As an organizer, I always follow my client’s lead and only suggest we work on areas THEY identify. Every once in a while, though, I notice an irritating situation that could easily be solved with a label.
This scenario came up a month ago while working in someone’s dressing area: her space has a number of zones with specific task lighting tied to a central panel.
As we were leaving the space, she went to turn off her make-up area light. Not knowing which switch controlled which light, she ended up flicking every switch, one by one, until she found the ONE she needed. Her heavy sigh told me this issue is chronic.
So we fixed her problem — right then and there.
Now, if you know the story of the cobbler whose kids went barefoot, you will understand that just because I see “problem areas” in other people’s homes all day, this does not guarantee that I am a ruthless problem-solver in my own home.
Spoiler alert: not every shelf, bin or basket in my home is labeled!
Truth is, not every shelf, basket or bin NEEDS to be labeled. If it is obvious what it is and if no one is having an issue finding what they need, then there is no problem. But confusion breeds stress.
That same day, I went home and noticed myself doing the same thing to two of our three kitchen switches. That’s when I decided to do for myself what I do for others! So I labeled our switchplate. It’s been a game changer. The only thing I had to tweak was what I called them; my daughter did not think “door” made sense so we revised the label and now everyone is happy.
Our kitchen is the hub of our home, but now that the weather is warmer, we are spending a lot more time on our front porch.
Fast forward to the other day, when my husband texted me to make sure I turned off the front pathway lights. Our guests had stayed late the night before, and he didn’t want to waste electricity. In the daylight, I could not see if the lights were on or off… Couple that confusion with another multi-switch panel, and my stress level was rising. Without a partner to check the outdoor fixture’s bulb, it was more exercise than I expected so early in the morning. I figured it out on my own, turned the pathway lights off and did what any organized person would do: I labeled each switch.
This time, my family approved of every label AND my daughter commented the next morning how helpful it was to know which switch controlled which hallway light. She had stayed up later than all — not unusual for teenagers — and knowing that we sleep with our door open at night to give our dog freedom, she didn’t want to wake us with a bright light at the top of the stairs.
My labels helped protect my investment of time, saved our daughter from waking us, and granted me an uninterrupted night’s sleep!
Think of where a label or two could help your household function a little better or brighter, or maybe even ensure a better night’s sleep for you.
Banish household confusion with a label or two; it’s illuminating!
If you’ve ever wondered, do organizers really practice what they preach?
I am here to say, YES! In my case, I follow 4 basic rules*:
1. Decide where things live
2. Return items to their “home”
3. Follow In One/Out One
4. Build routines around maintaining systems
The third rule, In One/Out One, is the least appreciated and most neglected by our clients, even though it offers the best defense against clutter build-up.
Here’s a personal story of how it recently went down in my house.
First you have to know that I LOVE citrus. Fresh lemon juice goes into every salad dressing. Fresh lime juice refreshes most fruit bowls. Many of my fish recipes require fresh lemon, lime or orange juice. So my juicer has been a staple in my kitchen. I love that it not only does a great job, it also attaches to a measuring cup – which makes it easy to know when I have enough.
Pictured below on the left, it had a primo spot in my most accessible gadget drawer just below my prep counter. Until…
My husband, an aspiring minimalist, bought me a new juicer. He had researched to get me “the perfect gift.” I was skeptical, even though for him to buy something it MUST be great. I could not imagine HOW anything could replace my beloved juicer.
It would have to at least be:
• super easy to use
• simpler to clean
Well, my new citrus press is all that AND bold and bright. In being so colorful — I smile every time I see it.
But it took me some time to let go of my trusted fave…2 weeks, in fact. I call it the testing time. Some “old” items deserve this reflective time.
Honestly, it took me a week to open the package and try the new “citrus press.” I felt like I was cheating on my trusted go-to.
Once, I tried it, I set an alarm on my calendar to remind me to “consider if keeping new juicer” and a few days later “decide if still need old juicer.”
When you replace something, even if you are committed to In One Out One, you don’t HAVE to let go immediately. But you must put a time limit on making your decision. (It’s too easy for items to stagnate, clog your drawers and attract more clutter.)
Since I was using these gadgets daily, it didn’t take long to know I was in love. As for my “old” juicer, it still has life left in it. My son is a decent cook at college — so guess who just inherited a new fave? 🙂 When he graduates, I will gift him his very own citrus press!
* Remember I said these were 4 rules that I think every Professional Organizer follows?
It’s true of any organized person.
• You don’t have to be a professional organizer to be organized.
• Some people are MORE organized than their organizer (GASP!)
Yes…it’s true. Not every organizer is the MOST organized person you’ll ever meet.
• Professional Organizers know how to help YOU solve your organizational overwhelms and clutter-crisis.
Everyone knows that our lungs are the major organ in our respiratory system, that our brain is central to our nervous system and that our stomach and intestines are partners in our digestive system.
How does that connect to organizing? Just look at the word: there is an ORGAN inside organizing!
Our bones — amazing organs within our skeletal system — form the structure of our bodies while they protect our internal organs. With the help of ligaments and tendons, our skeletal system allows us to move.
Let’s look at our households like our bodies — and see ORGANizing from an interdependent, systemic perspective:
• providing structure and support
• filtering toxins (clutter)
• creating space for nourishment
• allowing time to digest our days
• minimizing distractions
As the daughter of a D.O., the osteopathic approach always takes the whole person into consideration. Likewise, I consider the whole household when organizing.
