Technology Made Easy

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I'm not a technology maven. I used to be, back when computers only did about five things. And I was the family genius who could fix the color balance on the TV set. But everything got more complicated and I didn't keep up. So I'm always happy when I can use technology without having to learn anything.

Jott is a fantastic service that allows me to send myself emails via my cellphone, and it doesn't involve texting, which I have not been able to master. I just call a number (I've set it to speed dial because I use it so much) and speak my message and it magically appears as typed text in my email.

There are other applications for the service, but this one is incredibly useful for me since I routinely think of a dozen things I need to do while I'm driving and can't write them down. If I don't have it down in writing, I'll forget it. Jott also has scads of links so you can use it to track expenses, post to Twitter, find products on Amazon and much more.

A recent New York Times article recommended Jott and three other great voice-activated services: GOOG 411, a free business phone directory; ChaCha, a web research service and Reqall, a task reminder service that sends reminders to your phone or email at the requested time. All these services do more than my short description indicates; check them out!

[Helpful reminder from ford's photostream]

Check Out the Clutter Diet

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Getting organized can be challenging and time consuming. My aim with the blog is to help people with that task as much as I can without actually being there in person. Of course, I'd be happy if you wanted to hire me, but if you have a large project, hiring a professional can be pricey, to be honest.

So, I'm thrilled to recommend my colleague Lorie Marrero's Clutter Diet service. For less than you would pay me to work with you once, you can get a whole year of this service, which provides unlimited virtual access to their team of organizers, plus a lot of other great stuff. The Clutter Diet gives you the education, motivation and support you need to keep going with that organizing project until it's done. 

Am I worried about sending potential clients to this lower priced service? No, because I know that there are plenty of folks who really want to work with me in person and who will get the best results with me right there in their home or office.

And there are plenty of other folks who just want to read my blog and get their ideas and inspiration from that. We organizers realize that all our clients are unique, so we strive to provide as many ways to help them get organized as we can think of. I think Lorie's come up with a winner!

Diet lunch courtesy of Malia's photostream.

Organizing kitchen spices

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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

The SHED Philosophy of Organizing

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SHED cover
I just heard from Julie Morgenstern that her latest book, SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life, is now out in paperback. Morgenstern's previous books have focused more on the nuts and bolts of decluttering and organizing. This one delves more into the emotional and psychic issues. You can take a look at it via my Amazon recommendations in the left column, under "I Recommend."

SHED stands for Separate the Treasures, Heave the Rest, Embrace Your Identity, and Drive Yourself Forward. A big obstacle for many people plunging into an organizing project is that so much of their identity is wrapped up in their possessions.

Even if you've made peace with the fact that, say, you're not going to use that snowboard ever again, getting rid of it means part of your identity has changed. You may not be entirely sure who this new person is, and that can be scary.

On the other hand, discovering your new, true self by SHEDding layers that don't suit you anymore can be exhilarating and energizing. Check out this book for great ideas on this process. It's in my Amazon store, right there on the left.

Multitasking: Not

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The word has been going around for years now that multitasking does not make you work faster or more effectively. Still, the myth persists, maybe because people have so much to do that they can’t imagine getting it done unless they do many things at once.Goddess multitasking

I wrote about this a few years ago in my previous blog, with a link to some of the scientific research. A new book is coming out on the subject this month called The Myth of Multitasking by Dave Crenshaw. There’s a link to it in my Amazon store in the left sidebar.

According to the video on his website, the book goes over all that evidence that multitasking doesn’t work. He then adds a new wrinkle, which is that people can always tell if you’re doing something else while talking to them (that includes driving). This is bad for your personal relationships and for your business relationships. If your relationships suffer, your business and your life suffer too.

The Goddess of Multitasking from jurvetson’s photostream.

Seven Steps to Successful Organizing has arrived!

