Monday, December 23, 2013

A Plan To Rectify Christmas Procrastination

Celebrators of Christmas: if you find yourself without gifts, without decorations, without an idea of what to serve at the holiday dinner, without a plan, and a bit (maybe a lot) stressed out, take a minute to read this.
Take a deep breath and ponder these things.
·      There still is some time, but not a lot of time, before Christmas.
·      Adjust the scope of your plans to fit the time that you have.
·      Write everything down so you don’t add on the stress of trying to remember things.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Five Steps To Bidding Adieu To The Holidays

1)   Get in the right frame of mind. After all of the excitement and activities of the holiday, the idea of putting things away can be a little dispiriting. Breathe some life into this project by giving yourself a deadline for putting things away and reframe the task - make the job part of the celebration with music, cookies and family involvement. Take pictures of each decorated area and put the pictures in the holiday notebook.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Holiday Cards - Party On

It’s fun to receive holiday cards. Their color and cheer add to the holiday spirit. And I love having tangible correspondence that connects me to friends and family in ways that social media can’t. But sending out cards – well that can be a task - a dreaded task at that. For a lot of people the shear volume of the work involved in sending out cards causes them to procrastinate. Rather than get caught up in the dread, let’s look at how sending cards can be more approachable by improving motivation and simplifying the process.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Getting Ready For The Holidays In Five Steps (Without Pulling Out Your Hair)

In 2011 USA Today asked people “Which best fits your holiday emotional state?” Not surprisingly, 27% of the respondents reported they feel stressed during the holiday. There are many sources of stress during the holidays. Undoubtedly some of the stress comes from the sheer volume of things to do during a relatively short period of time.  The house has to be gotten ready; the menus have to be written, shopped for and prepared; the social calendar managed; and the gifts gotten and wrapped – just to name a few of the extra concerns that come with the season.  Managing the holiday load will help you manage the stress, and you can do it in five steps.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Five Steps To End Crowded Closets – Steps Four and Five

Your wardrobe and accessories have been purged so that what remains projects your personal style and brand beautifully. You’ve compared your closet space to the volume of your wardrobe and picked up some tools to maximize the use of available space. Now it’s time to place items in your closet and discuss maintaining the order in your closet.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Five Steps To End Crowded Closets – Steps Two and Three

In step one the clothes that fit you, flatter you and convey your personal message were identified as the ones to keep. Charities, online selling and consignment shops are happy to take the clothes that do not compliment you. Now that you have distilled your wardrobe to a fashion concentrate, it’s time to analyze your space and storage needs and get the appropriate tools to increase the efficiency of space usage.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Five Steps To Ending Crowded Closets - Step One

Does the chill in the air have you looking for your sweaters and your heavier clothes? What are you going to do with those summer tank tops and shorts? This month’s 1380 Clutter Challenge will help you - we are going to end crowded closets with five steps.
Step one: have a fashion show!  Put on some upbeat music and maybe pour yourself a glass a wine. For the next few hours you’re going to work the runway.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Five Steps To A More Organized Desk - Steps Four and Five

The first three steps of organizing your desk entailed setting up your action system and sorting through the piles. If you feel like it took along time to go through your papers, keep this thought in mind: a one-inch stack of paper contains about 50 sheets of paper and that can translate into 50 separate decisions. Congratulate your self on your tenacity for sticking with the job.
Step 4: Review your new to-dos and put things away. After a sorting session review everything that you wrote down on your master list.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Five Steps To A More Organized Desk - Step Three

Steps one and two focused on evaluating your current organizing systems and setting up an action system for handling the paper that is currently coming across the desk. I like to implement an organizing system as early as possible. If we started going through the stacks of paper before setting up a new organizing system, the new paperwork will end up in a stack as well - further delaying a vision of a clean desk. Now that the action system is in place it's time to hit the stacks.
Step 3: Gather your tools and sort! Now we’re going to dig into those stacks and drawers.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Clear Spaces on 1380 The Woman - The Clutter Challenge

I'm excited to announce that I will be on the Let's Talk Shop show with Dawn Meadows Dixon and Teach Tigue at 9:45 AM every fourth Thursday of the month. Just turn your radio dial to 1380 AMDid you know that 1380 is the only woman-talk radio station in the area? Probably the country!

