Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Goal-Setting the Toddler Diet Way

nietjuh via Pixabay
The three weeks between my last final and the first day of my summer class have filled up in record time. I anticipated at least a week's worth of do-nothing (or at least no deadlines or appointments) weekdays, even if they were scattered throughout the three-week period. But, with a writing conference, a car search, Mom chauffeuring thanks to being down by one car and the myriad other things that fill days when we're not looking, open-ended days have been hard to come by.

Never one to readily take no for an answer, I stubbornly elbowed my way past the obstacles in my calendar and persisted in working my way through as much of my list as possible. Last Monday (one week down, two to go), I cleaned off the coral Wall Pops dot where I'd listed my May deadlines (which I met, thankyouverymuch), grabbed my trusty white board marker and replaced May deadlines with the key elements that I wanted/needed to fill my summer days. Writing. Class prep. Reading. House stuff. An online course I'd signed up for. Meditation.


I'd post a picture, but you'd laugh at the ridiculousness of what I set out to accomplish on a daily basis.

If I lived by myself in a cave somewhere with some sort of miraculous access to takeout and an endless supply of clean clothing, perhaps I could actually do all the things I set out to do. But this silly thing called the real world insists on butting into my best laid plans.

On Monday, I came close. I really did most of the things for most of the time increments I'd set (An hour of class prep? Check). I didn't exactly do all of them, however, and I didn't exactly finish at a reasonable hour.

So I decided this wasn't exactly a workable plan.

On to Plan B: The Toddler Diet.

When my daughter was small, I remember reading that parents shouldn't judge the quality of a toddler's diet by what she eats (or doesn't) in one day. Instead, it was important to take the long view, looking at what she ate over the course of a week. Even toddlers, who are smarter than they look, tend to take in what they need to take in, given time and healthy choices.

If a toddler can do it with food intake, I can do it with goal-setting.


So, I'm taking the long view. I might not get everything in every day but, by the end of the week, I should have spent at least a little time on all of the things on my list, taking in what I need to take in and making incremental progress toward some healthy steps forward in the areas that matter most to me.

Each evening, while there's still time left to get a few things in, I take stock by jotting down what I did with my day. This backwards to-do list keeps me motivated (inevitably I've done more than I think I have), shows me where the real world stuck its nose in and helps me to decide what I want to do with what's left of my day.

Hey. If a toddler can craft a balanced diet out of grilled cheese and Cheerios, I can cobble together a summer schedule.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Excavating Those Piles

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
In just a few hours, I'll be on my way to the Pennwriters conference! Not only will I be recharging and learning stuff, but I'll also be presenting on Organizing by STYLE. I'm very excited!

Unfortunately, too many deadlines too close together and a return to running Mom's Taxi Service have led to a time crunch, so I'm re-posting a previous blog post. This one appeared in February 2017 but, as I look around my house in the wake of the end my semester, my daughter's return from college and preparation for a conference, it is (sadly) very appropriate. 

And exactly where my organizational attack needs to start. Next week. :-)

See you then!

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know I'm an I need to see it/drop and run person.

This combination makes me the Queen of Piles.

This drives my husband a little bit crazy, and, truth be told, it bugs me, too.  While I'm still very much a work-in-progress, I have found a few ways to deal with the piles, and even make some of them go away.

Do you put things down instead of away? Here are three questions to ask yourself so you can do things the other way around.

Is it always the same stuff? At my house, it's usually the homeless items that end up in piles (next to the things I don't want to forget to take care of). While I can't quite bring myself to get rid of the reminder piles, eliminating the piles of homeless items is as simple as finding them a home.

Is it always the same place? Most homes have spots that are clutter catchers -- the kitchen counter, the dining room table, the dresser in the bedroom. Ask yourself whether the items that are piled there should be stored nearby, or if the spot is merely convenient. Then, organize accordingly.

Will a strategically placed container solve the problem? If so, maybe, just maybe you can keep the pile. Just make sure that the container is sized properly. Too big, and you'll lose sight of what you need. Too small, and you might as well just keep the original pile.

As an I need to see it/drop and run person, I've come to terms with the fact that piles are a part of my life. But, by asking some strategic questions and employing the right tools, I can keep them under control.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Choosing Containers

Alexas Fotos via Pixabay
Last week, we brought my daughter home from college. When we sent her off to school last year, we weren't sure what her storage space would look like, so we sent a variety of containers -- soft and squishy, round plastic without lids, rectangular see-through plastic with lids, rolling....