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Livingroom-furniture Today I'm officially launching my free ecourse! I originally wrote it for people who attended a talk I gave last fall and then I realized I could expand it and offer it to everyone.

I love helping people succeed with their organizing projects. If I can do it by laying out a seven step program that they can run with, that's great news. Not everyone needs me there in person or on the phone to make a plan, get motivated and stay focused.

So, check it out at this link. See how it works for you. I'd love to hear about your results!

Write It Down!

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Writing hand It’s said that Einstein didn’t know his own phone number. Why not? Because it was written down in a book that everyone had handy. He could look it up himself if he ever needed to. He knew he had better things to do with his brain than remember information that was easily located elsewhere.

Harvard psychologist Shelley Carson has just written a book called Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life. Your brain uses deliberate and spontaneous pathways. The deliberate pathway is when you’re planning and reasoning and the spontaneous one is about getting ideas out of the blue. You need both.

A lot of productivity advice is geared optimizing your environment for deliberate thinking, and that’s good and necessary. It’s equally important to set the stage for spontaneous thinking and to capture the results of it. Don’t overlook the importance of that capturing! How many times have you gotten out of the shower and almost immediately forgotten that fantastic idea that came to you while the water was running?

Paper and pen is the easiest capture method, but it doesn’t matter what you use. What matters is to honor that fleeting thought. It doesn’t evaporate because you’re becoming forgetful; it’s because the deliberate part of your brain is the one in charge of working memory. You’re just going to forget. Accept that and write it down!!

New Organizing Ezine

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I'd like to invite you all to subscribe to my new ezine, View from the Organized Mind. It will be short, entertaining and useful. I aim to keep you up on organizing news and products, share decluttering success stories, and toss in some motivating ideas to keep you on track. Maybe a haiku once in awhile.

I'll keep these ezines short so you can read them right away, decide to act on them or not, then delete them! Don't let them clutter up your in box. There will be another one coming soon…

You can sign up with the handy form in the right column. Of course, I won't sell or rent your address to anyone else, and there will be an unsubscribe button in each issue. Hope you'll come on over and stay for awhile!

Newsstand from a Coit Tower mural from artlung's photostream.

Organization = Self Respect

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I read an excerpt from Sandra Felton's recent book, Organizing for Life, on Amazon today (and I put it at the top of my Amazon list in the left column). I have quite a few of her books and I like all of them. As a reformed "messie," she brings insight and compassion into the problems disorganized people face.

Felton book
Felton's theory is that messy people treat themselves poorly by not being organized. They say they don't want to spend the time and energy to put things in order, but they then relegate themselves to lives full of chaos. She writes: "They are happy to show you how they do without the things other people who recognize their worth and dignity provide for themselves."

Being organized, then, isn't about doing things "right" or living the way others expect you to. It's about respecting yourself enough to create and maintain an attractive and supportive home and life. It's something you do because you are worth it.

I recommend Sandra Felton's books. She has lots of original, clever decluttering tricks, such as the Mount Vernon method for tidying up a room.

Autofocus with the Master List

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To do list The master list is one of my favorite tools. I love making lists and I usually make them by hand in a notebook because they’re simpler to work with.

Time management coach Mark Forster is a man after my own heart. He’s written several books about personal effectiveness and he’s now sharing his Autofocus system on his website for free.

The Autofocus system is simply what I described above, one very long list in a notebook that you keep adding to and crossing off of. The cool thing about this system is that it doesn’t involve prioritizing. Forster asserts that as you scan the list, you’ll be able to select the important items naturally, using the “balance between the rational and intuitive parts of your mind.”

This is really important because so much of procrastination results from just not really wanting to do things. People do what they do. If They don’t want to do a particular thing, they just won’t, no matter how “important” they’ve decided it is. This system forces you to be honest with yourself and either favorably recast (meaning figure out a way to achieve the same goal in a way that you prefer) or delete the to do’s that aren’t getting done.

List from Carissa GoodNCrazy’s photostream.