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Organize Your Day - Make a List

Feeling “list-”less?

by Debbie Bowden   Organize Now

I love, I mean really love, lists. To do lists, grocery lists, project lists. There is just something so satisfying about writing down what I need to do or buy, and then crossing it off.

The other day, I attempted to not make a listof the household chores I wanted to get done. I thought, “I can do this. I’ll just keep everything in my head and mentally click it off when done.” Admittedly, I was still making a list, only not writing it down. It was tough to get through the day’s work! I’d get something done and not feel the visceral satisfaction of pen to paper in crossing it off a written list. I felt as though I would forget to do a chore or do it out of order. I was a mess, but I did get through the day.

At the end of the day, I found that I got more satisfaction at completing the chore, I guess because my focus wasn’t on the list. I also found that I didn’t feel rushed to get things done with the only goal in mind of crossing it off the list.

All of this gave me insight into what my organizing clients probably feel -- that slight sense of panic, the burden of an outside force causing stress, and helplessness. It pains me to think of anyone feeling that way about her surroundings. I’m glad that I am available to help.

Basements – the underbelly of disorganization

by Debbie Bowden   Organize Now

If you are fortunate enough to have a basement (with the low ground of the Eastern Shore, some of us don’t have that extra space) you probably store a lot of stuff there. A LOT of stuff. It is easy for the sub-home space to be cluttered because you don’t see it everyday (or more importantly, your mother-in-law doesn’t see it!)

Basement organizing offers a special challenge because most of the items in the basement were put there to get out of the way of your living space. Therefore, it is especially important when you tackle a basement that you be in the frame of mind to purge.

It is easier to organize the basement in areas – it makes it less likely you will become overwhelmed. Divide the basement into quadrants, either literally or figuratively. Go through each organizing step – gather, sort, categorize, and distribute, in that quadrant. Give extra attention to the categorizing step. This is where you decide whether to keep an item, throw it away, donate to charity, or save it for a yard sale. Be mindful of the axiom, “if I haven’t used it in a year, then I don’t need it.”

You may have to tackle the basement project twice, perhaps once in the spring and then again in the fall. That’s ok because you are still regaining control of your space.

Confessions of a Kitchen Snob

By Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Ok, I admit it – I’m a kitchen critic. I dislike cutesy, new-fangled or gimmicky when it comes to my culinary tools. I’d rather have several solid items that serve me well than drawers full of single use items.  Seriously – an egg slicer? Chicken-shaped measuring cups?  A special plate for holding deviled eggs? 

Unfortunately, my dislike for tools with poor or single function does NOTHING to dissuade me from trying new gadgets in my Holy Grail search for the ULTIMATE KITCHEN TOOLS & APPLIANCES.   Here’s a few that have NOT lived up to criteria:

Champion Juicer – expensive and considered one of the best in the world, especially beneficial for Cancer patients (I’m told) – I find it annoying to clean and dislike BAGS of pulp byproduct – seems wasteful. 

Large Cuisinart Food Processor – also expensive – and works very well.  Was great for making scone dough, in addition to chopping. But – annoying to clean. (especially now that we have no dishwasher)

Kitchenaid Mixer – the next to highest model – but not powerful enough to handle double & triple batches of dough – which is what I make. 

So, now that I’ve dissed some of the largest names in the world of food preparation – what DO I like?

Appliances

Get free shipping when you order a Vita-Mix!Well, my new favorite kitchen tool (and the reason I’m selling the juicer and food processor) is the Vita-Mix.  I’d vaguely heard of it when I was intrigued by a Jack LaLanne Power Juicer commercial, and started searching online. Turns out THAT juicer/blender didn’t do too well in the reviews – everyone swore by the Vita-Mix, instead.   A couple of months later I was fortunate enough to attend a Vita-Mix demonstration – and I was sold.

I’m now the Smoothie Queen of the neighborhood – and we’re all enjoying a LOT more fruits and vegetables! Even when I make fruit smoothies I add some cabbage to the mix – it’s instantly emulsified and adds only sweetness and nutrients to the overall taste!  On slow, the Vita-Mix is also a food processor, chopping whole onions into manageable bits!

