#1 Celebrate - If you are celebrating Christmas, best wishes for you and your family for a very happy, joyful time in your celebrations. Enjoy.
If you are not celebrating Christmas, I wish you a peaceful and restful time during this holiday season.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
#1 Celebrate - If you are celebrating Christmas, best wishes for you and your family for a very happy, joyful time in your celebrations. Enjoy.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
#2 Last Minute Wrapping - Last day to shop. But you finished ages ago right? So you have a few small things to finish wrapping while you enjoy watching A Christmas Carol, White Christmas or Miracle on 34th Street for the “umpteenth” time. Remember to buy milk to get you over the holidays.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
#3 Attend Church Service - Celebrating Christmas? Haven’t been to church for awhile and wish you had? Check your local newspaper listings for pageant services you might consider taking in this weekend. Many churches have special Christmas Eve services.
Monday, December 22, 2008
This week I highly recommend you check out OrgJunkie. Laura has posted pictures to go with her scrumptious menu for the week. I wish I could claim the same but creativity but the reality is, I'm cooking very little this week!
Monday - Roast, potatoes, vegies, left over deserts
Tuesday - Caserole from slow cooker
Wednesday - Pasta night this week, tomato sauce with ground beef
Thursday - Turkey, compliments of PSC
Friday - Turkey, ham compliments of in laws
#6 Volunteer at a Food Bank - For many people this is a season of giving and yet many more have little to give. If you have often wanted to volunteer at your local food bank, consider giving them a call and slotting in over the holidays.
# 5 Decorate a Gingerbread House with your children - No children? Why not buy a kit and invite your nieces/nephews or the neighbours to come and help you decorate it.
Welcome to the Winter Solstice. Happy First Day of Winter. Now the days in the northern hemisphere get longer - yeah! Sorry to the folks down under who will now start to get less daylight each day.
To our friends honouring their Jewish faith, Happy Hanukkuh.
Friday, December 19, 2008
# 7 Prepare to Write Thank You Notes - The writing of thank you notes for the receipt of gifts, dinners, visits and good gestures is perhaps a dying art. Not only do many of us exist online with communication almost solely through cyberspace, but many of the manners of the previous generation are being lost as quickly as our computer chips speed up and our computer memory expands.
Why not revive this tradition. A handwritten note is a welcome and friendly addition to the usual collection of post holiday bills. To make sure writing thank you notes doesn't become just another stress, book the time into your calendar. Save the space in your schedule. Keep a short list of gifts or events for which you would like to write a thank you and check your note card supply. Last but not least, remember to keep your contact/address list handy.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
#8 Clear out Kids' Toys - There will be more toys arriving in a week's time. Why not get a jump start on your organization before they do?
Give your children each a box appropriate to their size and age. Tell them they have 10 minutes to fill the box with toys that they no longer play with, may have outgrown or do not like.
Ten minutes later you could all make a trip to a local charity office to donate the toys. (Depending on your space for storage you may want to save them for a garage sale in May or a toy box for younger sibings.)
With the toys reduced, you will have an opportunity to review if the toys storage for your children is still appropriate for their age. If you have children moving from toddlers to preschool age, do you have shallow bins on the floor for them to access their toys? If you have school age children, have you moved from the shallow bins for preschoolers to sorting bins? Sorting and patterning is one of the first task children master in school. They can do the same thing at home sorting toys into difference coloured bins for pre-readers and labelled bins/boxes for the older children.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
...Because not everyone celebrates Christmas. Many thanks to Lisa Brisbois from The Wisdom Practice who helped me out with today's post.
If you are celebrating Hanukkah you may have already used some of the planning tips in our countdown to December 25. Your countdown is ending sooner though as Hanukkah starts this year December 21 at sunset and lasts 8 days to December 29 at sunset. Lisa offered these tips to get organized.
- Send Hannukah cards to family and friends.
- Decide who’s doing the family Hanukkah party this year. How many people are coming?
- Buy the fixings to make latkes for the party.
- Check your box of December decorations if you have one: is the dreidl set for the kids to play with still there? Do you need to get a new one?
- Dig out the Mennorah and check your Candle supply for it.
- Buy Hannukah gelt to give away or enjoy for yourself!
- Find your family’s copy of the story of Hannukah so you can read it to your kids and remind them of the Maccabees and the miracle of light.
- Buy eight small appropriate gifts for your kids, one for each day of Hanukkah.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The month of December is a challenging one for many people. As an organizer and blogger, I offer my clients and readers suggestions for easing the burden of multiple commitments and a fast paced society by organizing space,time and "stuff".
Laura over at OrgJunkie has reminded us all that it is important from time to time to sit back, take stock and remind ourselves of what is really important in our lives at the end of the day. I commend you to her post When You're Not Enough from December 9.
I hope that my posts would never lead you to feel that you are not doing enough in your life. If you are spending time on your top priorities, then clear the rest of the clutter and give yourself breathing space to do a great job at it. If your are wondering why you are doing what you are doing, then step back and take stock. What really is important? Enjoy putting your time and energy into that.
Monday, December 15, 2008
#13 Candles for the Season - If you use candles in your home, in the window or on your diner table, check to see of your supply will last the season. The red and green are notoriously hard to get at the local shops once December 23rd rolls around.
#14 Clean the Silver - Do you use good service during the holiday season? When was the last time you checked the condition of that service? Last December 27th when you put it away? Take a good lood and make sure it is presentatable for the company to whom you are serving it. Uh-oh! Need some spit and polish? Call a friend, mother in law, mother, sister to help out. Put on the tea kettle and most inspiring music you can find. Check out some of the easy cleaning suggestions. Here is a suggestion for cleaning silver with basic household cleaners: Clean Your Silver with Househole Basics
Friday, December 12, 2008
#14 Gift Wrapping - Maybe you like wrapping gifts at the last minute and scrambling at the 11th hour. On the other hand, maybe you wish you could have all your holiday gifts wrapped and waiting for their recipients while you relax and calmly enjoy your friends, family and holiday festivities.
