Ready to celebrate?
When we think about the “holidays”, it’s generally the big ones in December that bring on stress and overwhelm. But for many of us, the true holiday season starts in November with the gathering of family and friends for Thanksgivings (or Friends-giving). Being organized can be the difference between enjoying the gathering and dreading the festivities. (Check out my blog post on being organized for the December holidays.) So, what’s the biggest challenge? Clutter. Start today in eliminating clutter. Start in a public space – the kitchen, living room, bathroom – whichever space will be getting a lot of traffic and scrutiny. This is NOT cleaning – that will come later right before guests arrive. De-cluttering is about removing anything that does not truly belong in that space and dealing with it now. If you wait until right before guests arrive to deal with this stuff, you’ll end up shoving it all into a closet or drawer or other space, perpetuating the issue. And don’t forget, the other holidays are coming in rapid succession…
Doing the “Sweep”
Deal with the stacks of paper that have been accumulating. Do a quick sort – recycle anything that is no longer timely. This includes newspapers, catalogs, notices, etc. Create a filing pile for anything that you need to keep (bank statements, insurance and medical information) but not act upon. The final pile is the ACTION pile which should be very small. This is anything you need to act upon – a bill to pay or an RSVP to send. Remove anything else that does not belong in that space. Books do not belong in the kitchen. Clothes and other personal items should be moved to bedrooms and put away. Resist the urge to dump items on the horizontal surfaces in a bedroom. Instead, put your clothes in the closets and bureaus – put it away, not down.
This is also a great time to go through front closets and do a sweep for items for donation. Coats and jackets outgrown or unneeded can go right out to open up that space for guests. Happy Thanksgiving!
On the road again
I recently did a social media post on keeping your car uncluttered. And it got a LOT of attention. Your car is an extension of the rest of your personal space because it’s full of the spillover from your personal and work life. Your gym bag, stuff to be returned to the store, stuff to go into the house or office are all in there. Americans spend a lot of time in the car – on average 18 DAYS per year. Is it any wonder that our car is just as cluttered as our other spaces? Thankfully, decluttering your car is an easy fix. If you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed by all the clutter in your life, start in the car – it’s a small, confined space and clearing it out is really satisfying.
Let me just clear off this seat….
Are you the person who gladly lets others drive the carpool? Is someone else riding with you a deal-breaker? Then you need to get your car clutter under control. After you’ve removed the obvious – the trash and anything going into the house or office – start to make a list for the rest. Once items go into the car, it can become a stopping point for completing the task. Write a list of where the remaining items need to go: to the store for the dreaded returns, to your brother’s to return the drill, to the donation center with the charitable items. Keeping spaces uncluttered needs to become a habit. The good news is that this is a pretty simple and straightforward one: always empty your car when you get home. Take out the Target bags, remove the gym bag for laundering, throw out the trash…
Don’t let the car become a black hole of uncompleted tasks – write it down so you can get it done. Are you seeing my social media posts? I share lots of great information there. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – see you there soon!
What, exactly, is this?
Have you ever opened a drawer, closet or bin and wondered “what the heck is in here?”. Welcome to the club of too much stuff and lack of organization. In our homes and offices, we accumulate stuff because as humans, we have an amazing capacity to create use scenarios for things. You keep the old version of your phone system “just in case” the new one doesn’t work as expected or breaks. The dishes you replaced because they were mismatched and chipped become the extras you keep “for a dining emergency” – is that even a thing? I bring home a beautiful new black sweater to replace the misshapen and faded version in the drawer but keep the original one for “kicking around the house”. Does any of this sound familiar?
Something in, something out
One of the simplest organizing rules to follow is “something in, something out”. When you replace an item – a camera, tv, suit jacket, pair of running shoes – get rid of the original! Can you find an excuse to keep the original item? If so, did it really have to be replaced at all? The rule of something in, something out helps us to manage the volume of stuff in our space. Closets, drawers, garages, basements, warehouses and every other nook and cranny is crammed with stuff we no longer use. Open a random drawer or closet and see what’s lurking in there. A not-so-smartphone from 2009 along with the cords and chargers. Clothes too small to be worn by anybody in your home. Storage cabinets filled with old technology. This is clutter. Anything that you are not using or enjoying is just taking up space.
Start employing this simple rule of organizing: when you buy something new, something must go. Donate it. Sell it. Recycle it. Someone, somewhere will benefit much more from having that thing. Are you stuck for ideas on where to donate so your item has impact? Check out these resources on my website. As a bonus, you gain space – physical, psychological and emotional – by letting go.
Halloween is already in the rear view mirror. Which means that Thanksgiving, and then THE holiday season is right around the corner. Yup. I said it. Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and the New Year in rapid succession. Do the coming holidays fill you with excitement and joy as well as dread and overwhelm? If you’re like most people, the holidays are a season of both fun and friction so here are some tips to stay organized over the holiday season to find more joy and less Grinch.
Write it down.
On the calendar. On a to-do list. On your gift list. Being forced to remember all the tasks and events we are responsible for is stressful. All through the year, we manage varying priorities in our work and home lives but the holiday time ramps that up significantly. With those additional responsibilities comes overwhelm. We don’t function optimally under stress so we forget things. By writing it down, we can plan and organize better. Add the company holiday outing to the family calendar. Jot down on your shopping list the baking and cooking supplies you need for the holidays. Keep your gift list handy so you can add the neighbor who kindly shovels you out every storm and pick up a gift card in appreciation. Don’t force yourself to keep all of this in your head because it’s noisy and crowded up there. Organize your time and projects.
Start now, today.
Yes, we hate seeing the winter holiday decorations in the stores in September and we vow not to jump into the over-commercialization of the season. And yet it’s not too early to plan and organize what you’ll be needing soon. Visiting a craft fair in the coming weeks? Pick up a few great holiday gifts. And yes, it’s okay to get duplicates of the same item because you don’t need to recreate the wheel for each gift. Will you need extra extension cords for the holiday lights? Pick up a couple of extra the next time you’re at the home improvement store so you’re not running around at the last minute.
Organizing and planning can go a long way in making your holidays merry and bright…
Why clutter feels heavy.
Hello 2019! Firstly, a big “thank you” to 2018 for always being there for me, day in and day out. Another year gone in what feels like the blink of an eye. And the New Year already a week old! So with this new year and all the possibilities and excitement ahead of me, why do I feel so weighed down? (And it’s not just the extra Christmas cookie weight…). Did you vow yet again to not overbuy and overconsume throughout the year and especially during the holidays? Me too. And yet more stuff has appeared and mushroomed seemingly overnight. Physically, all the STUFF we have in our space carries a physical weight to it. This is something we already knew. But what about the emotional and psychological cost of clutter in our lives? New research has shown that clutter actually weighs us down.
How do I lighten up my space and my life?
Check out this great article in the New York Times on “The Unbearable Heaviness of Clutter”. The article outlines the stress caused by clutter and the damage we are doing to ourselves financially, emotionally and psychologically. I am happy to report that there is good news as well. If decluttering and living more intentionally is a goal for you in the new year, new behaviors and choices can have a significant impact. Take small steps daily to reduce your clutter by identifying your biggest “pain point”. Is it the pile of mail or paperwork you’ve been avoiding? Is it your closet that is disorganized and overflowing with unneeded and unused items? Pick a starting point and attack that project. Taking action, even in the smallest steps, leads to creating effective habits. First process, then progress.
Forget resolutions and instead, focus on new intentions. We all have something we can work on and improve. If organizing and living more intentionally is an intention and goal for you, pick a spot and get started. We all have to start somewhere…so get started!
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.