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Archive for Life Organization

Dec
30

Turn Overwhelm into Order

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Love the Snow!

Is the snow beautiful, or what? Even though I know it can cause hassles, I still LOVE it! As I am writing this the sun is streaming through the window, the snow is glistening on the roof tops and the Olympic Mountains are spectacular. Ahhh…so nice!  

I hope you enjoyed Christmas and all the festivities. I don’t know about you, but in the days leading up to all the family gatherings, I had my share of overwhelming moments.  

When I am faced with overwhelm I need ORDER! Here’s how I have learned to go about getting it.  

Snap out of paralysis! When you are faced with a task or situation that seems insurmountable, don’t let it freeze you in your tracks. Make yourself move…the tiniest of baby steps are just fine….as long as they move you forward.  

Stop thinking about what you “can’t do”, and start thinking about what you “can do”. My high school health teacher, Mr. Moody, used to say…”garbage in – garbage out”. In other words, negative self talk leads to negative outcomes. And on the flip side, positive self talk will produce positive outcomes in your life.  

“The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.” Unknown  

Maybe you can’t get all of your holiday decorations put away in a day like you want to, but you can start taking the decorations off the tree. You can’t magically lose five pounds in a week, but you can go for a short walk right now.  

Don’t limit yourself. You are capable of great things. We all have gifts and talents that make us unique, but most of us are afraid to use them to their full potential. Go for it….try some of those things you’ve always wanted to do. Pray for some wisdom and courage and let God do the rest, He can do anything but fail. You just need to be willing to try.  

Deal with the things you can control. I am a school counselor and I hear things that break my heart sometimes. I do all that is within my power to help, and then I have to let go. The same goes for my family; the choices they make, and the unfortunate circumstances of others all impact my heart, but there are only so many tangible things you can do to help. And by the way, worrying is not a tangible way to help. It only makes you sick and wastes time.  

Count Your Blessings

Invest your time in the most important things in your life. It is easy to get lost in the daily grind and forget what is really important to you. Thinking back to my favorite memories of Christmas, I am reminded of the most important things in my life; enjoying conversation with my family at the dinner table, and reading a Charlie Brown Christmas to my son. Watching movies with my daughters; crying with one at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and dancing around the room like a crazy person with another after “Foot Loose”. Christmas shopping and dinner out with my husband, and spending time at my parent’s. Laying on my couch and listening to Silent Night on the radio.  

If you really want to turn your overwhelm into order, ask yourself…”What are the blessings in my life?” Write them down and go experience one right now.  

If you have a great tip for creating order in your life, I would love to hear about it. Please feel free to comment on my blog.  

Happy New Year!

Have you ever said something less than kind to a family member or co-worker and felt ”guilty”? – that’s emotional clutter.  Maybe you have been hurt by someone and you have been holding on to “resentment” – emotional clutter.  Maybe a friend just gave you the most hideous gift ever, but you keep it because you don’t want to hurt her feelings and it would be “embarrassing” to tell her the truth – emotional and physical clutter.  You know what I’m talking about.  We all have something.

I’ve had my share of emotional clutter and there have been years at a time that I have let it bog me down and keep me from enjoying my life to the fullest.  I don’t like feeling that way and I am guessing you don’t either.  I have learned a few things on my clutter releasing journey and I hope some of my experiences will inspire you to let go of the things and thoughts that are holding you back in your life.

Lesson #1:  Emotional and physical clutter go hand-in-hand. We hold on to some interesting things.  This summer I went through a big box of high school memorabilia. Of course everything in the box was neatly organized and the box was even labeled, “Daniele’s Memorabilia”, so why not keep it forever?  It wasn’t taking up much space and after all they are my precious memories - right??  Well, a few are and a lot went bye-bye.

Read these statements and tell me if they sound familiar.

It’s been in my family for years!” “I might want to look at it for old times’ sake.”

“I am saving it for my children/grandchildren.”

“It was a gift.”

“It may be worth something some day.”

“But they aren’t making it anymore.”

“My high school boyfriend gave me that.”

Whatever item is in question, if it isn’t being honored or enjoyed, then it is cluttering up your home and your head!  Look around you. Do you love everything you see, or does some of it just stress you out? If someone took it, would you even notice it was gone?