If you fall into the first group of people you are reading this blog because you think I'm an outstanding writer and due for an award. I'm guessing that's not the case for most of you and you really would like to get a grip on the season.
OK - Book a date in your calendar to wrap presents. Now book a second date. It always takes way longer than you think. Check that you have a copy of your favourite movies to watch or music to listen to while you wrap. Pull out all your wrapping supplies, gift tags and ribbons. Is there enough? Replenish only if necessary. Get ready for that calm enjoyment of the season.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
The countdown continues. Hope you're still with us! Only 2 more weeks 'til Christmas:
#16 Empty your Gift Cache - Many people purchase gifts year round and keep a cache of them in their home. This is an excellent idea if you have the money to tie up in a gift cache and the space to store it. If you have neither, this is not an idea for you. One of the challenges of such a cache is remembering what's in it and remembering to shop at your own cache store before shopping retail again. If you store your cache in a box in a cupboard, this might be the time to lay it out and use up some of the contents. If you don't need to worry about little eyes (or big ones) searching for Santa's stash try laying out the gifts on a shelf or book case. Then reviewing and using up the items is litereally like going shopping in your own home.
#15 Gather up Friends who will be Alone this Holiday Season - Not all of us have a home full of family or friends and a calendar full of Christmas dinners to attend. The reality is that many people or new to their neighbourhood or city, can't afford to go home, live alone and may be alone during the holidays. Whether or not you are one of this group, why not gather of a few friends who are and start your own tradition of a Christmas or holiday dinner with them.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
#17 Organizing the Christmas Tree - If you are planning to put up a tree this year you may already have made plans to do so. Or maybe not? Did I hear you say "OMGoodness, we still have to get a tree?"
Many people have moved away from the real deal in order to preserve the trees, their family rooms and their sanity. Whether you go artificial or a sap dripping, needle shedding original article that will fill your home with the smell of a midwinter's forest, there are still some challenges common to both that can be mastered with a little organization.
- You know it! Book the date in your calendar to buy the tree, bring it up from the basement/attic/garage and set it up. Remember when buying a real tree you will require 24 hours to allow it to settle before decorating it.
- Book the date to decorate the tree. If your family is like mine, that requires everyone home and that requires checking in with 3 other calendars.
- Get out your decorations. Check the lights (switch to high efficiency).
- Throw out any decorations that are broken. Consider giving away any you no longer use.
- Check out your storage for your decorations. Now is the time to consider upgrading to a sturdier box (than the wine bottle box you were using).
- Book a date to take down your tree and pack it all away. Check to see when your municipal garbage collection, if you have one, will pick up the trees at the curb. Remember how you missed it last year and the forlorn tree stayed in the yard until the first yard waste pickup at Easter?
Monday, December 8, 2008
Have to keep myself organized as well!
Monday - Tacos (that's right, no fish this Monday)
Tuesday - Pasta (2 extra at the table), fresh baked bread, salad
Wednesday - Choir Party - Fish, rice, vegetables, salad
Thursday - BBQ Chicken, baked potatoes, grilled vegetables, salad
Friday - Make your own pizza
Saturday - Family Birthday celebration - lasagna, quiche, salad, birthday cake
Sunday - away skiing, note to self, arrange enough food for the day.
...and the list continues.
#20 - Organize your Baking. Are you doing any bakin this holiday season? Get your recipes out and pick the ones for this year. Now take out your calendar and book the day(s) that you will be baking. Check your pantry for ingredients and prepare your shopping list. Go back to the calendar and book in the time to shop.
#19 - Organize your Childcare. Do you have children home over the holiday season? Did you happen to notice that the kids are off school for a full two weeks (longer if you are in an independent school). Do you have activities prepared for the kids to do during the full two weeks or are they going to sit in front of the video games, computer or TV for two weeks straight. Are your working? Do you have adequate childcare or babysitting booked for the days that you are working or going out?
#18 - Organize you Christmas Cards. Many people have given up on holiday greeting cards. Other people have gone back to sending out this timely message of good cheer and greeting around the holiday season. By now you know the first step. That's right, get out your calendar and book the time to write them. Follow up by finding the cards from last year (or five years ago) that never got sent i.e. don't buy more until you have used up what you have! This is a great time to review your address book or contact file and update or clear it out.
Friday, December 5, 2008
# 22 - Are you planning to decorate your house for the holidays? Book some time into your schedule. Maybe invite some friends or family? Check you decorations and make a list of any that need to be replaced or repaired. Have you switched to energy efficient bulbs yet? Why not switch this year.
# 21 - Review the meals that you will be cooking this holiday season. Prepare your menus and shopping list. Schedule time to actually do the shopping and any other preparation that is required ahead of the meal.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Many of us look forward to the New Year as a time to refresh, start anew and accomplish goals and make resolutions to get some things accomplished. Problem is, we don't make the resolutions until he spur of the moment on at New Year's and don't book in the time to make sure they happen.
Pull out your calendar and next year's as well. Don't have next year's yet? (That was #24). Start by booking yourself some serious time to think about your vision for your life next year. An hour alone is a great time to start but a three hour stint or 3, one hour sessions is not too long. Get it booked before the holiday swirl robs you of your planning time.
Take a look at next year's calendar and start to book in the things you want to accomplish. Loose weight? Book in your time in the gym, your session with your trainer, time to investigate a nutritionist. Whatever it will take, get it booked.
