Thursday, August 17, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys for Injecting Style into Your Organizational Process

Dodgerton Skillhause via MorguefileWhen 
When it comes to organizing, there's STYLE, and then there's style. The first one is a process, one that takes personal styles (I need to see it, I love stuff and I love to be busy) and organizational styles (cram and jam, drop and run, I know I put it somewhere) into account. The second refers to a certain flair, one that takes organizing from mundane to interesting and fun.

In yesterday's post, I touted the importance of the second kind of style -- the one whose partners are form and function.

Wondering how to bring a little flair to your organizational process, while still keeping it functional? Here are a few ideas.

  • Add a pop of color, a coordinating pattern or a hint of texture. Color, pattern and texture are functional staples for those with an I need to see it personal style and they can be used to brighten up a space as well. Just as a throw pillow adds life to a neutral sofa, a bright or patterned container can be more than just a place to keep things. The addition of colorful, patterned or textured containers to a space can also be helpful for those with the I know I put it somewhere organizational style, providing them with a visual reminder of which somewhere serves as storage for which things.
  • Keep it neutral. Color is great, but sometimes we want our storage to blend into its surroundings. Perhaps the colors in the space are loud enough, the patterns busy enough or the texture a key feature in the furnishings. In these cases, choosing organizers that blend may be a more stylish option. If monochromatic and neutral don't work for your personal and/or organizational styles, look for other ways to distinguish what goes where. Labels (a visual reminder of what's inside the container) and location (keeping all similar items in a set of containers that go together and are stored together) can be helpful for folks with an I need to see it personal style or an I know I put it somewhere organizational style, and these same strategies play right into the strengths of those with a cram and jam or drop and run organizational style. No matter the style, minimizing the number of steps involved is key to the success of the organizational system.
  • Make it unique. One-of-a-kind containers are not only great additions to a room, but also great visual reminders. A strong argument against the idea that storage has to be utilitarian, their visual appeal contributes to one form of style, while their visibility is a key element in organizing by STYLE. Unique, distinct or unusual boxes, baskets and bins can dress up the concepts of open storage, one-step storage and visual attention-grabbing that underlie the organizational styles and look good doing it.
If you keep these concepts in mind when setting up or revamping your organizational systems, there will never be a need for one kind of STYLE to run roughshod over the other. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Welcoming Style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 10, 2017

From So-So to Spectacular

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Yesterday's post left me with a lingering question:
What other storage habits do I need to reconsider? 
Unless you've recently moved, renovated or redecorated, you probably haven't updated your organizational set-up recently. Like the squeaky wheel, organizational systems typically get attention only when they aren't working.

Still, as my flag storage plan reminded me, we sometimes settle for "good enough" when one small change could make a big difference. And, we sometimes don't even know we're doing it.

Often, the first sign that we need to make a change is that things aren't getting retrieved or put away in a timely manner. While we often point to ourselves (or someone else in the house) as the problem, there's often a deeper issue at work. Three simple questions can be the key to turning so-so systems into storage solutions.
  • Is the system easy to use? An overly complicated storage system is sometimes as bad as none at all. When putting things away is difficult, we choose the path of least resistance, putting things down instead of away (drop and run organizers), putting them wherever there is space (I know I put it somewhere organizers) or stuffing them somewhere (cram and jammers). When we do this, we exacerbate the problem, creating a retrieval issue. Drop and run organizers must retrace their steps and dig through piles. I know I put it somewhere organizers race around frantically trying to remember which safe place they put the necessary item in and cram and jammers attempt to retrieve things from overstuffed spaces, hoping the thing they're searching for won't be crumpled, torn or broken when they find it. In the process, we waste time, frustrate ourselves and often create chaos. Often, however, it's this process that reveals the answer to the questions behind this problem: what's stopping me from using this system and how can I fix that?
  • Is it in the right place? Similarly, if we have to climb ladders, move piles or take a cupboard apart to find something we use with any degree of frequency, it's in the wrong place. While it makes sense to store things we use only occasionally in out-of-the-way locations (especially when space is an issue), the things we use more often need to be easier to access. Store it where it's used, store frequently used items in easy-to-access places and store similar items together.
  • Do I like it? Although this might not affect how well the system works, it can affect how likely we are to use it. If it's fantabulously functional (a worn accordion file with just the right number of labeled sections, for example), we might not care how it looks, especially if we tuck it away in a drawer or closet. But, if you're taking your system from so-so to spectacular, the aesthetics of containers and systems are worth considering.
In the best of all possible circumstances, a simple change in location makes a big difference, as it did for my garden flags. Other times, some shopping, sorting and re-organizing is required, but if these steps create a more efficient system, the time to put it all together is time well spent. Not only will it reduce your clutter, as sorting often does, but it will also save you time.

