Quick Kitchen Organizing Project

Taking my own advice in the kitchen. . . .

Recently as I tried to close the kitchen drawer which holds my plastic lids for storage containers, I realized I had to do something. Lids were trying their best to jump out, crawl out, or fall out the bottom onto the kitchen floor; there were just too many pieces in the drawer.

Time to have a Lid Party! So this morning, I took all the lids out and put like ones together. Taking all of them out at once would make me finish the project. Next, I emptied the drawer that was filled with all the bottoms and put like sizes together. Then I matched bottoms to tops.

You guessed it – a number of items without matches. All right, I confess: 6 bottoms with no tops and 25 tops with no bottoms. I think that container tops and bottoms are like clothes hangers – they multiply at night when you can’t see them do it.

Finally, I checked the refrigerator and dishwasher to make sure none of the matches were hiding from me. Then out went all the unmatched pieces. How wonderful to be able to close those kitchen drawers!

Organizing Tips:
1. Don’t be overwhelmed by this mini-project for the kitchen. It’s quick, fun and immediately satisfying. Get
your children to help!

2. Once your matches are made, ask yourself the Clutterfree & Organized question: “What
will make me need this?” Be honest, you probably don’t need a dozen old chicken salad containers.

3. Reuse, recycle, donate! Use the containers for crafts, crayons, picture hangers, uncooked
pasta…you get the idea. Be sure to use a sharpie and write in bold letters what you are
storing in them. Give friends in need a lovely little meal and invite them to keep the
containers. Could a senior center use the containers for game pieces, sewing bits and pieces,
craft projects?

What ideas can you come up with to organize your kitchen drawers? Please share them with me!

Are You Always Running Late?

Do you often find yourself asking, “Why am I always running late, although I think I am leaving on time?” Running late creates Mind Clutter and negative mind chatter.

The solution is to understand The Gap. Planning for The Gap will get you to work and to business meetings on time. Plan for The Gap any time you have a set time you need to arrive somewhere.

You are probably wondering, “What is the Gap?” The Gap is the difference between when you think you are leaving and when you actually leave. Standing in your kitchen and telling yourself it is time to leave for work is not planning for The Gap. The time you actually leave is when you pull out of the driveway and go on your way.

The Gap includes the time it takes you to go out the door, get into the car, and pull out of the driveway.
The Gap may also include going back to the house for something you forgot, such as a bottle of water or feeding the cat. If you allow 10 minutes for The Gap, you’re probably safe. If you have children, 15 minutes may be more realistic.

Once you are at work, planning for The Gap will also help you get to meetings or appointments on time. Just as when you are leaving your house, The Gap includes the time it takes to gather materials for a meeting and tie up any loose ends.

Work through these steps while planning for The Gap:
– What time are you expected to be at your desk? What time is your appointment or meeting?
– Decide what time you could arrive and have a few minutes to breathe and be calm.
– Take into consideration what time you need to plan to leave if traffic is heavy or if you need to gather materials for your meeting or do one-more-thing.
– Determine the time you normally would plan to leave for work or for your meeting.
– Now add 10-15 minutes so you can arrive on time and stress-free.

Another thing to be aware of is “one-more-thing-itis”. This also can make you late for work or for a meeting. You could leave now but that means you might arrive a few minutes early so you think, “ I can do one more thing”. That is what gets many of us, including me, in trouble because the one-more-thing takes longer than you thought or it leads to another one-more-thing.

The key is to be okay with leaving a few minutes early. For those of us who fear that we might end up wasting 10 minutes with nothing to do if we get somewhere early, keep a book or an unread magazine in your car or spend the time reviewing your calendar.

Changing our departure habits takes focusing on the clock and being realistic. Planning for The Gap will get you to work and to business meetings on time. Once I started planning for The Gap, I was no longer pulling out of my driveway stressed or leaving my office uptight. In fact, my whole day went much better. See if you don’t feel the same positive effects.