Putting things in black and white on paper has a way of increasing the intention and commitment from "would really like to" (i.e. not likely to happen) to "am really going to". Clear your vision for your life, get those goals identified and book them into your life.
Enjoy looking forward to the New Year and all the great things you will accomplish. Aim high.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
This post idea came from my 14 year-old-will-definitely-conquer-the-world daughter. She felt that my readers would need some help getting through the holiday season. Since today is the second day of December, I will cover off two items.
25. Prepare your exhaustive gift list. Make sure everyone you will need to prepare a gift for is on the list so that you avoid any last minute surprises that could have been anticipated. Note on the list what needs to be bought, what you already have and what needs to be made.
24. Check your December calendar and ensure that it is up to date with all the social commitments you have for the month. Make sure it includes any items that you need to take to those social commitments. Book in the time to make/purchase the items you will be taking. Find out who is cooking the Christmas dinner that you will be attending. Is it you?
Monday, December 1, 2008
Probably the number one item that clients want me to help them fix in either their home or their office is paper and filing. It seems that paper, and keeping track of the pieces we wish to keep, is a struggle even for the most organized.
Most people struggle over the structure of the filing system. "If I file something in here, I never know where it is and can never find it again."
My advice to clients is that there is no perfect filing system. There are good commercial systems, (e.g. Paper Tiger), there are common systems (alphabetized) often used in corporate settings and then there are the rest of us.
It is important that you pick a structure that works for you. If you organize visually, try using coloured files. If you are tend to talk to yourself and are auditorily oriented, try using file headings like "Keep this for Income Tax Time" or "Things I keep to refer back to". Sound corny? Who cares? If it works for you, that's all that matter.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
The weather gets colder as the economic forcast gets bleaker. Does anyone have any great stew recipes to warm the harth and keep the shopping list light? What's on your menu this week?
Monday - Fish, salad, potatoes, peas
Tuesday - ( One away, possibly one extra) Pasta, salad, home made bread
Wednesday - Omelettes, bacon, salad
Thursday - (Swim meet) BBQ chicken & grilled vegetables
Friday - Pasta with chicken & vegetables
Saturday - (Swim meet) Tacos
Sunday - (Swim meet) Roast beef, potatoes, brocoli
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Do you know where your critical documents are?
Do you know what that means?
If your house were on fire, could you get them in less than 30 seconds?
Is there a copy off site safe?
Where is your passport, immigration papers, citizenship documents, birth certificate?
Where is your marriage certificate, divorce papers, name change confirmation?
If anything happend to you, could your Power of Attorney (Finance) find enough information in a short enough time to take care of your affairs the way you would want them handled?
Do you have a Power of Attorney for Finance?
Do you have a Power of Attorney for Health?
Do you have a Will?
Do you have a Living Will?
Do your executors know how to get copies of the Will?
Do you have guardians for your children in the event anything happens to you?
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
And you thought you could duck under the radar screen! Sorry my friend, upon review of the posts this year I realized it has been a long time since I confronted the big, ugly enemy of procrastination. Are you a procrastinator? ("Oh yeah" - I can hear you whisper under your breath.)
You are wondering why and what you can do about it? The following list is an adaptation from the book Making Time Work for You, by the Time Guru himself, Harold L. Taylor.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
In you live in the northern hemisphere, north of about 60 degrees, you have contemplated at some point putting snow tires on your car. If you live in the southern hemisphere, south of about the same latitude or in the mountain ranges of other continents, you have also contemplated snow tires and maybe have chains to go with them.
Now since changing tires, like checking the oil, is a regularly occurring event, why is it that many of us end up in the "tire queue", with coffee and newspaper - for several hours - after the first snow fall each year to get those tires put on?. You would think we didn't know that winter was coming!
Ok, now for everyone in any hemisphere who owns a car - snow tires or otherwise:
- Open your calendar.
- Mark in the next date your car service is due.
- Mark in the date your car service is due after that and every date to the end of the year (2009).
- Go to November 7 (May for the folks down under)
- Mark down "Change car tires".
- Close calendar.
Adjust the dates if you are a little farther north. The point is that next year you will be in a short queue and have the tires changed before the snow. You will be organized, smiling and taking that coffee and newspaper to your son's hockey rink/daughter's dance class and enjoy his/her game/practice. Enjoy!
Monday, November 24, 2008
A new wrinkle in our house: teenage daughter joins the swim team and now we have swim training 4 nights of the week. Note to menu plan - increase calories for first born. What's your new wrinkle? I know, I know - who says there was only 1 new wrinkle this week!?
Monday - Swim night - Fish, rice, salad, vegetables
Tuesday - Swim night - Pasta, salad
Wednesday - Swim night/choir night - Lentil caserole, salad
Thursday - Swim night/musical theatre night - BBQ chicken, potatoes, salad
Friday - Tacos with lettuce, cheese, vegetables and ground beef with home-made sauce
You may want to pop over to OrgJunkie, the originator of Menu Planning Monday and check out the menus.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
For today's post I'm sending you over to millionairemommynextdoor. She has a great post talking about all the buts we put into our lives i.e. all the reasons we think we should not, could not or will not succeed. Check it out.
Friday, November 21, 2008
As a professional organizer, I am frequently asked by clients what paper needs to be shredded and what can go straight into the recycling bin. Recently I was asked specifically about some old utility statements that a client was throwing out.
Most utility bills have enough information on them to be able to identify you clearly. That's why its on your bill. Some even contain billing and payment information. This is not information that you want public if it were to go astray. Shred.
