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  • Paper vs. electronic
  • If paper: wall or portable
  • To do’s vs. appointments
  • Personal vs. business
  • Repeating events
  • Family calendar
  • Where to keep it
  • When to look at it


The Seven Deadly Organizing Sins: Gluttony

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Shopping carts Here’s the second installment of my tongue-in-cheek series based on the seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride.

The sin of gluttony is pretty easy to identify as it applies to clutter. It means over consumption, particularly “to the point of waste.” We live in a retail culture and consuming is part of our identity. Americans are used to being referred to as consumers, cogs in the machinery of our economy. It’s our patriotic duty to buy stuff.

But at some point, you have to stop pointing your finger at insidious advertising and the countless other cultural messages compelling you to over consume. Take responsibility for what comes through your door and makes itself at home in your life.

Gluttony is what leads you to buy the latest gadget even though you don’t need it. Gluttony makes you want all the versions of something, in every color, instead of just one. Gluttony encourages you to go to the mall and shop because you feel the need to buy something, anything.

To avoid sin: Don’t shop just to shop; shop with a list in hand. Before you buy, ask yourself, do I need this? Do I love it? Where will I put it? How much will I use it? Is it easy to maintain and keep clean? Do I already have something just like this at home? If you’re replacing something, promise yourself to get rid of the old one.

Shopping carts from Stoichiometry‘s photostream

Label Storage Containers with Pictures

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Last week I went to Kangaroom Storage’s brick and mortar store (360 Langton Street, Suite 105, San Francisco) grand opening with my pal/colleague Victoria Roberts-Russell. We saw lots of clever products for the home and colorful, fun ones for kids.

I asked designer Patricia Richman what hot concepts the company is currently working on. She said one of her favorites is designing products that encourage pre-reading kids to organize their own stuff. Labeling with words is incredibly helpful to keep things orderly and labeling with pictures does the same trick for little kids.

At right is a mini two-section sorting hamper with large plastic-covered slots on the front to add picture labels. This one was set up for laundry. Colored items go in the right side and whites (there would be an uncolored-in picture here) on the left side. It could also be set up with pictures of the two kids who use it, or with photos of dolls on one side and cars and trucks on the other side. You get the picture.

It’s never too early to get everyone in the family pitching in to keep the home organized, so I love this idea.

Get a Deadline

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Calendar At a presentation I did the other day, one of the participants came up with a great way to manage her time better: get a deadline. Someone had asked her for information and she wasn't willing to take time from her own work to give it right away. However, she didn't want to leave the person hanging either. If she knew when the info was needed by, she could work it into her schedule and not let it interrupt her.

Be proactive and give deadlines yourself. Make it easier for others to help you by letting them know exactly what you need and when you need it.

Free Ecourse Sign Up Page

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So, you want to get organized but you’re not quite ready to hire an organizer. Or maybe you know you can do it yourself, but you need a little guidance and hand holding. This ecourse, Seven Steps to Successful Organizing, may be just the thing.

You’ll learn important, basic concepts that you can use for any organizing project. I’ll take you through each step and give you specific homework to do for each step. You’ll feel calm and in control even if your project isn’t finished because now you know how to finish it. If you do the work, I guarantee you’ll make progress!

Why am I offering this for free? Well, I’m passionate about helping people live the way they want to live and spend their time the way that fulfills them. It’s true that clients pay me for clutter coaching, in person and on the phone, but if all they need is a little push, a bit of hand holding, I’m happy to offer that. I don’t want someone to hire me and then find out that they could’ve gotten the help they needed for free! That’s a lose/lose situation.

That said, some folks learn best with me right beside them, guiding them. They want a real person to ask questions and bounce ideas off of. Personal connection with me is what spurs their progress. I offer free clutter coaching in person if you’re in my area and over the phone (video calls are available!) if you’re not. You can read about my in-person service here and phone coaching here.

I suggest starting with the ecourse. You might find that it’s all you need. If that turns out to be true, I’d love to have our comments about how well the steps worked for you. By doing the ecourse, you’ll also learn about my style and what I can offer if you hire me or if you just stay in touch via the ezine and reading my blog.

When you sign up for the ecourse, you’ll also be getting a free subscription to my monthly ezine. The ezine is a short, sweet tip for the month, or a product review, or some news from the organizing field that I think you can use. It’s also another way to stay engaged with your organizing projects.

Below are the seven steps. Each one builds on the previous one. Keep these emails after you finish the course. They’ll be a valuable resource to use over and over. Although you’ll learn a lot, what’s really important is the habits you build. Repeating the ecourse will cement those new practices into your daily life so you can get to that ideal state: not having to think about them! They’ll come naturally, just like brushing your teeth.

  1. Why get organized?
  • Develop your vision
  • Have your own compelling reasons, not someone else’s
  • How motivated are you?

