Embrace your personal organizing style

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Originally posted 2012-10-30 20:33:07. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

“I can’t be organized.”

“I never learned about organizing.”

“My mom was a packrat and so am I.”

“My father was super neat and always gave me a hard time about my mess.”

“My grandparents lived through the Depression so they keep everything.”

Have you said any of those things? If so, here’s the truth:

Your ability to be organized has nothing to do with your genes.

It may have to do with your personal history, but only if you want to stick to that story.

Sandra Felton, the founder of Messies Anonymous, says that messies can come from “cleanie” homes or messy homes or any combination thereof. Whatever your experience was, you have the capacity to become a cleanie, or at least move in that direction.

One of my clients told me that her cleanie mother tried to teach her organizing skills and she just didn’t get it. She felt hopeless and dumb. Her story brings up another aspect of being organized.

There’s not just one way to be organized.

Isn’t that great news?

Your thinking style, learning style and personality style all factor into how you organize your world. Your mother may be organized but also visual and sentimental. She crowds tabletops with family photographs. If your style is more “hider”, you won’t grow up with any clues on how to organize in drawers, cabinets or closets because you didn’t witness it. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it, it just means you haven’t learned how yet.

We are suckers for systems that lay out exactly what we should do for success, but then we blame ourselves when they don’t work. Here’s the thing: you need to hack the systems to suit you. Discover and embrace your own organizing style, based on who you are today, right now, and how you like to live.

Reduce Gift Clutter

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Originally posted 2010-10-21 12:44:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Cover design2 It’s book chapter Wednesday (um, Thursday). Here you go! Like it? You can buy the ebook here.

Simple Way #8

Reduce Gift Clutter

Request non-cluttering gifts such gourmet food, show tickets, donations in your name, wine, flowers, etc. It may seem awkward at first to tell friends and family about your new policy; after all, they’re giving you a gift! But it can also help them to know that you’re going to like what they give you and they don’t have to try to read your mind. There may always be an Aunt Martha who insists on giving you an unwanted fruitcake. Refer back to Simple Way #7 for advice.

Make it your policy to give clutter-free gifts yourself. Ask what they want. Develop your own selection of gifts such as memberships, special excursions or a personal service that you provide.

Right now:
Make a list of gifts you’d like to get so when people ask you, or when holidays are coming up, you can suggest them.


Are You an Overdoer Procrastinator?

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Originally posted 2009-05-29 13:30:47. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

This is the second part of my series on Linda Sapadin's six procrastination styles, based on her book, It's About Time! Last year I wrote about perfectionism. Today's style is overdoing. The other styles are the dreamer, the defier, the worrier and the crisis-maker.

House of cards People who are overdoers:

  • feel they have to do more work than others to prove themselves, even if it's too much to handle
  • hate to say no or ask for help, again from a desire for approval and respect
  • spread themselves too thin, causing them to have to work even harder
  • let their work rule their time so that personal needs and relationships are put on hold
  • have a hard time relaxing without feeling guilty or ashamed

Now, how do you go about changing those habits? Dr. Sapadin writes that overdoers often have low self-esteem and overwork to compensate for it. In my view, they also let their lives be controlled by external forces.

A good place to start in overcoming overdoing is to bring yourself back to your own goals, your own vision of how you want to live. Take a clear, hard look at all that you do and be honest about whether each activity is fulfilling to you or something you're doing for approval, image or obligation.

Here are Dr. Sapadin's suggestions:

  • Accept that you can't "have it all." You're not superwoman or superman and that's fine.
  • Remember that life is an adventure, not a struggle. We all have different capacities for work; when you exceed yours it starts to be drudgery instead of exciting.
  • Distinguish between what you believe is important to do versus what others want, or what you "should" be doing
  • Don't depend on others for approval. This gets easier the more you reaffirm your own goals and desires.
  • Remember that ultimately it's you who decides how to spend your time. You aren't really a victim of other people or circumstances, so take back your control.
  • Write leisure time into your schedule so you'll remember to take a break!

House of cards from vincegiantesano's photostream

Clear Clutter to Create Physical and Mental Space

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Originally posted 2008-04-18 10:00:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I just started a business incubator to get some of my ideas off the ground. It’s called Ladies Who Launch, and so far I’m loving it! For those of us who work solo, as I do, it’s really helpful to get help and support from a group like this.

Our first homework assignment has three tasks, one of which is to get organized! Our fearless leader Jennifer rightly recognizes that whenever you take on a big project or otherwise want to make a significant change, you can get the energy moving by clearing out some clutter. You create flow and also actually make space for something new and wonderful to happen.

