Posts Tagged ‘professional organizer’

Posted on: March 25th, 2013 by Kristi | No Comments

the non-planner datebook

What organizational product do I see the most of when I visit clients homes?  No, the answer is not calendars, planners and to-do lists.  The product I see the most of is organizing books.  The second most popular find is organizing bins.  The third is calendars, planners and to-do lists. 

Why do I find these items so frequently and in such high volume in clients homes?  The top two were no surprise to me and easy to diagnose.   

  • My clients have a stash of organizing books because they want to be organized.  They are intelligent people and sought out resources.  They eventually came to realize that they simply didn’t have the time to organize on their own, that some steps in the books were difficult to handle emotionally (if it was all about intelligence, I’d be out of a job) and that the steps in the books really weren’t made for their specific situations.  So, I get called in to plan, support and assist.   
  • My clients have a varied collection of organizing bins because they want to be organized.  They are intelligent people and sought out resources.  They eventually came to realize that without a plan, the bins simply displace the clutter.

The third was a little more difficult for me to analyze.  Why do they have so many calendars, planners and lists?  Some are blank, some are partially filled, some are new, some are years old, some are decorative, some are plain, some are small, some are large and some are even electronic.  What became clear was that none were working.  Once again, the products showed a desire to manage their time.  The products showed intelligent people that sought out solutions.  I have come to find that there is no area in which people try to fit into what is popular, current and usual more so than in the area of time management.  People tend to think that one planner or one calendar fits all.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Left-brainers may do well with a typical planner, but right-brainers are more creative and visual.  They need planners that reflect these traits.  What ever happened to writing on the back of your hand?  Well, maybe we don’t need to consider that one, but we do need to consider everything and anything until….it works!  This is one of the services I love to provide my clients.  You don’t have to use a thick planner!  You can use sticky notes, the wall, voice recorders, pictures, index cards, etc…  My August issue of Organization-411 will focus on these creative time management techniques (as well as back to school tips for the parents out there).  In the meantime, check out two of my favorite “planners” linked below.  Also, if this is an area you would like help in, time management is one of the services I provide.  We will work to find what works for YOU!


A Favorite Planner for the Creative 

Another Favorite

What's Wrong With Loving Your Stuff?

There's a saying in my family, “If one is good, 20 must be better” — and my mother lived according to that credo until her dying day. If she loved it, she bought a lot of it, bought a few more the next trip to the store, then picked up a couple extras just to be safe. While cleaning out, we found at least 100 purses in her closet (many of which hadn't seen the light of day since I was in high school.) She had clothing and shoes that she hadn't been able to wear in 50 years stashed away in her closet. I found paperwork in her filing system that went back to 1954. The craft room was filled with old half-finished projects dating back three decades (my favorite was a bicentennial needlepoint quilt that my mother started in 1976 and kept swearing she would complete “someday” — she might have pulled it out when I was about 12 and added a few stitches, but otherwise, that thing lived in a shopping bag all the way through my childhood until I went to college!) And my mother was never one to pass up a bargain at the supermarket — she could have single-handedly alleviated starvation in a medium-sized third-world country if she had donated her kitchen to the World Hunger Organization (as long as those children in Ethiopia didn't mind freezer burn, overdue expiration dates, and a lot of spam!)

You see, the problem is not just that my mother owned a lot of stuff, but that she owned so much of everything that a good bit of it went bad before she ever had a chance to use it. Three years ago, a neighbor gave my mother several lugs of figs from his tree. She canned them and stored them neatly away on a shelf in her pantry. Well I'm sorry, but a single 77-year-old woman living by herself is never going to be able to eat two dozen jars of figs in any reasonable amount of time — when we finally opened them, they had grown hair and turned moldy. My mother never really understood the concept of “expiration” — she truly thought things would last forever. She would find canned goods on sale at the store and load up, then be surprised to discover that they were no longer edible when she finally opened them 10 years later. We found cans going back to 1998, and ended up throwing out 99% of what was stored in the pantry, fridge, or freezer. In fact, a large part of what my mother had stashed away for use “someday” went in the garbage — dried up paints, melted candles, holiday decorations that had disintegrated in the heat of the attic, clothing that was munched by silverfish, and shoes that had become moldy with disuse. The irony is that my mother hated to waste anything, which is why she kept things forever, magically believing that they would be useful at some point down the road — but instead they just rotted away in storage, which then created more waste. A vicious cycle.

