Friday, October 29, 2010

Tis the Season...

Well, almost. The weather has returned to being somewhat seasonal (after an October heat-wave!) and November is just around the corner. That means that before we know it, it'll be time to start preparing for the holidays, which often means holiday shopping and gift-giving. To help us get our gift ideas going, The Container Store has just come out with its stocking stuffer guide filled with useful* gadgets for everyone on your list.

*A word of caution: stocking stuffers (or any holiday gifts) run a high risk of becoming unused clutter if not chosen wisely. So don't let yourself get swayed by the latest little gadgets if you don't have a pretty good idea that the recipient will indeed put it to good use. I have both received several destined-to-be-clutter items and have been guilty of giving some myself. Just be sure to think before you buy. If you don't know what's top on someone's wish list, ask for ideas or aim for something universally useful or appealing - think consumable gifts like wine or a gift card for a favorite store or activity.

Disclaimer aside, I think there are some neat ideas in this year's guide. I am personally thrilled that they are carrying lunchskins® Lunch & Snack BagsWe highlighted them on our green blog for back-to-school this year. And you can bet that several people on my list will be getting some this year - and I'll have to get some for myself too. I also really like the bobino® Cord Wraps and the Soggy Paws™ TowelLet us know your favorites!

Bottom Line: For an organized holiday season, start making your gift lists now. This gives you time to 'shop around' and figure out what makes sense for everyone on your list.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Organizing Makes the Evening News

I must say I was quite surprised to turn on the evening news with Katie Couric last night and hear a feature story about simplifying your life with input from organizing expert Peter Walsh. Americans are beginning to fight back against the overstuffed way of life we have gotten ourselves into.

The story highlighted one man who has taken the extreme but not unheard of approach of literally downsizing his possessions to less than 100 items. He said he really took at look at what he needed and used in his apartment and got rid of the rest. They also interviewed a woman who will probably never want to go that route - her apartment was filled with stuff - but she, too, is realizing that she probably has enough and doesn't need to keep accumulating.

Organizing expert Peter Walsh pointed out that this growing trend of simplification and downsizing is due in part to the economy. People are realizing that they just can't buy everything all the time anymore. They are also realizing that much of their hard-earned money has been spent on stuff they never use. The story quoted the often-used organization statistics that we never used 80% of what we keep in our homes and that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. That's a lot of unused stuff!

Aside from saving money and de-cluttering your home, another benefit of this trend is that people are thinking about quality rather than quantity. The process of de-cluttering often helps people rediscover what matters most to them and appreciate and use the belongings they decide to keep.

As a professional organizer, I don't often work with people who want to take a 100-items-or-less minimalistic approach. But I do often work with people who are fed up with too much stuff. They are tired of wasting money in the form of unused items and wasting time in the form of overstuffed closets, kitchens and garages. Some people I work with simply want to pare down, discard and donate and neaten up the rest. This is a great start, but the people who have the most success and enjoyment of the process are those who have a light-bulb moment and start to think about their life and their stuff in a different way. They envision what they want their homes and lives to be like. They start using and appreciating what they have, they let go of items that aren't supporting their current goals and dreams, and they really think before they buy. I can tell right away when the switch flips by what they say and how they act when we are working together. It's very satisfying for me to see because it usually comes along with a huge sense of relief, joy, and a positive outlook toward the future.

Bottom Line: Last night's story illustrates that many of us are beginning to fight back against overstuffed and uninspired lives and homes. No matter where you are on the 'stuff' spectrum, we can all benefit from taking a step back and looking at our habits. Are you working on simplifying your life and home?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Organization All Around Us

This weekend, I was reminded that we can find examples of organization all around us. Some of these examples are the big ideas we take for granted, such as waiting in line at a store or parking lots with neatly painted spaces. But I was taking note of smaller examples, including the labeled 'Field Monitor' headphones the referee was wearing while reviewing a play during the Patriots game and the shoe store clerk noting how important it was for them to put the pens back in the pen holder at the counter, so they can find one quickly when it gets busy.

