I’ve been reading articles about the promise of a paperless office my entire life, and for the most part, those articles have just created more paper.
For the first time in modern history, we now have the tools to go completely paperless. But before you go invest in a new gadget and hunker down to scan all of your paper, you can probably do a lot to reduce the amount of paper in your life.
If you really want to go paperless, start with these steps to have less paper in your life. You’ll find more space in your home.
There are times, I am sure, when you have an extra 15 minutes where you just want to sit, relax, and take a few deep breaths. There is certainly nothing wrong with self-care. However, self-care can also take on another form where you want to use those extra 15 minutes to get something done in your home or office.
In my world, of course, it has to do with de-cluttering and organizing. There have been a couple of times recently where I took that 15 minutes with a client and myself to do just that.
A client of mine moved into assisted living several months ago. During one of our sessions, as I was helping her unpack and organize, I had some extra time. I went through one of her end table drawers in the living room and was able to recycle and trash 95% of what was in the drawer – old catalogs, old address labels, etc. Now, I could make room for other items that were important for her to have nearby in her new life.
In my own life, I love to travel. I always have travel articles and catalogues that I keep in an antique rice holder box (pictured above). When I started going through my collection, I was amazed at what I could recycle – articles and catalogs that went back to 2016. Since the box never looked like it was totally overflowing, I just kept putting more articles and catalogs in it. As with my client, I was able to recycle 95% of what I had stored.
This led me to think what we can all do in 15 minutes to maintain our organizational systems. Maintenance and persistence always seem to be a huge challenge in the organizing world. Developing a system or process is 1 part of the project. Another part is maintaining or tweaking what you’ve already developed.
Consider what you can do in 15 minutes. You never know what you’ll find unless you go through these areas:
On any given day, we all make choices in our lives as to what to do with our time. With those extra 15 minutes that you have, you could sit back and relax or go through an area of your home or office to see what you no longer need. What is your choice today?
People hire organizers because they feel their lives are out of control and they are unable to get organized on their own. Frequently the problem is simply having too much stuff to organize. Often the weight of too many possessions can wear us down. When our space is cluttered and dis-organized it can impact every facet of our lives.
When the burden of too much clutter is lifted from our shoulders, we can feel physically lighter, more energetic and less stressed. This relief can lead to increased work productivity, greater enthusiasm and better relationships.
The question we need to ponder is why do we purchase so much in the first place? There are a number of explanations for this compulsion. Often, we simply want to possess the latest and greatest stuff because we think it’s fun to own! We live in a consumer culture and we often validate ourselves by what and how much we can accumulate. Consumerism and materialism are promoted by advertisers in print and on TV and computers in the form of commercials. According to Annie Leonard who wrote, “The Story of Stuff”, the two main activities Americans engage in are watching TV and shopping. We are bombarded by advertising and are exposed to approximately 3,000 ads per day. We see more ads in a day then people saw in a year 50 years ago. Couple that with the fact that the average house size has doubled since the 1970’s and it becomes easy to see why we accumulate so much “stuff”.
Sadly, in order to maintain our lifestyles of consumption, many people are working 50+ hours per week. We work until we are exhausted and depleted and then we shop to make us feel better. We return home too tired to do much else than watch TV and the cycle begins anew!
Is this the way we really want to lead our lives? If so, fine. If not, then it’s time to rethink our goals and blithely step off that hamster wheel of consumption and examine saner options.
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!
That can look like many things: maintaining a written planner, using and sharing an online calendar, time blocking, scheduling appointments as well as daily tasks, or creating a timeline for big events. And, while creating a timeline is a great way to keep track of any project or event that you are planning, it is a most valuable asset in managing a move.
Moving is uncomfortable and inconvenient at best, and downright exasperating and stressful at its worst. This is due to the infrequency and unpredictability of the process.
This isn’t an undertaking the average person practices over and over again throughout the year. We don’t move to a new home every week! Therefore, we don’t get the opportunity to hone and streamline each step of the process. And, even if we do sharpen our skills, there are some factors that just cannot be foreseen. Housing deals fall through, moving trucks get delayed, people in our lives have emergencies that need to be handled. Making a timeline cannot change these unexpected delays but it can put us in control of how to manage them and that’s what being organized is all about – being prepared.
Whether you are moving next year or this summer, it is never too late to create a timeline for your move.
A moving timeline may seem like extra work for your move right now, but the small bit of time taken to set up this management tool will support you throughout the process and keep you in the driver’s seat.
As an auction professional, I regularly have the opportunity to work with Professional Organizers and Senior Move Managers. These professionals provide a wonderful service helping client’s de-clutter their homes for a variety of reasons including preparation for sale, down-sizing & moving to a smaller living space or simply organizing their lives.
During the de-cluttering process, there is often a need to sell personal property and in some cases a great deal of property. Since auctions are a simple, efficient and often productive approach to selling, we can often help the same client. This is the wonderful connection between us.
I developed a passion for auctions as a child from my father. He loved auctions and would take me on his Saturday auction adventures to pretend he was helping my mother. He loved to buy at auction and mom did not appreciate clutter, so you can imagine the action at our home.
These auctions often had big crowds of people and enthusiastic bidding. It was exciting! I would hear energized bidders looking for a bargain. However, I was attracted to selling at auction as the price just went one direction. I have not come across another business negotiation where the price only goes higher. I loved the excitement of the auction environment as a child and still do today. However, the environment has changed.
I have heard these questions in recent years as we help clients looking to sell their property. A great many of these clients were at auctions forty, fifty or more years ago buying much of their art, furniture, antiques, decorative items and collections. They would often spend an entire day at the auction and there would be hundreds of people in attendance. They would see friends and enjoy the camaraderie.
I was reminded of the feeling when recently watching an old movie “North by Northwest”. There is a fascinating auction scene Alfred Hitchcock used in the story line. It showed bidding and activity at a high end auction over fifty years ago. The auction gallery was filled. People were sitting in every available seat and others were standing. There were no large screens displaying the auction item and no bidding by telephone or internet. There were no computers supporting the auction process at all. What a major difference!
Large screens, phone bidding and internet platforms have expanded the range and number of bidders dramatically. However, it does not look like it to auction buyers from many years ago turned into auction sellers as their lives have changed.
When asked where is everybody? Where are the bidders? I point out the number of ways the auctioneer is accepting bids beyond those from the smaller than they expected bidders attending in person.
I look toward the computers handing the bidding for each of the multiple
internet bidding platforms and explain each computer represents far more bidders than when you purchased in the crowded auctions many years ago. I look toward the staff members handling phone bidding and point out those strong bidders as well. There are also bids left with the office and on our web-site. I explain there is a larger geographic area represented and there are bidders watching the auction from not only our region but from the entire United States and around the world. I point out they have been able to see each item in a gallery of pictures for a month before the auction.
Once the auctioneer starts taking bids from the bidders in all these different ways (including from bidders in person like Alfred Hitchcock portrayed), it begins to make sense. Bidding at auction is even more exciting as it comes in so many ways from so many places!