Thursday, October 26, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Organizing Favorites

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile

My post yesterday about unique solutions got me thinking about organizing staples -- furnishings that are standard, but lend themselves to non-standard uses. Here are three of my favorites.

  • Open shelving. Some may see storage for books, but I see opportunity. While most of the open shelving in my house is, indeed, laden with books, open shelves can store almost anything. Storage cubes, bins, baskets and other containers can add a decorative touch, or can simply keep things looking neat.
  • Double duty organizers. I love furnishings with hidden storage. I'm the proud owner of two ottomans (one upstairs, one downstairs) with storage space inside. (The downstairs ottoman is a replacement for the original, which went off to school with my daughter). They have held everything from blankets to files to stuffed animals. (No word on what my daughter is using hers for). Our latest acquisition is a cocktail table with a hinged top that can be raised to create a work surface (or a snack surface). Best of all, it has storage inside.
  • Bins, baskets and miscellaneous containers. These are the elements that make STYLE stylish. Whether they roll away, contrast, match, coordinate or fit into nooks and crannies, they come in such a wide variety that finding one (or many) that fit your personal and organizational styles is a snap. Not sure where to start for your styles? Check out the charts tab at the top of the page for some container checklists.
How about you? What are the building blocks of your organizational system?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Shopping for a Solution

Last Saturday, my husband and I did a little shopping. We started out visiting a local market that left us disappointed when it turned out to be something completely different than either of us had expected. As we left, we discussed whether or not there was anything nearby worth exploring. We ended up at Home Goods (clearly my suggestion), where we browsed to the tune of almost $100.

I love Home Goods. I can have fun there whether I'm looking for something in particular, or just browsing. Although Saturday's trip was impromptu, once inside, I quickly thought of a couple of things that might spruce up our space. Cruising up and down the aisles discussing the possibilities was a lot of fun. Since I only sort of knew what I wanted, many things were possible.

Sometimes, even when you know what problem you want to solve, browsing offers the best solutions.  As someone with an I need to see it personal style, I'm a big fan of unique containers and offbeat uses for traditional items. I'm always willing to trade in a traditional tool for something less traditional, or to use something in a different way than it was intended to be used, especially if it looks good and functions well. 

I'm a firm believer that organizing should be fun and that the end result should be stylish as well as practical. Window shopping to brainstorm solutions can lead to things we never thought of -- ideas that bring the practical and the pretty together . 

So, the sign in the photo at the top of this post? Not the way to approach organizing. The more open we are to recognizing that there's more than one way to do things, the more fun and satisfying this whole process will be.

As for us? We replaced some area rugs, solved the problem we set out to solve and fixed a long-term issue I'd all but forgotten about as well.

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Making the Seasonal Switchover

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Yesterday, I wrote about putting away warm weather clothes and changing my wardrobe over to fall. One of the advantages of doing this slowly is that it's less overwhelming, allowing me to give consideration to each item instead of just moving piles from Point A to Point B.

As you pull out one season and put away another, here are three things to consider.
  • Weed if you can. Take time to consider the usefulness and desirability of what you're moving. Is everything you're putting away now something you'll wear next spring? Is everything you're taking out a match for your current fashion sense?
  • Check out your system. Nothing is a better test of the limits of your organizational system than the seasonal changeover. Regretting your great idea to store sweaters in the dark recesses of your closet? Discovering an entire shelf laden with things you can't remember when you wore last? Now's the time to consider what might work better.
  • Use style-friendly containers for ease of retrieval. If you're like me, you'll end up looking for random items between seasons, so the easier it is to figure out what's in each container, the less of a mess you'll make in the process. Do you like see-through containers? Labeled boxes? Both of these work well for I need to see it and I know I put it somewhere styles, while cram and jammers might prefer fabric bins that expand and "create" space. Use what you know works for you so that things end up where they belong instead of in limbo. 
Who knows? Maybe you'll uncover some gaps in your wardrobe that require a shopping trip. And when you get all your new things home, you'll know just where to put them.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Changing Seasons

Fall has been unseasonably warm here in Pennsylvania and it's wreaking havoc with my clothing organization. Though it's often October before I complete the seasonal switchover (there's nothing worse than switching everything around only to hit a stretch of warm weather where I end up dragging out the things I just put away), I've usually made more progress by now, at least in one aspect of the changeover. But everything from shoes to clothes to pajamas is a bit of a mishmash. And, with 70 degree temperatures still in the forecast, putting things away too soon might still mean dragging them out again a few days later.

So, I need a stopgap measure. This morning, as I rooted in my closet for actual shoes (instead of sandals), for the second day in a row, it occurred to me that I could approach this just a little bit at a time (one of my favorite methods, as you probably know by now). By using the one in/one out principle I apply to new purchases (buy something new/get rid of something old), I can transform my closets and drawers at to match the (snail's) pace of the change of seasons.

So, for each pair of shoes I take out, I'll put one (or more) pairs of sandals away. Even if the warmer temperatures stick around, there are some sandals (strappy, bare, white) I know I'm finished with until summer.

This plan has an additional benefit as well. It allows me to let go of my beloved sandals one pair at a time.

Hey. It's a start.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

3 Keys...Tuesday?

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Hi everyone! Between midterm grades and life in general, last week just got away from me. Since I had a post planned already, I didn't want to retrospect, I should have done just that!

So, since I have a couple of days off this week, I thought I'd get caught up and share the post I planned for last Thursday. It synchs rather nicely with my post from last Wednesday, even if I did take "Starting Slowly" to a bit of an extreme!

As an adjunct, I share an office, so I can't exactly take over with all of the stuff that I think is essential. In addition, I do much of my planning at home, so I need all of that stuff at my fingertips there. Here are three tools I use to make sure I have what I need where and when I need it, at least most of the time.

