By Karen Kabara, Yours Tasks – Our Time, Inc, (610) 847 5422
With the holidays here, is your head spinning with work deadlines, family obligations and holiday preparations (and let’s not forget quarantine fatigue)? There are plenty of suggestions online on how you can declutter your home but what can you do to declutter your mind?
Each thought floating around in your head is like a mental post-it note. The more post-it notes, the more mental clutter. Physical clutter can cause people stress, but mental clutter can as well. The easiest way to get the clutter out of your head is to jot down all those mental post-it notes so you can release it from your thoughts. Use whatever format is best for you to organize that information. You can use the Notes app on your phone to create a To Do List. You can add action items directly to your calendar, so you have time blocked on your schedule to complete them. You can use a productivity app, like Evernote, to capture all your notes and action items. Or, if paper is your preference, use a notebook. But keep your information to one notebook so there aren’t random pieces of paper all over the house that will get lost or create physical clutter.
Learning to Say No.
Capturing your mental post-it notes on paper or your device is helpful to organize your thoughts. But how do you reduce the amount of post-it notes creating that mental clutter in the first place? Learning to say no can help.
Many of us overschedule ourselves. Accepting every party invitation. Volunteering to organize every event. But when you’re constantly exhausted and stressed out, it’s probably time to make some adjustments and dial back the schedule.
Saying no can be difficult. Saying no can be filled with guilt. But it can also be so freeing. Freedom from additional obligations. Freedom from more items on your To Do List. And freedom from the mental clutter that comes along with all those obligations.
I came across this quote a few years ago that really stuck with me …
“My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.” — Francine Jay
For me, having less to do means having less mental clutter to stress about. I can focus on the important things. And most notably, it means I have more time to focus on the things that bring me joy and happiness.
When you focus on the important things, it will reduce the number of responsibilities you struggle to balance each day. Many of us attempt multi-tasking to accomplish our action items but sometimes end up with a bunch of tasks half done. The practice of mindfulness encourages you to focus on one thing at a time and give that one thing your full attention. Mindfulness is not a new concept, yet many of us are not aware of the impact it can have on decluttering our minds and reducing our stress.
Declutter Your Mind
For many, mindfulness goes hand-in-hand with meditation. Meditation teaches you to focus on your breath and stay present in the moment which lends itself very well to mindfulness. But I realize some people don’t have the time or desire to meditate. In my opinion, that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate mindfulness into your day. The key is to focus on one task at a time and try to overcome distractions. When you’re able to focus on a task, you’re more likely to complete it more efficiently so you can move on to the next task.
Before beginning a task, do what you can to reduce distractions. Turn off the phone. Close email. Wait until your son’s Zoom lesson begins so you know he will be occupied for the next hour. Personally, I try to complete tasks that need the most concentration early in the morning before my daughter wakes up. It allows me to get a burst of work done before the interruptions begin.
When a distraction does occur, try to work through it the best you can. If your mind wanders off during a task or someone interrupts you, acknowledge it but try to not let it completely derail you. Try to bring your focus back to what you’re doing. If you struggle to get back on task, try taking a few deep breaths or do breathing exercises. For others, you may need to step away for a few moments and get a cup of tea or step outside for a breath of fresh air to regain focus.
Maintaining focus and practicing mindfulness isn’t always easy. But, like most things in life, the more you practice, the more you will improve. Clutter can come in my many forms and mental clutter is just one. But learning strategies to tackle that clutter can reduce stress and help simplify your day. Learning to say no can be empowering and help set the stage for prioritizing what is important to you. Capturing your thoughts, whether digitally or on paper, can help organize your ideas and information. And incorporating mindfulness can help accomplish your daily undertakings and set you on the path to … organizing your life one task at a time.
By Geri Chark Frankel, GCF Organizing LLC, (856) 296 6605
Kudos to you! Somehow you have found a few minutes to read this blog during this busy holiday season. How did you manage it?
Is it a much-needed break from work? Are you avoiding a task you just can’t face right this minute? Are you a passionate follower of all things about organizing? Do you want to honor your NAPO colleague by reading her words?
I am curious about your answers, and welcome you to explore them. First, there is no right answer. There is YOUR answer. And to get to that answer, I’d like to you give yourself permission to:
STOP – PAUSE – REFLECT. Did any insights rise up? Did you get a glimmer of what your priorities are? Should be?
Now let’s take this tool and use it as you head into a New Year… and into any organizing/time management/productivity project large or small about which you feel stuck.
For example, you have a huge amount of memorabilia: inherited from relatives, reminders of your childrens’ youth, and your own school, personal and work papers. This stuff all reminds you with what your life has been woven together. Maybe it even symbolizes your core identity. It’s hard to let to go. Even editing them down, creating digital (photos, scans) records of them does not seem possible.
