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Chaff?

There are several “life lessons” in the Bible regarding chaff.  I’m not going to interpret the Bible — but I thought of an organizing tip using chaff as an illustration.  I decided I should make sure I was accurate so I looked up a definition of the word.  I found that chaff is the husks of wheat or other seed separated by winnowing or threshing – “separating twheathe chaff from the grain.”  A second definition includes words like “worthless things, trash, garbage, junk.”

So what does this have to do with getting organized?  Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could “winnow” our junk drawers by tossing the contents in the air and having the “chaff” blow away in the wind?  The fact is, it may be almost that easy in some areas of our homes.  We just need to be mindful of the chaff in our lives and let it “blow away” as we come upon it.

If we put on “chaff radar” as we go about our daily lives, we can notice things we do not use and simply toss them in a “give away bag”. For example, when you reach for your favorite spatula and you have to dig around several gadgets you never use — just take 10 seconds to toss them in the donate bag.  It doesn’t require a Saturday afternoon of “cleaning out the kitchen” to remove a layer of items you no longer need or use.  As you reach for your favorite pair of jeans and notice three shirts you never wear — take a second to toss them in the donate sack.  When the sack fills, make sure it goes to your favorite place to make donations. (Make sure the donation sack is not too large!)

A few seconds here, a few seconds there, and you will begin to thin out your clutter and be able to function in your spaces.  When and if the time comes to do some “serious sorting and rearranging” you will be ahead of the game by having quickly eliminated the layer of items you could part with easily.

START NOW!

Today I found myself spinning in circles and feeling very unproductive.  I have so many things that I should do, need to do, and WANT to do — but was feeling I wasn’t REALLY completing anything.  I was getting overwhelmed and frustrated by things I felt I should have tackled days earlier. And then these words came to me…”START NOW, LOOK FORWARD.”  Nothing gets accomplished by facing backwards!

So, I made a very quick list of things I need to do to make forward progress. I followed my own advice and SET MY TIMER FOR 15 MINUTES – so I could focus on one task at a time!  True confessions here — my first 15 minutes were spent emptying the sink into the dishwasher, making the bed, folding and putting away the clothes in the dryer, relocating the “stray items” from where they were “hanging out”, to where they belonged.

So, now I have “Captain Clean Up” off my list!  Writing this post is #2 on my list!  And I still have 3 minutes left to edit and post! Is my house 100% spic and span clean? No — but it is tidy and I would not be embarrassed for anyone to drop over. I’m feeling better already — and there is a lot of day remaining for me to MOVE FORWARD!  On to #3!

The morale of the story is we make ourselves feel terrible when we look back and focus on what we have NOT accomplished.  Rather, make a list, set the timer, and enjoy knocking things off the list (however small). Celebrate each accomplishment, one step at a time!

START

 

START NOW!

LOOK FORWARD!

SYSTEM

It has been a long road for our family in recent months! Our routines have shifted to revolve around our one year old granddaughter  who has experienced illness, tests, surgeries and all that entails.  Thankfully, they have FINALLY discovered the root cause, it is not life threatening and she is on the mend!

When life throws you a curveball, does everything go out the window, or do you have systems in place to keep things moving forward?  Obviously, I don’t have a system in place for writing, as posting a blog didn’t happen! It was interesting to observe how all of us maintained daily aspects of living and working through this disruption in our lives. Life went on, and goals were achieved, because systems were already in place to allow routines to continue without our undivided attention.

A busicheck-mark-yes-check-clipart-free-clip-art-imagesness mentor recently addressed the word SYSTEM as a way to “Save Yourself Time Energy & Money!” Whether it is as mundane as how to manage getting dressed and ready to go in the morning, to as complicated as managing business records, it is true that developing a system, or a routine pattern to follow, is the key to efficiency.

Have you developed routines that have helped you simplify your life?  What systems are you following that are saving yourself time, energy and money?  

 

Seven Layer Dip?

No, this is not another version of how you can creatively layer all of your Thanksgiving leftovers and come up with aRECIPE BOX new recipe to post on Facebook! Just think of the array of dips, salads and desserts that call for carefully layering one ingredient upon another.  Why?  I’ll tell you!  The other day I was helping a mom “dig out” from all of the toys that had taken over their home.  She stood up during the sorting of all of the many tiny toy pieces and lamented, “How did we get here?  How did it come to this?” We took a look around and noticed a pattern and some themes and began to recognize there were many layers in this toy concoction devouring the family of any area for calm living. Each “layer” represented a birthday, a Christmas, and many other celebrations that had been added year after year until they overwhelmed the space. We do this this with more than toys! How many layers and themes can you recognize in your closet? How many seasons can you see in your crafting supplies? How many “latest gadgets” can be found layered in your kitchen or garage? Clutter happens when stuff accumulates — and the seasons and fads and gadgets make many layered piles around our homes. We just closed out another year of counting our blessings and giving thanks — but right around the corner is the potential for another layer to pile on as we give and receive during the Christmas season.  Set aside a few minutes each day to clear the area and let go of those things we simply haven’t taken the time to identify as items we no longer love, use or need. It doesn’t have to be a big project to completely organize the space. Simply pluck out the things that are easily identifiable as the “first layer” that can be removed.