Lesson #2:  Everything is a choice – choose to let go! As I went through my box I kept asking myself, ”Why am I keeping this?” My kids won’t care about this stuff when I am gone, in fact some of it might even be embarrassing.  Now, a few years ago, I wasn’t ready to let go of those things.  I wanted to remember (hold on to) my youth.  But, I finally realized that the person I was then, is not the person I am now, and I am glad.  Don’t get me wrong – I had fun as a teenager and I wasn’t an awful person, but I was a kid, making kid decisions.  A lot of the memories made me smile, but some of them were painful and it was time to let them go.  So, I tossed the dried up roses, some photos (yes photos – you can throw them away), and lots of notes and cards that meant nothing to me anymore.  Bottom line:  If it is taking up space and isn’t enhancing your life, it is CLUTTER – let it go!

Lesson #3:  Make room for the good stuff. Getting rid of any kind of clutter takes work, but emotional clutter takes some serious commitment.  I believe that we let go in layers.  Organizing your life is a ongoing process.  It is not all done at once, and then magically stays that way. You need to learn to sort out the useful from the burdensome, and motivate yourself to maintain the simplicity you are creating.

Practice letting go and get used to that lighter feeling.  Once you feel it, and realize how nice it is to make room in your life for what really matters, you will be hooked.  Memories can be wonderful, but the item you are attached to is not the person or event. I know that sounds obvious, but it doesn’t always feel that way.

Lesson #4:  Be patient with yourself and keep moving forward. My grandma died a few years ago, and I have a few items of hers that I treasure.  I love them because they were hers, but they are also useful in my home.  The year before she died I was going over to her apartment often to help her organize.  During the process I noticed she needed a tool box, so I bought her one and on the top I wrote, “Granny’s Tool Box”.  She really loved the gesture and that made me happy. After she died I brought the box home and I tried to use it on several occasions, but it just didn’t hold my things very well.  It was a little too big for what I needed, and of course it said, “Granny’s Tool Box” which I thought my clients might find a bit odd.

Well, it sat in my garage for a good two years and every time I looked at it I thought, “I really need to give that away”, but for some reason I wouldn’t let myself.  I felt guilty and sad (emotional clutter).  Then one day I had an older client (a grandma) who really needed a tool box, so I gave it to her.  It was that easy.  Someone had a need and it was no longer useful to me…I could finally let go.

Some of you may be thinking…come on it’s just a tool box!  Move on!  I get that, but having to go through it myself helps me understand why my clients have a hard time letting go of the box of drift wood from the beach, their grandma’s old sewing machine, the clothes of a loved one that has passed away……

I challenge you to open that box and see what you can let go of today.  Start small and then move on to the deeper attachments.  Give yourself permission to release your own emotional clutter. It is truly life changing!!

Sep
04

Are You Overwhelmed?

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Is your To-Do list too long?
 
Do you find it hard to say, “no”?
 
What or who is draining your energy?
 
Here are some synonyms for “overwhelmed”:  overcome, engulfed, flooded, inundated, overpowered, swamped, frantic, shut-down.
 
How do you know when you are overwhelmed? 
 
I know for me it is when I can’t think clearly, forget things, have anxiety, get moody, and just feel stuck. If you get too overwhelmed you can become frozen in your tracks. You don’t know what to do or how to do it…so you do “nothing”.  If this happens often, you can begin to dig a hole you feel you can’t get out of.
 
I recently took a class that dealt with just this topic. The woman teaching it was, Meggin McIntosh (The Ph.D. of Productivity).  She talked about feeling overwhelmed, but also underwhelmed; feeling frustrated, disappointed, lethargic and unfocused. What she encouraged us to reach for, was “just whelmed”.  She described “whelmed” as productive, energized, challenged and “in the zone”. Ahhh…to feel just whelmed…I like it!
 
What leads to feeling overwhelmed? 
  • Too much to do in the time available.
  • Too many different tasks, projects, and commitments.
  • Too many different people who are asking & expecting from you.
Dr. McIntosh described the difference between external and internal sources that can affect overwhelm.  The external sources we have no control over, like the weather, boring staff meetings, and other people. The internal sources we have a lot of control over, such as deciding how much information to keep in our head, procrastination, perfectionism, and unrealistic estimates on our time, money and energy.
 
She stated that if you want to move to a place of whelm, you have to learn how to leverage people, technology and your own strengths.  Here are some examples.
 
