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

    Wednesday, June 14, 2017

    Some Days are Hammock Days

    This summer has not been a typical summer. My daughter, usually at home for most of the summer, was home for just a week before heading off to her first trip abroad. Once home, she was here for a few days before taking a beach trip with friends. In addition, my mom is sick, and I am choosing to make as many trips home as possible.

    With the exception of my mom's cancer, this is all good stuff, but the unusual schedule leaves me feeling as though I'm running into roadblocks on a regular basis.

    Usually, I'm one of those people who's on both the sending and receiving end of the "don't worry, it'll get done. It always does." message, but this summer, it might not all get done.

    And that's okay. Or at least that's what I'm trying to tell myself.

    Amid all this convincing, it occurred to me yesterday that my mindset is the biggest road block of all. What if, instead of looking at summer as a blank slate on which to paint all of my projects, I looked at it as a time to slow down and recharge? I mean, a lot of people do just that, right? In an earlier post, I even wrote about making down time as intentional as work time.

    It's clear that I still need to work on this.

    Interestingly enough, it's my frequent trips that have given me an opening here. Often, there are numerous items on my list that I will not be able to accomplish by the time I need to leave for a trip, an appointment, or something else on my schedule. In those situations, as I find myself looking around wondering what to do, the question that pops into my head is quite simple.
    What one task will give you the greatest satisfaction now OR what would you most like to see already done when you return? 
    Ironically, this is a stripped down version of the mindset that feeds my Big 3 approach.

    At least I'm consistent.

    If you're like me, knowing what needs to be done and putting it into action are two different things. There are all sorts of complex ways to move from theory to action -- shortening my list, keeping one big, long list and prioritizing the items, or ditching lists entirely and spending the summer in a hammock. In reality, depending on the day, each of those could work.

    And that's exactly what I need to work on keeping in mind. Some days are short list days. Some days are long list days.

    And some days are hammock days.

    I think that might just become my motto for the summer.

    Thursday, June 8, 2017

    3 Key Concepts for the I Love to Be Busy Personal Style

    Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
    Two summers ago, I wrote a series of posts dedicated to strategies that work for each of the styles. As part of this summer's goal-setting series, I've decided to revisit and update those posts, especially since summer is one of the times that many of us take advantage of the longer days to tackle projects like organizing. For each post, I'll link back to the original post first (and sometimes I'll even steal from it), then provide some insights for organizing, list-making and goal-setting.

    I'll begin with the personal styles: I need to see it, I love stuff and I love to be busy and move on to the organizational styles (drop and run, cram and jam and I know I put it somewhere).

    Up first: I love to be busy. Click here to read the original post.

    Time management is usually a strength for those with the I love to be busy personal style -- it's the thing that enables them to do so many things. Unfortunately, when time is tight, organization can be more challenging.
    • Organizing: Divide and conquer. As I said in my original post, I love to be busy folks often benefit from having separate storage for separate activities. For kids, this might mean separate bags for school, sports and music lessons; for adults this might mean leisure reading goes in one bag, each hobby has a storage space of its own and each committee or commitment has, at a minimum, its own notebook. Depending on their organizational style, the I love to be busy  among us might also like compartmentalized storage that allows them to see at a glance what's missing from any given container. Separating supplies by activity also prevents unrelated items from getting mixed together. 
    • List-making: Together, but separate. I love to be busy folks often benefit from a notebook system. This allows them to separate lists by subject, day or activity, but still keep them all in one place, minimizing the possibility that important reminders get lost or misplaced. Inexpensive pocket-sized notebooks work well for this and can be customized to meet the needs of the list-maker; simply use sticky tabs to create sections.
    • Goal-setting: Small bites. Because they're involved in so much, it's all too easy for I love to be busy folks to overdo it on the goal-setting. Even just one goal per activity can quickly create an overwhelming list. If you're an I love to be busy person, it's important to consciously limit the number and size of the goals you set. A big project or goal in one place may mean you can only set small, short-term goals in several others. Dare to dream, but make sure the reality is something you can accomplish in small steps because life is sure to intervene.
    If you're an I love to be busy person, what are the key ideas you swear by? Share in the comments below!

