Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Are you really wearing all your clothes?

Come on now, be honest.  Do you really wear all the clothes that you have?  Most people wear a small fraction of the clothes that they own.  They have items that are too big, too small, worn out and ripped and just plain out of style.  Yeah we all want to think that we will get back to the size we were in high school and fit back into our cute jeans but will it ever really happen and when it does, do you really want to be wearing out of style jeans?

Next time you look in your closet consider this...

If it does not fit now, by the time it does you probably will not want to wear it anyway.  If you really want to keep multiple sizes of clothes, pack them up according to size so that when you are ready for them they will still be fresh and not faded or worn out from being on hangers.

Too many items in you closet will make it much more difficult to make decisions about what to wear when you are getting dressed.  Fewer items that can mix and match make it easier to get dressed with much less hassle.

Rotate out of season items.  They take up real estate in your closet but only get used half the time.  Pack them away after a good laundering.  It will feel like Christmas in September when you pull out your favorite sweaters fresh, clean and ready for the crisp autumn air.

Be honest with your self.  Do you really love the item?  Do you wear it?  Did some one give it to you and you don't want to hurt their feelings?  It's your closet you get to make the rules.  Decide what really belongs in your closet and evict the rest.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Create an office command center

Business and life are chaotic enough without clutter and disorder in your office.  Turn your office into an efficient command center so that your office does not distract from your work and enables you to get things back in order quickly.

Keep only the supplies that you need often at hand.  Too many supplies at your desk will create clutter.
 Store the rest of the bulk supplies in another place.  Keeping unused supplies together will also help when you are trying to decide if you have what you need on hand or if it is time to run to the store.

Place supplies near the equipment that uses them.  Nothing is more frustrating than having to run to another room or across the office every time you need a new printer cartridge or paper.  Extra filing supplies keep well in the filing cabinet that you intend to use them in.

Keep often used files with in arms reach.  For most people, only a fraction of the files that they have need to be accessed often.  A desk with a hanging file drawer or two usually will do the trick.  Less used files can live in another filing cabinet elsewhere in the room.  Keep monthly files and others close to promote filing instead of piling.

If you print very often, consider placing the printer next to the desk within arms reach.  It will be easier to check work as it prints instead of running across the office each time you print a page.  If you are like me and you have multiple printers, consider placing them on shelving spaced so that you have full access to each one without using up extra desk space.

Continually reassess your command center.  Is it working the way that you want it to work?  If it is not, tweak it!  Remember to de-clutter often and remove or store elsewhere anything that isn't being used often.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

To label or Not to Label...

Hi, My name is Andrea and I am addicted to removing labels.  I admit it I can't wait to remove labels when I buy something new or find one that has never been removed.  There is something satisfying about being able to get the label off cleanly without a bunch of goop hanging around to attract dirt.  I never used many labels because the ones I made on the computer never lasted or wouldn't come off or ruined the item.  Handwritten labels always looked messy. 

So why would a confirmed label remover like myself begin advocating the use of a label maker?  They are fabulous!

I never made the leap to purchasing a label maker until well after I began to offer organizing services.  All the other Professional Organizers had them but I did see the need for one at first.  I found an inexpensive one at a discount club store that also sold a reasonably priced 3 pack of replacement tapes.  This was one of the big selling features for me.  It does not matter how cheap something is if it costs a ton to keep using it.  

I began experimenting with it around the house in small ways at first.  I began to realize that labels made it easier for me to navigate my craft room.  I did not have to think about where to put things since I had already made the decision and the labels reminded me where things belonged.  Most importantly for me, I liked the way they looked.  There was uniformity to the labels that was calming and did not clutter my space.   The label tapes also stick well and remove cleanly from most surfaces.  

I finally got why people were so in love with label makers.  
  • They are neat and uniform.
  • Quick and easy to make.
  • They give gentle reminders about where things go.
  • Stick well to most surfaces.
  • The labels remove easily when you are done with them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Beloved collection or dust collector?

My grandmother had a huge tea cup collection.  It filled the hutch, 2 corner cupboards and over flowed on to the shelves in the living room.  She enjoyed the cups and everyone bought her more for birthdays and Christmas.  They were wonderful cups but at some point they began to over run the cabinets so that it was difficult to see any one cup.

Collections can be a great source of enjoyment.  However, collections also have the tendency to become overwhelming over time.  It is not uncommon for someone to start a collection on a trip, with found objects or because of an interest.  Over time our tastes and interests can change leaving us with a collection that we no longer enjoy as much. If your space is feeling a bit cramped with a collection ask yourself some hard questions.

  • What does the collection add to my life?  Make sure your collection is enhancing your life in some way.  Do you enjoy looking at when you walk in the room or has it just faded into the background with the rest of the clutter.
  • Have you outgrown the "collection"?  Have your interests or tastes changed?  As we grow up and grow older the things that we enjoy and value change.  Maybe it is time to give the collection to someone who is just discovering a particular interest or donate it to a no profit resale shop like Goodwill.
  • Is the collection growing from gifts?  Do you purposefully pick the items for you collection or are the items things that others have given you thinking that you still collect everything that looks like a frog.  Many collections get out of hand because people are given the items and sometimes don't even remember how the collection got started in the first place.  Ask friends and relatives to take you to dinner and tell you about the trip rather than giving another trinket.  I began collecting small snow globes a few years back when I went on a trip.  The rule for my collection is to only add items that I have purchased for my self when I travel.  No gifts.
  • Who will enjoy the collection in the future?  Collections are often very personal but sometimes people will save a grouping because someone else will want it, they think.  I always ask them if the intended recipient has requested the collection.  Often the answer is no.  They are assuming that the person will want it.  The reality is that many people who are saving things for others are not doing their friends and family any favors.  These gifted collections end up creating clutter for the unsuspecting receiver who then usually struggle with the decision to donate or dispose of it in some way later.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Shop till you drop?

