But it’s a good busy…
Do you ever run into a friend or acquaintance and when you ask “How are you? How are things going?”, the response is “busy”. Or “good busy”. So, what does this really mean? In our manic society that always seems time deprived, busy has become the new sign of success. If I’m busy, I must be productive. If I say I’m not busy, I’ll appear lazy and unmotivated. But is any of that really accurate? With many of my clients, and myself, we get lazy with our language and “busy” has become a catch-all phrase like “fine” or “good”. With our multiple responsibilities and often hectic lives, this phrase has become a shield and a barrier to deeper connection and an intentional life. As animals, we are hardwired for connection and we are most successful when we are engaged and involved with others – packs, tribes, clans, communities, etc. But the “busy” label keeps others at a distance and keeps us from that connection.
What the heck are we so busy doing?
There is no doubt that we are over-scheduled and our lives are very dissimilar to preceding generations. But it’s also true that we have more leisure time than ever before. In so many ways, our lives are so much easier than our ancestors and yet we act as if we are busy tilling the land, protecting the homestead and eking out a living – all not true. The question becomes: what am I busy doing? The answer is at the heart of intentional living – taking off “the badge of busy” and starting to rewrite the story of your life. Are you busy with classes, education, volunteering and vocational work? Great – that level of being busy should feel productive and satisfying. Are you “busy” with social media, Netflix and shopping that leaves you dissatisfied and unhappy? What can you do less of or differently?
If your default status is “busy” but you are unfulfilled, stressed and unhappy, it’s time for an internal audit. Revisit your priorities and start living intentionally.
What are you spending your time on now?
As an organizing coach, I help my clients rewrite the stories of their lives. We move from frazzled and overwhelmed to living a more calm, intentional life. To be organized and find more space, more time and more joy, time management is key. While there are lots of tools for time management like calendar systems, timers and “smart” electronics, first determine what is the real value of your time. Most of us don’t know the true value of our time so we waste it on unnecessary tasks that consume too much time, effort and resources. Break down a “typical” day into time chunks – morning, work/school, after school/work, evening, etc. Within those segments, pinpoint the tasks that you need to complete in each block. What tasks can you do best? Are you maximizing your time and effort or is there room for improvement? What tasks can be done better by someone else?
What can I outsource?
Most of us have a strong skill set that makes us effective and productive. And we all muddle through some tasks that we can outsource to make the balance of our time more productive and less stressed. Do you like to cook but hate to grocery shop? Transition the grocery shopping to another family member or use one of the many food delivery services available. Do you love Fido but getting in a long walk just doesn’t fit in your schedule most mornings? Give that task to a household member with more time and flexibility. Also, some folks spend their days walking dogs! Hire a professional dog walker or find a neighbor to hire or even better, barter services with.
There are a few tasks that we must do ourselves so figure out the best way to get it done. And know that there is someone, somewhere who will gladly take over the tasks that don’t fit in your schedule or skill set. Work to your strength and hire to your weakness. Welcome to the new service economy!
Finding good hiding spots…
Do you think finding good hiding spots is all about playing “hide and seek” or having a great Easter egg hunt? In organizing, good hiding spots mean effective space management. Maximizing your existing storage comes in many forms. Closet organizing, purging unneeded and unused items and choosing effective storage are important. But there is another great organizing solution clients often overlook – the “hiding” spot. Good hiding spots are under the bed, behind a door or even behind a floor length curtain. These are ideal because they are not high traffic areas but are easily accessible. Also, there are storage solutions designed for these hidden spots. Under the bed storage bins and bags and hanging shoe holders are low cost but highly effective. So, what should I be “hiding”?
Hey, what’s in that hiding spot?
Hiding spots are ideal for items that we don’t want or need out in the open. Under bed storage is perfect for out of season clothing or bedding – close at hand when needed but not taking up valuable closet and drawer space. Do you have young children with lots of legos or dolls? Use that under-bed space for plastic bins for small toy and doll storage. Bins on wheels are easy for them to pull out and use and equally easy to clean up and store out of sight. I also recommend creating an “electronics” bin for manuals, boxes, and warranties. These are often needed for repairs and upgrades but don’t need to be in your everyday files. Fill a plastic box with all the electronics paraphernalia and slide it under the bed – organized, easy to access and out of sight. Install a clear plastic shoe hanger on the back of your door and fill it up! Behind full-length curtains in my office, I store a paper recycling bin and my shredder – you are really limited only by your imagination.
Shoes are an obvious choice for a hanging shoe holder but there is a multitude of options. Fill the clear shoe pockets with small toys, hair accessories and products, health and beauty items, dog care items, scarves – the possibilities are endless….
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.