A Fine Line Between Collection And Pathology

So does this mean that my mother was a compulsive hoarder? I don't think so. My mother's biggest problem was “excessive acquisition” — she was a child of the Depression and had spent her formative years going without essential items like milk and shoes and soap powder. So somewhere in the back of her mind, she worried that there might come a day when she would again be without — and she stockpiled to protect herself from that possibility. My mother also derived a great deal of joy from finding a bargain — she figured out that spending less on each purchase meant she could shop more (“need” never really entered into the equation.) It made her incredibly happy to get a $160 brand-name purse for $2 at the thrift store (even when she already had 20 others in the closet at home) — or 3 dozen cans of corn for $1.50 at the “bent and dent” store (even if they were already out of date and would go bad within a month.) My mother's urge to accumulate was like a cancer, a form of self-destructive replication that eventually takes over its host.

But truly compulsive hoarding is a different matter altogether. It goes beyond simple acquisition and into the realm of dysfunction. Real hoarding impairs a person's mobility — these are the folks for whom every flat surface is covered with piles, and they can only get from room to room via a tiny little path carved through the middle. My mother (like 99% of the people I know) had a “junk room” filled with crap she never used, and her active living spaces were quite often messier than I would have liked (again, like 99% of the people I know) — but her home was functional. Pathological hoarding keeps people from being able to use living spaces for their intended purposes, it interferes with a person's daily activities. I've worked with A.D.D., C.D., O.C.D., and hoarding clients who couldn't cook because the stove was piled high with unopened mail, who couldn't shower because the bathtub was full of overflow from the closets, and who slept on the couch because they couldn't find their beds under all the stacks. This was not my mother! And hoarding can often become terminal, when the clutter causes fires or impedes rescue workers from administering aid in the case of an emergency. When paramedics came to take my mother to the hospital, they had no problem getting in or out of the house. I never worried for her safety in her own home — and even in all our cleaning out, we never found a corpse buried under any of the piles. Wink

While it might seem that my mother was resistant to discarding anything (especially if you ask my sister), that's not completely true. She refused to get rid of stuff that she loved or thought she might use (which was a lot more than she really needed) — but she didn't hoard used tin foil or pieces of string or old coffee grounds (she did understand the difference between “trash” and the “good stuff.”) The woman was entirely willing to toss a newspaper once she had finished reading it (but she had so many subscriptions that she was looking at a backlog of 20 year's worth of publications to read “someday.”) And even though it took a long time, once my mother decided that something served no purpose for her, she let it go — last summer, we donated about 10 contractor bags of fabric to the Gee's Bend quilting collective, and at least 20 boxes of books to the local library. In fact, every time I talked to my mother this past year, she was always bagging stuff up for donation or shredding old papers. But it had to be her idea — she would not be forced to clean out before her time (again, like 99% of the people I know!)

I know organizers who would have easily classified my mother as a “level 1 hoarder.” But that diagnosis could be applied to (you guessed it) 99% of the people I know! Seriously, where do you draw the line? I have plenty of friends with collecting fetishes — bibliomaniacs and keepers of the shot glasses and even one woman with a spectacularly expensive assortment of high-end snow globes. And I know plenty of successful people who don't have a horizontal surface that isn't covered with “stuff.” But if the person is functional (pays the bills on time, holds down a job, isn't spending beyond their means or stealing, maintains a basic level of cleanliness, doesn't let the clutter impede personal relationships, and isn't living in a hazardous environment) — then where's the harm? My mother had a rich and full life, was involved in her community and well-loved by friends, and the clutter never really got in the way of that. As my sisters and I said while cleaning out, “At least it made momma happy.” She enjoyed the stuff she used, and she enjoyed the POTENTIAL behind the stuff she never got around to using, and I guess that has to be good enough.

