Backward Planning for Stress Free Projects

I frequently use and recommend backward planning as a time management tool when working on any project. Backward planning works equally well on smaller projects like planning a party or preparing a presentation, or on larger projects like moving or house renovation. Once you have developed your plan, you just follow the plan and relax knowing that everything is covered.

It works like this:

  • Start with the end in mind. What does the end product look like and how are you going to feel? Using a party as an example, I would envision that my home is filled with friends, there is an abundance of good food, and that I am enjoying this party as well as my guests.
  • Plan an end date. When does all this have to come together? When is the party? When is the move?
  • Do a brain dump of all the things that must happen in order for your vision of a perfect project to come true. For the party some items on my list are: make up a guest list, decide on a theme, send out save the date emails, choose invitations to mail, plan a menu, schedule extra yard maintenance, schedule extra house cleaning, decide what foods I am going to order and what ones I plan on preparing, make shopping lists, prepare the food, and set up seating areas.
  • Put your “do” list in a sequential order. For the party I started with who I was going to invite and ended with lighting candles and making cozy seating areas.
  • Give each item on the list a “do it” date. Several items can be done on one day but make sure each item has a time attached to it. Allow some wiggle room. Sometimes things happen so you can’t do an item on your intended date so have a fall back time available. Also, start early. For a party I start the process two months out.
  • Now, just follow your plan.
The real advantage of using this system is that you won’t have all these thoughts about the project squirreling around in your head and you won’t worry about how you will get this accomplished. You just make your plan and then work your plan.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

The Science of Being Happy and Productive – Recap

One of the many benefits of attending the ICD conference are the fantastic sessions offered. One of the sessions, The Science of Being Happy & Productive at Work by Ayla Lewis, is full of ideas that I want to share.

Ayla shared various studies that showed that happier people are healthier and more creative, energetic, productive, resilient, cooperative, social, and engaged at work. Wow! I know that when I feel upbeat, positive, and grateful, I can more easily stay focused and not fearful. Who knew this is really backed up by science. Ayla’s four main points were:

  1. Practice Positivity:
Science tells us that when we practice positivity by being optimistic, visioning our best possible future, and focusing on the positive, our happiness factor increases.
    2. Flow to Goals:
Make sure your goals have milestones. Savor and celebrate the progress. When you focus completely with no multitasking for about 20 minutes or more on a task that is challenging but possible, you end up in a state called flow. Multitasking can ruin that flow and make you miserable and stupid.
     3. Subdue Stress:
Science states that how we cope with stress has a huge effect on our well-being. Even how we think about stress is important. We can see that some stress is good. Stress gets our heart beating and we breathe harder. This can get us moving toward reaching a goal. It is important to use effective coping strategies, however. The strategies that Ayla named were physical exercise, connecting with a friend, mindfulness mediation, and viewing stress as energizing.
     4. Revitalize Relationships:
Prioritize people. Happiness is contagious. We all have mirror neurons which give us that ability to understand each other and catch emotions from each other. It is important to interact, forgive, be kind, and express gratitude. Even just acting like a happy person can make you and others actually feel happier!
For more depth on her presentation, check out

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Organizing Paper Work to Sell My Home

I am planning on selling my home. As an organizer, I decided to research what paperwork I need to gather and organize in order to make this happen with a minimum of stress.

I certainly am planning on using a realtor to guide me but the more I can accomplish ahead of time, the less stress I will have because of scrambling for certain documents on demand. I am aware that if I am missing any documents it could slow down my progress.

Items that are necessary:

  • Original sales contract for my home with the purchase price
  • Property deed that shows legal ownership of my property along with the original title search and title-insurance policy
  • Professional appraisal done when I bought the house and any changes I have made to the house since that appraisal
  • Home repair and maintenance records
  • Mortgage and financing documents
  • Records regarding my homeowner’s insurance
  • Property tax records – these will also provide the buyer with such information as the schools and other tax information
  • If I belonged to a homeowner’s association, I’d need all related documents

Also nice to have:

  • Home inspection papers to show the structural integrity of my home
  • Manuals and warranty information on major appliances that will be part of the sale
  • Utility bills to give prospective owners an idea of the utility costs

I will start right away putting together folders with all of this information. Right now I am having even more work done on my home to improve its value and will keep these records as well as the name and contact information of the person doing the work.

