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Author: Barb BermanOrganizing Paper Receipts Tips Uncategorized

Four (4) Benefits to “Emptying Your Wallet” Now is the Time to Feel Lighter

While we’ve been sheltering-in-place and social-distancing, I’ve been thinking about all the traveling I’ve done. Whether it’s a quick overnight or weekend trip or something longer, like 2 – 3 weeks, I’ve been remembering my wallet and how it gets filled with all sorts of paper not related to anything I needed to carry with me.

My wallet has been filled with receipts, ticket stubs, candy wrappers, etc. Were all these extraneous things necessary to stuff into my wallet? For me, this was the best place to keep all these items temporarily until I got home, when I could empty my wallet, file what I needed to keep in their respective “homes”, and discard the rest (I sure didn’t need to keep a candy wrapper). Do many of you have things like this in your wallet all the time?

How much you can fit in your wallet is really a metaphor for how much you can fit in your surroundings. Are you ready to “Empty Your Wallet” (and I don’t mean emptying it of money)? I’m talking about your wallet representing how light you would feel if you emptied your life of all the extraneous things that don’t need to be kept in it. What is actually important to you? What do you really need, not want, to keep in your life to make it seem less weighty? The 4 benefits of having an “empty wallet” are:

  1. Defining what success looks like to you so that you can determine what you need to do to move forward.
  2. Clarifying your goal(s) so that you know exactly where and on what you want to work. 
  3. Making decisions so that you stay focused on reaching your goal.
  4. Not throwing you off balance because your pocketbook on your shoulder is too heavy or not ripping your pocket. ☺

“Do not wait: the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand, and work whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.”  Napoleon Hill

Now is Your Time to “Empty Your Wallet”

Author: Kelly GalfandEmergencies Family General Goal Setting healthy living Home Organizing Procrastination Productivity Project Management Time Management Tips

Stressed Spelled Backwards is Desserts!

While sheltering-in-place we’ve been spending a lot more time baking. And wouldn’t you know: Stressed Spelled Backwards is: Desserts!

I saw that catchy phrase after delivering my 5th batch of muffins in April. To avoid gaining the dreaded Covid-15 (think Freshman-15) I delivered Tupperwares to my neighbor, who appreciates my zero-sugar recipes.

With my last delivery of cranberry-sweetened pumpkin millet muffins, I wrote “sorry for dumping my stress-baked goodies on your doorstep.” She texted back “TY” with a link to  “Stress-baking is a real thing!”

My 3 favorite therapeutic benefits to baking:

  • On the surface, baking’s sweet “aroma-therapy” is a lift to the senses.
  • It’s a form of mindfulness forcing us to stay in the moment and be present.
  • Baking offers proof of progress; it lets us see a project through from beginning to end.

This “proof of progress” is where I want to focus. 

I don’t know about you, but I am:
•  losing a sense of what day it is
•  not as productive as I was before Covid-19
•  feeling less accomplished despite feeling almost as busy

So I reflected on the tools I used before Covid-19:

  1. Planning out my day the night before factoring in daily exercise
  2. Setting timers before ANY screen tasks and computer-related work
  3. Setting self-imposed deadlines
  4. Rewarding myself for meeting those deadlines 
  5. Taking breaks to free my mind and open myself up to creativity

Here’s why I’m returning to these habits:

  • Planning always makes me more efficient. When I predict how long something will take—I challenge myself to get it done before the time is up. 
  • Timers build in accountability for being “on” and give permission to be “off.”
  • Set self-imposed (and realistic!) deadlines: they offer us an amazing boost to our sense of self and inner confidence. They also give us a healthy look to the future and make us more aware of time.
  • Earned rewards are the essential “pat on the back” that we can gift ourselves. While all rewards should not be caloric, a little baking—no stress involved—can pay off.
  • Breaks are essential to productivity, healthy living, and…when else can we bake?

I can’t take credit for figuring out…stressed spelled backwards is desserts!

