Thursday, July 28, 2016

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Key Stationery Products

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Yesterday, I shared my magnetic attraction to all things stationery, but the truth is, I really can leave Staples empty-handed. Unless, of course, I happen to find:

The perfect planner. In my defense, I use planners for more than planning. I have one that I use for its intended purpose. I use the second one in place of a traditional plan book for school because it's easier to lay out exams and assignment due dates (color coded by class) on a month-by-month calendar. In addition, when I'm tracking how long it takes me to cover a unit, jotting notes in the day-to-day section works.

And then there's my writing calendar, which often gets ignored. Still, I like having an inexpensive planner that I can use to keep track of submissions and ideas, and plan ahead for blog posts. This one doesn't need to be day-by-day; a monthly calendar with big squares and space for notes works best.

Patterned file folders. As an I need to see it person who likes to color code, I quickly run through all the standard colors of file folders. Adding patterns to the mix not only keeps things fun, it helps me to keep things straight; since I'm visual, I associate the color or pattern with the project. In addition,  brightly colored supplies stand out against a sea of papers when my desk gets cluttered. I rarely buy these file folders at office supply stores; instead I look for packs of three in the dollar bins at Target or at the dollar store because really, who needs a whole box of them when the whole idea is for them to be unique?

Cool sticky notes or flags. If they're on sale, there's no hope of my leaving the store without them. The temptation is also great if I find a pack that's a different color combo than the ones I already have at home, for much the same reason I like patterned file folders -- more options for differentiating different projects in a very visible manner.

Which aisle in the store do you need to skip if you have any hope of avoiding temptation?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I Can Stop Any Time I Want

Although I identify as an I need to see it/drop and run kinda girl, I also have to admit to a heaping helping of I love stuff. Not surprisingly, my weakness is organizers, containers and stationery products. Two years ago, I had to declare a moratorium on the purchase of notebooks and sticky notes; my collection had become substantial enough to provide precisely the proper notebook, sticky note, sticky flag or sticky page marker for every conceivable occasion.

Although I could blame 31 years in education for my love of school supplies, the truth is, I've loved stationery products for as long as I can remember. The paper aisles at the five and dime were always my favorite as a kid, and when my mother took me to the stationery store on 36th Street, I was in heaven. Paper by the pound? Yes, please!

There's a fine line between "just enough"and "too much" though, and, on more than one occasion, I've crossed it. Still, I love going to my basement and choosing just the right tool -- the right bag, the right notebook, the right folder or file -- for whatever project or task I'm working on. I take great pleasure in selecting precisely what I need, whether it's a writing implement, a notebook or an acetate envelope to keep my papers pristine. Unfortunately, the thrill of these discoveries only entrenches the habit.

Developing self-control in this area is a one step forward, one step back process. Sure, there are weeks I come away from the stationery aisles at Target empty-handed, and months can pass between visits to Staples. But then there are the times when I purchase not one, but two planners (okay, three if you count the undated one that perfectly fit the three-ring mini binder I had in the basement -- which doesn't count because it was in the dollar-ish bins).

The acquisition has slowed substantially, but the love lives on, so I guess that's progress. Meanwhile, admitting I have a problem is the first step, right?

How about you? What stuff can't you get enough of?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Creating a Tickler File that Just Might Work

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Yes, I know. I spent yesterday's post dissecting the reasons a tickler file doesn't work for me.

A traditional tickler file, that is.

But, I've also spent many posts detailing how any tool can work if we adapt it to our styles. We are the keepers of our containers, and we can adjust them accordingly. Thinking a tickler file might be for you? Here are a few things to consider before you get started.

What's going in it? I chose to use my tickler file to house all the stuff that ends up all over my desk. As an I need to see it person, I like keeping my current projects as visible as possible, but I wanted a tidier way to do it. Labeled, color/pattern-coded file folders give me the visual cues I need, and if I put all the folders together, tucked into one solid color folder, still within view, my desk looks a lot better. Honestly? This is an experiment that's taking me a little out of my comfort zone and that will require me to develop some new habits. I'll keep you posted.

What will you use? I intentionally chose an accordion file with 31 sections to illustrate yesterday's post, but a tickler file can consist of individual file folders, 31 (or more) files in a file cabinet or 31 (or less) sections in a binder. Your styles, how much space you have and what you want to put into the tickler file should be your guide.

How will you subdivide? My friend who introduced me to the tickler file liked day-by-day storage, but I prefer to divide by projects. Others may choose to label the subdivisions: to do, to buy, to call, etc. I love to be busy folks may want to subdivide by activity while I love stuff folks may choose the container first and subdivide later.

Subdivisions should be style-friendly, too. As an I need to see it person, I need visual cues, so although I tuck all my folders into one black folder for aesthetic reasons (I store it where it can be seen), I make sure the folders inside are colorful, patterned and/or labeled. Cram and jammers may prefer fewer subdivisions, since their natural tendency is to put everything in one place.

