Friday, May 27, 2011

7 Steps to Organizing a Drawer or Cabinet

Are you overwhelmed by a drawer in your desk or bathroom? Is there a kitchen cabinet that is overflowing? Here are some simple steps to getting it organized fast.

Decide if you need to. Not every drawer or cabinet in your house has to be organized. Unless you love neatness--not because of guilt but because you truly enjoy having things in place--it may be better to spend your time on areas that you see or use more often. If it will bring you joy and peace to organize it, then do it!

Get a container. You'll need a container large enough to act as a temporary "staging area" for the items in that space. (This may becoming your organizing container for a lot of your projects around the house. If you are creative, feel free to decorate it!)

Empty the space. It's very difficult to organize a cluttered space. Starting with an empty area makes it much easier to make decisions. Think about how often you wish you could just start over in a new house. This is why.

Use a timer or item goal. Decide how long, or how many items, you will make decisions about, then stop. You may decide to work on the drawer for five minutes. Or you may think, "I'll make decisions about five items from this cabinet." Part of the drain of organizing is the mental energy needed to make decisions such as "I may need this someday."

Sort items, applying one of the following four actions: give away, throw away, hide away, put away. (A "Hide Away" box is a collection of items from all your organizing that will allow you defer decision making that bogs you down. You can deal with THAT container at another time.)

Stop when the goal is reached. If your timer goes off, and you only have a little more to go, decide if you want to. If not, keep the container in a handy place and work on it another five minutes later. You'll be surprised how much you can organize in five-minute increments.

Reward yourself. Do one small, (preferably healthy) thing to celebrate this accomplishment. It may feel like "I didn't do much," but by doing something, you have made progress. And remember, getting organized is about progress, not perfection.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Getting Organized at Home: 12 Step Sneak Peek

Chances are, you wish you were a little more organized at home. It's an ongoing journey for me. If you came to my house, you would see a lived-in--not pristine--home. There are spots where it appears we've gotten a handle on organization, but there are just as many that need de-cluttering and order. So why am I writing a book, with two friends, on getting organized at home?

We're writing this book because we know that a majority of families, and women in particular, struggle with juggling all their responsibilities. Many are interested in finding ways to streamline their homes, reduce stress, and be able to find their keys! As writers, we are on the same journey as many of these women, and we each have our strengths and challenges when it comes to being organized. We write from a shared level, not the dust free ivory tower commanding, "Do what we do."

We hope to have the book available by the end of the year, and may even release parts of it sooner. But here is a sneak peak to the 12 insights we will be sharing.

Getting organized at home is an act of worship. Our first priority is our relationship with God. We honor Him when we work on bringing our lives and homes into order and balance.

Getting organized allows us to serve others more easily. When we are organized and our home is generally presentable, we are in a much better position to spontaneously reach out to someone in need (i.e. provide a place to stay or a meal) and in particular, create a refuge for our families where they can safely recharge.

Getting organized is a matter of progress, not perfection. This is a key concept. We look to the "finally done" goal only to have something else pop up to be done. Instead, we should enjoy the journey of making improvements.

Getting organized relates to our personality and body rhythms. You do your best organizing when your energy level is up. If you are a creative personality, you don't have to try to have everything in a specific place like a more detailed individual may want.

Getting organized reflects on our our emotions and history. We carry memories, and yes, even baggage from our past in relation to how we keep our homes. This can include modeling after other relatives, positive or negative comments we've received from others (i.e. "I never taught you that way,") or expectations such as how a holiday "always goes." These must be considered as we develop our unique "getting organized" plan.

Getting organized corresponds to our relationships. If more than one person lives in the home, the relationship will have an impact on how the home is maintained. We have to learn to adjust to the personalities of our spouses, roommates, and children. One student was delighted to take a guest room for her own creative space, freeing up the home office entirely for her "everything in its place" husband. It was positive for them individually AND for their marriage!

Getting organized requires workable systems. You have to develop routines that work for YOUR family. For example, look at the traffic patterns in your home. Does everyone drop their coats on the floor by the garage door? You may need to put up some coat hooks there.

Getting organized requires flexibility. Once you have systems set up, you need to allow for adaptation. You could have a week that is slammed full and thus you won't be able to go to the recycle bin that Friday. That's okay! You'll just have a little more to recycle next Friday!

