Wednesday, June 27

Success Stories for 6-27

Enjoy these two messages from group members. Look for the riddle in the first message and enjoy the before/after photos from Fiona's post. Karen

I am having so much fun cleaning up! I tell you everyone should have to downsize , clean up a place to sell it and clear out their house every few years. Even though I wasn't home most of last week yesterday I cleaned out a kitchen drawer that was totally stuffed with a little of everything under the sun. I can't tell you how many pens there were, pencils that never get used, rubber bands, used get the picture. And, true confessions, I even bought some organizing containers on Friday but they didn't fit and I didn't let that stop me. After throwing a lot of it away, I was determined that I could find containers in my house to put the items in and in a surprisingly little amount of searching I did. Now it has a container for pens; one for scotch tape, masking tape and correction tape; one for my egg timer, note paper, small calculator and a couple misc. items; and one for chip clips and clothes pins. The open space has scissors and in the back behind the containers are marking pens that I hardly ever need.

Then I cleared out something that had 949 items in it but it made no visible difference after I cleared it out. This is kind of like a riddle, huh? Can you guess what it was?? ...................... My email in-box. I am sooo bad about letting that accumulate. I have decided to get it down under 50 and not let it get over that.

Well, my last entry was quite awhile ago when I cleared off the "big" stuff on my desk. Only trouble was I never got around to clearing the accumulating "little" stuff. A quick analysis of "how did it get this way" yielded an easy answer--When anyone in the house "tidies up" it goes on my desk. The mail that was on the kitchen table. The invitation that needs an RSVP. The dry cleaner receipt for picking up the comforter. You get the picture.

To add to this difficulty, we are considering re-vamping our home office into a children's room. Additionally, we have a small home in general, so there are many things that simply don't have "homes". This will be quite a big task. I needed reinforcements. A friend came over to provide "an intervention". She spent 3 hours with me and if you would have asked me if we would have gotten the amount of work done in that time period, I would have said there was no way. In fact, we did so much work, it would have taken me days to do it. Probably more considering I didn't do it by myself.

Like Karen said, it is difficult to make some decisions. For example, my bridal bouquet, which I love, has not aged well. I followed all of the directions my florist told me to, and it just didn't work. It was falling apart and started to mold! Instead of looking at the bouquet and reminiscing, I would look at it and think, "what did I do wrong?" having been so disappointed. Having my friend, Pat here, helped me to decide, it REALLY was not looking well. I have many treasured photos of me holding that bouquet, and those photos elicit a much more positive (and healthy) response! This started me thinking about other things that I was holding on to that didn't have mold that was visible, but that it was almost a symbolic mold. Something that didn't truly represent what it did some time ago. I threw the bouquet away and I have had no regrets, and I am not sure I would have been able to do that without my friend spurring me on!

I think the small bites philosophy is good and works in most cases. I needed a bigger push though to jump start the process. If you feel like you might need some help from a friend, here are some things to consider:

Establish clear goals up front discuss any philosophy differences. For example, do you want to work horizontally or vertically? Do you want to start with an area that is out of sight or within sight? Active listening is important. My friend started out by listening. I went through the whole house, explaining where I felt I needed more space and she simply listened. No suggestions - those would come later. Confidentiality. Especially in a home office, you are bound to come across things that are, well, considered personal. Neither of us would have been comfortable purging my tax file together! So things that were either too personal or too time consuming were set aside as a homework activity for me to accomplish later.
My friend went through things in the office that could be easily sorted and didn't require much decision making. Paperclips went with paper clips, post-its with notepads, etc. When she came across things that she felt might be potential tossables, she would ask me about them. For instance, the dried-out rubber bands I hadn't used in so long. This also enabled me to do my own separate sorting while she was doing this, so we got twice as much done. Karen asked me what was the most helpful way that my friend helped me. After considering this for a moment, it was just the fact that she was there. It made the time go quicker and she is a master of the raised eyebrow method! For instance, since I work in the schools, I end up receiving a lot of freebie tote bags. She pulled out 9 bags from the closet --all empty and taking up lots of space in a pile in the closet. She said, "Wow, these are a lot of bags!" I said, "Well, I don't think I could get rid of ALL of them." and she said, "No, you might not want to get rid of ALL of them." And then we got started. First we started with discarding the ones without zippers. Then closer inspection revealed that a few of the bags were not "pocket worthy". We got rid of ALL the freebie bags and only kept 2 bags which were high quality totes. These went inside one another and took up much less space.

