Friday, October 31, 2008

Scarey Stuff - Disorganization

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

Hallowe'en Is a Scarey Time

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

Hallowe'en Horrors from the Dress Up Box

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

Consumable Gift Giving - 2nd Edition

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.

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.

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
  • Prepackage the dry ingredients for your favourite muffin recipe in a jar and include the recipe on the label.
  • Offer to babysit your sister's children for a day so that she and her husband can take a day out together.
  • 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.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Time Tamers 1 - Hyperfocus Alarms

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

Client Questions - Strategies for Letting Go!

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

Client Questions - Why can't I decide what to do with this stuff?

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.