Arriving on Time

on time

Whether you struggle with arriving on time for work, a doctor’s appointment, a church service or even a date, I thought you might like to know how an organizer thinks. The other day as I was figuring out a busy day and walking through my process to make sure I would be on time for every appointment. It dawned on me that my process might be helpful for you. Different cultures place different values and priorities on being punctual and timeliness so I want to be clear, I’m not writing to convince you to be on time. I want to address the notion that if you’d like to be on time and more punctual, it’s possible.

First step is to notice how long it takes to get certain things done. For example: how long does it take you to make and eat breakfast, walk the dog, take a shower and get ready, pack a lunch, pack a gym bag, check emails, scroll Facebook, get out of work and walk to the train. All of these tasks are common and typical during our days. I know there will always be crises or unusual events that happen. I understand we can’t predict and perform each day perfectly, however I do believe we can get it right eighty percent of the time, if we take the right steps and plan ahead.

Once you take note of the menial tasks that you perform on a daily basis you’re ready to adjust your time frames to be punctual and on time. I figure this all out in my head but if you need to you could write it down.

So here’s an example of how I plan my day. In bed, the night before I’m thinking through all of this to set my alarm. I always start my planning with the time I need to arrive somewhere and work backwards.

  • 9:30am Client Start in a Chicago suburb

Next step is I figure how long it will take me to get there. Let’s say for this example it’s 30 minutes.

  • 8:25/9:00am I know I must leave the house to be on time.

Next step is I figure how long for making my espresso, eating breakfast and packing my lunch

  • I should be in the kitchen by 7:50/8am at the latest.

I know it takes me 45 minutes to shower, dress, dry my hair and do my makeup.

  • My alarm has to go off no later than 7:15….

If I’m ambitious and want to leave time for emails or a quick Facebook check a safe bet would be 7am!

Now let’s go to the end of my day. Again, start with your deadline or time to be punctual.

  1. 6:30pm should be my arrival time. To be on time tonight I have to arrive at that time and traffic will likely be bad.
  2. So I have to leave the gym by 5:45pm
  3. I know want to ride the bike at the gym for 45 minutes and I know it takes me 20 minutes to freshen up and get out of the gym. So I have to climb off the bike at 5:25pm
  4. Which means I have to get on the bike no later than 4:40/4:45pm
  5. So I’m leaving my home office to drive to the gym by 4:30pm.

It may sound super detailed and stressful and too much work, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be very freeing and helpful and once you know how long things take you, you can adjust the time accordingly. If you know you like to shoot the breeze with the people at the gym add in ten minutes. If you need to go through a drive thru for dinner, add in another ten minutes. When we don’t plan ahead and don’t watch the time as we go about our day, that’s what makes us late.

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Counting Steps While Organizing

counting steps

 

Part of my job as a professional organizer is paying attention to detail. That detail includes what current organizing systems and steps clients use before I change things or suggest new and different organizing systems. So to start it’s my job to get to know your current patterns and how you organize. Never “clean up” for an organizer. We need to see reality and every day habits.

Counting steps comes into play when I notice too many steps. Let’s talk literal steps and sequential steps in performing a task.

For literal walking steps, take the example of where mail lands versus where your home office is located. Another example would be where you enter the house versus where you hang up your coat, purse, and place your shoes. It is also important to count steps in the habits you’re asking your kids to participate in. If the table they do arts and crafts on is far from their stash of supplies, rethink the location of things. Items and gadgets used most often keep close and easy to access. Tasks and chores you perform daily should be the easiest patterns and include the least amount of steps.

Now consider smaller steps, steps that would be taken to perform a smaller task like filing paper. Here’s the best example to demonstrate this. Pulling open a filing cabinet drawer and dropping in a piece of paper takes two steps. Here’s the alternative with an accordion portable filing pocket. Unlatch the clasp, pry open the pockets, place the paper inside and close the latch. That took four steps. Imagine cutting down several steps on several tasks throughout your day and week. In the end you will be left with simplified living, more time, and ease of maintenance. Always choose the simple route and efficiency will prevail.