Don't you just love to shop?  Most of us do.  But what happens when the glow of retail therapy has worn off?  The newness of something wears off and then it is time to go shopping again.  As the cycle continues things begin to bulge out of closets and pile up in corners.  Before you know it there is so much stuff lying everywhere that it is sensory overload every time you walk in the room or open a drawer or cupboard.

Here are a few strategies to keep your stuff under control instead of it controlling you.

One in one out.  Decide how much space you want to devote to a particular type of item. If you only want to have one drawer of tee-shirts then each time you get a new one, an old one has to be donated.

De-clutter seasonally.  Go through each area on a regular basis to purge older and unwanted items.

Rethink purchases.  Make conscious decisions avoid impulse purchases.  Impulse purchases often become clutter when the newness wears off or we decide that we didn't really need or want the item.  Take time to really think through what you are buying.  Do you really need it?  Want it?  How does it enrich your life positively?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Recycle your clutter in Licking County

A big part of the de-cluttering process is getting rid of things that you either don't want, like, need or use.  Many of these items still have some value in them and aren't quite ready for the landfill.  Licking County Recycling has a terrific resource on their website at http://lcounty.com/rlc/default.aspx  They have also published a handy brochure that can be found here in .pdf listing many of the recycling resources in Licking County.


Here are some more ideas for donating items for recycling and reuse.

  • Donate clothing and household items to a charitable organization such as Goodwill or a church with a pantry for the needy.
  • Donate old worn blankets to the local humane society for animal bedding.
  • Give fabric and craft supplies to a church, preschool or school for art supplies.
  • Give gently used furniture to a local furniture bank.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tips for a little extra time

We could all use a bit more time. So here are a few of my favorite time savers.  Feel free to post your time savers in the comments.

Do tiny tasks while you wait.  I never really like to empty the dishwasher but I have just enough time to unload it while I am waiting for my tea or food to heat in the microwave.  You can also carry reading or note pad to capture thoughts with you for those time that you have to wait at the doctors office or appointments.

Create routines for everyday tasks.  Routines help us keep on track and quickly do tasks.  For things that you do everyday look at how you do the task and see if there is an easier or simpler way to do it. Bedtime is a great time for routine since it sets up the next morning and helps to signal your body that it is time for sleep.  I try to always look at my calendar to see what I will need the next day and set those thing by the door or in the car.  Then I get ready for bed, check the time on the alarm and read till I get sleepy.

Simplify the products that you use.  I really like to keep it simple when I clean.  There is a lot less to lug around and less switching between products.  Fewer products also saves you money.  Try cleaning with a good vacuum, steam mop, microfiber cloths, a good multi-purpose cleaner and a furniture polish. Look for a cleaner that is safe for a wide variety of surfaces including glass and wood.  You will be amazed at how much faster it is to clean with fewer products.  Also look at your bath and beauty routine.  How many products can you reduce if you look for products that can do double duty.  As a bonus you will also work towards de-cluttering your space.

Make kits for frequent activities.  Choose a bag or container for an activity that you do often to keep everything that you need together.  I have ones for the gym, bike riding and bead work among others.  When I am ready to go have fun I just grab the right bag and go.  I don't have to look for all the things that I need.

Define filters for your email.  I don't know about you but I get tons of junk email.  Some of it is from companies that sell items for activities that I am no longer interested in or I simply am not interested in their current offer but I might be in the future.  For these emails I like to make filters so that my email program will automatically put the messages in a particular folder.  Then I can quickly look over the subject lines and delete anything that I don't want to read or if I have a bit more time request to be unsubscribed from the list altogether.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Clean up with organization in the laundry room

Laundry is one of those chores that seems to materialize out of thin air.  No matter how often you wash clothes there always seems to be more dirty clothes.  A well stocked and organized laundry room can make wash day a whole lot smoother.

  • Keep detergent, softener and dryer sheets as close to the washer and dryer as possible.  A shelf or cupboard above them at a arms reach.
  • Place a trash can next to the dryer for easy disposal of lint, dryer sheets and junk from pockets.
  • Put laundry baskets anywhere dirty clothes accumulate such as the bathroom or bedroom.  If you have several people in the house you can get laundry sorters so that dirty laundry can be sorted as it is taken off so that you can do a load every time one of the sections is full.
  • Start by washing the bulkiest items first since they will be easy to fold and reduce the laundry quickly.
  • Fold items in a way that makes them fit well in the drawers or on the shelves that you use.  Often people keep folding clothes and towels the way they always have rather than adapting their folding techniques to the containers.
  • Keep empty hangers in the laundry room if you hang many of your clothes so that you can hang them up as they come out of the dryer and reduce the need for ironing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Maintenance Organizing

Just like losing weight or getting fit, once you get where you want to be, you can't quit or all your hard work will be lost. Being organized is much the same process where there are huge improvements early on but maintenance is needed to keep things the way you want them.

Create spaces that you will like to look at.  When you like the way something looks you are more likely to keep it looking that way.

Pick up items that don't belong in the space and evict them on a regular basis.  If you are going to a room upstairs and see items that belong there pick them up and take them with you so that you are not wasting the trip.  You can also have a bin or area to hold items that are going to a different area so that you can take them on the next trip there.  I often have papers, mail or other items that need to go to my car.  Instead of running to the car every time I find an item, I lay it on the counter next to the door into the garage and then take all the items the next time I go out to the car.

Define what belongs in an area.  Simply by deciding what belong in an area you are also defining what doesn't belong in the area.  If you have defined a drawer as the silverware drawer, you most likely will not put a screwdriver in there because it is not silverware.

