Thursday, July 26, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Questions to Ask When Head, Heart and De-Cluttering Collide

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Yesterday, I wrote about my illogical decision to hang onto a piece of cardboard containing drawings my daughter (who is now in college) made as a toddler. I have no doubt my Type A organizer friends would have pitched it without a second thought (and it wouldn't have spent two weeks propped up in the family room first). I have even less doubt (if that's mathematically possible) that my friends who have an I love stuff personal style would have kept it, and perhaps thought me heartless for considering its disposal in the first place.

How about you? If you fall somewhere between these two approaches, how do you decide what to keep when your head says, "toss" and you heart says, "nooooo!!!"?

Here are three questions to ask yourself to facilitate the decision-making process.
  • Is it hazardous, dangerous or otherwise a threat to physical or emotional safety? The piece of cardboard in question poses no physical danger to anyone and is completely harmless. An antique firearm, on the other hand, might be less welcome. As far as emotional safety goes, I feel a sweet sense of nostalgia when I look at the big blobs of multi-colored shapes, and am transported back to long summer days and puzzle races. I like those feelings and memories. A similar item that conjures up sadness and regret has probably outlived its usefulness. Listen to your head. Dispose of it.
  • Does it take up more than its fair share of space? Storage-wise, there's a huge difference between keeping a piece of preschool artwork and, say, a middle school plaster sculpture that's abstract (i.e. you're not sure what it's supposed to be). If it's easy enough to tuck the item away somewhere, honor your heart. If you need to make space for it, are tripping over it and your child doesn't remember making it in the first place, listen to your head.
  • Does it have meaning for anyone else? As noted above, when I see this decorated piece of cardboard, I immediately remember the small child who created it. No matter how big and mature she is now, she's immediately 3 1/2 in my mind with just one glance at this silly memento. I can still reason my way out of this, though, citing plenty of other things (photographs, for example) that conjure up these images. But, when the twenty-year-old identified it as "our puzzle board," my head didn't stand a chance. It was heart all the way.
Preserving the tenuous balance between possessions and the amount of available space in our homes is an important part of the organization process. But, we are human, after all, and sometimes it's not as simple as form, function and style. Hanging on to a few things (in moderation) because our hearts can't let go can add a little pizzazz to our styles.

So stash it, frame it, display it or put it in a "maybe" box to deal with later. Celebrate the things that have meaning to you, and don't assume that the head is always a better decision-maker than the heart.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

EvgeniT via Pixabay
Sitting in my family room is a poster-board sized piece of corrugated cardboard covered in toddler drawings -- shapes, mostly. At the top, in pink, it says "mommy" and "Leah" in letters clearly created by a preschooler. My daughter remembers this as our puzzle board -- the portable home for jigsaw puzzles in progress.

This is all well and good and warm and fuzzy. The problem? The toddler who created the board will turn twenty-one in November.

We unearthed this masterpiece when we moved a piece of furniture from our house to my dad's apartment the week before we went on vacation, which means this lovely piece of artwork has been propped up in our family room making a decorative statement for two weeks now. (In my defense, we weren't here for one of those two weeks).

From a function perspective, it's not terribly useful (although I could use it as an excuse to pull out a jigsaw puzzle). From a storage perspective, it has no purpose whatsoever (it takes up space), and from a style perspective...let's just say the memories outweigh the decorative value.

There is next to no logical reason for me to keep this, but I know I will. It's large, but flat and it won't be difficult to find a home for it, most likely behind another piece of furniture.

While my Type A organizer friends are shaking their heads, I'm sure those with an I love stuff personal style completely understand.

We all have these items in our homes. There's no logical reason to keep them, but, on some level, they mean something to us, and so we find them homes. As long as our treasures aren't unwieldy, part of an enormous collection, dangerous or otherwise a hazard, I can't think of a single reason not to keep them.

Organizing by STYLE is not about shrinking our collections to their smallest possible size any more than it's about organizing things in one specific way. Life is full of things we can toss painlessly and, over time, the things we've hung on to either earn their keep or they don't, and logic may or may not be part of the decision-making process.

