Should I Save or Should It Go?

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Originally posted 2008-06-26 10:00:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

People who are collectors love to tell me that things they've held onto for years and years have actually come in handy, so it was worthwhile to keep it. There's often a note of triumph in their voices when they come to the story's punchline, "and I had one!" They assume that I'm against keeping things and they want to head off any suggestions I might have for downsizing.

Elephant
Sometimes, the story is that they decided to get rid of a bunch of stuff that hadn't been used in decades and "the very next day" they needed one of those things. They reluctantly decide it's a big mistake to get rid of anything at all, although they would like to have less clutter. What to do?

I heard a story like the latter one recently and it occurred to me that the storyteller was asking the wrong questions to determine what to keep and what not to keep. He asked himself if he'd used the item in question in the past few years and the answer was no. So, out it went.

But if he had asked, "what will I do if I need this next week and I don't have it?" he would've gotten more helpful answers. Could he borrow one, rent one or buy a new one? Could he farm out the item on long term loan to a friend with the proviso that he could borrow it back as needed? Could he make do somehow with items he did keep? And how would those options feel? If none were acceptable, keeping the item would be the best answer.

The idea is to look into the future ("what will I do?") and not the past ("I haven't used this in years") to make your decision. The future is where you're going to use it (or not).

[White elephant courtesy of Lenny Montana's photostream]

Clutter is Tiring

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Originally posted 2012-01-17 15:58:31. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

It’s exhausting, actually.

It’s hard on the eyes.

It hems you in.

Sometimes it feels like it’s just in the background, just there in case you need it. But then you remember how relieved and calm you felt last time you cleared out that clutter, as if a weight had been lifted.

Clutter niggles at you, subtly draining your energy.

Old magazines whisper “read me!” Piles of clothes coax “come sort me!” Your crafts bag says “come play with me!” This creates a low level of background chatter in your brain that’s more distracting than you realize.

One of my clients has a lot of clothing. More than will fit in her closets. The last time I saw her, the ironing board in the bedroom and the chair next to it were piled high with clothes. We’ve made progress, but it’s a big project.

It seemed to me that she was feeling worn down by constantly seeing the piles and waking up to them every morning. So, we moved them to her office. Now, that’s not a solution, it’s just an interim step in this long project.

Her mood lightened up right away.

She took a big breath and stretched her arms out. The room suddenly felt bigger and more restful to the eyes. I predict she’s sleeping better at night too.

If you have a lot of sorting to do, try to keep it contained or covered in between sessions. You’re not hiding the truth, you’re letting yourself focus on other parts of your life instead of being nagged all the time by this undone project.

Here are a couple of sorting techniques to try: triage and quick declutter.

Organizing Overwhelm Cure

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6523852953_592dddf0e1_nWhen you feel overwhelmed by an organizing project or task, it’s often because you’re looking at the entire forest and not each individual tree. You can’t see the trees for the forest, to bend a common phrase.

Looking at the big picture is worthwhile, but in order to get down to work and sort through things and organize, you need to focus on each individual tree. The forest will just distract you.

I went through tote bags and handbags with a client recently. She has lots, enough to more than cover her dining table. When we dumped them all out, she backed away from the table, feeling overcome by the sheer quantity. It seemed impossible to her that we could make any order out of it.

But soon we were putting the bags into categories. Slowly, some sense emerged from the pile. As long as she was able to concentrate on each bag, recognize it and identify it, she could be complete and move on to the next.

That last part is key. When you look at the entire forest, your mind darts back and forth and never settles anywhere. All these unmade decisions and unfinished plans! Putting attention on one thing, making a decision and moving on is the way to get through.

Build Your Own Organizing System

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Originally posted 2009-04-14 11:06:01. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I don’t follow a particular organizing method or recommend a specific system. My clients all have their own unique needs, ways of thinking and taste. The challenge is to come up with something that works with the least amount of fuss and bother.