Although all of us need to decide on consistent homes for our tickler files, I know I put it somewhere organizers will need to be sure their subdivisions are clear and as mutually exclusive as possible, while drop and run organizers might choose the simplicity and one-step filing of an accordion file.

See that black folder peeking out?
That's my tickler file.
This pocket hangs right in my line of vision.
Barb's comments yesterday reminded me of one more key: a tickler file shouldn't be home to every single piece of paper you get. My friend's tickler file held things like concert tickets and boarding passes. Mine holds projects in progress and things I need to access quickly and often, and/or need to act on. An overstuffed tickler file defeats the purpose.

Think back to the basic concepts of homes and locations. What is your tickler file a good home for? More specifically, what paper storage problem can it solve for you?

If you decide to try the tickler file, I'd love to hear from you about your success and stresses. No judgment here -- I'm trying out my own new-and-improved tickler file, and fully expect stresses among the successes. Maybe we can solve them together.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Not Tickled
I first heard of a tickler file over a decade ago. Linda, then the librarian in the school where I worked, told me about her tickler file, consisting simply of a file folder for each day of the month. As she accumulated papers and information, Linda would simply file them into the appropriate folder and they'd be there waiting for her when she needed them.

A file folder for every day of the month sounded a bit overwhelming to me, and, as an I need to see it person, I was afraid that out of sight would be out of mind and I'd miss deadlines. Still, I liked the idea in principle, so I adapted it, creating a tickler file that had a file folder for each day of the week. That way, I'd have the opportunity to see things that were coming up every time I opened the file for that day of the week.

I used that tickler file every time I cleaned my desk, duly filing things that needed to be done into their appropriate folders. Then, I'd use it for a day or two -- maybe a week -- before I abandoned it for more visual systems.

When I rearranged my home office a couple of years ago, I once again tried the tickler file. This time, the results were...

Exactly the same.

Apparently, I'm not tickled by the tickler file.

So, last week, I once again adapted my tickler file. Gone are the files for each day of the week, replaced instead by file folders labeled by project. It may seem like a small difference, but that's how I think -- project first, time slot second.

Like so many adjustments we make when we organize by STYLE, the shift is small, but significant -- at least in theory. Time will tell whether or not this new and improved system is "the one," but, for now, I'm happy with it. It removes the files for my current projects from my desk and puts them all together in one place that I can still keep visible. Each day, I'll pull out the master folder with my project files in it and dig in.

At least that's the plan. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

3 Keys Thursday: Form, Function and Style on the Go

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Yesterday, I wrote about all of my bags, and the little details that make them my bags of choice. Today, I'd like to step back and take a look at three key container concepts as they pertain to travel by STYLE.
  • Form was at the heart of yesterday's post. The size ("bigger isn't always better"), physical attributes ("to pocket or not to pocket") and shape of a container or bag often factor into our choices. How much storage is available -- both during our journey and once we arrive --will also guide the form we select. If we need to make sure our carry-on fits under a seat or into an overhead compartment, we're limited to containers that fit those parameters. If we're bringing food or medications along, we may need thermal containers, while fragile items may require padded containers or, in their absence, space among clothes in a suitcase or duffel bag to provide the necessary cushioning. Form may not always be the attribute that seals the deal for our container choice, but it definitely needs to be considered.
Photo: 5demayo via Morguefile
  • When it comes to function, there's not a huge difference from one bag to the next; all bags provide temporary storage for our items from our homes to our destinations and back again. Nuances in form play a role in function, too; things like padding, insulation and protection from weather contribute to the function of the container. So does what we're going to do with our stuff when we arrive. Which suitcase or duffel we choose doesn't matter if we're going to unpack our clothes upon arrival and set the container (suitcase) aside until it's time to go home. But, if we're going to live out of the bag, its function upon arrival matters just as much as its function during our journey. If we're not unpacking, a suitcase that can be fully unzipped to reveal its contents may trump a duffel with deep pockets, especially for those with an I need to see it style. 
Most of my favorite bags have both handles
and a shoulder strap.
It's also important to think about how the bag will function as you carry (or wheel) it from one location to the next ("strappy situation"). And, keep in mind that getting creative with function is allowed -- the manufacturer's intention is merely a suggestion. I love my make-up bag-turned-electronics case, and I often use a thermal pouch for things that aren't temperature sensitive but need a little extra padding. The bag should work in your service, not vice versa.
  • Speaking of style, the aesthetics of the bag may matter, too. Some of us are as unhappy traveling with mismatched luggage as we are carrying a bag that doesn't match our shoes/outfit. That ratty old bag that's been everywhere with us may not make the cut if we're heading to a wedding at a swanky hotel. On the other hand, for many of us, the color, texture, pattern and attractiveness matter less than the form and function. After all, we're just using the bag temporarily, right? 
As with any other container, there are no hard and fast rules for bag selection. Form, function and style overlap, and which of the three is most important depends on the event, the destination, the mode of transportation and, of course your personal and organizational styles. 