The most important consideration--document short term and long term goals while your friend is still there to support you! I still have lots more work to do, but I have a clear action plan, which makes me feel like I can actually take action!

Happy Decluttering! Fiona

Friday, June 15

Ideas--Thrifty Ways to Keep Your Stuff in Place

Ideas—Thrifty Ways to Keep Your Stuff in Place

In our last message we discussed the importance of decluttering prior to purchasing containers and other tools for storage. A wise lady, Marla Cilley, says, “You can’t organize clutter!”—and she’s so right.

After you’ve pared down the items in a particular area of your home, perhaps your kitchen or bathroom, you might have some ideas for arranging the things you use quite frequently. For example, I use my skin care products twice a day, and my make-up once daily. The tools I use for styling my hair are only brought out every other day. It doesn’t make sense to clump it all together, since the routine isn’t the same in the AM and PM, or from day to day. Stuffing the whole mess under the sink only makes retrieval more confusing, especially in the morning when I’m usually in a hurry.

One solution is to “zone” the items for each job. My hair dryer, flat iron, big mirror and styling brush go in a free bag (PINK!) I got from a favorite store. That remains perched on top of the toilet tank. The skin care products go in a cloth tote bag, kept under the sink. Since the tote bag has a small diameter I had to eliminate some items which were not frequently used; now I find that I don’t really use them at all, so they’re gone. If you’ve ever lived in a dorm or gone to camp this is probably very familiar to you; it’s a classier version of using a bucket to carry your shampoo, soap and other supplies to/from the communal bathroom.

Make-up is kept in a shallow, rectangular zippered bag. The shape of the bag and its light interior makes it easy to locate some of the smaller tubes and brushes. Several items were deleted from this kit over time, since I didn’t use them at all. This involved a bit of remorse, since my sister-in-law gives me oodles of samples from high-end cosmetic companies. I use the expensive face creams and potions on my hands and try to give the cosmetics away before I even break the seals, since my skin is a little choosy. Vitamins, in a Sunday-Saturday pill container, are kept in this, too. This small kit is kept under the sink, as well.

In the mornings I pull out the tote bag and make-up kit and take things out as I need them. If it’s a “hair day” the toilet topper comes over to the counter as well. Although it takes me forever to get ready in the morning, it only takes me 30 SECONDS to put everything back where it belongs (I’ve timed myself recently)! A huge reason that this system works for me is that every item is in a familiar place, each time it’s used. If you’ve ever cooked in someone else’s kitchen, you’ll recall how much longer it took you to prepare a familiar dish. When the supplies are not where you expect them to be, it takes longer. Add up all those little seconds of searching for what you need and the job drags on and on.

Select one area where you perform a routine, daily task. The kitchen and bathrooms are good targets. Think about what you use on a regular basis and pare down the items. Then, locate a bag or container that you already have around the house and use it to store the items between uses. Limit this to just one area and see how it works—once you become used to the system does it save you time and frustration? Refine your system if needed and use what you learn to tackle another spot in your home or office.

If you’re not able to find a suitable container around the house then take a half gallon size orange juice jug or milk jug and cut a large opening in it (see photo for example). Keep the handle attached so it’s easy to carry. You’ll find that this works well for keeping short or tall items and will help you determine whether or not the size is adequate for your needs. I keep clippers and attachments in one of these cheap storage containers and have no plans of “upgrading” it, since it’s stored under the bathroom sink and hardly ever sees the light of day.

If you want a shorter container, cut off the top of the plastic jug so that you’re left with a 3” high bowl. These make great containers for hair clips & kids’ crayons.

Write and let me know what area of your home you decide to streamline for speeding up daily tasks.

Friday, June 8

Before you head out to the store--Declutter

Necessary Things—Before you head to the store for more storage bins, declutter.

We’ll save our last installment of “Analyze This” for a later post. Let’s choose a small area that needs decluttering in our homes or work spaces.
The goal of this mini task is to see how crucial it is to declutter prior to heading out to the store for organizing supplies and containers.

I’ve included two pictures of notorious areas in my kitchen—the “whatever” shelves above my small coffeepot counter, near the back door, and my pots & pans shelves. I can tell you where everything is in these two areas, but they look awful and have looked like this for many, many years. It’s much easier for me to streamline an office or my bathroom but, for some reason, I always put off tidying up these two spots.