So let’s STOP PAUSE REFLECT. And ask yourself this: What Matters Most To Me NOW? Is it making room for other activities in the space now clogged with memories of the past? Is it giving myself a beautiful space in which to create my life today? What are my core needs and values, and how might they be best served?
In my experience working with hundreds of clients over the years, they all know these answers, deeply and profoundly. Decluttering and creating a life that reflects who they want to be is greatly facilitated by taking the time and energy to develop the self-awareness that bursts forth from mindfulness. Give it a try!
Wishing you joy during this holiday season,
Geri Chark Frankel
GCF Organizing LLC
Let me start with a shocking statistic to get you in the holiday mood.
The United States has 3% of the world’s children but buys 40% of all toys sold worldwide.
I know – It’s terrifying!
This season, if you’ve got kids, you’re likely going to have an influx of new gifts and toys, so it’s the perfect time to learn how to help kids wade through their toys and create space for what sparks joy.
The tips below will have you on your way to decreasing your clutter … and increasing your joy.
Teaching your kids to choose toys wisely and to treasure the toys they have is not something that happens overnight. But you can slowly change the conversation, put some boundaries up and help them curate a collection of toys that spark joy for them and that minimizes clutter for you.
Happy holidays, friends!
In between holidays, most of us aren’t working…a great use of some of that free time is to get a little organizational housekeeping out of the way. Here are some great, easy steps you can do to start 2019 off on the right foot!
December 31 is the deadline for getting all of your donations together, whether it be financial or stuff. With the new tax laws in place, try tracking donations using It’s Deductible to easily track what has been donated. If it is stuff you want to donate don’t wait until the 31st. I have seen donation centers unable to accept items toward the very end of the year.
Do you look at your holiday cards every season and have no idea who you need to send them to?
This is the time to update your 2019 Holiday Card List! Document who you sent cards to and who you received them from. Keep a record so that you can just pull out your list next year and start addressing. You can do that on a spreadsheet or if you really want to be ahead of the game, you can make a document for your labels so that all you have to do next year is “edit” and ‘print”, easy peasy.
Do you find old gift cards all over your house? Gather your gift cards together in one place so that you can easily find them. If you have a lot, put them in an envelope and label it with the cards you have. This will help save you from letting them expire. Use them before the restaurants that you have them for go out of business (this happened to me this year). I made a reservation and the next day they closed, annoying.
Put your Christmas decorations away properly.
Give away any decorations that you haven’t used in a while. Decorating time will be more pleasant next year if you are only dealing with pieces you really love.
Store the things you love in nice containers that reflect their value to you, There are great containers for wrapping paper, ribbons, wreaths, ornaments, dishware, glassware. Check out The Container Store, Amazon and Frontgate for a wide selection, but don’t wait too long they sell out.
Paper Clear Out
One thing my clients do (actually I do it for them) is to pull all of this year’s bills, receipts and other documents out of their files, we separate the tax documents for the accountant and the most of others get tossed/shredded/filed. The result: clean files ready for the New year to begin and all your papers are gathered for your accountant…yes!
Thoughts for the New Year
Take some time for yourself to review this year’s events (use the photos on your phone to quickly do this).
What was great about this year?
What would have made it a better year?
How can you make the New Year better?
And finally….For ribbons, bow, cards and other miscellaneous items try the Organize It All Christmas.
For your special ornaments try Snapware Snap ‘N Stack Square Layer Seasonal Ornament Storage Container
For your LED lights these are great and they stack very well Christmas Light Storage Wheels with Bag
For your Christmas china and wine glasses we suggest Household Essentials Dinner Plate Holiday Storage Chest
Dessert Plates and Small Bowls
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.
One of many things I love about the holidays is that it brings family, friends and people together. I’m appreciative of all that I’m blessed with and love blessing others. My most favorite is spending time with those I love and cherish. We hosted Thanksgiving at our home this year. We stood in a circle and talked about what we are grateful for and the importance of leaving a legacy for our young generation.
Every year we adopt a family in need. It’s so exciting to see their smiling faces filled with gratitude. I tend to notice people are more kind and friendly during the holiday season. Wouldn’t it be nice if we can stretch that kindness all year round?
This year I decided to be a little more creative with gift giving. When giving a gift I think it’s really important to know something about the person you are giving the gift to. For example, their favorite color, books they read, tech/kitchen gadgets, journal books, spas or help organize a particular space in their home.
One of my favorite things to do is create a beautiful tablescape. This year I’m creating a beautiful table scape for my sister and best friend. They are so elated. The best part is that I’m using items they already have and gifting the other items. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that people appreciate and love.
Hope your holidays are filled with love, joy and peace. Be Creative. Be Grateful. Be Kind.