Best of all, you'll be too busy taking pride in your new system to have time to point the finger of blame at anyone, including yourself.

Alexas Fotos via Pixabay

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Saga of the Naked Flag Holder

Rehoboth Toy and Kite Company
My husband took a vacation day early last week and, as is often the case, my schedule for the day changed as well. It's not his fault. We've been married long enough that he knows to give me my space when he's home on a day that I'm not planning to use as a vacation day and I know not to expect business as usual.

Still, the very presence of someone else in the house tampers with my routine, tenuous as it is. I started out okay, making sure to post my blog, but then, before I got much further, I got sidetracked by house stuff. The shower head that wasn't working. The empty space out front where a garden flag was supposed to be. The bed linens that needed to be changed.

As is often the case, one thing led to another. In this case, it was the garden flag that led me simultaneously astray and in the right direction.

We have a spot in our garden that's too shady to sustain much plant life. Consequently, that's where the garden flag and chimes go -- one way of adding a little beauty to what might otherwise become an extension of the front lawn.

But the flag holder has been empty for months now. I notice it when I pull into the driveway, but once I come inside the house, I get sidetracked by what has to be done there.

And another day with a naked flag holder draws to a close.

For whatever reason, my husband's day off became the day I was determined to replace the flag. Doing this necessitates going into our crawlspace to pull the seasonally appropriate flag out of one of the drawers in the unit that houses seasonal decorations.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you are probably already asking the question that didn't occur to me until that day.

Why are the flags in the crawlspace?

Um...because that's where I've always kept them?

There is a certain logic to putting the flags there, even if I'm not an I know I put it somewhere organizer. The flags are an extension of the seasonal decorations I need to get at only once a year. Therefore, they aren't stored in prime real estate.

If it weren't for the saga of the naked flag holder, I probably wouldn't have realized my tactical error.

I change these flags more than once a year.

Or at least I would if I used one of the cardinal rules of location: put it close to where it's used.

Two hours later, the flag holder bore a summer flag. The rest of its companions had a new home in a drawer in the mudroom -- right inside the door I use to enter the house from the driveway. To free up the drawer, I needed to sort through three others so I could consolidate their contents.

Tackling the drawer unit in the mudroom had not been on the day's to-do list, yet the unexpected task left me with a sense of accomplishment. I'd put like items together, tossed things that were no longer useful and put aside some things to donate. Location logic had won out over habit, and I'd emerged victorious, setting up new a system that would work much better than the old one.

It was an organizational victory worth savoring, yet I was dogged by one nagging thought.

What other storage habits do I need to reconsider?

A question for another day.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys for Managing Big, Rectangular Spaces

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Our homes are full of big, rectangular spaces. Planned well, these spaces -- closets, drawers and even refrigerators and chest freezers -- can be a storage dream. Left unattended and unplanned, they can quickly become a storage nightmare -- the dumping ground for all things homeless.

Yesterday, I wrote about one of them (my refrigerator). Even if I don't label my refrigerator shelves (the jury's still out), there are plenty of strategies to help to keep large spaces manageable. 

Store like with like. While every home has a junk drawer, no home should have a collection of them. The contents of each rectangular space (drawer, closet, etc.) should be related in some way that makes sense to you. Whether you cluster clothing by color, style, season or occasion, your closet should be set up in a way that not only makes retrieving the item you want easy, but also lets you see your options at a glance. Last week, I set up a drawer that now contains "stationery items and sticky things." Hardly a category I'd recommend on a regular basis, but I now know where to find mailing labels, Command hooks and oversized index cards.

Divide and conquer. As an I need to see it person, I value organization that lets me see things at a glance. When I open a drawer, I want to be able to see its contents without pawing through it. When I open my closet, I want to see what my choices are. Depending on your style, you may not need to see everything, but dividing large spaces into smaller ones makes retrieval easier. A simple drawer organizer can help you separate dark socks from light ones, pencils from paper clips and stationery from sticky things.