Best of all – it’s SO easy to clean – just add some warm water & dish detergent and turn it ON for 10 seconds. (don’t add more than the 2 cups of water directed – or you’ll have a sudsy Mount Vesuvius on your countertop – NOT that I’d ever DO that, of course! {Grin!})

Cleaning versus organizing

by Debbie Bowden  Organize Now

With spring just days away, most people want to get the house cleaned and freshened (thus the term “spring cleaning”). It feels good to open the windows, air out the house, and wash away that stale winter feeling. It is also the time that most people start organizing projects. It seems to make sense that while you are cleaning to straighten those closets, rearrange that pantry, or (gulp) tackle the garage.

Allow me to offer a bold idea – do not organize and clean at the same time! This probably seems blasphemous from a professional organizer, so I’ll explain my reasoning.

When there is a lot of clutter around, cleaning the house is just that much harder. You are working around the “stuff.” Conversely, cleaning at the same time you are organizing adds time exponentially to the organizing project.

Therefore I suggest organizing and cleaning in two separate timeframes. You will actually accomplish both more quickly. Organize first because you’ll get rid of the clutter and that will make cleaning go smoothly. Plus, there is a bonus -- you’ll feel like you’ve renewed and refreshed twice!

Organizing Your Thoughts

by Debbie Bowden  of Organize Now

We’ve all had days, weeks, months where there is just too much to do. Let’s say you have three major projects at work, the kids all have after school activities, your mother needs a ride to the doctor, the dust is an inch thick in your house, and the laundry is looking like a monster from the Saturday morning cartoons. Whew! Where to you start? Everything needs to be taken care of now!

Just like organizing your space can help make you feel at peace in your home, so can organizing your thoughts. Situations like the one I describe above call for more than just a To Do list because of the pressure of the deadline. You need to take the mental organization one step further.

Despite the deadlines, not everything has to be now. In every case, there is an order of priority. It’s finding that priority that can seem daunting, and it calls for breaking down all that you have to do into manageable tasks day by day.

Taking the example above:

  • Work projects: which project or project task has the closest deadline? You should concentrate on that first. You might try to work on the least time-consuming yet productive task so that something is done.
  • Kids’ activities: Look for an alternate transportation option. Perhaps call in a favor and ask your neighbor to drop off and pick up the kids.
  • Taking Mom to the doctor: this may be your one number priority because the appointment can’t be changed. You will need some

Don’t Organize on Snow Days

by Debbie Bowden Organize Now

It would be so easy for me to recommend organizing while you are stuck in the house on these o’ so many snow days.

Let me be realistic. If you are stuck indoors, that means so are your kids. They are bored, as they will no doubt tell you every five seconds. So entertaining the children comes at the top of your to do list on a snow day.

Being organized can help with cabin fever. First of all, you will know right where the hats, gloves, and scarves are kept when the kids want to go outside. You may even have an idea if you have an old corncob pipe to place on the snowman.

Secondly, you can be prepared with activities and games for the snow bound. It helps to know right where all your craft supplies are or where that old Monopoly game is stored to make a quick answer to “I’m bored.”

Lastly, if your space is organized, you aren’t going to fret about “this mess” and be less stressed. You’ll be happy to spend the time in your home with your kids. And this winter, that’s been A LOT of time.

The Life Organizer

by Cyndi Paxton Johnson

I am ALWAYS striving to be more organized and efficient. (and yes, I hear Yoda's voice: Do or do not... there is no try !) And, as a self-proclaimed bibliophile (aka: book slut) I read a lot about ways to organize - starting with decluttering. The books say pretty much the same thing: pare down, find a home for everything, put everything away. (and yes - it IS the same thing my mother always told me)

This week I'm reading The Life Organizer: A Woman's Guide to a Mindful Year by Jennifer Louden. This one's different, folks. There's no files and plastic boxes and printed labels. Rather, it's about getting in tune with your heart, your dreams, your passion - and listening to yourself and your body about what the next step should be. Since it's meant to be experienced over a year - I have no idea if it actually works (though the reviews were fantastic!). Still, I do feel more centered - and even more patient about interruptions. I feel like something's changing - hopefully for the better.

Unfortunately, I haven't been as compulsive about making my "to-do" lists. I wonder if Allstate will understand I was listening to my heart and not sweating the small stuff???