Think of a spot like this in your home or office. Walk over and open up the cabinet door, desk drawer or maybe the pantry door and give it a good look-over. Now, think about what nifty organizing containers, bins, office supplies you’ve seen that would really work great to streamline this one space. Write down your ideas and tuck the note in your pocket.

Let’s get to work on the one spot—for me that would mean taking out the pots and pans from the two shelves and putting them on the floor or countertop. No, no, no—I’m NOT going to get out the copper cleaner and shine the bottoms of those Revere ware pans, that’s for another session in the way distant future. Next, I’ll throw away the torn up, flimsy shelf paper and wipe down the shelves with a damp rag.

While I’m waiting for the shelves to dry I’ll retrieve the wallpaper I bought at Goodwill over 3 years ago to use for this very purpose. I’ll cut out the paper to generally fit the shelves and I won’t do what I have done before; that is, cut out every notch to exactly match the interior dimensions of the cabinet. Flashback: When I used to help my mom do this, we always nailed thumbtacks to the shelf edges through the thin shelf paper, to make sure the paper didn’t “creep” over time. These days I use heavy paper, or discount Contact paper with the backing left on it.

Now comes the thinking part. I sure do use the three sizes of my Revere frying pans, so I’ll put them on the lower shelf where they’re easy to pull out. The pressure cooker is a great size for pasta, but I don’t use it often, so it goes on the higher shelf that I have to twist a bit to reach. Boy, those Teflon-coated fry pans have seen better days and why do I need three of the same size? Take off the handle and the worst one will make a great dog-food bowl (remember, I live in the country)!

Putting rubber bands around the foil and plastic wrap cartons keeps the stuff from unraveling, plus it prevents me from slicing my fingers on the serrated cutting edges. Why did I keep this odd size of parchment paper—was I planning to use it for a 4” x 5” cookie sheet??? What should I do with the bag of coffee beans; we don’t have a grinder or other machine that would work. I’ve tried giving them away but my friends don’t have grinders either. Well, they’ll make great compost for my perennials.

When everything is back in place I’m wondering, what did I leave out? There’s extra room now on the shelves. Plus, in a few minutes I’ll have happier perennials and the dogs will be overjoyed to eat tonight from a clean bowl.

Let me retrieve my “What I need to buy to organize my shelves list.” Hmmm…rack to place inside cabinet door to hold lids, risers to create extra room, door pocket to hold foil and other wraps. What was I thinking? By decluttering first I saved myself time, gas money, and extras on my VISA bill.

Try this task in a small area of your home or work space and see what you learn from it. If, after you declutter, you decide that you need some extra tools for organizing, then you can go out and buy them to use right away. Your job will be finished. It’ll be like adding frosting to homemade banana muffins; the muffins are delicious without it, but sometimes the frosting makes them better.

Let us know what small area you decided to tackle, and your insights along the way.

Wednesday, May 30

Analyze This! Part Two

Let’s continue with our non-professional analysis—How Did It Get This Way?

The first message about Analyze—How Did It Get This Way?—reviewed how our busy lives, with resulting overcommitments, can get us into deep trouble. Lots of our group members had some “Aha” moments when pondering that idea.

Some other factors affecting our cluttered lives and lifespaces revolve around : 1) how much stuff we have, 2) how easily we become distracted and 3) the amount of energy we can exert until we run out of steam.

Let’s quickly review the first factor. Most of us would generally agree that we have too much stuff—too many knickknacks to dust, too many papers we hesitate to discard, too many clothes clogging up our closets and dresser drawers. I’ve been reading a great book (thanks to Charlotte Shirey for the recommendation) about why people are chronically disorganized and this thought really hit home—each time we choose to put something away, give it away, or trash it we have to make a decision. Duh, of course it’s a decision. However, sometimes we aren’t ready to make the decision so we avoid it for another day in the future. Here’s an example:

I have some shoes that don’t fit, although I’ve sure tried to make them fit. Worn them with insoles, with heel pads, with thicker/thinner socks…they just don’t fit. They’re brand new, should I give them to Goodwill? Oh, come on, they’re too nice for that. How about a friend? Kathy at my old office has fussy feet like me, maybe she could wear them. I remember talking to her several times about how hard it was to find shoes that didn’t hurt. Oh, that won’t work, we both retired and I never see her anymore. Well, how about Cathy back home? She likes low heels and we can often wear the same shoes. Oh, that’s right, I won’t see her for a couple of months. Should I mail the shoes to her?

You can see how a pair of new, black shoes might sit on my bedroom floor so long that I’ve had to dust them at least three times.

