We’ve all read books and articles about how to organize. I’ve even written many articles on what to do first, what to do second, etc. However, I’ve never written about what not to do. It seems counter-intuitive to write about anything negative, but sometimes we need to discuss this aspect about de-cluttering and organizing as well.
1. Don’t buy any organizing products until you see you what you actually need. You won’t know the answer to that until you finish de-cluttering and putting like with like to figure out the size of the product/container and where it’s going to go. Why waste your time buying something, not needing it, and then having to return it? You also have to remember where you put the receipt so you can return it and either exchange it for something that will work or just return it because you don’t need it.
2. Shop in your own home or office. Once you’ve finished de-cluttering and organizing, you will likely have something empty that will work to contain the items you have decided to keep. Think of the money you could save by using something you already own.
3. Stay in one area. Don’t jump from one space to another. If you do that, you’ll have spent hours all over your house or office and not get anything done. Let’s say you want to organize your living room and you find a hairbrush in that room. You take the hairbrush to the bathroom where it should live, and next, you start working on organizing your bathroom. Then, you find something that belongs in the bedroom, so you move to the bedroom. What’s the result? You’ve now been in 3 different rooms for the past several hours and haven’t gotten anything done in any of the areas. In this example, stay in the living room. If you see that something belongs in another room, put the item in a place near where that room is.
4. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you only have an hour, don’t tackle your 2-car garage. You may be able to work in a small area in the garage, but if you think you can get everything done in this small window of time, you may get discouraged and not want to continue when you have more time. Remember the SMART goals – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
5. Remove donated items and trash right away. You’ll be amazed at how you will feel and how much room you have when these items leave your home or office. It’s almost like a breath of fresh air. And, if you put them in your car to go somewhere, deliver as soon as possible so your car doesn’t become cluttered.
The answer is …. Sort of.
I don’t necessarily wear the EXACT SAME THING EVERY DAY, but yes, I have about 4-5 outfits that I wear ALL THE TIME.
Why do I do that?
As a business owner, mom and CFO and COO (and housekeeper and launderer …) of our household, I’ve got A LOT TO DO. So the last thing I want to waste my energy on is figuring out what the heck to wear.
So, my general formula is:
And that’s about it. There’s no magic formula. There’s no exact number of items. There are no rules.
Here’s a few things to try:
Pare it down
When you are at a stage in life where you’ve just got TOO MUCH TO DO, then DO LESS. Channel your inner Steve Jobs (black tee and jeans!), make one less decision, and kick your morning off right.
I saw every day as both an opportunity and an obligation to teach them about the world and life. From their first day home, I started talking to them about the beauty of nature, moral values and behavior, how to treat others, and why we lived the way we did.
Since I am wired to be the kind of person who becomes a professional organizer, I found life to be more messy and chaotic than I would have liked, and I had a sixth sense that it was only getting worse. And because I assumed my kids were wired at least somewhat like me, I knew they would one day benefit from knowing things like how to:
I wanted to teach them to enjoy and beautify the necessary activities of life instead of resenting them as an evil to be avoided until the last minute. Since education was a top priority, getting ready for school in an organized and happy way was part of that set of values.
And ending each year was a time for blissful relaxation: cleaning up together without hurry or deadline, purging and re-beautifying anything that was left in a mess. No matter what else might have been planned for the summer, down time to regroup and re-organize was also built in. No getting up and dressed in a rush. No obligations to any one or anything, just restful down time. We would snack and shop and play and bake at leisure. We would watch TV and clean up no-longer-needed schoolwork. We would update wardrobes and clean out drawers and closets.
Files would be created for any materials that might be needed the next school year. This was a time to take stock of materials and decide which products and systems worked well and might want to be repurchased in advance. We knew lists would be sent from school outlining what each teacher wanted for the next year, but we purchased whatever we could in advance to minimize time in the last-minute crowds. The girls and I did it all together in a spirit of leisurely family bonding and creativity. School, work, home-maintenance …these were all the ongoing art projects of living, enjoyed in an atmosphere of “eat dessert first.”
We always planned more private down time again before the beginning of school to gather focus and shop for remaining materials. We didn’t just race home from out-of-town the night before school, hoping someone would lend them a pen. We had been all but ready long ago!
There was nothing punitive about it; it was presented and experienced as a form of relaxation. To this day, when my daughters and I visit and want to relax at home together, we find something to improve. We joke that nothing tops a beautiful organizing product or system, or the joy of getting things done in advance.
OK, folks…it’s August. Any day now, the mail will arrive with teacher assignments and the excitement (and anxiety) of the new school year will start to bubble up!
While the kids won’t go back to school for a few more weeks, we all know the
planning for the FDOS (“First Day Of School”) starts much sooner, behind the scenes… The work done here will set you (and your kids) up for a successful transition from summer to school! Check out my Do’s & Don’ts…they save me the first day headaches…every year!
