Change – The Ultimate Organizing Test

A lot has been happening in my family’s life lately. We have already and continue to make some big changes.

  1. In the fall I left my corporate job. It was a necessary move but one we weren’t really prepared for – emotionally or financially.
  2. This month I began a new part-time job in an entirely different industry and career path. I’m very excited about it but there’s a lot to learn and I’m starting at the beginning.
  3. Two kids started their first season of competitive sports – and the time commitments are pretty intense. And these are not sports with a “season” really – they are the kind where you practice extensively year-round (gymnastics & cheer).
  4. We decided to relocate our family back across the country to be closer to family at the end of the school year. This means we have to sell our home, find new jobs, and find something new.

It’s a lot. I have to admit that I’ve struggled to hold everything together some days. But we are making it work. So over the next few months I’ll be sharing this journey with you – the good, the bad, and the very messy.

Life IS messy. It does not always stick to the plans we set out to follow. So I’m finding my routines and organizing strategies are that much more important… and that much harder to stick to. I hope you’ll follow along as I share with you the challenges and successes of organizing through major life changes.


Unsubscribe For Summer

The weather is getting warmer. I’m not sure about where you are but here we had an especially warm weekend. It almost felt like summer. And what happens in summer is that we migrate outside, away from the computer and toward the pool. So when you do take a few minutes to return to your email wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to go through 30 emails that you are just going to delete?

Take some time this week to unsubscribe from a few of those emails you find yourself deleting without opening.  Maybe it’s a store that used to be your favorite. Or an organization you gave a donation to once, three years ago. Or a newsletter you aren’t sure how you got subscribed on.  Before you hit DELETE next time you open your email, go through those emails and click the unsubscribe link at the bottom.  Clear your inbox just a little bit for summer.

Remember… if an email is from an unknown source (i.e. SPAM) please DO NOT click any links on those. Simply mark as spam and delete. But if you know where it’s from the unsubscribe link should be legitimate.

Now get outside!

50 Things To Do in 5 Minutes

No, I’m not suggesting you complete 50 tasks in 5 minutes.  This isn’t some kind of scavenger hunt.  Rather it’s 50 separate suggestions of things you can accomplish in 5 minutes. 

We all love dramatic before and after photos. It’s amazing to see all we can accomplish with enough time and resources. But the reality is that most of our lives isn’t made up of a day or a half day spent on organizing projects. Our lives are made up of 5 minutes of availability squeezed in between work, changing diapers, getting out the door, folding laundry and watching Grey’s Anatomy. And that’s how we live organized… by taking advantage of those moments.

So the next time you have 5 minutes, step away from Facebook (where you know you’ll spend way more than 5 minutes getting sucked into it) and try to do one of these things to make your life a little simpler, your home a little more organized and your heart a little happier.

  1. Check Voicemail
  2. Schedule an annual doctor visit for yourself (& write it on the calendar)
  3. Delete 25 out-dated emails from your inbox
  4. File a small stack of papers
  5. Shred a few old bills
  6. Repair a loose button
  7. Throw out expired or old condiments from the fridge
  8. Clean out your purse (or at least one section of it!)
  9. Download pictures from your camera to your computer
  10. Purge a stack of magazines
  11. Clear out the ice cubes that have collected in the bottom of the freezer
  12. Toss expired coupons
  13. Go through one file of photos on your computer and delete the duplicates and bad ones
  14. Cleanse your garbage disposal by running it with a cut up lemon, baking soda and ice cubes
  15. Clear one clutter “hot spot”
  16. Refill the soap dispensers in all the bathrooms
  17. Update your voicemail message
  18. Plan your dinner menu for the week
  19. Choose 3 things from the closet that you’ll never wear again and put them in the donate box
  20. Update your Netflix queue
  21. Write a love note to your spouse or significant other
  22. Transfer the $5 you didn’t spend on coffee this morning from your checking account to your savings account
  23. Schedule e-cards for friends with birthdays this month
  24. Update your child’s baby book
  25. Throw out expired medications
  26. Clear out the containers of last week’s leftovers from the fridge
  27. Answer 1 important email that you keep putting off
  28. Uninstall 3 apps from your phone that you never use
  29. Add critical numbers to your cell phone contact list – poison control, local sheriff department, doctor, dentist and other key doctors
  30. Move your donation bag/box to the trunk of your car so you can drop it off on your next trip out
  31. Restock your diaper bag with wipes, diapers, diaper cream, a small snack & a bottle of water
  32. Check your coat closet for out of season items that need to be moved
  33. Research options for your next vacation
  34. Search for a new recipe to try with ingredients you already have on Epicurious or All Recipes
  35. Clean off your doorbell and exterior door knob to make the welcome warmer for visitors
  36. Put away 5 things that are not in their correct home
  37. Dust the television & electronic components
  38. Clean the kid fingerprints off your DVDs with Windex and a soft cloth
  39. Clear out the unmatched socks from your drawer
  40. Sweep out the side of the garage without a car in it
  41. Empty your shredder and the bottom tray on your 3-hole punch
  42. Empty the crumb tray on the toaster and wipe off the finger prints from the outside
  43. Remove 3 outdated documents from the front of the fridge
  44. Delete 3 recurring timers from your DVR of shows that you never watch or that have been canceled
  45. Microwave a bowl of water with lemon juice for 3 minutes to loosen gunk then wipe down the microwave with a damp cloth
  46. Clear out the unnecessary receipts gathered in your George Costanza wallet
  47. Send a quick “thinking of you” email to 3 friends
  48. Unscrew the filters from your faucets and soak in a small bowl of white vinegar to clear the mineral deposits
  49. Update your to-do list.  Eliminate one thing you don’t really need to do and probably won’t do anyway
  50. Read a Delightfully Organized blog post!

