continuous growth -- one baby step every day that leads you to your next success. Expand your empire of perfection if you must, but don't try to conquer the whole house.  Start with successes and build outward to the home you want to live in, then take some time to relax with the other people who call that space home.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Keeping it Under Control

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
There's something about writing these posts that keeps me honest. After writing yesterday's post, I took action in three clutter catcher areas, restoring open space in less than fifteen minutes.

That felt good.

Sometimes, the keys to keeping a space neat lie in not letting it get messy (again) in the first place.

Know your trouble spots & prioritize. Which is easiest to keep under control? Which bugs  you the most when it's out of control? If several have gotten out of control at once, where do you start? I did this yesterday. Fully aware that I could easily restore order to several places if I let just one go a little longer, I started with the spots that were easiest to get under control, and was rewarded with beautiful, clear, open space.

Once it's neat, make it pretty. Maybe even take a picture. When a newly organized space looks nice, we're more motivated to keep it looking that way. That's also one of the reasons that form and function aren't the only considerations when we're choosing organizers. If we like the container we use for reasons besides form and function, we're more likely to use it. And that picture? A reminder of how things can be when we use the systems we've put in place.

Finally, consider the "one thing in/one thing out" rule. I don't remember where I learned this, but I do remember latching onto it very quickly. When you get something new, get rid of something old. That keeps the basic quantity of "stuff" in your house relatively stable, and helps to eliminate that feeling of being overrun by possessions.

I dream of a day when my house will always be company ready. Today is not that day, but I'm okay with that because I know I'm moving in the right direction.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Keeping it Company Ready

Photo: Ashley Schweitzer via Minimography
Two weekends ago, my house was company ready. Surfaces that usually collect clutter were clear. I not only dusted, but also updated the photos in the living room, finally framing senior portraits for the girl who will graduate in a month.

Now, my goal is to keep things that way.

It's amazing how quickly clutter finds its way back -- and to all the same places.

Part of the trick is having systems in place -- but you knew I was going to say that. What I won't say is that it's simple, or that systems are the whole solution. Having time, space and energy to keep up with things is just as important, and we don't always have complete control over those things.

One of the reasons I like organizing by STYLE is that it builds a bridge between the things we can't control and the things we can. Some days, it's a rickety bridge, but by connecting life's little challenges to what we can control, we're more likely to achieve success. Here are some ways organizing by STYLE can help with the intangibles.

Pressed for time? Do what you can. Give it Five! takes literally five minutes, and while a five minute expenditure of time might not leave things perfect, it leaves them better and/or keeps clutter from accumulating. With systems in place, you can get a lot done in five minutes.

Pressed for space? Make sure to follow the location guidelines when it comes to choosing the right homes for your stuff. That way, prime space is freed up for the things that you need to access often. In addition, make sure that the containers you're using are a good fit for the space you have available. Too big, and you might be wasting space. Too small, and you're inviting clutter. For more container troubleshooting, check out the resources in the charts tab at the top of this page.

Pressed for energy? Give it Five! works here, too, but so does sorting sitting down. Bring that pile of mail into the family room and sort it while you watch television (just don't forget to put things where they belong when you're finished). Rather than tearing around to get the house in order, put things where they go as you walk by them, or, make a deal with yourself that you'll sit down and relax after you put away a certain (reasonable) number of items. Often, getting started is the hardest part.

At the moment, my house isn't company ready, but it's not totally embarrassing either. My radar is activated, though, and I know which hot spots need to be "given five" so they don't devolve into disaster, as well as which temporary relocations were only short-term solutions.

It's a process.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Embracing Your Styles

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
If you've been reading these posts and putting your styles to work, chances are you're not a Type A organizer. From time to time, you might even have felt disheartened by what you consider inferior organizational skills.

But I think our styles are something not only to use, but also to embrace. Here are a few ways to do just that.

Don't compare yourself to others. Even two people with the same styles will have different preferences. When we try to do things the way "everyone else" does, we often end up moving in the wrong direction and feeling bad about ourselves in the process.

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

Look for organizational principles at work, and then expand on them. I know I put it somewhere organizers are good at putting things away -- they just need an assist when it comes to figuring out how to do so systematically. Cram and jammers know where they put things because they're all in the same place -- they just need help branching out for the sake of their things. Drop and run organizers can find what they need by retracing their steps -- they just need to create a system that makes it just as easy to put things away as it is to put them down. If we can find the piece at the root of our styles that works, we can build on it as the foundation for a system that works with what comes naturally.

And, since I'm posting so late today, I think you deserve a bonus key:

Keep a sense of humor. It's organization, not heart surgery. If the pile of papers sits on the table for one more day, the consequences aren't likely to be catastrophic. Tomorrow is another day to take the next step.

And every step we take brings us closer to not only organization, but organizational self-confidence as well.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Finding a Process that Works

While looking through old blog posts this morning, I came across this one, 
originally published on The Porch Swing Chronicles in January 2014.
When you find a process and tools that work, it's a wonderful feeling.
Though the master calendar is now on my laptop, the rest of this post
is an accurate representation of how I still do things.