Let your style lead. 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? Trade in your file cabinet for a cart that stores hanging files or open-top file bins? Trade in your binders for accordion files? Don't assume that whoever designed your closet, appliance or piece of furniture knows best. Only you can make it work for you.

Trust your instincts. With a little time and a lot of STYLE, you can make those rectangular spaces the organizing boon they were meant to be. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

If I Label the Refrigerator Shelves, Am I Crossing a Line?

Photo: W. Carter via Wikimedia Commons
In my mind's eye, there is a map for the inside of the refrigerator. Beverages go in one spot, leftovers in other, meat in a third. That is, to my way of thinking, why refrigerator manufacturers create separate compartments.

In my family's mind's eye, it's all a haphazard game. As long as the food gets into the fridge, they are satisfied.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm grateful that the food makes it into the refrigerator. I'm less grateful, however, when I end up throwing away once lunch-worthy leftovers because they got shoved to the back behind the applesauce which, by the way, belongs on a different shelf.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that my house is by no means perfect. I am an organizational work-in-progress and my house has multiple hot spots -- places where clutter gathers to have a little party at my expense. I respect other people's right to organize differently than I do, but when my husband's I know I put it somewhere style meets my I need to see it style in the refrigerator, I spend a lot of time muttering under my breath and searching for solutions.

Last week, after I neatly re-stacked the leftovers and replaced the cut fruit on its shelf (the one where it belongs, not the one where it was), I seriously contemplated getting out the label maker and labeling the shelves. There's a good chance, after all, that what's in my mind's eye is different from what's in my family's mind's eye. I see shelves filled with food that can be categorized for easy retrieval. They see a large rectangular space that keeps things cold.

Photo: Morguefile
As I type this, I'm still considering my labeled shelves idea. The only thing holding me back is the ever-changing nature of refrigerator contents. The shelf that works for leftovers stored in stackable plastic containers might not work for the leftover pizza. Cut fruit needs more storage space in the summer than it does in the winter when we have less of it. Will constantly changing labels that are likely to be ignored cause more annoyance or amusement?

For now, I'm opting to leave well enough alone.

But the next time I throw away perfectly serviceable cold chicken, I just might change my mind.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Managing Stuff While Time Works its Magic

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Yesterday, I posted about the role that time plays in the organization process. While this is a great idea in theory, the practice sometimes gets us into trouble.

Take my pile-up on the step for example. That is not a procedure I'd recommend. If we need to employ time as part of the process, we need to use a few strategies when we set aside our "maybes" to ensure that time is a tool and not simply an excuse.

  • Store it intentionally. Whether you box it up and stash it out of sight or leave it where it lives until you make a decision, put your collection of maybes somewhere on purpose and mark it accordingly. Label the box, tag the clothing or use some other method to remind yourself that the item is in limbo. Otherwise, you've made the decision to keep it -- at least until the next time you get to that pile or location.
  • Set a deadline. If you box up your maybes and store them out of sight, make sure to mark them with an expiration date. Write it on the box in permanent marker or on a sticky note in pencil -- either way, determine at which point it moves from "maybe" to "keep" or "find a new home for." Or, consider the change of season your decision point. Unless you're a snowbird or going on a tropical vacation, there's no better time to get rid of those clothes you didn't wear all summer than at the beginning of fall.
  • Decide whether to view or not to view. I'm a big fan of not viewing things a second time. If they're a maybe when I put them in the box and I haven't opened the box by the time the deadline rolls around, opening the box again is only an invitation to a new dilemma. It's important to make this decision when you put things in the box, however. You need to know you've made a promise to yourself that the box leaves your house with its contents uninvestigated before you put things in the box, especially if your personal style is I love stuffIf you know you shouldn't look, but think you won't be able to help yourself, make a list of the contents and tape it to the outside of the box. Reading a list of contents is much less emotionally evocative than going through the items one last time.
When used strategically, time can be a valuable part of our organizational process. Employed as a thinking tool instead of an excuse to hang on to things past their prime, time allows us to thoughtfully separate trash from treasure. Then, when we are finished, we are left with the things we use and enjoy enough to care for and store appropriately.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Test of Time

Photo: myrfa via Pixabay
Although my organizing and clutter-busting has come a long way since I started organizing by STYLE, there are almost always hot spots in my house. And, as with anything else we pass by often enough, I don't even see some of them anymore.