I think we can only handle so many decisions in a day. Be kind to yourself, limit your decluttering and organizing sessions to short periods of time.

Next post—the tyranny of distractions and energy depletion.

Be sure to write Karen and Georgia and let us know how you’re doing in your organization quest.

Save the date—Tuesday evening, July 10th, at Kim Newlen’s home. Georgia and Karen will pamper you with homemade desserts and demonstrate some ideas for organizing. Leslie Kuhfuss will share ideas for organizing memorabilia, including photos. The evening will be open to friends, so invite them early!

Wednesday, May 23

Great Responses about the Analyzing Message

Here are some wonderful responses from our members regarding the "Analyzing" message. Karen

I think I suffer from a little bit of all of these at one time or another. Right now it's most of them at once. Frankly, I've found that too much clutter is burdensome and draining. It takes energy (both physical and emotional) to maintain all this stuff. You are right when you say we'll have more peace of mind when we get organized. I've been hit by several whammies as my daughter moved back home with all her gear from college and I've brought home a bunch of "treasures" from my mother as she is downsizing into a one level condo. It looks like The Junk Army needs to come for a pick-up!. I was surprisingly cheered, however, as I cleaned out my mom's home to put it on the market. It looked gorgeous as we painted walls and reduced clutter but then it got past that point and I realized that some things "make a house a home." Mom's agent had her do so much decluttering that it really doesn't seem like "Mom's place" anymore - it's now a showplace. You certainly wouldn't say that about my home but I guess the goal would be to make it functional and "me". And I'm chipping away at the "junk army" pile. The wine rack I brought back doesn't fit in where I had hoped so it will either get to live in the shed for a while or I'll be asking you guys if you want one. AND even better our son just found an apartment so there will be a whole new room and closet for storage. Do you think a wine rack would look good in a bedroom? Maybe I can make people think it's a shoe rack or beanie baby holder.

I think I consistently prioritize other things above cleaning my messy areas, mostly because it seems they'll just get that way again tomorrow (i.e. dining room table and bedroom) or it'll take too long to even make a dent. I think I have convinced myself I just don't have anywhere else to put the mail, etc. except on the table. Maybe I could start putting mail in the desk in the other room but then I'd have to deal with that clutter to make room for the mail.... I can feel barriers of hopelessness and an 'overwhelmed' feeling keeping me from really making the change. Although, I do get inspired reading the emails, and I'm certainly thinking about it more...

I probably analyze my clutter every day in a quick way. Thank you so much for spurring me on in this area. God's Word has been the biggest encourager to me in this whole area of organizing and having time to spend on things that count for eternity which is people. These few verses are out of context but they always help me. There's a time to keep, a time to throw away in Ecclesiastes. Forget what lies behind. Do not store up treasures on earth where moths and rust consume. Throw off everything that hinders! That's my favorite.

I think you forgot an important reason for messiness: Things you cannot control. i.e. Husbands, children or DOGS. Sometimes you have to set your "standards" a bit lower even though it maybe temporary (18-20 years!)Did you ever wonder why clutter reflects the "messiest" person in the family? Sometimes you just have to be happy with--good enough.Did you ever wonder why when you get one "hot spot" cleaned up---for me the baker's rack--another one just seems to pop up somewhere else. Is it like a girdle? On a serious note, my baker's rack looks much better. At the townwide garage sale I picked up some tins and replaced the cookie tin and the dog food tin with new (not advertising Danish cookies or left over Christmas popcorn tin with dancing Christmas bears on it) color coordinated tins. I moved some of my most used cookbooks and my ceramic chickens over there. Now I wish I took a before picture so that I could send an after picture. Keep up the good work K & Ga and keep us posted!

I've spent some time during the past two days purging my childrens'school papers. I had kept files from the older children hoping that theyounger ones would find them useful. In reality, each child creates andstudies from his own notes. This has freed up a couple shelves. Myoffice is still a mess, but I can get to the second layer a little easiernow. I hope my husband doesn't hurt himself carrying the box to the curbfor recycling this week!

Monday, May 21

Time To Do Some Analyzing

Analyze--How did it get this way?

Do you ever look around your home, your office, and wonder—how did it ever get this way?

There are numerous reasons for why our living spaces and working spaces get so crazy. We might have too much work to realistically get everything done. Perhaps we just collect or produce too much stuff to possibly take care of. For some of us, it’s pure distraction that sends us running from one attention grabber to another. Yet another reason might be that we get caught up in activities and then run out of energy, so we leave half-finished projects everywhere. We’ll analyze the first potential culprit in a minute.