So this evening, I will tuck that very special, impractical board away again. I'll probably forget about it until I move the piece of furniture I tuck it behind, or until we're specifically looking for that board in order to use it.

And for me, this will be infinitely more painless than adding it to our pile of recyclables.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Key Items on My Packing-for-Vacation List

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
When I'm packing for a week away, particularly one where relaxation rather than learning or sightseeing will be the main event, I try to bring things that will make it my home away from home for the week. Comfy pjs for down time (and leisurely mornings on the patio). Enough clothes so I don't need to do laundry. The electronics I use for work and play.

Since my organizational styles go wherever I go, there are a few things that are always on my packing list so that adrift is only a state of mind when I want it to be.

Prepacked (as in always packed, never unpacked) toiletries and medical/first aid pouches. Not only do these save me time and list-making before the trip, but they also help make sure I don't have to spend vacation time and cash on unnecessary trips to the drug store trips to buy things I already have at home. Restocking them and checking expiration dates when I unpack after vacation makes sure they're ready to go again when I am.

My satellite office bag: I have a small tote that houses my wireless mouse, earbuds and charger, pencil case and a small spiral memo book. I use this when I take my laptop and go, whether to Starbucks or another "satellite office." Grabbing that bag means I'm equipped for writing on the screened-in porch and shutting out the music from someone else's blue tooth speaker on the beach, as well as making sure I have just the right pen.

A notebook -- or, in my case, several. I always pack a medium sized spiral notebook for keeping track of random thoughts and ideas, as well as lists I don't want to lose. This time, I also happened to grab a legal pad, which came in handy for my Beach Pages (the notebook was too small) until I bought my dedicated journal.

How about you? What's always on your packing list?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Beach Days and Hammock Days

Just this morning, I was patting myself on the back and posting the picture at left on Twitter, pleased to have accomplished some things before heading to the beach. About fifteen minutes ago, after a perfect beach day and some late afternoon novel reading, I realized I hadn't written a post for this blog.


So, since it's now evening and I am, after all, on vacation, I'm re-posting one from last year that I hope you'll find useful. In any event, it feels very appropriate for today, and it offers some advice for those who aren't having perfect beach days (which was me when I wrote the blog in the first place). 

Side note: this summer isn't a typical summer kid-wise either; my daughter was home for three weeks in May before heading back to school for a fellowship. If this is the new normal, I don't like it. 

But that's another post.
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. 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.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: Keeping My Book Collection in Order

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
After I write one of these posts, I often feel motivated to attack a hot spot. Today, I plan to dig into the bookshelf in my living room to find beach reads and to sort through the books that have collected there. Some will make the cut. Others will be donated to my local library.

Books are my weakness -- a fact that I'm sure is unsurprising since I am, after all, a writer and an educator. Maybe your weakness is something else -- or many other somethings, if your personal style is I love stuff. Our collections can enrich our lives, but they can also overwhelm our space if we let them. Today's three keys focus on three things I use to keep my book collection on the right side of the line between enriching and overwhelming.

Control the influx. Fortunately (and unfortunately), I collect something that's readily available so, for me, the first step is determining whether or not the book in question is one I need to purchase. Social media and online issues have done a pretty thorough job of obliterating my need for magazine subscriptions -- I can find links to much of what I want to read online, without committing to a year's worth of issues that I need to find a place for in my home. And, for the magazines I want to be able to page through, I can treat myself to the occasional issue. When it comes to books, the first question is, do I need to buy it, or can I simply check it out of the library? How much time I have to read and whether or not I plan to reference the book when I'm finished reading it are the two key factors in making this decision.

Go electronic. When it comes to books and magazines, paperbacks and hardcovers take up more room than e-books and audio books, so before I make a purchase, I need to decide on the format I prefer. In most cases, I opt for the physical book, but I've also been playing with audiobooks (so I can "read" while I drive) and re-discovering my Kindle. Price is a factor, but so are things like where and how I plan to read the book. If it's a beach book, I usually go with the e-book. This is also true if I anticipate reading it in small snippets of time, as I often do with non-fiction; that way I can tuck the Kindle in my purse and read it in waiting rooms and at times when I find myself with a small window of unexpected free time.