One pile in question has been living on the step in my office for longer than I can remember. I can't really even call it a hot spot, as I don't usually drop new things there. It came to be when I was doing one of my attack-the-office sessions, and it was a small price to pay for a neater space overall.

What was supposed to happen was that the stuff in that pile (homeless stuff that had accumulated in my work space) would get put away.

How often have I written about finding homes for things? Piles like this are the reason. Homeless items don't miraculously find themselves a place to live. If your house is anything like mine, they make up the bulk of the clutter.

Last week, for some reason I don't quite know (perhaps it was divine intervention -- and no, that's not sarcasm), that pile began to irk me, and I decided it was time to do one of my low-key stealth attacks, also known as organization games. I realized that if I simply picked up one thing every time I walked by the pile, and made a decision about it, I could make that pile go away. That was, I must admit, a pretty exciting prospect.

Some of the stuff on the top was actually easy. Yay! Progress.

Then it got a little harder, so I decided to dive into the middle of the pile where the older stuff was. One box seemed to be taking up a lot of space. Moving it would yield a substantial payoff. I pulled it out.

The manuscript for my first novel.

Generally speaking, I'm not an I love stuff girl, but I must admit to a sentimental streak. I remember putting this box there, planning to recycle it and its contents. I even picked it up a couple of times, but couldn't quite bring myself to get rid of it, so there it sat, collecting dust and attracting more things to the pile.

I weighed it in my hands. It was time.
Photo: stevepb via Pixabay

One of the organizing strategies I love is the one that allows us to set (some) things aside temporarily, getting rid of them later only if we haven't missed them in the intervening time. Usually, with the odds and ends that make up most piles in a household, packing them away for a month is sufficient. Six months is more than enough for most of the rest, even for I love stuff folks.

My novel came out in 2014.

I'm glad I didn't just stick it in the basement. Although it would have made my office life neater, I can promise you it would still be gathering dust there if I had. Now, one published novel, two works-in-progress and more blog posts than I can count later, I'm ready.

As I've said over and over (and over) again, organizing is a process. Sometimes, time is an important part of the process. While I'm not advocating letting things pile up in your workspace, I am saying that sometimes, the rules don't apply. Sometimes, we need to let time take the lead, and respect our need to do things on the timeline that makes sense to us. It may mean that things are less-than-perfect  in the meantime, but it also means we're less likely to make decisions we regret.

I don't regret keeping those pages, nor do I regret the fact that it took me three years to reach the point where I was ready to let them go because that's how long it took me to reach the point where clearing the space was more important than keeping the stuff in the pile.

All too often it's all too easy to force ourselves into decisions that meet other people's needs. Unless your stuff is interfering with your ability to live your life, cut yourself some slack.

Sometimes, time is the answer.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

3 Key Concepts for the I Know I Put it Somewhere Organizational Style

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Those with the I know I put it somewhere organizational style are arguably the tidiest of the Organizing by STYLE bunch. Driven by a need for clear spaces and neat appearances, these folks are better at putting things away than their cram and jam or drop and run counterparts.

The trouble is that any open drawer, shelf, nook or cranny is fair game, and, without a system, I know I put it somewhere organizers aren't as organized as they may look.

Still, they have the right idea, and a few tweaks can transform them from I know I put it somewhere to "I know exactly where I put it!"

  • When it comes to organizing, those with the I know I put it somewhere organizational style benefit from reminders. Clear storage, color-coded systems or even a master list can serve to remind them which storage spot (that seemed so perfect at the time) is the one they should be looking in now. Any step that I know I put it somewhere organizers can take in the direction of a plan or system will bring them one step closer to finding what they need when they need it.
  • Location plays a similarly important role when it comes to list-making. A designated drop spot, whether a desktop, the kitchen counter or the Notes app on a cell phone, can make the I know I put it somewhere organizer's lists more accessible, and therefore more useful as well.
  • In goal-setting, as with list-making, visibility and accessibility are important for the I know I put it somewhere organizer. Perhaps more important, however is storing all of the items for a particular project together in a consistent location (the same place every time). Nothing slows progress toward a goal faster than not being able to locate the things you need to take the next step.

If you're a drop and run organizer, what key ideas do you swear by? Share in the comments below. 

