Posts Tagged ‘organizing’

Personally, I do not make New Years resolutions. There’s nothing wrong with making resolutions. They make people feel warm and fuzzy. It’s nice to feel warm and fuzzy sometimes. The problem with resolutions is that most people drop them by the end of the month – some people simply state the resolution and never even really try. Do you know many people join gyms in January? A lot!

If you want to get organized this year, whether it is for your home, office, car, purse, or brain, I have a challenge for you.  Write down the resolutions. Post them up somewhere prominent. Put them in your planner. Tell your friends and family.  But don’t just stop with stating the resolution – turn it into a goal and turn that goal into your reality. Set manageable deadlines and milestones.

If you want to “get organized in ’09” stop being so broad. What do you want to organize? Even if you feel like you want to organize “everything,” list what everything means to you – your home, your office, your paperwork, children’s rooms, the garage, the basement, family photos.  List out what you want to do so you have a better picture of what is ahead of you.

You can NOT do everything at once – even if you have nothing else to do with your time. So break down the work. What is your goal for January? The office? Okay, great. So maybe at the top of your January calendar page you write “Goal: Organize my office.”  The next thing you should do is decide what you can do each week to get you closer to that goal. For example:

  • Week 1: Filing all papers so that all 2008 stuff is out of the way and I have fresh files for 2009
  • Week 2: Organizing all office supplies and making sure I purchase the appropriate ones so I have everything I need.
  • Week 3: Getting everything out of the office that does not belong in the office
  • Week 4: Rearrange the furniture, have a cleaning crew come through, creating a marketing plan for 2008, etc.

While “organize everything” and “organize my office” are broad goals, these narrowed down sub-goals are practical, achievable goals. Of course, you can break it down further. For week one, a daily goal could be to spend 15, 30, or 60 minutes a day filing (based on how much paper you have!). Of perhaps your goal is to schedule someone to come in during week one and do the filing for you. Perhaps you’ll hire a Professional Organizer. Maybe during week 4 you will with a feng shui expert, a cleaning crew, an interior designer, and a marketing consultant who can have you create a system for marketing your business.

This same formula can work for every area you want to organize. Just scale it appropriately. Maybe you spend a week cleaning out your car and set daily goals: toss all trash, buy a receipt organizer, buy small baskets for the car and talk to the kids about only having as much stuff in the car as will fit in the basket. When everyone gets out of the car, they put all of their stuff into their container. Purchase a mobile organizer that holds notebooks, pens, calculators, etc.

If you want to achieve your goals, whatever they might be, you have to do more than simply stating them. Take action. Start now while the calendar is fresh and there is optimism in the air. If you start planning now and work toward your goals, you will achieve great success this year.

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If you celebrate Christmas, most likely you’ve started purchasing Christmas decorations. When the holidays have passed, you’ll need a place to properly store your decorations until the winter holidays roll around again. And if you procrastinators out there are going to be decorating the night before your family arrives in town, go ahead and keep the following tips in mind when you do your shopping.

5 Hints for Holiday Storage from Solutions.com

My mom LOVES Christmas and I definitely think she could use some of these organizing tools. Sometimes I don’t think you need a customized bin for everything you plan to store. But I think things like tree bags, ornament containers, and something to keep Christmas lights from getting tangled isn’t a bad idea.



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With a growing number of people working from home, those who are leaving the traditional office setting (at least part time) are realizing the importance of creating a dedicated workspace at home.

If you have decided to make the transition to work from home, I strongly suggest creating a space in your home that you use only for work.  There are many important benefits to creating this space including increased productivity and separating home life and work life – which benefits both you and the people that live with you. Find a place that can be all your own – if not permanently, at least temporarily. Pick a place that is low traffic during the day, setup shop, and have a place for storage nearby that you can neatly store things in at the end of the day.

Read the full article at Chicaholic.net

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I have to come right out and say that I am not a health/medical professional. My professional organizer/non-medical professional opinion is that lack of energy is definitely a health issue. A serious one.