When it comes to organization, I am an "I need to see it" girl. I know this, and have (mostly) made peace with it, though it drives other members of my family a little crazy. But, when life gets hectic and things pile up (literally), I start to feel the stress mount as well.

This morning, I turned on some music and began digging through the pile of papers that had begun to accumulate on my desk. Just a few weeks back, I'd excavated the desk, and I was not about to lose the paper wars again -- at least not so soon.

What was surprising this morning was how quickly I began to feel a sense of relief. Today was one of those rare days where nearly everything in the pile had a home, so I quickly discovered that it was easy to sort things into piles and from there, put them where they belonged. To-do lists (yes, plural -- arranged by category) grew naturally by extension and I felt myself begin to relax.

My current calendar 
I know the rules say that multiple to-do lists are a bad idea, but sometimes, one ginormous to-do list is an even worse idea. While I often work from a master list, then divvy tasks onto a daily schedule, some days it's easier to think in categories. Today was one of those days. Since the papers were being sorted into categories, so were the to-do lists.

I've also noticed that while I play with different organizational ideas, when it comes to time management, I have two things I consistently rely on: a master schedule (on my iPad and synced to my phone) and a page-a-day calendar. The first one makes sure all of my appointments are in place, while the second one allows me to break overwhelming lists into manageable pieces.

Unfortunately, today's commitments interrupted my sorting, and so the tasks I began nearly twelve hours ago are still sitting unfinished. But, because I got off to a good start and developed a plan early in the day before things seemed too overwhelming, I'm actually excited to get back to my sorting.

How about you? What time management tools simplify your life?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Tackling that Long List

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Long lists stress me out. But not all long lists are created equal. Sometimes, they key to de-stressing the list is in the way we look at it

  • Chunk your list. Set yourself up for success by adding white space to your list. You can chunk haphazardly (here a blob, there a blob), numerically (skip a line or two after every 5 items) or by category (to do, to call, to buy). White space can make the list seem less intimidating, not to mention easier to read.
  • Keep in mind that the length of the list isn't always indicative of how long it will take you to get through it. I always forget this. Some things on the list take 30 seconds, some take 5 minutes and some take all day, but we can't always tell that by the amount of space they take up on the page. If your list is intimidating, try color-coding items by the amount of time they'll take: yellow for less than five minutes, green for six minutes to half an hour, orange for 31- 60 minutes and purple for anything over an hour. Then make sure to tackle quick tasks as well as long ones to give yourself a sense of accomplishment.
  • Separate to-dos from appointments and must-dos.  Group them by columns or sides of the page. That way, if you get to everything you were supposed to do, anything on the other side of the list is icing on the cake.

As I was preparing this blog, I came across a great article on productivity. Visit me tomorrow at The Porch Swing Chronicles for the link to this great (and realistic) article from Inc. by Peter Economy.

Meanwhile, cut yourself some slack. Celebrate your accomplishments instead of beating yourself up for what you didn't do.

That to do is at the top of my list.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Not Traveling Incognito

There are times when our styles emerge vividly. For me, one of those times is packing for a trip.

Though I make lists before we travel (and I even bought a cute notepad to encourage myself to take the leap from stuff to paper), my I need to see it style emerges with a vengeance when I'm getting ready for a trip. For better or for worse, it's my primary packing mode.

For trips longer than a weekend, a laundry basket takes up residence in the bedroom about a week before we leave. This is my pre-packing zone. As clean clothes come up from the basement, the ones I want to pack go into the laundry basket. When it's time to pack, I lay things out on the bed in categories so I can see what I have and what I need more of. I add to and subtract from the piles as I put things in the suitcase. When everything is off the bed (one way or another), I'm packed.

Since our main bathroom is on the first floor, I used to repeat this process on the dining room table for all medicines and toiletries. But, since I created a travel bin in my last closet overhaul, I have everything but the medicine pre-packed in a toiletries case with extras in the bin. All I need to do is take stock of the case, replenish what's missing and put the case in my bag. When it's time to pack up and come home, I repeat the process (minus the replenishment). I find that I dread packing to come home much less than I dread packing to leave. There's a simple reason for that. When I pack to come home, I know when I'm finished. When there's nothing left to put in a bag and all I can see is clear space, my work is done. My I need to see it style revels in such simplicity.

ArtsyBee via Pixabay
Lately, I've noticed that I've begun to use this process when I pack my bag for class as well. Since I work from home (while my husband is at work and my daughter is at school) before leaving to teach, I move everything that has to go into my work bag onto the living room sofa as I finish with it. Moving things from the sofa into the bag is the visual version of checking things off a list and when I stash the bag in my car, I usually have a visual memory of putting something into the bag (or not), relieving both last-minute panic and repeated list-checking.

I've often thought that I should move to a list plan, but lately, I've realized that I wouldn't be doing that for myself. What I'm doing works for me, no matter how silly it looks or sounds to someone else, and my guess is that anyone with an I need to see it personal style would understand completely.

Packing for a trip can be stressful. Why not do it in a way that makes sense to you?