28 Days To Living Organized – Day 8 – De-Clutter Day

28 days to Living Organized

De-Clutter Day
To keep you on your toes we are switching gears a bit from the task of fixing a problem area to de-cluttering. This will be the first of 3 De-clutter Days we have this month.
What is clutter?
Whenever I’m unsure what a word means I turn to trusty old Merriam-Webster. M-W got me through many a term paper and essay in my school days and has yet to fail me in learning about the true meaning of words.
Here is their definition of clutter: to fill or cover with scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness.
Why De-clutter?
So clutter is stuff that has no sort of order to it that makes your life HARDER! Clutter might be junk that you just don’t need any more. Or it might be things you really do need which you are unable to get full value from because you just don’t have it sorted in a way that makes it work.
If you have no general interest in de-cluttering, allow yourself to be selfish. Reducing clutter will make your life easier. It’s true. It really, really is.
How do I do it?
1. Pick your space. For our purposes today, please do not choose the messiest room or closet in your house. I want you to get the feeling of success and tackling a small project first will increase your chances of making a big difference that you will feel.
If you aren’t sure where to start I suggest…
  • kitchen gadget/utensil drawer
  • “junk” drawer in the kitchen
  • linen closet
  • medicine cabinet
  • makeup bag
  • sock drawer
2. Empty the contents of the area onto a work surface if it’s a small amount of stuff. If you are doing something bigger, like a linen closet, follow these steps one at time for each shelf.
3. Purge! Get rid of anything that is clearly trash. Socks with holes, linens for a bed size you don’t have, The wooden spoon with a broken handle, makeup that is well past its prime (yes, makeup has expiration dates)
4. If in your purge you find things you want to donate (linens you don’t use, the lobster crackers you won’t use since you are allergic to shellfish) grab a box or bag and make a DONATION spot.
5. Look at what is left and purge again. The first time was easy, we got the low-hanging fruit. Now I’m asking you to actually look at what you think you “need” and ask yourself the following questions…
• Have I used it within the last year?
• Do I have a real foreseeable use for it within the next 3 months?
• Did I know this was in here before I started this de-cluttering process?
• Does looking at it make me smile?
If you answered NO to all of these then you probably need to get rid of it.
If you answered NO to all of these and you still don’t want to get rid of it, ask this…
• Do I know someone who could get immediate use from this item?
(your nephew who just moved into his first apartment and needs all the hand-me-down house wares he can get, the niece who is just learning to use makeup and would love some never used lipsticks, the neighbors with three preschoolers who could really use those extra C and D batteries in their kids toys, the kitchen at your church or office that could really use a replacement to that old coffee pot that’s seen better days)
• If I got rid of this today and found I have a need for it in 6 months would the cost of replacing it fit in our budget? (for example, getting rid of ladle you could replace for $5 might not break the budget)
• Do I have something else in the house that could stand in for this if I did find that I needed it?
If you answered YES to all of these questions, get rid of it!
If you answered NO to any of these questions, then keep it… for now. You will want to revisit this later. In fact after you see your newly cleaned out space, you may just find that dusty old item just doesn’t seem important any more
6. Put everything back. Now’s a good time to “organize” by finding cool ways to store things. But don’t worry if you don’t have the time or energy for that right now. Just getting rid of the extras will make the space feel much better
7. Move that DONATION box or bag to your car right now. Stop by your local donation center on your next trip out of the house and bless someone else out of your abundance.
How was that? Hard? Surprisingly easy? Hopefully you feel like a tiny weight has been lifted. And tomorrow, when you open the door or drawer you might just find yourself feeling a little more delighted. 

28 Days To Living Organized – Day 7 – Breathe and Reassess

28 days to Living Organized

Breathe & Reassess

Your changes are underway.  You’ve made it through 24 hours (or more) of the new way of doing things.  How does it feel?

Do you feel like the change you made was a breath of fresh air?  Was it just the thing you had needed to do for so long, even though you may have not realized it before?

Are you having growing pains getting used to the new way?  This may be likely.  We’ve all heard that it can take 3-4 weeks to make a new habit.  If your solution was a habit change rather than environmental it may take a while of reminding yourself each day to do things the new way.  If you made an environmental change you may find yourself bumping into that table that you moved into the space that used to be wide open.

Is every fiber of your being willing you to reject the change?  Sometimes this happens.  We think something is going to work and it just doesn’t.  Our minds and bodies just can’t jump on board with the change. 