Five Steps To A More Organized Desk - Steps One And Two

Somewhere under the paper, the letters, and the electronic accessories there’s a desktop just earning to be productive.  In five steps you can be reunited with your desktop and be a whole lot more productive and focused. Although there aren’t many steps, this project will take time – the amount of time depends on the depth of your stacks. It’s time well invested because not only will you have a lovely vista for cranking out work, but also you’ll be developing habits that will have you increasingly more organized.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Organize Your Storm Safety Plan

This has been a rough week, starting with the F5 tornado in Oklahoma. Dangerous weather can affect anyone, anywhere. Please take a few minutes this weekend to invest in your safety. Organize a plan to stay safe in a storm.

Think about where you can go in dangerous weather. The safest place is underground but your home or office may not have a basement. In that case look for a windowless, interior room or closet on the lowest level of the structure. Regardless of where you shelter - basement or interior closet - make sure that there isn't something large and heavy on the floors above you. Only in cartoons do people survive having a piano land on top of them.

Put babies in their car seats. Put your pets in their carriers or on a leash when you take them into the shelter. A frightened pet can be unpredictable. 

Keep a battery operated weather band radio with spare batteries handy.  When the weather gets nasty make sure it is on. Do not rely on the storm sirens to alert you. I have been in more than one tornado when the storm sirens did not go on. Weather band radios are readily available in grocery and hardware stores. Silent Call has alert systems for the deaf.

Smart phone owners can download the free Red Cross app. I downloaded it when it first became available, and I have been very pleased with it. The app provides storm alerts and has an amazing amount of information about storm safety. You can find the app at the Red Cross' website page on tornado safety.

Keep at least one flashlight with spare batteries handy. Do not rely on candles for light because they can start a fire.

Create a communication plan. After the storm who will you contact to let them know if you are safe? Who will contact you? What will you do if there is no communication?

Organize a first aid kit. If you haven't done this, now is a good time to put one together. If you have a first aid kit, now is a good time to check its contents to ensure everything you need is fresh and packed. The Red Cross has helpful information about creating a kit.

Be safe. Organize your plan today. Just a few minutes spent in preparation might save your life. If you have some sage advice on storm safety - please share!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Person I Care About Hoards

Over the last few weeks I have received many calls from people looking for help for a relative or friend who hoards. In addition to help cleaning out their loved one’s home, the callers are often looking for some way to process what is happening in their loved ones’ lives.  I thought it would useful to write a bit about these calls to help others who find themselves in this situation.
 From the perspective of the callers, the clutter is worthless and the piles are fire hazards. They wonder how their loved ones can live this way. They think that throwing out the clutter is the answer – but why don’t their loved ones see that?
The loved ones who are hoarding have a different perspective. Their collections are useful, interesting and valuable. The problem is not the stuff. The problem is other people feel they have the right to tell them what to do with their stuff.  
The situations are painful, frustrating, and scary – for both the callers and their loved ones. However, I can only address the needs of the person who calls me; it would be unethical and deleterious for me to work in a home without the homeowner’s prior knowledge and consent.  It is news that rarely surprises the caller, but typically is met with resignation.  There is hope if the caller is willing to do some work on his own.
1)   Acknowledge what you are feeling and get support for you.  Isolation often accompanies hoarding, not only for the person who is hoarding, but also for his relatives and friends. Hoarding is not a “water cooler” topic. But there are other people in similar situations who understand what you are going through, and that can be comforting.  The website Children of Hoarders is a very good resource. If you are in the St. Louis area, the St. Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute provides support for family and friends.
2)   Maintain your cool and be respectful of the person who is hoarding. Each of you has different perspectives. Suspend the temptation to declare a “right” and a “wrong” in this situation because it will lead you to a dead end. The likelihood of progress is far greater if you can act with empathy.  Understandably, this may be hard to do.  What you feel is legitimate and that is why I start with getting support for what you are going through.
3)   Educate yourself.  The International OCD Foundation’ s website contains a wealth of information and it has an excellent infographic that you can download. The Institute for Challenging Disorganization has a variety of informational downloads.  The books Digging Out by Michael A. Tompkins Ph.D and Tamara L. Hartl, Ph.D. and Buried in Treasures by David F. Tolin, Ph.D., Randy O. Frost, Ph.D. and Gail Steketee, Ph.D. are excellent resources.
4)   Prepare for the long-term. Hoarding behaviors do not go away in a week, a month or a year. This may be a life-long struggle.
5)   Turn the conversation from throwing things away to making the environment safer and more comfortable your loved one.  If you focus on throwing things away, then you are discounting your loved one’s perspective that his things are valuable. Can you agree not to block the door or to keep items off of the stove?  Agree upon a goal together. You might consider these small steps. But it can be a big step for your loved one to agree to partner with you to take action.
Your loved one may not be ready to work with you. You cannot rush the process.  There may be some emotional groundwork that needs to be worked on first, which is why it’s important to get support for what you are experiencing.
The temptation may be go into the loved one’s home and clean it out. Not only will your loved one continue to acquire items to fill his home, but in all likelihood you will seriously damage your relationship with him.  Please take a step back, take a deep breath and proceed with care and respect for both of you. You are not alone.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Get Organized St. Louis