Avoid miscellaneous areas the lack of definition makes it harder to decide what will go there or more importantly what will NOT go there.

Determine when you will do maintenance organizing.  You get to create the rules but you also have  to be the one to enforce them. So make rules that you can live with.  Don't tell yourself that you will organize an area every Sunday night when you know that is a time you prefer to spend with family.  Instead choose a rule that has you picking up the clutter after you use an area or before you leave the area.  There will be much less to do and it will be easier to do right them rather than come back and do it later.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quit procrastinating!

Procrastination is one of the all time big time wasters.  We all do it and we know it, but there are times that it just seems impossible to get ourselves motivated to start or finish a particular task.  Here are a few I do when I can't seem to get myself motivated.

What is keeping me from starting the task?  Sometimes it is a simple as I am exhausted or the task is very low priority. I am OK with these answer and I will give myself a bit of slack.  But other times I find myself putting off a chore because the task is large and overwhelming or there is a emotional aspect that I am not ready to confront.  When I look at the reason that I am having difficulty with a project it becomes easier to find a way to overcome the procrastination and get to work.

One form of procrastination is procrastination by perfectionism.  Essentially someone will put a task off indefinitely because they are unable to do the project or task to their standards of perfection.  I fall into this category when it comes to regular cleaning of my house.  I like things really clean but I hate running the vacuum unless I can move all the furniture and really dust everything.   Consequently, I often end up waiting to vacuum until the dust bunnies of cat hair look like they will spontaneously create new cats.  (I always vacuum at this point since I am one cat away from being a crazy cat lady.) After I realized what I was doing, I began to give myself permission to vacuum without moving furniture.  It worked!  The floors stay clean and I don't have to do a complete detail of the house that takes days to complete.

For large projects, break them down into much smaller ones that can be done as individual steps.  I love the idea of writing cards but actually sitting down and doing it always trips me up.  So I break it down in to steps.  I address the envelopes one day, then I will stamp the return address another and put postage on in another step.  Finally, I will actually write the messages.  By the time I get to writing the messages the task doesn't seem so bad and it goes quickly from there.

Good luck on your project.  If you need more help finding the motivation, give me a call at 740-334-1928.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Find an organizing system that WORKS for YOU.

There is no one single way to organize anything.  Of course there are proven systems that work for many people but none of them work for everyone.  Organizing systems need to be specific to the person and situation.  A system is working when it is easy enough for you to do without having to think about it too much or force yourself to use it and it is producing the results that you want.

When choosing a system, here are a few things to think about.

What kinds of systems already work for you?  If you prefer paper to electronic, you most likely will not enjoy using an electronic calendar or vice verse.  Don't choose a system if you know it has not worked elsewhere for you.

Where will you be using the system?  Will you always be in one space or does your system need to be portable?  I am often out of the office all day.  I also hate carrying a tons of things with me but I always have my smartphone with me. So I know that anything that I can do on my smartphone will work well for me.  For others, using a phone for tasks other than calls is irritating.  They also may spend most of their time at a desk where a calendar or planner can easily fit on the desk.

Is the system easy to use?  Most systems fail simply because they don't work with our natural tendencies.  If we have to think too hard about using a system it will not work.  The placement of a trash can is a great example of this.  Many times trash builds up and fails to make it to the trash can if it is not more convenient to put it in the can rather than somewhere else.  If wrappers collect in your car, put a bag or can in the area they collect so that it is just as easy to throw stuff away as it is to throw them on the floor.

Finally, if the system that you choose doesn't work, don't blame yourself.  Look at why it didn't work and either rework the system or choose a different one that works for you.  Remember you are tayloring the system to you not you to the system.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Back-up those files

Nothing is worse than having a computer or phone die, well, maybe losing the data that it contained.  Data back-up is easy so save early and often.  Here are a few options for saving your data.

Use a USB drive.  For small amounts of data or data shared between computers a small USB drive can be just the thing.  The files can be copied to the drive and kept safe.

Save it online.  There are many online file storage services.  Dropbox, Box.net and Carbonite to name just a few.  Search for online file storage and you will find many to choose from, free and paid.  Services like Carbonite offer automatic back-up and can be accessed from anywhere.  This is a good feature if you want to back-up your files without worrying about it.

External hard drives.  Today's choices for external storage are small portable and relatively inexpensive.  They are a great choice for backing up all your data in one place and work well as an archive for photos, files and documents.

Burn it!  Another choice is to burn data to a CD or DVD.  This is great option for data archiving that is not likely to change or needs to be stored.  Photo albums on DVD can also be kept with scrapbooks or other documents.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mulit-task with your Smartphone

We all have cellphones these days and many of us have smartphones that are multitasking mega machines.  With all this technology in your pocket you can use it to the fullest and replace many devices with one.  Here are a few of the ways I like to use mine.

Sync and save contacts.  Most phones have some ability to sync its contacts.  I have an android phone that automatically updates my Gmail contacts with the ones in my phone.  I can edit them from any computer or my phone and have the peace of mind that I am not losing a thing if I happen to lose my phone.

Calendar.  I would absolutely be lost without the calendar on my phone.  It is linked into Google calendar making it easy to access from anywhere.  I can enter items during appointments then edit or reschedule later from my desktop.  It the calendar that came with your phone isn't to your liking, looking for a different calendar app.

Download Applications.  Some apps are real workhorses and others are just fun.  Don't want to carry around a separate meal diary for you diet.  Download an app!  Apps help you greatly reduce the amount of things you carry with you.

Reduce your number of gadgets.  My smartphone and even the last few regular phones I have had have all been multi-taskers.  I avoid buying music players, gaming devices, calculators and watches.  I also know that I can have a flashlight, camera, level and much more in the palm of my hand.