Regardless of which of these three categories you fall into, I’m going to ask you to stick with it for at least a week.  You will find that as you go about your day-to-day that you will make natural tweaks to the solution.  This is what I mean by LIVING organized.  As an organizer, it is impossible to come into a space, develop a plan, implement it and leave then  expect to come back in 6 months and find it exactly as you left it.  People LIVE in their homes.  Our spaces may not be alive with breath but they are alive with movement and adjustment as the needs of the occupants change.  Be open to that. 

Live with your changes for awhile.  We’ll revisit them later on this month.

28 Days To Living Organized – Day 6 – Solution Implementation

28 days to Living Organized

Solution Implementation

Today’s the day!  It’s time to put that great idea you came up with into action.  If your solution is a simple one (like mine) this is a “just do it” kind of activity.  Don’t put it off… just throw out the old and put in the new. 

It may be that your solution requires a bit more work.  Maybe you need to buy a new piece of furniture or organizing tool.  Maybe you need to rearrange things and need to find a time to actually do this.

I’m going to encourage you to do everything possible to make this happen TODAY!  Every day you put it off is another day you have to live in your old crazy life.  If you can’t do it today, please, please, please put it on your calendar for sometime in the next 30 days.  If time or money will not allow you to do it within that time frame then go back to Day 5 and re-evaluate your options.  Come up with a plan that will meet your needs in a more timely fashion.  Putting off changes to improve your life for a month, or a year or indefinitely is not going to  bring you any closer to living organized.  It will likely make you actually more frustrated because you know there’s a better way but you can’t achieve it.

So, today is a day of action.  DO something to live more organized today. 

28 Days To Living Organized – Day 5 – Solution Evaluation

28 days to Living Organized

Solution Evaluation

It’s now time to pick a solution!

Here are the results of our brainstorming session yesterday:

Possible Environment Changes
•Move my filing cabinet from upstairs to the kitchen
•Create a new filing cabinet/space in the kitchen
•Teach my kids how to file
•Get rid of the kids so I have more time/energy to file daily

Possible Habit Changes
•Make going upstairs to file the first thing I do after opening mail
•File paperwork every night before bed
•File every other day at bedtime 
•Move things upstairs every night without filing and put in a temporary “to be filed” basket and then schedule a once a week “filing time”
•Stop keeping paperwork/filing – trash/recycle everything – go paperless

Before I evaluate these I’m going to be upfront and tell you that my preference is to change your environment to fit your habits rather than trying to change your habits to fit your environment.  We are creatures of habit.  We like our routines.  Even if we don’t like them, we continue to do them day in and day out because they are, well, habits.  And we’ve all heard the adage that it takes 21 days to form a new habit.  I don’t know about you but I am inpatient.  I want change NOW.  I don’t want to wait 21 days to see a difference.  And I certainly don’t want to work so hard for 3 weeks.  So, while not always possible, my preference is to change the space.

With that said, here is my evaluation of the options:
•Move my filing cabinet from upstairs to the kitchen
Not going to happen.  Logistically, we just don’t have space for it.  And the kids would have a field day with a cabnet full of paperwork.

•Create a new filing cabinet/space in the kitchen
THE WINNER!  Instead of filing everything by company/topic we will create one folder for each month.  After throwing away all the junk mail and putting the bills to be paid in my “BILLS” folder on the fridge (I’ll show you that later) I’ll put anything that needs filing in that folder.  At the end of the month, the folder will be brought upstairs to the filing cabinet and replaced with a new one for the next month.
The one possible downfall is that if I need something from Company X but don’t know when it was sent it will be much harder to find.  The reality is that the frequency with which I actually need to retrieve something is about 2 times a year.  Not a big issue.

•Teach my kids how to file
While I love this idea and might do it if they were older, the fact that they can’t read makes it not practical.

•Get rid of the kids so I have more time/energy to file daily

•Make going upstairs to file the first thing I do after opening mail
Honestly, I would never do this.  After I open the mail the first thing I do is start dinner.  I’m not going to delay dinner so I can file – priorities, people!

•File paperwork every night before bed
This sounds like a good idea.  And this was my husband’s original first choice.  But I know us.  Usually by the time bedtime rolls around we’re both so exhausted it’s all we can do to get our teeth brushed and fall into bed.  It just wouldn’t happen.

•File every other day at bedtime
See previous.