Lack of energy can have many root causes including depression, improper diet, and not getting enough rest/sleep. The list I linked to is not exhaustive by any means. I’ve dealt with many issues that have contributed to a lack of energy in my life: anxiety, overwhelm, depression, boredom, hopelessness (that “why bother?” feeling). I’ve also dealt with disorganization. I’ve always had trouble determining what came first in this chicken-egg situation. Do I have no energy because I am depressed? Am I depressed because my house is disorganized? Am I disorganized because I am depressed? Am i disorganized because I am simply too tired to put anything away? It makes my head hurt just thinking about it.

I have no quick-fix answer to offer you. I can’t tell you which came first for you. We are all different. I know, for example, that my nature is not to be disorganized. I have never been anal about it, but growing up, my room would get messy (as most kid’s rooms do), but I also enjoyed creating a place for things. I loved organizing my books by creating my own personal library system. I loved boxes, tins, and bins. I loved my Barbie motor home because I could neatly store all my dolls inside of it after taking them on another high speed adventure, running from the FBI. I loved Hawaii Five-0, 21 Jump Street, and The X-Files as a kid, and someone was always running. So sue me!

Somewhere along the way, disorganization made its way into my life. It didn’t feel right. I spent years struggling with depression. That definitely did not feel right. I was too tired to do anything or try anything. I was too tired for work, too tired for therapy, too tired to read, too tired to clean. I will share with you what I know and what I recommend.


If you are disorganized and (1) can’t quite pinpoint the root cause or (2) don’t have the energy to fix things, try the following

  • Think about what you would do with your life, time, and space if clutter wasn’t holding you back. Don’t do this as an afterthought. Seriously take stock of your life. What can you do in the moment that gets you closer to what you want? Maybe you need to have a yard sale. Maybe you need to skip that lunch on Saturday to stay home and purge your closet. Perhaps today you clean out your junk drawer and tomorrow your glove compartment.
  • Go back as far as you can remember: when did you first notice signs of disorganization. Did you grow up in a house that was a mess? Was it after your mother died? After a bad break up? After you moved to a new city? Remembering when it started can often help you figure out what went wrong. Perhaps you need to develop your coping skills to deal with life changes.
  • Ask friends or family to help you. Set aside a couple of hours where they come in and help you move through your things.
  • Ask a Professional Organizer to help you. Of course, I think I’m great because I been through all this and know where my clients are coming from. But find the one that fits you. If motivation and lack of energy is an issue for you, find an organizer who can be sensitive to those issues. If my clients become crotchety or I feel them moving into overwhelm, I bring the session to a close. I’ve had clients had breakdowns or panic attacks because they felt it was all too much to deal with. We will not be productive if they hate me, hate themselves, are crying, or are too distracted to get anything done. So we got half an hour of work in – that’s half an hour that we wouldn’t have had if I was not there to help you.
  • Figure out what your mood and energy boosters are. Utilize them to help give you the push you need to work on your project.

If you know that you have no energy or are depressed because of your disorganization, combat that negativity by changing your habits. I’ve seen people who became ashamed of their homes, which caused them to become depressed and retreat from others. A friend of mine can’t stand to be around clutter. If her room gets messy, it stresses her out. If your house is cluttered, she can’t visit you. You’ll have to meet up for dinner somewhere. Mess makes her stressed and makes her feel physically ill. By bringing order to her home, she keeps her mind clear and calm. If she allowed the clutter to build, her stress would increase. Her life would be a mess. Don’t allow a cycle to form. Read books, ask for help, attend workshops, get an organizer. Do what you can to bring harmony and happiness to your space.

Lack of Energy:

If you lack energy all the time, and not just when you think about cleaning or organizing your home or office, then it would probably be good to see a medical professional. Get a full check up. Talk with your physician about how you feel. Take note of when your energy is high and when it is incredibly low. Your doctor might suggest a wide variety of things including getting enough sleep and cultivating better sleep hygiene. You could be anemic. Perhaps you are lacking certain vitamins. Maybe a change in diet is in order.