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My Theory on Condo Living

Residential building facade

I always eagerly await the answer when I ask “Which apartment number?” or “Which condo number? “ For some reason, most of my condo and apartment clients always live high up in their condo or apartment buildings. Nine times out of ten, they answer the third floor or higher. I never ever get someone in the first floor apartment. I see the trend and am convinced stairs have everything to do with my theory. Think about the implications. It takes more effort to take out the garbage and recycling. It’s harder to carry out returns to ship back at the post office or give items back to friends. It takes more time and planning to get rid of a piece of furniture or donations. It’s easier to bring things home then to remove things.

You may think or guess that having an elevator would dash my theory. Surprisingly, having an elevator doesn’t matter. Of course, I’m thrilled if there’s an elevator but I sympathize. Living high up and trekking all that way gets old. It directly effects the motivation to haul and lug stuff up and down.

So, what is the solution? How does a homeowner not fall prey to accumulating too much?

  • For starters, resist online shopping. Think twice before you shop till your heart is content. Shipping to the front door is the easy part. Returning it is the hard part.
  • Don’t buy in bulk. Just buy what you need when you need it.
  • Carry something small every day. Take a little amount of garbage down daily and a small bag for Goodwill weekly or monthly. Don’t let large amounts accumulate.
  • Notice what type of bag or purse you carry for work. Consider something that will be easier carrying up and down stairs.
  • Be grateful. You probably have toned legs and working your heart more than your neighbors. Look at the positive side.

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7 Ways to Create Extra Time to Exercise

 

  1. exercisePrep lunch food on Sundays for the week, so assembling lunches during the week takes less than a minute. Create an organized lunch shelf in your pantry and your refrigerator so it’s grab and go during the week.
  2. Lay out your outfit the night before, so you save minutes in the morning getting ready. Simply check the weather on your phone the night before and pick out your clothes before heading to bed.
  3. Pick a gym in a location close to work or home. There’s nothing worse than spending 20-30 minutes driving to do a workout. If the gym isn’t within 10 minutes from your house or work, you’re at the wrong gym.
  4. If you’re working out at the end of a work day, don’t un-silence your phone until after you’ve hit the gym. Return personal calls or texts after the gym. Sometimes we never make it to the gym after work because we are putting out fires from messages or texts coming in all day. Reward yourself by “getting your phone back” after you work out.
  5. Limit errands to one night a week after work. This will help create time and ease guilt for the rest of the weeknights.
  6. If you’re on the fence to skip the gym or go workout, ask yourself if your “to do” or errands can wait. If they are not hundred percent crucial and viable and time sensitive, prioritize your workout first.
  7. Pick a gym that has kids programs so you can work out while your kids are taken care of. If you make the trip to the gym a family event, you will be sure to make your cardio session at least once or twice a week. You are also being an example to your children, teaching them that you as a mom or dad or family want to be a healthy family.

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Classic Landing Spots for Clutter

 

landing spotCar

If you work out of your car, commute long distances or your kids are in a lot of activities and sports, your car or minivan is bound to reflect it. Some of us feel like we spend more time in our car than our home. Books, water bottles, leftover wrappers, toys, things to return to stores, paper, coins, and other random stuff accumulates on the floor when we are driving from one activity or appointment to the next. The best organizing advice I can give you is only one piece of advice. Every time you get out of your car, whether you’re entering a store, work, the gym or your home, check the front or back seat by glancing if there’s anything you should be taking with you. If it’s a piece of garbage throw it out. If it belongs in the house, carry it in. If it doesn’t permanently live in the car, keep taking random things with you as you get out of the car all day long, and put the things back where they belong. Do this on a regular basis and your car should never get way out of control.

Kitchen Table and Kitchen Countertops

These places are pretty synonymous. The kitchen is the main hub in the home so everyone’s things accumulate here. Your family is no different than the rest of the families on your block. The kitchen is a problem area for all of us. We spend the most time in the kitchen area whether it is cooking, using laptops, opening or leaving mail, or your kids doing homework or craft projects here. Designate one time of day when you’ll sift through the things and clear off these surfaces. It could be before dinner or each morning after breakfast. Enlist family members for help. Assign them baskets or bins on a nearby shelf to collect their knick knacks or return their things to bedrooms to dump there instead of the kitchen. Designate a basket to collect unopened mail instead of it collecting all over the first floor. Empty or go through the basket at least weekly, if not daily.