•Stop keeping paperwork/filing – trash/recycle everything – go paperless
This isn’t a bad idea for some items.  But there are somethings you just need to keep.  Like tax documents and mortgage paperwork and medical records.  So it’s a good add-on it’s not a full solution.

•Move things upstairs every night without filing and put in a temporary “to be filed” basket and then schedule a once a week “filing time”
2nd Choice.  This was my husband’s final vote.  Our conversation went something like this…
Me: Who will bring the stuff upstairs every night?
Darling Hubby: I will take on that responsibility
Me: Really, because usually you fall asleep before we even make it upstairs.
Darling Hubby: Yes.  I’ll do it.
Me: Who will file it away each week?
Darling Hubby: Me.
Me: Will you schedule a time to do it every week?
Darling Hubby: Yes.  I’ll do it when the kids go to bed.
Me: Really, because our lovely daughter would wake up when you go to do it?
Darling Hubby: Then I’ll do it at naptime.
Me: Um…. there’s the same issue as at bedtime.

Me: Given how often you need to look for stuff in the file cabinet (never) do you really care if things are done by month or by company?
Darling Hubby: No….. okay… we can try the monthly file
Me: And if we don’t like it, we can always change it.

As you can see, this idea initially seemed like a really good one.  But when we looked closer at the actual logistics of it, it wasn’t as easy to execute as I would like.  And it involves changing our routine and as I said before, I kind of like my routines.

The lessons for the day:

1. Don’t throw out an idea or decide on an idea on face value.  Try to think through some possible pitfalls of the idea.

2. Whenever possible, change your environment to match your habits.

28 Days To Living Organized – Day 4 – Solution Brainstorming

28 days to Living Organized

Solution Brainstorming

We’ve identified the cause of the issue. In my case, an inconveniently located filing system.  Now it’s time to brainstorm some solutions.  This is just like the brainstorming sessions you learned about in school or at work.  No idea is out of bounds.  Some ideas, after we analyze them, will present themselves as not really achievable.  That’s okay.  The point is to get as many ideas down as possible.  Even something absurd might stir the creative juices on to something innovative that will really work.

I’m going to break my ideas down into two categories.  I think this is a good idea for most projects.
1. change the environment
2. change the habit

My brainstorm….
Q: How can I change my environment or routine to keep my kitchen island clear of clutter

For this exercise I got my husband involved.  What you see below are a mixture of our ideas.

  • Move my filing cabinet from upstairs to the kitchen (ENVIRONMENT)
  • Create a new filing cabinet/space in the kitchen (ENVIRONMENT)
  • Stop keeping paperwork/filing – trash/recycle everything – go paperless (HABIT)
  • Teach my kids how to file (ENVIRONMENT)
  • Get rid of the kids so I have more time/energy to file daily (ENVIRONMENT)
  • Make going upstairs to file the first thing I do a fter opening mail (HABIT)
  • File paperwork every night before bed (HABIT)
  • File every other day at bedtime (HABIT)
  • Move things upstairs every night without filing and put in a temporary “to be filed” basket and then schedule a once a week “filing time” (HABIT with a bit of ENVIRONMENT change)

Tomorrow we’ll evaluate these ideas and pick one

28 Days To Living Organized – Day 3 – Root Cause Analysis

28 days to Living Organized

Root Cause Analysis

In the corporate world there are a lot of different techniques used to identify the root cause of issues – 5 Whys, Fishbone Diagrams, Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) – the list goes on from there.

And these all have their place. I’ve been known to use them from time to time when needed. In general, I think that when it comes to most problems in our homes, most of us already instinctively know the cause. But to make sure we are getting to the REAL issue, not just the immediately visible issue, we are going to employ the 5 WHYS to this problem.

It’s simple. State the problem. Ask yourself why that happens. Get an answer. Ask why that happens. Etc, etc, etc until you have asked “why” 5 times. See – easy peasy.

1. Why do I have clutter on my kitchen island?
Answer – because I put things there and then never move them

2. Why do I put things on the kitchen island and never move them?
Answer – This gets a bit tricker. There could be several reasons. Among my reasons could be:
a) I’m lazy.
b) Moving things isn’t a priority over other things in my life.
c) I don’t have a place to put them.
d) I don’t have make time to properly take care of the items.
For the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to focus on D. I don’t MAKE time to properly take care of the items.