Being Connected 24/7 is Counterproductive

Being available 24 hours a day, seven days a week is not something people decided — the trend has crept up on us silently like a fog. From the 1960s through the 1980s, many professionals went to work at 8 in the morning and left at 5 in the evening. Work rarely interfered with personal lives, with the exception of physicians.

For many of us that schedule is inconceivable. Some companies now demand you request permission to leave behind the laptop when you vacation. Seventy-five percent of vacationing employees check in by phone or email, some several times a day. As time management consultant and author Harold Taylor notes, “Work is no longer a place you go to and then leave.”

Should we accept this as the new normal, or is there reason to be concerned?

Many studies have concluded this constant connection is creating high levels of stress. And that causes a myriad of other issues including higher risk of heart conditions and problems with concentration and memory that affect work performance. Up to 90 percent of all primary health-care visits are related to stress, costing the U.S. economy $1.1 trillion in lost production and $277 billion in treatment for everything from heart disease to skin disorders.

Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of “Crazy Busy,” sees many people who can’t focus, are forgetful and think they have attention-deficit disorder. He labels their condition “attention-deficit trait.” Almost half of all American workers don’t take their vacation days. Apart from the health risks, people who don’t get out of the office tend to be less creative, less productive and, ultimately, less effective. To improve performance, people need to take time off.

Can you take control?

To develop the mindset that technology should work for you will require you change some habits and readjust your thinking. Consider the bottom-line benefits to you personally, to your family and to your career.

Deciding on real motivation to change is key to making the change. Here are some ways you can take back control:
– Set boundaries on how often you check email. If the idea of not being constantly available makes you nervous, start checking your email every 15 minutes and gradually build up to an hour, then two hours. Having your email notification constantly on is death to productivity.
– If you have a project that needs your full attention, turn off all communication devices. You will be surprised at how much faster you will complete the project when you give it your total focus.
– Do you get jittery thinking about going to lunch and leaving your cell phone in the car? A client of mine said she forgot to take in her cell phone to a lunch event and never enjoyed anything so much.
– Take your vacation. Start the year by scheduling time on your calendar.
– Have a no tech day. Resume your hobbies. Often our best ideas come to us when we are having down time.

Trying to be productive by being connected via technology 24/7 is counterproductive. Instead, we increase our stress, make more errors, find it difficult to focus and get our lives out of balance. Start thinking about time management in a holistic way and control technology so it works for you. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.”

Learning a Lesson from Fall and the Leaves

Ever wish that a strong autumn wind would blow all your clutter away? Let’s take a few minutes and see what we can learn from falling leaves. It might help you change your thinking.

Trees shed leaves. Is it time for you to shed your clutter?

Winter is a time for trees to rest. Would you rest better with reduced items in your space?

When the leaves are shed, the lovely graceful shapes of the branches stand out. Would your favorite items stand out if the clutter surrounding them was reduced?

Leaves become mulch that helps protect plant roots. Our unneeded items can be donated to help others.

It is exciting to see the color on the leaves as they start to fall and it can be just as exciting to see items boxed or bagged to be donated. A calm house or home office can make our lives more enjoyable as we nest in our homes during winter.

Some good questions to ask yourself as you decide what to keep or donate:
– Does it make me smile?
– Is it close to my heart, or have I just had it a long time?
– Is this still useful to me or am I keeping because I have always kept it?

Henry David Thoreau once wrote “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or
believe to be beautiful.”

Cleaning Out the Garage

My oldest son came and we purged the garage. You could really call it a carriage house
because in the past that is all it would hold. Thankfully, it is not attached to my 100-year-old
farm house, because it has become the storage space for everything besides a carriage.

So on this day that the cleaning out took place, if you could have been a mouse in the corner, I
am sure you would have had lots of laughs. This went like one of the TV organizing shows –
he wanted to discard what I felt was important. For instance, I came out of my office to see
him sawing long poles in half. To him it was trash – to me, great stakes for my tomato plants.

As some of you know, when I work with clients, I ask questions and they make decisions. My
typical request is “Tell me about this” and depending on the response, I will ask more
questions but clients make all their own decisions.

