Thursday, September 28, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys for Jump Starting the Let it Go Process

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Yesterday, I wrote about Let it Go! No, not the song from Frozen, but rather the necessity of reducing the amount of stuff we have in an effort to keep things organized and efficient.

Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done. Here are a few keys to kick starting the process.

Start at the bottom. I wish I could take credit for this idea, but the truth is I heard it long ago on HGTV and have been using it ever since. With clothing and paper in particular, the oldest items are usually on the bottom of the pile. Outdated and forgotten, they're relatively easy to get rid of. Consequently, they can prime the pump. Once we've tossed a few things, the whole Let it Go! process just feels easier.

Pick a season. Although I mean to go through all of my Christmas stuff in the off-season and my school files over the summer, what usually happens is that the need for these items (or new versions of them) is what finally motivates me to attack the piles. As with strategy #1, tackling old stuff can be just what I need to stop procrastinating and start de-cluttering, especially if it means making way for new and improved versions.

Don't try to do it all at once. Nothing makes me procrastinate faster than feeling overwhelmed. Promise yourself you'll eliminate one pile or work for half an hour, and then walk away, secure in the knowledge that you've made progress. Maybe even play "Beat the Clock," setting a timer and seeing how many items you can toss or put away before the timer goes off.

When Let it Go! feels too challenging, it's easy to procrastinate, which is sad because we miss out on the benefits a good de-cluttering session can provide. At its best, Let it Go! can help us feel lighter as we eliminate the old to make room for the new, or to free up the most beautiful of all organizational sights -- clear space. If letting things go is hard for you, be patient with yourself as you tackle this task a little at a time.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Let it Go!

For many of us getting organized and getting rid of excess stuff go hand in hand. But if you've got an I love stuff personal style, that second part can be a little bit intimidating. So many things that seem insignificant to other people are wrapped in a cocoon of memories for I love stuff folks.

Even those of us who wouldn't put ourselves into the I love stuff category can become overwhelmed sorting through things and figuring out what to do with them. All of the things we've collected were, at some point, important to us, serving a useful purpose or imbued with some meaning. This, coupled with the fact that we might have scrimped and saved for (or spent months paying off) the items in question can lend an exaggerated value to our things, convincing us that our trash is someone else's treasure.

It usually isn't.

And therein lies the painful part. Sometimes, we simply have to put them out with the trash.

I must admit to cringing at this option, arguing that surely someone, somewhere can use this! Convinced of this fact, some of us spend hours pricing things and sitting out in the sun (we hope) at a yard sale, hoping to recoup some of our investment. I used to belong to this group, but after the money earned at the last very hot, very long yard sale I hosted disappeared in about a tenth of the time it took to earn it, I crossed this option off my list. 

If you, like me, long to reduce, declutter and recycle but don't want to go the yard sale route, you might benefit from setting some boundaries. First, corral three boxes and separate your disposables into categories: trash (if I'm brutally honest with myself, no one else will want this stuff), recycle and resell/donate.

At the end of the sorting session, take out the trash and recycling. Then, set a decision date for the resell/donate items, based on how long you think it will take to find a place that might be interested in them. Write that date on the box and on your calendar.

When you figure out where you're taking the things in that pile, write the drop-off date in your planner and put the items in the car. If the deadline comes and goes and the items are still in your car, they become trash.

Can you cut yourself some slack, donating the items a week after deadline? That's entirely up to you. But, if you're serious about letting things go, that means letting them go completely, not simply moving them from the basement to the mudroom to the car, where they take up an indefinite period of residence. (Not that I've ever done that).

Let it go! is probably the toughest part of the STYLE process but, without it, we quickly overrun our living space, making organizing far more complicated than it needs to be. Luckily, unless you're relocating, letting it go is not something that has to be done all at once; in fact, it's often most productive when done in stages.

Look around. What can you let go of?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Maintaining Homes When Time is Tight

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
It never fails. When I get busy or overwhelmed -- or both -- my personal and organizational styles gang up on me.

And an unfettered drop and run/I need to see it style is not pretty.

If I've been good at following my own advice (which sometimes happens), the things I've dropped and run from all have homes.

The trick is to get things back where they belong, which manages both our stuff and our stress. When time is at a premium, here are a few ways to restore order.