As a rule of thumb, if there is anything on the bill to identify you, shred it. When in doubt, shred. You can always sit down with your television show some night after the kids are in bed and shred away during the commercial breaks.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
When I was a student, no one carried an agenda. When I entered the business world, everyone carried a day planner. Nowadays, many school boards create day planners or agendas for the students in their schools. Many day planner publishing companies provide planners targeted specifically for students.
Trying to get a student to use a day planner is a much harder task than just finding one to use. If, however, a student can learn to use the tool on a regular basis they will also learn it is a powerful tool to stay organized and give their brain a break from having to keep a lot of schedule and due date information. Here's some tips to help get your student on top of their agenda:
- Have the student enter into the day planner all the regular activities in their week such as hockey practice, soccer, dance or band practice.
- Have them enter in all the irregular schedule items such as holidays, band concerts or vacations. Most of these items are booked many months in advance and are available from the program organizer.
- Encourage them to write in all their friends' and family members' birthdays. Why? Often there will be parties booked around these dates and with the dates booked in the agenda a student can anticipate a gathering of friends or family around the birthday date. With the heads up on their agenda, they can also budget their funds if they wish to go out to celebrate a friend's birthday.
- Encourage them to keep the agenda with them in their back pack or hand bag at all times. Then it will be available for reference when the opportunity to babysit comes up or when a party invitation arrives.
The best way to keep paper from accumulating is to keep it out of the house.
When you receive the mail, get into the habit of sorting and reading the loose material right over the recycling bin. That way you can throw the unnecessary fliers, brochures and promotional items along with all the envelopes right into the bin as you sort through them and open the mail. The pile of paper will immediately decrease in size and you are left with paper that really in which you are really interested.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
As promised - here it is - a kitchen cupboard that refuses to be organized.
You can see that I have made previous attempts with this shelf. The challenge is that it is deep, pulls out but is at knee height. To really use the space effectively, I have to find tall containers to store the food that could then be labelled on top. That would make them easy to see, identify and ,hopefully, with the right size container, easy to access.
- Pull everything out and completely empty the shelf. (Clean it while empty).
- Assess what to keep and what to get rid of (don't use, don't need or is too old to keep).
- Determine from what is left how many containers I need.
- Get the containers. You may have your favourite source; one of mine is the Dollar Store. I have already determined a location to get the size and especially the height I need.
- Fill up the containers.
- Put everything back. I will make everything fit the space I have as there isn't any other space i our 1970's renovated kitchen for these items. They have to live in the space available.
Stay tuned for the after pictures!
Monday, November 17, 2008
My better half is a big advocate of preparation the night before. So, after a big conversation about that last night, what do I find on Org Junkie this morning? You all had your menus planned for the week last night. Well, guess I better catch up.
If you are a WW fan, you might be interested in this site: note, the author was first to the post this week with her menus planned. So, organized and loosing weight - do you think the two are connected?
Here's what will be on our table. How about yours?
Monday: No one's home - uh oh.
Tuesday: Swim Night & Pasta Night with Carolyn's tomato pasta sauce (no bits)
Wednesday: Choir Night - Pork Chops
Thursday: Swim Night, Teacher Interview Night, Zodiactors - home made pizza
Friday: Beef steak, baked potatos and brocolli
Friday, November 14, 2008
You have to love Blogland as my friend Laura calls it. I can sit here in my office and find friends all over the world who are reading this. Welcome to my lastest discovery - we have friends in South Africa! You might want to take a look at Marcia's blog from the other side, and other end of the world.
Meanwhile, many of us who consider ourselves reasonably well organized - maybe not you but maybe someone you know - still have a corner of our lives that remains the Last Organizing Frontier. I have one cupboard in the kitchen that defies organization. It's going down next week. There, I've made a public statement. Stay tuned for the oh - so - revealing pictures.
Strategy for the really tough stuff: schedule, subdivide into bites, conquer.
What's your last frontier?
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Still trying to get that seasonal clear out completed? Hop over to Dim Sum Mom and hear how she accomplished it for a family of six: that would be Mom and Dad, son and triplets!
The weather is chilly, the snow is threatening and winter is looming in the shape of a big, grey, cold cloud. I promised last week that I would report on the success of Bob McGee's (CHFI, Toronto) coat drive from last weekend. Toronto has proven once again it is a city with lots of heart and closets with lightening potential. Over 10,000 coats were collected which will be distributed to children where needed. Here's a picture of the truck loads. Way to go TO!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
It seems the longer I work as a professional organizer, the less organizing is about the stuff and the more it is about stuff behind the stuff.
What is your vision for your life? What is your vision for your home? What is your vision for your favourite place in your home? Do you have a vision?
If we don't have a clear understanding of what we desire for ourselves it is very hard to get there - sort of like that preverbial trip, not knowing where you are going and no map to get there.
Before you start your next organizing project, develop a really clear vision of what the space, room, area, corner or cupboard will look, feel, smell, sound or function like when you are done. If you are more kinetic than visual, try imagining what the space or place will feel like and how you will function in it. Likewise, if you are more auditorily inclined (listening) try describing outloud how the space will look, feel or function.
Start with a clear vision - its much easier to know when you get there.
Monday, November 10, 2008
OK here goes for staying on top of supper time this week:
Monday: Fish, Rice and Brocoli (won't I be popular!)
Tuesday (swim night): Pasta at our house every Tuesday
Wednesday (choir night): BBQ Pork Chops, Potatoes and Corn
Thursday (more swimming): BBQ Chicken, Rice and Peas
Friday: we've already planned a night out for the family, yippee, no dishes.
Head on over to the Organizing Junkie to find out what some really good cooks are up to this week.
I have just returned from three days at the Professional Organizers in Canada annual conference here in Toronto. It was an information packed, fun filled and industry driving conference with almost 25% of the organization's membership in attendance.