For more ideas on the drop and run organizational style, check out my original post here

For printable information sheets 
about containers and the styles, 
click on the CHARTS tab at the top of this page.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Under or Over?

Photo by Annie Spratt via Unsplash
In her book, The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin explores the question of overbuying vs. underbuying. Underbuyers try to get by on as little as possible, often to the point of running out of things. Overbuyers, on the other hand, like to stock up.

When it comes to organizational supplies, I'm a recovering overbuyer. I buy organizers that interest me, even if I don't quite know what I'll use them for and I often buy things I like in multiples. Consequently, I have my own little stash of goodies in the basement. I "shop" there quite often when I'm re-working an area of my house, hoping to find that I already have something on hand that will solve whichever organizational problem I'm working on.

If I'm to be honest, though, I have much too much. Part of this is due to the fact that, back when I was teaching organizational skills to elementary school students, I used to buy containers and folders to supply the monthly organizer giveaways I ran for the kids. When I retired, I still had a stash of those things in my office closet and, not knowing for sure where my organizational advice path would lead, I took them with me. Many have been put to use, but some are still stacked, one inside the other, on shelves in my basement.

Whether you're naturally an overbuyer or an underbuyer, I think the trick is to find the middle ground. When you find an organizer that works for you, it's not a bad idea to buy an extra to keep on hand for future use. But, unless you're stocking up for a remodel or giveaways of your own, buying too much of a good thing only serves to create a new organizational issue: organizing the organizers.

Similarly, being an underbuyer isn't necessarily a bad thing, but, when it comes to organizing, it might be worth considering why this is your behavior of choice. Are all of your things organized just as you like, so you have no need to buy anything? Are you struggling to solve an organizational issue, but still on the lookout for tools that fit your styles? Do you think that good organizers need to cost a lot of money?

If you answered yes to the third question, let me assure you that the majority of the things in my basement stash cost $5 or less. (When you're buying five to seven of one organizer so that there's a winner in every classroom, you tend to go cheap). In addition, depending on what you're storing, re- purposed shoe boxes, jars and egg cartons can work just as well as more expensive shoe racks, desktop organizers and drawer dividers.

Although I love that Gretchen got me thinking about the underbuyer/overbuyer conundrum, in the end, I think whether someone is an underbuyer or an overbuyer is less important than whether or not the buying habit works. Chances are, each of us is an overbuyer in some respects (for me, it's storage, stationery and toilet paper) and an underbuyer in others.

Where's your happy medium?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

3 Key Concepts for the Drop and Run Organizational Style

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile

Drop and run organizers are often busy, busy, busy. Running from one task to another, they tell themselves they'll put something away later, when they have more time, but, before they know it, piles are encroaching.


As always, the key is to work with the style in question to make it as easy to put something away as it is to put it down.

  • When it comes to organizing, those with the drop and run organizational style benefit from open storage. Lids and multi-step systems are unnecessary barriers to putting things where they belong. Aim to make it just as easy to drop things where they belong before running to the next thing as it is to drop them where they don't belong by choosing containers that make this possible. This simple choice not only improves the look of a space, but also makes staying organized (almost) effortless.
  • When it comes to list-making, drop and run organizers benefit from "dropping" an idea onto a list before running to the next thing on the schedule. Creating lists on a medium that travels with you, whether it's your phone or a pad of paper tucked into a bag, makes it more likely that you'll remember appointments and other to-dos, and, more important, you'll know where to find them.
  • As for goal-setting, the drop and run organizer is likely to need something to help him or her stay focused. Used to operating out of piles, the drop and run organizer is in danger of starting down one path only to be lured onto another by tempting materials nearby. Setting daily goals via a to-do list and keeping long-term goals close by can help keep distraction under control.

If you're a drop and run organizer, what key ideas do you swear by? Share in the comments below. 

For more ideas on the drop and run organizational style, check out my original post here

For printable information sheets 
about containers and the styles, 
click on the CHARTS tab at the top of this page.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What my Mother Taught Me About Organizing

This is, perhaps, my most favorite organizational tool.
Just wish I'd ordered one in this print.
There always seem to be a few places in my house for which I'm struggling to find the right container/storage. Accustomed to taking my styles (I need to see it/drop and run) into consideration, I have a reasonable idea of what will work and what won't but, when I factor in the aesthetics, sometimes it gets complicated.

