Posts Tagged ‘getting organized’

A Faster Way To Organize Your Home

There's so much to do when you're running a household — just keeping your physical space in order and making sure your family is properly fed can be a full-time job! However, most people can't (and don't want to) spend all week on chores, because they have other responsibilities to think about — so you have to find ways to make those routine everyday tasks take less time. The good news is that the right household environment naturally makes everything easier — that includes meals, getting ready in the morning, and clean-up. You know that old saying, “A stitch in time saves nine”? Well that's what it's all about — investing a little bit of energy up front to create a system that works for you will save a lot of unnecessary work down the road!

  • walk through one room in the house and put away anything that is out of place
  • set up a basket at the base / top of the stairs for items that need to go up / down
  • gather up every book in you own in one specific category (self-help, history, biography, etc.)
  • organize one grouping / category / author of books alphabetically on your shelves
  • set up your pills and vitamins for the week in a daily dosage container — AM, mid-day, PM
  • move everything  for your AM routine (coffee/tea, meds, supplements) together into one cabinet
  • group all of one kind of food (cereals, canned goods, baking items, etc.) together in your pantry
  • put all loose bulk food items in lidded containers in your pantry — don't forget to label them
  • figure out your menu for the week, including page numbers for the recipes
  • write out a grocery shopping list for the week's meals
  • chop / marinate / prep your veggies and meat (in containers in the fridge) for the week's meals
  • cook a batch of a favorite dish (spaghetti sauce, soup, lasagna, etc.) and freeze individual servings
  • rinse your dishes right after each meal to prevent food from drying and becoming stuck on them
  • choose outfits for each day of the next week, including shoes and accessories
  • separate your casual clothes from dressy, or summer from winter, or work from play in your closet
  • put all of your shoes on racks or in labeled boxes by pairs
  • set up bins for separating out “dry cleaning,” “repairs,” and “alterations” in your closet
  • break your gift wrap paper / bags / tags / bows / ribbon into separate labeled tubs
  • clear your bathroom counter of everything except what you use daily for your grooming routine
  • set up an area at each entryway where visitors can remove their shoes to keep from tracking dirt in

See how easy that was? Wink

Getting Started

They say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step — and the same is true of your project. You have to start somewhere. Maybe your first step will be working out a schedule or drawing up a list of tasks. Or you might want to have a meeting to brainstorm with your team. Don't spend too much time worrying about exactly which step to take first — any move forward is a good one. You may feel stuck at the beginning of your project, but just getting started often provides the momentum you need to keep you moving in the right direction. Of course, the first thing you need for any journey is a road map. So start by examining the project and asking a few simple questions:

– What are my goals? What result am I trying to accomplish?
– What is my deadline?
– Who will I need to include in this project?
– What supplies/resources will I need to get this done?

This is a grounding exercise — designed to help you get a basic idea of what this project will require of you. You will then find it a lot easier to break these “big picture” ideas into actionable steps.

Your Itinerary

Most long journeys actually involve a series of smaller trips, stopping to see this site or visit this town along the way. The same is true for your project's journey. Every project, no matter how large, is just a series of smaller tasks – and your job is simply to figure out what those tasks are. For example, if you are putting together your company's annual budget, the steps might include items like creating a chart of accounts, gathering financial data from each department, listing big expenditures for the next year, calculating cost projections, and compiling the report. Each one of these steps constitutes a “milestone,” and each milestone helps get you a little closer to your end goal.

While you never want to lose sight of your final destination, your project will be a lot less overwhelming if you simply focus on your next milestone (bit sized is always easier to swallow!) Once you accomplish that task, move to the next — in no time, you will find that you have systematically worked your way to the end of the project. Andif a particular step still seems too big, break it down even further.Get to the cellular level, if that's what works for you.

On any journey, you also have some idea of how long you plan to spend in each location and when you will need to arrive at your next destination. The same is true of your project — but instead of scheduling from your departure date forward, you will schedule from your arrival (or deadline) date backward. Ask yourself when each previous step must be completed for the next step to happen on time — as well as how long each step will realistically take to complete, and plug each of those mini-deadlines into your calendar. If your deadline for the budget is 11/1, you might need the cost projections by 10/20 so you have time to write the report. You must have the list of expenditures and financial data by 10/13 to give you time to calculate cost projections, so plan to finalize your chart of accounts by 10/7. By setting smaller milestones along the way, you can see progress toward your goal, know that you are on track to complete the project in time, and remove some of the pressure of “the deadline.”

Coordinating Your Trip

Just as you would have a place to keep your travel paperwork when preparing for a trip, you need a systemfor storing all of your project files in one location so you never haveto waste time searching. And like travel paperwork, project files aretemporary — they will only be used until the project is completed. Soassign a separate drawer or hanging file box for your projectpaperwork. And of course, the best possible project organizing systemis portable — so you can take them with you wherever you go on yourjourney. You may also need storage for larger project tools — when remodeling the kitchen, you might have a tub with flooring samples, wallpaper swatches, paint brushes, and cabinet hardware. Give yourself as much room as you need.

