May, 2010 browsing by month


Organize with Friends: More Fun, More Accountability

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Organizing your cluttered space can be lonely and downright depressing! Who wants to spend a couple hours looking at the clothes you could fit into two years ago, the mementos you saved from your now-grown children’s early years, or the projects from work that you poured your life into and have now been replaced by newer, better?

The solution: make a party of it! Invite a bunch of friends, promise to feed them, and divide the organizing among the lot of you.If you only have one friend kind enough to help, make it a reciprocal agreement. He/she comes to your place first (of course) and you go to to help at the friend’s place the next week. To quote English playwright and poet, John Heywood, “Many hands make light work.”

Take these steps to ensure your organizing party is both fun and productive:

  1. Choose a date that works for you and your friend(s).
  2. Dream and plan your ideal layout for the space.You can always make a course correction later.
  3. Purchase any large storage pieces you know you will need:  bookshelves, end tables, storage ottomans. Wait to purchase smaller organizing systems until you know what they will contain and the dimensions of the drawer/shelf to hold them.
  4. Gather supplies: black trash bags, cardboard boxes or plastic bins for sorting, felt tip pens, sticky notes or 3×5 cards, masking tape.
  5. Use an proven organizing method like Julie Morgenstern’s S.P.A.C.E.  Explain how it works to your guest(s)
  6. Feed the workers before you start, and take water breaks.
  7. De-clutter and organize for a set time, say 1-2 hours, stop and straighten up.
  8. Celebrate the great progress you made and make another date to complete the task!

In addition to the extra hands and brainpower, this method works well because once committed, you can’t back out. We may break appointments with ourselves on a daily basis, but hesitate to let our friends down.

Just think… if you and a friend did this trade once a month for a year, you could organize your whole house or apartment! An added side benefit is the relationship building time together. How fun!

Use an organizing method like S.P.A.C.E.

Batching: Works for Cookies and Time management

Friday, May 21st, 2010

When I grew up we were only allowed to eat 2 cookies for desert. With a family of seven, that still meant a batch of cookies was gone in less than 2 days. I learned to bake watching my mother do it constantly.

Nowadays we have the option to prepare the entire batch of ready-to-bake cookies, or fire up the oven for just one. Which saves time and energy? The batch still wins. Then freeze and thaw whenever the mood strikes.

Sierpinski Cookies-11 by L Marie Flickr/CC-BY 2.0

The same is true with other everyday activities. When we identify tasks that are similar in nature we can batch them and do them all at once. This works at home with cleaning tasks, at the office with follow-ups, and at meetings when sharing or discussing business.

The way to tell what tasks to group is to ask questions like:

  • What action(s) do I have to take with this information?
  • Where will I go to complete this task?
  • What tools must I gather to aid me in this activity?

When you see a pattern of like actions, locations or tools you can try to batch those tasks.

These are some specific examples where you may want to use batching to save time on a weekly basis. (I agree with Julie Morgenstern and others that having a weekly time template helps tremendously in managing your time effectively! This is the ultimate in batching.)

Errand day – rather than make individual trips, map out a circular route to run 4-5 errands at once.

Laundry – on the 1-2 days a week that you will be at home for several hours straight, plan to do 2-3 loads.

Making phone calls – keep an action file with all phone calls you need to make. Schedule an hour twice a week and force yourself to do only the calling!

Writing thank you’s – Address the envelopes of people you need to write, add stamps and return address labels. Write a quick outline of the message you want to deliver. Then write each note using your outline and personalizing as needed. Put in correct envelope and seal immediately.

Email followup – Set a time in the middle of your day and again at the end to briefly answer emails.
Right before lunch and before you go home from work are great times, since you will be motivated to keep it short.

You can probably think of more ways you can bundle like activities and do them at one time as a batch.

This is an especially good technique for those tasks you avoid at all cost. My least favorite activity is cleaning toilets. When I do them all at once, cleaning the rest of the bathroom is a piece of cake.

Speaking of cake… think I’ll go bake a batch of something sweet.

ADD-Friendly Organizing from the Pros

Monday, May 10th, 2010

ADD friendly ways to organize your life - coverEven if you don’t think you have any level of Attention Deficit Disorder you may want to read ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life. In contrast to books that say, ”Just do this, this and this and you will be organized,” ADD-Friendly goes further with very specific methods on how to establish order that will last.

The authors have experience with ADD-ers on two fronts. Judith Kolberg is a professional organizer who founded the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization when she realized that traditional organizing techniques did not work for a significant number of people. Giving insight on working with the psychology behind disorganization is Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D., a nationally recognized authority on adult ADD.

The authors share strategies that ADD folks can use to help themselves, how to use the help of friends and family, and when to look for professional guidance. With the wealth of techniques given to tame the big three- things, time, and paper- you are sure to find one that will work for you!

Even the page formatting accommodates short attention spans with side-labeled chapter titles to encourage skimming, bold headings that break up the page, and large font text that makes it easy to delve deep in the section that grabs your interest.

Get the book and read it before you pass it on to the messy person you think really needs it. You might be surprised how much you will personally benefit!