The talent in attendance was exceptional. Harold Taylor and Krista Green were both in attendance to reveal their latest training and business development programs. Elaine Shannon from the Organizing Connection and Laura from I'm an Organizing Junkie brought us up to date with the latest in online business development. Authors Karen Shinn and Gail Shields launched their new book GO! The Essential Guide to Organizing and Moving.
Having filled up my brain and note book with enough ideas to keep me planning for centuries, the conference finished off with a powerful presentation on The Courage to Succeed by Tanya Chernova and Joanna Andros of Courageous Living. They challenged the audience to step right out of the box, break the old neuro-receptor patterns that lead us down predictable roads and start to form new thoughts around our ability to accomplish those goals we never seem to reach.
It's a simple enough message but one which we often forget. When was the last time you took a courageous step? I did; I accepted the invitation to be a tip host on the Organizing Connection.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
If you live in the Toronto area, you may want to join the Professional Organizers of Canada this Friday November 7th at our annual conference. This year the vendor exhibit is open to the public. It will be held Friday from 9 am until 4 pm at the Delta East Hotel at Kennedy and Hwy 401. Why not come up and check out the latest organizing tools and strategies.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
OK folks, time to clear out the closets. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find as many unused coats in your closets as possible. Think of the space you could free up! Think of the warmth you could pass on to someone else!
Bob McGee from Toronto's CHFI FM radio station is, for the 5th year, collecting coats for children this weekend. Here is the link to the details where you can drop off the coats.
Let's make this a challenge. I'd like to see how many coats this blog can send out to Bob and friends to help keep the kids warm. Add your comments and tell me how many coats you are send up. I'll report the tally on Monday.
Monday, November 3, 2008
You, or someone you know, may have already been diagnosed with depression - mild, severe or somewhere in between. For those of us moving through menopause, this is often the time that depression is identified although its symptoms may have been evident for years before. You may have experienced a severe loss and your depression related to grief. Or perhaps you have suffered many years of abuse - physical or emotional - and are now struggling to regain some confidence.
Whatever the background, reason or lenght of time you have suffered from depression, its impact on your ability to organize will be the same. Organizing takes energy. One of the first symptoms of depression is a lack of energy. You may also be suffering from difficulty maintaining focus and challenges with your memory.
The most important thing to keep in mind when trying to organize if you suffer from depression is to keep your goals as realistic as possible. You will have days when sorting through paper is just not possible - especially if it requires not only mental but physical energy. If you have an organizing project that just has to get done regardless of your energy level, try and get help. Call in a trusted friend or family member. Their presence alone can sometimes provide additional energy for you to work with. Try and break your project into small pieces and keep track of your successes. It is important that you recognize your accomplishments. Celebrate your successes no matter how small.
Friday, October 31, 2008
It doesn't happen very often but today is the day I put in a plug for the industry. On the afternoon of the scarey night and just one week before the Canadian national association for professional organizers - Professional Organizers in Canada - starts it annual conference here in Toronto, what could be a better time?
Being disorganized can be stressful and very scarey. Maybe you or someone you know consistently pays their bills late, if at all, because they either can't remember to pay them or can't find the bills. Have you ever added up the late fees incurred by those last payments?
This is just one example of the cost of disorganization and there are many more. Costs can be evaluated in money, heartache and physical or emotional stress. If you or a loved one is constantly or chronically disorganized either at home or at work, you already know how painful it can be.
The good news is that there is help. Both the Canadian association Professional Organizers in Canada , or POC, and our American affiliate the National Association of Professional Organizers, or NAPO have online directories to assist you in finding an organizer in your area. In addition, the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization, or NSGCD, has resources available on its website for the public looking for information. With NSGCD you can also look up the certificates that a professional organizer may have earned if they are pursuing education with the study group. Here is a list of the certificates that I have earned.
It may be spooky out there tonight, but living your life ought to be joyful, not frightful.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
I'll be you thought this would be another Time Tamer, right? My apologies if I have disappointed you. As the mother of 14 and 7 year old children, the scarey experience of sugar-saturated costume-laddened monsters coming home from Hallowe'en festivities is all too familiar at our house.
The better you can feed your children before they go out Trick or Treating, the less likely they will fill up on candy and come home with bouncing-off-the-walls horrors of behaviour.
For many of us the time between return from work and Trick or Treating is very, very short. Meal time on October 31 for young families can be a horrifying experience at the best of times - who needs the costumes?
Try this: see if you can prepare as much of tomorrow's supper as possible tonight or tomorrow morning. Have the kids set the table. Defrost the meat, casserole or whatever they will eat. If sandwiches are the best you can muster - prepare them ahead of time. For those of us north of the 49th, sandwiches and soup will at least make sure the children are fed and warm; they are thus more likely to enjoy the evening and consume less candy.
Good luck with your goblins!
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Like many families, yours may have a box of ever-ready dress up clothes. You may, in fact, have already been through the box with your children in preparation for this year's Hallowe'en costumes.
Why not take the time to clear it out and purge the clutter from the box. Grab a big bag and clear out any clothes that don't fit, are torn too much even for dress up, haven't seen the light of day for five years or generally don't seem to belong there anymore. Make room for the new costume pieces added this year and those great cast-aways from your wardrobe that the kids want to keep for dress up.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I first published this tip 11 months ago. As I see more and more pre-Hallowe'en evidence of the holiday season blasting forward about as fast as the stock market is falling downward, I decided it wasn't too early to republish. This 2nd edition focuses on the simplification of the consumable gift and less expensive options. If this is a definition that appeals to you for individuals on your gift list, here are some suggestions to get your shopping started.
Once again, let's 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.
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.
If this is a definition that appeals to you for individuals on your gift list, here are some suggestions to get your shopping started.