If your project involves other people, it's also important to have a system for keeping everyone on track. Create a log of tasks for which each person is responsible — with milestones and deadlines for each. And be sure to schedule regular team meetings so you have time for brainstorming, group problem-solving, and following up with each member to make sure he or she hasn't hit a roadblock along the way.

Organizing For Forward Momentum

I often feel that the number one challenge people face with paper is not the quantity (although there is way too much of it about) — it's lack of motion. When you've got a good system for processing, a big pile of to-do's is a piece of cake. But when any amount of paper lands on your desk and just sits there, it's going to create problems. The goal is forward momentum — that's why they call it “work flow,” rather than “work stop!” If you want to keep paper moving through your system (instead of stagnating and clogging up your in-box), you need to “verb” it — that means sorting according to the action required. Start with the nearest pile, ask yourself what you need to do with each item, then create a folder for each answer. You'll probably come up with categories like:

  • “to pay”
  • “to file”
  • “to contact”
  • “to buy”
  • “to read”
  • “to enter in computer”
  • “to reconcile”
  • “to give to _________”

Set these folders up in a file box or rack, placed in plain view. The goal is to break that pile down into just a few action categories — and to give new paper a place to live until you have a chance to tackle it. Each day, take just a minute to go through the incoming to-do's and file accordingly.  Of course, you may have multiple steps to take with each item (like a credit card statement with an error on it — where you need to make a phone call, then pay the bill, then file it.) Don't make it more complicated than it needs to be. Just ask yourself, “What is the NEXT step I need to take to clear this item up?” You start by putting it in “to contact,” and you may only have time for that one step today. Not to worry — simply move it to “to pay” and it will be waiting for you on your next round of to-do's (plus, you won't forget where you were in processing that document.)

Rethinking The Way You Do Things

How do you make sure that everything you put into a file comes back out again? Schedule a regular weekly appointment with yourself (maybe an hour or two, once or twice a week) and block off that slot for “admin time”. During admin time, your goal is to go through each folder in order and try to complete every item inside. If you can't complete that item for some reason, put it back in the folder and tackle it during your next admin period. And if you finish one step, but then realize that you have another step to take with that paper, make a note or attach a sticky so there's no confusion later on.

Why would you worry about working through one folder before moving to the next? You will accomplish more in less time when you complete each activity in sequence (paying all of your bills at once, then making all of your calls, then doing all of your filing) — as opposed to bopping back and forth between different tasks. Take a “mass production” tip from Henry Ford — your work will get done faster and easier if you focus on one category at a time. Plus, completing a folder allows that weight to lift from your shoulders — you know that all the bills are paid or all the calls are made, and you can forget about those to-do's until your next admin period. If you follow this system, you will never accumulate more than a week's worth of paper at any time, you have no reason to miss a deadline or get hit with a late fee — and you don't have to continually worry, “When will I get it all done,” because you know that any to-do's will be taken care of during your next regular admin period. Is that genius, or what? Wink

Packing Basics

I once helped a friend pack, and was shocked to watch her put food and dishes and medicine and gardening supplies all in the same box. I asked why on earth she did this, and her response was, “That's just how I picked things up.” Sure, she packed quickly — but once she got to her new home, unpacking was a chaotic mess. My friend spent the next week hiking all over the house to put things where they belonged.

If you take the time to pack your treasures systematically by room — storing all of the bedroom items in one set of boxes, those that will go in the bathroom in another, stuff for the kitchen in a third — both packing and unpacking will go by twice as fast. Label each box with both the room it belongs to and its contents (“books,” “cookware,” “towels,” etc.) Then create a master inventory list of all your boxes and their contents, according to room — this will help you make sure nothing gets left behind in the move.

When packing your boxes, also think about how that container is going to function in transit. People often get in such a rush to move (or are so sick of packing) that they just throw things in boxes, without giving any thought to how that container will travel. Of course, the same people are the first to complain when they find their treasures broken and mutilated on the other end of the journey! Try not to exceed 50 pounds in each packed container — otherwise they will be impossible to carry, and your boxes may collapse or burst open from the weight. As you pack, place heavier items on the bottom and lighter items on top. Your containers will be more stable and less likely to tip over as the truck bounces and jiggles around. Pack your boxes tightly to avoid shifting, the number one cause of damage during moves. And be sure to use strong twine or threaded packing tape to thoroughly seal your containers — don't just fold the flaps in over themselves, unless you want everything spilling out as the truck is unloaded.

Packing Fragile Items

Many people are afraid to pack their own valuables, choosing instead the expense and risk of hiring a mover. But it's easy to keep breakables from being damaged in transit. If you still have the item's original packaging, use that during your move — especially electronic equipment and knicknacks that came with specially-molded styrofoam. Clean crumpled paper, bubble wrap, and peanuts are great for cushioning breakables — don't be afraid to use too much padding, especially for items that might get chipped or bent. Compartmentalized boxes (like those used for transporting stemware) will also keep fragile objects from bumping together. Try to sit items flat on one side or another — storing breakable items at strange angles is inviting damage.