Organizing Family Memories

I recently spent an evening in a frame shop known for it’s custom shadow boxes. These are high quality, custom designed presentations to memorialize family history with amazing collections of photographs and objects that tell a story.  They asked me to speak to their guests about how to organize their collections of family items that may or may not be stashed in multiple places in their homes.  In a nutshell, this is what came from our discussion:

  1. If it is worth keeping, it is worth treasuring.  There is nothing more heartbreaking that discovering a soggy cardboard box full of family memories in a hot and musty garage!
  2. If it is worth treasuring, it is worth displaying.  Invest some time and money in selecting pieces from your treasures that can be displayed in a way that honors your family story. (In Houston, we are fortunate that Bradley’s Art and Frame delights in helping you make your selections and create the shadow box.)

The problem with most of us is we have collected things over the years that have ended up in boxes and drawers all over the house. They have become one of those nagging things on our list of things we plan to do “one of these days” — for years!

It has been Clip art photographsmy experience that people start organizing their photos again and again, but they stop because they find the process overwhelming.  I have lived this!  I finally realized that I was complicating things by trying to be too detailed and too chronological in my sorting.  The solution for me was to think in much broader categories.  This allowed me to be able to do a “quick sort”.

Everyone will have labels for categories that make sense to them — but I set up a box for each of my daughters and filled them with photos where they were the main character in the photo.  I also set up a box for “sister shots” and filled it with all of our group photos of them.  I had another box of photos that included all of the family together and one box for just my husband and I as a couple.  I set up two more boxes that included extended family — one for my side of the family and one for my husband’s side.  

If you never do anything else, at least now your photographs are sorted into large categories.  Some families have other special ways they like to further subcategorize, like “vacations” or “birthdays” or “Christmases” — but I still recommend doing the first layer as a “quick sort” with broad categories. Having fewer categories makes it possible to think less and sort quickly.  This way you have “organized” boxes to pull from if you choose to create a subcategory.

Once you have your photos sorted, it is a good idea to store them in boxes designed to help preserve them.  www.creativememories.com/user/Ellen is a great resource.  Ellen Brown can also help you take memories that are stored in old formats (videotape, movie reels, slides, negatives, prints, scrapbooks, photo albums) and digitize them. https://ellenbrown.legacyrepublic.com.

LOST and FOUND in the JUNK DRAWER

Go ahead – dump the contents of your junk drawer on the counter!  How many items will you grab and exclaim “I have been looking all over for that!”  I promise it happens almost every time we empty those spaces that have filled with clutter.

LOST and FOUNDNow you can pick through and toss all of the things that have resurfaced as obvious trash – all those things that just got shoved away to be dealt with later that no longer have meaning.

Next, sort and see if you discover items that are similar that can be grouped together as a category.  Pens, coins, erasers, receipts, paper clips, keys, cards, cords – the sky’s the limit. What are you discovering?  Some things belong elsewhere and can be put away – but other items legitimately belong in the drawer – they just need to be stored in groups – so they can be found when needed.

Our junk drawer recently got an overhaul and I put pens and pencils in the cardboard box that Velveeta comes in!  Our mail box key went in a little bowl in the front corner so it could be found easily.  Chargers went in a basket and another small container was perfect for our eyeglass cleaning supplies.

There were a few more items, but the point is that instead of being a JUNK drawer it is now a STUFF drawer.  Instead of those items begin crammed inside the drawer in an unidentifiable mass, they are contained in categories.  Now items are easy to put away and easy to find when needed.

Go ahead – dump the contents of your junk drawer on the counter!  What did you find?

My New “BFF”

I read as much as I possibly can about organizing tips from social media posts to books. A lot has been written about my new “BFF” (Best Friend Forever) and I thought I would introduce you to her BFFbecause each and every one of us has this “BFF”. Allow me to introduce you to “MY FUTURE SELF”. My days go better when I try to protect and care for “MY FUTURE SELF”. The other night I came home later than usual from a day that was full of meetings and organizing. I was ready to call it a day and I didn’t even consider my MY FUTURE SELF when I went to bed with dinner dishes in the sink. The next morning MY FUTURE SELF was not pleased to see the dirty dishes as I was rushing to leave for another busy day. I was about to pass by the sink to the back door when I took a moment to consider how MY FUTURE SELF would feel at the end of the day. Would she prefer to come home to day old dishes or to an empty sink as she began to prepare for dinner? I looked at the clock and it took less than 5 minutes to stuff the dishwasher and rinse the sink. Later that day MY FUTURE SELF thanked me because my return to the kitchen was definitely a more pleasant experience. The lesson here is we all have choices throughout the day that take just a minute — dump the mail or sort it quickly – clothes on the floor or take a second to hang them up — dishes in the sink or in the dishwasher — leave the laundry in the basket or put it away — you know your own list.  If we take a moment to consider our BFF, MY FUTURE SELF, it may be just the trick to motivate us to take that extra step that will prevent clutter from piling up. Try it! Be kind to your BFF and discover how much easier it is to take an extra second than it is to clean up the accumulation of postponed tasks!

