49.2 Degrees at 5 am. I Believe It’s Fall!

Fall is in the air.

It was 49.2 degrees this morning.  The forecast calls for a high of 70, but let me tell you, it was very dark and chilly at 5 am.

In response, all day I have been mulling over my “It’s really Fall now” list of things to do, to clear clutter and stay organized.  Perhaps you have that list, too?  Perhaps you are looking for some suggestions?  Here are a few!!

  1. Check your entry way, and swap out your accessories for the new season.
    Clean out the accessory basket by the door, review the contents, toss the old or broken items (empty bug spray bottle, beat up shopping bags), and put away all but a few of your absolute favorite warmer weather items (just in case you really do need that base ball cap again). Now re-stock the basket with hats and gloves, umbrellas and scarves.
  2. Check your entry way, and swap out your shoes for the new season, too.  So long flip flops, hello boots and wellies.  Toss the old or unmatched flip or flop, get rid of all but the last pair or two of sneakers (“Truly, dear, no one needs 4 pairs of old sneakers for ‘yard work.'” ).  Take in any shoes in need of repair, and put away the rest.  Then make space for the colder weather shoes and boots.   Do the same with sport items.  Play it Again Sports, anyone?
  3. Look around your home, and make note of projects and repairs to be completed.  Make some plans or make some calls.  Get on the schedule with service providers now before their schedules fill ip around the holidays.  Better to maintain – furnace checks and regular carpet cleaning – than to pay for last minute or emergency repairs or replacement.
  4. Pantry and Fridge shopping.  Check your cabinets and fridge.  Check your expiration dates and use up some of the foods you have on hand, to clear clutter and make room for holiday / seasonal items.
  5. De-furnish.  We have a 2 x 5 table sitting in the basement.  We moved it over the summer when our old kitchen cabinets and counter top were installed in the laundry room.  We should have put it in the crawl space at the time, but we didn’t.  It currently serves no purpose.  It goes AWAY today.  At a client’s yesterday, we collapsed 2 folding tables and a couple of chairs and put them away – they’ve been up for YEARS.  A client with a penchant for small side tables (they’re EVERYWHERE, and hold only clutter) took 3 or 4 to a local resale shop.
    In the interest of clearing physical and visual clutter, what small (or large) items could you do without? Put them away or let them GO!
  6. Drop off stuff.  Bags of donations, like clothes or books or shoes?  Recycling?  Items to be returned to a store?  Stuff that belongs to other people?  Take those piles / bags and boxes that are next to the door or already in the car, and get them Gone, gone, gone!!

 

6 tasks are enough for this week.  Next week’s list holds tasks like finishing switching the closet to Fall, window washing and putting away the deck furniture, but those can wait until then!!

What will you do this week to Embrace Fall, clear clutter and get organized?

First Step of Shopping? Check Your Inventory.

A thought occurred to me very soon after I posted last week’s blog article, “Can We Go Buy School Supplies?”.

It’s the obvious first step, although a little too obvious for me, as I forget to mention it.  That obvious but not-so-obvious first step to shopping should be make your list and then “Check What You Have On Hand”.

It’s always better, from both a financial and clutter clearing standpoint, to use up what you have on hand before you purchase anything more.  This will help you:

  • Save Money;
  • Use items before they expire;
  • Eliminate duplicates; and
  • Clear Clutter!

Here are 5 examples of how this first step has helped me, just in the last week.

When we prepared to go to Office Depot last week…

We first checked our stash of school supplies – lots of pens, mechanical pencils and folders on hand.  We had depleted much of our stash getting the younger son ready a few weeks ago, but we still started our shopping at home, in our own cabinet.

Menu Planning.

Shopping your inventory may be a little more obvious when it comes to making dinner.  Driving home from a double client day yesterday, I was pondering what to make for dinner since I have not been to the grocery yet (and I was tired and really didn’t want to go!).  I remembered my son asked for home-made chicken noodle soup the other day, and as I mentally inventoried my cabinets and freezer while I drove, I realized I had what I needed to make soup for dinner.  And it was good!

Shop Your Home for Home Decor.

I spent a fun few hours organizing and staging space with a client over the weekend.  I assembled new storage units for her office, and then we set up her office space.  What was really awesome was looking around her home and borrowing from other rooms a lamp here, some art there and a potted plant from the old house that hadn’t found a home yet.  The finished space made her so happy, and cost only our time and the price of the new storage cubes.

It’s time to paint my son’s bedroom.  

Our first step is to check and see what paint we have already, especially considering we just painted the kitchen and office. We will also look for any supplies, like paint brushes and rollers, etc., before we head to Home Depot to buy paint and supplies.

The Magic Pants Bin in my basement.