Moving furniture can often pose a problem — more because of an item's size and bulkiness than its fragility. With many pieces, you must also take steps to protect finished surfaces from mars and scratches — which are easily avoided by covering each piece of furniture with a sheet, blanket, or paper. Be sure to pad corners with extra foam or blankets (these always seem attracted to door frames and sharp corners!) It's a tempting and efficient use of space to store clothing and linens inside of chests and dressers as you move them. Just make sure you aren't overloading the drawers, which can cause furniture joints to separate and collapse. To protect mirrors, pictures, and glass shelves, wrap each piece in a blanket, tape securely, and mark with a note not to sit anything on top of that package. And use only blank newsprint to avoid ink smudges on your belongings, especially lampshades and fabric-covered items.

Some items are difficult or dangerous to transport, unless you prepare them carefully ahead of time. Start by draining all fluids (oil, gas, etc.) from your power and yard tools so they won't leak, then dispose of corrosive and volatile chemicals such as oil, antifreeze, paint, and gasoline — these should not travel with you. You can do serious damage to your appliances if they aren't properly stabilized for travel — so block your washer agitator to keep it from shifting and secure all mechanical parts and power cords. Once you have cleaned out your refrigerator and freezer, leave the doors open to decrease the humidity. And before putting any “damp” appliances on the truck, place a piece of charcoal or layer of baking soda in the bottom to prevent mildew and musty smells. If you plan to transport a piano, have a trained piano mover prepare your instrument for travel. Talk to your local nursery about transporting any plants, and your vet about traveling with your pet.

Packing Doesn't Stop With The Boxes

So, you've successfully packed all of your stuff into containers — don't take a break yet! Whether you are hiring movers or getting a U-Haul, you still need to make sure that your belongings are put on the truck the right way. Many people load their furniture on first, but this is actually counter-intuitive. Think about it — when you are ready to unpack and get settled in, what should go into each room first? Boxes, or the furniture that will hold the contents of those boxes?

Start by packing items you won't need right away — holiday dishes, off-season clothes, memorabilia, boxes of books — on the front of the truck (nearest the cab). Make sure to leave room for those things you will want to set up immediately — the beds, the coffee pot, towels, sheets — near the back or on top of other items. Don't be afraid to load your truck to the ceiling or tie items down — a tightly-packed load is less likely to shift during transit, meaning less chance of damage.

Have A Plan Of Attack

Begin working in the area that is the biggest thorn in your side — the part of your home or office that causes you the most agony. Even if every area of your life feels cluttered, it's not hard to pinpoint your MOST frustrating organizing challenge. When you find yourself saying, day after day, “Man, I wish I could get my (bedroom, desk, storage closet whatever) straightened out. This mess is driving me crazy!” — you know that's where you want to begin. Where is your greatest pain?

As you dig in, you're guaranteed to notice a few other spots that could use some organizing help too — that's fine. Create a list of the areas you want to work on, in order of priority. Be sure to include a deadline for completing each project. This will help you focus on the big picture as you work your way through your home or office. It's much easier to stay on track if you have a specific timetable within which to work. Crossing tasks off of your “to-do list” as you finish them also reminds you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel!  Don't feel overwhelmed — you will get to all of your problem areas, in due time.

One Baby Step After Another

It's tempting to want to organize everything at the same time, but that's a surefire way to sabotage your efforts. Instead, start by tackling just one small area at a time — a drawer, a cabinet, a shelf, a closet. Don't attempt to clean out the whole place at once. If you overdo it, chances are you will become frustrated and give up on the entire project. Set aside some time each week to work on a different area — once you get started, you'll be surprised at how quickly the job goes.

Do your best to move systematically, finishing one area before you begin another. There is nothing more draining than finding yourself surrounded by a bunch of half-finished projects — and it's even harder to find things if you have only organized part of your closet or cleaned out half of your filing system, while the other half is still a wreck.

Once you discover your own particular organizing style, you'll really be able to make some progress. Some people work best if they empty an entire storage area before organizing it. Others find that too overwhelming, and choose to tackle their clutter one item at a time. You need to decide for yourself which of these methods suits your personality best. But there is no “right” way — only what's right for you.  Remember, there are as many different ways to organize as there are people on the planet!

Call In The Troops

Don't be afraid to enlist a little help. If you can recruit some organizing “assistants” — do it! This is a big job, and it will go a lot faster if you aren't all by your lonesome. Consider drafting your friends, family members, or co-workers — put on some music, serve them pizza, and turn cleaning out into a party. Who said organizing has to be a chore?

You might even consider hiring a Professional Organizer to help you out — sometimes it's good to have someone around who has no vested interest your “stuff” and can offer expert advice when you get stuck. Just be judicious about who you bring on board. If you what you need most is an objective opinion, your nosy mother-in-law may not be the best choice!

Organizing is hard work — and it's going to take a minute. So don't get frustrated with yourself if you can't tackle every pile of clutter in one weekend! And don't drive yourself until you drop — cleaning out does not have to be painful. Just go at your own pace and cut yourself some slack if you aren't moving forward as quickly as you had hoped.  Most importantly, be sure to reward yourself every time you finish a particularly challenging task — even adults need “gold stars” (or a cappuccino or a movie or a soak in the tub) every now and then!