I think there's a middle road here somewhere.....lost in the fog.  I'm open to advice - and will let you know what I eventually figure out!

In the meantime...where's that Allstate bill?

Distracted clutter; distracting clutter

by Debbie Bowden   Organize Now

One of the reasons clutter starts pulling up is because we are all so busy. Think about it – you walk in the door after a long day at work, flop your purse and keys and mail and tote on the nearest table, and put the milk and eggs in the fridge. You may be lucky to get your coat hung on the back of a chair, much less in the closet. Then while your better half and kids are all chatting with you, you try to make dinner.

In the middle of the melee, you do manage to get the mail in a basket on the kitchen counter, on top of a week’s worth of other mail and a note to sign for your kid’s school. Later, after dinner has been served, the dishes cleaned up, and the load of laundry in the washer, you sit down to answer all your emails. Suddenly, its time to put the kids to bed, and just as you lean in to give little Johnny a goodnight kiss, he asks about the school note.

Yikes! “Where is it?” you ask yourself. Panic ensues. Is it in the office? No. In your purse? No. How about on the stack of magazines near your chair in the living room? Nope. Now you’ve spent 20 minutes looking for a piece of paper. As you walk into the kitchen for a drink, your brain does that magical thing it does and you remember the note is under the pile of mail. Disaster averted!

Get Organized for the New Year!

by Debbie Bowden  Organize Now

New Year’s resolutions are as varied as the people who make them: lose weight, take a college class, eat healthy, keep in contact more with friends and family, and my favorite – get organized. Here’s a tip that can help you start and be successful in organizing any space.

Break your organizing project into small, manageable tasks. It can be a help to write down a plan in an outline form, for example:

Organize House

  • Linen Closet
    • Gather all towels and sheets
    • Sort towels and sheets
    • Categorize into keep, throw away, giveaway
    • Distribute: put the “keep” into back, put the “throw aways” in the garage as rags, take “giveaways” to Goodwill
  • Office
    • Gather all paperwork and files
    • Sort the bills, the junk mail, correspondence, pictures, etc.
    • Categorize into bills to pay/file, paperwork to trash or shred, pictures and letters to file
    • Distribute: file bills and paperwork, trash or shred items, put pictures away, put correspondence in the to do pile to take care of later.

By breaking the project into smaller tasks, you are more likely to perform each task because you will find you are the time and energy to “gather all towels and sheets” versus trying to tackle “organizing the whole house.” You’ll also find that your plan becomes a handy To Do list you can use to track your progress and show your success in keeping your New Year’s resolution!

Organizing your Email

by Debbie Bowden Organize Now

When I organize for a client, I focus mainly on the stuff in the house. But for my own organizing, I apply the principles to my email storage as well.

Like most of you, I get emails that vary from friends’ quick notes to requests for organizing services. And of course, the ever-present “junk!” I treat my email like the snail mail. The junk gets deleted immediately. I read the friendly notes, respond in kind, and usually delete them. I liken these types of emails to phone calls. I don’t record my phone calls so why would I save these emails. I will “save” the friendly email if I need to use it as a reminder (more on that later). Finally, I read and respond to business email, save to the appropriate folder, and print if necessary.

I have set up folders in the Inbox, much as I have hardcopy folders. The folders are labeled for the appropriate topic: “organize now,” “taxes,” “charities,” “saved,” etc. Some of these folders have subfolders to take the organizing one step further. As soon as I am done with an email thread, I file the LAST email in the folder and delete all the rest. I only save the last email when the person I am emailing and I reply to back and forth. That way, I have all that was written in one document.

I also use the “For Follow Up” option on my email as a reminder system. There are different colored “flags” and I assign one color per folder. This is a great system, and it keeps my main Inbox neat. Here’s an example: let’s say a friend wants to see a concert in a couple of months. We “e-chat” back and forth and finally decide on a date and time. Because I need the last email as a reminder for scheduling in a future date, I save it to my “friends” folder.” Then I flag it purple. Once or twice a week, I go through my “For Follow Up” folder to see what’s happening soon.

Email is a wonderful tool, but it can get just as cluttered as your home and then it becomes uneffective.

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