People – Delegate (i.e. at home everyone helps, or hire a student to run errands)
Technology - Turn off your phone (i.e. actually turn it off so you can work uninterrupted and check your email only at specified times each day)
Strengths – Build your inner strength (i.e. set boundaries and priorities, you don’t have to say yes to everyone, family is more important than volunteering for everything) 
 
So how can you diminish overwhelm?
  1. Recognize it for what it is.
  2. Have routines and systems in place.
  3. Set a timer for certain tasks, activities, and responsibilities and stick to it! 
  4. Hire out what you can.
  5. Do only what only you can do (i.e. decisions no one else can make). 
  6. Develop policies (i.e. Never say yes immediately.  Set a limit for the number of committees, lunches, and events you will attend in a week).
  7. Know what drains you and minimize that.
  8. Do what gives you energy.
  9. Ask for help (trust others).
  10. Go simple rather than complex.
  11. Be clear on priorities.
  12. Design a productive work environment.
  13. Know what you are already committed to (i.e. what have you already said yes to?)
Remember that when you are overwhelmed everything feels like a priority.  So, find an accountability partner and ask them for their perspective.  Don’t forget to carve out time for yourself and reflect on where you are in your life and what is really important to you. Reevaluate what’s working and what isn’t, and make the necessary changes to reach your state of “whelm”!   
 
“Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time.  Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” 
~ M. Scott Peck 

  
If you are ready to create some “whelm” in your life, I can help.  Contact me for a free phone consultation and let’s talk about your needs.  Simplifying your daily routines and decluttering your surroundings is a great first step. 

Everyone needs a “Command Center”!  A holding station for all the important papers that come in and out of our life on a daily basis.

What do you do with your mail when it comes into the house?  Do you pile it on the kitchen counter or stuff it in a cupboard?  How about that permission slip that needs to be signed, or the birthday invitation?  We all have LOTS of paper.  It is one of the most frustrating and time consuming tasks we deal with.  If we ignore it for too long it consumes us, and we end up feeling stuck in a hole we can’t dig out of.

“So, what does a “Command Center” look like and how can I create one?”, you ask.  They are very simple to put together, and mine looks like this.

  • To create one for yourself you will need:  One desk top file box (small or large), 10 to 20 hanging file folders with tabs (depending on the size of your file box), and a tickler file.
  • After you purchase your supplies, take a look at the most recent pile on your desk or counter-top.  This will give you an idea of the most common paper you deal with.
  • Make a list.  Your list might include bills, coupons, upcoming events, items for each family member, things you want to read, projects that need to be done, committee information, etc.  The items on your list will become the headings on your file tabs.  If you forget something you can always add one later.

Now when the bills come in, you take them out of the envelopes (recycle all unnecessary paper) and put them in the “bills to be paid” file.  When it is time to pay them, the statements will be at your fingertips.  No more looking through stacks of paper.

Say you have signed your kids up for summer camp, and you have their confirmation letter and emergency medical paperwork to fill out.  You don’t want to lose those important papers, so you put them in the “upcoming events” file.

Are you the head of a committee or the PTA president?  Make a file for “PTA” or title one for your prospective committee to house current paperwork for that group.  

It is good for each member of the family to have a file, so they have a place to put papers that they want you to look at or that you need them to look at.  

Lastly, a “tickler file” can be an awesome tool for those of us with packed schedules.  We can not hold all the info. in our mind, we need a monthly/daily system that will tickle our brain on any given day and remind of us of what we need to take care of.  Here is one example:  It is June, and you get a wedding invitation for July 22nd.  Where do you put it?  Not the refrigerator!  Put it in the corresponding month in your tickler file.  When July is approaching, you take the items from the July file and put them in the daily slots.  Maybe you want to buy the gift on the 5th, put the invite with the registry info. in the 5th slot.  After you buy the gift put the invite in the 22nd slot, so you have the directions to the wedding ready to go.   

So, you get the picture….a place for every piece of paper and every piece of paper in its place.  No more piles and no more wasted hours looking for missing items.  I have set up many Command Centers for my clients, and they have greatly simplified their lives.  If you would like to set up your own “Command Center ” and still have questions, please email or call me and I will help you!!  Go to my contact button at the top of the page and send me a note.

May
31

Summer Organizing Is In the Bag!

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How would you like to end the school year and start the summer feeling organized? 

You can….it’s in the BAG!!

Don’t dread the big paper bag full of school stuff that is coming home.  Go through it with your child right away and make a special time out of it by talking about the year’s memories.  

  • First, throw away all the beat up supplies that you won’t use again. 
  • Next, quickly go through papers and toss the ones that are not important and keep the ones that are.  Papers that you plan to keep should be special (stories your child wrote, exceptional art work, special notes from your child’s teacher or friends).  
  • Store your child’s papers in a file folder and label it with the grade they just completed.  On the inside of the folder have your child print and sign their name, write their teacher’s name and who their special friends were during the year.  Have them jot down some of their favorite and least favorite activities and a goal for the following year. 
  • Pick out a nice plastic bin or a memorabilia box that can hold multiple folders and place the folder in the box.  Make this a tradition.  You will feel totally organized and your children will have their memories at their fingertips when they need them.  My kids love their memory boxes and they have come in very handy at graduation time when they are preparing for their senior presentations.