My friend and fellow entrepreneur, Erin Saul, has developed her system by trial and error. The visual aspect is important to her, as is being able to see a whole month at a glance. It’s not, as she says, “elegant,” but it does the job and she likes it. I asked her to share it with my blog readers, so here’s her description:

IMG_0429 When I quit the day job to run two businesses from home, it took me a while to get organized in a new way. I finally came up with a weekly schedule that would apply some kind of — if not routine, then maybe STRUCTURE to my week. But with the way my mind works, it was difficult to find some existing method of keeping me on track. I tried a couple versions of some productivity software, but they didn’t really work. I had to make it myself.

It’s rudimentary, but it made sense to me. And then I found that it didn’t work… but it sure was a good idea at the time!

Instead, now…  I’ll admit it: I keep three calendars:

IMG_0431 1)  The TO-GO PLANNER, which is a dual week-at-a-glance/month-at-a-glance color-coded piece of brilliance I found at The Container Store, and which I take EVERYWHERE with me. The MONTHLY part is what I use when booking events with clients and hang-time with friends. The WEEKLY pages have a timeline/appointment section and also a color-coded section which corresponds nicely to my ‘Business 1′, ‘Business 2′, and ‘Personal’. I can make more granular notes of what to do when, and see how my day is weighted. This weekly part informs my DAILY to-do list…

2)  I make a separate DAILY to-do list on a 3×5 index card, which fits in my pocket, and which I can access easily and frequently throughout the day to check on my progress, and add more things that need doing, as I think of them. Part of that to-do list is the MAKING of it, which is when I consult the WEEKLY color-coded part of the TO-GO PLANNER I carry around with me. That’s when I try to make sure everything matches.

3)  The BIG WALL CALENDAR is mostly for fun, but keeps my head in the game when I’m in my home office, planning my days and weeks and months. I’m a visual learner/rememberer… so the color-coded stickies are for visual reference: Do I have enough pink ones to achieve my goals? Do I have everything done far enough in advance of the yellow events? Did I send birthday cards? And, maybe most importantly, this is where I can see days that have NO events, where I can spend the day on those pesky tasks it takes all day to do (like taxes!).

I realize that this all seems like the OPPOSITE of a simple, elegant system… but it works for me. Digital calendars and PDA solutions don’t help me because I can’t get a good VIEW of a day, week, or month the way my mind needs to see it. When my head starts swimming with random, disorganized things-to-do… that’s when they slip through the cracks, and when I start getting cranky. I’ve learned these things about myself… and also that I’m one of those bizarro organize-y people who just love calendars. This way, I get to use three! The key is to find something that works for you and to be diligent about it. I also found that I love routine. When I get to start my morning making my daily to-do list with some hot tea, that grounds me. Then I’m off and running toward a productive day!

Erin’s company, Namaste Mofo™, designs and sells T-shirts with “irreverently reverent yoga slogans” on them. The company motto is that all human beings are complex and can honestly embrace holistic ideals and still be totally punk rock. She rocks!

Use Email to Stay Organized

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Originally posted 2008-10-08 17:26:08. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I asked my friend David over dinner one night how he manages to keep on top of all his projects at work. I don't always talk about organizing with friends, but I often discover new ways to do things from them, and that's always fun. He said that he uses his email program.

Juggler
How does that work? For each project he opens a new email and starts typing in bullet points for all the tasks that need to be done that day. The emails are automatically saved as drafts and he can quickly cycle through them to see at a glance what's happening. He continues to add to them during the day, including notes from conversations and other emails. So he ends up with an outline of all project activity for the day.

He sends the emails to himself using the date and project in the subject line and then keeps them in the appropriate project folder. Sometimes they're also mailed to other people working on the project, saving him the step of copying information from other sources. And he has a chronological, easily accessible log of project activity.

I like this idea because it's simple and fast, it uses a program he already knows (no learning curve) and the information is easily transferred elsewhere, including to other people.

Juggler from jayniebell's photostream

The Six Styles of Procrastination

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Originally posted 2011-06-01 10:47:17. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Hey, it’s like a quiz! Don’t you love taking quizzes? Identify your particular procrastination style and try the suggested solutions. Or try any of the solutions that appeal to you, even if you don’t match the style. If it works, it works.