When we're desperate to bring order to a trouble spot, it's tempting to hop on the new-and-improved-solutions bandwagon. If we're not careful, we can be drawn into the promise of instant organization and end up spending money on something that looks good and works for someone else, but is not a match for our styles.

My mom always described herself as frugal. A recent foray into her closet revealed a well-developed knowledge of what worked for her both organizationally and budget-wise. With the exception of a few pairs of shoes neatly stored on a rack on the floor of her closet, all of her shoes were in labeled (in just enough detail) shoe boxes. Why bother with store-bought fancy (or even clear) boxes when the boxes that came with the shoes worked just as well? Gift boxes were trimmed down to the size that matched whatever she wanted to store in them, and used to subdivide shelf and drawer space. The occasional dollar store plastic organizer was also in evidence for this purpose but, most often, Mom simply made what she needed out of whatever was on hand.

And it worked.

She was very particular about the storage that was visible, however. Recycled boxes might work in out-of-sight places, but, in the living spaces, there was a place for everything and everything was in its place. She chose pieces carefully, considering style, function and aesthetics and everything came together in tidy rooms that reflected her tastes.

Although I aspire to that same level of tidiness, I'm still a work-in-progress, seeking the perfect tools for my I need to see it/drop and run styles. Often, I have a better idea of what won't work than what will, and I find myself seeking solutions that don't seem to exist. While part of me yearns for a home as uncluttered as my parents' home, I'm more inspired by my mom's closet than her living room because her practical, visual approach to that space fits both my personal and organizational styles. And, like my mom, I'm not shy about where I find my solutions.

The next time you're searching for the perfect solution, keep in mind that, depending on where you're using it, how it works might be more important than how it looks. Dollar stores, dollar bins and clearance racks are often organizational gold mines and, if you get your new container home and it doesn't work, you haven't wasted much money.

Every workable solution, whether recycled, repurposed or custom-made takes us one step closer to winning the organization wars.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Location by Style
Yesterday, I wrote about location on vacation. Today, I am attending a family funeral, so I'm taking a break from my style-by-style posts (3 Key Concepts) posts and sharing a previous post on location and the styles. 3 Key Concepts will return next week.

My mom was a big believer in 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 themBuilding 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.

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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.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Do Your Styles Take a Vacation When You Do?

When you go on vacation, where do you put your stuff? Do you unpack or live out of a suitcase? Do all of your organizational plans go out the window, or are you better organized when you're away than you are at home? Do you drop and run? Cram and jam? Put things in a "safe" place?

I've written often about the importance of finding the right location for things. In fact, I'm such a firm believer in this that I try to put this into practice even when I'm on vacation. This is made much easier when we visit the same place each year (the same condo complex at the beach, the same hotel when we visit my daughter), but it works wherever you go.

I'm not suggesting that you have to move in when you're only away for the weekend -- simply finding the drop spot that works for important items (cell phone and keys, for example) and using it every time avoids those last-minute panicked moments when you're in a hurry to get to your next destination.

Packing patterns can help, too, even when it's as basic as using the compartments in a suitcase to store the same items every time. When we're going away for more than a day trip, I use the same bag for the same things each time so I know where to look.

Ironically, as I write this, I have yet to find two things I packed when we left the beach. One was a new purchase, so it had no assigned home. The other (my Fitbit charger) got tossed into an available spot that made sense when we left (an I know I put it somewhere habit I don't usually fall prey to); I have yet to determine what that space was. I'm sure it will turn up, but, had I put it in its assigned spot, I'd have found it (and used it to rescue my poor, uncharged Fitbit) by now.

Location, location, location.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

3 Key Concepts for the Cram and Jam Organizational Style

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
No one can accuse the cram and jam organizer of wasting space. Whether it's a desk, a drawer or a backpack, chances are it will be full-to-bursting before the cram and jammer feels the need to expand into a new space.

The one advantage to this type of organizational plan is that everything tends to be in one place, which limits the number of places that the cram and jam organizer needs to go in search of missing items.

As always, the key is to work with the style in question to make it as easy to put something away as it is to put it down, or, in this case, stuff it into an available space.

