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7 Big Mistakes that Keep Us Stuck in Chaos

Monday, April 4th, 2011
  1. Begin with a gigantic organizing project.
    “Yeah! The bigger chunk I bite off, the sooner I will be done!”
    This is a perfect way to ensure failure and disillusionment. Instead, start small to ensure immediate success. Choose one area – a drawer, counter top – that you see daily.
  2. Dive in without any thought of HOW to proceed.
    “I’m going to organize this space if it takes me all day!”
    With no plan, at the end of the day you will have simply rearranged a mess and made a bigger one. Use an organizing strategy that will walk you through the process one step at a time. You can use the steps on my blog post Clearing the Clutter or find an organizing book you like for a guide.1
  3. Jump around from one area to another.
    “It’s too boring to stand still in one place for too long.”
    This is what gets us into a mess in the first place – lots of unfinished projects and the latest organizing products waiting to be used. Determine that you will finish organizing one area completely according to your plan. Actually finishing what you start is a great boost to confidence and momentum!
  4. Put off distribution of giveaways.
    “At least the stuff is in a box or bag. It can sit there for a while.”
    Your goal is to have an orderly, usable space. Once you have identified things to let go, get them out of there within 2 weeks at the latest.
  5. Pile, stack, stuff items into their assigned home.
    “If it fits, it’s all good.”
    Container, container, container. When you have a place to put belongings/supplies that is customized to hold certain items, you will be much more likely to keep up your newly organized system. Find containers that are appropriate, label if necessary, so you automatically know what goes where.
  6. Organize large spaces back to back.
    “I’m on a roll, gotta keep going.”
    Psychologists say it takes 21 days to form a new habit. When you make changes in your environment, it may take you a while to get used to your new configuration. Choosing a room or area every other month will give you a fighting chance at maintaining your new organization.
  7. Go it alone.
    “I want to be totally independent and rely solely upon my own efforts.”
    Accountability helps. First, announce to a friend or family member that you plan to organize (choose an area) this month. Ask that person to quiz you by a certain date to see if you have started. It’s amazing how much more motivated you are if someone knows your intention.

Better yet, organize with a friend. Help with his/her project and then work together on yours. Both tasks will go twice as fast and be much more fun together.

If your job seems too overwhelming, contact a professional organizer who knows where to start and can keep you on task.
Lastly, don’t forget to build rewards into your organizing efforts. Celebrate each victory with an activity or purchase that holds special meaning for you. You did a great job!
Remember though, if you bring one new thing into your renovated space, let another go.

  1. For example: Organizing from the Inside Out, Second Edition: The Foolproof System For Organizing Your Home, Your Office and Your Life by Julie Morgenstern, Eliminate Chaos: The 10-Step Process to Organize Your Home and Life by Laura Leist, or Organize with Confidence by Elizabeth Hagen []

Setting Yourself Up to Fail with 2011 Resolutions

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Sure, the New Year is a perfect time to examine where you’re headed and to forge new habits. The only question is, are you wasting your breath with resolutions, or are you serious about setting achievable goals?

Flickr BY-NC-ND 2.0 (angietorres)

In this article, I want to examine the usual resolutions and offer my suggestions for actually reaching yours.

“Get Organized!” is among the top ten resolutions each year. The changes in the U.S. economy have pushed financial concerns higher on the list, but also underlined the importance of simple pursuits like enjoying life and spending time with family.

Compare the 2009 and 2010 resolution lists compiled from Franklin Covey surveys to see what I mean.

Resolution lists for 2011 differed slightly in ranking, but have the same elements overall. This is one example of resolutions suggested by 100 Day Challenge author Gary Ryan Blair.

  • Lose weight
  • Get organized
  • Spend less, save more
  • Enjoy life to the fullest
  • Stay fit and healthy
  • Learn something exciting
  • Quit smoking
  • Help others in their dreams
  • Fall in love
  • Spend more time with family

Of course, I believe that being organised is the key to achieving many of these goals. By that I mean having written goals, a plan for achieving them that is broken down into smaller, attainable plateaus, and having a way to measure your results along the way.

For instance, say you want to lose 24 pounds over the next year. That means losing 2 lb per month, or .5 lb a week. That is totally doable! What actions will you take to achieve that? Walk ½ mile four times a week and cut out all desserts. Great! Once you make those determinations, you have a much better chance of attaining your goal.