Before adding gear to you bag see if you see if you can add an app to your phone and reduce the stuff you carry.  Of course, if you prefer a good 'ole paper planner and it works best for you, stick with it.  Technology is great when it works with you.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

File it, Don't lose it in a pile.

As the mail and bills come in, piles of paper have a tendency to pile up when they aren't filed or thrown out quickly.  A filing system that works for you is an important part of keeping the piles at bay.  Try a few of these tips.

File by month rather than account or topic.  Statements that come monthly generally can be filed by the month and then tossed after two years.  Most statements, such as utilities, don't need their own files.  Too many files makes things complicated

Keep only the most recent copy of insurance policies and similar documents that only the most recent copy is valid.  Once the old document is expired it can be tossed.

Keep labels and categories simple.  Choose broader categories unless the file becomes too large.  It is easier to fine a file on car care rather than files for oil changes, maintenance, tires and others.

Choose labels that mean something to you and group items depending on how you think of them.  Is an oil change a regular bill to you or car maintenance?  File it with the category that make the most sense to you, then give it a label you will remember.

Happy filing!  If you need help getting started or setting up a system call 740-334-1928.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Your email, only simpler.

Email is both a necessary and, at times, overwhelming.  Here are a few easy tips can make it more manageable.

Set time aside for reading email rather than checking it all the time or not at all.  Checking it regularly and clearing out the junk will make it much easier to read without wasting time.

Delete ads and spam as soon as you get them.  You can greatly reduce the amount of email you have to read by scanning the senders and subject lines, then deleting anything that is not important to you in groups.  Read only the messages that you need or want to read.

Use filters to separate incoming messages into groups.  Filters can be set up to look for senders, keywords in subject lines, and filtering messages that come from groups can make it easier to identify, prioritize and read.  Once the messages are in their own folders you can decide when to read them.

Archive messages that you want to keep in folders.  Messages that you will need to access later can be saved in separate folders for easy access later.  Label the folders with names that will help you remember what is in them.  Periodically, clean out the folders so that you can find the emails that you really need.

Forward messages from other accounts all to one account.  If you have multiple email accounts, have them all forward into one email account for simplicity.  This way you can check all your email in one place.

Monday, June 27, 2011

In to the clouds, for your files

Are you using the cloud?  These days using internet storage for files is called cloud computing.  Basically, you use free or paid space on someone else's server to store files, photos, music or documents.  There are many reasons this type of storage may or may not be good for you.

Access from anywhere.  Files based on another server usually are accessible from any internet connection.  The most basic form of this is internet based email.  It lives on a server independent of a single computer or device.  This is one of my favorite since it does not limit my ability to check and respond to email.  I can use any computer, even my smartphone when I am on the go.

Accessible from multiple types of devices.  Files stored online are usually accessible from multiple type of devices.  You can access online calendars from your desktop and a smartphone or tablet PC.  Play music on your computer or ipod.  The device is your choice.

Go Mobile.  With the advances in mobile technology it is more important than ever to be able to access information from anywhere.  Google is doing a great job with their suite of online services that are all accessible with one login ID and they are all accessible from any internet connection.  They have a calendar, photo sharing, blogs and much, much more.  Their Android operating system makes all of it seamless.

Information is less likely to be lost in the event of a computer crash.  There are many online file storage services like, Carbonite, that allow you to back up your computers for a monthly fee. They can be set up automatically to perform periodic back-ups so that you never have to do it manually.

Files can be easily shared and edited by a group.  Dropbox and Box.net are just a few of the services that allow you to store files online and elect whether you share them.  Most of these services allow you to invite others to see and/or edit the files.  This is a great way for  a group to work on shared files and keep track of the newest version.

The downside of all this online accessibility is security.  You may want to limit the types of information that you store on the internet.  Would you want someone else to be able to look at your family photos?  Do the files you want to secure have sensitive financial or confidential information in the?  Depending on the type of information you are storing a good old fashioned external hard drive may be your best bet but for all the fun stuff, explore the cloud.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Simplify bill pay for less stress

Nobody likes to pay bills but the process of actually paying them doesn't have to be stressful.  Bill payment is probably one of the most procrastinated tasks that anyone has.  No one wants to send their hard earned money off any earlier than they have to.  Me neither!  Here are a few simply ways to keep track of the bills that you pay regularly and make sure that they are paid on time.

Keep the information for all bills together.  This is one of my favorite.  No matter what method you use, keeping all the information on your accounts together makes it easier to know if a bill has been paid and how to contact the company in case of a problem.  There is a monthly bill organizer from the office store that has pockets for each month and a place to log it all.  I use a spreadsheet for mine that also allows me to make calculations and look at costs over time.  You can also keep it as simple as writing your information on a piece of paper that you keep with your check book.  Remember to keep this information secure the same way you would any other financial information.

File bill statements together by the month.  Forget trying to create complicated filing systems that you can never remember.  File normal monthly bills together by the month.  Most of them only need to be keep for two years, so the Freedom Filer system is perfect.  They suggest having a folder for each month for two years.  One set is labeled even year and the other odd year.  You file by the month and when you come back to where you started you purge the folder at the beginning of the month so that you never have more than two years worth of filing.

Automate bill pay or pay online as much as you can.  The internet has made it easier than ever to pay bills.  You can have bills pay automatically or pay them online manually and even go paperless to avoid piles of mail and potential identity theft.  You may want to set up a checking account just for recurring accounts.  This will prevent unwanted overdrafts from checks and debits that occurs unknowingly together.   For bills that come in the mail, keep them together for easy access when you are ready to pay bills.  A folder at your desk or near the door or mail box works well for this.

Schedule bill due dates near the same time each month.  With bills due around the same time of the month you can pay them all at once.  If money is tight and you are willing to pay bills more often you can group them into weekly or bi-monthly groups.

