Every year, so many of my friends and clients vow that this will be the year they get organized. And, despite the best of intentions, organization often falls by the wayside. So, instead of resolutions that are so ambitious or broad that they’re destined to disappoint, here are five simple behavioral changes you can implement to help you stay organized in 2018.
Tackle the Tough Task: Do what you dread most first—the rest of the day will run more smoothly without that dreaded task hanging over your head.
Stick to a Routine: Get in the habit of doing things the same way every time—if you always put your cell phone in the same pocket of your handbag, you won’t be scrambling to find it each time it rings.
Fight the Onslaught of Paper: Discard all catalogs, solicitations and advertisements you get in the mail immediately. Personal correspondence, bills and necessary financial documents should all go in an in-box and then addressed weekly.
Declutter Your Digital Space: In your downtime (waiting on line, waiting on hold), unsubscribe from all of your digital junk mail. Create an online filing system, so you have a place to put emails other than leaving them in your inbox.
Minimize Stress by Being Prepared: At the end of each workday, make a to-do list for the next day. Knowing what’s ahead of you will let you unwind in the evening and start the next morning in an organized way.
In the 22 years that I’ve been married, my husband has given me many gifts. While I certainly love getting the occasional extravagant gift, the one I appreciated most was definitely the least expensive and possibly the most boring. It was a stationery embosser with beautiful paper. Romantic? No. Practical? Yes. Do I still have it 15 years later? Yes.
Selecting the perfect gift can be highly stressful; there’s the discomfort over what to buy, how much to spend, and whether the gift will be appreciated. Recent research out of Indiana University Kelley School of Business and the Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business suggests that while “givers are drawn toward surprising or entertaining gifts that are fun in the moment of exchange…they underestimate how much people typically appreciate practical gifts.” If you want to be sure that your gift is one that “keeps on giving,” try these helpful hints.
When my twins were born 17 years ago, we received not one, but two decorative, monogrammed seesaws…from one store. It’s difficult to imagine that the store wouldn’t have told the second person ordering this “gift” with the same names and delivery address to select something else, but that’s another story. Suffice it to say that I was stuck with two seesaws that were, in my practical mind, a waste of space and a silly gift. So, I did what any self-respecting professional organizer would do and put them both out on the curb the next morning.
Although this can be difficult for some people, never feel compelled to keep a gift you don’t like. It will end up taking up space in your home and your psyche for what is often literally years. To avoid this, consider these tips
Recently, I was asked to participate in a web series for Hooplaha, a fabulous network whose mission is to inspire, uplift and make people happy. In this series, I’ll be providing free organizational makeovers to those who can’t afford to pay for a professional organizer. In short, this is my opportunity to give back to the community and improve the quality of someone’s life. In the premiere episode I meet the McLeod family. Mike McLeod is a thirty-five year old single father of two young sons, Kiing and Hova. Not only does he work two jobs (finding housing for the homeless and acting as a basketball referee), but he’s also very involved in his community. His lack of time has made it difficult for him to get ahead; he was in desperate need of a kitchen organization makeover.
Upon arriving at the McLeod apartment, I noticed that the kitchen space, although extremely cluttered, was also the heart of the home. I learned that Mike loves to be in the kitchen cooking healthy meals for his sons, he has a penchant for buying too many spices, and he’s a saver of empty boxes and containers that take up unnecessary space. With the help of my team, we got to work using my four-step method of organization (purge, design, organize, and maintain).
First, we purged everything the family didn’t need or want. We sorted everything so that like items were together and we could see which appliances and kitchen tools were duplicates. Then, we used our organizing tools to design the space. We used OXO canisters for the dry goods such as flour and sugar, and we used Linus Pantry Binz to organize spices in the cabinet and excess toiletries. We also used drawer inserts to create organized spaces in the drawers. The next step was to organize everything that would remain in the McLeod’s kitchen. We were able to clear off the table and give the family a place to eat meals, do homework, and spend time together. To help Mike and the boys maintain order, we labeled everything using a Brother P Touch label maker.
It took us about 3 hours to transform this room from a cluttered mess to a functional organized space that was cozy and efficient. It was a great day and a lot of fun for everyone!
Click here to meet Mike and his boys and watch the McLeod kitchen makeover.
