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.

Designed by freepik

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

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

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

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

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.