The age of our Magic Bin in the basement has passed, but I will still share the idea.  With three sons, we always had current-sized clothes for the boys plus the in-between sizes that someone would soon grow out of or into.  For years, we always checked the off-size bins of clothes for the next size of clothing before we hit the stores, and like Magic, we could usually find a lot of what we needed in the Magic Bins.  The youngest son is now the tallest, though, so hand-me-downs and the Magic Bin have been retired.  But the idea is still valid!

Before you buy more stuff, always consider this very important first step – Check What You Have On Hand!

 

No, The First Step of Organizing is Not “Go Shopping”

Very often when we get the urge to organize, we start first with the urge to go and get more stuff!  “I need better containers!  New hangers!  Different bookshelves!  Cool new coat hooks, boxes, office supplies…”  well, the list goes on and on.  Lots of people go out and buy more stuff before they start actually organizing.
I understand this compulsion, friends.  I do.    Why do we want to shop first?
  • When faced with a cluttered space, of course it is more fun to think about the shiny new things in our “finished” space than to start with the hard choices, the heavy boxes, the dirty stuff!
  • Buying new things can lead to tangible improvement, something we can touch and point to and say “Look at how much better this space is now that we have xxxxx (fill in the blank).”
  • We may not know how to tackle our project, but we certainly know how to purchase things, either in a store or on-line.
  • If we already have clutter, it’s possible that “let’s go buy something new” is our usual response to a problem.
I recently worked with a lovely client in her laundry room. As we got started, she mentioned some great product ideas for shelving units and wall hooks for cleaning supplies, and I was all set to google those ideas on my phone, too, because Yes! That sounds waaaaaayyy more fun than tackling a pile of laundry!  HOWEVER… that is not how Organizing works.
 Here’s something to remember:  almost every organizing project requires at least some purging, some “letting go” of stuff.
The right organizing solution is almost never “Let’s bring more things into the space before we part with stuff!”
Instead:
  • Commit to the hard work, with a clear vision of how awesome your space will be when it’s organized!
  • Sort what you have.  Make decisions about what you want to keep and what needs to go away.  Actually bag up and get rid of the “go away” stuff.  Then figure out how to store what you have kept.  THEN you may want to shop.  However…
  • WAIT!! Get used to your newly organized space and stuff before you purchase something else!
  • Shop in your own stuff first – it’s very likely that you have what you need already.  As we organize, we may come across unused containers that we can re-purpose for our current project.   Or there are containers elsewhere in the house we can use.
  • Do your research, so you don’t end up contributing to your clutter.  Invest in good quality items, only as many as you need.  Keep receipts so that you can return items that don’t work in your space.
  • Do NOT buy new things that take up more space than the discarded items, or you will end up back in the same cluttered space you started in.
  • Look around your own space, or talk to friends and family before you spend the money!
  • If you like to shop, save the shopping as a perk for getting the hard work of sorting and purging done.
  • Keep a list of items you want to purchase or obtain.  Take the list with you when you shop, and stick with it!

 

So, let me be the little voice in your ear, your Jiminy Cricket encouraging you to do the right thing.   Do NOT shop first!  Do the hard work, then decide if you need to bring more stuff in to corral your stuff!

To:

Receive more ideas and suggestions like these;
Book time with me in person or virtually;
Arrange a presentation for your upcoming event; or
Discover the benefits of Organizational Coaching;

Please contact me.

Call / text 708.790.1940
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Truth Bombs About Socks

I worked with a new client this morning.  She is awesome.  All my clients are awesome. 

This client, whom I will refer to as Client (all names are changed to protect the innocent), and I worked on her tween daughter’s room.  Client sorted her daughter’s  clothes into “keep” and “donate” piles while I worked on the physical space in the room.

As is often the case, the topic of Socks came up. And I capitalized “Socks” because Socks are a big issue.  More specifically, the topic of the big pile / basket / bag of unmatched, unloved and slightly scary Socks came up.

Come on, you know the basket.  The one that lurks in shadows, ready to take on more cast offs, silently judging you and draining your mental energy day in and day out?  Yes, that one.

Let me share with you some truths that I shared with Client this morning:

  • Some of us judge ourselves far more harshly than we deserve.
  • Just because friends don’t talk about this on Facebook doesn’t mean that others aren’t fighting the same struggle. You are not alone. Lots of people have too many Socks (and other things).
  • MORE IMPORTANTLY,
    • Possession of all these Socks does not make you a bad, lazy or crazy person.
    • Possession of all these Socks causes negative self-talk as we choose yet again to go about our day of Family and Work and Volunteering and finally Bed (all very important things!!) instead of dealing with those cursed Socks (not nearly as important).
    • You are awesome, and the quality of your character is not determined by a basket of Socks.

