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.