The early-bird registration deadline is fast approaching  for St. Louis' inaugural organizing expo event: Get Organized St. Louis. I am excited to be part of the five-speaker lineup. The topics range from managing your home and financial papers, decluttering and organizing your basement and garage, productivity and time management, and productivity with ADD. After the presentations come to the question and answer session where you can ask a professional organizer your burning organizing questions. Additionally, we are very happy to have vendors' row featuring the companies that provide the goods and services that complement your organizing projects. Get Organized St. Louis is sponsored by the St. Louis chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers and will be at St. Charles Community College from 8 AM to 12:30 on March 23.  You can get more information at Aloha! Be there!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Shred Day

It's tax season.  A lot of people combine file cabinet clean-out with tax preparation. If you are one of those people, or if you need an excuse to clean out your files, I have good news: the days of free shred events are upon us.

Before we jump to where you can get your papers shredded for free, let's talk about what to shred. There are three guiding principles that I follow for shredding:

  • If the information can be used to steal from me or it can be used to steal my identity, then shredding is a must.
  • If the information is confidential, then shredding is a must.
  • When in doubt, shred.
Examples of information that is covered by the first principle include: anything with your social security number, anything that contains investment, credit card, and bank account numbers, copies of your old passports or driver's license, old credit reports, credit card and loan offers, and anything with passwords.

Examples of information that is covered by the second principle are old medical records, old phone lists, old legal papers, transcripts, resumes, and anything that would embarrass me if someone else found it.

Typically, I don't feel the need to shred anything that can be easily obtained by the public. For instance, I don't shred the address labels on my magazines or non-financial junk mail (I do shred the credit card offers).

I collect items to shred in cardboard boxes. Printer paper and banker's boxes are the right size for easy handling and I can just leave them with the shredder.

Grab your calendar and record the upcoming free shred days. Usually shredding is limited to one box, but sometimes you can shred up to three boxes.

04/06/13  9 AM - noon  Scott Credit Union at 1100 Beltline Road in Collinsville, IL

04/06/13  8:30 AM - 1 PM  Eagle Bank at 1052 Kirkwood Road in Kirkwood, MO

04/13/13  9 AM - noon  First Community Credit Union at 4566 Lemay Ferry in St. Louis, MO

04/13/13  9 AM - noon  First Community Credit Union at 2651 Old Muegge Road in St. Charles, MO

04/13/13  9 AM - noon  First Community Credit Union at 801 Lincoln in Fairview Heights, IL

04/13/13  9 AM - noon  First Community Credit Union at 17151 Chesterfield Airport Road in Chesterfield, MO

04/20/13  9 AM - noon  Ameriprise Financial at 825 Maryville Center Dr in Creve Coeur, MO

04/20/13  9 AM - noon  Coldwell Banker Gundaker at 6235 Mid-Rivers Mall Drive in St. Peters, MO

04/20/13  9 AM - noon  St. Vincent Community Center at 7335 St. Charles Rock Road in St. Louis, MO

04/20/13 8 AM - noon  Galleria parking lot (BBB event) in Richmond Heights, MO

04/27/13  9 AM - noon  Vantage Credit Union at 4020 Fee Fee Road in Bridgeton, MO

04/27/13  10 AM - 1 PM  Neighbors Credit Union at 6300 Lindbergh Blvd. in St. Louis, MO

04/27/13  9 AM - noon  West Community Credit Union at 2345 S. Brentwood Blvd. in Brentwood,  MO

05/04/13  9 AM - noon  American Eagle Credit Union at 1075 N. US Highway 67 in Florissant, MO

05/04/13  9 AM - noon  American Eagle Credit Union at 3805 Union in St. Louis, MO