Family Planning

Many times physical clutter gets out of control because we are overstuffed with “mind clutter.”  Trying to keep up with all the details of life can be like trying to catch a snowball as it rolls downhill and continues to grow larger – just out of our grasp. Taking time to plan feels impossible when every moment seems too full to stop.  Many times things get scattered and clean up routines fall by the wayside as we rush to move from one thing to the next. The truth is, investing in moments to plan and prepare makes it possible to command each day with confidence.

Establishspiral-notebook a weekly routine to map out the week ahead.  Write down the commitments for each day.  Include other members in your household and post everything on a master calendar.  Determine when and what you will have for meals and even when you will take time to prepare them. (Sometimes it is wise to cook more than one meal at a time “while you are at it” to have things ready for a busy evening with no time to cook.)  As you plan the weekly schedule and menu, make a shopping list of things you will need to purchase.  This planning may also produce a to do list, like having certain items ready for a meeting or project. Post the schedule and the menu.  Tear off the shopping list and take it with you on your planned  shopping trip. (Note: planning will lessen the number of trips to the store — saving valuable time, energy and gas.)  Schedule your to do list into your calendar so those items can be tackled at the most convenient times. (No more last minute panic.)

Establish a daily routine to spend 5 minutes at the beginning of the day to refresh your memory about the tasks planned for that day.  Invest in another 5 minutes at the end of each day to review your accomplishments and see if anything needs to be pushed forward to another day.  No plan is ever executed perfectly and it is rare to accomplish everything on our list 100%.  Making adjustments to a plan is a way to move with confidence.  It is an entirely different emotion than running scattered chasing after last minute details, stressed out and in fear that something is forgotten somewhere.

You will find the format that works best for you to see all of the week at one glance.  Most people make columns with the days of the week along the side and column headings across the top with titles such as “Activities”, “Meals” and “Shopping”.  Everyone will find different column headings that are important things to note in order to be leading the week’s activities with plan.   One example can be found here: CALENDAR PLANNING SHEET — WEEKLY.

Some have told me they spend Saturdays gearing up and preparing for the coming week so they can truly relax and refresh on Sundays.  Others enjoy Sunday afternoons to “regroup and reorganize” — so they plan their week and shop for grocery items on Sunday afternoon.  Some plan one day and implement on another day.  I would love to hear what works best for you.  I would especially like to hear from those who turn over a new leaf and begin “family planning” for the first time.  How has it changed the way you move through the week?

February “Restart”

RESET IMAGE

Did February catch you off guard?  Are you ready to throw in the towel because you have not checked “get organized” off of your list of New Years resolutions?  Avoid the all or nothing mentality — just because you may not have accomplished as much as you had hoped — don’t let that keep you from achieving your goals.

It may be time to push the “restart button” and take another look at your plans to prepare to make forward progress.

Walk through your home with a notepad to take some notes and for each room ask yourself:

  1. What is my vision for this room?
  2. What is the purpose or function of this room?
  3. In a perfect world, this room would ____________________________. (fill in the blank)

Once you have determined a vision and purpose for each room, you will more easily identify the things that don’t belong in that space.  You may then begin the process of getting organized by removing those items that are “cluttering” up your spaces.

Focus on one small area and keep making 15 minutes worth of progress at a time to keep from being overwhelmed by the whole project.

Each day is a new opportunity to push the restart button and set the timer for 15 minutes!  GO!

January is Get Organized Month!

go month white with napo landscape

For those of you who live in the Houston, TX area, I wanted to let you know about a special event that is being put on by the Houston Chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers.

January is officially “Get Organized Month!” To celebrate GO Month, IKEA Houston is partnering with NAPO, the National Association of Professional Organizers and Houston-area vendors to host free organization workshops and offer donation drop-off locations to help you clear the clutter.

WHEN: Saturday, January 24 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
WHERE: IKEA Houston (I-10 and Antoine)
WHAT: Enjoy complimentary workshops offering organizing tips and win fun prizes while you watch! NAPO’s professional organizers and an IKEA Houston visual merchandiser and blogger will lead interactive demonstrations about creatively reducing clutter and utilizing storage spaces to the fullest.

• 1:00 p.m.: “Organizing 101: How to Get Started” with Laurie Mattingly
• 2:00 p.m.: “Junk Drawer Diaries” with Liana George
• 3:00 p.m.: “Growing to the Size of Your Bowl” with Judson Crowder
• 4:00 p.m.: IKEA Products Expert

Goodwill will be onsite to collect household goods, CompuCycle will accept electronics donations and Southern Shred will shred of up to 5 boxes of personal documents for free.