Monday, October 27, 2008
If you suffer from ADD you may be all to well aware of the dangers of hyperfocus when you get into a project. Four hours after starting, you pull your head out of the project to find that your family will be home for dinner in 5 minutes and you were planning to shop for groceries before the end of the day. Meanwhile, the project at hand is spread across the dining room table. Sound familiar?
Consider keeping a time tamer alarm close at hand for these situations. Set the alarm for 45 minutes to an hour. When the alarm goes off, get up from where you are working, walk around, get a drink to stay hydrated. After 5 minutes or so return to the task at hand and reassess the degree of focus you have given based on your objectives for the time you have to work.
Remember to reset the alarm before you return to work.
Friday, October 17, 2008
A client recently expressed the following frustration:
"I have too many casual-use dishes, and they are taking up a lot of space in my cupboards. But I can't bear to part with any of them. One set (of about eight) was given to me by my late mother and includes a set of casserole dishes, mugs, coffee pot, salt and pepper shakers, butter dish with cover, and so on. These are my favourite, but they're not microwave safe. The second set (of four) was given to me by my daughters when they were younger, one of the first gifts they bought for me with their own money. They're pretty, and I like the shape of the bowls, but some have broken so now there aren't enough. And they don't go with anything else I have. The third set are plain white, which is practical because I can use them to supplement my good china. All three sets came with cups and saucers, which I never use and would give away, but I don't like to separate them from the rest of the set. Do you have any suggestions for how to reclaim space in my cupboards?"
This is a classic expression of the frustration we all experience when objects pile up and emotional ties prevent us from letting them go. Here are some suggestions that might help you in this situation:
- If you like the objects, get them out of hiding and use them.
- Consider that your mother probably did not expect you to keep the dishes forever and would be very sad that you were experiencing so much stress over them. Who would she suggest that you give them to or what would she have liked you to do when you were finished with them?
- Move the dishes out of the cupboard and lay them out in a different room. Taking items out of context often helps the sorting/separating process by changing perspective.
- Play the strangers, acquaintances, friends game. Which of the dishes are friends and which are strangers? Send the strangers away.
- The emotional attachment in this case is not likely to the dishes, which are at the end of the day, just dishes you are not using. The attachment is to your mother and your daughters. Rather than keeping a cupboard full of dishes, pick one or two which serve as a representation of the love you have for them and send the rest away.
- Often by giving items which hold a strong emotional memory to someone or someplace of significance to us, the emotional attachment to the object can be diminished by the emotional experience of the giving. Are your daughters setting up their own homes yet? Could they use the dishes? Do you know a single mother who is struggling to make ends meet? Would she enjoy some lovely dishes? You get the picture.
- Take a picture! Get a friend or family member to take a picture of you using the dishes and with the entire set. In the case of the dishes your daughters gave you, have them in the picture too. You can now save the picture to remind you of the dishes and to elicit the same feelings of love for your family members without keeping all the objects.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
You've made the decision to get rid of it, you've blocked the time and arranged for the children to be elsewhere. You're looking at a pile of toys in the basement that haven't been touched by the kids for months/years/decades and can't decide what to do with it. You'd be surprised how common this situation is. Many of my clients have tried valiently to sort through a pile of unwanted goods and become overwhelmed with the process.
Try this: move the goods to a different location. If the toys are in the basement, pile them all into a laundry hamper and put them in the middle of the living room/kitchen/backyard. Group them into similar objects. Notice how your perspective changes?
Changing the location of the goods changes the perspective for your brain and grouping by like objects demonstrates the quantity of goods you have collected. Changing perspective helps your brain to look at the goods differently and boosts the Keep, Give Away, Throw Out decision making process.
Start small. If you empty the basement into the living room you are committed for a weekend. You might not make it and then you'd be frustrated with the stuff in the living room. Try a couple of laundry hampers worth first. Success? Great. Celebrate and either schedule your next session or try a couple more hampers.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
It's back to school time. If you have children in elementary school who stay at the school for lunch, you have likely had at least on lunch bag go missing.
Today's tip is so simple and often repeated it will soon be wearing as thin as the nylon on my own favourite lunch bag. But it works:
Write your child's name on the Outside of the lunch bag.
Even if your own son or daughter can't remember to pick it up or doesn't notice it got left behind, chances are pretty good someone else will and the bag will make it back to the owner.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Just like the rest of us teenagers need to be able to anticipate the next step in theirs lives if they are expected to be prepared.
Avoid changing plans too quickly without giving your teenager time to shift gears. Help them use their agenda, day planner to other organizer to keep track of their upcoming activities, obligations and events. If you have to change/make new family plans, try and give them warning and give them the courtesy of asking what impact these changes/plans will have on their existing schedule.
This approach will assist your teen in learning to anticipate, plan and be prepare for whatever is coming down the pipe.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
We all have dishes, pots and perhaps many other items in our homes that we used seldom if ever. In this case, the client rarely if ever served fondu and now that her children were away at university, it seemed even less likely she would ever use it. The client was not interested in a garage sale and the pot contained enough sentimental value, that she wanted to find a new home where it would be used.
A helpful approach to shedding these objects is to ask yourself a) how often do I use it? b) how easily can I replace it or borrow another one if and when I do need it.
Ask around family or friends to see if anyone else would like a fondu pot or if they have family heading off to university or setting up a home that might like one. If they already have one, ask if you could borrow it from time to time.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
This question came from a client who had just replaced her glasses. She was eager to see her old glasses put to good use.