We’re working on getting things in order so that we can be freed up to better serve God and others whenever an opportunity arises. A by-product of being better organized is that we’ll experience a little more peace of mind. When we feel like we’re spending more of our valuable time in activities that are meaningful then we’ll have the more satisfying feeling of using our time wisely.

Without getting into too much “psychology,” here’s a breakdown of one common reason why many of us become surrounded by clutter and unfinished tasks:

1. Our lives are too busy. When so many things in life are so interesting, how can we pare down our activities, belongings and papers to what we can truly manage?

Overcommitment is a time robber. Recently I realized that I couldn’t start up a volunteer commitment, although it was perfect for me. Even though it was only once every two weeks and it would put me in a part of town that would allow me to also take advantage of my yearly pass to the botanical garden, I couldn’t afford the preparation time, travel time and volunteer time. It was awful to call the program director and tell her I had overcommitted my time. I felt like an idiot. A week later I feel a little bit bad, but I also feel free.

Here’s an idea: write down all the things you need to do and like to do. My list had items such as a) spend 25 hours a week on work, b) garden, c) spend 2 hours a week on investment club research, d) clean one hour a day, e) attend/host small group Bible study most Thursday nights, f) meet for investment club the last Thursday each month, g) cook dinners (with leftovers!) on Tuesdays and Saturdays, h) walk on home treadmill 45 min., 4x a week…

Now, turn a different piece of paper sideways and write Sunday through Saturday across the top. Take each item you listed and fit them in on your weekly calendar. Do it loosely, and include an estimate the amount of time it takes you to travel to the activities away from home. Does everything fit?

This rough calendar might help you see where you have planned too much into too little space. If you have many, many interests and can’t bear to give them up, try “seasoning” them. Perhaps you like to garden and quilt. How about gardening from March to August and quilting the other months?

We’ll explore the other disorganization culprits in the next message.

Write and let Karen and Georgia know how you’re doing and send us your tips and victories!

Friday, May 11

Let's Get a Grip on Organization

Some short and sweet suggestions for mini habits we can follow to keep our stuff manageable.

1. When you come home for the day, hang your keys on a hook near the door you always use. Do it before you set anything else down.

2. Put your purse/pocketbook on the doorknob of the door you always use.

3. Take off your shoes when you enter the house and keep them near the door you always use. If you have little ones at home, give them a basket, basin or other container for corralling their shoes. You might save yourself some indoor cleanup by waiting until the mud dries on their shoes, then shaking the shoes outside to replenish the dirt in your garden. This would make a nice evening chore for children, too.

4. Empty your dishwasher ASAP so new, dirty dishes can vacate your nice, clean countertops.

5. Make your bed before you leave your bedroom in the morning. I bet you’ll do it in a hurry. (Thanks to Casserine for this tip)

6. If you need to take something with you when you leave home, set your keys on the item as a reminder.

7. Before you hit the pillow at night, review your plans for the next day:
Need gym clothes?
Need a healthy snack for your evening meeting after work?
How about taking a book to read between meetings or carpooling in the afternoon?
Yep, you can put most items with your car keys to remind yourself to take them along.

8. On Sunday night, or another night of the week, pull out your calendar and review your coming week. Maybe you need to plan for:
Special meals. How about doubling a recipe for a friend or your freezer?
Extra snacks you will want to bring along for yourself or your family when you have lots of after work or after school activities.
Cards to send this week (and postage).
Gifts to buy for upcoming events (and wrapping paper/ribbon).

Note: Some people plan their “week ahead” on Wednesday. They feel it gives them a real jump start on their week.

9. If you’re attacking a major mess in your home, spend 5-15 minutes a day on it rather than saving up an hour or two to devote to that spot during the week. It’s possible that you’ll really have 5 minutes a day and your mini successes will energize you to keep on keepin’ on.

Question for group members living around Richmond: At the end of our online group coaching series, would you be interested in having a one-time get together to “show and tell” some organizing systems we’ve found helpful—especially for paper organization and perhaps other areas? I think this would occur in late June. Let Karen and Georgia know what you are interested in.

Thursday, May 10

Closets, wardrobes and dining room tables

Neal arrived home from South Korea last Sunday--this is an old photo but I assure you he's still this handsome!