What is your favorite way to keep track of accounts and bills that need to be paid?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ah, vacation...are you packed and ready to go?

Summer if finally here.  The garden is planted, lawn care is well underway and it is time for some much deserved time off.  Are you ready or will you have to put in overtime just to get out the door?  Sometimes it feels easier to just stay home than go through all the prep and packing for a trip not to mention the worry that you will forget something.

Reduce anxiety by keeping a list of the things that you always need to do before taking a trip such as stopping the newspaper and holding the mail.  Keep contact information along with the to do items so that it is all in once convenient place.  You will be able to check off the items and avoid looking for lost numbers.  Think through the time that you will be gone.  What needs to be done or put on auto pilot?  Use this visualization to decide what to pack as well.  What will you be doing?  Where will you be going while on vacation?

Prep for the next trip when you return from the last one.  If you know that you will be traveling soon, keep travel toiletries and other travel only items together in your suitcase for the next trip.  This will reduce the need to search for each item all over again each item.  You can also keep a list of personal items that you normally take so that there is little chance to forget to pack them next time.

Relax.  Remember that most things can be purchased where ever you are going unless it is into the Australian Outback, and most of the things that we do before leaving are great to have done but the world will not end if they are forgotten.  I am always guilty of super cleaning the whole house, making sure that everything on my desk is done and up to date and nothing is out of place before I leave.  The result of this is being worn out and stressed out before I ever leave the house.  I now give myself permission to not have EVERYTHING done before I leave and start earlier so that more gets done before I go.

Enjoy your summer.  Life is short and should be enjoyed.  Take a well deserved trip with a little less stress getting ready.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Get ready, Organize!

Do you have an area in your house or office that "talks" to you every time you look at it?  Is it telling you that it needs cleaned or that there are things that need to be done there?  If you do, and we all have these pockets of clutter, it is most likely a great source of anxiety and stress.  The effect is subtle but overtime the stress and anxiety will build until you may be avoiding the area all together or have given up on doing anything with it.

Decide how you want the space to look or function.  In a perfect world how would you imagine your space.  This is the beginnings of making a goal for the space.  Do you want a kitchen table that is used for eating rather than being a home to piles of paper?  Is the closet an overflowing mess rather than the tranquil place to get ready?  You get to decide what you want the space to be.  How it looks and functions is entirely up to you.

Begin making small changes that work toward your goal.  For a clear kitchen table, begin by making the conscious decision to not add more to the table.  Find homes for the items that would normally land there.  Then pick a group of items that are on the table and put them away.  For instance, the children's school papers are usually are left on the table and remain there for long periods of time.  Decide ahead of time that you no longer want papers on the table.  Find a suitable location or container for the papers and begin placing them there.  Then gather up all the school papers from the table and add them to the container then as new ones come in place them in the new location rather than the table.

Use easy access.  Some items just naturally collect in one spot.  This is the clue that the natural home for those items is very near where they collect.  Do hats, coats, keys and shoes all accumulate at the door?  Then make a home for them there where it is easy for them to be put away correctly with out thinking about doing it.  Use the closet for out of season coats and accessories that aren't being used.

Organizing is a process not a final state of being.  Most of us can't just become organized then magically stay that way.  We have to work at it, little by little, always working to make things better and the way we want them to be.  Much like tending a garden you have to continually "pull" the clutter out and put it in it's place.

Stuck and need help getting started?  Simply Andi can help.  740-334-1928

Monday, May 30, 2011

Keep the memories, not the stuff.

When I moved back to Ohio after 18 years, I was confronted with a huge pile of junk that had been collected up throughout my childhood.  It seemed as if we had saved everything.  

Indeed, we had.  Before I moved home from Iowa, I de-cluttered there.  At the time, I realized that I had every bill and bank statement that I had ever received in my entire life and at 30 that was a ton of paperwork to drag around the country.  I realized then that I did not need statements from closed bank accounts.  No one was ever going to ask for 10-year-old water bills.  I tossed it all except for a few pieces for memories.  It was so liberating!

So, when I encountered the much older pile of childhood items I already knew that I did not have to keep it all to remember that I had in fact been a child once.  I set to going through it all.  I re-experienced the memories from that time as I went through the stuff.  Many things had been ruined by water and mold.  I looked them over and let them go.  I had all the school papers from kindergarten through high school graduation.  I went through them sifting out only the most interesting examples and photos.  I reduced the massive pile down to a few banker boxes that I stored in a safe dry location to prevent further decay.

Later as I had the time, I began to go through the papers that I saved.  I sorted them by grades and major events in my life.  I decided that if I was going to keep any of this, I wanted to be able to pull it out and look at it any time that I wanted to.  I choose to scrapbook the items.  Now I am not an avid scrap-booker but I do realize that albums are a fine way to archive items so that you can easily look at them later.  As I finish the project, I will also photograph the pages to have a digital version.

Keeping memories and a sense of who we are does not require keeping everything we ever own.  Scrap booking is not for everyone but there are plenty of ways to keep memories without keeping a ton of stuff.  Other alternatives for saving memories include making a tableau, frame a small collection in a shadowbox; keep a sample of items in a memory box and digital photographs of large items or collections.  What other ways can you think of to keep the memories without the stuff?

Give yourself permission to let go of the items.  Ask yourself if you are honoring the items that you hold so dear.  Are they being cared for or molding in a basement or garage?  What does it cost to keep everything?  Are you paying for storage or sacrificing living space?  Do you really want the items?  Be honest with yourself.