05/04/13  9 AM - noon  American Eagle Credit Union at 2175 Barrett Station Road in Des Peres, MO

05/04/13  9 AM - noon  American Eagle Credit Union at 1334 Jeffco Blvd. in Arnold, MO

05/04/13  9 AM - noon  Eagle Credit Union at  3944 Vogel Rd in Arnold, MO

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Getting Unstuck

There are points in our lives when we feel stuck - when the obstacle before us seemingly defies traversing. How to get unstuck? Linda Samuels, CPO-CD® posted this question on her blog "The Other Side Of Organized" and received answers from seven colleagues. Their answers are enlightening and inspiring. Although each person answered differently, it was the honesty in their answers that tugged at my heart - especially Linda's. Sometimes time is what is needed.

For myself, I rely on the patience and wisdom of my trusted advisers who provide me the space to talk about the issue. They support me by listening and asking questions but never telling me what to do, which would be disenfranchising. Getting things out of my head provides me with the opportunity to see things from a new perspective. In that new perspective is a new direction which provides a way of traversing the obstacle. Sometimes it takes a bit of  time to develop a new perspective. Occasionally it takes a long time - then my advisers assure that things will work out.

Please take a moment to read Linda's post Stuck? 7 "Now What" Tips. We all get stuck. Thankfully we have each other to help us get unstuck.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

A Greener GO Month

January is GO Month! Getting organized does not have to cost a lot of money. It’s not only possible to get organized on a budget, but it can be environmentally sound as well. Use “reduce, reuse and recycle” as your guiding phrase.
Reduce what you own to items that really make a difference in your life.  Keep items that are actually being used and are things that you truly love. Everyone has at least a few things in his home that aren’t as useful as he had hoped they would be. You know - the things that were purchased with the idea that they might come in handy someday, the items that seemed like they were a good idea at the time, the disliked gifts, and the impulsive purchases.
Unfortunately, holding on to these things will not bring back your money.  Nor will holding on to a disliked gift help your relationship with the person who gave you the gift. These items are “squatters” – they sit in your home without being useful and they require your time and attention to store and maintain them. Even worse, they hit you with a wave of guilt every time you see them. You can do with a little less guilt and clutter in your life. Send those “squatters” to the thrift shop – it’s an easy way to recycle them. Send broken and outdated electronics to an electronic recycler (a quick internet or phone book search will locate them). Reducing your inventory to things that make your life productive and pleasurable will reduce the time and money you spend on keeping things organized.
Reuse items by giving them a new purpose.  A little out-of-the-box thinking and that old dresser becomes a gift-wrapping center or a place to store linens, a small cabinet becomes a nightstand, and checkbook and gift boxes become drawer organizers. I’ve seen old serving trays turned into mail in boxes, cereal boxes turned into magazine organizers, ice cube trays turned into jewelry organizers, and small jars used to organize the necessary small stuff of life – from paper clips to cotton swabs. A little paint, fabric remnants or decorative paper help repurposed items conform to a color scheme. By the way, a uniform color scheme reduces the amount of visual clutter. It’s an amazing trick – try it!
Recycle things. Look for sturdy shelves and file cabinets at thrift and second-hand stores. You want file cabinets with fully extending drawers – drawers that only open to the ¾ point are irritating every time you need to pull something from the rear of the drawer. Add a hanging file frame to each drawer if there isn’t already one. Hanging file frames are about $20 from any office supply store. Hanging files are so much easier to use than folders for keeping your paperwork organized and easily accessible. A little paint and these used finds look new.
Bookcases are useful for so much more than books. To maximize your space, think “vertical.” With labeled baskets in a bookcase you can to corral small stuff.  Put a tall bookcase in a kitchen to store small appliances, serving dishes and trays, pantry items, and even cookbooks! Use inexpensive pegboard to store pots, pans and cooking utensils on the wall. Julia Child did.
When it comes to reusing items, be careful of “someday” thinking.  Acquiring or holding on to things for which you don’t have a designated purpose, adds to the clutter collection.  Also, if the new purpose will not be beneficial to your life, the transformation is not worth your time or resources. Have a plan for when and how things will be transformed into the useful times you envision. The last thing anyone needs is a collection of projects to do that is languishing in storage.
Focus on keeping things useful and relevant to your life. Then reduce, reuse and recycle. You’ll save some green by being green this GO month.