Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Where is Everything – Holiday Decorations?

Can you remember where the holiday decorations are?
Do you have to search for them everytime you want to use them?
Are all your Christmas decorations stored in the same room?
Are they stored in the house or in the garage?
If they are stored in the garage, are they in waterproof boxes or bags?
Are they stored in containers?
Can you easily identify the containers from the other storage boxes/containers you store in the same place – like a red lid for example?
Are the containers labeled?
Are similar items stored together i.e. are the Christmas tree decorations together in one /boxcontainer?
Are the linens stored in dust proof containers or will you have to wash them again before you can use them?
Are the heavy containers stored low so that they can’t fall on you when you take them off a top shelf?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The (dis) Organized Teenager 1 - Is There Hope?

Next to “what do I do with all the paper?” the question “what do I do with my teenager?” is one of the most frequent questions I am asked as a professional organizer. When I dig deeper for information, most of you are concerned about 1) their bedroom which often looks like a cyclone went through and 2) their school desk/locker which looks like the cyclone dumped everything there.

Why are the teenagers so messy? Why are they so disorganized? What am I, as a parent, going to do about it?

Great questions.

Teenagers have a lot of “stuff” going on in their minds, which means they may be too distracted and preoccupied to worry about the “stuff” on the floor of their room. Keeping track of the relationship with and between friends, who is wearing what, who is talking to whom – or not – is a lot for a preteen and teenager to be thinking about. When you consider how quickly this social scene can change when you are between the ages of 12 and 19, especially the 12 to 14 year olds, their brains are on fast forward just keeping up with social dynamics.

Now add issues around school work and assignments, part time jobs and any other sports or activities they might be engaged in. We aren’t done yet; now add in the physical growth challenges like how to use arms and legs that grew (apparently) overnight, brains that are just plain tired from growing. Finally, to top it all off, the oversupply of (feels like new) hormones with attached emotional ups and downs, and – well – whether or not the laundry is in the hamper pales in significance by comparison. Can you blame them?

There is hope. The frontal lobe development occurs in the teenage years and with it the executive control that is housed there.

What can you do? Children tend to learn their organization skills from their parents. If you send out the message from your own state of organization (what does your desk look like?) that organization is not a priority, they will follow your step. Allowing them to leave the laundry on the floor until it stands itself up in the corner is sending the message that dirty laundry on the floor is ok.

We all know as parents – in case you wondered, yes, I have a teenage daughter – that we have to pick our battles. Organization is no different. I will leave you with this thought and homework: What message are you sending to your teenager about organization? Does everything have to be perfect? Is mess and disorganization ok as long as no one sees it? Is there a level of organization that is required, or desired, in order to meet our obligations at whatever stage of life we are in?

Think about it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Where is Everything - Batteries?

Are all your spare batteries the same room?
If they are in the same room, are they on the same shelf/cupboard/drawer?
If they are on the same shelf/cupboard/drawer, are they safely contained in a plastic or glass container?
If they are in containers, are they organized by size?

Are all the tips free of contact with other items i.e. batteries?
Are the containers labeled?
Are all your spent batteries taken out of their electronic gadget i.e. flashlight, radio, toy?
Are spent batteries safely organized in a plastic or glass receptacle – for discard at a waste transfer station?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Consumable Gift Giving

The Holiday season is upon us and with it, all the trappings and traditions that the holidays bring. In today’s era of “living the moment” and “finding a simpler life”, many people are looking for gift giving ideas that avoid adding to clutter in other peoples’ homes.

To do this, I suggest that we redefine the word consumable. The Encarta Dictionary defines consumable goods as “goods that have to be bought regularly because they wear out or are used up, such as food and clothing”. For the purposes of gift-giving, I have defined the word as follows: A consumable gift is one which by its inherent nature has a best before date or natural expiry date, wears out or is used up and permits the recipient an opportunity to enjoy for a limited time and then dispose of, without guilt”. If this is a definition that appeals to you for individuals on your gift list, here are some suggestions to get your shopping started.

