Why your organized home isn’t like anyone else’s…
As no two snowflakes are alike, no two organized homes are the same. When working with clients, I’m often asked to replicate a system or solution modeled in someone else’s home or in a magazine or often, Pinterest. But like all unique snowflakes, every organizing challenge and therefore its solution needs to be unique. For “generic” organizing challenges, create a simple, easy-to-follow system. Lots of large toys to organize for your toddler? Consider low shelving with easy access and picture labels for pre-readers. Lots of Barbies or Legos and Matchbox cars? Bins, bins, and more bins to the rescue to containerize. Lots of little ones to get out to school in the morning? Create transitional space with low hooks to hang coats and backpacks to make mornings more manageable. To determine your best organizing solution, ask the question – what’s my greatest pain point?
What’s your pain point?
Your pain point is that challenge that’s most impeding your ability to get organized. From many years of working with clients, I’ve learned that it’s often not the obvious answer. Do you struggle to get yourself and your family out the door in the morning without a major meltdown? Break down a typical morning into time blocks to narrow down where the greatest challenges arise. Is it when everyone enters the kitchen? Do you have a designated breakfast space and routine? If not, plan one to eliminate that chaos. Does the bottleneck occur before everyone gets to a common space? Wardrobe or closet disorganization is a likely culprit. Can you “grab and go” to get out the door? Are backpacks, athletic bags and workbags in a designated spot and at the ready? Create dedicated transitional space to get everyone out the door quickly.
No two organized spaces are alike. Determine your pain points and address them. And don’t waste time and energy creating elaborate and complex systems. No one needs to be creative before 8 am and it is okay to have the same routine every day…
Why is this system no longer working for me?
One of the first messages I share with an organizing client is that organizing is an intuitive process. It is intuitive to you and your family (or company) and needs to work in the context of your life. From there, we can create systems and solutions that address those individual challenges. But what happens when “good systems” go “bad” and stop working? Even the best systems and solutions need to be adaptive to changing situations, both from a physical sense and a time perspective. Did the awesome filing system you created for your company fail to keep pace with your organization’s growth? The result may be that the filing is now disorganized. Did the great toy solutions you created in your playroom for your toddler fail to keep pace with your child’s more sophisticated electronics? So, how do I know if this system is no longer working for me?
Creating flexible systems…
As the old adage goes, “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”. If a system or solution stops working, don’t trash it, tweak it. High schoolers’ backpacks don’t fit in the little mudroom cubbies? Move hooks higher in a mudroom or transitional space to accommodate larger items and make the space more usable. Switch up baskets for bins which can hold bulkier items. Is your closet overflowing? Purge the unwanted and unneeded – we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time so there’s likely a lot of unworn stuff taking up valuable real estate. In a playroom, remove small toy bins and open shelving up to accommodate larger toys and electronics. Weed through your files and shred old, unnecessary documents that you can reproduce online. Buy bigger filing cabinets to comfortably hold your necessary files – and congratulate yourself on your company’s growth. Read more about creating an effective filing system here.
Setting up an organizing system is an intuitive process and should be both adaptive and flexible to growth and change. Our situations change so our organizing solutions and systems need to keep pace.
What is your biggest distraction? Is it the phone, email, social media, constant interruptions from others? Managing and minimizing distractions are key elements of time management and staying organized. Whether you are trying to focus on a project at work or complete a task at home, constant distractions slow us down significantly. Are you familiar with the term “activation energy”? Activation energy is the minimum amount of energy that must be available for a chemical reaction to occur. The principal is the same for the energy needed to get a project completed. To start a project, we need a certain amount of “energy” but once we get started, it is much easier to continue to completion. It’s the stopping and restarting continuously that slows our progress and expands our timeline. So how do I minimize distractions to keep my activation energy going?