I was reminded that these are the types of examples that can give us good ideas for organizing our own lives if we just take the time to pay attention. So the next time you're out at a store or school or any other place that relies on efficiency and organization, take note of the little details and examples of organizing principles including labeling and 'a place for everything and everything in its place.' These organization details might seem so commonplace in an environment like an office or school, but there's really no reason we can't apply them in our own homes or lives.

If you're a non-traditional organizer (i.e. you get hives when you look at a filing cabinet), you can still find ideas and systems out there to help you. Ever notice funny reminder signs or pictures, items organized by color, or visual organizing systems like a giant white board for ideas or a literature sorter used as a horizontal filing system? People have great ideas everywhere and there's something out there for everyone.

Bottom Line: Instead of taking the time to stop and smell the roses, take the time to notice great examples of organization out there. Figure out why it works and why you like it and go ahead and try it out for yourself!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Warm up Your Closet for Fall

If you haven't noticed, we're definitely into fall - the leaves are turning, the temperatures are getting chilly and it's already snowed in Vermont! Unless you own very little clothing or have a very large closet, you probably need to store off-season clothing in a less-accessible location - such as under the bed or in the basement or attic. If you haven't done so already, it's time to make sure the seasons have changed in your closet as well as outside. Here's a simple how-to guide to walk you through this switch.

1) Review your spring/summer clothing and take the time to weed out anything that either didn't get worn this season or was worn so well it would not be worth storing and pulling out again next season. Have bags at the ready for donations and/or trash. The general rule of thumb is if it's stained or torn, it's probably best-suited for the trash, not donation.

2) Make sure the spring/summer items you want to keep and store are clean and dry before putting them away. Store these items in labeled plastic bins. If you use the same bins for winter and summer off-season storage, you may need to set aside your items to store while you unpack the colder weather items from storage. You will also need to re-label or have a very clear Winter vs. Summer labeling system. Labels are useless if they are incorrect. Using clear bins also helps for quick identification.

3) As you unpack and put away your fall/winter clothing, don't assume that just because you stored it means you're going to use it this season. Maybe your job or lifestyle has changed, maybe your weight or tastes have changed. Or maybe you put away something you had no intention of wearing again - it happens. Again, take the time to do a quick review before each item earns a place in your valuable closet real estate.

4) As you're putting the seasonal items in your closet and drawers, make sure there's some order to it (i.e. all pants are hanging together, all layering t's are in the same drawer). If you set up a system that makes sense to you, it will be far easier to maintain. Another key to keeping a neat closet and drawers is having enough room - if you're stuffing things in, you either need to eliminate less-than-favorite items and/or find more usable storage space.

5) Whatever you do - don't go shopping before you've completed this seasonal switch and review! You will definitely unearth items you forgot you had. Shopping before you know what you have and need is a clear path to closet clutter and redundancy...not to mention wasted money and time!

Bottom Line: If you follow this process twice a year, you stand a good chance of keeping an organized closet. Routine weeding throughout the year, following the one-in-one-out rule, and being disciplined about putting your clothes away will keep you on the straight path to closet bliss. Wouldn't you rather think about which of your favorite cozy sweaters to wear rather than diving through a pile of flip flops and beach towels hoping you find a pair of boots when the first snow falls? You tell me...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Top Ten Time Management Tips

And we're back! The last few weeks have been a great example that sometimes life just gets in the way of getting everything done...even for professional organizers! But the key to making progress is to get back on the horse and keep going. On that note, this seems like a perfect time to review the ten time management tips we've highlighted over the last several months. I can't believe it, but the holiday season is just around the corner, so what better time to reclaim some precious time and figure out how to get things done without feeling crazy!

So if you've been following us, this will be review, and if you've missed the tips, here they are in one place. Check out the full post for each tip for more explanation and inspiration. And if you're feeling overwhelmed, remember to start small - incorporate one tip at a time. The beauty is, it'll get easier as you go!

Top Ten Time Management Tips

I'm focusing on #1, 4, 5, and about you?

Bottom Line: Fall is the perfect time to turn over a new leaf and try out or recommit (that would be me) to these simple tips for streamlining your life and routine so you have time to get to (almost) everything you want to!