If you have been through this process and have some suggestions to make, I would truly appreciate it.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Last Minute Holiday Organizational Tips

Christmas is just around the corner. What can we do now to make this Christmas and the next a little less stressful?

As the Christmas cards come in, take the time now to check addresses and update your contact list. Plan now on how you want to handle the card you receive – especially those with personal pictures and notes. I do not keep cards unless there is a very special note or picture. Then the card will go into a memorabilia box. If you like to use favorite cards as gift tags for the next year, put those cards in a small box and label them “gift tag cards.” If you want to keep some of the pictures, consider scanning them as they come in. Another option is to place them in your memorabilia box with other family photos. If you plan to answer notes in the cards, schedule the time to do this now or very likely they will be sitting in a bag or basket for the whole year. (This I know very personally.)

Wrapping Paper:
I encourage you to let go of those little bits and pieces of the roll that are left after wrapping your gifts. You might want to keep some smaller pieces to use as gift tags. If this is your plan, place the small pieces in an envelope or folder to protect them. Paper that came off gifts you received might be kept for next year if it is pristine. The same can be said for keeping and reusing gift bags. If you find that you have a lot of paper left from previous years, now is the time to decide what you really love and let the excess go. Tissue paper can be used to wrap fragile ornaments when packing up after the holidays. Do have one place to store your entire holiday wrap.

Start your gift list for next year now. What have you discovered that your friends and family really love? Make a list. Keep a list of all clothing sizes. Shop all year round and keep all gifts that you buy in one place. This shows you how much you already have when the holiday shopping season hits next year. Tag the items with the names of who you thought of when you bought the gift.

After Christmas, wrap up carefully all your decorations that you plan to keep and use next year. As you box them, divide them up so that it will facilitate putting them out next year. I have all early advent items in the top of one marked box. Others, who do more extensive decorating, mark boxes by the rooms where the decorations are used. Discard broken or unloved items.

As you receive gifts, now is the time to donate what you no longer need or love. If you receive a new coffee pot, donate the old one. If you got a new robe, let the old one go to charity. Have children participate in clearing out toys they no longer love to make room for their new gifts.

Have a happy holiday season!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Rewards of Downsizing

How do you start letting go of items you have collected all during your life? It is not an easy process to begin. Many times people equate their possessions with their identity. I have had clients tell me they keep things so that they can show that they were someone once. I encourage them to look forward to who they want to be now and in the future.

Downsizing is best done when there is no deadline looming – no pressure to make a lot of decisions in a hurry. When you look over your possessions and make your decisions at your own pace, you can feel in control.

Ask family members to help out. Take time to discuss your reasons for downsizing with your family and see it there are items they want to keep. You may well have been storing some of your children’s possessions for years. See if they want them now.

Sharing your possessions and the stories behind them can bring you closer to your family. Reminisce as you look over items you may not have really looked at for years. Going through old papers and pictures can be a wonderful trip down memory lane. Then the decisions can be made – give away, shred, toss, or keep. A good plan is to chose a container for the pictures/cards/letters and then allow yourself to keep as many as will fit in that container. Also know that this process can be repeated again later and you will then be ready to let go of more items at that point in time.

When you sort items in your kitchen or family room you will probably discover that you have kept items that you have not used for years. What about that big soup pot, the clue game, or the VHS tapes? Do they fit your current life style or are they just hanging around because they have always been stored there?

Sorting your clothes and accessories will also be enlightening. If you haven’t used something in the last few years, give it to people who will need and appreciate it.

As you continually go through this downsizing process, you will notice that less stuff gives you more freedom, more time, and less upkeep. You will probably feel happier in your open clear area than you have in years!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer