Goal Setting: So, What Are You Afraid Of?

A coaching client emailed me this question:

Good Morning, Coach Colleen!
Just touching base…
Not very successful in meeting last weeks’ goals.

Today I am asking myself –
What am I afraid of… if I was to let go of something?
I know what papers I want to toss or move – but I am holding on to something.
Hopefully we can move past this block.

My response (edited for confidentiality and content):

“Hmmmm….. what ARE you afraid of?”

We set goals because we want to achieve a certain outcome. We’re also aware there may be side effects from achieving those goals.  The fear of those side effects weighs us down.

  • This client has boxes of old papers to review and purge. She wants to wrap up the paper project before starting another. She has done great work in many ways, but reviewing and purging the papers in these these last few boxes feels scary, like she might let go of something important.
  • I heard the story of a client secretly afraid of an empty in-box. It seemed that if the in-box was empty, she wouldn’t have any more excuses for not doing the other harder, more emotionally painful tasks she’s been putting off.
  • A friend is worried that she’ll lose too much weight and then she’ll have to buy new clothes and it will be expensive. So she doesn’t even start.
  • I alternate between wanting to be super-busy and then freaking out because I’m so busy and can’t do all the things I want to do.

We all have fears, it’s how we face them – what we do with them – that matters.  If you ask yourself what you’re afraid of, your mind might not produce an answer.  If you’re feeling blocked, you can instead ask yourself, “What’s the worse that can happen?”

As in, “I’m conflicted about a possible outcome. It could be good, and it could be scary. So what is the worse that can happen if I achieve this goal?”

Using the weight loss example, what’s the worse that can happen?

  • We feel some discomfort with being hungry or sore from exercising, until our body adjusts (we can survive that, no biggie).
  • We lose weight and then have to buy new clothes (not really so bad).
  • We lose so much weight we look like one of those crazy skeleton people on the news (not really very likely, now is it?).
  • We work out so much we look like those freaky body builders (also not too likely).
  • There is the unlikely event that losing weight could cause other health issues, but the list of health benefits outweigh the fears.

In the case of this client, what’s the worse that can happen if she let go of the wrong papers?

  • Someone may ask for the information (sometimes the answer is “No, I don’t have that paper anymore” and sometimes we have to go out and find the answer again. Neither is too scary).
  • She may forget about it (if the paper represents something important, she will be reminded in other ways).
  • Again, the benefits of completing this paper project, and freeing up space in her house and schedule exceed the fears.
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This afternoon I found this quote while working at a different client’s house, took a picture and texted it to my client. I loved her response:

“Wow, doing 365 things a year could make a person become ruthless [her goal is to objectively and ruthlessly purge her papers]! And then nothing will scare them!”

So face those fears, and make those lists. I bet what you fear isn’t so scary after all!

Powerful Questions to Build Decision Making Muscles

Recently, a coaching client asked for Powerful Questions to ask herself, to increase her motivation to get rid of paper clutter.  Below are questions I ask my clients (and myself!) as we work, to clarify the paper decision-making process.  In my experience, we all keep too much paper – I am rarely called to help someone because they got rid of too much!  Therefore, these questions will nudge you to purge your papers.

In addition, we often tackle our paper management in little pieces of time, and not big blocks. So we need to get in the organizing and purging zone regularly, and that takes practice!  These questions help you build your decision-making muscles, so you can hit that organizing / purging zone more quickly.  Here’s another tip – the questions can be tweaked and used to review every type of clutter!!

  • Now is not the time to ask Why?  As in “Why on earth did I keep this?”  Not why, then, but “What am I going to do right now?”
  • What can I do today to help future Me out? (Purge, unsubscribe, etc.)  What can I digitize, or subscribe to online?
  • If you keep paper for “Just In Case”, ask these:
    • Will anyone ever ask me for this piece of paper / information?  (If no, toss it.)
    • Does this information exist elsewhere?  (If yes, likely can toss it.)
    • Do I need to be the keeper of this information?  (No.  It’s called the internet.)
    • Is this information still correct, or pertinent?
    • If I purge this paper, what’s the worst that can happen?  Can I accept that “worst”?
    • Are all these papers worth the mess?
  • If you feel that “I can’t purge my papers because they will somehow change my life”, ask these:
    • Does this paper represent a reasonable expectation of myself or someone else?
    • Does my happiness really hinge on me having this piece of paper?  (No.)
    • Does this paper hold the secret to life? How likely is it that I hold the secrets of the universe in a dusty box of papers from 10 years ago?
    • Wouldn’t a better change come from clearing the clutter?
  • If you know you “Don’t want it, but don’t know what to do with it”, ask these:
    • Do I need to recycle it or shred it?
    • Does someone else need it more?  (Pass it on!)
  • If you keep paper for Nostalgia / Sentimentality / Guilt, ask these:
    • Who am I keeping this for?  (I ask this question of parents who keep every school paper their child ever brought home.  Because they are keeping those papers for themselves.  In 20 years, the kids will NOT want old boxes of school papers.)
    • Charitable donations / solicitations:
      • Do I make decisions regarding charitable giving based on mail or phone calls I receive?  (Personally?  No. So I can let those go.)
      • Did I ask for this information, or did someone else decide I need it?  Do I agree?  (Use this to review the unsolicited greeting cards / address labels / stickers that non-profit organizations send us so that we feel obliged to send them money.)
    • If I’m keeping these old papers in respect for a loved one who passed away, would they really want me struggling under all this clutter?
  • If these papers reminds me you that you need to do something, ask these:
    • What action does this paper represent?  (Go ahead and act, or at least add the task to your to-do list, then let the paper go.)
    • What nugget of information on this paper do I really need to keep?  (For example, a business card represents contact info for a person.  Log the info into your address book, either paper or digital, and then toss the card.)

So, next time you are struggling with piles of paper, keep some of these in mind. Make little index cards or post-its of the questions that resonate with you most, and stick them up where you can see them!  Let them be your mantra as you review your papers and let some go!

National Clean Off Your Desk Day and The 80/20 Rule

Now The Real Work Begins!  Now it’s time to get down to business, and what better way than with National Clean off Your pile of mailDesk Day, the second Monday of January!  Think about it – Cleaning Off Your Desk makes room for motivation, clarity and focus.  What are your Goals for 2015:  Clear the clutter; get a handle on your money and finances; read more; stress less; do / get a better job?  It all starts with cleaning your desk!

Let me (re)-introduce you to the Pareto Principle, a.k.a. the 80/20 Rule.  The Pareto Principle says 80% of what you need is in 20% of what you have. Say it a couple times out loud until it sinks in.  The 80/20 rule applied to Paper management says we need about 20% of our papers, and we can probably get rid of the rest.  As an example, a client returning from a trip mentioned collecting 2 inches of mail from her mail box, and keeping… 4 items.  That’s it.

Let’s clear that cluttered 80%, so we can work on the 20% we need to act on and keep.

Here’s What To Do:

Grab a recycling bin and shredder, a letter opener, and pen and paper.

Grab the first pile of papers on your desk, and get started. With the most recent pile of mail, open it all.  Yes, really, Standing at your work space (standing is better), open it all.

  • Recycle immediately the ads.
  • Start piles for Common Categories, like these:
    • Bills to pay
    • Action Items (notes to send, reminders of phone calls to make, forms to complete and submit, etc)
    • Items to Read Later: magazines, articles
    • Errands to Run (coupons, receipts for returns, etc)
    • Papers To File
    • Tax Related Papers 2014
    • Receipts
  • Recycle all the catalogs, but first tear off the back page off and set them aside.
  • Open every envelope, and toss / recycle / shred anything you don’t need for action or filing.  Recycle outside envelopes and inside inserts for your bills, etc.,
  • Set the bills-to-pay in their own pile, and the action items (same pile for me)
  • Grab a magazine holder and start a reading pile for your magazines and articles you plan to read later

Make some magic, and STOP MORE MAIL FROM COMING!

  • Low Tech: Call the 800 #s on the back page of the catalogs, and request to be removed from their mailing list.
  • Go To http://www.catalogchoice.org/, create an account and “Unsubscribe” from catalogs
  • Using your catalogchoice.org account, Get the Mail Stop app for your smart phone and get rid of unwanted mail in your mail box, too
  • Contact and create an account with the Direct Marketing Association,  http://www.dmachoice.org/, to get off of mailing lists and stop unsolicited mail
  • Another option is the Paper Karma app for your smart phone, to unsubscribe from mailing lists.
  • Unsubscribe from Magazines you no longer need or want, and digitize your subscriptions, so they come via email or on your IPad or Tablet.
  • Make a regular appointment to get to your reading pile (mine is early on Saturday morning for an hour or 2)

I’ve blogged extensively on setting up the actual Paper Management structure, the files and things, so please check out those, too, as you proceed to the next step:  http://colleencpo.wordpress.com/?s=paper+management

Here are related blogs, too, from past National Clean Off Your Desk Days:

You Can DO This!  Now get to work!

How to Cross “Organize My Medical Information” Off Your List!

October is National Organize Your Medical Information Month.  “Organize Medical Papers” is an often neglected task.  And if our health becomes an unexpected roller-coaster ride, we find ourselves struggling with our info AND a medical setback.

October is the right time to organize your medical info since employers offer their insurance enrollment period in November for the upcoming year.  Take this opportunity to look back and review, and look ahead and plan, and get those papers in order!

Remember, I’m a certified professional organizer, not a health care professional!   Always consult a medical professional for health-related questions.

Your Medical Information may include, but is not limited to:

  • ID numbers for your health insurance(s), prescription or dental plan, etc.
  • Lists of and information on current medications and supplements
  • Durable power of attorney for health care
  • Immunization or Medical records
  • Progress reports for various therapies
  • Information on acute (once in a while) or chronic (on-going) medical issues
  • Discharge instructions from current and past events
  • Correspondence with insurance companies re current and past treatment

First, purge old or obsolete information!  It’s clutter and can even be dangerous.  For example, keep only your updated prescription list, so no one confuses the old list for the new one.

You can purge papers if you won’t need them again, the information is no longer pertinent, or if the information exists elsewhere and you trust the keeper of the information.  For example, my three sons were delivered uneventfully by the same doctor at the same hospital.  That was more than 10 years ago, so I can confidently purge records from those events.  Remember, SHRED anything containing personal information!

Now that you have a better idea of what papers you have and what to keep, set up a system for your papers.

Make It Portable.

  • Purchase a 3 Ring Binder from your local office supply store for keeping medical information portable.
  • Take your medical binder to doctor appointments, so you have all the information you need at hand.
  • High Tech. The August edition of Woman’s Day offered suggestions to improve your health, and a handful of them were high tech:  Asking about on-line Patient Portals with your healthcare provider, or trying these mobile medical apps like PocketPharmacist or iTriage.

Make It Easy and Keep it Updated!

  • In the front of the binder, keep a list with your physician and other practitioner’s contact information.
  • Purchase a clear set of binder pockets, to help you divide up the important info within your binder. Assign pockets for categories such as:
    • Prescriptions and prescription information
    • Copies of the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and other pertinent directives
    • Discussion topics for your doctor, like recent lab / test / radiology reports, articles about new health care innovations, nutrition, supplements, etc., to discuss at your next appointment.
    • Pending insurance issues
    • This year’s paid medical bills and insurance EOB (Explanation of benefits)
    • Perhaps a folder per specialist, or per issue

Make it Personal:

  • Each family member may need their own binder! Thankfully, my family has unremarkable medical histories.  But every year, we fill out physical forms for my sons for school athletics and camp.  I keep a copy of each yearly physical form, to help complete the next one.  And as information changes, for example my son had oral surgery last December, I note that on my copy of the physical form.  The actual medical record exists with his doctors, but I now have an informal yet compete history for my own use.

Tell your family where the medical information binder is kept.

  • For example, our family recently faced some medical challenges, and my siblings and I all knew where my parent’s medical information binder was kept. Thankfully, everything went smoothly, but we were glad to have the information!

Spend a little time with your Medical Information now, and feel better all year long!

Swap 60 Minutes With Your Mail for 167 Worry-Free Hours! 

Does this sound familiar? mailbox-clip-art_436249

Piles of new / old / opened / mystery mail are scattered on flat surfaces all over your home.  Somewhere there’s a utility bill that might be due, and that reimbursement check from work is missing.  You are always vaguely worried about business falling through the cracks.

You’re not alone.  I worked with a client just last week with a similar challenge, and here’s how we cleaned up her surfaces, took care of this week’s mail and took care of business, in no time at all. Try it for yourself!

First, we collected the mail from the hall table, kitchen counter, dresser, mail box and desk top.  We wiped off a counter top, and made some space to get to work.

As we worked, I shared these truths with my client:

  1. The Pareto Principle (a.k.a. The 80/20 Rule)
    1. 80% of what we use in 20% of what we have.
    2. In business, the 80/20 rule says that 80% of our business comes from 20% of our clients.
    3. In a closet, the 80/20 rule says that if we own 10 pairs of pants, we wear the same 2 or 3 all the time.  In the kitchen, if we have 10 appliances, we use the same 2 or 3 every day.
    4. And if we get 10 pieces of mail today, we actually need to keep and act on 2 or 3.
  2. You will receive mail you don’t need and didn’t ask for.  Just because someone sent you something doesn’t mean you need it.
  3. Your daily mail is unlikely to contain anything truly urgent.
  4. Once you’re organized, maintenance takes no time at all.
  5. Sometimes a conscious effort once a week to work on mail all the way to completion is better than halfhearted dealings every day.

With these truths in mind, we tackled this week’s mail (and you can, too!):

  1. We pulled out ads and old newspapers, and recycled them.
  2. We pulled out magazines, confirmed my client actually wanted to read them, and created a reading pile.
  3. Next we opened up every envelope.  Why?
    1. Just like the book and cover analogy, you can’t judge your mail by the envelope.  For example, health insurance reimbursement checks look just like Explanation of Benefit envelopes.  In addition, credit card solicitations don’t always look personalized on the outside envelope, but can contain personal information inside and therefore require shredding.
    2. We can recycle parts of every mail item. For example, my client’s ComEd envelope contained a bill page, a return envelope, a “customer privacy info” sheet and an advertisement.  We kept only the bill page, as she pays her bill on-line and didn’t need the return envelope,
  4. Next, we put the “bills to pay” and the follow-up items in a small pile, for my client to complete when our session was over.  Since we had purged 80% of the papers, there were only 3 or 4 action items, which will take maybe 15 minutes to complete.
  5. We took out the recycling, shred a few papers containing personal info and filed the rest (just a few).
  6. Total elapsed time – 15 minutes. Done and Done.

For many of us, tackling the mail once a week is enough.  And by “tackling”, I mean taking our daily mail all the way from the mailbox to complete and filed.  This approach requires up to an our once a week, uninterrupted, but surely an hour of hard work and focus is worth the freedom from paper management tasks for the other 167 hours!  Give it a try!

Spring Cleaning For Your Financial House!

It is Spring!  This time of year, we all want to make changes and put things in order for this new season.  In addition, the tax deadline is next week, so let me recommend putting your Financial House in Order, too.    Here are 6 steps to get you started:

 

Shred your discarded personal papers.  Why Shred?  For safety sake.  You want to make it as difficult as possible for someone to commit a crime like identity theft against you.

If you don’t have a shredder, get one.  If (and when) you have a shredder, create the daily or weekly habit of shredding any un-needed paper with personal information on it.  If you tackle this job in little pieces regularly, you won’t amass big piles of papers to shred.  (Note – this is a great job for a helpful child!)

If you already have big piles of papers needing shred, keep an eye out in your community for free Shred Events.  If you just want to catch up and get it all shred at once, you have a couple of options.  The three big office supply stores, Office Max, Office Depot and Staples, all offer shredding services on a per pound basis.  In addition, you could contact ProShred or Shark Shredding , and make an make an appointment to shred all your papers at once.

 

Go on-line and request your Credit Report.  Why get your credit report?  Your credit report is a snap-shot of your financial identity.  Reviewing your credit report may uncover unresolved issues that are harming your credit score, or long-neglected credit cards or accounts that are still active.  Take time to review your report, and follow-up with any issues you notice.  And make a note in your calendar to do it again next year, too.

There are three reporting agencies, Equifax (www.equifax.com), Experian (www.experian.com) and Transunion (www.transunion.com).  I don’t know about other states, but I know that as an Illinois resident, I am entitled to a free credit report from each agency every year.

 

Buy a fireproof Safe.  If you don’t have a safe, invest in one.  Make sure it is fireproof and portable, and that you, your spouse, and one other person that doesn’t live in your house knows where the key is kept.  Store your irreplaceable vital records in there, like birth / sacramental / marriage and death certificates, insurance policies, passwords, Wills, car titles, etc.

 

If temptation to spend is great, physically “Freeze” your credit cards.   I heard this tip years ago, about a woman struggling with credit card debt actually freezing her credit cards in a large block of ice.  The idea was to make it complicated to use credit, so she would have a chance to consider and re-consider any purchase made with credit.  I don’t know if you want to really freeze your credit cards, but you could remove all but one from your wallet and put the rest away somewhere safe, like in the safe mentioned above or, well, a well-disguised block of ice.

 

Make sure your Beneficiary allocations are up-to-date.  Check your retirement accounts, insurance policies, etc., and make sure that the stated beneficiaries are who you want them to be.  Too often we forget this step, and our loved ones could lose out.

 

Add a “2014 Income Tax information” file to the front of your top file drawer, and make a habit of tossing charitable donation receipts and other pertinent tax info in there.  It will make tax time go more smoothly next year.

 

Add these steps to your Spring Cleaning plan this week, and get your Financial House in order, too.

Paper Management Suggestions for the Lady at the Gas Station.

A woman noticed the magnets on my van, and asked me about my business.

She said “I always say, I need someone to help me with my files.  I always think that it’s just me, and there is something wrong with me”.

No, there is nothing wrong with you, and you are not alone in struggling with your papers. Here’s why:

Image

  • Most of us keep too many papers, and / or keep papers for too long.
  • Most of us name our files the wrong thing, if we even have files.
  • Some of us have barriers to filing, either real or imagined.
  • Most of us don’t maintain our papers often enough.

We keep too many papers, and we keep them for too long:

We keep receipts / business cards / post-it notes / grocery lists far longer than they are useful.

We keep newspapers / children’s daily school work / magazines long after they’ve been read.

We keep papers out of habit, because they started out as “important”, but now they are just old news.

We want to hold on to our papers for “just-in-case”.  HOWEVER, You can purge your papers if:

  • The information exists somewhere else (medical records or on-line banking information);
  • The information is not pertinent to you (flyers for activities that don’t interest you or past events)
  • Purging the paper will have minimal consequences (who reads the privacy notices from credit card companies?)
  • You can’t imagine when or why anyone would ask for that information (utility bills or grocery bills from more than a few months ago, account information from long closed accounts, etc).

We name our files the wrong things, if we even name them at all:

Never name a file Miscellaneous.  Ever.  Either a paper is necessary enough to warrant a file named for it, or it isn’t important and it needs to go.  If you have a “Misc.” file, perhaps it could be more aptly named….:

  • marketing ideas
  • Action Papers
  • general credit / banking information
  • Work To Do
  • You choose…. But make it meaningful.  Name your files, name your papers and get to work.

We have barriers to filing, either real or imagined.  They may include:

  1. Non-existent filing systems (your important papers don’t have a final “Away” in your home or office).
  2. Antiquated filing system (what worked 20 years ago doesn’t anymore).
  3. Physically inconvenient filing: perhaps the file cabinets are under other things, or in a remote corner of your home or office, so papers never get put away, reviewed or purged.
  4. Too-Full file drawers – you have files from 2007, but no room to file the papers from last week.

The solutions are simple: purge the clutter, move the file cabinets, purge or shred the unneeded content.

Most of us don’t maintain our papers often enough.

I know that sounds scary.  As though I am telling you that you have to find more time to work on your papers – ahhhhh!!

But remember, I just told you how to keep a lot less.  Really, we just need to perform maintenance more often but for less time total.  Five to 10 minutes a day to:

  •          Open today’s mail;
  •          Shred today’s shredding (a few pages);
  •          Toss the recycling (a few pages);
  •          Pay this week’s bills (once a week);
  •          Enter a few items into your calendar; and
  •          File the few papers that you actually need to keep.

So, to the lady at the gas station and to you, try one of these ideas this week, and you are not alone in your struggles with paper management!

Command Center Part 2: Your Paper & Scheduling Challenges (& Solutions)!

A few weeks ago, I asked my FB friends to tell me their most and least favorite things about their Command Centers.  And because I know absolutely awesome people, I received great input and ideas!

The biggest challenges for my contributors were Paper Management and Scheduling.  There was a third area, Technology, but I will address that in a separate blog article!

So, Command Center Paper Management and Scheduling ideas – here we go!!!!

Paper:

  • Did you know?  There are three main types of paper: Active, Passive and Archival.  And each requires slightly different handling.
  • Active (requires an action):
    • If a paper needs returned to school, sign it immediately, note any necessary info on your calendar of choice, attach a check or cash if necessary, then send it back to school.  Right away!
    • Tuck Bills-to-Pay in their own folder, so everything’s together when the weekly bill-paying time comes.
    • If the action required is to jot down a date or details in your planner, make time to do this everyday.  Maintaining our active papers daily keeps them from building up.
  • Passive (keep for a predetermined amount of time, then purge):
    • If you keep schedules or notices for upcoming events on hand, keep them all on one single clip, with the soonest event on top.  Keeping too many notices or reminders causes visual clutter, and we stop really seeing what’s in front of us.
    • Kid papers – admire-then-purge daily papers, if possible.  If papers need to be kept for a few weeks, tuck them in hanging folders per person, and purge monthly.
    • Display kid art on the fridge, and purge old items as new ones come along.
    • Purge passive papers ruthlessly!  Once a week is preferred, once a month is a Must.
  • Archival (papers we expect to make a permanent record)
    • Keep a binder per person for long term papers, or papers you want to keep.  Each of my sons has a binder for their academic records, award certificates, team photos, etc., organized by academic year.
  • With each piece of paper in hand, ask yourself a few questions:
    • What is the next action to take on this paper?  (Act, File, toss)
    • If I choose to keep this paper, why am I choosing to keep this paper?  For example:
      • Academic records?  someone may ask for it some day.
      • Today’s completed and graded spelling test?  No one needs it anymore.  And no, your child will not want to look at it again in 20 years.

Scheduling:

Many of you have scheduling challenges, and I absolutely understand.  My sons, while awesome!!, are often a little light on calendar and event details.

Good scheduling requires regular effort, strategic planning, cooperation from all participants, and communication!  Communication is key.

We have planning sessions with both parents and two teenagers, typically on Sunday night after dinner. The 9 year old gets the highlights and then is dismissed.  I keep everyone’s calendar in MS Outlook, so our planning sessions consist of making sure everyone has the same information in front of them.  We had one a few weeks ago, we probably need to have another one this week since we just added another sports team and schedule.  My husband and the teenagers use Google Calendars, so they can synchronize their own pertinent info, and invite me via email to important events.  I have not yet made the switch.

A few of you asked about scheduling “consequences / rewards”, but I don’t give parenting advice!  However, we have a few guidelines:

  • If you want to add an event to the calendar, tell me in writing / text/ email so I won’t forget it
  • You are one person in a 5 person household.  Keep that in mind when making time and event requests.
  • If you didn’t inform me of an event with adequate warning, it’s possible you may not be able to attend.  You know I will always try, but the answer may be “no”.
  • At any time, the answer may be “No”. And school, family time and church can trump anything else.

If your challenges are also paper and scheduling, try one of these solutions today!

Our Home Command Center, more Command and more Center!

This week I want to share a small project that made a big impact in my kitchen – not too overwhelming and sooooo useful!

First, if you’d like, I wrote this a while ago, for more specifics:

ImageYour Command Center: Knowledge is Power

Your command center is the information hub of your home.  Perhaps it’s a desk, maybe just a kitchen counter or table near the door.  But everyone and every home needs one.

Calendars and schedules, contact lists and team rosters, incoming mail and bills to pay, school supplies and reference materials.  Yep, all of this can be in a command center.

I reworked ours last week.  It took less than an hour, and this is the after picture.  I wanted to post it first, since it is a nice visual, and it makes me happy.

The command center surface is not large (by design), but it is in the kitchen, the very center of our home. That keeps it front and center, accessible to everyone – but that also means that it gets cluttered, and when it does, I have to look at it all the time.  And that occasionally drives me crazy.  So here are the before and after pictures, and my comments:

  • Always start with a plan.  I know what I do and don’t like about our current arrangement, plus what I wanted the updated space to look like.
  • I cleared everything off, and wiped down the space.
  • I moved some books out that belonged on other bookshelves, and I Imageeven (gulp) got rid of the desk encyclopedia.  I kept the dictionary, thesaurus and bible, because I encourage my boys to actually look stuff up instead of asking Google.  However, the desk encyclopedia was mine.  From high school.  And that was a loooong time ago.  So it went away.
  • Before, I had trays available on the kitchen desk for each child.  Not surprisingly, while school papers and assignments moved in and out, other stuff just piled up.  So the sloppy side-by-side trays were replaced by a vertical tray.  Much better.
  • I powered through the school supplies, and ruthlessly purged what the boys don’t or won’t use.  Buh-bye.
  • The charging cords and surge protector still drive me crazy, but I’ve been keeping the cords clipped up when not in use, or in the desk drawer underneath.  And I received a very cool produImagect to review for an upcoming blog that may help with this, so more later…
  • I went with “pretty”.  I don’t always care what my organizing tools look like, but since this area is seen by anyone walking through my house, I invested in matching and attractive items.  Nice, clean lines.  Ahhhhh…. (that is a contented sigh, by the way)
  • A vitally important but often neglected part of a Command Center is the day-to-day attention and maintenance.  I made sure that only current information was present in the Command Center.
  • I recently read a suggestion, to have a “waiting” folder, with items waiting for follow up.  Like rebates, reimbursements, copies of applications, etc.  So I added one to our existing files.
  • So, in under an hour, I improved the look of the most lived-in room in the house, pared down and cleaned up our information, and cleared some clutter. Look around – Do you have a Command Center?  Is it time for an update?!  Give it a try! Image

Little Pieces: Paper Management to Fix My Dinner Dilemma

To sum up the article you are about to read:Image

  1. Create paper management systems that work for you, and look at them critically once in a while to make sure they are still working;
  2. Regular maintenance is key to the success of any system;
  3. Binders are a great way to store papers that you plan to use again;
  4. Look critically at your practices regularly, and be open and willing to change; and
  5. Imagine different ways that new technology can make your life easier or solve a problem

Some of you may stop there, and that’s fine.  But read on for the rest of the story….

It’s almost 2014.  And my personal resolutions revolve around healthier eating for my family, and getting fit.  So I admit to you, instead of writing my blog, I really want to clean up / clear out my recipe binder. My recipe binder project is a study in good paper management

There are a few motivators working here:

  • I just placed a 3 month order for my awesome nutritional supplements (Reliv, ask me about them!)
  • I also just signed up for a “Figure Friendly Freezer Meal Party” in January
  • I need to menu plan for the next two weeks now that we’re done traveling and hosting parties
    I plowed through my reading pile over the weekend while traveling, and have a pile of new recipes
  • I have a backlog of recipes to try

I read a couple of magazines regularly, pulling out the recipes to use later.  There seems to be so much promise, so much hope and happiness in those shiny pictures in a magazine.  Years ago, I created a binder to keep my favorite recipes close at hand.  My binder is separated into categories that work for me and my family – favorites, appetizers, main dishes, baking, sides and salads.  When I collect recipes from my magazines, I tuck them in the front pocket of the binder.  When I feel like trying something new, I pick one out and we try it.  If my family likes it, I’ll file it in the right category area.  If they don’t, I’ll toss it.  I have purged the occasional cook book, too, when I go back to it for only one recipe repeatedly.  I’ll tear the page out or make a copy in my printer, and purge the cookbook.

So here are the problems I am facing:

  • The front pocket has gotten very full, and I have more to add.
  • There are recipes that have been in the pocket for months and even years, and I have yet to try them.  Which means they no longer appeal to me, and probably never will.
  • I am turning over a new, healthier leaf and many of the backlog recipes don’t fit that vision.
  • I sometimes collect recipes on-line now.

So, this evening or tomorrow, I will spend an hour and

  1. Re-file all the favorites that we’ve pulled out over the holidays (recipes for our favorite holiday cookie recipes, sugared walnuts, and a lovely sauce for our Christmas roast
  2. Grab a sheet protector, put two new soup recipes we’ve tried and loved into it, and add it to the binder.
  3. Look very critically at this weekend’s new pile and the handful of recipes in the front pocket, and ask myself some questions.  Such as:  Is it just too complicated?  Does it contain ingredients I can not pronounce or easily find at my regular grocery stores?  Will my family turn up their collective noses?  Is it healthy?  Do I already have a recipe that is very similar?  Can I find the recipe again on-line?
  4. Start “collecting” more recipes on-line, bookmarking the pages and adding a link to my menu plan spreadsheet so I can find the recipe again when I need it.  An article I read suggested using Evernote (which I love!!) to catalog and organize recipes, too.

What can you spend an hour on this week, a small project, that will reap big rewards?  Imagine, and get to it!  Happy New Year!