The relaxed bedtime routine during the summer can be a FDOS killer! One small adjustment, each day, in the week or two leading up to the start of school can ensure success. Start rolling back their bedtime by 15-minutes each night. Continue until you reach your desired school year bedtime. Later, when it’s time to get up at 6:30am, they are already adjusted. Bodies and brains are ready to go, move, learn!
Don’t sit on those must complete school and medical forms. Save yourself the 11th hour scramble…If your kids require ongoing medical monitoring (think daily meds or allergy related epi-pens), contact your school nurse at least 3-4 weeks prior to the start of school. There will be forms that need to be filled out by your physician before the start of school.
Summer clothes rule on the first day of school. Look back through your FDOS pics…most likely shorts, skirts, dresses, tanks and tees…I only buy a few things and then buy clothes when they do need them, closer to October. Give yourself a break and put Fall shopping on the back burner for now.
Create a homework station. Quiet, calm, comfortable and consistent is what you want. Pick up some extra supplies for your kids’ homework station…items you might not have around the house. For my twins, I purchased extra protractors, rulers and a dictionary. I knew that they would need them at home as well as school. Bonus: it eliminates the, “I left my protractor at school” excuse. Set them up for homework success with a “homework caddy”. Stock it with pencils, glue sticks, crayons, rulers and anything else they may need to get their homework done. I also make a color coded file for each of them that stays at the homework-station. When they come home, they put any important papers, that need to be reviewed, in their folder. Everything they need….is within reach.
School makes kids hungry! And they need good fuel to keep their bodies and minds moving. Give them easy access to healthy snacks (for lunches and after school) by prepping your pantry. I prefer to use clear bins so they can see what’s inside and they can grab and go. The clear bins make also make it easy for me to see what’s inside so I know when to restock. I can also see what they are eating and what they aren’t.
Take some time to enjoy the last days of summer leading into the first day of school. Plan ahead and save time, every day, for good quality family time. Remember that all of the emotions that you are feeling….the stress, excitement, anxiety, fear….well, your kids are feeling that too! Make your home and the days leading up to school a safe, calm, comfortable space to quell the Back To School nerves. Talk to your kids about how they’re feeling, spend quality time and enjoy each others company before the craziness begins!
Need more inspiration? Want to see these tips & more in action, at my own home? Click the link below for a sneak peek video into this professional organizer’s back to school setup:
We are in the midst of a heatwave here in Eastern PA. Today for example is 97°, with a feels like temp of 106°…ouch! Not the most conducive weather for organizing, right?
Well, definitely don’t work in the garage, or the attic…basically avoid anyplace that isn’t close to air conditioning or where heat rises. That still leaves some great spaces throughout your home to work in. However, before you even start, grab some ice-cold water or your favorite cold beverage and sit down to write out some to- do lists.
Nothing fancy, a spiral bound notebook from your child that still had useable pages in it will do; you know that they’ll want something brand new for the next school year anyway! I bought myself a fun notebook from TJ Maxx (see picture), in my favorite color, to make it less of a chore.
Prefer an app for your to-do lists? Trello is a fantastic app which lets you create endless topics (lists) and tasks (cards).
Start by writing the name of each room in your home on a separate page. The great thing about these lists is that they can be a summer and beyond project…no need to rush it! Next, start your brain dump, where you can write tasks to be done in each room. Write down what comes to mind and add more as you think of it. The tasks should be specific and therefore hopefully less overwhelming. It’s up to you to choose how many tasks you want to complete at a time!
Master Bedroom Closet Tops
Do you have other things come to mind, that aren’t specific to a room? Write them down too! Getting too much junk mail? Look to catalogchoice.org and optoutprescreen.com. Getting too many spam calls? Try an phone app like, Should I answer?, with a cute little octopus icon, which turns green for a positive call or red, to know instantly if a call has received negative ratings, and block them on your phone! I know, I know, once a company is blocked by using one number, they will move to another, but every little block counts!
Pen and paper or app, the key to dissolving a cluttered mind is to write things down, so that you have space in your brain for more important things to think about, like what flavor of ice cream to get tonight!
While working with clients on managing their paperwork and filing systems, and/or time management/productivity we often come across very old (meaning over a year) TO DO lists.
Are YOU haunted by these? Know they are out there lurking to challenge and shame you? I AM!!!
Here are some thoughts to guide you as you contemplate your next move against these demons.
Option #1: Look at them
Option #2 Throw them out
Take an hour or two off and, armed with a legal pad or journal, bring those lists to a coffee shop/library or other secret hideaway. Review them in a loving, self-accepting way. Jot down any thoughts that arise.
Then, like you would with the old tub of cream cheese that is festering in the back of the frig, growing green and black molds, TOSS the old to do lists out.
Onward to what calls to you NOW!