January is National Get Organized Month and it’s also the time for making resolutions and promising to follow through on all the advice in the self-help books on your bookshelves. Being the author of a self-help book, I can’t say I don’t recommend them, but striving to constantly improve your life and your home may not be the best advice.
According to Lindsay Myers on brainblogger.com, self-improvement represents a $10 billion per year industry in the U.S. alone. (In addition to high revenues, self-help has a high recidivism rate, which means that those same people already purchased another self-help book in the last 18 months.) Whether we want to lose weight, eat healthy, have a better marriage, or advance in our career, many of us rely on self-help books to improve our lives.
What’s more, home improvement is an almost $300 billion industry, which some say started with Bob Vila on This Old House and cable channels taking over from there with HGTV and DIY Network. I must admit that we bought our old farm house over 30 years ago and we’ve been improving and upgrading ever since.
Stop Improving Yourself and Start Living by Robert Jean Bryant is a classic self-help book that challenges us to end the perpetual quest for improvement and instead upgrade the quality of our daily lives. We are constantly bombarded by commercials and retailers who try to convince us to buy the latest and greatest stuff so we can “improve” our lives. But all that buying means more clutter, distracts us from the real issues and the real people in our lives, and takes us away from living in the moment. Bryant also says that when you get off the treadmill of constant improvement you help yourself to the freedom of creativity, joy and well-being.
I suggest that we start 2016 by getting back to the basics. Let’s break it down:
Finally, answer the question “I wish I had more time to…” and make it happen. As the saying goes, life is not a dress rehearsal.
Clutter Quote: “Know many, trust few, learn to paddle your own canoe.” Anonymous
When I read this headline, I had to smile: The Green Pope: Francis is putting the full weight of the papacy behind efforts to curb climate change. Many Professional Organizers base their businesses on being ‘green,’ recycling, and simplifying the homes and lives their clients lead. After being glued to the television for the Pope’s entire visit to the United States (I was painting my bedroom at the same time), I couldn’t help but see a connection between this incredible man and some of the same ideals that relate to the environment and the business of professional organizing. After the Pope’s visit, I did some research, and two documents written by the Pope stood out.
The first document was published on June 18, 2015, when Pope Francis released the encyclical Laudato Si: On Care of Our Common Home. In this document the Pope calls on all nations and peoples to address urgent environmental concerns, including climate change. Francis reported that this encyclical was not really an environmental document; rather, it highlighted the developed world’s indifference to the destruction of the planet while pursuing short-term economic gains. The Pope states, “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.” Professional Organizers work with clients every day to set up home recycling centers, and the significance of that labor isn’t lost on us; we are helping our clients save the planet one household at a time.
The second document released by the Pope was The 15 Diseases of the Curia. The Curia Romana is the papal court, or the people who assist the Pope in the government and administration of the church. Pope Francis explains that these ‘diseases’ do not only concern the Curia “but are naturally a danger to every Christian, every curia, community, congregation, parish and ecclesiastic movement.” Number 13 on the list is the disease of Hoarding. In layman’s terms, a person tries to fill an existential void by accumulating materials goods, not out of need but only in order to feel secure and, as a result, burdens the soul. As a nation, we see this every day as shopping has become the national pastime, and anyone can accumulate goods 24/7 by using the internet and television. When people become overwhelmed with clutter and don’t know where to turn, very often it is the Professional Organizer who gets the call for help.
Finally, my hope is that no matter what our religious preference, we all take the words of Pope Francis to heart and be responsible stewards of our planet– our first home.
Clutter Quote: “Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude.” Pope Francis
Recently, my workshop for the Holistic Mom’s monthly meeting on “Paper Management for the Green Home” was rescheduled due to a foot of snow. Like many of us, you may be stuck inside during these cold winter days. So why not take advantage of being indoors and organize your home office? Here’s a plan to help you clear your desk while “going green” with less paper.
The first step is to go online and opt out of the unwanted mail coming into your home. Try DMAChoice.org for general junk mail, TrustedID.org for unwanted catalogs and Optoutprescreen.com for pre-approved credit card offers. Create a new email address for coupons and ask to have your monthly statements sent via email.
There are also some wonderful apps for your phone. Catalog Spree allows you to view a variety of different catalogs online. Retail Me Not offers coupons to local stores, and Snip Snap stores your coupons digitally after you take a photo of them on your phone.
Now that you’ve reduced the paper input, it’s time to tackle the existing paper piles.
Holistic living is a lifestyle which seeks balance knowing that all things are interconnected. What you bring into your home directly affects how you feel. How does your home make you feel? Is your home office stressing you out? Try to tackle your paperwork often, perhaps in short intervals, every other day. If you need help, get help! Remember, your home is your sanctuary.