Think this message is pertinent to all of us:

Thanks for writing back--it definitely sounds like you have the situation where decluttering would clearly help. Based on your particular situation, I think I'd make the bedroom a priority, that is, a place where you spend 5-15 minutes a day for several days (or even a week) doing some serious streamlining of clothes and other items. If you have a definite separation between warm weather clothes and cool weather clothes, you might spend time this week on removing the cool weather clothes (only your clothes, not your husband's) from either your closet or wardrobe, making sure they're clean, and putting them in gallon size or larger zip-loc bags under your bed. Try real hard to only take out about 3-5 items at a time, so you avoid having too many "loose" clothes sitting around the bedroom should you get called away to another room. If you have lots of stuff already stored under your bed don't get sidetracked by sorting through those things; that's not a priority right now and you can tackle that stuff after your top priorities are addressed.

One hint when decluttering--whether it's clothes or other items, get the bags out of your house quickly. Put them in the back of your car or van and drop them off at Goodwill or another charity when you make your next run to the grocery store. For west enders, there's a charity related to the Massey Cancer Center just west of Patterson and Lauderdale near the newest Food Lion.

An idea for clutter on the dining room table. If you're working on bills, projects or if the kids are working at the table for schoolwork, use a method that many of us used in junior high/middle school if we took sewing or art class. Collect about 5 of the flat cardboard boxes, like the ones that pet food is displayed in at the grocery store or Wal-Mart. You may also use the top of a box that is used to store reams of copy paper. Use the open, shallow boxes like a portable desk surface, one box for each project or task. If you have to stop writing checks or sorting bills in order to clear the dining room table, put the papers in the box and set them on the floor or another surface outside of the dining room. The boxes stack well if you set them at angles to one another. When your meal is finished, you might want to move the boxes to the dining room chairs, tucked out of sight.

The beauty of using a wide, shallow box is that you can spread out your papers in a broad, bordered area and don't have to stack papers, getting confused about where you left off. If you end up benefiting from using this idea, keep an eye out for inexpensive cat litter pans or plastic bins of a similar size and shape. However, make sure the method works for you prior to spending any money. BTW--cat litter pans AND shallow boxes make great dirt trappers for muddy shoes at the back door. In our house, it’s a fight to contain the mud and manure in the laundry room and Phil’s “cowboy” bathroom.

Tuesday, May 1

Let's O-R-G-A-N-I-Z-E!

Today, Neal flew in to San Francisco and is driving down to Monterey. If it's a sunny day on Pacific Coast Hwy 1, he's enjoying this view to his right.
Enjoy Fiona's message from 4/30/2007:

Well, I decided my Big Bites were: The top of my desk, unloading the computer files on my almost deceased computer and the filing cabinet.

The desk is my first priority - the mess doesn't permit me to even get to the computer and the filing cabinet doesn't have the same "What do I do when I can't find______" panic. My plan was to "sweep" the desk for things that were: Big, not paper and items that obviously didn't belong. Even though this meant that I was touching pieces of paper multiple times (at first glance, not the most efficient) - I reaped more immediate rewards because items that took up lots of space went away first. This was good emotionally as well, since every time I went by my desk, I would be distracted by the odds and ends that didn't belong.

So, I finally moved the air freshener pack that I have been meaning to take out to my car, the clothes from a well meaning aunt to my toddler son that don't fit went into a good will bag into my car, the paint chips and samples from the hardware store to paint the shutters some day went to a more appropriate part of the house and the wild flower seeds we have been meaning to plant went out as well.

This still leaves me with quite a mess, but it has already made a difference, which will help me continue with the project. It only took me about 20 minutes, too, which was a nice way to ease into an overwhelming project.

Let’s Get Started on Our O-R-G-A-N-I-Z-E Steps

Keep in mind, we're not just organizing our lives so we can feel better about ourselves. We get things in order so we can be freed up to better serve God and others whenever an opportunity arises.

OVERVIEW: When you were asked to choose three areas to consider (“Determine three areas in your home or office that are driving you crazy and write them down”).was it easy or hard to choose? If it was easy to pick out three areas that bothered you the most, then you’re aware of what’s calling for help the loudest in your home or workspace.

