Thursday, February 26, 2009

More on the Open and Closed Case

In visiting other exhibitors at the National Home Show, I have been very impressed with the quality of storage solutions available to home owners. In my mind I have chosen new clothes storage several times over in each of the styles available from each of the closet manufacturers.

It brings to mind, however, the difference in organizing styles the all of us have. Some of us are folders; others are tossers and droppers. Some of us like things quiet and all the same in storage styles which others, less visual by nature, don't even notice if one container is a different colour to the next.

If you are looking at storage systems for your clothes, try and figure out what your style is. Match up your new system to that style. There are no rules that say clothes have to be folder when put away. With my own two children, I'm happy if the clothes just end up in the drawers at all. Sliding baskets are great for the tosser and droppers so that they can toss and drop into the basket to their hearts content. Open storage is great for those of us who don't like to have to hunt for the right drawer for each object.

So make your life a little easier and match up your storage with your organizing style.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Clothes Dropping

Do you find that clothes end up on the floor regardless of how hard you try to keep them contained in their proper homes?

Take a close look at your dressing area, no matter how small or how big. Are your clothes all contained within the one area? Do you have to go from one side of the room to the other just to find all the pieces of clothing you need for the day?

The farther apart your clothing pieces are stored, the more likely they are to end up on a horizontal surface (bed, floor etc) while you are either dressing or undressing.

Try and get all your clothing storage in one area together, from now on referred to as your dressing area. It can be anything from 9 square feet (3 metres squared) to a room unto itself. It may be just a designated side of your bedroom - probably the side with the clothes closet. Get all your clothes in there and they are less likely to end up on the floor.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Labelling Digital Photos

Organizing photos on your computer can be a challenge. Many people handle the challenge by using photo management software. If you use such software, here is a tip for labelling your photos.

Computers don't read or count. They recognized yes or no. When labeling your files, the computer will automatically try and sort either alphabetically or numerically depending on the symbols you have chosen (letters or numbers). If you want a file sorted by it's name in a date order use a number to represent the date. Use "0" placeholder for single digit months i.e. Jan to Sept otherwise your computer will put October first in the list.

Date sorting is often the easiest and most intuitive sorting method for photos. Depending on your volume of photos, set up a file for each year and then for each month within the year. Use the above number method to label the months. Now you can sort your photos by whichever label you choose within the months.

Monday, February 23, 2009

TPOC at the National Home Show

The Toronto Chapter of Professional Organizers in Canada has a booth at this year's National Home Show. If you are in the area, drop by and check us out in Exhibitor section B, booth 3009.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Backsliding is a term used by professional organizers to describe a client's return to previous behaviour or habits that led to disorganization. Many, if not most, of my clients experience backsliding to some degree several times over the course of our work together. While not necessary, it is frequently experienced by many people as they try and get more control over the space, time and "stuff" in their lives.

You will know if you are backsliding. Horizontal services are filling up again with clutter. An area in your home or office that had been kept organized is starting to be disorganized. Perhaps you find yourself late for appointments more often after some time of prompt, timely arrival.

To handle backsliding, start by staving off the guilt. Admit you've had a backslide and get on with your life. We can give guilt about 30 seconds and then move forward.

Second, see if you can identify which behaviours you have returned to. Were you clearing the top of your desk each evening and have now stopped? Were you clearing the floor of your bedroom each evening and have now stopped?

Thirdly, see if you can identify why the behaviours have returned. It takes about 28 consistent repetitions to instill a new habit. Perhaps your 28 events were interrupted by illness, extra projects at work, a sick child or parent or an unexpected loss.

Four, practice the behaviour you would like to instill again. Try daily repetition at the same time of day.

Finally, give yourself a huge pat on the back and celebrate your success!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Desktop Disco

What's dancing on your computer desktop? Virtual clutter can be just as bad as the stuff kicking around the floor of your office.

Do you habitually leave documents sitting on your desktop so that you can find them easily the next time you want to work with them? It's not a bad idea - until there are so many files or shortcuts on your desktop that you can't find any of them. That's right; just like the top of your physical desk.

