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!
One of my favorite productivity experts, Laura Vanderkam, published her summer fun list this week, and it spurred me to create my own list. She encourages us to make time for “effortful” fun, ie things that require a little planning. That way, we don’t whittle the summertime away, wishing we had done more when Fall comes around.
I also wanted to view our summer fun list through the lens of saving money. Using Julie Morgenstern’s 4D approach, I thought about how we could “diminish” something, ie find the minimum effective dose. For example, should we pay $150 to see fireworks at Longwood Gardens or watch them for free at the local high school? Do we need to do the Phillies or would a minor league Blue Rocks game be just as fun?
So, here goes … my summer fun list!
I’ve already done the work to schedule most of these things, so now I can just sit back and let the fun happen. Happy summer everyone!
Someday, you may be brought to a hospital in critical condition. You may be confused or unable to answer questions that are asked of you. You are not dead and, in actuality (and hopefully), you might not die.
If you are sedated and admitted to the hospital, how will the staff know who to contact and what you like or want?
When I worked as a hospital chaplain, I cared for a young man who was in a coma. The nursing staff realized that he became agitated when the room was quiet. His family brought in music from several of his favorite recording artists. When the music was played, he rested peacefully. How did his family know what to do? He told them in advance.
This can even help when the situation is not as critical. For instance, my wife, Naomi, hates to sleep with the blankets tucked tightly around her feet. If something should happen to her, I want to make sure that she is as comfortable as possible. Because I know her wishes, I will be able to relay this to the nursing staff.
While writing an Advance Directive is detailed and usually focuses mainly on end-of-life or death decisions, the following questions may help others care for you when you are critically ill.
Can you answer the following questions?
Remember, you may be healthy and active now, but don’t put off making some of these decisions today. Think of it like a health insurance policy. Hopefully you will never have to use it, but if you do, it is great to know it is available! Knowing what you want to happen is only the first step in the process. Writing your wishes down is the second. Telling someone whom you trust is essential.
I am a parent of two older teens, one in the first year of college and one in the later years of high school. As an organizer, my kids grew up with structure and routine, in hopes of them learning to be organized as adults. Our home was organized, our mornings ran fairly smoothly, and homework was completed without any issues. There were a few sticky points, such as screen time and bed time, but for the most part, our daily lives ran smoothly overall.
Now that they are older, the organizer mom in me still wants to help them be the most efficient they can be. But the cognitive side of my brain knows that now is the time to let go, and let them make their own decisions. I should only help them when they ask me for it. However, it is very difficult for me to sit back and watch them make mistakes such as scheduling two events for the same time, or running late for something. But I know the only way they will learn is by my stepping back and giving them the control to manage their own time, schedules, and things. They will make mistakes, and learn from them.
As hard as this is for me to let things go, I am getting better at it. I still sometimes find myself jumping in when I shouldn’t, and they both let me know when I am intervening where I shouldn’t be. I just take note of this, and try to not make that mistake again in the future.
I am sure I am not alone, being a parent during this transitional time. I wish all of you the inner strength and patience to step back, and let your teens develop into the wonderful young adults we all want them to be!
As an ADHD specialist, I frequently have the privilege of meeting couples where one partner has ADHD (or ADD). As they lead me on a tour of their home, it’s not infrequent that the spouse without ADD makes comments such as, “I don’t understand why she can’t keep this place tidy!” or “He’s attached to everything and refuses to throw anything out!”
I feel immediate compassion for the accused partner. Having ADD is challenging enough; living with someone who refuses to accept the diagnosis or has little understanding of the brain-based disorder adds another layer of difficulty.
I’m not a therapist but if given the opportunity, I like to point out the wonderful qualities of their ADD mate. Chances are, if you have ADD you possess a host of awesome qualities. Maybe you’re creative, a talented singer or writer. Perhaps an academic or a super successful salesperson. You probably have a wonderful, warm and bubbly personality which attracted your mate to you initially. Alas, as the years go by, the partner without ADD starts to focus on your lack of focus, disorganization, your tardiness or other weaknesses.
There are many well-written books on ADHD. If you’re reading this and the above scenario feels oh so familiar, I recommend my all-time favorite book, Delivered from Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., and John J. Ratey, M.D. Hallowell (who has ADHD) focuses on the positive, on the huge potential of the person. I find his approach refreshing and helpful to both partners.
What if you’re still single and looking for love? Hallowell dedicates a whole chapter to describing what kind of mate is best if you have ADHD. Here’s a short excerpt that brings tears to eyes each time I read it:
“Someone who loves you for who you are. Someone who gets a kick out of you. Someone whose voice lifts when he/she hears it is you on the other end of the line. It is helpful if the mate can educate (him)herself about ADD and not take the blunders that the ADD mate makes personally or as if they were done on purpose. ADD is not an excuse, but it is a powerful explanation.”
As Valentine Day approaches (and at the risk of being too sappy) I share this poem (also from Hallowell’s book)
By Cherie Dawn Mills
You are my hope.
You meet me where I am and love me there—
not pushing, nor blaming, but only rejoicing
with me, or lending me your handkerchief.
You gently hold me earthbound in the blackness
of my fears, or during my endangerment from
flights of fantasy.
You do not fear the depths of my weakness,
nor the heights of my strength,
You ever see in me the wondrous possibilities
that my sins and sorrows and daily concerns
have caused me to forget.
Your love empowers me to give my love to others—
to mold the dirty clay of my feet into
sparkling angel wings.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you all,
I used to think I was very clever whenever I advised people about gift giving for special occasions and holidays. I would always suggest that when selecting gifts for people who actually have material plenty to give beautiful “disposables.” I observed that wonderful self-destructive options abound: wines, beautiful candles, delightful oils, luscious baked goods and candies, elegant lotions, fancy soaps…You see what I mean. And they don’t last forever! What a great idea!
Then, I started to discover that many of my clients – people who were trying their best to de-clutter – were given so many of the very disposables I routinely suggested that I couldn’t imagine how many lifetimes would be needed to use up all these treasures. It is possible to overdo absolutely anything.
So, what to do?? Depending on the closeness of the relationships, perhaps some frank discussions are possible. Can your entire extended family happily agree to pool money and go somewhere really special? Would treating someone to a lovely dinner or show be a delightful novelty? Someone else might love a membership or a day at the zoo or a favorite museum. Maybe the whole family would chip in to hire a chef or caterer to create a marvelous holiday dinner, so no one has the stress of cooking, hosting, or cleanup.
This year, really think about and talk about your gifts. So many of us are truly overloaded with objects, but would benefit from a certificate for a manicure, a massage, dog-walking services, baby-sitting, or perhaps a lovely outing to a tea shop for a long talk with you.
There are also gift cards and certificates for companies where your friend or relative will truly benefit from some extra freedom to choose something they need. One of my clients was actually given a generous check made out to her Professional Organizer! Moved by the friend’s thoughtfulness, the organizer (me) gave the client extra time.
Especially in the midst of all the natural disasters surrounding us, would your loved ones be thrilled (and relieved) if you made a charitable donation in their honor?
You can see where I’m going with this: make this a year of thinking outside the box with gifts that don’t go in a box at all. The key to success with these plans is the gift of intimacy, your shared comfort in discussing your true preferences, ideas, and suggestions.