Create To-Go Bags.  Whether you will be heading off to the beach, going to the park, or taking a road trip; To-Go Bags are very handy.  Simply gather up some of those extra totes you have lying around the house and designate them for a specific purpose. 

  • To create a “Beach To-Go Bag” grab some sunscreen, extra beach towels, sand bucket and shovel, flip flops, extra sunglasses, a few water bottles and you are ready to go. 
  • For a road trip or those long errand days with the kids create a “Car To-Go Bag”.  Include colored pencils (crayons can melt in the car), color book, reading books, flash cards, snacks, action figures, Mad-Libs, and maybe an electronic game for really long car rides.  
  • If your kids are planning lots of summer camps or over-nighters, plan ahead and make up some “Toiletry To-Go Bags” with mini toothbrushes and paste, little shampoos and soaps you have kept from hotels, and other essentials.  When it comes time to pack it will be a breeze. 
  • “Emergency To-Go Bags” are always a good idea to keep in the car.  Include a flashlight, snacks with a long expiration, water, Tylenol, and a first-aid kit.  One of my clients recently made up a couple for her cars and put them in back packs.  A very good idea if you will need to leave your car and walk any distance.

Whether you are emptying or filling your bags, the trick is to think ahead on how you can be more effecient and organized.  Be CREATIVE and have a fun summer!

 

 
Recently I substituted for our kindergarten and first grade classes.  I love spending the day with these great little kids – they are so much fun.  When I get my sub plans I am always in awe of how much they accomplish in a day – they keep me hopping!  I am also amazed at how organized the teachers and their classrooms are. The kids know the daily routine and they don’t miss a beat.  So how do they do it?  What are the tricks of the trade?  Let’s take a look.
 
When I walk into the room the first thing I notice is that the room is divided into Zones: the Carpet Spot Zone, the Calendar Zone, the Reading Zone, the Arts & Crafts Zone, the Activity Center Zones, and more.   
 
The second thing I notice is that each zone is self-contained.  It is its own separate space and is designated for only one type of activity.  Children can completely focus on the task at hand without other distractions competing for his/her attention.
 
Third, all items needed for each activity are conveniently stored at their point of use.  For example, the art table has paper, scissors, markers, glue, and stamps.  Everything they need is within hands reach.
 
Fourth, everything in the classroom has a well defined and labeled home.  There is no question at clean-up time where items go. Lockers and cubbies are labeled with each child’s name, so there is never a question for anyone (including subs) as to where the papers, coats, and lunch pails go.
 
Lastly, time and task management is a breeze because there are visual cues all over the room to remind everyone of the day’s events (the planner).  Each morning begins by reading the schedule for the day (the to-do list).  They know if they will have a special guest or a field trip so they are not surprised by a change in routine.  The calendar displays the day, the date and even the weather forecast.  My favorite is the Velcro board with laminated photographs of each activity for the day.  They are placed in order of when they will take place.  This is great for very visual people like me.
 
This brilliant organizing model can be applied to any room in your home, or your office.  If you want your space to function for you, ask yourself these questions.
 
  • What do I want to do in this space?  Figure out your zones. If it is your kitchen, you need a cooking zone, dishwashing zone, food storage and prep zones, etc.
  •  What do I need to get rid of or add to clearly define my zones?  If you want your bedroom to be a relaxing retreat you need to get rid of the kid’s toys and maybe add a comfy reading chair. 
  •  What supplies, tools, items do I need to make the best use of my time and not be distracted from my tasks?  If you have a baking zone in your kitchen, you want your bowls, mixers, measuring cups, and baking pans all in one spot.  It wastes time to run around grabbing things from five different places. 
  •  How will I store all of my supplies for easy access and clean-up?  Everything needs a logical home.  Label marker bins, have stack-able trays for your paper.  If things have order, clean-up is a breeze.
  •  What visual cues do I need to help keep my space and family organized?  Labels are a great solution for shelves and cupboards.  They will help everyone know where to return bins when they are finished with them.  Try adding a family clean-up schedule in the kitchen.  Keep a family calendar in a common area. Visual reminders are always helpful.

Now give it a try!  If you get stuck email with questions at daniele@otttogetorganized.com 

 
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