Remember that old saying “it’s just like riding a bike”? I have no idea who coined it, but it was meant to draw a comparison to activities that are deeply rooted in the muscle memory gained from lots of practice. The idea is, if you practiced enough, riding your bike becomes like second nature. If you practice enough, you can train your body to ride with a lot less thought or effort. And if that bike sat rusty in the garage for 10 years, because you had put forth the effort to practice years before, you can jump back on and ride away into the sunset as if only mere seconds had passed since your last pedal session.
People ask me a lot about the best ways to stay organized. Cleaning up and out seems to be the easy part, but now that the house is beautiful, and everything is put away in its place, how do we keep it this way? Depending on how far removed your new organizing behavior is from your old habits, staying organized is going to take the same vigor and endurance as it took to learn to ride that bike years ago.
For example, if you always lose your keys around the house, and we implement a new process to hang them on a hook by the door when you enter, you will need to make the conscious effort to actually do it…every time. It takes practice, and more practice, until eventually hanging the keys on the hook becomes second nature and engrained in your muscle memory. Suddenly hanging the keys on the hook will feel like an easy routine, and the process will no longer be a strain on your brain power and intention as you arrive home tired from work each night. The thing to remember is that there will be work involved. I unfortunately can’t wave a magic wand to “cure” us of our poor organizing habits and replace them with ones that work better for our lives. If I could, I would be the first to wave it over my own house!
There are a lot of schools of thought out there around best practices for forming habits and the importance of considering things like learning styles, motivators and goals. Developing new habits to stay organized will take time, support and accountability from family and friends, as well as a focused desire from whoever is embarking on this mission. I have lots of tricks up my sleeve to help move this process along for each client, but the overarching theme to remember is that practice makes perfect. You are going to have to conjure up the focus, intention and willpower to practice, but once mastered, your new habits really will be just like riding a bike!
Ahhhh, can you hear it? Stop. Listen closely. Is that the sound of an empty house? Oh my goodness! Are you actually at home – alone? That’s right folks. The kids are back to school and that morning cup of coffee hasn’t tasted this good in almost longer than you can remember.
Thank you Fall for showing up – right in time to save us from completely losing any semblance of sanity! While you sit for an extra 5 minutes, enjoying the sound of silence and taking another sip-o’-joe, you may begin to look around.
What you are looking at is the aftermath of summer:
Amidst everyone else’s debris, there are some of your own items that need attention, yet it’s hard to know which and where they are. Here are 3 suggestions from a Professional Organizer and mom of three grown children:
Take these three small steps and enter Fall confidently prepared to harvest the rewards of the season.
As autumn approaches, mice look for warm homes with food and water in which to hunker down for the winter. Don’t let one of those homes be yours! At a recent NAPO-GPC* meeting, pest expert Dr. Dion Lerman shared tips on how to prevent, eliminate and clean up after those little rodents. Here are answers to questions you might not have known you had:
Are mice a health concern?
How do the rascals get in?
Where in the house do the critters live?
How can one prevent them from coming in?
What’s the best way to get rid of mice?
What’s the best way to safely clean up after the critters?
As with most things in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Let’s start with what happens when you have a lack of organized space. Disorganization creates a feeling of being crowded and out of control of your things, which leads to lack of mental clarity.
Let’s take a personal poll:
1) Do you spend too much time looking for your stuff?
2) Do you feel like you are always in a rush?
3) Do you feel like your space does not support what you want to accomplish?
If any of the these sound familiar, then imagine your work space right now. Perhaps it is your desk or another place where you do most of your mental work, you know, the stuff that you need to get done every day. Take a moment and imagine you sitting down, about to get to work on a big project.
Do you feel like it is inviting you in and you are excited to get your work done or are you repelled by what it looks like? A space that repels, doesn’t support you to do your best work. A space that is inviting creates calm and clarity and allows you to be productive.
Creating an inviting, supportive space is different for each person. Yet, it comes down to the same thing for everyone. Choose to surround yourself with only things that you need and you love. That’s hard to do, because we all get attached to our stuff, however; when you create more space by having less stuff, you will feel more focused and in control.
While there is no end to the amount of information about how to manage time, I would strongly argue that it’s not about managing time, it’s about managing tasks. The difficulty comes from having too many tasks. Our plates are full with things to do all the time and this leads to brain fog, overwhelm and that feeling of being out of control.
Have you had one of those crazy busy days; where you’re running around doing a hundred different tasks and spending half that time attempting to do more than one task at a time? This is how we fall into the fallacy of multi-tasking. By the end of the day, you end up feeling exhausted and wondering what you did all day.
The solution is to create a system. And if you are rolling your eyes or shaking you head because you tried a system and it did not work, try again. Systems are NOT a one-size fits all solution. You often have to try different ones and one of the keys is to know what does and does not work for you. You need a system customized for you according to how you think, live and work.
Ah, Freedom- even the word sounds nice. When you have too much stuff surrounding you or you have too much to think about, freedom is the last thing you have. Instead you experience confusion, chaos and a lack of control. None of us wants that in our lives. This is the opposite of freedom and definitely does not give us mental clarity.
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Mental clarity comes from creating a physical space that allows you to feel supported because you have surrounded yourself with stuff that you need and that brings you joy. Clarity comes from having a system to organize your tasks so you feel in control of how you spend your time. The knowledge that you are in control of your space and time creates FREEDOM. And at the end of the day, each of us wants the clarity and freedom to create the life and business that we truly want.
As a kid, April 15 was a holiday in our house. It was the day my accountant mother could breathe again after over 3 long months of helping her clients. I may have learned a thing or two along the way, so I’m happy to share some tips on how to get organized before heading to your accountant’s office, or, if you’re one of those brave souls who tackles the task on your own, before you sit down at the kitchen table amid a sea of paperwork. In either case, the key is starting early… as in January 1 early.
Taxes can get pretty complicated depending on what kind of return you have to file. Do you have a business? Dependents? Itemized deductions? There are already a lot of great sources of information out there about which documents and information you need to gather. Instead, let’s focus on how to move through this year proactively so that when April 2020 rolls around, you won’t be scrambling to find all this documentation.
The first thing you should do is have a dedicated folder where you can file any paperwork that you may need come next April.
Know which documents you need to keep in each folder and make lists. If you need help with this, your tax preparer should be able to help you create a customized list based on how you file and the specifics of your financial architecture. Otherwise, here’s a great general resource: https://www.rgbrenner.com/resources/what-do-i-bring-to-my-tax-appointment/
Attach these lists to the front of each folder. Cross off items as they go into the folder.
Documents come in all year, so this is a great way to keep yourself informed at a glance. A few notes:
Now that you’re filing, try to stay ahead of the record-keeping by doing it monthly. This effort will help both you and your accountant simplify the process come March or April, so you don’t have to scramble to collect all the information and dollar amounts in a last-minute rush.
Pick your poison to start an electronic or written file for keeping records of expenses. I’m a lover of Excel, but some folks prefer Word or even handwritten lists. If you’re in the latter camp, I recommend buying a dedicated ledger book to record line items. Keep separate files for personal and business. Once a month, go through your saved receipts and enter them into your record. Remember to categorize the type of expense for each receipt.
As you can see, it’s all about establishing a system that you can easily maintain throughout the year with minimal effort. It’s so easy to get behind with all the personal and professional obligations we balance. If we can stay aligned with the system and find an hour a month to maintain it, then when that April 15 holiday inevitably rolls around again, we can face it head-on with confidence and careful preparation.
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.