Next Wednesday, I'll talk more specifically matching bags to the styles. In the meantime, what do you love about your go-to travel bag? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Photo: Mantasmagorical via Morguefile

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Containers on the Go

I have a lot of bags -- suitcases, duffel bags, tote bags -- you name it, I probably have it. I'm rarely more aware of this than I am in the summer when I'm traveling. Container aficionado that I am, I'm very selective about which bags I take with me, and which bag serves which purpose.

Bigger isn't always better. What's going in the bag and how far you have to carry it are major considerations when deciding between one big bag and two (or more) smaller ones. When I'm traveling on my own, I opt for several smaller bags that are easier to manage, even if that means I have to make more trips.

To pocket or not to pocket? One of my favorite bags has pockets that surround the outside. Great for car travel, this bag allows me to keep necessities close at hand. It's not so great for a day in New York City, though -- those pockets that keep everything accessible to me keep them accessible to passersby as well. Choose your bag with both your transportation and your destination in mind.

Strappy situation. The more you're going to load into your bag, the more important the straps become. I have several bags that can hold a lot, but whose straps aren't wide enough to distribute the weight well; when I carry them, the straps dig into my shoulder. The straps are sturdy enough that they're not likely to snap, but they're less than ideal for transporting the bag more than a short distance. If you're going to load up a bag, make sure the straps are up to the task and that they won't dig into your hands or shoulders when you carry them from Point A to Point B.

Don't be fooled by the original purpose. I have a bag that is perfect for storing electronics and their various cords. Its original purpose? A cosmetic bag. I don't think I've had that many cosmetics in my entire life, and repurposing it created a travel storage solution that provides both portability and accessibility.

Whether the container has a home in your home or is temporary travel storage, matching the container to the task, your tastes and styles helps keep you organized, no matter where you're going.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Furnishing a Small Space

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
So you're getting ready to organize that space that's much smaller than you'd like it to be. Or, maybe your son or daughter is ready to tackle dorm life. While we can get away with things that are cute but not functional in a large space, we have no such luxury in a small space. In a small space, every container must earn its keep. By choosing containers carefully and remembering the rules of homes and locations, we can make a small place attractive and functional.

  • Choose containers carefully. Match them not only to the space you have available, but to personal and organizational styles as well. If every container is useful and serves a purpose, staying organized -- even in a small space -- is do-able. Choose "Goldlocks" containers -- storage that's just the right size for what it holds -- in order to use every inch effectively. Not sure what to choose? Check out the charts at the top of this page for hints on matching your containers to your styles. 
  • Choose locations wisely. Store things close to where they'll be used and make most frequently used items easily accessible. If you store something in the place where it's most often needed, you'll find it effortlessly. In a dorm, this means study supplies are in or near the desk, in-season clothes are in the most accessible clothing storage and out-of-season clothes (if they're in the room at all) are tucked into nooks, crannies and faraway spaces. 
  • Give everything a home. There's much less margin for overflow in a small space, so keeping the old adage "a place for everything, and everything in its place" in mind becomes essential. Begin by choosing containers that make it as easy to put things away as it is to put them down. Then, make sure homes are not only logical (as described above), but also style-savvy. Take advantage of strategies like clear containers, labeling and color-coding to remember which logical home is which. Remember to store similar items together, and perhaps find homes for complementary items (things that go together or are used together) near each other as well. 
New beginnings are very exciting, and creating a plan that works with what comes naturally from the start paves the road from the initial plan to easy upkeep. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Organizing Big in Small Spaces
This fall, I'll get to put all of my organizing by STYLE ideas to work in a new realm: my daughter's dorm room. Actually, she'll get to put this all to work -- I'll merely be the consultant -- both because this is her space, and because our styles are different.

Or, are they?

When she was little, my daughter was the embodiment of the I love stuff personal style. A collector of such proportions that she'd bring mulch from the playground inside in her coat pockets, she had difficulty parting with anything. Over time, she's become much more discriminating -- so much so, that I no longer think that I love stuff is a style that fits her -- which is wonderful because in a little more than a month, she'll be entering an environment where that style will be a challenge, to say the least.

At home, in shared spaces, my daughter shares my drop and run organizational style, exacerbated by her dad's I know I put it somewhere need to pick up that things she leaves in her wake and put them, well, somewhere. This style is in evidence in her room as well, but she tolerates it for much less time there. At least once a week, she reaches the point where the telltale trail of the drop and run organizer begins to get to her and she turns on her music and whips her room into shape.

All of this will need to be taken into account as she furnishes her dorm room. Her drop and run predisposition will mean that she needs easy access containers, preferably those that make it as easy to put things away as it is to simply put them down.

Finding the intersection of cheap, cute, portable and functional will be tricky, but it can also be fun. which containers work best for each style will make shopping easier, especially since there's a good chance that she'll be rooming with someone whose styles are different. Merging styles and preferences, along with personal taste can lead to wonderful brainstorming and intermingling of success stories and strategies.
Keeping in mind

Are you getting ready to furnish a small space? More tomorrow on three keys to consider as you tackle the fun of preparing a brand new space.