It takes courage to de-clutter the things that hold our memories of ourselves and our loved ones.  It is not always a task to do alone or for the faint of heart.  If you need support or feel overwhelmed by the project, look for a professional organizer in your area.  Check out http://www.napo.net/ for a directory of organizers in your area.  Or call Simply Andi at 740-334-1928 for simply positive change.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Organizing anytime, anywhere

Organizing can happen anywhere, anytime.  While you won't be able to organize your underwear drawer while you are sitting at a red light you certainly can take a few seconds to pick up the lunch wrappers sitting in the passenger's seat and put them in a bag to toss at your destination.  If you begin to think about organizing as a process that is always happening, you will see how it can fit in to all areas of your life.

You do not have to begin organizing yourself by tossing everything and starting over.  Organizing is about making small conscious decisions about the things we keep around us.  Over time the small decisions make it easier to automatically know how you will handle something.

For instance, you may not like that your kitchen counter is full of stuff.  If you begin by deciding that you want a clean counter and consciously thinking about each item that you add to the counter, it is likely that eventually the counter will be clean continuously.  However, many people sweep the counter clean, shove everything in a drawer or cupboard without thinking about where anything went.  In a few days a whole new batch of stuff is cluttered on the counter.

Instead, before you add something to the counter, ask yourself, "does this belong here?"  Are you putting it on the counter to remember to do something with it?  Will you pick it up and put it away later?  Will it take less than a minute to put it away, why not do it now?

You can also try using the time it takes to heat something, like tea, in the microwave to de-clutter the counter.  Choose a category and pick up those items.  Maybe there is junk mail all over the counter.  Choose the pieces that you aren't going to read or act on and toss them out.  You can do this with any item on the counter and repeat the process until all that is left are the items that you want on the counter.

Be careful, organizing can be come addictive.  Once you organize one area you will want to organize others.  Be addicted to your positive change.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Do you ever feel like you live in your car?

I sure do.  I have days when I travel between clients and appointments all day long.  I'm in and out of the car multiple times.  I never know just what I will need for a particular stop so I tend to stock common items just in case.  I have also never been much of a purse person, probably because I pack it too full to carry, so my car becomes a pocket book on wheels.  With all this stuff, it takes a bit of organization to keep it under control.

Create a portable office.  I know there are days when I will have spare time but I can't make it back to the office to work.  I still get plenty done with the portable office that I have created in a computer bag.  In the bag, I keep my laptop, which has files synced from the desktop computer, it power cords along with a cord to sync and power my phone.  I keep a limited supply of business cards, brochures and fliers for networking and travel versions of basic office supplies.  I go through my bag regularly to see if there are any items I can live without or that I haven't used in a long time.  I remove these to lighten the load.

Keep it in reach.  Driving distractions are deadly.  Do everything you can to keep your attention on the road.  Keep the things you may need while on the road in easy reach in an organizer on the passenger seat.  There are many styles and varieties to choose from.  I picked a scrap-booking tote with a ton of pockets.  I limit myself to the things that fit and review the contents regularly removing anything that I don't need.  I can quickly move the tote to the back seat or trunk when I have a passenger or I don't want to look at the items.

Put it in the trunk.  All the items that you need regularly but never need in reach can go in the trunk.  Think of the trunk as your portable supply closet for extra business cards, brochures, tools, change of clothes or gym clothes and anything else you may require.  Use a tub or bin to keep the items together for easy removal on the weekends when the trunk needs to be used for your personal life.

Kick it out.  The more time you spend in your car the more you will accumulate in it that does not belong.  Begin making a habit of collecting anything that does not belong in the car and putting it away.  The time you spend in the car will be more relaxed making you more efficient and a safer driver.  Keep a bag handy for trash and toss daily.  Look through your vehicle weekly, at least, for anything that does not belong.  You will be amazed at the items that collect in the car.

Not sure where to start, call me for a free consultation to see how I can help, 740-334-1928

Monday, May 9, 2011

Are you ready to go play?

If you are like me, you are probably keeping a close eye on the weather this time of year looking for opportunities to sneak outside for some much needed fresh air and sunshine.  My favorite activity for a nice afternoon is a ride on my bike, nothing makes me feel more like a kid.  I consider my garage the grown-up version of a toy box.  The toys are just bigger and a bit more expensive these days.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I hate wasting time looking for gear when I really want to be outside having fun.  In addition to keeping the garage uncluttered, you will be able to get to your favorite activities faster if all your gear is organized by activity.

Take a look at your space and determine a good location that is out of the way when you are not using your gear and easily accessible when you are heading out.  For my bike gear, this is two places, one that is right inside the garage door for my current bike, helmet and shoes and on the back wall for the rest of the bikes that I don't ride everyday.  I chose these areas because I want to be able to easily access my bike when my car is in the garage.  I usually ride from the house so this is important to me.  I can change clothes, walk out in to the garage grab my bike and gear and be on the road in a matter of minutes.  I have no excuses for not getting out and riding.  The other bikes are in the back since I rarely need them and they would be in the way up front.

Once you know where you gear is going to live, give each item its own space or hook.  Make it so easy to find things that you never have an excuse to not do your favorite activity.  You will also be more likely to put things away where they belong if there is a definite place for each item.  Don't make yourself have to decide what to do with something each time you are finished with it.  Decide once and forget about it.

Now get out there and go play!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Get ready to garden!

Spring is definitely here and we have all had more than enough of the rain.  Our lawns are crying out for attention in between the rain drops as the weeds threaten to take over.

I don't know about you but I usually avoid tasks that take too much time to get ready to do or find the tools.  Getting all your yard work gear together helps you spend more time on the tasks that need to be done and more importantly more time enjoying the fruits of your labor.

Invest a few hours in gathering up all your lawn and garden equipment.  Take a good look at the items you have.  Are they in good working order or have they seen too many seasons?  Toss, donate or re-purpose anything that is not usable.