Last Tuesday, at 6:45 AM, my house descended into chaos. It was game day for my soccer-playing son, and on game days, athletes need to wear khaki pants to school. As it happened, the same pants that had fit just three weeks before were way too short. And if you have a teenager, you’ll understand that somehow, this was all my fault! I half heartedly tried to convince him that the pants were fine, since he didn’t have a choice other than to wear them, until I remembered the box of hand me downs from his cousin at the top of his closet. Disaster was averted, as I pulled out a pair of khaki pants in just the right size. Lesson learned…if you have a teenage son, always have the next size ready to go just in case you’re faced with a rapid growth spurt, as I was that morning.
When you’re super organized, hand me downs can be a blessing. You can save a ton of money and avoid buying the items that are worn infrequently. On the other hand, if you’re the type that is likely to forget what you have only to realize your child outgrew the beautiful, almost new clothes a friend gave you before you remembered where they were, the hand me downs are a curse. In this case, they just take up space, are stored for years, and then frustrate you when you find them. So, if you want to avoid the curse of the hand me downs, here are some simple tips to follow.
Have set times of the year when you pull out the hand me downs to see what fits. The best times to do this are in August before buying new clothes for school, in April before buying new clothes for spring and summer, and in December just as things are getting a bit small.
Only keep things that are in good condition. Sometimes, well-meaning friends who just want the bags out of their own homes, don’t check the quality of what they’re giving. Make sure nothing is torn, stained, or otherwise in disrepair before you store the clothing.
Consider the amount of time you’ll need to save the clothing before it will fit your child. If you only need to store the clothing for a year or two or even three, then by all means take it. But, if you’re looking at holding onto the clothing for many years, be much more discriminating about what you take.
The best hand me downs are the seldom worn blazer, outerwear, and the special occasion dress. Not as worthy…nylon athletic shorts and t-shirts that are relatively inexpensive when new.
Contain and label the hand me downs. For example, use stackable containers with labels like “Winter, Size 4”.
If you need to return the clothing to the giver after your child wears them, think twice. The effort involved here may be too much to justify keeping the clothes.
I was profiled in this month’s AARP magazine, and the article talked about helping seniors downsize. Here are my top 10 tips and a link to the article (http://www.life-organized.com/images/aarp-august-2014.pdf).
Other people’s memories are not your responsibility. If your great aunt’s sterling silver tea set has become an albatross, it’s time to donate it or sell it. If your children are grown, it’s time for them to start storing their own childhood artifacts. It doesn’t mean you love your family any less; it’s just not your burden.
Work in 2-3 hour blocks of time, focusing on one area at a time. More then that can be overwhelming and you won’t be as productive. Don’t try to tackle the whole house, but instead tackle a desk drawer or a closet.
Use your new space as a guide. Measure how much storage space you’ll have, and let that dictate your decisions. If you’re not going to have room for something, you simply can’t keep it.
Keep “maybes” to a minimum. Touch it once, make a decision, and move on. Moving items in and out of “maybe” piles is emotionally draining and time consuming.
If a memory is worth preserving, treat it as such. Random boxes of pictures aren’t compelling; an album of pictures (whether digital or a book) tell a story that can be enjoyed.
Group like things together. It’s the only way you’ll know that you have 4 hammers, 3 spatulas, and 6 boxes of staples (5,000 per box). Donate what you don’t need and keep the best of the rest.
Discard what’s expired. This includes that box of muffin mix that you’ve had since 2009 and the 10 pack of pain reliever you bought on sale that’s long since past its “use by” date.
Ignore sunk costs. What you paid for something has no bearing on whether it should have a place in your life. Whether you love it and want it is far more relevant.
Your clothing should reflect your current life, not the life you used to live. If you’ve retired to Florida, you don’t need a closet full of business suits, whether they still fit you or not. If you’re no longer a size 4, you don’t need a wardrobe of small clothes to remind you that you’ve gained weight
10. Your possessions should reflect your current life, not the imaginary life you hope to lead. If you haven’t built a dark room yet, it’s time to stop storing all the items you would need just in case.
In a May 2020 interview with Dumpster.com, I shared my downsizing tips. It’s been six years since I wrote these tips, but not much has changed. See the article here.