If organizing was simple and straightforward, we would all live in perfect homes. Here are some common pitfalls we have seen that hold people back from achieving organizational bliss.
Zig zag organizing
Have you set out to organize one space but find yourself minutes to hours later working in another area all together? Zig zagging from room to room, putting items away or doing small tasks in other spaces amidst your current project, distracts you from the project you set out to do.
• If you are working in your office and need to bring something to the kitchen, rather than doing it now, place the item in a bin with other items that need to go elsewhere in the home. You will save time and energy by doing the relocating at the end of your organizing session.
• Use bins or boxes to anchor yourself to the task/area you set out to organize. Take the time to label your bins “put elsewhere,” “donate,” “recycle,” and have trash bags handy while you work. (Believe me, there is nothing worse than getting your bins confused and then having to re-sort.)
• Save 20 minutes at the end of your organizing session to empty these bins. Use this time to move items from the “put elsewhere” bin to other areas of the home, bag up the donations and place them in your car, and remove the recycling and trash.
Taking on too much
Choosing a project that is too big for the time you have allotted for the day will most likely end in a bigger mess than what you started with.
• Choose a task to focus on that is achievable for the time you have. Instead of setting out to do the entire kitchen in 1 hour, work on the pantry, fridge and freezer, or a few drawers.
Inability to let things go
We often get tied up with decision-making when faced with sentimental items.
• Remember why you started your project in the first place! This will help motivate you to make decisions on what to let go.
• Define who you are in the present. Keep items that serve you now.
• Take pictures of items you want to remember but don’t necessarily need to keep.
• Keep one representative piece of a category or collection and let the rest go. Find a place to honor and display that piece.
• Find peace in the fact that someone else can benefit from the things that are no longer serving you. By donating unneeded items, you are helping yourself and others.
Attempting to buy the disorganization away
We are often lured by marketing ploys. It seems easy to organize when an ad promises that a product will single-handedly take the pain of the disorder away.
• Don’t buy anything until you have sorted, purged and consolidated items. Only then will you really know what products you need to purchase. Wait to buy and you will save time, money and avoid even more clutter.
Your home is most likely not being featured in Better Homes and Garden’s holiday edition this year, so it doesn’t need to be perfectly decorated. Less is more!
Dedicate an afternoon to the task of decorating. Unpack your holiday décor and consolidate it all in one space. Sort it into like items or by rooms you intend to use them in. Get rid of anything you aren’t going to put out this year. If you aren’t using it this year, you probably won’t ever use it, so why continue to store it and lug it out of storage every year?
Get help with decorating. Many hands make light work. Get in the spirit by making a festive cocktail or hot beverages, turn on some holiday music, and get to it.
Carl W. Buehner said “People will forget the things you do, and people will forget the things you say. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” Your family and friends aren’t concerned with what your house looks like or whether you personally baked all the pies yourself, but they will remember the feelings they had when they spent time with you. Treat yourself well this holiday season so you can have reserves to show those around you love. Their greatest gift will be fond memories of you.
How many times do you ask yourself "did I get a gift for Aunt Suzie or all the kid's teachers?" Make a list of everyone you need to buy gifts for. As you shop, keep track of what you have purchased for whom and whether it’s wrapped. Keep this list with you throughout the holiday season.
Also, make an envelope for holiday receipts. Label the envelope “Holiday Receipts” and indicate the year. Keep it in your purse or car. Having your receipts consolidated will help you with returns after the holidays.
Keep gift giving simple. Our family practices what we call the “Minimalist Christmas.” Each of my children are given gifts as follows:
For extended family, instead of buying gifts for everyone, propose a game where each person brings one wrapped gift worth $20. On small pieces of paper, write numbers up to the number of people playing. The game begins by each person drawing a number. The person that gets #1 gets to choose a gift. The person that gets #2 can either take person #1’s gift or choose a wrapped gift. If they take person #1’s gift, person #1 gets to take another person’s gift or choose a wrapped gift. This goes on until there are no wrapped gifts left. This is similar to a “white elephant” exchange, except the gifts are real so you don’t have to worry about bringing more junk home.
Another way to keep gift giving simply is to skip gifts all together and commit to going on an excursion after the holidays. You can also choose a charity to give to rather than exchanging gifts. Find more time, less stress, and gratitude by keeping gift giving simple.
Make a list
Begin by making a list of all the tasks that need to be completed in the upcoming weeks. Commit to doing the tasks you enjoy, and either ditch or delegate the rest. Focus on making memories instead of headaches for yourself. If you don’t like to bake, don’t participate in the cookie exchange at work this year.
If you find large projects on your list that involve many tasks to complete, list out those tasks separately and assign dates and times for when you will do each task. Breaking projects down into tasks will make it feel more manageable. For example, rather than writing “send holiday cards,” on your list, break it down into smaller tasks, such as “buy holiday cards,” “write and address cards,” and “drop off cards at post office.”
Delegate tasks you don’t enjoy
If you don’t enjoy doing a task but it needs to be completed, consider delegating it to a family member or hire someone to help. Tasks that you might consider delegating include:
Assign task to time
Making a list of things you must do is great fun, but often we make lists and the tasks on the list don’t get done. The magic happens when we assign the task to time. Take your list and put the tasks right into your calendar or planner. Assign what date and time you will do each task. Honor these commitments as if they were a doctor’s appointment. When you complete tasks and feel in control of your own time, life seems less stressful.
