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.
Thanksgiving and the approach of more holidays add incentive to put our homes in order. “Getting organized” has become a need, not a dream.
For those who want the expertise, guidance, and support of a professional organizer, hands on help is still available. If in-person organizing doesn’t work for you, virtual organizing is an option worth considering.
Virtual Organizing is not new…
• Over ten years ago, Sheila Delson, co-founder of The Institute for Chronic Disorganization, coined the term Virtual Organizing (V.O.). She has since educated experienced organizers in the best practices and most successful methods for V.O.
In years past, V.O. had been limited by familiarity with zoom and other remote options. With so many adjusting to zoom school, virtual offices and FaceTime meetings, that tech barrier is (virtually) gone making V.O. much more accessible.
Obvious benefits of working virtually:
• Guidance on where to start
• Expert clarity for steps involved
• During this pandemic: it is a no-risk option for working together
Five bonus benefits of working remotely:
• Accountability so you’ll follow-through on each step
• Access to resources and connections only your NAPO organizer can provide
• Control over what your organizer sees…or doesn’t 🙂
This may make it easier to focus on a discreet project before you’re ready to open yourself up to a whole room or house re-org.
• Affordability V.O. sessions are typically shorter (1 – 2 hours long) than in-person appointments (which could be half or whole day commitments)
• Any progress you make will be 100% YOURS to claim
If you already have experience working in-person with an organizer, transitioning to a virtual partnership puts the emphasis on what you can do. That’s empowering!
Virtual options aren’t limited to a geographic location.
That said, there are benefits to working with someone local:
• When working with a local organizer, your organizing work can be virtual. Even so, you can still benefit from having your organizer collect items or run some errands, if they handle donations or resale of items.• In the future: post-pandemic, once you’re more comfortable, or when the scope of your project changes, you’d have the option to invite your local organizer in for hands-on organizing. It’s all about choices!
Authors: Lea Gallagher 405.458.0408 and Rie Brosco 215.435.5609
When it comes to an organizing project (or really, anything in life), the words we say out loud or think in our heads can either empower us or hold us back. Today, we want to share with you three words we loathe and three words we love. They apply to the work we do helping clients organize their space, and they have broader application in life as well.
REDUCE THE USE OF THESE THREE WORDS WE LOATHE
Maximize. Hello, corporate speak! Does anybody else think this word sounds a little soulless? When you hear the word maximize, does it imply that the only way to operate is at 100% or 110%? But everyone needs wiggle room and flexibility! We don’t need to be everything to everyone all the time, and that’s what maximize makes us think of.
Productivity. This word goes right with maximize as it is often paired together, as in maximizing productivity. It’s pretty ingrained in American culture that we need to be productive. But we are all worth more than our productivity! Don’t connect your self worth to how much you can produce for someone else. I’m in full support of efficiency, but not productivity at a negative cost or impact. Remember, sometimes the best thing is to NOT be productive. Down time rejuvenates the soul and helps make the time when we are working on a project more fruitful.
Perfect / Should. Okay, that’s two words, but they’re related. There’s no such thing as perfect, and all too often, we set unrealistic expectations of ourselves to try and reach that impossible standard. And in seeking perfection, we create a lot of “shoulds” for ourselves: we should do this or we should do that. A friend of mine often says, “Don’t should on yourself.” Just for a day, keep track of how many times you think or say you should do something. Bet you’ll be surprised by the weight you’re putting on yourself unnecessarily.
REUSE THE USE OF THESE THREE WORDS WE LOVE
Progress. This one’s about the continuous journey! We are all works in progress. We’re on our own path and at various spots along the way. Progress feels hopeful and implies growth and forward movement. And it’s okay if your progress isn’t always linear and doesn’t look like somebody else’s progress. What matters is that you’re making progress for you.
Can. A much better word than should! If you believe you can or if you believe you can’t, you’re right. It’s more of an active choice versus the burden of should. We can choose to do something. We can also choose not to do something. There’s a difference between, “I should do the dishes,” and “I can do the dishes because I want my sink to be clean.”
Enough. This one’s empowering to me (Lea) as a recovering perfectionist. Each of us gets to decide what’s good enough or what’s done enough for us. There’s wiggle room! It also implies that there’s a stopping point where you can shift your focus to other things like relaxing or spending time with family or being creative. If you spend all your time on one thing until it’s perfect, it may never be good enough and you will be neglecting everything else. And perfect isn’t actually possible, so you’re missing out for no reason. Focus on what’s enough and move on.
In today’s world where we all try to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible to save and improve our environment, we encourage all of us to reduce and recycle the use of the words we loathe. Instead, strive to reuse the words we love and expand the joy in our lives.
About a year ago, I started asking myself a question that gave me dramatically more clarity (and joy!) in my work and life.
The question was:
Is it fun and easy?
Why did I start asking this question?
Because I was overwhelmed by the “shoulds.”
I have ALWAYS have been overwhelmed by those blasted shoulds, but I felt particularly overwhelmed as a new entrepreneur. Suddenly, I, alone, had to dictate how I would spend my precious time.