Sort regularly. Tastes change. The book I picked up from the clearance table way back when and never got around to reading might not look so interesting now. As with any other sorting task, you can go with a scheduled time or a time that arises naturally. Every December, we need to move the bookcase in our mudroom to make room for the Christmas tree, which means the books on the shelves get sorted at least once -- when we move the furniture out of the way or when we move it back -- which helps to keep my collection from overrunning the space allotted for it. I also raid my bookshelves for reading material when we're beach-bound or gearing up for a long trip, and usually find a few books that don't make the cut that way as well.

Despite my best efforts, I typically end up with more books than my shelves will hold. While that's not a terrible problem to have, I still need to make sure to do all of the above so my collection doesn't expand beyond the spaces I've allotted for it.

How about you? What do you collect? How do you make sure your collections are a thing of beauty and not one more thing to keep after?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Why Going to the Beach is Essential to my Stuff Management

mohamed hassan via Pixabay
Book-related jobs have been a part of my life since I was a teenager. When I was in junior high, I worked as a student page in the children's room of my local library. At fourteen, I got my first summer job, working in a local used bookstore. In college, I worked in the campus bookstore from February of freshman year until partway through my master's program. In my late 20's, I worked at a local bookstore during the summer when I school was not in session.

The love of books and reading that drew me to this job also drew me to collect books. And, with easy access through book-related jobs, my collection and my appetite grew. As an adult and an educator, I'm intrigued by far more books and magazines than I'll ever have time to finish, many of which end up in my house.

Fortunately, the summer provides an opportunity for me to get my collected reading material under control. One thing that helps me make a dent in the pile is taking some of it with me when I travel. I'm particularly fond of packing magazines. Since my husband usually does the driving, I can usually polish off an issue or two on the car ride alone, depending on the length of my trip and the amount of down time I have. I clip any articles of interest, then recycle the rest of the magazine, ensuring that once it's out of my house, it stays out. And, as a bonus, I travel home just a bit lighter, and, perhaps even a bit smarter as well.

Checking the contents of my bookshelves before packing for vacation is also a two-for-one deal. Not only do I find books to take with me, but I also uncover books I don't really need to hang on to. Whether I've read them once and won't read or reference them again, or I purchased them with good intentions, but have since changed my mind, once I decide I don't need them, I can remove them from my shelves. I'm fortunate in that my local library accepts donations of books in good condition, making it a win-win for me. Either they sell the books at their book sale, funding the purchase of new books, or they put them in their collection where I can check them out, should I ever change my mind about wanting to read them.

Though my predominant personal style is I need to see it, when it comes to books, magazines and other reading material, I must confess to some I love stuff tendencies. Though my Kindle will never fully replace my book collection, it, along with bookshelf clearing sessions once or twice a year, helps me avoid the need for more bookshelves. 

What do you like to collect? How do you keep your collection(s) from taking up more than their fair share of the space in your home?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Sprucing Up Your Wardrobe When You Don't Have Time to Shop

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
When I was in my 20s, I loved to shop till I dropped. Now, not only do I drop sooner, I enjoy the whole process less, with the possible exception of shopping with my daughter (but that has more to do with the company than the task).

Sometimes, going shopping is inevitable. The season is changing and last season's clothes are too big, too small or in some other way not just right. We need a special article of clothing -- black pants for a concert, a dress for a special occasion, or a pair of shoes that isn't run down or worn out.

Other times, we get tired of looking in the closet and drawing a total blank. A few hours of shopping can yield a couple of new pieces that liven things up and make us feel a little more stylish and put together. Or, maybe our whole wardrobe needs an overhaul.