A Faster Way To Get It All Done

Most people's days are so filled to overflowing with responsibilities, that there's is almost no way to get it all done in the hours available. Some things (like work and school and appointments) eat up big chunks of your day, and you have little control over when or how they happen. Others can be squeezed in whenever you've got a few free minutes here or there. The trick to successful time management is making effective and productive use of “micro-moments” — little chunks of time scattered throughout your day, in-between the other bigger commitments. Instead of watching TV, why not get something meaningful accomplished? Any time you can cross a to-do off your list during one of these normally “wasted” periods of time, you're one step ahead of the game.
  • wrap and mail a gift you've been meaning to send off
  • pay the bills that have been sitting on the counter waiting for your attention
  • clean out a cabinet or a drawer that's been driving you up the wall
  • repair a ripped hem
  • respond to a couple of emails or return a few phone calls
  • set out your clothes for the next day
  • make tomorrow's lunch today
  • sew a missing button
  • tackle a small home “fix-it” project (tighten a screw, hang a picture, etc.)
  • do the dishes and wipe down the counters
  • run the vacuum or sweep the floor
  • throw a load of laundry in the washer or dryer
  • put away a pile of clutter that's been staring you in the face for too long
  • clean out your purse, briefcase, or backpack
  • read that magazine article or book you haven't had time for
  • schedule an appointment you've been putting off
  • sort through your incoming mail, separating to-do's from trash
  • reorganize your CDs or DVDs in categorical / alphabetical order
  • gather up outdated magazines and newspapers to put in the recycling

See how easy that was? Wink

A Faster Way To Compute

Ask anyone whose sun rises and sets on the keyboard of a laptop, and they'll tell you that the electronic age is both a blessing and curse. Automation a wonderful thing — a huge time-saver and a great tool for simple-living. But become neglectful or complacent about your technology and it will turn against you — causing your systems to crash, your data to disappear, and your life to be full of virtual woes. Any gadget is only as good as the systems you set up for using it — cell phones, computers, email, the internet, even iPods and DVDs. The trick to successfully managing your various electronics and media is not allowing yourself to become overwhelmed by it all — breaking routine maintenance responsibilities down into bite-sized chunks.

  • back up your computer files to either CD-Rom or an external drive
  • set up folders in your email program for each type of to-do or topic
  • set up filters in your email program that instantly sort each email into the appropriate folder
  • download the latest virus protection updates
  • clean the junk spam out of your email in-box
  • create a set of electronic folders on your hard drive that mirror your paper filing system
  • relocate any electronic files that are in the wrong location to the correct folders on your hard drive
  • rename any confusingly-labeled document to make more sense and be easily located
  • move any miscellaneous items dumped in “my documents” to the correct folders on your hard drive
  • remove unused and outdated programs from your computers
  • run a virus check and firewall update on your system
  • start a spreadsheet keeping track of the logins and passwords you use for your favorite websites
  • empty your recycle bin on your hard drive and in your email program
  • put the contacts in your address book into an electronic database
  • return all CDs, DVDs, and software discs to their cases
  • place an internet order for something you've needed but haven't had time to pick up at the store
  • post to your Twitter account or Facebook fan page
  • write a short blog
  • send an email you've been putting off
  • update your cell phone contacts to match your electronic database

See how easy that was? Wink

A Faster Way To Clean

Cleaning day — what an old-fashioned notion! The idea that you should give up one entire day of your week for scrubbing and mopping might have been appropriate when folks didn't have jobs outside the house — but this system doesn't work so well with modern schedules. It's hard for busy families with working parents and afterschool activities and other responsibilities to fit in a whole day for housework. And when you work 9-5 Monday through Friday, you surely don't want to sacrifice your “off” days to chores. More importantly, there's no reason you should have to — if you stay on top of the dirt throughout the week. Each time you have a few free minutes, why not take care of one small cleaning job, rather than saving it all up? That way, you can finish your cleaning by the end of the week, leaving the weekend for fun!

  • wipe splatters and fingerprints off the bathroom mirrors
  • clean the ring out of the toilet and wipe down the seat
  • wipe down the bathroom counters
  • wash your bathroom rugs
  • wipe down the tub and shower walls with disinfectant
  • load your dishwasher and let it run while you do something else
  • empty your dishwasher and put the dishes away
  • wipe down the kitchen counters
  • clean the grease and food splatters off your stove top and vent hood
  • wipe down the inside shelves and veggie drawers of your refrigerator with disinfectant
  • empty your trashcans and take out the trash
  • put a load of laundry in the washer or dryer
  • fold some clean clothes
  • hang up your clean laundry
  • make your bed
  • change the sheets
  • vacuum, sweep, or mop in one room
  • dust one room (or if you have big rooms with lots of nick-nacks, just one shelf)
  • wash the windows in one room
  • go around the house with a lint roller or brush and clean pet hair off the furniture

See how easy that was? Wink