Clutter Awareness Week

Next week is clutter awareness week. We don’t always see the clutter around us because we tend to get used to it. But even if we don’t notice it, clutter causes stress and a feeling of overwhelm.

Take a walk through your home. Pretend that you are getting ready for out of town visitors or that you are putting your house on the market. Notice if you have stacks of papers and other items on the floor or out on exposed surfaces. NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals) states that the average American receives almost 15,000 pieces of junk mail in their lifetime. How much of that is hanging around in various parts of your home right now?

Clutter can impact your daily living. It can eat up your time as you look for needed items. Clutter can affect your health. You are less likely to cook healthy meals if you can’t find your kitchen counter and your fridge and pantry are packed tight with who knows what. You can trip over stacks of stuff in your home and fall. If your house is heavily cluttered, you will have a build up of dust, dander, pollen, and maybe even mold.

Clutter can cost you money. You find yourself paying late fees because you have misplaced bills. You buy duplicate items because you can’t find those scissors, folders, or the can of green beans in the very back of your pantry. You may be paying for a storage unit to store those items that won’t fit into your home.

Now is the time to plan. Set aside some time this month to tackle your clutter. Start off with a hot spot that really bugs you. Make a list of all the tasks you want to accomplish to declutter this area and schedule times to complete those tasks. By the end of March, have that one area clutter free. Enjoy that feeling and celebrate!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

It’s that Spooky Time of Year

Pumpkins, Turkeys, Menorahs, Santa Clause, Baby New Year are showing up everywhere. It may be getting too late to make reservations to see Santa. I saw an article at the end of September saying where the best places were to see Santa and how to make reservations. Scary!

How do we deal with all this holiday stress? Right now, is the time to sit down, breathe, and write down your vision of how you want the holidays to look and feel. What is important to you in each season. Has this changed over time? Are you on autopilot doing what you have always done plus new items you have added in recent years? Talk with other family members and get their input as well. You may be doing something for someone, like preparing a special food, that they no longer even enjoy.

I used to really go all out for Halloween when my children were little. I decorated. I helped them make costumes. We did the jack-o-lantern thing and then baked the pumpkin and made pie. It was a big deal. Now that my children are grown men, not so much. Now my husband and I put out a few pumpkins, a small inflatable scarecrow, light up a portable fire pit, and sit comfortably in our driveway waiting for the local trick-or -treaters.

My vision for almost all of my holidays has changed and simplified over the years. It’s good to acknowledge and embrace the change.

Develop a list of the most important things you want to do and experience in each holiday. Then go to your calendar and log in when you are going to do such tasks as parties, shopping, baking, cooking, decorating, undecorating, etc. Remember to build in time to just relax and enjoy your decorations and the holidays.

Make this time of year special and enjoyable for you.  

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Using Found Time

I am a professional organizer. My weekly schedule is all over the place. Some weeks I work long days with clients and end up way too tired at the end of the week. Some weeks I spend most of my time at my desk and go stir crazy. My ideal week is a nice mix of working with clients and taking care of admin work. I can not really control when I will get new clients or when my existing ones want extra time. I can, of course, always say no to jobs when I am overbooked or exhausted, but find that I rarely do.

On Sundays I set out my intended schedule for the week. I have a plan for every day. It is pretty rare if my schedule ends up the way it was planned. I may have someone new call in for an appointment. More often I have clients who need to reschedule, move the time a bit, or cancel for the week.

So, what to do when I get a cancellation or postponement and now have some found time?

  • It it’s an entire day, like a snow day, the best way to use the time might be just to relax. Read a book. Spend some quality time with my husband.
  • It it’s a half day, I might use part of it on a project that has been on the burner too long and then reward that work with reading or doing something in my home just for family.
  • If it is 15 minutes to 30 minutes then the time is more likely to be frittered away if there is no plan. I have a saying by my desk that says, “Savor or Squander”. So rather than spend that time scrolling through Facebook, I have a list of things I can do without any thought.
    1. Work on clearing out my email inbox
    2. File
    3. Follow up with potential clients via a quick email or call
    4. Clear off my desk and tidy my office
    5. Meditate
    6. Work on an upcoming blog
    7. Work on a presentation
    8. Exercise in the office
    9. Walk around my yard
    10. Update my timeline for a project
The idea is that you stay in control of how your time is used. How you use found time depends on you, your working style, and what is pressing on your to do list. But do make a conscious decision what to do with the gift of found time. Put those chunks of time to their most productive use for you.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Controlling School Paperwork

It’s back to school time already. School generates a lot of paper even though more and more of it is on line. Plan for the onslaught of paper now. Have in place a plan to store the needed paper before the paper starts to build up.