If it was hard to pinpoint just three areas, you probably need a little guidance for getting started on the journey to organization. Here are some “diagnostic” questions to consider:

1. Have you recently misplaced your keys, or your purse, for more than ten minutes?

2. Have your little children, or pets, damaged any important papers or other valuable items in your home?

3. Do you put on make-up, or style your hair, while driving?

4. Have you found yourself buying groceries more than three times a week?

5. Is leaving the house on Sunday mornings a little busy, or downright rough?

6. When you finish one task, at home or at work, do you usually know what to do next?

7. If you had four friends with birthdays last month, did you visit the card shop four times, or only once? Follow up question—how many times did you go to the post office to buy stamps for those cards?

Let’s REVIEW our situations: What are your individual priorities for organization—what needs attention immediately? Here are some suggestions, depending on your life stage and living arrangements:

1. Safety is crucial. If you have young children at home, or often welcome young friends and family members into your home, you will want to structure at least the public part of your living space in such a way that little ones can play with independence and minimal “temptation.” For example, breakable family heirlooms will find their resting spot on the mantel and not your coffee table.

Hobby rooms with scissors, pins, rotary cutters as well as home offices with important papers and yummy paper clips can be blocked off. Pick up a couple of expandable baby gates at Goodwill and keep them handy in the guest closet. We want to enjoy our family and friends and focus on them, and this can take place much more easily if we have safe, interesting toys readily available for young ones, plus a child-safe space where we can easily supervise their play.

Another aspect of safety is quick access to health and financial information. Down the road you can organize your records by date, doctor and bank account, but today is the day to put together some key facts:

Health info:
Immunizations—adults, when was your last tetanus shot?
Current Medications
Contact numbers for doctors, pharmacies, health insurance company

Credit Card Companies:
Card number, 800#’s for reporting lost or stolen cards
Who has authorization to make changes on the card? One of my good friends lost her husband last summer, and she found out in a very unpleasant way that her automatic bill paying had stopped once the company learned of his death.

Bank Account Information:
Bank names, contact persons, account numbers
Safety deposit box—where is your key or access number?
Who has authorization to access your account(s)? Hint, it’s not always just the person whose name is printed on the checks.

2. Getting out of the house in the morning. How many times have you berated yourself for being late, or forgetting to take along something important when you left the house?

Some steps to start having better mornings:

Before bedtime, put your house keys, car keys, work access keys in your purse or briefcase.

Have your work papers in your tote bag or briefcase, along with your keys.

If there are children who leave home in the morning, pack their schoolbags or diaper bags before their bedtimes, and leave the bags near the door. If you pack their lunch the night before, put a photo of their lunch box or baby bottle on top of their bags, so they can pick up the photo in the morning and remind you of what they need from the refrig. You might want to make two, laminated photos!

If you’re nervous about your children, or pets, getting into those organized bags resting near the front door, figure out a high spot to hang a small shelf with pegs. If possible, make it within arm’s reach of your school-aged children, to encourage them to hang up their own bags.

Did you get gas in your car on the way home? Putting gas in the car always takes longer in the morning.

In a future message we’ll address tips for organizing your bathroom to equip you with a quick launch pad in the morning.

Big Bites and Little Bites:

Big Bite: Figure out how many house keys you currently have at home. Within the next week, go to a hardware store and have enough keys made to total 3-4 sets. Once you make sure all the keys really work in your lock(s), put your original set in a labeled file at home, or in a fire box, and a second set in a central place in your kitchen. If you feel comfortable doing this, hide one set outside your house or give it to a trusted neighbor—we do both.

Little Bite: Pull out your purse and write down the names, account numbers, 800 # and security codes (on the back of the card) for all of your credit/debit cards. Put this paper in the file which will eventually hold your original set of house keys—label it clearly so you can find it easily or direct someone else to locate it for you if you’re away from home.

Be sure to write Karen and let her know your tips and victories!

Sunday, April 29

Recent Victories from our Group Members

Online Coaching Feedback—Tips and Victories

4/30/07 from Megan:
I started with one corner of my living room--it had become cluttered with random stuff, including a stuffed 'Chick-fil-a' cow! I started with that one corner...and was inspired enough to keep going. I moved into my office...and became wary. I started with one corner there (the tax box corner). My desk is still a mess, but one corner is actually clean, so it's a start!

4/28/07 from Karen:

Today I planned to remove non-essential items belonging to me from our shared home office. Even before I started, my Broker announced that he would be willing to work on streamlining papers for a little while this evening. When he came back later to the home office, I had cleared out my items and he declared, "Well, it looks better already." My heart dropped for a second, thinking that there would be no more clean-up today. Thankfully, he sat down and started trashing non-essential papers. It ain't perfect, but it's a whole lot better now. The best part is--I didn't mention my plans to my Broker and he worked on it of his own accord. I've included some before and after photos.

