As you anticipate watching the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, why not use these last days of 2013 to start your own countdown to the New Year? If clutter’s been an issue, here’s a countdown that will help you shake off the dust of the past so you can embrace the promise of the future. Ready? Here we go:
10! De-clutter your family room – Choose ten catalogues or magazines to recycle.
9! Lighten up your bookshelves – Select nine books to donate to your local library.
8! Make room for your new holiday clothes – Go through your closets and drawers to see what you still love and what still fits. Remove eight articles of clothing to donate to your local Good Will Store.
7! Unburden over-stuffed cupboards – Remove seven old, broken, or mismatched mugs, glasses and plastic cups.
6! Manage a messy ‘junk drawer’ – Recycle or toss six items: old pens, dried up white out, and unknown stray parts that have been there for too long.
5! Streamline your pantry – Remove five food items: throw out any food past its expiration date and find something you could donate to a church or local food bank.
4! Freshen up your sock drawer – Remove four pairs of socks that have holes, worn-out elastic or that you no longer like to wear.
3! Reduce bathroom clutter – Discard three toiletry items that are expired or used up.
2! Clean out your jewelry case – Find two pieces of broken jewelry like mismatched earrings or broken chains, which you can discard or bring to have repaired.
1! Reclaim lost counter space in your kitchen – Remove one large item that you do not use daily such as an appliance or basket that’s serving no useful purpose. Store it away or donate it if you no longer need it.
I raise a glass to you – here’s to a healthy, happy, and organized New Year!
Yes, it’s that time of the year again. The grocery store revealed the first clue that something was happening. There — I was greeted with remnants of goblins and candy, cranberries and stuffing, tinsel and gift wrap galore – ALL AT ONCE.
Immediately, my mind tallied the numerous tasks that needed to be accomplished in the next few weeks. By the time I made my way to the check-out line, I’m fairly certain that my frazzled expression and my declaration that the “holiday season has arrived” caused the cashier concern.
I really do enjoy the holidays, but sometimes it’s hard to wrap my head around the extra seasonal tasks and obligations that need to fit into my already busy 24 hours. It’s a time puzzle indeed!
With these five simple strategies below, you — and I — will have time to enjoy this season.
Take a few minutes and “Brain Dump.” Do NOT keep your holiday to-dos in your head! One of my favorite everyday organizational tools is workflowy. It’s a great way to organize your projects and tasks on your computer, smart phone, or tablet. For those who like to write, a notebook works just as well, but have it with you everywhere you go.
Focus on what’s important. Pause and really think about what makes your holiday season special to you and your family. Are there traditions and events that you look forward to or approach with less than a little enthusiasm? For example, if the thought of baking 12 dozen cookies does not fill you with the holiday spirit, take it off your list or delegate it!
Calendar your important holiday projects and tasks first. You will be more productive knowing that you are planning for and doing what brings you joy during the holidays. Then fill in with the less significant tasks. Be at peace, if you cannot accomplish it all.
Set time limits to these tasks. Parkinson’s Law states that ‘work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.’ You will be amazed how quickly you are able to make a decision with a time limit. Go ahead, limit time spent gift shopping at the store or online.
Delegate, delegate, delegate. If you are entertaining during the holiday season, allow others to help you. This can mean a guest bringing a dish to contribute to your festive meal, someone setting the table, or helping with the mega dish clean-up. This year, I recognized that hosting the Thanksgiving meal was more than I could take on. After discussing alternatives with my family, we agreed that getting together was very important. Our solution — to meet at a centrally located restaurant for a leisurely family dinner. Less time shopping, cooking, cleaning, traveling and MORE time being together. I am grateful!
Feel free to share with us how you are planning to ease the stress of your holiday season.
Kids May Have Curious George, But Adults Now Have Curious Accountability!
Like Curious George, who stimulates children’s natural curiosity about the world around them, Curious Accountability offers adults a new perspective for tasks associated with getting organized; one where they embark on an exciting journey of self discovery and realized goals. This methodology turns the act of getting organized into a skill building activity. Personal ‘aha’ moments promote longer lasting effects for those who want to get organized and remain organized over time.
At the National Association of Professional Organizers conference in New Orleans last month, Casey Moore and Cameron Gott introduced the concept of Curious Accountability. They defined this concept as “a positive evaluation process based on respect and trust that focuses solely on learning from actions (or inaction). The learning in turn, raises the awareness necessary for developing new skills and tools and achieving goals. Applied consistently over time, Curious Accountability increases self-knowledge and resilience and fosters effective behavior change”.
The word accountability, for many, has a negative connotation — answering to another or a feeling of being punished. In this Curious Accountability model, the focus is on learning and self discovery. Whether the task was accomplished or not, isn’t important. What is important is what the person learns from the process of doing or not doing the task.
Curious Accountability requires a contextual shift in one’s thinking to bring unwanted habits that promote disorganization into the lime light without the usual cloak of shame and blame. If we apply the same kind of curiosity, inquiry, and learning a scientist brings to their fieldwork — or Curious George brings to his daily adventures — we can free ourselves of the ever present good, bad, right or wrong rating systems we apply to our actions and efforts. We can, instead, view our actions, results, and even the “no results” through the filter of learning and exploration. Over time, we are left better problem solvers, in action, and moving towards our goals with more joy, confidence, and ease.
In this learning-focused approach, one might ask themselves at the end of a task or project (accomplished or not):
What did I learn?
What is the value of this learning to the task or overall goal?
What hurdles or “obstacles to overcome” did I discover?