I am a sentimental person and want people to keep what is meaningful or useful to them. That is not how this went that day  . . . Son: “You don’t need this!” Me: “ I like to garden and I want it.” Son: “It is just taking up room! Get rid of it.”

Well, 6 hours later we were still speaking and had not killed each other and the garage was purged of 35 years of stuff. I put my foot down on major remodeling projects like “Let’s saw this bookcase in half and hang the pieces up here.” I reminded him I couldn’t reach “up here”.

One big stack was made for his brother to come and claim anything he wanted. A mountain
of discarded stuff is waiting for a big trash day. I really do appreciate all his help, and now all
my gardening things are where I can get at them.

This was a good reminder to me not to ever take over my client’s decision making. To
each of us our stuff is important.

So if you are doing a family garage project here are some pointers…
Organizing Tip 1. Working on a big project with a partner helps. (Really, it does!)
Organizing Tip 2. Purging equals freedom and space. Go for it!
Organizing Tip 3. Offer unneeded items to a family member, friend or neighbor. Check with
local charities to see if you can contribute useful but no longer needed items.

The Real Life of a Professional Organizer

The business life of a professional organizer is that they help organize homes and offices, as
well as time management and productivity issues.

Many professional organizers are born with an organizing sense, but take that ability and continue education for certification in the field. Some, like myself, focus on also becoming certified in ADD/ADHD management and what affects a person with it
The majority of professional organizers are not hyper-organized, with every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed – we are real people. I was reminded of that as I looked around my office
today and realized it was totally cluttered. I had left a major office reorganization project midway through as I moved onto a huge home re-modeling project, and I had not disassembled my tools from a recent class.

So today the professional organizer has to follow her own rules, and organize her own office. Using the CFO system, and working while standing, I am going to reduce my clutter by
working on my visual clutter – what I can see.

I will use the CFO (Clear-Fast-Organized) system in two places:
1. I have a lots of different things piled on my desk, so I will be doing a desk rescue to get things sorted and back where they belong.
2. I will be going around the perimeter of a room, picking things up and asking “Why is this here, and where should it be?”

Though a professional organizer may look as if they never have a hair out of place, they are actual people who can get overwhelmed and let organizing fall to the wayside. That is one of the reasons a professional organizer can be helpful – they can relate to clutter getting out of hand

Overwhelmed at Your Desk? Try Standing Up

You may have seen on NBC’s “Today Show” the standing desk weatherman Al Roker has in his office. Or possibly you read The Washington Post report that 10 percent of AOL employees in Dulles, Virginia use standing desks.

Are you wondering if standing desks are the new “flavor of the month”? Not so!

Doctors point to research showing higher rates of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and even mortality among people who sit for long stretches of time. That is not why I started advocating standing to work, but it can be strong motivation.

Standing is not a new concept in working efficiently. Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill and Ernest Hemingway worked and wrote standing up, and Albert Einstein theorized standing up. Standing certainly worked for them.

I am not suggesting tossing your comfortable chair and office desk. In my office, I have a standard office desk and chair plus an art table that I use as a standing desk. I alternate between the two, depending on what I am doing.

Research has shown you have more blood in your brain when you are on your feet. Therefore, you are more decisive and make better and faster decisions. In addition, your paper stacks are not in your face. Subconsciously, you are bigger than the stack and so you feel more able to conquer it. When a client and I are trying to conquer a Mount Everest stack of papers, we tackle the job while standing unless health issues dictate otherwise.

One day I was working with a client whose paper stack would have reached the ceiling. After standing for a while, he asked, “Can we sit and do this?” I agreed, but when I later mentioned that I find this work goes faster when people are on their feet, he started to chuckle. I asked him what was funny. He said, “You are right. Ever since I sat down, I am reading the front and back of each piece of paper before I throw it away.” Back on his feet he went and soon his important papers were secured into a system that he felt comfortable using.

Need more motivation to try standing for some of your work? A Yale University study revealed that people who sit for more than half a day at work have a 60 to 70 percent greater risk of slipping a disk than their mobile coworkers.

When should you stand?
– When work feels complicated
– When you dislike a job
– When you have lots of papers to sort
– When it’s your body’s down time and you still need to be productive
– When your back is tired from sitting
– When you are returning to your office loaded with handfuls of papers
– If you are on e-mail overload and have a portable computer

A client of mine with attention deficit disorder said the suggestion to stand took away his tension. He was able to focus more clearly and stick with work longer. Schools that provide stand-up desks for their ADD students see a huge improvement in their work.

How can you put standing in your office into practice?

Once you find how effective this is, you may want to look at a permanent standing desk. Anderlyn-Desk.com offers an addition you can use on a desktop or other surface, adjustable to your height. And, if you are really into multitasking, there are companies that sell a standing desk with a treadmill.

Standing can be a simple and smart way to refocus your energy and work smarter.

Chronic Disorganization

A lot of the time, those with Chronic Disorganization are labeled as “packrats” or “clutterbugs.”

The average person with Chronic Disorganization has around 3000 documents, 40% more
housework on their To-Do List, and 15-20% of their income goes toward late fees. They are
often creative individuals who cannot seem to stay on top of their chores.

Chronic Disorganization is often marked by a failed attempt at organizing self-help. Chronic
Disorganization affects day-to-day activities, and it may only be evident in one area of one’s
life but is often seen over several areas. It usually occurs over a long period of time, possibly
several years.

There is no quick fix for Chronic Disorganization, but those who suspect they have Chronic
Disorganization should start with 3 main goals:
1. Let go of shame and guilt and move forward.
2. Have a better understanding of organizing pitfalls
3. Generate ideas to start changing one’s own organizing thought process (This can be a
lengthy process.)

If attempts at “fixing” Chronic Disorganization on your own have failed, it may point out the
need for professional help.

Organizing My Closet and Letting the Light Shine

Does the thought of organizing your entire wardrobe make you groan and feel light-headed?
What to do?

Break it up into sections. For example:
I’ll put away my sandals and bring out my fall/winter shoes.
Next I’ll move the summer jackets out to make room for the year-round ones.
Then I’ll switch my summer pajamas with my winter ones. You get the idea.

A client who recently had me organize her closet for her was thrilled to discover a pair of
earrings purchased during a trip to Europe. She was sure they were lost forever…but they
were just waiting for rediscovery in the depths of her closet! I always say that instead of
thinking of it as tackling your clutter, go on a treasure hunt. My clients always find treasures
they thought were lost forever.

Let there be light!
That could be the motto for every closet organizing project.
Light equals energy. Let me repeat that. Light equals energy.
For some reason, good closet lighting is often overlooked, even in a walk-in closet.
Last week I decided to apply this rule to my own closet by adding another light. What a change!

Good light lets you see whether your slacks are blue or black. It eliminates “dark holes” that contain clothes you don’t choose to wear because you can’t see them back in their dingy corners. It motivates you to hang things up after wearing them.

Closet Organizing Tips:
Organizing Tip 1. Break closet organizing into sections.
Organizing Tip 2. Go on treasure hunts when doing projects.
Organizing Tip 3. Light is energy for all areas of the home.

Don’t Let Car Clutter/Cleaning Drive You Crazy!

Has your car become your second office and dining room?

Are you embarrassed if someone needs to ride with you?

Here are some quick types to get the car back in control!

I spent a long time vacuuming up the crumbs remaining from my many “dashboard dining” meals. I remember a cartoon where cleaning up from a meal means getting all the fast-food bags out of the car!

Over the years I have done TV segments on car organizing, so I hope these tips help. In my real life, I have to do this also!

• I spend a few minutes when I get in my driveway and get all the trash together
• Organize what I need for tomorrow
• Gather what needs to go in my office and separate what goes into the house.

If you have children, they can be doing the same with their stuff while you do yours.

It also helps to…
• Think of your car as another room of your house
• Pick up regularly
• Plan a few minutes once a week to purge anything you don’t want in the car for the next week.

You will feel like a new person when your car is Clutter-free & Organized!