You will likely receive:

  • General school information such as a school calendar and a calendar of events, papers with school hours, rules, fees, sports information, contact information, PTA news
  • Welcome letter from your child’s teacher with her information
  • List of needed school supplies
  • Lunch schedule
As the school year progresses, student work and art will also pour in as well as updates on festivals, field trips, and special programs.
Some parents do very well with having a notebook for each child that holds school information and schedules as well as report cards. Some parents prefer to scan the forms and reports and keep them on a folder on their computer. A bin or folder is helpful to keep up with graded papers and art work.
Always keep graded school work until the end of each grading period. If there is a question about a grade, you have something to carry into the conference. At the end of each grading period, cull most of the work keeping only the best.
When the school calendar comes in, immediately put important dates into the family calendar. You don’t want to be surprised when there are teacher workdays, early dismissals, or field trips.
When the first general information comes, put into your phone important contact numbers such as the main office, the guidance counselor, or the nurse. Put titles into the contact list as you may not immediately recognize the name (Nurse Sara Nightingale).
Set up a plan for all incoming paper your child carries home. Have a landing pad or active folder for all papers that you need to see such as field trip permission slips, picture day schedule, and item requests. At the beginning of the year, each day ask your child, “Do you have anything that needs to be put into the basket or file for me to look over?”. As the school year progresses you can fade out the questioning and let your student become independent. 
Most schools have planners where the children log in their homework assignments. If the school does not have one, it is a good idea to purchase one anyway. At the beginning to the school year, check the planner daily. Have a calendar at your child’s study area where he can learn to schedule projects that take more than one evening. Weekly clean out the backpack and put all graded work and art into the bin.
The year will run so much more smoothly if you start off with a good paper plan. 

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Excess Stuff – Sell It or Donate It?

I read an interesting blog this past week by the Clark Howard Staff. It was entitled “39 ways to sell your old stuff for the most cash”. Below are some tidbits from their blog and my take on it.

According to the Wall Street Journal report several years ago, Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on goods and services they don’t need. According to Orlando Sentinel, nearly one out of 10 American households rents a storage facility, costing anywhere from $125 to $165 a month. Of those who rent the storage areas, 65% have a garage, 47% have an attic, and %33 have a basement!

It’s obvious that we have a lot of stuff we don’t need and that we are paying monthly just to keep those things out of sight.

The blog’s take is to get money by selling these items. A lot of good ways are mentioned including ebay, Bonanza, eBid, Etsy, and Craigslist. For designer clothes they mention Tradsey,com, Poshmark, The Real Real, Threadflip, 99Dresses, and Buffalo Exchange. They also suggest consignment stores. For gold, firearms, musical instruments, and collectibles, they suggest Pawn Shops. They then go on to list yard sales, and a couple of links for selling to people who live nearby and links for used electronics. They even list some websites to help you determine value of collectible items or antiques.

The first step is getting organized.

I have some clients that have 25 or even 40 years of “stuff “in their basements, attic, spare rooms, offsite storage, garages, etc. Most of the stuff is stored there because:

  • It just needs fixing
  • I’ll need it someday
  • It was inherited
  • My children may want it
  • It brings back great memories
  • I think it’s valuable
  • I’m holding it for someone

The sort begins. This I plan to keep. This I plan to sell. This I need to give to ____ if they want it. This is trash.

They may be fairly good at culling out what they plan to keep (but usually some of these items will also have to go). And the very obvious trash is taken out. But it is the “This I plan to sell” piles that begin to become unreasonable – especially if they are looking at a deadline. And the “This I need to give to__”  also takes a lot of time.

I encourage these people to keep in mind that selling takes time and the return is not as great as they might think. All of the “keep to sell” items will need a further sort and a decision on how they are going to sell them. The items will need to be cleaned, polished, or repaired.