Questions like these are good for illuminating what is important to us moving forward in our organizing endeavors. Should you “get stuck” in this new model, the role of the professional organizer, practiced in this technique, is to be an/a:
Active Listener – listening for the client’s goals and aspirations — long and short term
Cheerleader — keeping the person on track
Mirror – reflecting (not judging) how effective their actions are
Reminder for Self Awareness – let client’s experience inform their next actions
Involved Learner – redefine success
A professional organizer can summarize the learning as it relates to your over all goal or project leaving you ready, prepared, and empowered for your next week of Curious Accountability.
Kids may have Curious George to reveal the magic of curiosity, but adults now have Curious Accountability to propel them forward toward their goals with greater ease.
A neuroscientist, a professional organizer, and a mom walk into a bar… Sounds like the start of a joke, but it describes a bit of the National Association of Professional Organizers conference in New Orleans this year. You didn’t get to attend? That’s ok, because you can easily find a recap or two of the conference.
Probably the most important thing, though, is one simple idea. It’s the reason you landed on this page and are reading this article. Dr. Ari Tuckman talked about it. Dr. David Tolin talked about it. Dr. Kelly McGonigal talked about it. All of these folks, by the way, are great practitioners to follow in the world of organizing and productivity.
We don’t organize because we want to organize, but to live a more full life and do stuff we enjoy. It’s way more than labeling.
What every single professional organizer and productivity consultant in NAPO will agree on is that we want our clients and potential clients (that may be you) to want something more than pretty boxes and bins. Whatever your goal is, we want to help you get it.
• We want you to be out in your garden — not doing boring filing tasks.
• We want you doing more community building—not working on a boring operations manual at work.
• We want you spending more time with your family—not worried about email piling up.
Kevin Garton, from the NEAT Company, made a point as he talked about scanning technologies. His most prized accomplishment wasn’t reducing piles of paper to bits and bytes. His most valued scan was a handwritten note from his young daughter, that he had scanned to his cloud and could re-read it anytime, anywhere he wanted.
What do you want more than your clutter, piles, and paper messes? What part of your life do you want to be spending more time on, enjoying more, and sharing more with loved ones? Are you ready to let a professional organizer show you some supportive strategies to enjoy those things more? Because the most important things in life end up not being things, but if you’re a mom (or a dad), the neuroscientist and the professional organizer didn’t have to tell you that.
As a lighthearted reminder that done is better than perfect, I sometimes intentionally reverse this adage with clients as we hang a shelf or assemble a bookcase. Unless you’re performing brain surgery or submitting a résumé, perfect isn’t always necessary.
An ounce of perfectionism as we strive for advancement in life can serve us well. It works in a corporate setting. You work hard; you get ahead. It’s the way the world works. However, we can cross a line, and real perfectionism can actually get in our way, exhaust us, and reduce our productivity.
I see perfectionism often in my work, and clients are relieved that someone recognizes their efforts and attention to detail. You may wonder why a perfectionist needs a Professional Organizer. The answer is simple. Perfectionism bogs you down in detail, and can make a task more laborious than it needs to be. It can also lead to procrastination.
See if you relate to any of the following statements:
– If I don’t have time to organize the whole closet today, I’ll wait until I do. There’s no sense doing a little at a time.
– I get anxious about starting a project because I don’t know how to do it the right way? Therefore, I’ll devote an inordinate amount of time to planning.
– Once started, my projects take longer than needed because I re-think them or re-work them constantly.
– I often miss deadlines because I am unable to submit a project and be satisfied with the end result.
– I don’t like asking for help and/or showing weakness.
To get moving, ask yourself these questions:
In closing, I offer you the following new mantras:
– Done is better than perfect.
– I did my best.
– My friends are coming to visit me, not my house.
– My boss is more likely to notice adherence to deadlines than be impressed by how much time I put into a project.
I won’t lie to you. Change involves stretching your comfort zone, but it comes with rich rewards.
If perfectionism still stands between you and organization, consider hiring a Professional Organizer. We’re trained to help you clear clutter and teach you systems to help maintain order.
P.S. I always measure twice, but that’s our secret.
Escaping to Waldon Pond or traveling the country via RV are definitely options – but for most of us not viable ones. Minor adjustments that cumulate for noticeable change are much more desirable. A few time control techniques I’ve come to count on include:
Minimize Thrashing – Thrashing is the computer science term for when a system spends more time switching from task to task then actually working on the task. When we spend our time thinking about what we have to do, remembering where we were in the project, and then building up momentum to get results we are thrashing. Nothing is more frustrating than getting to the meat of a project and then having to stop. I have found the best way to minimize thrashing is to plan substantial chunks of time for a project. I’ll arrange my schedule to be able to commit 2 or 3 CONTINUOUS hours to the task. While it may be hard to find those uninterruptable hours it sure is worth it when the projects done!
Batching – Grouping small relatable tasks together to create an economy of scale yields tangible results as well. Large operations do it all the time – think of production lines, or accounts payable departments. I liken this to stopping for gas when the tank is 3/4 full. It’s just unnecessary. Waiting until you have an 1/8 of a tank or even when the empty light comes on (gasp) is more efficient. Batching work related tasks is more efficient too. Here are tasks I like to batch:
Be Ruthless – Saying NO to things that aren’t critical opens up space for the most important things. Sometimes getting frustrated is the best thing I can do for myself. I look at the mail and just throw all the stuff I didn’t ask for right into the big recycling can. I look at my email and delete things that just don’t matter. I go through my inbox and pull out the work that has to be done and ditch the rest. I find people are truly most effective when they remove what isn’t so important – and sometimes the only way to make a big enough impact is to be ruthless. Where can you be ruthless this week?
Try these techniques and see if things are just a bit easier. I bet you’ll say YES!