It was quite a combination. Some have survived the transition from one year (and one dorm room) to the next; others have been abandoned based on space restrictions, functionality or both. 

Container selection is one of my favorite parts of organization, but it can also be the most overwhelming, especially when each year brings a new room in a new building. There are so many choices, both functional and beautiful, that it's easy to get lost in the aisles, trying to narrow the choices. Add responsible shopping (matching your styles and your budget) to the list, and it can be tempting to run screaming from the store, empty-handed.

Confused about what might work for your styles? Check out this chart, which summarizes the preferred container qualities for each personal and organizational style. As you look over the chart, think about whether or not the recommendations match your personal preferences. Where can you find crossover? 

As an I need to see it/drop and run person, I can use containers that are clear, color-coded, labeled and/or unusual/unique because these container attributes match both of my styles. My container preference, however, will change depending on what I'm storing and where I'm storing it. In addition, two people who identify themselves as the same style will have different personal preferences. Clear drawers may be a perfect match for one I need to see it person, for example, but be a disaster for another because she can’t see what’s at the back of the drawer.  

What if you've identified yourself as one style, but you're drawn to containers listed in another category? As long as they haven't proven unsuccessful in the past, give them a shot! There’s no harm in trying different things to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t. 

Once the chart reflects your personal preferences, tuck it into your wallet, your purse, your glove compartment or your reusable shopping bag so you have it with you when you go to the store. 
If you’re still in the sampling stage, there are many worthwhile containers to be had at dollar stores, grocery stores and on sale at variety stores. 

If you know just what you're looking for, more power to you! Feel free to buy those perfect containers in multiples if you already know they work for your styles. Just keep the receipt in case you over-buy or underestimate in terms of size or usefulness. (Not that I would know anything about that).

What's your favorite container?

Thursday, May 10, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Getting it All Done When You Have Too Much to Do

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
This morning, I administered my final final. As I type this, I'm in the car on the way to Connecticut to pick up my daughter from college. (My husband is driving, obviously). A week from today, I leave for a writing conference at which I am presenting two workshops.

I think it's safe to say that life is busy.

Although I wouldn't have chosen to cram quite so much stuff into so little space (a recurring theme!), it's all stuff I either want to do (see my daughter, go to the writing conference) or accept that I have to do (grade papers, give finals, calculate grades). Meanwhile, regular life tasks remain on the list as well. 

Though I can't say times like this aren't stressful, I've learned that they are manageable. Here are three keys to getting through the times that challenge our time management techniques.
  • Focus. Make lists by due date, color-code them, create a big calendar -- whatever works best for your styles -- but do make a list. This is not the time to keep track of things in your head. Then prioritize in a deliberate manner. Create your Big 3 for each day (or each morning and afternoon, if necessary), set things up by due dates -- again, whatever works. Best part? Cross each thing off (or erase it, if you're a whiteboard fan like I am) as you accomplish it. 
  • Take strategic breaks. No matter how long the list, you can't work 24-7. Spend some breaks doing things that need to be done but aren't as urgent (cooking dinner and doing laundry never looked so good!) just to change your focus for a bit, but don't forget to give your body and brain a real break as well. It can feel counterintuitive to stop working when there is still a lot to do, but the goal is to keep the momentum going. When you feel yourself stalling or getting cranky, you need a break.
  • Don't forget the basics. Eat. Sleep. Talk to actual human beings. Burying yourself in work is exhausting. Recharging physically and socially is essential to both physical and psychological fitness.  
This afternoon, as I contemplate having just one more set of papers to grade, I'm proud of what I've accomplished in the past two weeks. What lies ahead is busy, but less intense, and I'm certain it's within my grasp. 

Especially after some family time and a night out with friends.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

To Toss or Not to Toss?

Painter06 via Pixabay
Last week, my daughter did a presentation on food insecurity. As part of the discussion that followed, she found out about an organization near her school that accepts donations to help families who might be struggling. She hoped to find some donations among her own things but, as a college student, she keeps her belongings pretty minimal to begin with. 

On recent trips home, she's been pretty ruthless about what to keep and what to toss -- a mindset that's a significant shift for someone who embodied the I love stuff personal style as a child. Fortunately, a box of things she cleared from her closet last trip home was still sitting in our basement so, when we go to pick her up tomorrow, we're bringing some donations from here to contribute.