Last spring, I found myself in that need to shop place. I agreed to teach a summer class, which meant that, in addition to preparing my course, I needed to do something about my summer professional wardrobe, which was nonexistent. With neither the time nor the inclination to hit the mall for hours on end, I used a few strategies that let me shop when it was convenient for me and that required no dropping whatsoever.

Need to update your wardrobe? Here are my three keys to updating when time, energy and motivation are short.

1. Shop online. This is a great way to check out new vendors and add some spice to your wardrobe, but if you're not feeling adventurous, there are advantages to sticking with what you know. Does your favorite store have an online presence? Not only will you know the clothes fit, but you can also save money on shipping. Most companies will ship to their stores for free and will allow you to bring returns to the store instead of mailing them back. If not, check for free shipping; sometimes, you can find free shipping and  free returns. Check return policy. Both is rare, but I have seen it.

2. Consider a wardrobe in a box. There are a variety of services -- Dia & Co., Stitch Fix, Gwynnie Bee -- that put together boxes with a selection of items delivered to your doorstep, based on what you tell them you want. Then, you get to try everything on in the privacy of your home, mix it with things you already own, keep what you want and send the rest back. Kinda cool.

3. Consider a color scheme. A major portion of my wardrobe consists of clothing that is black, white  or solid bright colors. Others swear by an all-neutral palette or have an entire wardrobe of the same basic pieces (pants, tee shirts) in multiple colors. While it's nice to have a few splashy pieces, a wardrobe that fits together saves time and can be economical as well since pieces don't gather dust waiting to be worn with the one other item they match. Solid colors mix and match well and can  easily be jazzed up with accessories.

Photo: Nietjuh via Pixabay

Today, I came home to a wardrobe box on my front step. I kept two pieces, one of which perfectly  matches a skirt I previously purchased. The rest went into a postage-paid envelope, and then I scheduled my next delivery. In the meantime, all of this playing with clothes led me to tackling the closet...

...but that's a story for another day.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

What's in Your Closet?

I might have already mentioned that I'm teaching a class this summer. It's a new experience for me in a variety of ways, one of which is wardrobe. In the summer, I'm typically a shorts, tee shirt and flip flops kinda girl -- hardly the appropriate wardrobe for teaching a group of similarly attired college students.

Knowing this was coming, I began stocking up on cool (both temperature-wise and style-wise), but casual clothing -- items that I hoped would span seasons (spring-summer-early fall) and situations (professional, yet casual and comfortable enough to wear outside of the classroom).

In late spring, I amped up my wardrobe-in-a-box subscription, requesting more frequent deliveries. In addition, I started taking the shopping emails that flood my in-box a bit more seriously, scrolling through with summer dresses and skirts in mind, rather than a random, "Hmm, what looks good here?" approach. It was the kind of shopping I could do from home at whatever time of day I had available and finding the packages when I got home from teaching or errands was a nice bonus, too.

Whether by taste or by design (most likely a lot of the former and a little of the latter), there are definitely color themes in my wardrobe. I could dress in nothing but black and white for at least a week without ever once repeating an item of clothing. When I was younger, I would have considered this cause for a serious trip to the mall. Now, I consider it both a style choice and a way of streamlining my closet and my time.

When your whole wardrobe (or a large portion of it, anyway) mixes and matches, getting dressed is easier, packing for trips is easier and even doing laundry is easier -- everything goes into a couple of loads. Since it's summer, I've been trying to pair bright tops with my dark bottoms so my outfits look less somber and more in keeping with the season at hand, but I'm not willing to let go of my basic building block pieces, no matter how black and white they may be.

Wokandapix via Pixabay
My style, which I've chosen to accept, is no fuss-no muss-no bother. Primarily consisting of black and white with splashes of color, it also includes a collection of jeans and neutral bottoms (typically, I prefer pants to skirts) that pair easily with solid tops and jazzier pieces.

If you'd suggested a wardrobe that mixed and matched to me thirty years ago, I'd've resisted, the whole idea conjuring up visions of Garanimals. Now, I not only see the value in it, I appreciate the time it saves.

How about you? Is your wardrobe mix and match or anything goes? How easy does that make your life?