And, for your peace of mind, if you want to conquer Sock Mountain, try these:

  • Wash the Socks.  Check under beds and couches, and wash them all.  One nasty soccer sock really can ruin the whole basket.
  • Once clean, collect them all.  Yes, All.  Check the sock drawers for rogue lone rangers.
  • Enlist Aid.  All of these Socks are not yours (probably). This project will go more quickly with more hands.
  • At least try.  Some clients have suggested chucking all the Socks and starting over, but this is terribly wasteful and we won’t learn anything from that strategy.
  • Change your location.  If the laundry room is not well lit or cheerful, move the basket to your bedroom or the kitchen counter, or somewhere else that will inspire and motivate you.
  • Line the unmatched Socks up by size and dominant color, to make matching them up easier.
  • Luckily, these days, especially in the world of tween girls, unmatched Socks are cool and fun!
  • Set a lower limit and an upper limit.  Many times a session with my clients, I will ask “How much is enough?” and “How many is too many?”  For example, set your Enough for 30 (or some other number) pairs. Pick your favorite 30 and pair them up.  Now you can look at little more critically at the leftovers.
  • Recognize that those Socks, at least some of them, ended up in the basket for a reason, and may no longer be needed and useful.
  • Set a timer.  We can do anything, even if we don’t like to, for a short period of time.  Watching a show? Great.  Grab the basket, dump it out, and get to it until the buzzer rings.  Then put away the matched Socks, and donate the rest.

So, be nice to yourself this week about your Socks and anything else, be honest with others, and spend a little time and tackle this common problem!

Put Stuff Away Before You Take Anything Else Out

Have you ever noticed?  When we are excited about an upcoming adventure / event / road trip, our first reaction is to jump in and start pulling things out to get ready.

Perhaps we are packing for a trip.  We’re leaving in the morning, so we run to the closet or dresser drawers, and start pulling out clothes and piling them on top of a potentially already cluttered dresser or bed.

Sometimes, we have a project for work that must be done right away, and we spread it out on top of the projects already on our desk or work space.

Maybe we’re famished and we need to start dinner, so we pull things out of the fridge to the already crowded counter and then wonder why cooking is such a hassle.

AHHHHH!!! Let me suggest a better way:

  • STOP!
  • Put your stuff away before you start pulling more things out.
  • Just 5 or 10 minutes of clearing out and cleaning up will help you find focus and clarity and a clear work space!
  • As you tidy up, craft your packing list or project plan in your mind.   Then, when your mind and space are de-cluttered, jump in to action!

Let’s go back to packing for that trip.  Take 5 minutes and hang up that pile of stuff on the dresser or bedpost (you know, THAT pile).  Locate and put away your clean laundry, pulling out items you want to take along with you.  Then pull out your suitcase or satchel and get packing!

Need to pack up more orders for shipment?  Finish the ones from yesterday and load them in the van.  THEN… start on the new ones.  A clear work space is always going to make the job go more smoothly!

Back to that new project for work?  Take the 5 minutes to clear up the old project, so the two don’t get mixed up.

Friends coming for dinner, and you just got home with all the groceries? Before you turn on the oven or open one package, take 5 minutes and put your groceries away, setting aside the supplies you need to make dinner on a tray or cookie sheet, and wipe clean the counter.  Just those few moments of putting away and getting ready will make your meal prep a lot easier!

I always encourage action instead of inaction, but we should also be taking the RIGHT action. So, clear and clean up before you leap in and give your next actions some thought.  Then go ahead and jump!

Your Stuff Needs an AWAY.

We all have stuff.  Stuff we need, stuff we use, stuff we love*.  Stuff.

(*if anyone can tell me who crafted the ‘Need, Use, Love’ criteria, I would love to know!)

Sometimes we have stuff we don’t need or use or love, and then our Stuff turns into Clutter.

 

Perhaps you have Stuff that you do need and use, but it is scattered around the house.  In the way, on surfaces, in bags, on top of other things. In this case, your Stuff becomes visual clutter.  We know we need to keep it, but it still drives us crazy.