On that note, let’s all head into 2019, protecting our:
• organizing time like our brains
• organizing framework as we maintain our posture
• organizing schedule as routinely as brushing our teeth
• and use our ORGANizing muscles to stay healthy!
Happy New Year
As a residential professional organizer, I visit lots of homes. One household system that is quick to fall apart and overwhelm a person is LAUNDRY.
I have strong opinions on laundry:
• dark and light clothing should be separated (my children do not all agree)
• “laundry” is not done until it is all put away
You don’t have to share those views, but I see on a weekly basis how the “putting away” is where the system breaks down. Most of us are pretty good starting the laundry process. There is an obvious and inevitable external motivation to wash clothes when one runs out of clean socks or underwear. Many people are also decent at shifting the wet clothes over to the dryer. The widespread access to timers on our phones has made this step particularly easy for even the “follow-through-challenged.”
I see “laundry overwhelm” during the next 2 points in the system:
1) clean but not yet folded clothes that remain clean…until they get mixed with dirty clothes or buried under other stuff
2) folded clothes in baskets — when not returned to dresser drawers or closets they clog bedrooms and hallways and hold laundry baskets hostage creating a problem for dirty clothes who remain “homeless”
If we focus on these 2 connected steps along the process: 1) folding and 2) putting away and employ task batching, the process goes smoother.
Task batching is a way to manage time and perform tasks in sets where the same mental effort and physical energy is used to maximize productivity and streamline a process.
Even if laundry is not the most stressful task, any project you can simplify will free up your mind for the heavy lifting of life. If you’re a procrastinator, my suggestion to task batch your folding and put away steps is good news! It decreases the distance between start and finish and builds in lots of manageable size “loads.” More, but smaller tasks to quickly complete, offer the satisfaction of a job well done!
Task Batched Folding Steps would look like this:
• Sort clean laundry into categories: if you mix loads from a whole household, your first sort job will be by person, then by category of clothing (socks, underwear, shirts that fold, shirts that hang, bottoms, work out clothing, pajamas…etc).
• Prep each category so it’s ready to be folded (right any clothes that are inside out or button collars).
• Fold each category separately – meaning one category at a time – preferably on a clean and flat surface.
• Do all of your folding at once.
Will task batching your folding process solve all of your laundry dilemma’s? No — but folding by category allows you to delegate small pieces of the project to even the youngest helpers and lets others take pride in the smooth running of the household if you’re lucky enough to live with people who will “volunteer” or as in our household, be volunteered to help 🙂
I learned this with a new client: Kim (not her real name) has struggled all her life to maintain a neat space. Her efforts go in waves and she has managed to live a really rich and creative life — but it hasn’t been easy. She’s lost a few things along the way. Paid her share of late fees for bills and penalties for misplaced parking tickets. And wasted time rewashing clothes after the dirty commingled with the clean.
When she was ready to stop this chaos…she called in a professional organizer.
She had 3 areas to organize:
• her wardrobe and bedroom
• her living room – including a desk area
• her hallway which had become an over-crowded storage space
We started in her bedroom because the mess was affecting her sleep. After 3 working sessions we had sorted through all of her clothes, cleared every surface (including the floor) of anything that didn’t belong, rearranged her dresser drawers and closet with zones for each type of clothing she needed in her life.
Moving on to the living room, Kim sheepishly told me a “funny” story about her missing slippers. The one constant in Kim’s life had been lots of weekends away to cabins with friends. In preparing to pack for one such weekend, she described how she had scoured her apartment looking for her slippers.
She checked ALL of her usual spots: under the coffee table, in the bathroom, kicked under the hallway table, in a pile behind the couch, tucked under her bed, tossed into a corner by her cat…she couldn’t find them anywhere.
She left for her weekend sans slippers in a bummed mood.
As soon as she got on the road to the cabin, it hit her. She couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Her slippers were right where we had left them — in their new home. They were in the bottom “bay” of the hanging shoe organizer we had installed in her closet.
It was a funny lesson to us both, that getting organized takes some getting used to! The motto of Kim’s story is: It’s easy to find what you need when you need it…when it is right where you left it.
These acronyms are clever and catchy:
BOGO: Buy One, Get One is an advertising phrase that encourages people to purchase because of the promise of a second item…whether they need it or not.
FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out is a phenomenon where people refuse to commit to plans or feel less present in their current activity because they wonder what they’re missing (that might be more fun).
YOLO: You Only Live Once is my youngest daughter’s favorite.
Ever heard of AUG? Don’t worry if you haven’t. Other than being the abbreviated version for this month, it is my attempt to be clever by encouraging de-cluttering throughout August. AUG stands for Anything Unused Goes!
AUG is an acronym that is very flexible. I invite you to get creative with the different ways you can use it to clear unused, useless and unworthy things from your life, space and storage areas.
How do you decide worth or usefulness? Please don’t decide worth solely by how much you spent or invested in something. Real worth is defined by how valuable it is to you today. Decide how necessary your stuff is to your life and its worth of the space it’s taking up in your home, car or office.
Lots of folks confuse usefulness with an item’s ability to still be useful – without considering if that item is of actual use to them. Today, there are so many ways to donate, repurpose and recycle things. Don’t hold onto things that clutter YOUR life. Let Anything Unused Go!