Holidays are a time to enjoy loved ones and make memories with them. If you are stressed out and constantly chasing task after task, you won’t enjoy it, precious time will pass you by, and you probably won’t be that pleasant to be around. Make time for you! (Put your oxygen mask on first!) You can’t help others until you help yourself. Make it your personal mantra to only agree to activities that align with your goals, passions, and priorities. Find time to partake in activities that energize and revitalize you:
The holidays tend to be especially stressful. In addition to all the normal things we have to do, we also add sending holiday cards, buying and wrapping gifts, preparing meals, and attending holiday gatherings of all sorts to our lists. I'm beginning to wonder how I do it each year!
The holidays are a time when we are typically surrounded by friends, family, co-workers and strangers. We usually mix and mingle all month long! Whether or not we are able to gather this year, being mindful when we are with people or not can replace feelings of anxiety, fear, and worry with a sense of gratitude.
According to an article in Developmental Psychology, mindfulness is "paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally." So set aside your thoughts about what happened this morning at that meeting and your ever-growing list of things you need to do this weekend. Put down your electronic device and ignore the most recent Facebook posts. Look, listen, feel, smell and taste the world around you in an uninterrupted way. Enjoy a warm smile, the sweet words "I miss you," the gentle tug of a child's hand. Smell the cool winter air and taste that hot tea in your mug. This is life. Experience it fully and be grateful for the littlest things that make it so precious.
You might be asking yourself how you will hold this perspective each day. Enter....The Bullet Journal Method.
Author Ryder Carroll describes “The Bullet Journal Method” as a "practical yet forgiving tool to organize my impatient mind." This system helps people with ADD and those without. We are all trying to keep our heads above water in this Digital Age where information overload threatens to sink us daily. This overload makes most of us feel overwhelmed, overstimulated, disconnected and burned out. Countless distractions overtake our blurry days. The Bullet Journal Method provides an "anolog refuge for the Digital Age."
All you need to get started is a plain notebook and writing utensil. The act of writing with our hand draws us to the present moment and helps us reconnect with ourselves by pausing and writing things down. After using this method, you will begin to define what's important, why it's important, and how to best pursue those things. If you are interested in learning more, check out these links:
Photos are a precious part of our memorabilia. They tell the story of our lives and help us recall milestones. Since the digital age, many people feel overwhelmed with the volume of photos they have in both digital and print form. Let’s explore how to store and organize your photos.
The most important thing to do is verify your digital photos are backed up. Whether you take photos with your phone or a camera, you want to have your photos in three places.
• on the device itself;
• a cloud storage option (e.g., iCloud, Google photos, etc.);
• a photo printing website (e.g., Shutterfly or Snapfish);
• an external hard drive; and
• a CD or thumb drive.
Choose three of the above storage options. For the cloud, photo printing site, and external hard drive options, be sure your photos sync often (either manually or, if possible, automatically).
Don’t stress about deleting digital photos. With cloud storage solutions you can save them all and use the search functions (by date, location, person) when you need to locate a specific photo.
Organizing prints can feel overwhelming due to the quantity that most of us have accumulated over time. Start by discarding the following types of prints:
• blurry photos;
• photos you can’t interpret what you are seeing; and
• photos that don’t prompt positive emotions.
We usually recommend doing a "gross sort" by era (i.e., childhood photos, school age years, with spouse before kids, with kids, etc.). Use shoe boxes or buy acid-free photo boxes to preserve your prints for long-term keeping. Label your boxes by era and don’t worry about putting them in perfect order. When retrieving a specific photo, identify the era and thumb through that box. The time spent will most likely be enjoyable as you take a trip down memory lane.
To preserve your printed photos, have them digitized. Consider having them professionally scanned to save time and get the best quality. After scanning is completed, you are typically given a thumb drive, CD or file with all your images. Save these files to a few different places.
Make your photos more tangible by creating photo albums or photo books of the “best of the best” photos. You can use websites like Shutterfly or Snapfish to create photo books from digital prints.
Learning time management skills is part of growing up. Most kids find it challenging to keep track of time and lean on parental cues to get things done. Teaching our kids to be pro-active rather than reactive is a skill they can use for the rest of their lives.
Timers: One way to keep track of time while you are engaged in an activity is to use a timer. I use timers everyday, both personally and professionally. My main use of timers is to alert me to wrap up my current task so I can honor my next commitment. Timers can be helpful for kids too! Use them to signify transition times like mealtime, bedtime, and when the bus is coming.
Calendars: Post your children's schedules in a place they can reference it. This will help them learn accountability around managing their own schedule. Calendars you might post include: lunch menus, sports schedules, and after school activity schedules.
Chore tracking: Children thrive on positive reinforcement. If you want them to help out around the house, provide incentive. Give them a tool to track how close they are to earning their reward. Our family has tried fancy charts, marble jars, and a simple piece of paper with hash marks signifying a chore well done. Each of these systems worked for a short time when we (the adults) were consistent with using it. We have found the most success when we switch it up by changing the tracking tool periodically (i.e., every 3-6 months).
Just like any other new behavior, give it time and give your child reminders to use these tools.
Something as simple as using matching hangers makes a closet look and feel finished. Check out these nice wooden hangers. They changed the feel of the space entirely.
The key to success is simplicity. Do these 5 steps each week to create a simple and easy meal plan & grocery list:
I have a love/hate relationship with my phone (I have an iphone). It's an amazing organizational tool but sometimes I find myself zoning out on it and losing precious time. One thing I love is using Siri to remind me to do things later. I simply hold the home button and say "remind me at ____ o clock to ____." I use it all the time! It lowers my stress levels to know that I don't have to mentally remember everything I have to do. I ask for reminders daily for taking vitamins and throughout the day for various things...including writing this blog post. If you haven't tried this tool yet, you should check it out!
Liz Bremer, CPO