My request to you:

  1. Choose your top resolution from the list above or add your own.
  2. Write it down, using a positive sentence. Complete the statement, “I will ____________ by ________”
  3. Be sure your goal measures up. A well-written goal will fit these S.M.A.R.T. guidelines.
    • S – Specific, put some numbers where your heart is.
    • M – Measurable, the numbers won’t lie in seeing how you are doing.
    • A – Action-Oriented, doesn’t depend on other people or circumstances, just you.
    • R – Relevant, fits into your value system and doesn’t contradict your other goals.
    • T – Time-bound, to be completed by a certain date.
  4. Review your goal regularly. Read over your goal morning and night. If you fall down one day get up the next and keep going. Once a week, measure your progress.

When your deadline hits, celebrate your progress even if you didn’t hit the bulls eye!

As always, feel free to comment below on what has worked (or not) for you!

For more inspiration, check out these lists:

My favorite: Top 25 Resolutions for Parents
Down to earth:Resolutions from the Heartland of Kansas City, Kansas
For you Dads:A Dad’s guide to New Years Resolutions
Life lessons here! Resolutions for Theme Park Fans

I would get started if I knew where to start!

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

One of my “Aha!” moments as a professional organizer came while reading Take Back Your Life!: Using Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 to Get Organized and Stay Organized by Sally McGhee. Sally was talking about strategic tasks, or strategic next actions.

Now, I know by definition strategy has to do with a decisive plan of action. How often in everyday life do we actually sit down and deliberately make plans? So I was thinking – without that detailed plan, how can I know what my strategic next action is?

Then I was blown away by the definition – “A Strategic Next Action (SNA) is: The next physically doable action with no dependencies.” That made sense! Sometimes jobs have pre-requisites. Until we identify those pre-requisites as SNAs, we are stuck.

When you have trouble getting started on your To Do list, you may not have any strategic next actions listed. Take one task and break it down into its component parts. For example: you want to bake an apple pie. You must:

____ check to see what ingredients you need beside apples

____ go to the grocery store

____ find your recipe

____ find your rolling pin and pie plate

____ begin mixing, rolling and baking

Which of the five tasks is your SNA? Either of the “find…” statements qualify. The other tasks have dependencies.

Once a large project is broken down into smaller tasks, it is easier to see where to start. Finally, there is a task that can be done immediately! You breathe a sigh of relief and gladly get started. “Aha!”

25 More Tips for Less Stress

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Last year right before the holidays I gave you 25 stress-busting tips from a list I like to read over when I need a boost.

Here we are again, ready to enter the holiday fray. Can you believe Monday is 1 November?!? So, I am pulling out that list to share another 25 tips. My suggestion: Print both lists. Read each morning as a reminder that you can choose constructive behaviors.

25 MORE Tips for Less Stress:

  1. Let go of what is lost.
  2. Encourage gentleness in yourself and others.
  3. Face life with dignity.
  4. Go more frequently where you will get what is good for you.
  5. Listen to the sound of your own voice.
  6. Redecorate some part of your home.
  7. Face painful questions carefully.
  8. Get a medical check up.
  9. Wear comfortable clothes whenever you possibly can.
  10. Get a massage.
  11. Avoid excessive noise.
  12. Engage in religious activity.
  13. Redefine your priorities.
  14. Stop letting people annoy you because they are unhappy.
  15. Start today to straighten out a problem in your life.
  16. Practice being alert to your surroundings.
  17. Exercise regularly.
  18. Stop waiting “until ____ ” and marking time.
  19. Set goals realistically.
  20. Learn to value feedback from others.
  21. Stop reflecting on things that didn’t work out.
  22. Write a journal of your daily thoughts and moods.
  23. Stop assuming others can’t get along without you.
  24. Think positively!
  25. Look in the mirror and smile.

Be sure to leave a comment with the tip that stuck out for you. You will be encouraging someone else!

Photo Credit: Flickr/Frerieke CC-A

Help! I Can’t Organize, There’s Not Enough Space!