“Do not disturb”
To keep focused on a project or task, you need to minimize your distractions by employing a “do not disturb” mentality. Set the timer on your phone for a reasonable length of time – 60 or 90 minutes. Then one by one, shut off or down those distractions. Turn the ringer off on your phone or set to “do not disturb” – don’t worry, the timer alarm will still go off. Minimize the taskbar which shows that a new email has come in. Place your phone upside down so you won’t see texts or notifications coming in. Are you concerned you might miss an “urgent” message? Set your phone to alarm after 20 or 30 minutes for a quick peek to be sure there is nothing that warrants your immediate attention. Are you in open office space and can’t close your door for a short period of time to work? Move into a conference room or put on earbuds to block out distractions.
You will be more productive and less stressed when you manage your time and distractions. Figure out what solutions work best for you to filter out your distractions and keep your activation energy going.
How did it get this way?
Quick, name the one space in your home that is REALLY disorganized and in need of some serious decluttering. Many clients say basement, playroom or closets and yes, these are often trouble spots in the home. But one of the most important spaces that often gets overlooked is the bathroom medicine cabinet. For many of us, it’s a space we use multiple times a day but we rarely give it a thought unless we need something specific. On a daily basis, we rummage around for the item we need and then shove it back in and close the door. In theory, we know that there’s a lot of “stuff” lurking in there but we don’t take the time to sort it out. While a medicine cabinet may seem like a low organizing priority, it really needs to be prioritized both for ease of use and most importantly, for safety.
How the heck old IS this, anyway?
The first thing to address in a medicine cabinet are expiration dates. Dates are there for a reason so always err on the side of caution. Pharmaceuticals should NOT be stored in a bathroom medicine cabinet – heat and moisture break down the components faster. All narcotics should be kept in a locked space – not in the easy access of a medicine cabinet. Throw out any OTC medications that are expired and take any narcotics to your local police department for proper destruction – DO NOT flush these down the toilet. These chemicals seep into the ground and drinking water and cause real harm. Once you’ve eliminated the unneeded, unused and expired medications, determine what else should be put back in. Containerize like items in Ziploc bags or small acrylic containers. First aid items like bandages and ointments fit perfectly in a small bag. Group items together – shaving, hair products, dental items – inside the cabinet for easy access.
Do you have duplicates of the same item? Store the unopened item in another spot to leave the “prime real estate” of the medicine cabinet free. Purge, containerize and give your items a home – your everyday routine will thank you….
Now, where did I put that?
The average American spends 40 minutes a day trying to find something that is misplaced. That’s almost 5 hours a week that could be better spent on other priorities. The top offenders in the “where is it?” category are wallet, car keys, purse and mobile phone. So, how do you create an organizing solution so that you never waste that time again? First, create a “home” for an item. My wallet, when not in my pocket, “lives” on my bedroom bureau. In the house, my purse hangs on a hook in the mudroom. I hang my car keys on the key rack in the mudroom when I enter the house. I carry my mobile phone in my pocket or in the house, it lives on the “charging shelf” in the kitchen. By creating a routine and a system, we have a go-to spot for our things, resulting in much less lost time searching for lost items. But what if I forgot to hang up my keys or my wallet fell out of my pocket, then what?
Ooops, there it is…
Have you ever tried to walk out of the house only to find that your wallet or keys is not where they should be? Or misplace your cellphone in the house and you can’t call it because it’s dead or on silent? While I’m generally not a “product person”, I recently found a product that I recommend to everyone. Tile is a small electronic piece that you can add to your keychain (the Tile Mate) and slip into a wallet, purse or adhere to many electronics (Tile Slim). Once you download the Tile app to your smart phone, you can “ring” the Tile to find the missing item. If the cellphone is the item you’ve misplaced, you can use a computer or any other Tile. Out of earshot? The Tile will show up on a map, showing you exactly where the item is.
Losing keys or a wallet and scrambling around to find our missing items is stressful and time-consuming. Creating a “home” for your items is a great Plan A and Tile is a great Plan B+.