You CAN be organized and clutter free. Yes, you!

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Imagine this:

  • Your to do list works for you, not against you
  • Everything in your closet is clean, ready to wear and appealing
  • You open a drawer and immediately find what you were looking for
  • Your home office inspires and energizes you to do your best work
  • Horizontal surfaces are clear and inviting

You can have this. Truly.

I can help you break through the mass of overwhelmingness.

I’ll guide you patiently and compassionately to get the peaceful, functional spaces you crave.

I’ll create systems specially for you to make it easy to keep your life clutter free and organized.

Does that sound appealing? Great!

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Podcast 081: Low energy productivity

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This is Podcast 81 and it’s about how you can be productive even if you’re sick, or tired or just feeling those low energy winter blues. In podcast 70 I talked about categorizing your tasks by context the way David Allen suggests. That’s what this is. You need a category of stuff to do when you’re not up for doing any of the hard stuff.

If you’re really sick, you should rest. Be unproductive while you get better, then get back into the swing of things, instead of working at quarter speed for a week and feeling like crap. This is for when you’re in that in-between stage, not sick enough to stay in bed but definitely not 100%. It’s for when you really want to get something done but you’re just staring into space.

This is the ideal time to do things that are boring or tedious but are worth doing because of the time and effort they save later on. Some of these tasks are known as administrivia, a word that I was surprised to learn was first used in 1937! Being bored by paperwork is not a new phenomenon.

Some examples of administrivia are reports you can get away with just skimming to get the content of them, nothing that requires deep reading. Expense reports or any kind of form or report that requires you to gather information you have and compile it, just filling in the little blanks and sending it off. Nice and mindless.

Do some filing. Get that pile off your desk and into the file drawer. Note: this works best if you have a good filing system, meaning one that isn’t overstuffed and that you can find things quickly in. Don’t just shove something into a folder and stick it in a drawer somewhere however tempting that may be.

Bonus activity: if you file regular publications that get updated monthly or yearly, make sure you recycle the old one when you put the new one in.

How about some scanning? That’s one of the most mindless tasks. You can do it while watching videos on Youtube. Again, it works best with a good filing system. Having a disc full of files with names like Scan121517_02 is the same thing as having a drawer full of folders labeled miscellaneous. You don’t have to give each one a proper name, but you do have to put it into a folder named receipts, expenses or something meaningful like that.

Gather up all your to do lists and scraps of paper with important notes written on them. Make one fresh, current list. You don’t have to do anything on the list. Just make sure it’s complete and accurate and all in one spot. It’s always a good idea to rewrite your lists. Refer back to Podcast 28 for more tips about how to make effective to do lists.

If you don’t have energy or focus for that task, you can simply do the collecting part. Collect all the loose paper that needs attention at some point. Divide it up into categories like to do list and file. There are other way to do this. You can label them according to the project they belong to. You can have a collection of items you need more information about in order to take action; ask someone a question, look something up, etc. Things to read is usually a big category. Try the idea I mentioned above first. A lot that comes into your life is just not critical information. It’s information that you can skim over and get the gist of and then let go of.

Remember that there will always be more information in the world than you can digest or even know about. Also remember that regular publications have to fill up pages every month or week or day. If nothing important happens on a given day, they’re not going to make the paper shorter, right?

Here’s another task to try, one that you’ll really benefit from later on. Weed out all those unwanted photos on your phone, the ones that are out of focus or your finger is in the way or they just didn’t turn out right or they’re near duplicates or triplicates. Out they go. At least do that part.

If you’re up for more, make sure your photos are uploaded into the cloud or onto your computer. I’ve heard many stories of people who lose their phones and also lose years worth of photos. So sad! Backing up is one of the annoying tasks and it can be confusing too, unfortunately. But you’ll be grateful for it later. Plus, you’ll have room to take new photos.

If you really want to do it right, go another step and organize those photos. Big categories are better than no categories. Start with ones like travel, family and friends. Or get more specific; like Hawaii 2016. If your photos are precious to you, make them easy to find so you can enjoy them and share them.

What you can do right now: Make a list of tasks that seem suitable to you for doing when you’re sick or tired. It’s good to have a list written out instead of in your head. When you’re not feeling well, you’re probably not thinking clearly so you won’t remember these things. Having a list to go to will help you avoid staring into space and wondering how you could spend your time better.

Podcast 080: Seeing

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This is Podcast #80 and it’s about Seeing. I mentioned the concept of inattentional blindness in podcast 69 about Noticing but I didn’t elaborate on exactly what it is. Basically, it means that you can look directly at something but not be conscious of seeing it, or remember seeing it.

Scientists previously believed that eyesight was like a video recorder, registering every single thing the eye saw. Now it seems more likely that although the eye may record all, much of this information isn’t processing in the conscious mind so it goes unnoticed.

If you didn’t watch the video, spoiler alert! Subjects are asked to watch a video of people tossing a ball to each other. Three have black shirts and three have white shirts. They need to count the number of times the white shirts pass the ball to each other. A person in gorilla suit walks into the group, faces the camera and pounds its chest, then walks off on the other side. More than 25% of subjects don’t see the gorilla! Hard to believe, isn’t it?

I think it makes sense though. Particularly if your visual field is crowded (meaning cluttered), there is too much information to process and still use your brain to perform other tasks. So the brain selectively filters out information. It’s not clear how the brain makes those decisions, however.

How does this apply to clutter in your home? When I work with clients going through a box, for example, my technique is to remove everything from box and lay it out on a surface, item by item, then organize the items by type into groups. This simple method helps the eye focus on individual items instead of seeing them en masse jumbled together in a drawer and having their brains become inattentionally blind to half the contents.

It also presents the contents in a novel way. Another side effect of inattentional blindness is being unable to see clearly a mass of items that one sees every day. In order to handle all this visual information, we rely on expectation.

We expect to see what we see every single day, it’s a shortcut to reprocessing that visual information. The problem is, if there’s a small change, our brains will sometimes fill in that spot with the old information because there’s no cue that this change is important and deserves attention. This is called confirmation bias.

Often we think of confirmation bias as believing in things just because we prefer them or would like them to be true. But it exists in situations not colored by emotion simply because of those ingrained expectations. Confirmation bias purposely leaves out factual information because experience shows that it hasn’t been needed.

But then we bump up against reality again. Say you have a drawer where you keep batteries, rubber bands, twist ties and things like that. One day you open it to put more batteries in but there isn’t any room. That’s the cue for you to suddenly notice that the drawer is half full of a bunch of miscellaneous items that don’t belong there and are taking up space. Previously, when you just opened the drawer to get a battery out, you’d be unlikely to notice that, and the drawer would go on being the batteries, rubber bands and twist ties drawer in your mind.

The good news is that you shouldn’t feel bad if you’ve let the clutter get out of control. It’s a little like being a frog in a pot of water slowing reaching a boil. It’s said that the frog won’t jump out and then it will be too late. Its circumstances are changing too slowly for it to become aware of the danger.

Now that clutter has your attention, you can do something about it. Not all at once, but little by little.

What you can do right now. Weed out a drawer. Refer back to Podcast 65 if you want to do your junk drawer. For any drawer, follow the recipe I gave earlier in the podcast. Take everything out and lay it out in one layer on a flat surface, ideally without anything touching anything else. Organize the items by type as far as you are able. Get rid of the obvious junk. Decide whether all that stuff should go back in the drawer.