What do you do with 5 minutes to spare?

Information Clutter

Organizers talk a lot about physical clutter.  The stuff that fills up the space in your home, car, desk, etc.  But there is something else we talk about that doesn’t get as much notice most of the time… information clutter.

One source of information clutter is your email.  Buy something online and the next thing you know you’re on 6 mailing lists for sister sites.  I get “helpful” emails from my bank, retailers, alumni clubs, the church, etc, etc, etc.  It’s a lot.  I try to unsubscribe from those I don’t truly want to read.

In fact, if you are looking to save a little money then removing the temptation of the “HUGE SALE 50% OFF EVERYTHING” email from all your favorite online retailers is a great place to start.

But my current source of information clutter is on my smart phone.

Today I got a Twitter direct message. Here’s a list of all the ways I was notified of the message:
1. a text message from Twitter
2. a text message from Twitter through my “handsent” application
3. an email from Twitter to my gmail app
4. an email from Twitter via my “universal inbox”
5. a notification from my Twitter app
6. a notification from my TweetDeck app
7. a notification from my HootSuite app

Um, yeah… the message was not that important.  One of those would have been sufficient.  Two at most.  

So this afternoon I’ll be updating my twitter settings to remove a few of those. I’ll start with email & text notification since on my phone twitter can notify me directly I don’t need those additional outlets. 

The point is, clearing all those notifications from my phone took me probably 1 minute.  Not much time.  But if I get 10 messages a day, that’s 10 minutes of time just spent clearing something I’ve already read.  What clutter!

Where can you cut information clutter from your life?

I Remember When

My dad is back guest posting again!  Hooray!
This is a great idea for all of us to consider, regardless of whether we have 20 years of memories or 80.  Capturing those memories for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren is priceless.  I know so many of you are already doing this via blogging and that is fantastic.  But if you’re not a blogger (or if your blog is on a “topic” like this one) consider starting a memory scrapbook…
Everyone has a book in them.  This is a firm belief that I have had for some time.  We all have life experience memories that we can recall and which are certainly worth recording.  It could even be argued that it is more than just casually important that these remembrances be recorded so as to not be lost forever.  Family history and facts are being lost every day.  Things of the past, not recorded, are slipping away at light speed. Much is being recorded about the now, but the richness of who we were 20, 30, 50, 60, years ago is not being recorded.

So how do we get these rich memories into a book?  Most persons will find the thought of doing an autobiography frightening.  It is just too much to imagine that “I will do my biography.”   Not even a possibility for most of us.

Let’s consider the need here.  The real need is to not lose the memories.  So, why not just record the memories.  And the memories don’t need to be in any time framed order to start with.  You could go back and group memories if you desired, but that’s for later as you see the need.

Try starting with this first question:
What is my very first memory?