Next, determine if there are any tools that you will need to weed, plant or trim.  Make sure to take stock of tools that have replaceable parts and make a note of parts that need to be replaced now and ones that will need to be replaced soon or during the season.  Purchase these items ahead of time and store with the lawn and garden tools.  Nothing is more frustrating that having to stop and make a trip to the store instead of getting the job done.

Make a home for all you yard and garden tools and supplies.  Remove anything that does not belong in the space so that items are easy to access and put away.

Now you can enjoy hassle free sessions in the yard all summer long.

If you have specific questions regarding garage or shed storage call 740-334-1928 for a complimentary 1 hour consultation.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Is your task list working for you?

We all have a list of things that need to be done but we don't have to use the same method to keep track of them.  What's your favorite way to capture and complete tasks?  Here are a few you may want try.

  • Pencil and paper - Most of us are familiar with this variety of list making.  It's low tech and easy.  It never crashes or needs to be backed up but for many of us it just doesn't work.  As you cross items the list becomes messy and you have to carry it everywhere.
  • Stickie notes - They are easy to use and handy but get out of hand quick if they are not kept under control.  Try to corral them in a folder or on a piece of paper rather than all over your desk. Judith Kolberg describes this method in her book Conquering Chronic Disorganization.  This is one of my favorites since it is tactile while being flexible.  The stickies allow you to move them around and categorize them however you wish.
  • PDA, smartphone or cellphone - Use the memo, calendar or task feature on your phone so that your to do items are always with you.  This is especially helpful when you remember a to do item when you are away from your desk.
  • Electronic calendar - The electronic calendar is my new best friend, especially one that lives in the "cloud."  It can be synced with your portable device and accessed from any internet connection.  Corrections and changes are immediate from any place you access the calendar.  Tasks can be added to the task list or scheduled on the calendar.
  • Timeline - Map tasks out on a timeline in the order that the need to be done so that an important step isn't forgotten.  
  • Planner Pad - This is a to do list and calendar in one that helps you prioritize and schedule tasks for maximum effectiveness.  You can find them on the internet for purchase.
  • Monthly and weekly desk calendars - Theses are a great choice for folks that are usually at a desk or prefer to handwrite items.  You can see a block of time and plug into it the things that need to be done.
If the method that you are currently using isn't working for you try a different one.  Many times we beat ourselves up for not making the system work when we are really using the wrong system for us.  Think about what you do and seems natural to you when picking a system.  For example, if you are always out of the office and hate carrying a bunch of stuff then a bulky planner may not be for you especially if you are always leaving it at the office.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What is clutter and how do we get rid of it?

What is clutter?  It may seem obvious that clutter is the junk laying around the house or office that doesn't belong.  But clutter is much more than that.  Clutter is anything that assaults our senses and erodes the feeling of calm in a space. Our senses can easily be overwhelmed by too much stuff, too many different noises or too much information.

Generally, clutter is the accumulation of items that you no longer need or want, items that do not have a defined "home" or excessive things. For most of us, clutter is a visual assault and reminder of decisions that need to be made and work to be done.  Every time you walk into a cluttered room, it "talks" to you.  It reminds you of the tasks that have been left undone, trash or donations that need to be taken out and the things that you have not put away because you don't know what to do with them or where to put them.

There are the items that you don't put away because you will never find them or remember where you put them.  Some items are left out so that you will remember to do something with them.  The problem with all these reminders is that the all compete for attention until there is so much that it become the visual version of white noise, nothing really gets seen or acted upon.

De-clutter for a fresh calm space.  Begin by removing anything that can be thrown out or donated.  Do you have papers at your desk that are no longer needed?  Toss them in the recycling or shredding.  Make friends with the trash and recycling bins and make sure that you have one any place that you often encounter things to throw out.

Next, look for items that you no longer use.  Ask yourself if you really will use it or love it.  If the answer is no, considering getting rid of it.  For decorations and accessories, choose some to pack away.  Keep only a portion of the collection out.  In a few months, instead of purchasing more decorations rotate collections for a fresh look and feel.

Now collect up items that don't belong in the space.  Sort them by the room or area belong to and return everything to its home.  Do you have items that have never had a home?  Now is a great time to begin deciding where things should live.  As you begin the process, you may have to de-clutter another area to make homes for things.  Set the items aside but bee sure to schedule a time to work on the next space.

Organizing is a process.  It takes time and practice but it gets easier the more you do it.  Every time you go through a space, it will take less time and be easier.

Are you still overwhelmed and not sure where to start?  Hire a professional organizer.  They can save you time and money while helping you make the most of your efforts while offering an outside perspective and fresh ideas.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring Cleaning - Basics of Deep Cleaning

I tend to be more of a deep cleaner rather than a maintenance cleaner so deep cleaning can happen anytime at my house but for many, spring is the traditional time for deep cleaning.  It's warm enough to open the windows, air the house out and oust the dirt along with the winter coats.

Begin by de-cluttering the room.  Pick up anything that has made it's way into the space that doesn't belong.  Depending on how much there is you may want to sort it into piles for different rooms or regions of the house.  Once you have everything gathered up, pick a pile and redistribute the piles to their proper homes.

Next, depending on the room, you will want to gather up anything that needs to be washed or sent to the dry cleaners. For bedrooms, this can include laundry, dresser scarves, bedding including the bed skirt and throw pillows.  This is especially important for allergy sufferers and anyone with pets.  Fabric catches and holds dust and dander that mites live on.  Washing in hot water gets rid of them and removes particles that kick up allergies and asthma.