Being an entrepreneur can be incredibly freeing. But, there’s also no road map. No clear strategy. No “right” answers.
After a year of trying to do all of the “shoulds,” I signed up for an online course called 31 Days to Flow. I had learned about “flow” previously in my career, and I was intrigued about how I could apply it in this new phase.
Essentially, “flow” is a state where you feel totally in the zone. You don’t notice the time passing. You feel energized. You feel like you’re excelling at what you are doing or you’re seriously enjoying the process.
(Doesn’t that sound better than “should”??)
The course instructor asked us to spend almost two weeks identifying our core values. I was somewhat dismayed at this request since I had spent countless hours (days!) in my previous corporate and non-profit life identifying values. What?! Values?! But I signed up for flow!!
Alas, I really liked the course instructor, and I had paid for the darn class already, so I obliged.
The results ended up being one of the most game-changing exercises I have ever done.
After much soul-searching, ranking, debating and word-smithing, I came up with a list of 5 (soon to be 6) values that would become my new compass for EVERYTHING that I do – not just in work, but in life.
My values are (in order of importance):
These six simple words unlocked new wisdom about what I seek in life – in others, in my work, in my parenting, and so much more.
I could bore you for hours on the significance of each of these. So let me save you from that and instead offer a few examples. “Depth” alone explained why certain friendships filled me up, while others depleted me. “Quiet” explained why I turn into a crazed person from those hysterical Snickers commercials if I don’t have some quiet time in my day. “Beauty” came later, as an antidote to a world that often feels out-of-control.
Our instructor promised us that if we began to follow those things that aligned with our values, we would find more flow. More fun. More ease.
And so it was.
The question “Is it fun and easy?” became a shortcut to test if something “checked off my value boxes.”
I made some significant changes as a result.
By following the path of “fun and easy,” I have found more flow, ease, and joy. I’ve accepted the radical notion that I can follow what energizes me.
I know what you’re thinking. Not EVERYTHING can be fun and easy. So true, my friend. So true.
Luckily, for those things that aren’t fun and easy, we can often eliminate them, delegate them, or find creative ways to make them just a bit more joyful.
Starting today, how can YOU find more “fun & easy” in your work and life?
Yes. Virtual organizing has been around and effective for much longer than this recent COVID-19 quarantine. However, our current degrees of isolation are making virtual organizing more attractive than ever before to both organizers and those looking for organizing help.
Surprised? You might be. Yes organizers can, and often do, physically redesign your office or room layouts, remove your clutter and set up your files and spaces. Yet, the more important and valuable benefit of what they do (what you are really paying for) is what you don’t see. It is the things you experience when working with a professional organizer and the resulting benefits of those experiences.
Whether in-person or virtually in-person, a professional organizer is a pot of gold when it comes to processes, goal setting, motivation and innovation. Partnering with clients from deciding where to start, to trouble-shooting client-specific challenges, to supporting continued maintenance – an organizing and productivity specialist is the way to go.
If you have already worked with a professional organizer, start there! Contact them and ask them if they are running virtual sessions or, if not, ask if they would consider trying one with you. I recommend sticking with someone with whom you already have a good rapport.
Otherwise, the National Association of Productivity and Organizing professionals (NAPO) and it’s local chapters (here in the Philly area it is NAPO-GPC) are the places to start. NAPO professionals invest in their businesses, training and professional development to make sure they are bringing the best services to their clients. What’s even more exciting is that, since they will serve you virtually, you could choose an organizer from literally anywhere!
During this time of COVID-19, many of us are experiencing some degree of isolation and limitation in our lives. Some of us are eager to get back to an unrestricted lifestyle and others are cautiously waiting it out until stronger assurances are announced. Either way, the support of a professional organizer will help unravel difficult decisions, set up successful solutions and motivate you to stay on track. It is a service that you may decide works best for you even after the quarantines are lifted!
While we’ve been sheltering-in-place and social-distancing, I’ve been thinking about all the traveling I’ve done. Whether it’s a quick overnight or weekend trip or something longer, like 2 – 3 weeks, I’ve been remembering my wallet and how it gets filled with all sorts of paper not related to anything I needed to carry with me.
My wallet has been filled with receipts, ticket stubs, candy wrappers, etc. Were all these extraneous things necessary to stuff into my wallet? For me, this was the best place to keep all these items temporarily until I got home, when I could empty my wallet, file what I needed to keep in their respective “homes”, and discard the rest (I sure didn’t need to keep a candy wrapper). Do many of you have things like this in your wallet all the time?
How much you can fit in your wallet is really a metaphor for how much you can fit in your surroundings. Are you ready to “Empty Your Wallet” (and I don’t mean emptying it of money)? I’m talking about your wallet representing how light you would feel if you emptied your life of all the extraneous things that don’t need to be kept in it. What is actually important to you? What do you really need, not want, to keep in your life to make it seem less weighty? The 4 benefits of having an “empty wallet” are:
“Do not wait: the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand, and work whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.” Napoleon Hill
Now is Your Time to “Empty Your Wallet”