Even if you don’t have a project to start, do a little organizing and see if it doesn’t shift something!

Brain Dump = Less Clutter in Your Head

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Originally posted 2011-04-08 12:33:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Elaine heard me talk about what I do at a breakfast meeting. She pointed at me across the room and said, “I need that!” We made an appointment for the following week and I could hear the relief in her voice.

Her schedule was full, but that wasn’t the problem. Elaine is a high energy person and likes to stay busy. She has a finger in lots of pies and her calendar was getting kind of messy, with all that cherry juice spilled on it.

What she needed was a brain dump.

She wrote out all that she does on a giant sheet of paper, the kind you use for meeting presentations. There were little notes and arrows added here and there. Some of her projects weren’t getting enough attention. In other areas, she felt she was spending too much time and not getting what she wanted.

Elaine described her days to me, what she did, what she needed to do, what she really wanted to do and how she liked working with various clients.

I helped her step back from the forest of her schedule so she could see the individual trees and how they fit together (or didn’t).

I asked her questions that helped her get even more objective about her schedule. Was her lunch break too short? She agreed it was short, but her priority was to be done with work by 3:30 every day to be with her kids. Was it worthwhile to work for a client she had to commute over an hour to? Yes, because she got a steady stream of new clients there.

She was frustrated that one client wanted more from her than she could do in the four hours a week they contracted. We came up with a couple of ideas to get around that, such as writing a proposal for a new program they could offer that would not only help their clients, but would prevent them from being sued (which had happened more than once) and therefore save them money. She has a lot of passion about this topic and is dying to teach it!

These ideas came out of my asking Elaine questions that she hadn’t asked because she was too close to the situation. Why did the client want her to do the extra work? If it was so important, why wasn’t the regular staff doing it? What would happen if it didn’t get done? What would change for the better if it got done?

What’s all this got to do with managing time?

The brain dump helped Elaine see where she was putting in effort that got great results. She could shift time from one area to another to get more bang for her buck. She realized that she was making a conscious decision to use some time in a way that wasn’t wildly productive, but she was happy with it.

Elaine knows now where her time is going and why. The point isn’t, in her case, to squeeze the utility out of every single minute, but to be intentional about how she spends her time.

Her decisions about time are connected to how she wants to live her life and accomplish her best work.

That leads to her trusting herself more and feeling confident. Investigating her schedule showed her what really matters to her and how to get more of that. Connecting to what’s meaningful to her gives her a sense of ease and assurance so she can get out there and make things happen.


Could you use a brain dump? Well, you’re in luck. I don’t usually do one-off sessions, but for the next month (till May 6) I’m offering these consultations for free. Yes, free. For as many people as I can fit in my schedule.

I’m doing it as a Customer Love thing, first of all. That means I get to find out what will help my people the most so I can do more of that. I’m also doing it to spread the word about how incredibly valuable this service is. I’ll get the details out by Monday, but feel free to ask a question in the comments below.

Brain coral by seanmcgrath

Productivity App

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A software engineer reached out to me last week to let me know about an app she and her partner developed to increase their own productivity as they worked on their start up. It’s called 52 Wins.

There’s a companion blog that will record the successes of the app users as they build a skill, try something new, stick to a plan or whatever it is they choose as a goal over the coming year. Sounds inspiring! Having a community of folks also working on their goals is a great support to working on your own.

They are offering the app to 10,000 people for free, people who truly want to be more productive. You can get in on the action here.

Organizing Appliances of the Future

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Originally posted 2008-07-21 10:00:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Any day now, the wonders of modern technology will be put to use helping you get organized around the house! Well, maybe not, but a gal can dream, can’t she?

The Mail-o-Matic.  Just feed your mail by the armload into the top chute (you can’t overload this baby!) and the Mail-o-Matic will sort it for you! Mail drops into labeled slots, ready to read. Position the side exit tube over your recycling bin for one-step junk mail handling.Vacuum

The Clutter Buster Deluxe. You’ve heard of in-wall vacuum systems, haven’t you? Well, this beats them cold! The Clutter Buster Deluxe uses a system of small in-wall tunnels that lead to all the rooms of your home. Simply plug the wide mouth nozzle into the wall receptacle and sweep over the floor of any room, and all the items will be sucked up and sent down the tunnels to the appropriate rooms (items are specially pre-tagged by your technician). Activate the junk sensor and the Clutter Buster Deluxe will extract the useless items from the stream and direct them straight to the garbage can!