Don't panic, the solution can be relatively simple. Set up folders as hot files on your desktop to house the material you are currently working on just like the hot files on your desk. Keep them specific and time limited. When the project is over or completed, purge the folders and move them off your desktop. By then there will be other files that need to be moved into hot files.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Energy for Packrats

If you are considered a pack rat, by yourself or anyone else, your home may be suffering from very stagnant energy. You, as a result, may also suffer from very low energy.

While I do not profess to be a specialist in feng shui, there is no doubt that a hall full of clutter does not allow the free movement of energy through the house.

Try clearing just one small space, no matter how small, and see what that does for your energy level. The table in a hallway is a great place to start since this is a classic spot for clutter to accumulate.

To help, try covering the space around the area you are clearing with a big sheet while you are clearing it. The sheet will cover up the items around and help you focus on the area you are trying to clear.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Valentines' Cards

Has your young son or daughter finished preparing their Valentine's cards for their class mates yet? Ever wonder what to do with the left over few cards from the box. Like many of us you probably wish you could hang on to them for next year so they could be used but don't want to add them to the paper clutter in your home. Here's a couple of different ideas. Hopefully one will fit your home.

  1. Store them with your craft supplies and use them for craft projects.
  2. Send them to your children's daycare so they can use them for craft projects.
  3. Keep a box of gift cards and greeting cards and add them to this box.
  4. If your Christmas decoration box is easily accessible, store them in there. They will be ready to pull out when you put next year's Christmas decorations away.

Is This an Open or Closed Case?

Have you ever found yourself trying to access or put away an item only to find yourself frustrated or irritated by the process? I had this experience just this morning putting away the clip closure from a now empty bag which I had discarded. I went to the drawer to the zip lock bag where the clips are stored. I opened the bag tossed in the clip and closed it up. Then I wondered,

"Why does this need to be closed? Do I think the clips are going to wander around the drawer when not in use and not be there when I want them? Why can't I just toss them into an open container and skip the opening/closing process?"

And why not? Does organizing have to be complicated or frustrating? No, it does not.

Open storage is great for tossing and dropping when the contents are not likely to wander around, when you might want to see the contents. The container doesn't travel - like a lunch box would - and the contents can't move on their own. Open storage is great for children and teenagers and anyone else in the toss and drop stage of life where opening and closing items are additional stages of organizing that will be missed at the expense of the item being stored. Think of toys on a shelf for children or a teenage girl's clothes in open sliding baskets rather than a cupboard. It is also great for a storage container that you can't see - such as the clips in the kitchen drawer.

Closed storage is best for when the items can get out by themselves - think of pulling the flour off the shelf and having it spill on the floor if the storage container is not closed. It is also good for protecting the contents, like the flour, from dust or other dangers. Closed storage is also good for just getting rid of the visual noise or the sight of the item being stored. Think in this case of putting a lid on a decorative box of children's toys that are kept in an otherwise elegant living room or reducing the visual noise of a box of spare computer cables in your office.

Closed storage is harder to get into - open storage is for grab, toss and drop activity. What's in your home or office that warrants change?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Find Bill, File Receipt

This is a follow up post from the recent Where is Everything item.

Many of my clients, friends, family and acquaintances struggle with paper. It's everywhere despite our best attempts to go electronic. Organizing paper is probably the number one frustration of almost all my clients.

One of the paper challenges are receipts coming into the household that many of us keep to maintain our household accounts. Some of us have jars, boxes, baskets or folders to keep these daily deluge of little, bitty, annoying pieces of paper called receipts. If you are checking off your credit card bills to ensure all expenses are your own and legitimate then you have a collection of these receipts.

There are many possible solutions but here is one that most of my clients find helpful. Find an expandable file folder - plastic is best - with 13 divisions. They are readily available in a variety of price points at Staples, Grand and Toy and many other office suppliers. Try the local dollar store. Label the divisions by month and then the 13th for miscellaneous.