Basement

This is a common catch all. If we don’t know where to keep it, the answer is often “Just put it in the basement.”….. I loathe those words. I’m a bit joking but mostly serious. The more you put in the basement the more readily stuff is forgotten, piles up and takes up space. Then organizing the basement is a huge undertaking on a future date because a third of its contents shouldn’t be there. Be selective what you store down there. As you put things down in the basement consider if their use or length of usable time will expire. Also consider how heavy and cumbersome the item is. Do you want to have to move it twice or three times?

Tops of Dressers

The surfaces of bedroom dressers always take a beating with everything we dump out onto them. From Pokémon cards, trophies, piggy banks to business cards, coins, perfume, golf tees, everything in our pockets or things we love land here. As kids, we display our prized possessions and everything is usually important if it’s on the top of the dresser. As adults it is where we empty our pockets or set things down. Rarely are these surfaces defined. I’d encourage you to create specific places to catch items such as a business card or receipt collector. Have an intentional coin dumping spot. Get rid of old, expired perfumes or smelly lotions that really don’t smell good anymore and are just getting a layer of dust on them. Put pens and pencils in a pencil cup, mug or vase. Be intentional about the small things and it will be able to be maintained. Another option is to display beautiful things or decorative items so it prevents you from dumping on the surface. For our kids, limit what they can display and use narrow shelves instead to display things higher up on walls. Everything doesn’t have to take up space on the dresser. Create hair and jewelry stations if you have girls and Legos, playing cards and gadgets stations if you have boys. Containerize and group as much as possible.

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Delegating Wisely

 

DelegatingAs a business owner, a large part of organizing is learning how to delegate tasks and recognizing when to delegate tasks. I strongly believe those two elements are crucial to running a successful small business. I have helped several business owners dig through inventory, go through old files, sort through their desk, organize their storefront and discuss their time management. A common theme that runs through most business owners is the mentality that they are trying to do everything on their own and wasting their unique talent that makes them money.

If you’re a business owner reading this blog, stop for a minute and take note of what you’re brilliant at. What do you do so well? Is it interacting with clients? Is it selling your product or service? Is it running your business behind the scenes? Is it designing or creating new ideas, themes, products, etc.? The biggest advice I could give you is…. Do what you DO BEST. Don’t waste your time on bookkeeping if you can’t stand it and it takes you forever. Don’t bother running your social media campaigns if that doesn’t come naturally to you. If you are great at selling your product or service, then don’t work in the business…. sell the business. Once you know what you’re great at doing, delegate ALL the rest. Yes, delegate.   If you continue to juggle ten balls in the air and try to do every role and task on your own, you are bound to burn out, lose customers, or remain small and not grow.

Sit down and write what type of people would be helpful to assist you running your business. Then start to add them slowly over time. Don’t settle for just anyone. Hire the best. My hiring decisions aren’t based on cost; they are based on “who is the best person to do this task at a top notch capacity?” In my business I have:

  • A graphic designer
  • A webhost and web designer
  • A social media person
  • A small business attorney
  • A small business coach
  • A team of eleven organizers

I wouldn’t have the business I have today without all of their help. I love to sell, build my business, work with clients directly, and enjoy bookkeeping. I could delegate bookkeeping, but I’m good at it, enjoy it, and have time to do it. So I’ll keep that task on my plate…..for now.

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Cleaning Versus Organizing

cleaning toolsLet’s make one thing clear. Organizers don’t clean and cleaning companies don’t organize. They might think they do, but they don’t. They pick up, shove things, stack things, or put things where you can’t find them. I’m a fan of cleaning companies; I just think they should stick to cleaning and leave the organizing to the organizers.

Always clean after organizing. Once floors are cleared, shelves are decluttered and countertops are empty, it will make the cleaning job a lot easier.

