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!