Organize Magazine R.I.P.

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I went over to the Organize Magazine website today to get some ideas to post about and discovered that they're shutting down! What a shame. Just this year they won Best Organizing Magazine at the LA Organizing Awards.

Magazine publishing is a tough business, though. Martha Stewart's Blueprint magazine went under late last year, as did House & Garden. However, Blueprint's blog, Bluelines, is still around. I wonder if Organize Mag is considering that route. Apartment Therapy is a favorite blog of mine. I think there's room in the blogosphere for an AT-style blog devoted to organizing, don't you?

Tips for To-Do Lists

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I’m giving a talk tonight in San Francisco about optimizing your to-do list. There’s still time to sign up here: Biznik meeting.

To do list tattoo I’ll summarize my talk here, in case you can’t make it. First, there are a bunch of reasons to make daily to-do lists if you don’t already. They help you focus in on the small number of things you need to get done and actually can get done. Everyone is busy and gets distracted by myriad things daily. Put 3-5 tasks on your list.

Writing down those tasks clarifies them. When they’re in your head, they’re a little vague. If you have to write them or tell them to someone, you fill in lots of important details that your mental version overlooks. It’s important to write down projects that only you are responsible for. If you’re not accountable to anyone for them, you’ll often relegate them to your free time, and we all know that “free time” doesn’t really exist.

Make sure your list items are really to do’s and not entire projects. You can’t “do” a project. Projects have multiple steps. If “redecorate the guest room” or “design the new brochure” are on your list, you’ll feel lazy and incompetent for not doing them. Instead, put “look at curtains for the guest room,” or “draft the Services section text for the new brochure” on your list.

If there are undone tasks hanging around on your list, make a “not to do” list. This is where you write down those tasks that you feel guilty that you haven’t done, but you honestly know that you’ll never do them. Things that others want you do to, or that you feel you “should” do. Even when these aren’t written down, they nag at you. Put them on this list and then burn the list! Let go of those tasks forever.

When are you going to do the things on your list? Make sure you know where your time is going, if you find yourself running out. Track your time by setting an alarm to go off every hour. Stop and make brief notes about what you did since the last alarm. Don’t judge yourself, but get curious; when do you get most distracted? By what? How long does it take to do routine tasks? We often underestimate that time because we do them automatically and the time seems short. Until you know where your time is going now, you can’t make effective decisions about changing what you do.

Keep losing your list? Have it tattooed on your arm. Courtesy of robstephaustralia.

2008 Organizing Awards: Vote Now!

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John Trosko, president of NAPO in LA, just reminded me that it’s time to vote for your favorite organizing product, helpful organizing technology, best organizing TV show, and more!

Voting is open to the public and continues through December 31. You can read more about it and vote here on the NAPO LA website. Help spread the word about whatever it is that helps make your life easier, more productive and better organized!

Announcing the "Make Time Now" Contest!

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Contest winner iStock XSmall Could you use a little more time in your life? Do you find yourself
wondering where the day went? If so, read on. You could be a lucky winner!

What you’ll win:

An hour long, one-on-one Make Time Now session with me, Claire Tompkins, the Clutter Coach. In this session, I’ll determine your three biggest time wasters and provide personalized strategies for you to stop losing precious time and start getting things done.

How to Win:

Write one paragraph about your biggest time management challenge and post it on your blog or Facebook page with a link back to this post. Then email with your entry. Or just email your entry to if you don’t have a blog. Enter today; don’t miss the deadline!

Contest rules:

Three lucky winners will be chosen at random from entries submitted by March 29, 2010. You’ll be contacted by me to schedule your session right away!

“This is the Year” to declutter your life!

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Oprah has declared it! This is the year! And if Oprah says it, well…

On Wednesday, Oprah’s guest was Peter Walsh of Clean Sweep. I saw him speak at the NAPO Regional Conference a few years ago and really enjoyed his down to earth, funny style. With clients he’s direct without being mean and compassionate without being indulgent.

One of the clients he worked with on the show actually works at The Container Store!!! That blew everyone away. But one of the recurring themes of their situation was that they hadn’t realized how bad it had gotten.

I once had a client who looked at photos I’d just taken of her cluttered living room and did not recognize it. She had to look back and forth between the photos and the very same room we were standing in before she believed that it was her living room.

With all the input each of has to handle every day, it’s a defense mechanism to stop noticing some of it. You’d go crazy otherwise. But how do you keep seeing it, so you don’t wake up one day under a pile of dirty clothes and dishes?

Here’s an idea. You know sometimes when you walk in your front door you smell something? The fish you cooked last night, or the cat’s litter box? But once you’re inside for a few minutes, you caArctic_cisco_fishn’t smell it anymore.

So, get a pad and a pen, go outside, close your eyes and pretend you’re someone else: your picky aunt, a new friend you want to impress, or Peter Walsh. Then open your eyes and go inside. What do you see? Use the pad to take notes.

Now is not the time to beat yourself up about how it looks. You’re doing reconnaissance here. Just the facts, ma’am.

When you’re done, try to find some patterns. In the show, Peter found that much of the client’s mess was caused by kids’ toys and clothes. The client agreed that the kids had the run of the house. Now they had a specific issue to work with.

In later posts I’ll talk about how to develop a vision of how you want your home to look and how to use that list to hone in on what to do. For now, choose a small area like the kitchen counter and experiment with noticing what’s on it for a week. I have some other hints on my website here.

It doesn’t matter if you clear it off or not during that week; as Peter notes, you can tidy up all you want but until you get to the reason that the clutter is there, it will come right back. So just notice, look for patterns, habits, types of things that accumulate. Noticing what is, now, will help you move toward what you want it to be.