Letting go isn’t easy — but when you allow yourself to say goodbye to books you haven’t read, children’s toys that have been outgrown, and clothing that no longer suits your style — you get more than a tax receipt. When you give, you get…
SATISFACTION: Allowing someone else the pleasure of enjoying your stuff feels good (so does recycling).
SPACE: You will literally regain space…
• Whole drawers can be emptied
• Shelves will no longer bow under the weight of your old textbooks
• Closets will sigh with relief that they’re not overstuffed and cramped
Being able to see your belongings enables you to enjoy and appreciate what you have.
FREEDOM: We are privileged to live in a free society, but some of us are slaves to stuff and the need to acquire more. When you let something go, a wonderful emotional freedom grows.
As a professional organizer, I am privileged to witness people stand straighter, smile more freely, and breathe easier by letting go of things that were holding them back. Releasing physical items from our spaces gives us the freedom to decide what will take its place. Let it be positive memories and new opportunities.
Let’s face it we all have the same 24 hour day, so it’s not really time we need to manage, it’s ourselves we need to manage. According to experts, during the last 25 years, our leisure time has declined by 37% while our work week has increased by a full day.
Make Time for Yourself
This means we need to be sure to make time for ourselves first. If we don’t take care of ourselves — in the long run — we will not be able to take care of anyone else. That includes eating well, exercising, meditating a few minutes a day, and spending time with family and friends.
Set Daily Priorities
The best way to do this is to set daily priorities and intentions. Setting daily priorities creates a space for achieving your goals. It gives you a clear focus so the mind can hone in the day’s activities. Spending 10 to 15 minutes every morning mapping out your day can save up to 6 hours a week.
Now that you have your list of priorities it’s time to put them on the calendar. Schedule appointments with yourself to complete priority work. This will block out the space you need to get your tasks completed in a timely manner. Be sure to schedule the most important tasks at a time of day that you are most productive. If you are a morning person, then do your most important task first thing in the morning.
Put your personal & business schedules into one calendar so you have a snapshot of all your commitments at a glance. If you need several calendars for work, home and kids, then consider something like Google calendars that allows you to create a separate calendar for everyone in the family that can be snapped together as one calendar and separated on an as needed basis.
Go over your schedule each evening for the next day. This will help you sleep at night by preventing some of the list making that goes on in our heads when we wake up in the middle of the night.
Try not to plan too much in one day. Too many items on a to-do list can create paralysis instead of action. Adding fewer more important tasks forces you to focus on what is really essential in your day.
• Prioritize your list so that you get the most important items completed first
• Break projects down into actionable steps
• Add any info you need to complete the task—phone #, links, addresses, etc
• Separate work and personal tasks
• Group tasks together like all phone calls, all errands, similar writing projects
• Avoid multitasking. It takes the brain four times longer to recognize and process each time you change gears to a new task. If you switch back and forth constantly you are wasting valuable time.
• Consider timing your tasks to give you a more accurate idea of how long certain activities take each day. This will help you to better plan your time.
Most people are dis-organized because their organizing systems don’t match their current lives. If your system is the same you used in college or when you first started working, it may be time for a change. Using a new organizing system takes time and practice. There is no one-size-fits-all. If you have been doing the same thing for 20 years and you implement a new system — give it a little time.
Need help making decisions on the many items cluttering up your beautiful home? Why not start with NAPO-GPC? What? You’re not really sure what that is? It’s the National Association of Professional Organizers Greater Philadelphia Chapter: whew — that’s a mouthful.
We are eighty members strong. Plus associate members which include Philly Junk and Impact Thrift Stores. The chapter started in 1996 and has grown by leaps and bounds. Once a month we meet for networking, professional development workshops, and educational programs. Workshop topics include ADD, Feng Shui, chronically disorganized, and senior relocations. Our library has close to one thousand resources for the members to rent including books, CD’s, and videos.
Did you get to meet us at the Philly Home Show? Perhaps you saw us on the NBC 10! Show or called WHYY and spoke to us on the phone when you gave your donation. You probably heard about Project Thanks, where we organized the home of a veteran after she completed three tours in Afghanistan. We also plan shredding events and collected thousands of shoes for Soles4Souls. This winter we are planning on helping Cradles to Crayons.
Our members are amazing! Some are strictly residential organizers, some corporate, others specialize in home staging, home design, working with clients who have disabilities, and collections including photos and antiques. Coaching is part of the organizing process too, including holistic life coaches, business coaches, academic coaches, as well as consultants.
Check out our website at NAPO-GPC.org. There you will find even more information about our wonderful association as well as our blog with many tips and hints to help you get started on your organizing projects. When you are ready to hire an expert click on “Find an Organizer”, you will be glad you did!