Getting organized is helped by strategic teamwork. Find fun and rewarding ways to get the others in your household involved in getting organized.

Getting organized requires pruning and purging. Yes, you will have to get rid of some things, but you'll breath easier when your clothes aren't stuffed together.

Getting organized means we will have to be aware of obstacles. We each have things that tend to trip us up and need to develop a strategy to handle those obstacles. For example, if you receive a phone call every morning from a particular person, and morning is your best time to clean up, get an earpiece or let the call go to voice mail. Call back when you are finished.

Getting organized requires maintenance. Once a system is in place, you will have to maintain it reasonably well, or you will fall back into traps. This is similar to being aware of obstacles, but it also is some simple plans to keep things going smoothly. An example of this would be to have a policy that when you buy a new piece of clothing, you get rid of two others. This allows you to maintain adequate space and continue purging.

There is no perfect way to maintain order and be organized all the time. Sometimes, the most organized people are the most tense and stressed out because of their fear of falling behind. You have to find what works within the unique created you that God made. It's a journey you'll be on for a lifetime, but it's worth taking the trip.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Organizing Technology

Sometimes our technology, meant to make life easier, actually provides more cause for stress. (For example, I still can't find a Bluetooth headset I bought and it really irks me!) How many times have you misplaced a cord for your cell phone? Forgot to charge your laptop? Misplaced an earpiece? Relied on technology to work only to have it act up out of your control? Here are a few tips to keep technology from getting the best of you.

Store cords and accessories such as earphones in one place. Have a pouch or other container for all charging cords and ear phones. Carry this pouch with you if tend to mobile-compute or travel frequently.

Get duplicates. I find it helpful to have a charging dock at both my home office and my job workspace so I can charge my phone in either place. It was worth the extra cost to have the cord readily available. You may want to purchase an additional cord to keep in your car or business case.

Reconsider what technology you use. Ask yourself if this piece of equipment is really essential to carry around all day. Do you make use of all the apps on your phone or are you better off with a simple cell phone and basic texting plan? Sometimes we get intrigued by what a smart phone or laptop can offer but get overwhelmed by all the choices. Keep productivity apps to only a few that you will use regularly.

Don't eliminate writing. It's perfectly fine to carry a small notebook and not force yourself to use technology all the time just because it is "popular" to do so. Do what works easiest for you.

Store your technology in no more than three places. Like tip one above, get into the habit of only having three places in your home or office where you would choose keep your phone or laptop. Pick a corner of your desk, a nightstand, or if portable, a waistband pouch. When you slim down the number of places you habitually put something, it's easier to look for the item.

I'm into technology like a lot of people, but I have also found it to be one of the regular sources of frustration. Let technology work FOR you, not against you.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sometimes I Stink at This

If it wasn't so frustrating, it would be comical that I am writing an organizing blog and working on a book. Since getting this going, it seems like I am even more aware of my challenges with staying organized. It makes me feel like a hypocrite. But a good friend (and one of the co-authors of the upcoming book) reminded me that I am living this journey. That makes it real. After all, most of you readers are living the journey too, right, or you wouldn't be reading this blog.

Just this morning (the day of writing this) I was starting to get in tears because I couldn't find my phone before leaving for the day. I retraced steps, knowing I had just had it moments before. I tried calling it from the house phone, but it was on vibrate. Turns out it was tucked under my purse. The night before, I was troubled by not being able to find a charging code. This morning, I found it on my bathroom counter, tucked within a towel I had scooped it up with. I'm still frustrated that I've lost my Bluetooth headset somewhere. (Do you see a pattern here of the things that repeatedly frustrate me? Good ole technology.)

My mind is on a lot of things right now. Nothing is of life or death consequence, but a continual juggling of lots of details. My mind has become dusty with clutter, and I find myself not being in the moment. For example, I absent mindedly gather things while I'm thinking of other things and don't concentrate on where I lay items down. It comes from years of fast-paced multi tasking. But I'm getting a little older now and I find that the brain more quickly gets tired.

So, I think my goal for the next few weeks as I go through some transitions vocationally is to grasp the moment and concentrate more. I've heard it said that the best advice is to "pay attention." The issues above that frustrated me would not have happened if I was attentive to the task at hand and made a mental note of where I put things.

How about you? Does mental clutter make you absent-minded and then frustrated? What do you do about it?