These definitions come from the book It’s About Time, by psychologist Linda Sapadin, condensed by me. You may have characteristics of several types; that’s okay. Pretty normal, actually.

The Perfectionist
These people don’t want to finish, or even start, a project that they fear won’t be perfect.  They waste time refining and honing their work, but adding no value.

How to overcome:

  • Set absolute deadlines.
  • Devise other criteria and adhere to it.  Remember that anything can be improved infinitely.  There’s no ending point for improving something.  You have to pick an end point and stick to it.
  • Most of the details you’re worrying about won’t matter in the end
  • Keep in mind how much effort you can afford, given everything else that’s going on in your life.

The Dreamer
These people are better at ideas than execution.  Actually doing the work seems tedious and boring.  They are vague about how to make things happen and tend to believe they’ll be magically rescued.

How to overcome:

  • Make plans in writing
  • Talk to others regularly to “test your reality”
  • Give yourself specific tasks to do, some routine and some that make your dreams reality
  • Use a timer to keep yourself on track and honest.

The Worrier
These people fear risk and always worry “what if?”  They put off acting if it means doing something unfamiliar or uncomfortable

How to overcome:

  • Remember that avoiding decisions is still deciding
  • Motivate yourself by focusing on the positive outcome you desire
  • Break down your tasks as small as possible to circumvent fear

The Defier
These people hate feeling controlled by others.  The feel oppressed by mundane chores.  “You can’t make me” is their line.

How to overcome:

  • Realize that people are requesting you to do something, not demanding it
  • Don’t take it personally!
  • Do what you know is right, even if it means “giving in.”

The Crisis Maker
These people are adrenaline junkies.  They thrive on and even create near disasters because they’re exciting.

How to overcome:

  • Don’t wait to feel excited about a project.  That might not happen until you get involved in something.
  • Satisfy your need for speed in more benign ways, like speed cleaning your kitchen.
  • Before you act, focus on how you’ll feel later, not just in the moment.

The Over Doer
These people are indecisive and unassertive.  They say yes to everyone and then get stuck.  They over commit and burn out.

How to overcome:

  • Realize you aren’t superwoman, and you’re fine the way you are now.
  • Don’t let the priorities of others take precedence over your own.
  • Remember that you are already in control of your time.  You are choosing what happens to you.  Let that empower you to make positive decisions.

Still stumped? You could get a few customized tips to deal with your particular brand of procrastination during a free 20 minute consultation. I’m offering this for another week or so. Jump on it!

How to Organize Books

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Originally posted 2008-06-04 09:46:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I like an organic approach to organizing books. By that I mean that I suggest paying attention to how you use your books and what works well with your current set up before rearranging them.

  • You may find that books you use a lot are already on the most convenient shelf. If not, that's a good place to start. It doesn't matter if those books are on different subjects and are different sizes, keeping them as handy as possible is a good idea. If you have a visual memory, returning your books each time to the same spot makes it easier to find them next time.Bookshelf
  •  If you like a fun, decorative look to the bookshelf, arrange your books by the colors of the spines.
    When I first saw this method it seemed silly to me, but then I realized that it would be easy to start remembering my books by their colors.
  • If your bookshelves are spaced far apart, maximize the space by putting
    your books on the shelves horizontally. This also makes it easier to
    read the titles.
  • Use loosely grouped categories where needed. My bookshelf has several sections: professional reference, travel, decorating and home care, and gardening are some of them. Not all the books are categorized. It makes sense to categorize them when I'll refer to more than one at a time.
  • Once you start reorganizing, make sure you really want and need each book. People often find it very hard to get rid of books, but just like anything else in your home that you don't use, books can be clutter. Release the ones that aren't serving you anymore.

Gorgeous bookshelves courtesy of chotda's flickr stream.

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Organize All Over

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Originally posted 2009-07-10 12:44:54. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Hedge maze Accepted wisdom has it that you should concentrate on organizing one spot at a time. No wandering about, getting distracted and off task. Usually, that’s good advice.

