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by Debbie Bowden

Tips on organizing your home




Debbie is one of those naturally organized people, who also happens to like to paint (as in walls, not canvas), enjoys reading (but never has enough time), and is constantly awestruck with the simple things in life (such as when she spotted an eagle perched on a tree limb). She is a native of Delmarva, and now resides with her family and four cats in Queen Anne's county.

Debbie is the owner of Organize Now, in Barclay, MD.

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.

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.

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.

Maintaining a clutter-free home

 

 

by Debbie Bowden of Organize Now

Let’s say you get your house organized. You’ve worked hard, probably with a knot in your stomach, but you are rewarded with no junk, no clutter, no extraneous stuff. Good job. Now you can move on to the real secret of being organized – maintenance.

Maintenance isn’t nearly as time consuming as initially organizing, but it does call for diligence. This step in the process of being completely organized calls for a change in habit. Like any habit we change it means doing things differently and establishing a new pattern.

Here’s a tip that is a tremendous help with maintenance, and only takes 5 to 10 minutes a day. Go through your entire house and pick up stuff. It doesn’t matter what time of day as long as it is around the SAME time each day (I do this when I get home from work because I am NOT a morning person). To start this new habit, literally walk through every room. Look for stuff that is out of place and put it back in its spot. Remove items that don’t belong and put them where they do belong. Most importantly, finish the room before moving on to the next.

Let me repeat that – finish the room before moving on to the next. It is too easy to get distracted by trying to tackle multiple rooms all at once. Distraction is probably the number one culprit of not having a good maintenance routine.

When you first start a maintenance routine it may take you longer than 10 minutes. But each day the time you dedicate to maintaining will shorten. Before you know it, your house is consistently organized, and that is a habit you can definitely live with.

Does Empty Space Attract Clutter?

by Debbie Bowden of Organize Now

box

I hear, “Well, there sure is a lot of space now.” That statement puts fear into the heart of an organizer because when most people are faced with empty space, they feel a strong urge to fill it. Then guess what – more clutter!

Here are a few tricks to fool the eye that the empty space just doesn’t exist:

Arrange your clothes with 2 to 3 inches between each piece. This gives the illusion that the closet is full, but gives more actual space if needed. (An added benefit – your clothes won’t get wrinkled being crammed together.)

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