  • Baskets of food, home made preserves, including perhaps candles and some decorative paper napkins related to a a personal interest or characteristic of the recipient e.g. gardener!
  • A tribute donation to a charity which is already supported by the recipient or otherwise meaningful to them e.g. The Toronto Humane Society, The Cancer Society.
  • A sponsorship donation to a charity which has designed annual sponsorship or gift campaigns e.g. The Toronto Zoo has set up an animal adoption program. In the adoption package you receive a picture and information about your animal. World Vision has a gift catalogue from which you can pick an item that can be supported by your donation e.g. 2 rabbits to a family ($35), a harvest pack for 4 families ($35), a backpack with school supplies for a child ($25), help a family start a business ($100) or fill up a whole stable ($1200). My daughter (13) and son (6) love this catalogue and had fun doing the “shopping” for me for their cousins in Hong Kong and Italy, some neighbours and friends.
  • Gift certificates especially for a clothing store or movie passes. These gifts are great for the teenagers on your list. How about IKEA so your niece can redecorate her room? A manicure for your workaholic sister? Then book the appointment and enjoy together!
  • Candles, decorative paper napkins, coffee
  • Performance tickets – the show is enjoyed and – poof! – no clutter.
  • A gift certificate for maid/cleaning service for a day.
  • A music lesson for someone who always wanted to play the ______(you fill in the instrument).

You get the idea. Now let your imagination have some fun and enjoy the shopping experience knowing that you are helping to keep clutter at bay in someone else’s life. As always, reduce your stress by shopping on line.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Anticipation - The Greatest Time Management Tool

When it comes to time management, there is nothing more valuable than the ability to anticipate an event or events. Isn’t that what our organizers, calendars, day timers, and PDA’s are all about. The multi million dollar industry of calendars is based on the notion that we like to anticipate what is coming in our lives. With anticipation comes the ability to schedule both our time and our resources – like the car for example. When you look to next Tuesday and see that you have four family members going in four different directions at the same time by 4:30 in the afternoon, having a whole week to work on those back up resources like a car pool is very, very helpful.

Children learn to anticipate at a very young age – does birthday party excitement for a whole week sound familiar to you? Young students are now learning in school to use their school issue “agenda” to record their homework.

By the time the kids hit their teens, they have learned to anticipate excitement, record their homework and use their lockers. Unfortunately as adults, we don’t teach them the time planning that goes along with being able to anticipate events. Even as a professional organizer, I have been slow to teach my own teenager how to use her time wisely. Here's the process that I went through with her to get her back on track with time. It’s a relatively easy organizing task and they will thank you for the time management skill later in life.

1. Find a calendar that works for you: electronic, PDA, puppy dogs, whatever. The size, style and platform are really only relevant in terms of what works and what looks good.

2. Enter in all the fixed dates over which you have no control: music lessons, swim practice, band practice, year book committee etc. Put them in for the whole term or year until the known completion date.

3. Enter in all the regularly scheduled flexible time such as piano/instrumental/voice practicing time. If it is scheduled, the intention moves from a 1 (would like to do) to an 8 (really intend to do) and has half a chance to get to 10 (will absolutely make sure this happens) at which point after 28 days it becomes a habit.

4. Enter into the calendar the activities that lead to what you would like to accomplish by year’s, month’s, week’s, day’s end e.g. On Saturday afternoons I will go to the library so that I have books for my English class on Monday.

Have fun anticipating your wonderful life!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Where is Everything - Spices?

Are all your spices in the same room?
If they are in the same room, are they on the same shelf/cupboard/drawer?
If they are on the same shelf/cupboard/drawer, do you have more then one container of any one spice?
Are there any contianers with expired best before dates?
Are the containers labelled with the name of the spice they contain?
Are they sorted by alphabet or type or frequency of use?
Do you use them or are they for decoration?