Here is my answer:

My very first memory is of when I was 3 or 4 years old.  My brother who was 11 months older than me, and I, were playing outside in the dirt with a couple of tiny little metal trucks.  We were playing outside of our house. It was attached to the back of our fathers little neighborhood grocery store, Roy’s Grocery. It was the summertime.  I know this because I remember the dirt was really dry and dusty and we were both only wearing summer shorts; no shoes, no little t-shirts.  A thing that I remember is that, at a point, he pulled the trucks away and wouldn’t let me play with them anymore.  I am not sure why, but they were his trucks and I was smaller and we were not playing together anymore.  I don’t remember the feelings that I had, but I do remember experience visually. This was in the summer of 1948 or 49.

This memory and all memories are part of our life experience.  In some small, small way it’s part of who I am.  It’s even part of what our culture was and is.  The memories will belong to all of us, if we can pass them along.

Some tips
Try at first to stay away from those bad memories that are not ready to be put into words on paper.  That could come later as you become more comfortable with reaching back into the past. 

Try not to link one memory to another.  Include an approximate date.  Each memory should be able to stand alone.

Try to keep memory records to only one page per memory. You are drawing out the book within you.  You are not writing a book.

Try to do one memory every day.  Two or three would also be OK. Don’t try to do it all really quickly.

Print each page as you complete the memory. Proof the page and make changes as desired. Seeing the memory in print will be different than on your monitor.

Gather the pages into a three ring binder and keep them for your children and grandchildren.  Take the idea as far as you wish.  Just get started!

Who knows?  Maybe someday your memories will be more important than you could have guessed.

Take care and be blessed!


Suzanne here…
I’ve got to tell you, reading this small little moment from my dad’s past was so special for me. I could picture it in my mind and it’s something I’ll now take forward with me into my future with my own children. 
A few additional tips:
* Not everyone is comfortable writing. If not, you could use a web cam to make short videos of your memories.  What great fun for your grandkids to see you speaking in your own words about your life. 
* If you blog your memories you can later turn them into a really cool book quite easily using something like Blurb Bookify.
* Add pictures if you have them. Or go back and add them later.
* Hand write a few of the memories.  Our handwriting is our unique mark in the world and seeing something penned by your own hand will be especially dear to your loved ones.
I wish you the best of luck as you embark on your adventure of sharing your history!

Time In A Bottle

As a culture we here in the US are a wee bit obsessed with time. We talk about it all the time a lot. See what I just did there? My first instinct was to use a “time phrase.”

What are some of the ways we talk about time:

  • I don’t have enough time.
  • That will take too much time
  • Time well spent
  • Time’s up!
  • All the time
  • Is it time to go home yet?
  • Take your time
  • Time flies
  • Most wonderful time of the year
  • Having a good time
  • Big-time
  • Time’s a-wastin’
  • It’s about time!
  • Next time
  • Been a long time coming
  • Pass the time

Even our favorite sporting events are centered around time. Football, hockey, basketball, and soccer all have a clock. And while it’s true that our National Pastime, Baseball, is a clock-less sport, interest in baseball has been eclipsed by football viewing, as evidenced by the record numbers of viewers for last week’s Super Bowl XLV.

Have we lost our ability to savor moments and events like a long baseball game? And what about the double-header. Anyone been to TWO major league baseball games in the same day lately? Not likely. Who has the time to give up an entire day to enjoy the sunshine, a cold beverage, a few hot dogs, and some time spent with friends or loved ones? That is unthinkable for most of us. There’s so much to do! 

And yet, we can’t make more time. We only get what there is. Yes, it does vary by a few minutes over the years (thus leading to leap years) but overall, we get 525,600 minutes each year to live our lives (if you’ve seen the musical Rent you already knew that 🙂 )

I had my first revelation about time in college. Like other student I was perpetually rushing around and cramming in too much studying/work/classes/partying into each day. But one night I sat reading near a group of students studying together and overheard a guy said that he needed “another hour in the day.”  It struck me then, like a bolt of lightening a whisper from God, that we don’t NEED more time in the day.  If we needed more time in the day He would have given us more. What we need to do is use the time we have been given in the best way possible. And be grateful for those 24 hours and the fact that more is not expected of us than what we can accomplish in them.

My second revelation about time came about 10 years ago. I was dating a guy and he had some friends visiting Chicago, where we both lived, from out of town. The plan was to spend the weekend with them site-seeing and dining and just having fun. That Saturday morning I didn’t put on my watch because I wasn’t the one leading the itinerary. And I wasn’t the driver. I just had to enjoy the days and go when everyone decided it was time to move on to the next activity. And you know what… it was LIBERATING! I didn’t worry about the time. If lunch took 2 hours it didn’t matter, because there was no where else to be but where we were and no one else to be with but those sitting next to us. 