Author: Janet BernsteinEmergencies Family General Goal Setting healthy living Home Organizing Procrastination Productivity Project Management

How to Stay Emotionally Healthy During Quarantine

First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with those who have contracted this virus. We wish you a speedy recovery. For the rest of us, we face several weeks of home confinement. I don’t know about you but when I stay home for longer than one day, I tend to become lethargic and unmotivated. This time I’m determined not to let that happen. Here’s my plan of action:

  1. Make a list. Create a list of all the projects you can do at home. Tasks you’ve wanted to tackle but previously never had the time to accomplish. (Mine includes de-cluttering my home office and organizing my digital files.)
  2. Make a second list of all the fun activities you’ve always wanted to do but for which you’ve never had the time. (My list here is significantly longer and includes several books I want to read, working on a jigsaw puzzle with my college-rebound daughter, and catching up on several TV shows.)
  3. Schedule Your Tasks. Just like you would schedule a meeting or an appointment, start scheduling these tasks on your calendar.  Make sure there’s a mix of both tasks. The items you’d rather not do (those you’ve been putting off) and the fun activities. I intend to use the fun activities as a reward for when I’ve accomplished a task from my first list. Also, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start with a just a couple of small dreaded tasks, then reward yourself.  The satisfaction of accomplishing tasks plus giving yourself a reward can be highly motivating!
  4. Use the same strategy for your kids.  If you have kids at home, sit down together and draft a similar list including fun and obligatory activities.
  5. Create a new “At Home Timetable.” We all function better when we have a routine. Now that our regular lives have been disrupted it’s up to us to create new, temporary routines in order to preserve our and our family’s emotional well-being. Consider purchasing a large whiteboard. Draw up a weekly calendar then write in each family member’s tasks, chores and schoolwork etc.
  6. Get Organized with Virtual Organizing. If you are self-motivated and able to do the hands-on organizing independently, this is a wonderful option to keep you accountable, productive and organized during this time. Many professional organizers are currently offering virtual organizing at discounted rates during this time.
Author: Clemence ScoutenClutter Downsizing Family General Home Keepsakes Organizing Photos Seniors & Aging Tips

Honor your Family History without Drowning in Clutter

Sentimental objects are one of the most challenging categories for professional organizers to help clients with. This is especially true with objects related to family history, such as:
 Photographs,
 Newspaper clippings,
 Family history documents (letters, journals, diaries, invitations, etc.),
 Education related (book reports, college papers, graduation diplomas, etc.),
 Civil records about family members (marriage records, immigration records, birth/death certificates, etc.)

No one will benefit if family history materials are kept in disorganized cardboard boxes

Photos, diaries, papers, trophies…these are all critical elements of your family legacy. They tell the story of important family members, and are the fabric of what binds families together. Personally, I am not an advocate of throwing this all away. On the other hand, how can anyone benefit if these materials are stashed away in the attic, basement, or closet?

Where to start?

The first step to any family history project is taking an inventory of what you have. Even if your project is simply tidying your family history boxes, you will be happy you did it. And I promise, your children will thank you!

Take some time to go through each box carefully and understand what is in them. It’s almost always the case we find things we had completely forgotten about. And it’s not at all uncommon to find objects we thought were lost. Once you know what you have, it will be much easier to figure out what to keep, and how to organize it all.

Organizing these materials will give you peace of mind

One complaint I hear frequently is that people don’t really know what to do with these materials. They accumulate and accumulate, taking up more room than you ever would have wanted. The fear of the materials being damaged, and frustration that nothing productive is being done with them, causes most people to feel anxious, along with a good measure of guilt.

Organizing family history materials allows us to honor family members and declutter. As I mentioned, I am not a fan of throwing these materials away. BUT, you’ll be surprised how much space is being taken up by duplicates, damaged papers/photos, old frames, and photos of people you don’t know—all of which can all be thrown away.

And watch out for newspaper clippings! Newspaper paper does not last. Not only that, it can damage other materials it comes into contact with.

Imagine the incredibly meaningful things you can do with family history materials

The advent of online publishing has made printing books in small print runs very affordable. Imagine having a book of all your parents’ correspondence, and giving a copy to each of your children. Or imagine assembling all the civil records about your ancestors so the whole family can have a richer understanding of its roots and history. All you need is a scanner and a little patience. If you don’t have the time, there are many scanning services which can do this for you. The Association of Professional Photo Organizers is also a great place to find someone locally who can do this.