  • When it comes to organizing, those with the cram and jam organizational style benefit from flexible, medium-sized storage. If the container is too small, things will get smashed, wrinkled or otherwise ruined; too big and things will get lost. Using fabric bins without lids can allow the cram and jammer to stuff to his or her heart's content without overloading drawers to the breaking point. A nightly dumping of whatever was carried each day (backpack, purse, tote bag) into a bin or other container affords the cram and jammer the opportunity to return what's necessary to the bag from whence it came and toss or store the rest. 
  • When it comes to list-making, try replacing scratch paper with notepads. That way, when one page is full (even by cram and jam standards), a fresh one stands at the ready. This consistent availability of a new writing surface might help curtail the need to fill up every last square inch on a single sheet of paper.
  • As for goal-setting, the cram and jam organizer might not have to make specific adaptations unless the tendency to overstuff spaces also extends to a need to overfill  time. If this is the case, and you or your favorite cram and jam organizer tends to cram each hour with tasks, leaving each day jam-packed, try creating a time grid. Divide each usable hour (no more than eight usable hours each day so there's room for task overflow, if necessary) into no more than four increments with one task each. For every three grids in a row that are filled, leave the next one blank as a buffer against overscheduling. Use a bold marker to draw a heavy black line at the end of each day. Only urgent and important tasks can cross the line and extend beyond the eight hour day. Everything else will need to wait.

If you're a cram and jam organizer, what key ideas do you swear by? Share in the comments below. 

For more ideas on the cram and jam organizational style, check out my original post here

For printable information sheets 
about containers and the styles, 
click on the CHARTS tab at the top of this page.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Unpack, Prepack, Pack: The I Hate to Pack Packing Method

This has been a summer of short trips. Last week, I returned home from a visit to my parents just two days before we were leaving for the beach.

Unpack? Seriously?


Instead, here's what it looked like/the plan.

Wednesday evening: Return home. Dump bag in bedroom. Open it only to remove the things that needed to be washed and the toiletries I'd need in the next 24 hours. Then, leave the bag alone until bedtime when I needed to retrieve medication.

Thursday morning: Ignore bag. Begin washing clothes that I want for the next trip. While getting dressed, take out stacks of clothes likely to be worn or packed. Choose one pair of shorts, leave the remainder on the bed to put in the suitcase. Also lay out other things I want to wash and/or pack as I come across them. Don't put them in the suitcase now, or they'll get more wrinkled.

Thursday afternoon and evening: As laundry is finished, leave clothes I want to pack neatly folded in the laundry basket. Retrieve packing list from the bin where I keep travel items like my toiletries kit (still in the suitcase from the last trip), extra travel toiletries and bags to pack shoes in (repurposed drawstring bags that originally held sheet sets). Time permitting, start packing linens (as they come out of the washer and any kitchen items/food we want to bring along. Refill containers in toiletries bag as needed.

Friday: Serious packing. Take stock of everything that's been laid out, is sitting in a laundry basket, or still in the suitcase. Fill in the gaps. Fit as much as possible into the already partially packed suitcase and determine how big a bag I need for the rest of the stuff.

My Type A organized friends are shaking their heads, but, you know what? This works. It fits my I need to see it personal style, keeps the clothes I love in rotation until the bitter end when they must go in the suitcase and most important....

It makes me hate packing less. That gets my vacation off to a happier start, which has a payoff all its own.

What packing plans fit your styles? Your family's? Don't be surprised if each family member has a style all his/her own (my husband starts packing a week ahead of time) and, if you can, honor those styles.

After all, who doesn't want vacation mentality to set in as soon as possible?


Thursday, June 22, 2017

3 Key Concepts for the I Need to See it Personal Style

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile

For the past two weeks, I've been focusing my Thursday posts on the personal styles. Last week, I zoomed in on the I love stuff personal style, and the week before, I offered strategies for those who embody the I love to be busy personal style. This week, we tackle the personal style that best describes me.

I need to see it.

  • Organizing: Make it visual. Whether clear, color-coded or quirky, containers that keep things visible and/or attract the eye are a hit with the I need to see it personal style set. Bridging the gap between visible and out of sight, out of mind, these containers help those of us who are visually motivated to create order out of chaos.
  • List-making: Tangible reminders. Those with the I need to see it style often prefer paper planning to the convenient but out-of-sight electronic variety. Paper makes it easy to subdivide and color codeThis summer, I'm trying out a notebook system with colorful tabs. This allows me to separate my lists by topic, but still keep them all in one place, as well as minimizing the pile-up of notes on my kitchen counter.
  • Goal-setting: Write them where you'll see them. As much as possible, I try to connect my goals to my calendar. While "finish writing my novel" isn't a goal I will accomplish this week, "spend an hour writing" is, and, if I put it on my calendar, it's more likely to happen. Especially if it's one of my Big 3
If you're an I need to see it person, what are the key ideas you swear by? Share in the comments below!