Nano-ize It! If you’re running out of room to put away all your stuff (and who isn’t these days?), just nano-ize it. This handy device shrinks your stuff down to microscopic size so it can be jammed in to any nook or cranny. Just aim the ray at your stuff, keeping pets and children safely away, and voila! All shrunk down and ready to store! (Macro-izer sold separately.)

Do you have an idea for a space-age organizing appliance that would make your life ever so much easier? Share it here!

Vacuum Party courtesy of Keep My Day Job’s photostream

Organizing kitchen spices

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Originally posted 2014-05-20 16:11:19. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I worked with a client unpacking and setting up her kitchen this week. I corralled and sorted all her spice containers; jars, plastic bags, paper bags, plastic boxes, fabric bags; and we saw that there were duplicates and even triplicates of some spices.

One problem is that spices don’t all come in the same kind of container and plastic bags don’t work well in a spice rack. That means that some spices end up packed into a larger container in the pantry, away from the jars in the rack.

They’re usually not very usable there because the bags are rolled up or not labelled clearly. In this case they were also pretty tightly packed together. When it’s hard to find one, it’s easier just to buy more and then you end up with doubles and triples.

With spices, that’s a waste of money because they don’t keep very long. Not many cooks need half a cup of turmeric on hand all the time. I like Spicely brand boxed spices because the quantity is small. So here’s what we did:

  1. We got rid of all the expired spices. Some were dated. Some we judged on their color and smell; lack of either means toss it.
  2. We got rid of extra spices. One average spice jar-full is plenty to keep. We tried to select the newest ones to keep judged as described above.
  3. We now had spare jars to wash and empty the bagged spices into. Even so, the jars aren’t exactly the same size. I recommended that the client either start buying one brand or buy her own jars. Uniform containers with uniform labels make it much easier to find what you need quickly.
  4. We used a labelled to identify the jars and put them in the rack in alphabetical order. Some cooks like to sort by type of cuisine, or by the spices they use most often; those methods are fine too. With alphabetical sorting, I put the blends in their own section at the end.

Other spicy notes:

Don’t keep spices above your stove. The heat will destroy the flavor.

Select a spice container based on your cooking style and preferences. If you have a drawer available, you can get handy inserts to keep the jars in place. To save space, attach a rack or two to the inside of a cabinet. If you like having them on the counter, use a tiered lazy Susan. A graduated riser shelf unit is great if you have cabinet space for one.

Photos courtesy of The Container Store

Multitasking Revisited

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Originally posted 2008-08-06 11:07:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

One man band
My previous, multitasking-bashing post may have given the impression that I'm against multitasking. I'm not. I'm for anything that helps you get your work done. Multitasking, or the illusion thereof, is appropriate when:

  1. You have a short attention span
  2. You crave novelty
  3. You're easily bored
  4. You're energized when there's a lot going on at once
  5. Deadlines motivate and thrill you

The caveats here are that:

  1. You need to be actually accomplishing things, not just spinning your wheels (however fast they go)
  2. You don't create crises for others and hinder their work
  3. You do not alienate people by giving them only half your attention
  4. You're aware that you're not getting things done faster or even more effectively, you're just using a work style that suits you

I'm a firm believer in finding ways to be organized and efficient that work with the way you are now, not the person you think you should be. Change your environment to suit you, not the other way around.

Personally, I hate multitasking. When I do it, I find that I can remember the primary task I did, but the secondary focus ones get forgotten. That means I have to go back and check to see if I did them, which is a waste of time and annoying to boot.

There's very little on the Internet in support of multitasking! This article is one of the few. Vos Savant makes some very good points, such as why talking on the phone while driving is completely different from talking to your passenger.

One Man Band from Jaroslaw Pocztarski's photostream.

Cute Fruit Storage

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Originally posted 2008-08-13 10:21:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I guess I've got fruit on the brain. I came across this striking fruit holder on Declutter It! My first thought was that it looks like a toilet seat. But now I think it looks kind of like a life preserver. It's certainly unusual and would be a definite conversation piece.

Fruit ring
If your kitchen's horizontal spaces are full, this would be a great thing to have since it uses wall space (although I'm not clear on whether you can actually buy one or it's just a design). I suppose you could use it for other round-ish foods like onions or potatoes. Or put it in the bedroom and use it for balled up socks. Or in the bathroom for soap (that's a lot of soap, though).