  • Count 'em up. Set a goal of a certain number of items to pick up and put away within a given time period. Whether it's starting the day with a goal of returning a certain number of items to their homes before bedtime or a game of beat the clock when you have only ten minutes at your disposal, any dent in the growing piles is a positive step. When things have homes, even small stretches of time can yield big payoffs. 
  • Tackle a hot spot. Every house has them -- the places that seem to attract piles. Sort the piles by room in the house and move each stack of misplaced merchandise to the room where it belongs. Let the family member who "owns" the room take it from there.
  • Assess the logic and quality of the homes you've assigned. If your efforts to put things where they belong is hampered by the fact that their homes are inaccessible (or perhaps nonexistent), it's time to rethink their locations. Finding them a home that works might mean they'll stop turning up like bad pennies.
In an ideal world, we always have time to return things to their homes, which are logical and conveniently located. In the real world, things pile up and we sometimes run out of space. Being patient, flexible and keeping on top of things, even if only a little at a time, helps keep things manageable.

Even when we're busy or overwhelmed. Or both.

Yes, it Has a Home!

By now you know that a positive outlook and confidence in your own abilities (Start with Successes) are necessary ingredients as you develop a plan based on your personal and organizational styles. And if you Take Small Steps,  using simple strategies like Give it Five! and Don’t put it down, put it away! you'll see steady progress and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Which brings us to YYes, it Has a Home.  

home is, quite simply, where something “lives.” While containers are key to establishing homes for our stuff, they're only half the equation. In order to establish working organizational systems, we need to create logical homes for our things. A logical home is one that:
  • is close to where the item is most often used;
  • is the right size for the item;
  • takes into account how often the item needs to be accessed.
Makes sense, right? But when we're in a hurry, we often forget these guidelines. Instead, we put things wherever there's room, wherever we happen to be or just...wherever. 

Ready to break the "wherever" habit? Here are a few more ideas to get you started.
  • Store things that are used every day in places that are easy to access. 
  • Choose a storage solution (container and location) that makes it as easy to put things away as it is to put them down. 
  • Store things where you use them...or drop them...or naturally put them. 
  • Store similar items together, and consider storing complementary items (things that go together or are used together) near each other as well. 
Finally, let your styles be your guide by choosing homes that work with your natural habits. Already have a go-to drop spot? Make it a permanent home for the items that live there.

Happy habit-making!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Small Steps with a Big Payoff

Yesterday, I focused on the T in STYLE: Take small steps. Today, I thought I'd revisit a few small steps that help to ensure my days go a little more smoothly.  
  • Pack my lunch the night before. The contents of the kitchen won't change between dinner one night and mid-morning the next day. Packing my lunch, stashing it in the fridge and leaving myself a bright, visual reminder to retrieve it (fuchsia sticky note, anyone?) will save me precious get-out-of-the-house time. And, since I'm an I need to see it person, my favorite place to leave the sticky note is on the door I have to walk through when I leave the house.
  • Lay out my piles. This is something I'd do the night before if I lived alone. But, since other members of my family tend to object to my taking up the sofa or dining room table with my class-by-class files, I wait until morning to do this. Now that I have some clear space on the counter in my office, perhaps I can do it the night before.
My I need to see it personal style in action.
  • Check my calendar.  During the semester, my schedule has a pretty predictable rhythm, but there are always those days when extra appointments or meetings sneak in. Ideally, I've done a review of the week ahead sometime between Friday and Sunday night, but a quick peek at the calendar the night before is always a good idea as well. In addition to refreshing my memory for places I need to be and people I need to see, it gives me the opportunity to pencil items from my to-do list into my schedule. 
What small steps do you swear by to make days run more smoothly?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Take Small Steps

Today's post is the second in a series on using the STYLE process to take your organizing to the next level. Last week, we focused on the "S": Start with successes. This week, we're moving on to "T": Take small steps.

My desk -- or the clearing off thereof -- has been on my list for several days. Unfortunately, it's merely annoying and not time sensitive, so it keeps getting bumped to the bottom of the list by tasks that have actual due dates. Meanwhile, I do what I can as I work -- filing this paper, recycling that one -- until I have time to dedicate to giving the surface my full attention.

We all know that getting organized is a time-intensive task. It's easy to forget, however, that staying organized also requires a time commitment. It's easier (and faster) to just put something down on a flat surface (the desk, the kitchen counter, the dining room table) than it is to put it where it belongs, but the time we save in the moment isn't really saved time. We spend that banked time when it comes time to put away the things we set down in a convenient spot.

We can take small steps in lots of ways. We can spend just a few minutes tackling a hot spot (Give it Five!) or work to improve our habits (Don't put it down, put it away!) We can set small goals, tackling one spot, one drawer or one shelf at a time until the whole area looks just the way we want it.  Or, we can pick up as we go, concentrating on making things just a little bit better. We can focus on finding one container that does double duty by creating a home for wayward items and looking pretty in the process. We can work on broadening the good habits we already have in place, taking all the out-of-season items out of a closet or finally getting that bag of donations out of the trunk of the car and to its destination.