Storing a ton of cleaning products is a waste of space. For most people, cabinet and closet space is precious and coveted so resist the urge to buying multipacks and economy size cleaning products. Keep cleaning products simple. All you need is a dusting spray, glass cleaner, floor cleaning solution, bathroom cleaner and kitchen countertops/sink polish.

You can find just about any speciality cleaning product on the market to clean several specific items. Instead of buying several bottles of specific cleaners, chose cleaning products that have a double use or multi-purpose. This will cut down the number of bottles you’ll have to store.

Just like organizing, you have to schedule time to clean. Having people over is a great prompt to do some quick spot cleaning or pick one day a week to spend some time cleaning. If you use a cleaning company, I’m sure you already have them on a schedule. Obviously cut back even more on your stash of cleaning products if they bring their own products.

Limit the number of rags you keep. Not every hole ridden t-shirt or old dishrag has to be kept. Don’t bother with dark colored fabrics. The color will bleed off and will make it harder to see dirt or dust in the rag.

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When Hobbies Overtake Our Space

 

what's your hobby?I was reminded this week of a home I walked into many years ago in the beginning of my business. When I stepped into the front door, I was greeted with a quilting loom. At least I believe it was some sort of quilting loom. I’m not a quilter. Anyways, this piece of equipment was eighteen feet long and probably nine feet wide. It took up the family’s whole dining room and front living room. I remember thinking to myself, what a hobby. Wow. I don’t think quilting is a bad hobby but I remember the space it consumed and how much this impacted the family.

Another family comes to mind, who practiced the extreme saving while grocery shopping. They had rows and rows of products they purchased at an extreme discount. They could have fed five families for months.

Awhile back I came across a family who loved to ride bikes, for recreation and competition. Their basement was filled with bikes, bike parts and even special clothing for when it’s snowing! Now that’s dedication to biking!

Recently, I’ve come across avid Craig’s List posters and Ebay sellers. My sister is addicted to flipping furniture she finds, refinishes and then makes a killing on Craig’s List when she sells the piece. She spends $20 and sells it for $120-$150. Her husband is less than thrilled the space the furniture takes up but boy she makes a large profit.

My hobby is triathlons. My road bike and bike parts take up space. Half my clothes dresser is workout clothes. Half my shoes are running shoes, and my swim bag is full of swim suits and gear. I fit all of these things into space around my house and recognize the time and money it takes to do this hobby. In total it can consume a lot of time, energy, and money IF I let it. That’s the key word, if.  Maybe your hobby takes up a large space, sucks up time, and spends a large amount of money and perhaps it doesn’t. I want to encourage you to draw boundaries. Before you roll your eyes and stop reading, don’t dismiss it. Consider the three categories: time/energy, space and money.

Let’s take an Ebay hobby for an example. Any hobby can fit into this example, but for ease of an example read on about selling items on Ebay and how I would draw boundaries with this particular hobby.

  1.  Money: Raise your threshold on price. If the item or group of items isn’t listed for $50 or more, don’t bother listing it. I know you might pay more to sell these higher priced items and make a bigger effort with more pictures but that’s not the point. The point is to give yourself a boundary.
  2. Space: Mark off a space boundary. If the Ebay items exceed a certain area/space/or shelving unit, tell yourself you have to donate some of the items. Once it outgrows the spacial boundary you and your family agree to, you have to choose to donate items.
  3. Time/Energy: Be stricter on deadlines and time. If you don’t make the time by the end of the month to post “x” amount of items, you have to donate the same amount of items you didn’t post. This will again, keep the hobby in check. Waiting for a sale or special on posting Ebay items won’t work. It only delays the process and puts you behind schedule.

So what’s your hobby? What do you love to do?

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8 Mistakes to Avoid While Tackling An Organizing Project

 

So the day and hour has arrived. You have blocked erase a mistakeoff time to tackle the organizing project that has been on your to do list for months. I’m glad you are ready to dive in and start making headway on the clutter. To help you avoid getting sidetracked, stumped or giving up, below is a list of the most common organizing mistakes people make.