Presto. You have a place to put those annoying pieces of paper and you don't even have to sort them. When the credit card bill comes in, pull out the folder, check of the receipts. Now if, necessary, you keep the receipts, already organized by month. If not - shred.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Shopping Addiction Revisited

It seems more than a few people are becoming concerned, and now willing to discuss, the very real concern that is a shopping addiction. This recent Chatelaine article on Shopaholics, by Rebecca Caldwell (no known relation), is a healthy discussion on how this addiction looks in real life.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Where is Everything? - Bills Due

It's the end of the first week in February - do you know where your due bills are?

Do you pay your bills when they first come in the door?

Do you have a designated place to store them until they are due?

Are your due bills all in one room?

Can you find those bills when you go to pay them?

Is the designated place close to your bill-paying method: computer; cheque book and stamps?

Is the designated place easily accessible when you go to pay your bills?

Are the bills identified with the date that they are due?

How much do you pay in overdue bill fees? Would that help pay down your mortgage?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

First Term - Out

Has your high school student just finished first term? Is his/her home workspace cluttered with the remnants of first term study?

Do everyone a favour, especially your student, and help them purge out the first term to make room for second term. The longer you leave the remnant clutter hanging around, the less likely it is to be sorted and purged before chaos sets in. Help your student sort through the notes for relevant material to keep such as key assignments and throw out the rest.

Helping students purge on a timely basis helps them learn sorting and prioritizing skills for their "office" before material becomes clutter. In addition, you will be teaching them the value of a clear, uncluttered space. They will be able to focus on the task at hand (second term's material).

You'll both feel better.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Top 5 Series - Excuses Professional Organizers Hear

Over on Wellrich for Business, I periodically post on the Top 5 Series. While they generally address the small business or home office organizing issues, I felt this particular post would be of interest to my residential readership as well. Do these excuses sound familiar? Maybe some help from a professional organizer would be a good idea!

  1. "I don't have time to worry about tidy piles of paper". You don't, however, mind asking everyone else to wait while to try and find whatever it is you are all looking for?
  2. "I don't need to be more organized; I can find anything I want in my office". Except that it takes you three hours to find a single piece of paper or file folder and meanwhile, everyone else is held up.
  3. "I'm not disorganized, I just like to keep things in case I might need them, someday". Meanwhile you pay for a storage unit that you haven't accessed for months or years (would that money help pay off the mortgage?) You have rooms you can't use due to the clutter and boxes covered in dust i.e. they haven't been touched in years.
  4. "I am actually very organized. I know exactly where everything is". Have you noticed you are chronically late for appointments, submitting school forms, paying your bills (and therefore wasting money on late fees) and rushing for completion of tasks at the last minute. You think you're organized? Have you asked your family or friends recently?
  5. "I have my own style of organization. No one else would understand it". You might be correct - no one else can find anything in your home either. Some professional organizers are specifically trained to understand your particulary style of organizing, and help you to make it work for your life.

Are you children learning their organizing habits from you? Is this a good thing? Would you like them to live with the harried existence that you live?

Think about it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Project Control - Put a Lid on It!

Have you got a big project underway at home that is getting the better of you? Is your organization falling apart as this project mushrooms all over the house?

Take a tip from the design world to help get a big project under control. Find a container big enough to hold all the bits and pieces and put the whole project into the container.

  • For a child's school bristol board project a clear garbage bag may do the trick. Use a clear one so that they remember what's inside and so that it doesn't end up in the garbage by accident.
  • For a sewing or craft project consider a box with a lid. The lid will keep the dust, cat and prying hands away.
  • For a project with odd shaped items, consider a basket, laundry hamper or other flexible container to accommodate the odd shapes.

When the project is finished the container can be used for the next project or repurposed elsewhere in the house - the laundry perhaps!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Mail Magic to Make it Disappear

Have you got a pile of unopened mail on your dining room table? Maybe it's in a pile on the counter. Here's some magic to make it disappear.

  1. Take all the mail offers and put them directly in the recycling bin. You can be sure, there are more on their way.
  2. Take all other enveloped articles and remove the envelopes. If you have to, staple the envelop contents together.
  3. Divide the remaining articles into three piles Act Now, Follow Up and Think About. Book time for the Act Now items. Most of the items in the Think About you can throw out. You will probably never think about them and they are probably not on your list of top priorities.

Presto! A small pile of items that really require your attention.