Most reputable opticians (in Canada) collect their client's unwanted eye glasses to send to communities overseas for use by individuals who otherwise would not have access to eye glasses. Ask your optician directly if they participate in such a program or for redirection to another optical store that does.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
We've just returned from a two week trip from Toronto, through Kingston and on to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, following the route of the Optimist Dinghy Fleet from CORK to their Canadian Championships. You would think our car would be the most organized in the lot given my credentials. Sadly, with boat gear, swim gear, overnight gear, a boat and a few extra boat pieces which we carried for another sailor, our van look liked a barely controled wilderness of gear.
We managed the obvious strategies: keep what you are using in the order you use it, take the time to repack the gear when stopped for several days to keep the order efficient, use laundry hampers for the wet (and salty) stuff to keep it open and airing.
By far though, the best strategy, was keeping two coolers: one for the lunch and one for the rest of the parishables. Each day we were on the road, we prepacked the lunch cooler with not only lunch, but a full complement of snacks to keep ourselves and our two children happy for the 8 - 10 hour days. Having the rest of the parishable food in another cooler meant the second cooler kept cold longer and the food less likely to parish. Having a lunch bag cooler at the handy in the car meant less money spent at convenience stores and better snacks for everyone.
And if you have not yet been to Nova Scotia, I highly recommend it!
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
For many people, the pantry shelves represent the last frontier of organizing in the kitchen. Never was this more true that in my own kitchen, despite being in business for over 3 years as a professional organizer.
Organizing a pantry, often filled with half-full boxes of dry goods, is an exercise in matching up the right container with the right food stuff to fit in the right space. Remember those pre-school "fit the right shape into the right hole"? Here are some strategies to help you along:
- Rigid containers always store better than floppy bags. It doesn't matter whether you are purchasing food storage containers from a direct marketing distributor or the dollar store, consider repackaging your dry goods out of their original product bag into a rigid food storage container.
- Go vertical - often we loose valuable storage space by not using up the full height of a storage shelf. Try and fill up as much of the shelf height as possible. If necesary, consider investing in some additional shelf steps to turn a tall shelf into two shorter shelves.
- Label - no surprise here. Labels provide directed choice. It's like opening up the pantry and finding the road map with your route already marked to the wild rice or icing sugar.
- Buy only what you use - get rid of what you don't. If your family won't eat the whole wheat pasta no matter how many different versions of their favourite sauce you put on it - get rid of it. (Maybe the neighbour's children will eat it?). Your pantry space is valuable - don't use it to warehouse food you won't use.
- Group similar items together. If all the vinegar is organized together on the shelf, determing if you have any balsamic for the new salad dressing recipe is much easier.
- Enjoy! After your hard work of sorting, repackaging and organizing the food - plan a great meal for yourself and/or your family to celebrate all the great food you found in there!
Friday, August 1, 2008
Having trouble managing or organizing time?
Do you feel as if you are always busy but get nothing done?
Take a look at what you spent the majority of yesterday - or even this week - doing. Now reflect on what you did not do.
Time management is a challenge most of us face most of the time. All too often, we spend our time busy, busy on things that come up and convince us they are urgent in nature. At the end of the day, those things rob us of the time we need to accomplish things in our life which are really important to the values and goals we hold most dear.
Try this time management tip: allocate your time such that at least 50% is spent on those tasks or projects which are directly related to your highest values and greatest goals. Now book the time and protect it from unimportant intruders.
Enjoy achieving your goals.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
As a professional organizer, I am often asked about organizing strategies for managing dyslexia and other learning disabilities. This recently written knol provides a collection of organizing strategies for individuals managing with dyslexia. The knol, or bit of knowledge, is designed to be an authoritative article on a subject. Sandra Crux has written a comprehensive set of such strategies which will be helpful to any of you managing this attribute in yourself or your children. I hope you find it helpful.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
For entrepreneurs, small business owners and those of us with home based businesses keeping work and personal life separate becomes a significant challenge. With only one filing cabinet, business and personal files have no choice but to co-habit. If your office is the corner of the family room, tax time may find you with receipts all over the dining room table while you sort, add and prepare for your annual tax submission. Even if you have a large corner office, you may find that there is some information that always gets handled from your office and therefore you keep those files stored at the office.
When tax time is over, or the big project is complete, whichever is your reason for extending beyond your "office", it is important to develop boundaries and borders that separate work life from personal life. Working animals, such as sheep herding or seeing eye dogs, have defined cues that tell them when it is time to play and when it is time to work - the harness for example. Without these cues and without clear separation the animals become confused as when they are working and when they are just playing.
The same is true for the rest of us although thank goodness we don't have to wear a harness to tell us when we are at work. Wtihout this clear distinction, however, our lives become imbalanced, productivity decreases and destress time disappears. Here are some tips for home based workers to help maintain boundaries and borders:
- Start by designating an office. No matter how small or large, ensure that the space is preserved for your business work space.
- Separate your files by using a different colour label or file folder for personal and business files. Ideally, use different file drawers.
- Schedule your time so you know when you are "on the clock" and "off the clock". The timing of the work day is less important than the designation of the working hours.
- Use specific cues to tell you when you are at work. This could be a coffee mug that is reserved for work hours, a pair of shoes that you "go to work in".
- If you are working on a big project that requires spilling onto "non office" home space, try designating a large basket to house the project work during non work hours rather than allowing it to takeover the living room completely.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Whether of not you have issues organizing paper, you probably have both paper clips and staplers in your house/office. Many people are in the habit of paper clipping sheets together because it is quick, easy, they wan't the sheets together and may want to unclip them in the future.
Watch out for those paper clips adopting other documents. When organizing paper, use staples whenever possible over paper clips as the latter will often "clip" up another document that is not meant to be clipped to it. Most recycling opportunities will now take the staples with the documents.