That was in 2000. I never put my watch back on. Six years ago Mr. Brown gave me a beautiful watch as a birthday present. I love it, I really do. I tried to wear it. That lasted about a week. Sadly (because he put so much thought into picking it out) it sits in my jewelry drawer untouched with dead batteries. I don’t wear it for two reasons:
1. I have a clock available to me and nearly every minute of the day. There’s one on my computer, in my car, on my cell phone, in the office at work, on the walls at home, on my stove, on my microwave and next to my bed. I don’t need any more!.
2. As much as I use all those clocks, I don’t like the symbolism of actually wearing a time-piece on my person. For me, it feels a bit like an anchor. I feel compelled to check it and let it dictate my time. And I want to be able to savor moments instead of looking ahead to what’s next and making sure I’m on schedule.

All this is not to say that I don’t keep a calendar or a schedule. I certainly do. But when life permits, I thoroughly enjoy ignoring the clocks.

So, the next time you feel like there isn’t enough time to get organized, remember that organizing isn’t about time. It’s about life. Being able to enjoy each moment because you aren’t stressed over what you should be doing is the goal. And one great way to achieve that is to live in such a way that your stuff doesn’t consume your time – the people who matter to you do.

There are a lot of organizers out there who will promise to help you “get organized in a day/weekend/week/month/year.”  But in my opinion, organized isn’t something you “get” in a set amount of time – it’s a way to live from one moment to the next.

Tracking Your Time

Let’s talk about calendars. I find this to be one of the largest organizational challenges for myself.

In my single days it was easy. I used a Franklin Covey planner and used my calendar religiously. I would carry it with me and add appointments as I made them. Every Friday afternoon or Monday morning I would add work meetings. I could take it with me to meetings and add notes and update my to-do list.

Now with a husband and children and a full-time job I find it much more challenging. I have work meetings and home meetings and appointments for the kids and appointments and schedules for my husband. And they are all important. I have an array of options available to me:

  • wall calendar at home
  • calendar in my cell phone
  • calendar in my email at work
  • desk calendar at work
  • wall calendar at work with appropriate holidays and fiscal month information

But with all these calendars available, it is very easy to write down an appointment on one calendar (say Outlook at work) and then forget to transfer it to home. And if I happen to be home on the day the appointment arises, I risk missing that appointment.

My current method works something like this:
1. Maintain my work calendar in Outlook. I put on here any work-specific appointments and any personal appointments that happen during or immediately after the workday. This is a must because our entire office uses the Outlook calendaring feature to schedule meetings.
I don’t worry about workday meetings at home.

1a. Each week I print a copy of my Outlook calendar. I use a 3-ring binder now instead of a FC Planner. I slip the printed calendar in the front cover of my binder and have tabs within for each of my projects. I can keep my to-do list and notes from meetings right in the binder. That goes with me to any meeting.

2. Keep a wall calendar at home as the “master” for all (non-work) appointments and meetings for me, the husband and the kids. If I happen to make an appointment while out of the house I will ask for a reminder card or make a note to myself. I put these notes/cards in the pockets of my pants so I will remember to remove them when I get home – or at the very least when I am getting undressed for the day.
My favorite wall calendar is this one created by Flylady Marla Cilley. It doesn’t have any pictures of cute puppy dogs or your last family reunion. But it does have giant spaces for each day that make it easy to add lots of information.

2b. Each day I write out a daily task list for home. I include the times of any appointments. This list goes in my on-the-go binder. It’s similar to the one I have for work – tabs for different areas of responsibility.

All-in-all I would say that my current system mostly works. I know what I have to do and can easily see on the calendar what my husband is doing. And he knows to check the calendar before making any plans.

What system do you use to keep yourself and your family on the same page?

Quick Tip Thursday

Do you consistently forget to return your library books on time and end up with late fees?
Treat return dates like any other appointment!

As soon as you get home with those books, put a reminder on your calendar on the due date with a quick list of the titles due that day. Then when you check your calendar each night for your list of appointments tomorrow (you are checking your calendar every night, right?) you’ll be reminded to gather them up with everything else you need for the day.