Get the scoop on lack of energy from WrongDiagnosis.com

Depression, Anxiety, Overwhelm, etc

Seek help from a source outside of yourself. If you’ve tried battling it on your own and you have not succeeded, please proceed by trying other options. I’ve been a reader since I came out of my mother’s womb, but reading books on depression didn’t help me one bit. They gave me a headache. I couldn’t finish them and was too depressed to return them, so I incurred late fees at the library, which made me more depressed, and so on…

Do not shut yourself away. That will not help. There are many options. Try taking a yoga class. Attend a group meditation session. Sitting in silence with Quakers helped bring some balance to my life one difficult summer. I still fantasize about going back. Try group therapy (this list is a detailed one for the Los Angeles area – perhaps there is one for yours).

Find a therapist you can talk to. Try a couple on for size. Don’t be afraid to ask for a free initial consultation. Find a fit for you. Don’t settle for someone who makes you feel uncomfortable. I felt a little guilty about it at first, but a few years ago when I was searching for a therapist, I wanted something specific. It had to be a woman. She had to be under 50. She had to be stylish, but not terribly so. She had to seem friendly. I did not want to talk about certain things with a man, however qualified he might be. I wanted someone younger, yet qualified so that she was not totally removed from what someone in my generation was dealing with and exposed to. I didn’t want her to be out of touch with 2006, but I didn’t want her to look so amazingly put together that I felt like a slob in her presence. I didn’t want someone cold and clinical. That was me. I had an ex boyfriend who had trouble seeing male counselors because of issues he had talking to his own father about personal things. He also preferred a female therapist who wasn’t “young and hot.” Understandable. There are enough therapists out there that you should be able to find what you need.

If you feel that antidepressants or other psychotropic substances might help you, find a psychiatrist to talk to. As a person who only takes Tylenol when she feels like she’s going to die, this would personally be my last resort – especially with the knowledge that some antidepressants can cause suicidal feelings in some people. No need to make things worse than they are. I am always willing to try other things first – exercise, vitamins, diet, sleep, changing my habits, changing who I spend time with, etc. Some people say Prozac saved their lives. If you do try these drugs, give them time to work. Most likely you will not feel any difference in a week. People I have spoken to who’ve taken antidepressants said (1) they took about a month to kick in and (2) when they did kick in, they didn’t even notice. One person, a close friend of mine who was on Prozac over 10 years ago, remarked that she didn’t think the drug was working because she just felt “normal.” She felt okay. That’s when she realized it was working for her – the drug wasn’t supposed to make her feel high as a kite.

If you find that lack of energy or depression is what causes your disorganization, do what you can to solve those issues. Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to tackle your physical clutter when your brain is so clutter that you don’t even want to get out of bed. Getting organized is not easy for everyone. I’ve had several clients who worked with me while they were in therapy or working with life coaches. Once you feel better mentally, you feel more motivated to seek help from an organizer, or to do it on your own. You are more equipped to start the project and push through. Things seem less unbearable.


If you have trouble figuring out which issue came first, like I did, there’s nothing wrong with experimenting. Try organizing a room of your house. See how your mood improves. Do you have a panic attack as you approach the room? A therapist might be in order. Explain your issues. Your therapist might be able to help you figure out when these issues started. Once you have a deeper understanding, you can move forward accordingly.

If you have any questions, I am always open to sharing my experience. You can email me at alaia [at] oneorganizedlife [dot] com.

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Back in June, I did a short series called “10 Minutes, 10 Days.” I wanted to share provide a variety of tips that crossed over various parts of life that aren’t very time consuming. “Organizing takes too much time” is a phrase I’ve heard more times than I can count. Yes, organizing can be time intensive, but if you do not have a lot of time to devote to a huge project all at once, don’t let that stop you. There are plenty of things you can spend a few minutes on each day that will help you reach your goals. The following are a few more suggestions for things you can do in 10 minutes to clear a little more clutter from your life:

  • Clean up your cell phone or PDA contact list. If you’re the kind of person who adds the number of everyone you’ve said “hello” to, then this might take more than 10 minutes. Most of us, however, should be able to scroll through our rolodex and do some quick editing. Remove information from old clients or business contacts that you no longer need to keep close at hand. Delete the information of people you simply don’t want to communicate with anymore. Add people whose numbers are jotted down on Post-it notes. Update or add additional information that contacts have given you.
  • While you are cooking in the kitchen, clear one drawer. If you have a junk drawer in the kitchen, try starting there. Get rid of things that are clearly junk. Put a few items in their proper places. If you keep take out menus, toss duplicate copies or menus from restaurants that have gone out of business. Throw out old soy sauce packets.
  • While filling the tub for your bath or for the bath of one of your kids, clean out a drawer in the bathroom, or toss a few outdated products (please don’t do this if your kid is sitting in the bathtub, unattended).
  • Sort through the mail that has been piling up. Create a pile for unpaid bills. Toss the ones that have been (or will be) paid automatically. Recycle the junk mail.
  • Return stray CDs and/or DVDs to their rightful homes.
  • Pre-sort your laundry. This is great for families that accumulate lots of dirty clothes each day. I live alone and I still find this handy. Have three hampers or purchase a hamper that has three sections in it. I like this idea because as I shed clothes each day and simply toss them in the right section, it is easy to tell, without spending time to sort, whether the whites, mediums, or darks are ready to be washed ASAP.

  • Clean out your purse, briefcase, messenger bag, backpack, man bag (or “murse” as I heard recently), etc.
  • Clean out under the kitchen sink. If you keep plastic grocery bags, stuff them all into one, or corral them in a plastic bag holder. Throw out cleaning products that have lost their effectiveness. If two bottles of Windex are down there, take one bottle upstairs so you’ll have one handy when your bathroom mirror needs a quick cleaning. Cut down on the space your cleaning supplies take up by using products that can be used on a variety of surfaces.
  • Match your socks.
  • Clean up your computer desktop. Remove shortcuts you don’t use frequently. Place documents in folders to clean the clutter from your screen and improve boot up time.
  • Toss out pens, highlighters, and permanent markers that no longer work. Why would you need them?
  • Clean out your glove compartment. I had to do this regularly because my glove box would be stuffed to the gills with napkins, straws, plastic utensils, coupons, car repair receipts, hand wipes, salt and pepper packets, and who knows what else.

If you know you need to get organized, don’t procrastinate by waiting until you can “find more time.” Do what you can with the time you have. I’m sure you have a little wiggle room somewhere. Many of the suggestions above save you time in the long run. Conserving energy by washing clothes when you have a full loads is a responsible thing to do – and also cuts down on how often you have to spend your time doing laundry! When you have five minutes to get out the door to work, being able to grab a pair of socks instead of having to look for a match gives you time to take yourself a quick lunch. And when a police officer pulls you over for speeding, you won’t be embarrassed when a bunch of stuff comes tumbling out of your glove box as you search for your insurance papers. I’ve had a speeding ticket and an avalanche of napkins. I don’t judge – this is a safe place.

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The hardest part of many projects is getting started. Organizing is no exception. Maybe you’re not sure where to start. Maybe you feel pressed for time. Or, perhaps you know where to start but feel overwhelmed by the task. Here are some ideas that I recommend for people who are having trouble starting an organizing project (you can also apply these tips to other kinds of projects):

Pick something already! If you really don’t know where to start and cannot figure out what your priority area is, there is nothing wrong with just diving in and getting started. Sometimes, just jumping in and seeing what you have to deal with will give you a clearer sense of direction or ideas on what priority areas can be.

Tackle the thing that is bothering you the most. Your living room might not be the highest priority in your mind, but every time you walk in and trip over things you just about lose your mind. So, maybe you tackle that before you organize your office. That’s fine! Eat that frog and move on.

Take small steps. Be realistic and don’t set yourself up to fail. If you are standing in the middle of the madness, remember – you don’t have to do it all at once. Clear out a drawer, straighten up your desk, clean out the medicine cabinet, sort your mail and toss the trash. These small steps add up to big results.