While the wash is being done, grab your vacuum and cleaning supplies.  Vacuum the entire room.  My preference is to move ALL the furniture that I can.  If you need a bit of help sliding things around so you do not damage your floors, pick up some furniture sliders at the hardware store.   They come in two varieties, one for hard surfaces and the other for carpet.  Simply place one under each corner of the item then carefully move it out of place.  Be sure to remove any breakables from the furniture first.  As you vacuum, look for cobwebs that you haven't noticed, dust on baseboards and light fixtures.  Be sure to also vacuum upholstered furniture to get dust and animal hair.  A good vacuuming will make it easier to wipe things down with out having to chase wet dust around.  For a recommendation on a great vacuum, check out my previous post.

Once you pick all the loose dust with the vacuum, grab your microfiber cloth and dusting spray or my favorite, hot ammonia water.  Wear gloves to protect your hands.  Wring the cloth almost dry and wipe everything off that you can including baseboards and wood work.  The ammonia water and microfiber cloth is also a good choice for the windows.  Use one wet to loosen the dirt and a dry one to polish it.  Once every thing has dried you can go back over wood with a furniture polish to protect and shine it up.

If you want a fresher look for the season, now is a great time to rearrange the furniture since it is already moved around.  This is also a great time to change out or de-clutter decorations for the season.  Replace all the furniture, fluff the pillows, dust any knick-nacks that may have been missed.  Enjoy your fresh new space.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A few of my favorite things...for cleaning.

I love the calm of a freshly cleaned space especially when it has been a while since the last cleaning.  My preference is to deep clean a room when I get the chance but I don't load up on cleaning products to get the job done.  I have found that a few simple but highly effective items will give you the best clean for even the toughest job.

Microfiber cloths are the best.  I used to be a fan of reusing old cotton towels and cloths to clean with but they just don't get the job done the way a microfiber one does.  The microfiber fabric helps do the cleaning and polishing in a way that cotton just can't.  For most surfaces and applications a wet cloth with your favorite cleaning solution  does the trick.  They are also highly economical and washable for reuse.

Lemon ammonia is my cleaning solution of choice for deep cleaning.  It is inexpensive, makes a ton of cleaning solution and leaves no dull residue.  Most surfaces can be cleaned safely with ammonia in water.  Windows especially are beautiful when washed with a microfiber cloth and hot ammonia water then polished with a dry microfiber cloth.  Even I am willing to clean windows without complaining now.  Be sure to test an area, if you are not sure if it can handle the ammonia.

There is no substitute for a good quality vacuum.  My personal favorite is the Kenmore Progressive 21514 canister from Sears.  This is a workhorse vacuum and the only one that you will need for years.  I got a new one for Christmas this past year only because I was going to be using the one I already had to prep houses for rental units.  I have had that vacuum for over 7 years and it is still going strong. The bags, filters and belts are a breeze to change.  The model shown also has all its attachments on board for easy use.  You can go from hard floors to carpet almost instantly and detach the floor head to vacuum baseboards without bending over to touch the release.

For tough dirt, I also like Scotch-Brite and Mr. Clean Magic Erasers.  The Scotch-Brite scours off the the toughest dirt along with hot ammonia water for a super clean.  A quick word of caution, scotch-brite works so well that it can strip wood work and paint so test a small patch first.  The Mr. Clean Magic Erasers are perfect for fine surface dirt that doesn't come off with just a cloth.  I use them on counter, appliances, sinks and porcelain.

Forget the mop and bucket!  A steam cleaner from Shark is an amazing piece of cleaning equipment.  I have a cannister version and a handheld that make quick work of floors, shower and just about everything else.  Fill it up with distilled water, you can use tap but the hard water wears out the machine faster, and mop.  Wash the microfiber head in the washing machine and you are ready for the next time.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Organization is a Process

Many times I hear folks talking about "getting organized" or "when I am organized" as if it is some magical state of being that once it happens remains that way.

Organization is a continual process and a way of living that makes use of conscious decisions to create a calm, efficient environment to create space in our homes and lives for the things and opportunities that we really want.

I often compare organizing to the process of losing weight or getting fit.  Neither of these activities happen overnight.  You did not get over-weight or out-of-shape over night either so why would you think that there is a quick fix that will last.  Sure you can do crash diets and throw everything away to clear out a room but the habits that created the problem in the first place are still there waiting to undo the quick fix.

The prescription for all these conditions is much the same as well, small incremental lifestyle changes.  I work with my clients usually in blocks of 2 hours.  This is enough time to tackle an area but not so long that the begin to experience decision burnout.  It also means that the space we are organizing is small enough to be maintained until the next session.  They are able to experience small changes in a way that allows them to be lifestyle changes that are manageable.

Are you ready for positive change?  Call me at 740-334-1928 for a free assessment.  I love helping those that are ready to make change in their lives.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'm Just too Lazy...

I hear this from clients all the time. They tell me that they are disorganized because they are lazy and then go on to detail huge lists of activities, responsibilities and hobbies, not to mention the to do lists . The lists include more than any human can ever possibly manage reasonably. They beat themselves up for not finishing everything they start or want to do. They look at their clutter and see defeat as they walk through the door after work. When they finish their tale, I begin the reality check.

My clients are not lazy! They are exhausted! Modern life presents us with so many opportunities it is difficult to decide what we really want to do and when to simply say NO. Life is more complicated now than ever. For many of us, we do not accept that we only have so much time and energy. The clutter is another constant reminder that there are more unfinished tasks than we have energy. The mental berating stresses us out and wears us down.

Avoid this trap by giving yourself permission to NOT do everything.  Begin by learning to say, "No," to additional responsibilities and begin to delegate items that you can. Once you have a bit of breathing room on your schedule, again give yourself permission to not de-clutter and organize the house in one weekend.  Biting off more than you can chew all at once is simply self defeating.  Begin with small areas such as a room or simply one drawer in the kitchen.  Work on small steps consistently for the best results.