No matter which steps we take, it's important to notice the improvements we make. Taking small steps can get us to our destination, but only if we recognize that we're on the right path.

What small step did you take today? Acknowledge it, congratulate yourself and pay attention not only to where you're going, but also where you've been. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Ways to Set Up for Success

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
In yesterday's post, I wrote about focusing on successes. As I type this post (about twelve hours later than usual), it would be very easy for me to focus on the lateness of the post and to therefore go down the rabbit hole of self-blame. If instead, I choose to focus on the fact that this post is getting written despite the fact I had a very busy day, I'm starting with success. This simple change in thinking (combined with the fact that I don't want to let down readers who know which days new posts appear) motivates me to write the post instead of just giving up and watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory.

Keeping ourselves motivated about organizing often works in a similar fashion. It's so easy to focus on what's not working -- the piles, the clutter, the desk that never seems to stay cleared off for more than fifteen minutes. If instead, we choose to seek out what's working and build from there, we stop the blame game in its tracks. Often, this is the first step to creating a system that works.

Starting with success gives us a chance to celebrate the things we do well, and to use them as a means of developing the confidence we need to work through the process of getting -- and staying -- organized. Here are three ways to start with success.

Celebrate good habits and build on them. Do you make your bed every day? Hang up your coat when you come into the house? Hang your purse in the same spot every time? Toss the junk mail immediately upon bringing it into the house? Good habits form the foundation of our organizational successes. Adding one more step to an existing habit (ditching the junk mail and then sorting the rest of the mail immediately, for example) extends the habit and takes you one step closer to that elusive feeling of organizational success.

Keep the tools that work, scratch the tools that don't. Yes, that file cabinet in your office is a great organizational tool, but if you stack papers on top of it instead of filing them inside, it's not a good tool for you. One size does not fit all. Look around at what's working, and keep it -- better yet, replicate it in other places. Then, get rid of all the other "good stuff" that doesn't work for you (or a family member) and toss out the guilt along with it. Creating style-specific systems allows you to let go of energy-sucking guilt along with the stuff that doesn't work.

mohamed1982eg via Pixabay

Focus on what you've done, and let go of what you haven't. Have you ever gotten to the end of the day and spent what was left of your energy beating yourself up for what you didn't do? Clearly, that sounds silly when we say it out loud, but I'd bet my next paycheck that many of us have done exactly that. If instead, we pause to reflect on what we have accomplished, not only does it feel better, but it can also energize us at a time when we need it most. If the things that remained undone are important, add them to the next day's list, but don't waste energy feeling guilty. If necessary, create a backwards to do list to lay alongside the list of things that remain to be done, and then move forward and enjoy some well-deserved relaxation.

Getting organized is a process -- one that is sometimes a one step forward, two steps backward dance. If we use success as our foundation, we can have a lot more fun at the dance.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Start with Successes

Susannp4 via Pixabay
Today's post is the first in a series on using the STYLE process to take your organizing to the next level. 

My home is by no means an organizational showplace. When I say I'm an organizational work in progress, I'm not kidding. I no sooner get one area under control than another demands my attention. And, when I'm tired and overwhelmed, it's easy to revert to the worst aspects of my I need to see it personal style and drop and run organizational style, which invariably leads to clutter quickly replacing clear spaces.

It's a process.

But every day, I make my bed. When I read in one of Marcia Ramsland's books that making the bed instantly tidies better than half of the room, I decided that the two to three minutes I'd spend pulling up the covers and tucking them into place yielded perhaps the best effort-to-value ratio of any organizational task I faced.

When I stop looking for perfection (the things I do every single time and/or every day) and focus on tasks I perform habitually (most of the time), it's easy to spot organizational successes. The counter in the kitchen where we used to dump our mail improved tremendously once I found a style-based solution to the influx. Assigning homes to the things I most typically drop when I'm in a hurry served to clear up not only floor space and counter space, but also to allow us to use furniture like sofas and chairs for their intended purpose: sitting. Using a visual system (labels, color-coding, patterned file folders) for paperwork eliminated the "guess what's in this manila file folder" game.

These successes matter. They remind us that we know what we're doing, no matter how lived in or imperfect our homes and organizational systems may be some days. When we focus more on what's working than what isn't, not only do we feel better, but we learn what to replicate other areas, and what to strive for to make our hot spots into neat spots.

The first step in getting organized by STYLE is to determine the styles that define you. In addition to taking the styles quiz, one way to do this is to see what works for you -- to identify your successes. Doing this will help refine your styles and determine the strategies that take you from frustration to organization.