3. Why don’t I make time to put things away?
Answer Note: From this point forward, I’m focusing on the FILING & MISPLACED issues for this since those are the biggest culprits. I’ll need to go back and do these same process for the ACTION NEEDED issue.
My filing cabinet is upstairs in a room that’s basically off-limits to the kids because of all the computer & office stuff in it so it’s too difficult to get up there and take the time to file when they are home with me (which is, um, almost always).

4. Why is the filing cabinet upstairs in a room that’s hard to go to?
Answer – Because we put it there when we first moved into the house (before kids) and that spare room made a nice office.

5. In this example there is no need for WHY #5.
I’ve reached my root cause right there in #4. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes you need 6 or 7 whys. But 5 is usually enough.
The thing stopping me from doing my filing is that the filing cabinet is in a location that’s inconvenient. Aha! I know, I know… it seems like common sense. But sometimes a process like this one can really help you through a logic road block.

Now the question is WHAT am I going to do to fix my problem? Will I move the filing cabinet? Will I give away the kids? Let’s think about that overnight tonight.

28 Days To Living Organized – Day 2 – Assess the Situation

28 days to Living Organized

Assess the Situation

We have admitted there is a problem. I recognize that my kitchen island is a collector of clutter. That’s a good first step but in order to actually work toward a solution we need to assess the problem in more detail.
What this means is actually looking at the clutter that’s there and putting a name & category on each thing.
Here’s what is there today…
  • Utility bill statements (not bills, just statements)
  • Investment account statements
  • Bills to be paid
  • Statement stubs from paid bills
  • Children’s books to be given to charity
  • A calendar I bought for my mom (2010 – hmmm…. Probably should have sent that already)
  • An HOA letter that needs to be acted upon
  • A contractor bid that needs to be acted upon and filed
  • Hair clips & rubber bands for my daughter
If I had to categorize these, I could come up with three general categories.
  3. MISPLACED ITEMS (not in the right home)
Tomorrow we’ll dig deeper into our solutions.

28 Days To Living Organized – Day 1 – Admit the Problem

28 days to Living Organized
Admit the Problem

What is your problem area? We all have them – even the most got-it-together-gal has a spot in her house that makes her cringe.
Our first step is identifying the issue and admitting to yourself. And if you are brave enough – to the blogging world.
You know when I asked the question “what is your problem area” that something in your house popped into your mind. Start there. Or, if you have so many places that you aren’t sure where to start, I have a suggestion…. start at the place you first go to when you enter your home. That’s my spot. I’m going to be working this through with you this month.
Here is my problem area (at least the one I’m going to share this month)… My Kitchen Island.
My name is Suzanne and I have a problem with clutter on my kitchen island.

Now you try it….
I’ll wait….
There you go…. That feels good to admit, doesn’t it. Come back tomorrow as we decide to take the next step in moving from problem to solution. If you want to play along at home feel free to link your blog here using McLinky or by commenting.

28 Days To Recover Your Delightfully Organized Life

So, did you spend January carrying out your New Year’s Resolution to get organized? How is that working out? Is your life more peaceful, enjoyable and easier on a day to day basis? I hope so!
But for the rest of us….. I introduce you to my plan for February…
28 days to Living Organized
Why should you take on this challenge? Why not? What do you have to lose except a small (or large) amount of your frustration on a daily basis.

Getting organized or Living organized?

One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to “get organized.” It sounds so simple. Head to the store, buy a few dozen storage containers of various shapes and sizes and cram as much stuff into them as you possibly can. Voila! You are now organized. You’ve reached your goal of getting organized.

But is that really your goal? A month later when you are looking for, oh, say, the wrapping paper for that birthday party that’s coming up this weekend (or this afternoon!) can you find it? You’re sure it’s in one of those nifty storage containers. But which one? The ones you put in the basement or the spare bedroom? So instead of digging through them all you decided to just stop at the store and grab an easy gift bag and a package of tissue paper. You ignore the nagging guilt that you already have 25 gift bags and mounds of tissue paper somewhere in your house. Instead, you are just happy to be only a few minutes late to the party with a gift that has some kind of wrapper.

Does that sound like organization to you? Not to me.

Getting organized is, in my opinion, a fruitless and frustrating goal. It can be expensive both in the short term (those bins can add up quickly) and in the long term (you can’t find what you need so you buy a new one). And at the end of the year you feel frustrated that yet again, you are surrounded by a mass of things with no rhyme or reason to their locations.

Instead, let’s make our goal LIVING organized. This is not a one-time event. This is the rhythm of your daily life played out in a less cluttered, more streamlined way.

Join me as we live our lives more organized this year.