Need more about this style? Click here to read the original post.

Still not sure which personal style describes you? You can take this quiz to find out, but don't let that keep you from trying out any of the strategies that appeal to you!

For printable information sheets 
about containers and the styles, 
click on the CHARTS tab at the top of this page.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Almost Together

Do you have one of those rooms? One that you love but...?

My office is one of those rooms. Small (cozy) and well-equipped (mostly), it nevertheless seems to be out of order more often than in order. Because I work in not just one, but two paper intensive professions, I always have more papers than room to store them. Couple that with an I need to see it style and it's not exactly a recipe for stellar organization.

Over time and with practice, many sections of the office have been whipped into shape, but the one thing that consistently eludes me is a spot for my projects in progress. So far, I've found a succession of things that don't work. File cabinets. Binders. Electronic files. All of these ideas work against my natural style, making them a good fit for someone, but not me.

Currently, I'm looking for the perfect container. I know what I want, but space constraints are making it a challenge. I'm tempted to ditch the two-drawer file cabinet altogether and set up a brand new system, but first, I need to be convinced that there isn't a simpler way. And, I have to figure out what to do with the two-drawer file.

No matter how much we work at it, some areas of our homes seem to defy organization. Consequently, they require more persistence, often in the form of eliminating things that don't work as well as seeking out those that do. But, in the end, when we find that thing that does work, the room we love but becomes a room we simply love.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

3 Key Concepts for the I Love Stuff Personal Style

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Ah, the poor I love stuff person. His (or her) ability to see treasure and potential where others see clutter has led to unflattering nicknames like "pack rat" and "hoarder." While it's true that those who suffer from hoarding disorder are often I love stuff folks, collecting does not reach a clinically problematic level for most I love stuff folks.

Nevertheless, most people with the I love stuff personal style tend to be emotionally attached to their things. Considering the form, function and style of each treasure can help limit the size of collections. 

    In addition: 
    • When it comes to organizing, I love stuff folks might consider limiting the number of items that serve only a decorative purpose and displaying them on a rotating basis. This doesn't mean getting rid of treasured pieces. Try tucking treasured collections away in accessible spaces and swapping the things you want to show off from time to time. If this sounds like the divide and conquer advice from last week, it is--with a twist. Where I love to be busy folks will organize by activity, I love stuff folks will do better to organize by collection and, what constitutes a "collection" varies widely from one I love stuff person to another. Some I love stuff folks will even count their storage containers among their collectibles, especially when they are unique and attractive.
    • When it comes to list-making, those with the I love stuff personal style may have a plethora of writing implements and notepads. If this sounds like you, don't despair. Again, I'm not going to ask you to get rid of anything (as long as it works). Beginning with the notepads, lay out your collection of goodies and think about how you can press them into service. You might choose to toss one notebook and one writing implement in each bag you use so that wherever you go, you have a pen (or pencil) and paper. You might put one tablet in each room of the house so that wherever you are, you have a pen (or pencil) and paper. Or, perhaps you'll assign each notepad a task: one for to-do lists, one for grocery lists, one for phone messages, one for random tasks. Once you've done this, store all of the remaining notepads in one place and put them away. If you'd like, you can also toss in the writing implements, once you know you have enough pens and pencils in the places you need them. 

    • If your goal-setting includes reducing the volume of stuff you have, remember that throwing things away isn't your only choice. Handing things down, donating them, and repurposing them allows them to continue to be useful in a new way. You might also consider the one in-one out rule. When you acquire something new, can you recycle or donate something old? Finally, consider setting an acquisitions goal that allows you to refine your collections, rather than just adding to them. What parameters do you want your new acquisitions adhere to? Beauty? Usefulness? Completing a collection? Thoughtful acquisition allows you to continue to add to your collections without being overwhelmed by them.


    If you're an I love stuff person, what key ideas do you swear by? Share in the comments below. 

    For more ideas on the I love stuff personal style, check out my original post here