  1. Don’t buy organizing products and more bins before the project. First declutter and then go shopping for only what you need.
  2. One can have good intentions but no follow through. It’s easier to make one trip to a donation place instead of thinking you will sell things on Craig’s List, take things to consignment, or ship clothes to your sister’s kids in a different state. All three of those are great ideas but take time. Assume you won’t have the time to do those, take the easier solution, and just donate the stuff.
  3. Moving the clutter to the basement, off-site storage or attic or garage is not the solution. That’s just avoidance of making a decision and shifting clutter. Make a decision to use or store the item correctly, otherwise get rid of it.
  4. Avoid getting too detailed from the start. Do not start with a stack of papers or bins with a million little items. Tackle the easy decisions first and then get down to the details.
  5. Don’t blame others for the clutter. Take responsibility and start making decisions. Organizing is 99% decision making.
  6. Setting aside smaller projects within the larger project is not the answer. Commit to going through everything and anything. A box of photos and paper would be the only exception. Otherwise, nothing should be off limits.
  7. Getting caught up on the cost or value of items will derail you fast. The money was spent when you purchased the item. Instead of feeling guilty and trying to get a few bucks out of the item, commit to making smarter purchases moving forward. Focus on only a few high ticket items if you must.
  8. Don’t expect to have all the answers right from the beginning. Solutions and new ideas usually surface as you’re emptying bins, filling donation bags, and seeing your space in a new light. As you get further into the process you will know what you need to purchase or what problem still needs to be addressed.

Good luck and if you get stuck don’t forget the Ten Reasons to Hire a Professional Organizer!

 

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Making Your Closet Look Like a Million Bucks

 
 closet organization
How organized do you like your closet to look? Some of you are thankful if the clean clothes just make it back into the closet or if you can find your favorite jeans. Others like to have it look like a magazine cover or something you’d see on Pinterest. Whichever way you like it, is just fine by me. I like mine organized, practical, and functional but it doesn’t have to be perfect or magazine worthy. This blog speaks to those of you that want to walk into a beautiful closet, a closet that inspires you and functions well. Here are some tricks and tips I would like to share with you. Aim for the new ideas or tips that really matter to you. Those will give you the biggest difference in how you feel next time you use your new and improved closet.

  1. Give your closet a fresh coat of paint. If you’re organizing the clothes and shoes anyways, you might as well throw a fresh coat a paint on the walls before you put everything back in. Avoid stark white. Try a creamy white instead. If you choose a color it will skew how you see the colors in your clothes.
  2. Invest in bright lighting. I’m not suggesting fluorescent hospital lighting, but enough light to see all your clothes and the floors.
  3. Keep floors clear. If you have to use the floor space, make sure bins are lidded and labeled, otherwise, everything will get dusty and piles will quickly be rebuilt. If things are in containers, this will make it easier to clean. Just move the containers when you’re ready to vacuum or mop.
  4. If you’re using shoe shelves lined up on the floor, make sure they have a backing so that the shoes won’t slip to the back or slip through.
  5. If you’re using containers on the shelves in plain sight, spring for pretty containers. Skip plastic and go for suede, fabric, or wicker. Keep them all matching too.
  6. Invest in all the same hangers. Wooden hangers are classy but take up a lot of space. If you’re skipping wooden to save space, I like the space saver hangers. They come in several colors. Another name for them is Huggable Hangers. They can be found here on the Home Shopping Network.
  7. Hang the clothes in the same direction. This makes a huge visual difference. Also zip or button tops and jackets. They will hang neater.
  8. Use the same type of hangers for pants and skirts. This will ensure all pants will hang at the same height. Skirts will be different lengths but they will all start hanging at the same height. This uniformity makes it look extra organized.
  9. If anything is being folded on shelves, fold everything the same way in the same direction.
  10. Color coding clothes also gives it a finished look. Lining up articles by hues is visually appealing.

Let’s face it though, several of these tips are impossible to maintain on a long term basis. Do what you can and spend the time on what matters most to you. I’d love to see your closet when you’re finished. Email or text me a picture!

Photo © Paha_L / depositphotos

 

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