Read a more in-depth book review from if you want to know more before you recommend this book to a friend.

My Mothering Advice to Me in Hindsight

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Hindsight is 20/20. There are many things I would do differently if I could start over mothering my four children. Just ask them; they will tell you where I goofed up!
I love my children and like the people they are becoming. I am so glad that the Lord loves them more than I do. When my primary days of influence were over, I could place them in His capable hands. Now I am a cheerleader on the sideline, yelling, “You are running well! Keep going, you can do it!”

Photo by Broma (CC-A/Flickr)

Photo by Broma (CC-A/Flickr)

These are the things I would remind myself to do if I were starting over:

Respect the unique person that your child is. Remember that he or she is not an extension of you, but has a God-given blueprint inside of who to become. Your job is to supply the raw materials and encouragement along the way. Get out of the way and pray… a lot! Love unconditionally and keep short debts by asking for your child’s forgiveness when you mess up.

Perfect the art of saying, “No!” Moms are an easy target for all the needs of school, church and civic organizations. Choose a way to give back that is most meaningful to you. When asked to serve in a new capacity, simply say, “I’m sorry, but my volunteer time is already spoken for.”

Let your children experience order at home (and how to recreate it when messes happen) so they have an example to follow. Teach them the organizing sequence. It is always easier to organize less stuff. Show them the importance of sharing extra belongings with children who have less.

Praise often and be specific. Follow your child around for a day to discover the one thing he or she is doing well. Use three sentences to lavishly praise that ACTION. This can be an action that reflects a character quality. “You were so kind to your younger brother when you __________.” Do not use the phrase “good girl/boy” because it is not action specific. Continue to praise that action and it will become a habit.

Make your child’s room a personal haven. Twice a year in late summer (HINT: The time is right when you hear, “I’m bored.”) and at Christmas vacation, make reorganizing each child’s room a fun project. Clean out all dresser drawers and the closet. Keep the most special school papers and mementos in a scrapbook tote. Donate outgrown clothing and make a list of clothing purchases that are needed. Give your child a “decorating allowance” to purchase a colorful pillow, a bulletin board, or a used bookshelf to paint and refresh the space. This is his/her space, so be sure to let your child make most of the decisions, with your guidance. Knock when the door is closed to ask permission to enter.

Finally, be sure to make some YOU time. Whether this is a weekly gab fest with girlfriends, a quiet night to sit and read at Barnes and Noble, or a class in a subject that interests you… do it! You will be a happy and refreshed wife and mother. Furthermore, you will be showing your family that you are a person who deserves to be respected and valued. Let them miss you. Don’t let anyone lay a guilt trip on you for wanting the time away. Your value will be evident as you express confidence in your innate worth.

ThuRsday Recycle and Reuse: Fur

Thursday, May 6th, 2010
ThuRs Recycle and Reuse

ThuRs Recycle and Reuse

If you have an old fur collar, coat or wrap that you will never wear, why not donate it to help orphaned wildlife? The Humane Society of the Unites States (HSUS) will collect your donations and send them on to wildlife rehabilitation centers.

Wildlife rehabilitators cut the fur into an appropriate size for the animal, whether a chipmunk, raccoon, squirrel or opossum, and put it inside the animal’s enclosure. The furry blanket becomes a “surrogate mother” to the orphaned or injured animal, reducing stress and giving comfort. (

Items to be donated include: fur and fur trimmed coats, hats, gloves, scarves and muffs. Simply package your fur in a sturdy box and mail to:

Fur-Free Century
2100 L Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037

The current fair market value of your donation is tax-deductible. The HSUS will send you a letter acknowledging receipt to keep for your records.

You can also check here to see if there is a wildlife rehabilitator in your area.

More posts in this series:

A Bit of Wisdom

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up because they’re looking for ideas. –Paula Poundstone

The best part is, kids aren’t afraid to dream big. They want to be an astronaut, the President of the United States, a famous movie star or basketball player.

One of my favorite questions is: “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” Try to answer that question now with no boundaries, no holding back, no thinking about whether some other person would approve.

Too often we barely get a dream in our head before the reasons why we will fail drown out all hope of succeeding. You don’t have to have a really big dream, either. Sometimes the modest dreams become the steps toward something we could never have imagined!

Take time to dream a bit today. Think of a first step that would bring you closer to that dream becoming a reality. Is it taking a French class, making a phone call, volunteering in a similar field?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

1. Adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up because they’re looking for ideas. –Paula Poundstone

Tools: Digitize Your Paper Piles

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

If you are ready to move into the digital age with your paper records, the Neat Company can help.

The Neat Receipts portable scanner can handle receipts and invoices, business cards, and full page scanning. The accompanying software allows you to both organize the information and search for key words for quick retrieval.

“NeatWorks software uses OCR and patented parsing technology to identify and capture key information from scanned documents.  On receipts, it looks for the date, vendor, amount and sales tax.  On business cards, it captures all of the contact information: name, company, title, address, phone, email, website and fax.”

Watch a demonstration of this product to see its capabilities.

Empty your file cabinets onto a thumb drive or your computer’s hard drive to save space and for searchable digital files. How neat!