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

    Wednesday, June 7, 2017

    Tackling Rectangular Spaces

    One of my goals for this summer is getting rid of stuff we don't need and/or no longer want. Inspired in part by my daughter's relentless pursuit of clear space when she came home from college and in part by the fact that I actually like doing this stuff, it's one of those things on my to-do list that I look forward to tackling.

    In part, this means digging into drawers and closets, tasks that lend themselves well to the STYLE steps.

    • Start with successes. One look inside a drawer that's working reveals the key elements: 
      • It's lined with something pretty (wrapping paper, shelf paper, shelf liner). This is by no means an organizational necessity, but it creates a foundation that motivates me to keep things neat.
      • I can see everything without having to dig through the drawer OR it contains neatly stacked items.
      • Everything in the drawer belongs there and is something I use.
    • Take small steps. When it comes to closets, tackling just one area or setting a timer can help keep me from becoming overwhelmed. As for drawers, clearing one drawer at a time meets the small steps requirement.
    • Yes, it has a home! If a drawer or space is in good shape, it contains only things that belong there. If this isn't the case, I need to go through the drawer or area item by item. Stuff that goes back goes in one pile and everything else gets put into piles depending on where it needs to go instead (toss, donate, repair, etc.). Once the drawer is empty, it's time to make it look pretty and decide whether or not it needs to be subdivided before everything goes back in. In the case of closets, once an area has been cleared, I need to decide whether or not it needs to be subdivided before everything goes back, and, if so, which containers I need to use.
    • Let it go! Once I've created my piles, this is easy. Pick each pile up and toss it or box it up.
    • Easy upkeep. Once I'm finished, the area I worked on should meet the criteria in the first step (Start with Successes). This means I've chosen containers and locations that make it as easy to put things where they belong as it is to simply drop them somewhere else. Mission accomplished? Next drawer!
    Right now, most of the  drawers in my dining room, which have been neglected for a while, need an overhaul, but the clothes closet in my bedroom needs little attention because I tackled that two summers ago and did an update last fall. What's really exciting about this process is finding an area that needs very little attention because it's already working! 

    That's when I know I've been organizing by STYLE. 

    Thursday, June 1, 2017

    3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Strategies that Work Across Styles

    Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
    Yesterday, I wrote about list-making style-by-style. Although organizing works best when we approach it in a manner consistent with our personal and organizational styles, some strategies work well across the styles.

    My favorite strategies when it comes to big goals and long lists are the ones that help me focus on what I've accomplished. 

    Big 3. This is a new approach for me, relatively speaking, born out of too many goals and too little time. Each day, I jot down three things I want to accomplish before day's end. In order for this strategy to work well, the goals have to be medium-sized. If they're too big, I'll end up feeling frustrated and overwhelmed; too small and I might just miss out on that feeling of accomplishment that comes from checking them all off the list. 

    Give it 5. Have an overwhelming task? Set a timer for five minutes and tackle it. You won't finish, but you'll make a dent, and, once you get started, you just might keep going and get more done than you expected. Getting started is often the hardest part, and promising ourselves to work for just five minutes can help us clear that hurdle, 

    Backwards to-do list. Some days, we have to make a special effort to focus on our accomplishments. Those are backwards to-do list days -- days when, instead of writing down what we need to do, we write down what we've accomplished as we accomplish it. A load of laundry in the washer? Jot it down. Dinner in the slow cooker? Add it to the list. One shelf in the closet reorganized? Write it down. At the end of the day, instead of having a partially checked-off list, we have a list of everything we've done. It's a small difference in list-making that can make a big difference in motivation.

    And, make no mistake, staying motivated is a key part of the process when it comes to the marathon that is getting (and staying) organized.