Get an accountability partner – or team. Get someone else (or multiple people) involved in the project. A friend or relative might not be physically pitching in to help you, but let them know what you are doing, and what your goal is. Ask them to check in with you. If you feel comfortable, ask them to bug you about it. Let them know you are having trouble getting started. At some point you’ll either (1) get sick of them asking if you’ve started, and so you do so that you can tell them “YES! Now stop asking!” or (2) hate the idea of letting that person down, so you get to work and make them (and yourself) proud! Choose someone you trust and feel comfortable talking to about something like this – which can be very sensitive and private for some people. And don’t choose a friend who is going to email you once and then not think about. Choose an assertive person who is going to call you out on what you said. This person will call you, text you, or drop in to say. Pick that one!

Box and Bribe. I had a client who hadn’t had anyone (other than me) in her place in years. What she most wanted was a welcoming environment to have her friends and family in. To make sure we got everything done in a timely manner, I suggested she throw a party. But to box her in, I had her set a date, create a guest list, and invite people. That’s quite a box! Another (more pleasant) way to motivate yourself is to set up rewards for getting things done. Some people like to set one big reward for the end of the project. Other people find that setting little milestone rewards along the way keeps them motivated. Do what works for you.

This article was featured in The Twenty First Edition of the Carnival of Improving Life and the Carnival of Self-Mastery

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Girl Pouting Over Bowl of Cereal
Image details: Girl Pouting Over Bowl of Cereal served by picapp.com

Small changes can make a big difference. If you are trying to make big changes in your life, don’t be afraid to start small. All the small things you do to better yourself or change your situation prepare you to handle the bigger things. I personally feel that it’s better to start small and succeed, than to set an unrealistic goal, not reach it, and feel disappointed and angry with myself.

If you have something big you want to change, break it down and figure out which part of that big change you can handle first. I have a goal to improve my physical health (which definitely connects with every other kind of health) because that is an area where I can definitely be considered a slacker. Rather than trying to rush into working out five days a week, eat the best food possible every time I’m hungry, and so on, I broke it down. What can I do first? What can I do now? Well, I could grocery shop more than once every two months. Now I hit the grocery store once every two weeks, or once a week if absolutely necessary. I’ve saved money and fortunately, I’ve been able to make slightly better food choices. I’ve managed to start going to the gym once a week. Not much – but a vast improvement over never going.

When it comes to organizing, I often deal with clients who think everything has to change right now. That mentality often ends up making them feel overwhelmed and frustrated. So, I help them figure out where they need to start, and we work at a steady pace until we can take on a little more….and then a little more….

Here are some suggestions for a few small changes you can make that will help your progress if you are trying to (a) get more organized, (b) gain more control of your time, or (c) get better at getting things done.

Put things away when you are done using them. It seems easier at the time to just sit something aside when you are done with it. But when you’ve set 100 things aside, or let a sink full of dishes pile up, when you get ready to deal with it, it just seems like too much, and you could possibly lose your motivation. What happens then? Things keep adding up. Putting things back where they belong also will save you time the next time you need whatever it is – you’ll know exactly where to find it.

Stop trying to remember everything in your head. Tomorrow, you’ll suddenly remember something you really needed to take care of today. Trust me, I see it happen all the time. Make a to-do list, or keep a note pad with you. I love notepads because I have lots of random thoughts. Sometimes it’s a writing topic, other times it’s a person I need to call or an errand I need to run. I flip through the notes at least once a day for a quick refresher and cross things off as I get them done.

Shift your attitude. Decrease the amount of negative self talk you engage in. Negative self talk hold us back from all the great things that are possible for us. It’s best to get rid of all of it, but changing your thought habits doesn’t happen over night. It takes time. Next time you catch yourself saying something negative, counter it with two positive things. Through the course of my studies and personal reading, the research I’ve read seems to point to 21 days. Steve Pavlina has a great article on his website called 30 Days to Success that I recommend if you are trying to break a bad habit of any kind. Next time you catch yourself saying something negative, counter it with two positive things.

Start this new month off by making a small change that contributes to a larger goal you have in mind. It will definitely make a big difference.

(This article was featured in The Seventeenth Edition of the Carnival of Improving Life.)

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