How about you? Are you a sentimental I love stuff  keeper or a ruthless tosser of all things non-essential? Read on for some style-related thoughts on the "to keep or not to keep" dilemma.

At the heart of any organization project is a decision -- to keep, or not to keep. Finding systems, shortcuts and containers that complement your styles is important, but even the best of these containers is neither bottomless nor infinitely expandable. Like it or not, going through the "stuff" and determining what to keep and what to toss (or dispose of otherwise) is an important step toward getting organized.

And for many people, this is the most difficult part of organizing -- just ask an I love stuff person. The mere mention of getting rid of anything is painful to those who love stuff because each item holds a memory or significance, endowing it with a life of its own. 

Cram and jammers and I know I put it somewhere organizers, on the other hand, are usually able to be more heartless about this task (unless, of course, their personal style is I love stuff!) They may not like the labor involved, but their "out of sight out of mind" outlook makes it easier for them to separate trash from treasure. I love to be busy folks and drop and run organizers may also have little difficulty making the "keep or toss" decision, as their organizational struggles arise more from a lack of time than from an attachment to their things. And we I need to see it people are often delighted to get rid of things because it reduces the pile and, along with it, the feeling of being overwhelmed by how much we have to do.
That's not to say this is a simple task. Even for those who may find it easy (or even cathartic) to de-clutter, the task can be time intensive. If getting rid of things is hard for you, try taking baby steps. Eliminate containers that aren't earning their keep, schedule a Give it Five! session with an eye toward tossing anything outdated, broken, damaged or missing pieces. Feeling brave? If wacky weather has delayed your seasonal switchover as it has here, keep an eye out for clothing that no longer fits or is out of style, then pack it up to donate or consign.  

If this is really hard, do what you can and congratulate yourself. Getting rid of things we once loved can be the most traumatic part of getting organized. Take small steps and remember that every little bit helps.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Saturday Special: Productivity

From a photo by GregReesevia Pixabay

Hi everyone! Every once in a while, my Porch Swing Chronicles posts are a good fit for Organizing by STYLE as well. Yesterday over at PSC, I shared a post about a great article I found in Success magazine on habits that get in the way of our accomplishing the things we want to accomplish. Less than a five minute read, "10 Harmless Habits to Drop if you Want to be Successful" is about balance as much as productivity. I liked it so much that I made a copy to tuck into my calendar so I can use it as a reminder when I set my monthly goals.

Happy reading!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Guidelines for Repurposing

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
This morning, as I dropped some items into a bargain glass placed strategically in my I need to see it-arranged bathroom drawer, I got to thinking about the three R's. No, not reading, 'riting and 'arithmetic.

Recycling, reselling and repurposing: the 3 Rs to consider when it's time to let something go, but tossing it in the trash just seems too harsh. While the first two Rs actually get the items out of the house, repurposing simply moves them to a new spot.

Like my glass. I bought it super cheap one summer, thinking it would be bright and fun for outdoor use but, the truth was, I didn't need another drinking glass. Sure, it was bright and fun (and cheap. Don't forget cheap.), but none of those attributes created space for it in my cabinets.

So, when I was rearranging my bathroom drawer, I repurposed it. Now, it's bright and fun and earning its keep. For cheap.

If repurposing a beloved (or simply useful) item gives it new life or helps it earn its keep, then hanging on to it is actually a good long as limit how many things we do this with and follow a few simple guidelines.
  • Repurposing implies purpose. It's right there in the name. Is the item in question being used, or is it merely taking up space? One or two decorative items that add personality to a space, or a collection that's housed in an aesthetically pleasing way is one thing. A pile-up of "I know I'll use this someday" is quite other.
  • For items in limbo, designate a purpose. In our DIY, Pinterest-fueled society, it doesn't take much searching to come up with new uses for everything from empty soda bottles to old furniture. Here's where you have to be honest with yourself. Are you really going to do that project? If so, when? And where will the supplies "live" in the meantime?
  • Be selective: You can't save it all, yet the reasons we have for keeping things vary according to both styles and personality. Sentimental people keep things because they make us smile when we look at them or bring back a special memory. The more practical among us save things that solve a storage problem or serve more than one purpose. Those who are frugal often keep a backlog of things they don't want to have to pay to replace. Whatever your reasons, you need to set a limit to how many of those things you can realistically hang on to.
Often, Let it go is the toughest step because, inevitably, we come up against some things we just can't seem to get rid of. Considering the value an item has to you or to someone else can actually be the first step in letting things go and escaping the fourth R.