A rolling bin. I ordered three of these from The Container Store years ago, and all have been pressed into various forms of service over the years in multiple small spaces. The bin at right began in my office at school before I retired, and was one of my first style-specific (I need to see it/drop and run) purchases. Now it lives under my desk in my tiny home office where it holds course materials. My daughter has a white one just like it under her desk in her dorm room.

Photo: ThirtyOne Gifts

A pre-packed bag. Okay, so this isn't entirely true. I'm still in search of the perfect bag, but I make sure the stuff I need every day I'm on campus is safely stashed in a soft organizer I can swap from bag to bag each day. Not only does it keep me prepared, it saves me a lot of time each morning getting ready because I don't have to worry about whether or not I have everything I need.

Tools that have proven useful in the past. If you've read it here once, you're read it a thousand times (okay, maybe not quite a thousand): organizing is a process. When, within that process, we discover things that work, they form the foundation of our entire system. I have a system of folders (color-coded by class) that I use every semester in exactly the same way. I also swear by my steno book and planner to keep tasks and ideas organized and all in one place.

Every semester, I tweak my systems, but the amount of tweaking I need from one semester to the next decreases dramatically every time I upgrade my system with a new tool or routine that works. Finding these style-specific tools and routines helps to create the systems that not only keep us organized, but also are easy to maintain.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Starting Slowly

At the beginning of every semester, it always takes me a little while to get into a routine. New classes, new ideas, a different schedule every day. Before I know it, my I need to see it personal style has run rampant, leaving piles in its wake.

This semester, even though my styles haven't changed, a few things are working to my advantage. I'm not teaching any of my classes for the first time, so there's a lot less reinventing of the wheel, which helps to keep things a bit tidier. I start at the same time every day, which allows me to settle into a routine that feels a little more predictable. And, with each semester that I teach, I have the opportunity to further refine my system so it works to my advantage.

While I can't say I'm living a pile-free existence, most of my stacks are confined to logical homes like folders and a file sorter, at least most of the time. Some changes in our home furnishings have also led to other, less obtrusive, temporary homes for papers that I leave out because they need a quick turnaround time. Translation: my living room furniture is free from piles of papers, at least most of the time.

It used to frustrate me that it takes so long for me to settle into a new routine each semester but, over time, I've accepted it as an occupational hazard. As I've said here so often before, organizing is a process. What I've come to realize is that, inherent in the concept of a process is the element of time. Put simply, processes take time -- they can't be rushed.

The irony, though, is that the less I worry about it, the more easily things fall into place. Perhaps I'm re-directing my energy from worrying to strategizing, or maybe, just maybe, the process is working.

Only time will tell.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Friday Feature: Talking to Myself

Do you talk to yourself? As it turns out, that might not be a bad thing. Founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport Karima Mariama-Arthur cites self-talk as one of the "5 Things You Need for a Successful Mindset."

Not just any self-talk, though. Mariama-Arthur echoes the sentiments of therapists everywhere when she encourages readers to make that self-talk positive, as its accumulation contributes to our sense of who we are. The conversations we have with ourselves -- internally and externally -- lay the foundation for so much more than day-to-day decisions; they can set us on the path to achieving the things that matter.

What will you tell yourself today?

Thursday, October 5, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Easy Upkeep

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Yesterday, I concluded my letter-by-letter interpretation of STYLE with some thoughts about Easy Upkeep. Today, I'd like to share three key components of organizational plans that lend themselves to Easy Upkeep.

They're individualized. Everything from the containers to the categories to the locations works for you. No binders if you prefer accordion folders, and nary a file cabinet in sight if to you, out of sight means out of mind. Systems that work are built on the personal and organizational styles of the person who owns them.

They're simple. Every storage solution requires as few steps as possible. No lids for drop and run folks, no compartments for cram and jammers and no monochromatic storage systems for the I know I put it somewhere person to tear apart trying to figure out which red box the ink cartridges are in.

They're attractive. Beauty isn't everything but, very often, organizational systems that are attractive function better. Sure, they need to be practical and easy to maintain, but when they look good to begin with, we're more likely to be motivated to keep them looking that way.

Don't be discouraged if Easy Upkeep only makes an appearance in certain areas at first. Once you get the knack of Organizing by STYLE, the upkeep only gets easier.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Easy Upkeep

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

Easy Upkeep is, at its heart, the simplest of the steps. If you've put a system in place -- one that honors your styles -- the upkeep is, indeed, easy.

Notice, though, that the "E" stands for "easy," not effortless. Even when all systems are go, so to speak, striving for ease of upkeep sometimes exposes the flaws in the systems. In other words, if the upkeep isn't so easy, that's a sign that you should, perhaps, go back a few steps.
  • Start with successes: Have you set yourself up for success, letting your styles be your guide for locations, containers and systems?
  • Take small steps: Have you given a small container a big job? Started an enormous project only to run out of time before finishing?
  • Yes, it has a home. Do the locations for your things make sense, or are they too small, too scarce or out of reach?
  • Let it go. Is an area overpopulated? Do you need to do some strategic sorting to make it work?
Once all of these pieces are in place (your styles are in charge, your containers reflect both your styles and the task to which they were assigned, your locations are logical and your piles reduced), upkeep can, indeed be easy. If any of these remains problematic, go back and take another look, asking one very simple question:

How can I make this easier?

Sometimes, in our enthusiasm for newer and better, we make things too complicated. If your upkeep isn't so easy, assess the location in question with an eye toward simplifying.

One final caveat: Easy upkeep doesn't mean things will be perfect all of the time. What it does mean is that you have a system in place that works for you and when things begin to feel disorganized, you know what to do to set them right.

And that can make things feel easy indeed.