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

In a recent consumer survey1 when asked, “What would you say is the biggest challenge to improving your home’s organization?” These were the answers:

  • 32.9% – Lack of space in the home
  • 27.3% – finding the time
  • 25.2% – too much stuff
  • 6.7% – not sure what product to use
  • 2.7% – products at local retailer don’t meet my need
  • 5.1% – other

Lack of space is #1. For real? When you don’t have places to put all your belongings, the problem can either be:

To illustrate the difference, imagine you have a good-sized kitchen. Your cabinets hold what you need to prepare and serve food. Then you decide you want more than one set of dishes. You decide one set for each season would be perfect. Suddenly, the cabinet space seems to have shrunk. You have too much stuff for the given space.

On the other hand, the galley of a small ship will have actual limited space to store kitchen-related items. Now you must critically evaluate the necessity of each item before you award a place in the tight storage available.

Where does your stuff to space quotient fall? How you would answer this question:

Have you truly pared down belongings to those items you use and love?

How much of what you are trying to cram into your living or working space are items you…

… have not used in last 2 years
… don’t really like but are keeping because they were gifts
… think you might need someday
… have no specific purpose in mind for
… would pitch if you had time to sort through

If you have quite a few things that fit into these categories, they do not pass the USE IT, LOVE IT OR LOSE IT test. It is time for a purging party.

The second question to ask yourself is:

Are you effectively using every square foot of the space you do have?

There are a few tricks that interior designers and professional organizers alike use to maximize storage in a truly small space.
These include:

  • going vertical
  • finding unused air
  • using dual-purpose furnishings

Read more in my post “Small Space Solutions” and listen in to Kelly Galea’s tips on Sept 8th, see events above.

The first step in any problem solving sequence is to properly identify exactly what the problem is. Hopefully, from this article you have pinpointed whether your problem is too much stuff or an actual limited space situation. Now you are in a position to take corrective action.

  1. Storage Consumer Survey. Homeworld Business Magazine 10/01/2008
    Statistic by/from Homeworld Forecast Consumer Survey conducted by NPD Group []

What is your WHY?

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

In case you haven’t guessed by now, organizing is not an end in itself. There is always a “WHY?” that must be in place. Who wants to even get started on this thankless job otherwise? (Besides the organizer who loves it!)

Fill in the blanks to find your WHY.

I want/need to organize my _______________________ so I can _________________________.

These are some compelling reasons to organize my clients have expressed:
“… home office, so I can attract and keep more clients”;
“… closet, so I can get dressed quickly and get to work on time feeling confident”;
“… kitchen command center, so I can better keep track of my family’s activities”;
“… basement, so I can get rid of non-essentials and find what I have stored quickly”.

Think of the pain that your disorganization is causing. Then imagine what your space would be like if you could have your ideal solution come true. How would that solution make a difference in your life? THAT is your WHY!

Only when your WHY is big enough will you take action. The most common results that will stir folks to action are:

  • Save time
  • Benefit my family
  • Save money
  • Be more productive with less effort
  • Avoid physical pain, be more healthy
  • Gain emotional freedom

The best part for me is, when someone figures out their WHY and is ready to take action, I get to help – with written encouragement, group support classes, show-you-how eBooks, and 1-on-1 organizing sessions. Gotta love this job!

When you know your WHY, the pieces fall in place and you will move forward with purpose and resolve.

Please feel free to share your “why” with us, leave a comment.

Downsizing in Place, Part 2: Tap Into Your Treasure

Monday, August 9th, 2010

My daughter, Jenny, recently returned from living in Italy and was faced with the task of sorting through boxes from her college years. She had to decide what still held meaning for her and what she was ready to let go.

Making decisions about possessions that represent your life is difficult.  You wonder where to start. What is the reasoning process to use?

Then you can get bogged down with the question, “If I don’t keep it, what should I do with it?” The object represents history, or still has a useful life.

One strategy to use when the task seems overwhelming is to turn the process around. Rather than looking at what to get rid of and how, start by looking for treasures.

Ask yourself:

  1. What can I not bear to live without?
  2. Does anything give an emotional tug that holds good memories?
  3. What feeds my soul because it is of such great beauty?

Set aside these treasured items; these are “the keepers!”

All that remains is to determine what you use on a regular basis or you must keep to stay out of jail. The rest can go. Isn’t that a freeing thought?

Remember, you don’t have to keep inherited items or gifts if they do not hold meaning for you! Let someone else cherish those.