Once scanned, it’s time to select an online book publisher. There are many to choose from. Two of my favorites are Blurb and Mixbook. Mixbook in particular has some great layouts just for family history projects. Be sure to wait for a sale! Both these sites frequently offer significant discounts.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that these books become instant family heirlooms. They make terrific gifts for important birthdays or around the holidays.

If you run into a hiccup while organizing, scanning, or making your book, feel free to give me a call. I’m always happy to answer questions. Good luck with your family history project!

Author: Anne WisgoOrganizing Productivity Uncategorized

Making Your Bed Can Change Your Life

I remember when my mother used to nag me to make my bed. I remember her saying, “you can go when your bed is made.” I would come up with a hundred reasons why it was a pointless task but perhaps there was a method to her motherly madness.

We spend approximately one-third of our lives in our bedrooms. And, it has been proven that the appearance of our bedroom has an overall affect on our mood and our productivity.

Our bed is the most dominant feature in our room. A made bed creates a positive vibe and immediately gives us a feeling of accomplishment. According to the National Sleep Foundation survey, a made bed also contributes to healthier sleep habits and better rest. In addition to increased productivity, bed makers also enjoy lower stress levels, improved moods and tidier homes.

Admiral William McRaven spoke about the transformative power of the daily bed making habit at the University of Texas commencement in 2014. It has since gone viral with over 10 million views and has been referred to by some of the worlds best thought leaders. He states “If you want to make a difference in the world, start by making your bed.” He said in part, “if you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making our bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.” I just love this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jflUvxQLkgs

Since his commencement speech, Admiral McRaven published Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World , a
#1 New York Times Bestseller.

Thanks mom, I suppose you had a point. Having an organized living space makes all the difference. I make my bed ever morning…and this small task has made the rest of my day feel infinitely more together.

I hope you will agree!

Author: Barb BermanCloset Clothing Clutter Organizing Uncategorized

A Professional Organizer Using a Professional Organizer

Yes, I did (and was so glad I did)!!

I am the first to admit that I used a Professional Organizing colleague and friend to help me with something I’ve been meaning to do for years. She helped me go through my closets and determine what to keep and what to finally give away.

My reluctance was four-fold:

  1. I should be able to do this on my own (For goodness sake, I do exactly this with my clients.)
  2. I’d have to admit that some of the clothes I own no longer fit (I hear the same thing from my clients.)
  3. I’d have to admit that one or two items still had the tags on them (I am pretty good about wearing what I buy, but obviously these couple of items slipped through the cracks.)
  4. I do this all day for my clients, so the last thing I want to do is to go through my own stuff when I get home.

I finally bit the bullet and hired my friend. It was the best money I’d spent in a while. In four hours, we got through all my clothes closets. I had a ton of clothes and hangers to donate, all of which went to a women’s shelter in Camden, NJ. My closets have room now, I have bunches of hangers I can use for anything new that I buy, I feel free, and I know that these clothes can be used by those not as fortunate as I.

So, what does it say about a Professional Organizer asking for help from a Professional Organizer? Some of you may wonder why I couldn’t do this by myself.

Firstly, I was able to ask for help. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. We all have strengths, and we all face challenges in our lives. Why not ask for help when needed? 

Secondly, what I experienced is exactly what my clients experience, and that was worth its weight in gold. I think I’m a pretty empathetic person, but this solidified it for me. I tried on clothes that I wasn’t sure about, and since my colleague was not emotionally invested in anything (but my parents bought that blouse in Greece for me a zillion years ago) and only had my best interest at heart, I was able to let go of mostly everything. I was bound and determined to get through the closets.

Thirdly, I had a stake in the game. The date was set, and I knew that since I was paying for the service, I was very prepared and determined to get through this project in a timely manner. I compared this to having a personal trainer. Once you pay for something, aren’t you more apt to follow through? 

The funny thing about this is after the 4 hours, my colleague asked me if I was going to go through any of the clothes and pull things out that I think I may still want to keep. I laughed, said no, and realized I ask the same question to my clients.

Just because you have room for things, like I did, doesn’t mean you have to keep them, especially if you aren’t using them anymore. Perhaps the time is right for you to ask for help with your organizing projects.