Yes I am trying my hand at blogging again!
Please bear with me as I ease into it. I am going to try to give you a little insight into all my projects
and how I stay organized. And of course since I just moved to a new house built in 1940 I have
many projects to do. And my husband’s” honey do” list is endless and growing more so by the day.
As much as I like instant results I have to learn to be patient. I have to keep reminding myself of that. It is certainly not easy but there are only so many hours in the day…
So a little background about my house. The house was built in 1940 and is a white colonial style on almost 8 acres with lots of gardens and outbuildings. It is in good condition but certainly needs some updating- bathrooms, kitchens, light fixtures, appliances and the list goes on! The other thing I forgot to mention is that it was vacant for a few years so the gardens and pool were slightly neglected.
My husband and I are not farmers and have only been camping a handful of times so we are certainly going to have a learning curve. Bugs, snakes, other critters that come out at night…
We are working on adjusting and taking everything in stride.
Well, it’s appropriate that my last blog entry (in October) was about procrastination and now we are only days away from the New Year! Yes, I am also guilty of having the best intentions and not always staying on track. Who isn’t, right? Although I do try to stay organized as I instruct my clients to do, I can sympathize with their anxiety when they put off tasks that they feel less confident in tackling.
I started this blog to try to share some of my insight and experiences from my 8 years as a professional organizer, however I often feel that my greatest strength is not as a writer. That would be my husbands talent!
His advice was that I should just share some thoughts, and to remember that I’m not trying to write a novel.
I suddenly realized that I am not so different from a lot of my clients who struggle constantly with organization, especially clients who have “Type A” personalities and will either do something 150% or not at all. There is no middle ground! Sound familiar? We are all so afraid that we won’t do something perfectly that we sometimes do nothing at all.
Procrastination, oh what an appropriate topic for someone who has not contributed to her blog in quite some time! We have all heard the term procrastination and many of us are masters at practicing it.
Recently while working with a client who has been in the field of social work for around 10 years we came across an interesting bit of reading on procrastination. I thought I would share some of the terms that are associated with this mindset. I really feel like a lot of this kind of thinking is what makes some of you discouraged during the organizing process. We are always the hardest on ourselves!
Hopelessness-An activity seems pointless because you are depressed and frozen in the present moment. You forget entirely that you have ever felt better and don’t think you could feel positive again.
Helplessness-you can’t do anything to make yourself feel better because you are convinced your moods are beyond your control.
Overwhelming Yourself-You magnify a task to the degree that it seems impossible to tackle. You assume you have to take on the whole task instead of breaking it into smaller units.
Self-labeling- The more you procrastinate, the more you condemn yourself as inferior. You label yourself as lazy.
Perfectionism-You defeat yourself with unrealistic expectations and super high standards.
Don’t let these road blocks prevent you from accomplishing your goals. One step at a time!
My experience working with clients over the years has opened my eyes to one very crucial thing “decision making”. Decision Making is a vital part of the organizing process. When a client asks me how long a project will take I always tell them that there are multiple factors we have to consider. One of these factors being their ability to make decisions on items and how fast these decisions are made. The decision to put an item in a certain spot or category, the decision to throw something away or donate to charity or the decision to keep something that has value and importance.
I remember a year or so ago when I was out shopping at Target, I started coming down with a terrible migraine headache. I remember standing in the aisle trying to choose between 2 very similar decorative items-I think only different in color or pattern. Normally, I am very decisive and this would have been no big deal. But I found myself standing there staring at the items with my head throbbing unable to make a simple decision. And all I could think was this is so ridiculous.
Think back to when you have been sick or had a lot on your mind and found everyday tasks more difficult.
When I try to put myself in someone elses shoes and understand their behavior I think “What if every decision I made was excruciating and stressful?” What if the simple process of decision making made me sick and anxious? If I could not decide whether or not to throw an item away or where the best spot to store it was then where would the item end up?
Eventually I would end up surrounded by layers of things that have all been acquired because no decision was made except the initial decision to bring the item in my house. So next time you think I will decide about that later, think again! Too many delayed decisions can result in a lot of unwanted clutter.
In my last post I mentioned that many, if not most people are collectors. The process of collecting things comes in many forms, and often people aren’t even aware that they do it, or don’t consider themselves a collector in the traditional sense.
Sometimes people just like to bring home souvenirs from places they’ve been: spoons, shot glasses, refrigerator magnets, etc. Other people take their collections more seriously and usually have a lot more of these types of things: antiques, record albums, books, toys and similar items.
Many people collect clothes, shoes, handbags, etc., and even though they don’t consider themselves to be collectors, they are, in the sense that they are constantly adding, but never get rid of anything that they don’t need anymore, thereby making themselves collectors.
And it’s not that collecting things is necessarily bad. It’s how you manage and maintain your collection that becomes important. After seeing the season premier of A&E’s Hoarders, I was struck by the way that different people manage their collections, and this Hoarders episode seemed like the perfect example to illustrate the point.
This particular episode highlights a couple who have spent years collecting so many toys and games to the point that it has taken over their home and their lives. Their collection is piled up in every room, taking up every available space to the point of hoarding; The process of collecting has become the focus, not the collection itself.
Now contrast this with an example from my own family. I have a relative who lives in a small town who has been collecting dolls for years. Thousands of dolls, of every type and kind that you can imagine. Antique baby dolls, action figures, Barbies, even Pez dispensers. The list goes on and it is quite breathtaking to see in person. The difference? She has had a small house (dollhouse?) built on her property, with shelves and display cases to organize and display her vast collection. She is proud of her collection and maintains it accordingly. It is in fact, a small museum.