4/26/07 from Catherine:

"I got the desk done, along with other stuff and I put everything that should be on the baker's rack, there ...I have decided that only dog food (???), gardening stuff and chicken decorations can be there... I think that I have developed adult-onset ADHD...I go from one thing to another, but somehow it still works for me."

4/26/07 from Leslie:

I have three areas that are really messy in my house right now. My bedroom, my hobby room, and my desk. Today I started with the desk.

I picked the top of a pull out surface on my desk to clear off. It was probably 12 inches high with paper. I have to say that I dealt with 90% of it and then got frustrated and shoved a few papers to another spot that will need cleaning up soon for me to get the desk area dealt with. I'm sure that's cheating but the spot that's clean looks beautiful and will really encourage me to get to the other areas .

Wednesday, April 25

Initial Message for On-line Group Coaching for Organization-April 25, 2007

If you’ve only got 60 seconds to read this: Scroll down to the last section, “Big Bites and Little Bites.” When you have more time, read the rest.

On-line coaching: For the next 4-6 weeks we’ll share an on-line journey into conquering a few key messy spots in our living spaces. This on-line group coaching will apply to any area you’d like to tame in your home or office. Coaching will be conducted via email and/or visits to Karen’s blogs (web logs), and you will also be free to share your tips and victories with the other members. At the end of our journey, one member of our group will receive an in-home coaching session with Karen & Georgia.

How it works: You'll receive Karen’s email “invitations” from Google and Yahoo to view Karen’s blogs, which you may choose to reply to. However, if you’d rather not view the blogs, or if it’s too much trouble to follow the registration steps in order to view the blogs, you will still continue to receive all of the content via regular emails from Karen and Georgia.

We're not just organizing our lives so we can feel better about ourselves. We get things in order so we can be freed up to better serve God and others whenever an opportunity arises. If you've made a meal in advance and it's waiting in your freezer, you’re less likely to be immobilized by overwhelming thoughts which might keep you from taking dinner to someone on the spur-of-the-moment. God doesn't want us to waste our lives. Instead, He wants us to use every minute to the fullest because each minute is a gift from Him. Working ahead allows you to meet future needs and love others in the name of Christ.

Philosophy: Most of us are messy in at least one living space. It might be the side pocket of our cars, one desk drawer at work or our whole house. Messy matters if it’s interfering with our lives, either by distracting us or by slowing us down. Alphabetizing our spices isn’t a priority if we mainly season with salt and pepper.

Some of us organize beyond the norm because it relaxes us and gives us that sweet feeling of control. When our friends or co-workers let us down we can always close the bathroom door and line up our nail polish bottles like the colors of the rainbow. However, our on-line group will concentrate on functional, not emotional, organizing.

What we’ll cover:

Overview—Is it a “little bad” or “really bad”?
Review—What’s calling for help the loudest?
Get a Grip—Mini habits you can follow to keep your stuff manageable.
Analyze—How did it get this way?
Necessary Things—Before you head to the store for more storage bins, declutter.
Ideas—Thrifty ways to keep your stuff in place.
Zoom—The 60 second test of organizing.
Express Yourself—Design your own Master File.

Big Bites and Little Bites: For today, choose a Big Bite or a Little Bite to begin conquering disorganization:

Big Bite: Determine three areas in your home or office that are driving you crazy and write them down.

For me they are: 1) kitchen counter with stacked papers, 2) laundry room which everyone walks through when they enter the house and 3) the home office which I share with my Broker.

Little Bite: Take 5-10 minutes max and choose ONE area and complete ONE task which declutters the area, then write Karen to tell the group what you did TODAY.

To help conquer my areas I might choose to do: 1) Kitchen—put my business papers in the files I’ve already created, 2) Laundry room—take the heavy coats off the laundry rod and put them in the closet (it is 80 degrees outside!) or 3) Home office: Take out the items which are not related to business (see photos) and put them on the kitchen table so I can decide where they belong (Keep in logical spot at home/Give away to a specific friend/Take to a charity).

Just a note: Choose areas YOU have control over; we’re about changing ourselves. However, if people are curious about your interest in organization, please invite them to join the group.

Tuesday, April 17

Monday, April 16

What do you need?

What do you need in your LifeSpace? Whether it's a lot or a little, join me in creating a personal LifeSpace that allows you to use your home or workplace as a tool for achieving what's truly important to you.