As they sort through their items, I would rather the self talk be more of “Would I go 20 miles and spend over $20 for this?” rather than “Someone might buy this.” I would encourage every sorting session to end up with a big pile of items to donate and trash with just a few items for the sale pile.

Those items that are going to be sold could be divided into possibly real value and good items for a garage sale. Then, if time is an issue, hire someone to do your selling. That person can also usually help you determine what really is worth the time and expense to put it on the market and what is not. If they plan to have a garage sale, they should be aware that the sale also takes a lot of time sorting, organizing, advertising, setting up, and holding the sale.

Just think about it. Think what your time is worth. Then decide and act.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Organize That Traveling Suitcase

Weather is getting nicer and many of us are looking forward to some spring or summer travel. I know it is not fun to schlep around multiple or huge suitcases. Here are some tips to make packing for that trip a breeze.

  1. Make a list. I keep a master list that I modify for each trip. This keeps me from forgetting my phone charger or medicated face cream (both in original pack and repack to come home). Then for each trip I list what I am really taking and print it off. This goes in the outside flap of my suitcase.
  2. Start early. I start laying out outfits a couple of days before the trip. I know from past experience that if I wait until the last minute, I am no good at making decisions and pack waaay too much.
  3. Pare down. Take only what you are sure you will need. Plan on wearing some outfits twice. If it is going to be cool, take only one sweater. Plan to layer. I always feel that if I do forget something I absolutely need, it will be an excuse to go shopping (but this has never yet happened).
  4. Plan outfits. Lay out your outfits before packing. How can you mix and match? Only pack jewelry that goes with those outfits.
  5. Clear out clutter. When packing your hygiene/cosmetic care products, only pack what you are sure you need. Clear out the extraneous clutter. I use a soft dopp kit that can be scrunched a bit.
  6. Plan. Pack your bags with a plan in mind. Put your shoes – one or two pairs – at the bottom. Stuff the shoes with socks or underwear. Roll up most of your clothing to save room ( and reduce wrinkles). Place folded items that don’t roll well on top. Last, tuck in smaller items.
  7. Contain dirty clothes. Pack a plastic bag for dirty clothes or designate a space in your suitcase for the dirty clothes. For short trips I use a zippered net section in the lid of my suitcase.
  8. Plan carry on. If you are flying and have a carry on, pack your prescriptions, expensive jewelry (but why take it?), money, camera, tickets, itinerary, keys, and a book or kindle in this bag. If room, carry one change of clothes.
  9. Save space for return. For the return trip, take lots of pictures and keep souvenirs to a minimum. But still, when you pack your bag leave a little room for that special item.
  10. Just for fun – look at the fantastic packing skills in this video.

Bon Voyage!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Making an Organizational Plan for Your Vacation

School is almost over and vacation time must be coming up soon. I love to travel. Give me an airline ticket and put me on a plane for almost anywhere and I am happy.

However, when traveling with a family, a little more planning and organizing will make the vacation less stressful and a happier experience for everyone.

First the “when” needs to be addressed. Even in the summer children and adults have busy schedules and obligations. So get out the calendar and find a period of time that will work for everyone.

Now “where” should you go? Brainstorm with everyone to find out what people would love to do. Then “get real.” Look at the time allotted and the money available. If everyone is on board and knows the limitations, there will be less chance for disappointment.

Once you settle on when and where, make a checklist of all that needs to be accomplished before liftoff. Make your reservations for airplane, car rental, and hotels. Notify family and friends you might want to visit along the way. Look up attractions and fun restaurants you might want to visit. Contact people to dog sit, water the lawn, mow, pick up your mail, or any other chores you would like done while you are away. Put all travel information into a brightly colored folder. Share your itinerary with someone in case of emergency, including how to contact you.

Prepare a packing list. It is helpful to have a master packing list on your computer that can be adjusted to time of year, area of travel, and type of travel (I might carry a bit more if traveling by car). Lay out outfits according to the weather. Pack clothes that can be layered. Find items that can mix and match and limit color choices. When the final decisions are made, type up the final packing list and put it in the suitcase. This keeps the charger or travel clock from being left behind in the hotel room. If traveling with children, pack some activity bags and snack bags.