I realize that not everyone has the luxury of constructing a building to display their collections, and that many collections are just fine displayed in the home. But the larger point I’m trying to make is that how you maintain your collection is as important as the collection itself. Is it something that you are proud of and keep organized and well maintained, or is it just a big collection of stuff that is taking over your life?
These days we all have too much. Too much comes in many forms: I sometimes laugh when working with a client because everyone is different and we all have our collection of something. What is your collection? I have seen mountains of T-shirts saved from events but never worn, shoes, shoes and more shoes… you women know what I am talking about! With kids it is stuffed animals and collections of tiny items like legos and stuff from the last birthday party favor bag! With hoarders stuff may come in the form of recycling or trash or rotten food.
We all have a relationship to our stuff and that is why we organizers have a job! Do you ever think what it would be like to be free of it all? A few clients have joked that if they lit a match and started over it might not be a bad thing. But have you really put yourself in someone else’s shoes and thought about what it would be like to just have the clothes on your back?
I always find it helpful to get a fresh perspective. The other day when working with a client we were talking about donation and places around town. Everyone is familiar with Goodwill, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, Kidney Foundation and so many others but sometimes I wonder who are we missing? When my car is loaded down with a donation to take to Goodwill for a client, I find myself thinking I wish I could take this to someone in need right now and go right to the source. Now I am certainly not saying that these organizations are not worthy and a great place to donate to. But I would love to know that today or tomorrow someone has a clean shirt and new pair of shoes or a coat on a cold winter day because of me or one of my clients.
Did you know that the Charlotte Men’s Homeless Shelter houses over 500 men who would otherwise be out on the street? Next time you are struggling with cleaning out your husband’s closet or stressing over how much money you spent on that coat that was hardly worn think about how your “TOO MUCH” can be the one cherished item someone else truly needs…
Not exactly organizing specific but:
Be sure to change your A/C filters on a regular basis. Depending on filter type, the recommendation is every 3 months on average, but I change mine every month.
You’ll breathe easier, your home will smell fresher, and it will prolong the life and require less maintenance of your heating and cooling system. Thank you.
Well, it’s been a little while since my last post. Work has kept me pretty busy, we took a trip to Atlanta for a wedding (very nice time!) and really have just been trying to keep up with everything that life throws at you on a daily basis. Which brings up the topic of this post. There are some simple practices that everyone can routinely use that will keep clutter to a minimum and give you more time for, well, you.
Paper. Or, more specifically, your mail. It comes everyday in the form of bills, newspapers, cards and letters, and to be honest, it’s mostly junk. Address it every single day. It takes 2 minutes but could save you lots of time and headaches later. If it is a bill, invoice, financial statement, etc., put it in a basket or in-box where you normally sit down and write your checks so it doesn’t become mixed in with the unimportant mail, lost, or otherwise forgotten. I can’t tell you how many of my clients have discovered that their tax bill, car registration, whatever, was late because they stuck it in a drawer and forgot about it. Regardless of the item, you can pay it or file it at your convenience, but at least it will be where you can find it.
As for the junk mail: if it’s a bunch of bulk coupons (and really that’s what most of the junk mail is), clip the coupons you want and put them in an envelope or folder where you can easily find them (or they’re useless,) and recycle the rest. When you’re done reading the paper or magazine, recycle it. Do not let newspapers and magazines pile up. Sometimes if there’s a particular article I like, I’ll tear it out and file it. Do not keep the whole magazine around for longer than it takes for the next one to arrive. If it’s junk mail of a more sensitive type (like credit card offers), you should shred them.
Now all this is fine, however some of my clients are concerned with items that may have their address on them. Obviously you don’t want to just throw financial documents with personal information in with the rest of your recycled papers, however, if something just has your address on it (like a magazine, newspaper, random envelope), it is perfectly OK to recycle it along with any other random paper. No one is going to gather any more information about you from your address that is not already known. If you’re not in the phone book, you’re probably on the internet (more than you may realize). In all honestly, all someone has to do to get your address is to drive by your house. I’m not trying to be flippant or seem unconcerned, but it is one of the reasons that people tend let their mail pile up, and those fears are often unnecessary.
If you’ll follow these tips, keeping up with your mail on a daily basis, you’ll be happier, you’ll have less clutter, and you’ll thank yourself for it!
One of the often overlooked aspects of maintaining an organized life is your own sense of well-being.
There are many reasons that people find their lives and their surroundings in varying degrees of disarray; They’re busy with kids, jobs, there may be an illness in the family, and sometimes they’re just trying to make ends meet on a day to day basis, which as many of us know can occupy our minds with worry and stress to the point that everything else in our lives gets overlooked or postponed, often with undesirable results.
When our lives become so full of stress, or a series of tragic or unfortunate events occur, typical clutter can spiral out of control, often resulting in situations of hoarding, a state of living (mental as well as physical) that is very difficult to recover from.
But that extreme condition is a topic for another post. The point is, and this may seem obvious, your mental and physical states are closely tied with how you maintain your life. When your mind is filled with the clutter of stress and worry, your surroundings will most likely reflect that to some degree. Conversely, when you feel good mentally and physically, not only will you have more energy to tackle the organizational issues at hand, but you will be more likely to see the problems for what they are, before they become insurmountable.
One book that I would suggest for further reading along these lines is Feng Shui Home, by Hale, Martin and De Winter. Feng Shui, if you are unfamiliar with the concept, is the “Chinese art or practice of creating harmonious surroundings.” While there are many books available to help people understand their organizational problems, this particular book addresses these issues with the view that replacing negative energy in your home with positive energy can help you on the path to better mental and physical health. It may not be your particular cup of tea, (to use an Eastern metaphor), but it does offer a lot of good advice on how to keep the spaces in your home simple and clutter free. I highly recommend it.