2.    Habits and Decisions

  • Habits make tasks easier and go faster
  • Decide to decide. Not deciding means a decision will be made for you
  • Start with one; pick one specific thing you want to change and practice it
  • Start small; choose a situation where you can make a low risk decision

3.    Evaluate your space

  • Learn tricks to be objective about your space
  • Notice what currently differs from your vision and make specific notes
  • Also note what is working and why you think it works

4.    Evaluate your behavior

  • Be honest about the way you live in your space
  • What did you try that worked? What didn’t work?
  • Embrace your personal preferences and lifestyle

5.    Make a plan

  • It doesn’t need to be perfect or complete, but you need to start
  • Write your plan down; don’t keep it in your head. Writing clarifies.
  • Look for the best solution that is closest to what you do now; the shortest distance between two points
  • Be able to switch back and forth between the master plan and the specific steps you take to get there
  • Gather supplies

6.    Make the time

  • You do not have spare time. You must make time.
  • Be realistic about how much time you have to devote to getting organized
  • You don’t need large chunks of time. You just need to fit the right tasks into the right time slots
  • Schedule your time on the calendar so you won’t give it away
  • Don’t wait till you know everything, just start

7.    Make it a lifestyle

  • Staying organized is a journey, not a destination
  • Remember, habits are your friends
  • Don’t get caught up in the process; remember why you’re doing this
  • You may need to scale back your vision to make it do-able. There’s nothing wrong with that
  • Become as organized as you need to be and no more

Below is the link to sign up. Just enter your first name and email address and the robot-prevention code and you’re good to go! I look forward sending you Step 1!

You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription. After you do that, your first Ecourse step will arrive very soon. Thanks!

Email Marketing You Can Trust

Computer Cord Organizer

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The MOS organizer is a beautiful thing. I’m guessing its designers are Apple fans because the packaging is equally beautiful and clever; the device sits in a drawer in its box and you pull an orange ribbon tab to slide it open.

I love it when office supplies are fun and nice to look at. No one should have to put up with dull, strictly utilitarian stuff at home or at work. This little gizmo has a very pleasing round edged shape and comes in a matte finish aluminum that complements my Macbook.

The MOS solves a problem I didn’t realize I had until I saw what it does. Now I realize how annoying it’s been to reach blindly around the floor under my desk for my laptop power cord or phone charger. It holds the cords with a strong magnet, so I can pop some paper clips on there too, if I want.

The company is running a Kickstarter program for their next product, a superior audio cable paired with a smaller version of the MOS, the Menos (nice play on the words “mas” (the MOS) and “menos” for you Spanish speakers). Judging from the quality, utility and beauty of the current product, the new additions will be terrific.

In the Kickstarter video, they say they’re waging a war against car clutter. Gotta love that!

You can read about the newbies and pledge money here: MOS Spring and MOS Menos. The campaign ends Saturday, so hop on over.

Declutter Your Reading List

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Cover design2 It's book chapter Wednesday. Here you go! Like it? You can buy the ebook here.

Simple Way #9

Reading List

Reading material constitutes a lot of the paper that people struggle with. If you get two daily newspapers, a few weekly magazines and 5-6 monthly publications, your reading pile gets high very quickly. Clipping articles for later is a good strategy, but it’s also time consuming and recommended only for important information you can’t get elsewhere or will use immediately.

Keep your paper stacks under control by making sure you allow time to read all that you subscribe to and when you can’t, that you get rid of back issues to make room for the new ones. This requires being honest about how much time you can and will devote to reading. Newspapers and news magazines should be the first to go because they become obsolete so quickly.

Right now:
If you still have yesterday’s newspaper or last week’s magazines, put them in the recycling now.


Embrace your personal organizing style

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“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.

The Sublime Thrill of an Empty Box

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It’s said people are motivated by two things: seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. Of course, we also want to make a difference in the world, be compassionate and kind to animals; that’s the big picture.

Those big picture motivators don’t always work so well when it comes to finishing an organizing project.

Sometimes we just don’t wanna do it and that’s that.

Discovering what motivates you in terms of pleasure and pain can help you over that hump. One of my clients noticed how excited and pleased she felt when she emptied a cardboard box and tossed it over to the door for recycling. Whee!

She realized how important it was to celebrate her “little victories.”

It gave her a ton of encouragement to go on, just seeing one more box leave her apartment for good. She exulted in the empty spot where the box had been taking up space.

What about avoiding pain? That can be pretty motivating. Finally setting up automatic bill pay after racking up way too many late fees is an example of that. Another one is installing a hook near the front door for your keys so you can stop being late to meetings.

What are some ways you’ve motivated yourself to do something that you really want to do, but are having trouble staying committed to?

Make a not to do list

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ImageTo do lists are a dime a dozen. I’ll bet you have a dozen hiding somewhere on your desk.

They have important tasks on them, but are also liberally peppered with:

  • things you don’t really have to do
  • things you keep saying you’ll do, but don’t
  • things you have no intention of doing, but think you should
  • things that were a good idea at the time, but have become irrelevant

You get the picture. The problem with having them on your to do list is that they distract you from the real to do’s, the ones that will make you money, advance your career and develop your super powers.

The beauty of a “not to do” list is that you’re allowed to keep it in the back of a drawer in the unlikely event that you’ll want to move something back to the do-able realm. Nothing will be lost. This also stops them from nagging at you.

That’s it! Start now. Hone your to do list into a powerful tool, not a catchall for every idea that comes across your desk.