Yeah! Let’s go!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Holiday Presents

Buying and receiving presents is so personal. Every family has their traditions and even within the family there are differences.

One of the things I like about my family gift giving plan is that each year we give to a different family member. This year I give to my sister and her family in Washington. Next year I will give to my brother and his family in Ohio.

When I reflect on gifts I consider:

  • The gift should be personal. I like gifts that show you know the person. You are aware of their  interests and needs. I do not want a gift card unless it is for an event or an experience. As an organizer, I have seen so many unused gift cards floating around and I wonder how many just get lost. To me a generic gift card is just like giving money. You give me money. I give you money. This is not very special to me.
  • Gifting memories is better than gifting items unless the person you are giving to has some real needs. Using the gift money for a holiday get together or a special play or event beats a sweater.
  • Thought should be given as to if the receiver has a place for whatever you are gifting. A bread maker is not a good gift for a person with a tiny kitchen.
  • Consumable gifts are good. This might be special coffee, sweets, special soaps, or being taken to the spa or to a theater.
  • Once something is gifted, it belongs to that person to do with as they wish.

Now having said all of that, I do try to listen to the wishes of others in my family. If all my nephew wants is a gift card to Amazon – so be it. If my brother wants a gift card so that he can buy the books that he wants – OK.

I would love to hear comments on how you and your family handle gifting.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Tweaking the Zone Plan

You have set your intention for the year with your zone plan and it looks great and doable. Then life happens. In my case, this past month, I got sick. I lost a couple of weeks where I was just in survival mode. This month the zone to work on for me is the office. What to do?

There are several choices.

  1. Put in a whole day set aside just to w0rk in the office.
  2. Let this zone bleed into the next month.
  3. Let it go and just move on to the next month’s zone because I know I did this zone well last year and will do it well again next year.

Because the office zone is very important to my business and part of this zone is setting up my files for the next year, I am opting to do the first choice. What I can’t get done in the one whole day may bleed into the next month.

If this happened when working in my master bedroom, I would be inclined to go with the third choice.

The point is that the Zone Plan is just that – a plan – an intention. The goal is to touch everything in my house by the end of the year. But it is a continuous loop. I will start over again next year. I am not worried about perfection.

My goals are:

  1. Know what is in my home and in each zone.
  2. Know what is still important to me in each zone and to let go of what I know longer need or love.
  3. Check into each zone and see if it still matches my vision
  4. Open up spaces and allow for flow.

Now that I have made my decision on how to handle my setback, I feel invigorated and ready to move on.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Sending Holiday Cards – Joyfully!

I love getting holiday cards! Each day I prance to the mailbox to see what came. I display my cards on my bookshelves.

Every year, almost 2 billion holiday cards are sent to bring warm holiday wishes to those we love. The custom of sending greeting cards can be traced back to the ancient Chinese, who exchanged good will messages to celebrate the New Year and to early Egyptians who ssent greetings on papyrus scrolls. So, this is not a new thing.

For me this is often the only time I connect with some of the people on my list. I catch up on a year’s worth of happenings with this card exchange.

Sending out cards can be very time consuming and therefore add to our stress. So how can we make this tradition less stressful and more joyful?

  1. Schedule time on your calendar to send out the cards. Do not try to do them all in one fell swoop. Instead, schedule multiple 45 minute blocks and set your timer.
  2. prepare a basket with all the materials you need to send out your cards. Pull out this basket on your scheduled times. Fix a hot beverage. Listen to some music. Reflect on the people to whom you are sending the cards. Tailor the card to the recipient.
  3. Write a line or two that is personal to the recipient unless they are friends you see often.
  4. Have some extra cards available so that you can reciprocate all cards you receive.
  5. Consider getting help from others in the family even if it is just putting on return addresses and stamps.
  6. Plan to send early to ensure timely delivery. This is especially true for those cards going abroad.
  7. Buy special stamps early. Count up what you think you will need so that you only have to make one trip to the post office to buy them.
  8. If you just can’t find the time before the holidays, you might consider sending out New Years cards.

Happy Holiday! I’ll be looking for my card from you ;-}

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer