Checking in on you during stressful times!

I hope you’re staying safe and healthy. These are certainly unusual and stressful times. I appreciate all of you who sent notes and ideas for how you’re using your time. I have included a list of some of them at the end of this blog.

In my last blog, I mentioned that puzzles are good for relaxation and family togetherness. I haven’t gotten very far with my puzzle . . . guess who wanted to help? I hope your family members are more helpful than Oliver.

We are at home now more . . .

Since we are all home more now and probably doing more cooking, this is also a good time to make a list of what is in your freezer and use up things that need to be used. My daughter and I cooked a large ham that had been sitting in the freezer for a long time.

It is also a good time to look in your pantry for older or unique items that you bought on a whim but haven’t used. There were a couple of things that I found that just got tossed. But I did use a box of spinach, kale, broccoli and lentil noodles that I had been ignoring. Surprisingly, they tasted really good.

It is helpful to create uplifting routines for your day. When under stress, routines can actually make us feel calmer. Be sure to include getting out in the sun and walking.

Ideas from others . . .

Here are some of the ideas that others sent me of what they’re doing during isolation:

  • showing appreciation for all the people in my life,
  • creating a Jeopardy quiz to play with friends,
  • going through all my recipes,
  • working Wysock puzzles,
  • weeding out my clothes,
  • keeping my windows open to listen tot he birds as much as possible,
  • taking long walks,
  • decluttering.

Let me know what you’re doing, and I will continue to add things to the list.

Stay safe and healthy!

How Are You Doing at Home?

We are living in unusual times, full of stress.  I hope you are all well and that you have the supplies you need.  This is the time to focus on self care.  Are there projects at home that you have said you wish you could do if only you had the time?

This is not the time to tackle huge projects that will raise your stress level.  In other posts, you can find some tips for working on small projects at home.

I am trying to take walks.  I found a long book I had put away to read and that has become one of my projects.  My yard gives me plenty of time to do what I call “Weed Therapy” – a friend says she has a weed garden and mine could be called that also.

Reader’s Digest had an article saying that jigsaw puzzles are good for anxiety and encourage family togetherness.  The last few winters I said I was going to do one, so tomorrow I am getting a puzzle out.  My cat thinks we are having family togetherness when he is trying to knock puzzle pieces on the floor so now I have a large piece of plexiglass to cover the puzzle when I am not working on it.

Jigsaw puzzles are good for anxiety and encourage family togetherness!

Let me know what you are doing to stay busy.  I would love to share a list of suggestions!

Do I Need to Look at Old Papers?

Recently I was with a client going through bins of old papers from a relative’s house who had passed a number of years ago. The estate had been settled, but she still had tons of papers left from the house. These were the treasures that were found!

Fourteen property deeds were found from the 1800s with the most beautiful handwriting that you can imagine. Look at the address on the envelope – it only has the man’s name and his county – yet he received it! These treasures will all be donated to the county historical society.

With other clients I have found important items such as the family cemetery deed, checks, money and historic family pictures.

So the answer to the question, “Should I look at old papers?” is “Yes!” But do it quickly – standing will make this project go faster. Your eye is looking for treasures such as old stock certificates or other important papers that may have value.

Overloaded To-Do List

I recently shared this tip with a phone client:  When you feel on overload, reduce the number of items on your To-Do List. As you see or think about things you are putting off, look at them and say “It is not your turn!” Later, my client excitedly called to tell me how happy and stress-free she felt.

Mary C. Pankiewicz

Summer is here, and I am encouraging you to enjoy it. Yes, even if that means putting off organizing projects from your overloaded To-Do List. They will wait, and it will be easier to tackle them after you have had a fun summer.

Need more encouragement: Read “Summer is Meant to be Enjoyed” and “Schedule Some Downtime This Summer” on my blog.

If you really need to get your organizing project done, give me a call. Together we can make it happen a lot faster.

Shopping for a New Planner or Calendar

Now is the time that people begin to shop around for a new calendar or planner. The key to getting the right planner is to think about what your personal needs are.

For years, I’ve bought planners with a sectioned area for day-to-day, and used these pages as scrap paper. What I always used was the 2-page month calendar and that was all I needed to purchase.

Using the wrong calendar is like wearing the wrong size shoes. So gear your organization to what fits you, whether you are a techie person who likes using your phone and online calendars or a pen and paper organizer.

No matter which you choose, always remember to fill it with things that are only important to you. After all, this is your agenda. Using the right calendar will make you more efficient, organized and productive!

Some suggestions for planners:

planning

The Key to Arriving on Time – “The Gap”

Planning: I am always running late, although I leave on time. The key to arriving on time is planning for “The Gap”.

Standing in your kitchen and saying it is time to leave 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, like feeding the cat.

If you allow 10 minutes for “The Gap”, you’re probably safe. If you have children, 15 minutes is more realistic.

Practice planning for “The Gap” and see how you reduce your stress. Make it a key time management tool in your personal and professional life. “The Gap” theory is also key to getting to meetings at work
on time!

I would love to have your feedback on how planning for “The Gap” makes a difference for
you.

Fun Ways to Look at Organizing Projects

An organizing project can be fun if you look at the task with these strategies in mind:

1. Think of your project as a Treasure Hunt – which is much more fun than saying “I am going to go through my clutter!” I have never worked with a client who during the day didn’t exclaim, “I am so
glad I found this…!”

2. Make a detailed list of the different Areas to Tackle. Check off each area and feel the sense
of accomplishment!

3. Any boxes or bags that leave your space are called Trophies! Some businesses and families that I work with have a contest to see who has the most and even take pictures of the group in front of their Trophies. Count yours and be proud. You may want to take before/after pictures.

4. Jump-Start the project by getting out supplies and making your list the night before. Remember that a job begun is a job half-done.

5. Get out your WOW! sheet and put it in the area you have completed. Look at your accomplishments – not what you still have to do. This will motivate you to keep going.

6. From my experience of teaching classes and presenting seminars, I hear people getting
discouraged because they have tried to tackle too big of a project. Remember the turtle – slow
and steady wins the Organizing and Productivity Award. Think small!

Snow Day – No Car Day!

What did you do on your snow day? If you don’t live in East Tennessee you may be saying, “What snow day?”  We can wake up to several inches of snow. Really, it is nice being home, feeling good and not having a choice to leave.  It is also a great opportunity for a Snow Day Organizing project!

One of my clients with young children says she tries to plan “No Car Days.” That would probably do a lot to reduce our stress as adults if we did that regularly. This area of the country isn’t equipped like the North to clean the roads quickly, and with our hills, mountains and curvy roads, it is smarter to stay home.

On one snow day, I slept in, fixed pancakes for breakfast and then conquered a project on my list – dug through, cleaned out and organized (putting like items together) several drawers of tablecloths and stuff like that.

I did drag my daughter in to show her which ones were family pieces, so in case I croak someone would know where the older ones came from. Maybe I should practice what I preach and label them with their history.

Don’t ask me why they were in these drawers, but at the bottom were several board games, such as Mother Goose. They will stay out because shortly my 3-year old granddaughter will be ready to play them. That is fun to think about!

In the afternoon, I read a book and relaxed. Tomorrow I plan to try a recipe I dug out that I used to make as a teenager, Spanish Cream. Now, if you have looked at my picture on the website, you will realize that that wasn’t yesterday. I wonder if I will even like it, but it will be interesting to see.

I also took a walk in the woods and enjoyed the beautiful snow.

So what do you do on your day at home?

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.

Three P’s to Peaceful School Mornings

Lost shoes, lost reports and lost keys, the clock seems to be running on double – THE SCHOOL
YEAR BEGINS. No, I am not peeking into your house, but many parents describe this kind of hectic
morning to me.

As a mother of seven grown children, I know mornings can be hectic. Since I survived and also
since I am a Professional Organizer, here are some tips to ease the beginning of each day by
planning, purging and paper handling…

Create a Plan
Get the family together over a dish of ice cream and brainstorm for ideas to meet everyone’s
needs. Listen to each person’s input. The kindergartner’s suggestion may be the best.

Routines keep everyone calmer so the night before…
• Set out planned breakfast items
• Everyone, including Mom and Dad, pick out clothes for the next day
• Divide the house into sections – each person takes an assigned room and spends a few minutes
returning items where they belong
• Take a few minutes in the evening to come together and discuss plans each family member has for the
next day
• If Mom and Dad get up 30 minutes earlier and get dressed before the children get up, it allows time to
handle any problems that arise

Purge, Purge, Purge
This is the time to simplify.

Help young ones go through their room and eliminate the old stuff. They will probably be
willing to throw out many of last year’s school papers. The ones they want to keep can be put
into a sentimental box.

Share old toys with the needy. Sorting through their room is often overwhelming for children to
do. Sometimes it is too stressful for a parent and child to do together, so possibly an older
sibling, aunt or grandparent could help them. As a professional organizer, I also work with
children and since I am a “neutral person,” this works out well.

This is also a good time of year for parents and children to organize their closets so that
selecting clothes to wear will be easier.

Tame the Papers Problem
Have a plan for incoming and outgoing papers. It is not so important what you do with a piece
of paper but that you do follow the plan consistently.

Place all papers that need to be signed in a specific, designated area, possibly a basket near
the door that everyone comes in.

Have a system so children know where their papers will be the next morning. For example, you
may return the papers to them or they may be by their place at breakfast. It is not so important
what you do but that you do it consistently.

Keep papers needed for future dates in one place.

Have one location where everyone writes upcoming events, giving each family member a different color pen to use.

Simple Steps to Organization
Plan a routine, give everyone something on the evening To-Do List, decide how school papers will be
handled, and take the time to purge rooms and closets – these are all simple steps we each can
take to help our families be less stressed on mornings during the school year.

Getting your children off to school is more than just getting them out of our door and into the school’s
door. We want them to feel loved, and we also want to have time to listen to our children as they talk. It is
important to be able to give them a hug and smile as we part for the day. Allow some extra time, because
the unexpected will happen – but with good planning and simple organization, we can handle the
unexpected without unnecessary difficulty.