For general tidying up, however, I think it works well to be all over the map. One of the problems people have with focusing on one spot is restlessness. Focus requires mental attention and physical discipline. When the physical part is difficult, moving around is the solution. Hence, the walkabout tidy-up.

Instead of making a pile of stuff that goes to other rooms, just take the things there as you find them. When you get to the next room, see what you can tidy while you’re in there. Move from room to room as it suits you. Staying in motion can do wonders to keep you on task. In fact, it’s important not to sit down because you don’t want to start reading that magazine you just picked up (no reading while standing!).

Walking around also gets your blood moving and helps energize you. Sprinting from room to room isn’t necessary, but if it makes the job more appealing, try it! It’s always worthwhile to try a technique you haven’t tried before. It could work, or it could give you new insight into why you do things your way.

Hedge Maze from kevingessner‘s photostream.

How to Weed Out Your Clothes Closet

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Originally posted 2008-06-06 09:38:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

It can be hard to know where to start when you want to pare down your clothes. If you're going to spend some time and go through everything, take it all out and pile it on the bed. That way you have to make a commitment to keeping something by putting it back in the closet. When you flip through the garments on their hangers, it's too easy just to keep everything.

 If you want to do a quicker purge, try my friend Ellen's technique, "Always, Sometimes, Never." Start at one end of the hanging rack and ask your self whether you wear each garment always, sometimes or never.

  1. "Always" is for clothing you wear all the time. It also makes you look and feel good. (If you're wearing
    something a lot that doesn't make you look and feel good, we have to talk…)Dress up
  2. "Sometimes" is for garments you don't wear that often, but they have a specific function, such as a
    velvet top you would wear to a fancy dinner or a pantsuit for special business meetings.
  3. "Never" is for anything that you never wear because:
  • Even though you paid a lot for it, you don't like it
  • It doesn't fit
  • It doesn't make you look great
  • Even though it was a gift, you just don't like it
  • It doesn't make you feel great
  • It's damaged and not worth fixing
  • It seemed like a good idea at the time, but, honestly, you don't like it

Keep the Always and Sometimes items (the Sometimes items might be better off at the back of the closet where they're out of the way). Get rid of the Never items. If it's just that you don't like them, they may have resale value. If not, cut to the chase and donate them to the thrift store.

The quicker you get them out of your life, the better. Why? Because now you have room, physically and psychically, to get some new clothes that you love and make you look and feel fantastic!

Have you purged your closet recently? How did it go?

New Year's Resolution Ideas for Getting Organized

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Originally posted 2010-12-27 14:10:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Autumn CycleGetting organized, along with losing weight and quitting smoking, is on most people's list of new year's resolutions. Here are some ideas for resolutions, and three rules for increasing your success at keeping those resolutions.

First rule for any resolution: keep it small enough to be do-able. You want a goal that's reachable soon, even if it seems insignificant. You're setting the stage for the next, bigger goal. Success breeds success.

Second rule: It's all about you. Don't compare yourself to others, especially that more organized neighbor or relative. You have your own unique skills, talents, desires and motives. Work with them, not against them. Start where you are now.

Okay, here are some suggestions. Scale them up or down as needed.

  • I will sort my mail every day
  • I will spend 30 minutes a week decluttering (use a timer!)
  • I will give away magazines before the next issue arrives even if I haven't gotten around to reading them
  • I will keep a shopping bag in my closet to put clothes I'm donating in
  • I will keep my to-do list small and manageable (put it on a Post-It)

The challenge:
How do you remember to do all these wonderful things? Despite your best intentions, you may find it hard to work these new behaviors into your life. Make it easier with reminders that work for you. Use Post-Its on the bathroom mirror; a classic. Programmed, regular email reminders are my favorite. Find a partner to trade reminders with on the phone every week.

Third rule: don't beat yourself up if you get behind. Just start again. Remember when you learned to ride a bike? How often did you fall off before you were able to fly down the street on that thing? Once you were flying, you probably didn't think about the falling part anymore. So, get on the bike.