Your Stuff needs an AWAY.
Once we determine what Stuff is needed and useful, we need to establish an AWAY, a spot or maybe multiple spots in our house for our Stuff to live.
Then we need to create and maintain the habit of actually putting our Stuff AWAY.
We put our Stuff AWAY…
  • to take good care of our Stuff so we don’t have to buy our Stuff again;
  • so we can find our Stuff again when we need it; and
  • to give our eyes a break and our homes a breath of clean and fresh air.
Ideas to consider:
  • If you have look around your home and notice piles of Stuff, we first ask – is that Stuff or Clutter?  If it’s Stuff, it needs an AWAY.  If it’s Clutter it needs to be purged.
  • We need to establish an AWAY for our Stuff that is convenient to where we use our Stuff. Obviously, we keep cooking and food items in the kitchen.  But we can be more specific, as in, keeping the coffee cups in the cabinet above the coffee maker which is also right next to the sink.
  • We also need to establish an AWAY that is convenient for the other related Stuff that goes with our Stuff.  So, in the coffee analogy, I might also keep the cream and sugar near the coffee maker and mugs, and the travel mugs nearby, too.
  • An AWAY for our stuff helps us decide about quantity.  For example: to me, one large dresser drawer full of t-shirts is a reasonable amount.  So, when I put my clean laundry AWAY and the drawer is too full (perhaps a recent shopping trip?), the boundaries of the drawer remind me of a reasonable t-shirt collection size, and I purge a few.
  • When we have a reliable AWAY and habit around putting our Stuff AWAY, we can check the AWAY location to determine if we need to buy more of our Stuff.  Again, using the coffee analogy, when the KCup holder (the AWAY) is empty, I know it is time to buy more KCups.  Imagine if I randomly stashed KCups all over the kitchen.  I wouldn’t know what I have, nor would I use it very well when I needed it.
  • Consider this idea from the other direction – If your stuff doesn’t have a home – an AWAY – it’s likely clutter.
Make the habit to put your Stuff AWAY.  Once a day, a couple times a week?  Put your Stuff Away, and enjoy the clutter-free space.  A clear space signals to your brain that you’re done, that work is complete, that the room is clean, etc.  A clear space can be both calming and energizing!
To sum up:
  • Decide what is Stuff and what is Clutter;
  • establish an AWAY for your Stuff;
  • establish good habits around putting your Stuff AWAY,
  • so you can take good care of your Stuff and enjoy a less cluttered home .
Have a great week!

Refresh and Restart For September

Recently, a friend – a fellow mom and business owner – wished me a Happy New Year, and that is really how I feel about September.  The schedule change, the life transitions, the brisk weather – I always feel renewed!  Use this time of renewal to clear mental and real clutter, and get a better handle on your time management, just like our students do!  Here’s how:

Re-Commit to Good Routines.

I love summer, but all facets of my life, personal and professional, benefit from Back-To-School consistency with waking and bed-times, meal times and nutrition, and more structured workdays.  Use this new season as an opportunity to return to routines that work, or tweak your routines and make them work even better!

Go to bed.  No, seriously.  Go to bed.

This is an uphill battle for me most days.  As a parent, I daily try to convince my teenagers to listen to their tired bodies and go to bed, instead of staying up late just because they can.  And personally, I wish I could say I get enough sleep, but sometimes I don’t. Most nights, I’m in bed at a reasonable hour, but some really great books have kept me up lately!  This week, now a little colder and darker outside, I will listen to my own tired body, close the book or IPad, and hit the pillow earlier.

We think better, work better, feel better and act nicer when we are well rested. Go to bed.

Remember the care and consideration you spent on that First Day outfit? 

September is a great time to take a look at your wardrobe, and make a few changes!  Cooler temperatures and Autumn colors have us shuffling through our closets in search of something to wear.  Take time to clean summer clothes, review and purge accordingly, and put them away into seasonal storage on a high shelf or in underbed storage. Shop in your closet for surprises (those great scarves I bought last Spring), and favorites. Refresh your wardrobe without leaving the house or spending a cent.

Re-new friendships and strengthen relationships!

I always loved going back to school because it meant I got to see my school friends more regularly.  We can learn from this as adults, too!  It is always a good time to reach out to a friend.  Whenever you find yourself wondering about someone and how they are, reach out!  And I mean via facebook, email, texting or a greeting card, in addition to the obvious “call them”!  Wouldn’t it be nice to know someone is thinking of you?  Your loved ones feel the same way.  Connect!

Out with the old, in with the new.

Out with the old:  It’s also always a good time to clear clutter!  This week I dropped off a couple of bags of donations, arranged donation of some old cell phones and cords, and sold used items on-line.  I cleaned out, cleaned up and made some space.

In with the new:  I love back-to-school for new gear and gadgets, but I don’t really need anything right now.  I did spend my morning clearing memory, installing updates and cleaning up my tech.  That’s all new!  And it feels great!

Learn something new.

Keeping up with your kids on a new technological gadget?  A language? A musical instrument? A cool new app, or a new way of doing something?   You-tube, google or your local library are all great places to imagine and explore new skills!  In addition, I already have a lot of new information right in front of me – I am working through my professional reading pile:  here’s irony, I have two time management books next on my pile, guess I need to find some time to read those!

With the new season comes meetings and events and an influx of new ideas to process and act upon.  It’s energizing!  Learn something new all the time.

How will you choose to embrace the new season this week?  Let’s Go!