Monday, June 2, 2008
Congratulations to our friends in Africa who have just announced the launch of the Professional Organizer Association Africa. For more information, or to find a professional organizer in that part of the world, check out their web site at http://www.poaa.co.za/.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Here is a quick follow up post from two days ago, after I received several questions from clients.
Yes, I really did mean for everyone in the family to pick a colour to be their colour for family organizing. You'd be surprised how successful this can be. Use everyone's favourite colour to help pick out all kinds of household items from toothbrushes to tote sacks to calendering.
My husband grew up in a family of 10: M&D, 6 children, one maid and her son. His colour was green. There was green thread on his socks so they could be identified in the wash. Naturally, when we picked colours for ourselves and the children for our family calendar - his colour was green!
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Colour can be a quick and easy way to organize anything from toys to files. When we organize we sort (small, medium, large widgets) pattern (like things together) and decide (keep, sell, toss). The same is true for storage and retrieval activity; looking for a spice (sort by alphabet?), filing paper (sort and pattern this year, last year, food, rent, utilities etc) and making decisions at every step.
Coloured boxes, baskets, labels or other storage tools provide an easy first sorting mechanism. Each child could be assigned a colour for their toys (John gets the blue toy bucket) sports gear (Jane's labels, bag and towel are blue) or items on the calendar.
It is helpful to limit the number of colours to a minimum of choices. Use colour for high level choices. For example, if you run a home based business, try using one colour to sort between business and personal files (business is blue, personal is green). Too many colour choices can increase organizing challenges especially for individuals who are easily distracted and have difficulty focussing.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Having trouble remembering everything for swim class, Brownies or the race course? Not always reasonable to keep the bag packed for the next trip to the cottage?
Try the age old stand by - The List. Try making up a list for the kids for before school and posting a laminated copy beside the knapsack hook. It might include: lunch, drink money, libary books, gym clothes, agenda, instrument.
The great thing is they can be used for anything from heading off to dance class (keep it in the dance bag) to the sailing regatta (laminate a copy for the regatta box).
Friday, February 22, 2008
Here’s a fellow - Graham Waldon - shares with many of us the CD dilemma. Check out his blog for some fun, funny and even a few really helpful suggestions on how to handle the overflow. They include:
- CD mobiles
- Resell (and the legal implication is?)
- Donate to a library
- CD Frisbee contest (guess what the prize is?)
- Online resell (website provided)
Thursday, February 14, 2008
For many people, the traditional children’s gifts or tokens at Valentine’s Day are plush toys and chocolate. This year, I was particularly challenged as my 13 year old daughter has given up chocolate for Lent. We no longer accumulate plush toys as she has purged her collection down to her few very favourites. My solution is to bake a (vanilla) cake for the family and yes, it will be pink or red(ish).
Do you have suggestions to offer the readership? What do other people use as clutter free, candy free gifts or tokens to the kids?
Add you comments below and let us know your solutions.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Q and A: Paper
This is the first of what will become a regular feature on the Wellrich Blog: a Question and Answer column. I often receive questions from clients. Many of the questions are very similar. I will post here some of the more common, interesting or helpful for your benefit. If you have questions you would like answered, send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: I can't keep track of all of the paper that comes into the house- mail, school papers, etc. If I try to put things away I forget about them and miss things, and if I leave them out I can't find anything. What do you suggest? I currently have stacks of paper in various places, things on my bulletin board, and the really important things stuck into my planner. Cherri, Toronto
A: "How do I handle the paper?" is the most common question most professional organizers receive from their organizing clients.
Step 1 – The first step to correcting the solution is to get all the paper in one place so that it can be weeded out. Schools are notorious for sending second and third copies of forms to be signed if they haven’t shown up by the due date. Pull is all together in one big pile and let's go.
Step 2 – Go through and throw out (recycle) all the duplicates, envelopes and junk mail. What you have left is the material that you really need to address.
Step 3 – Set up a date sensitive/hot file type folder for handling birthday invitaitions, Kiwanis dates, doctors appointments or anything else that stale dates. This can be as simple as (my favourite) an alligator hook holding the date sorted papers hung on a hook in the kitchen, or as complicated as a 31 day accordion file used as a bring forward file.
Step 4 – Set up a reference material holder. This could be (my favourite) an accordion file labeled by subject (church, teacher, ballet studio, music teacher) or a binder with dividers using the same titles. File the paper related to these subjects as reference for when you need it. If it doesn’t contain reference, toss it.
Step 5 – Set up a filing system for day to day items such as statements that you still receive in hard copy. Get into the habit of keeping only the minimum required e.g. one year of statements, latest bill, total year to date etc.
Step 6 – Set up a mail station with a separate slot for every member of your family. This could be as simple as a cereal box cut like a paper tray (get the kids to decorate their own), plastic stacking paper trays, wall hanging shoe holders or anything else you can imagine. Go vertical! Label each members slot and make sure that when the mail comes in, it gets sorted. This is a good “chore” for a grade 3 student.
Step 7 - Give your kids a folder – plastic, 2 pocket, which they can choose the colour and decorate. Have them use this folder for everything that comes home for you. They bring it home and put it in your mail slot. You take out the contents, sign the forms and put it back in their slot. They check the slot each morning before school.
It will take a while for your family to buy into all of this but persevere. They will catch on and the kids will love not being nagged at school for the forms which used to be always late. Kids also like having their own mail slot. It makes them feel important and on an equal footing to older siblings/parents at least in this one department.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
As the first one-twelth of the year comes to a close, have you planned your results for the year yet?
What would you like to accomplish by the end of 2008?
What would you like to be remembered for?
What would you like to stop doing?
What will you do more of, how much, when and with whom.
Enjoy preparing this next chapter of your accomplishments.