Organizing in the Basement

September 4, 2014

Though we have few basements in North Carolina I remember the time I spent in our basement in Ohio where basements acted as an additional floor. We had a storage area, our washer/dryer, our garbage, a bedroom, bath living space and kitchen all within our basement. That laundry and storage area is where I started loving organizing at just 12 years old!

Here are a few of my grown-up organizing tips for your basement:

* Store smaller luggage in larger luggage to save space and store travel accessories with your luggage to remind you to take them.

* Use boxes with colored lids to designate the storage of holiday items, for example use red for Christmas and orange for Halloween.

* Shelving is vital in a basement for storage. Keep in mind that flooding may happen and you’ll want as much as possible out of the water.

Favorite Office Efficiency Tips

This month I will share two more organizing tips that are essential for me in my business every day. I share these two tips to help you reduce your stress and be more efficient in your business.

  1. In my office I have a tall, deep, thin bookshelf. Each shelf, or “cubby” as I refer to them, is designated for a day of the week, Monday through Friday. When I have paperwork, books, materials, or gifts I don’t want to forget to take with me that day I put them in their appropriate cubby. So yesterday I wrote a check which I need to give to someone at my Wednesday meeting and I put it in my Wednesday cubby. I am also meeting with clients this week and each of their folders and, in some cases supplies, are in the appropriate day’s cubby. This allows me a home for the upcoming papers needed and so that they are not just stacked up somewhere “until” I need to use them.
  2. As I am a perfectionist, I am afraid of not getting my work perfect, so often I can’t even get started. This is where the Time Expert found herself procrastinating (yes, it’s true). I learned two great, yet simple tricks for this:
    • Call your work a “draft.” Silly as that may sound, a draft gives me permission to have a lot of errors and imperfections—it’s just a draft! As I type this very newsletter I am simply typing away my thoughts, withPERMISSION to have errors. Fortunately, I have a virtual assistant who can clean it up and make it comfortably presentable. Not to say between the two of us there haven’t been errors on occasion, but hey, human beings are not perfect and I need to remember that.
    • Think  “progress, not perfection.” The reality is, it is better to get the darn projects done than not. You may get it perfect, but miss the deadline or not get it accomplished at all.

So, these are some vital tips I have learned along the way and find myself applying on a regular basis. If you have some great business organizing tips that have been essential to you, please drop me an email at cyndy@organizingsolutions.biz. I’d love to hear from you!

Time Management Tips

I read an article recently where a Professional Organizer was interviewed for the top organizing tips that he lives by. It gave me the idea to share some of mine with you. This month I will share two of the time management tips that are essential for me in my business every day. I share these two tips to help you reduce your stress and be more efficient in your business.

  1. I am not a person who enjoys driving and as a Time Management Expert and Professional Organizer there is a lot of pressure on me to show up on time to any event or appointment. The pressure of getting stuck in traffic, behind an active school bus or accident can send my heart pounding. In order to minimize the stress, I try to work my schedule around heavy traffic times and I schedule a minimum of 25% more time for travel and transition between appointments. As you all know, appointments don’t always start and end on time. Consequently, not  allowing for a cushion of time will put you behind schedule, often for the rest of the day. For example, if I am meeting someone for “an hour” at 9 a.m. I will not schedule another appointment directly after 10 a.m. I determine the transition time between the two appointments and add on a MININUM of 25% more time. This one rule, now a habit, is my favorite to share as it keeps my work and family life so much calmer.
  2. We all have activities in our business that are not something we enjoy doing. If I have a project that is a challenge for me I set it up to do as the first task of the day. For me these are activities like writing articles and creating new training programs. I do not allow myself to start any new tasks before I complete these tough ones. By accomplishing these first, I feel so much better the rest of my workday without the stress of these hanging over my head. I also like to reward myself after completing the task. It may be as simple as an iced chai latte, but it works!

I hope these two tips are beneficial for you in your business.

If you have a  business organizing tip that allows you to be more efficient, please drop me an email at cyndy@organizingsolutions.biz. I’d love to hear from you!

Save Time at Work, Enjoy the Summer!

There is more temptation to play and spend time with the family in the summer months; yet work still has to get done. Here are a few time management tips that, when practiced, will allow more time for fun this summer.

  1. Establish simple and effective systems for paperwork. Messy desks and files cost us 6 weeks a year in searching for documents!
  2. Taking 10 minutes each day to plan your schedule and tasks will give you back 1 hour each day.
  3. Create boundaries in your schedule to stay on track. For many of us we need to make an appointment for fun. Put a boundary around a bit of your schedule and title it “fun” this week!
  4. Take 1 hour of uninterrupted time each day. Turn off your phone and establish an interruption free zone. Use this time for those high priority items that need your strict focus. Trying to complete the same task allowing interruptions will take you 3 to 4 times longer!
  5. Use a timer when working on your emails or connected to the Internet to alert you to how much time these tasks are zapping from your schedule.
  6. BEFORE opening your email in the morning, complete important tasks from your schedule. Opening email creates new tasks and can throw off your schedule.
  7. Emergency messages do not typically come by email. Check email just 3 designated times per day to control its interruptions.

Are You Buried in Books?

A very common challenge that I find in homes at the start of summer reading time is getting control over the number of books taking up space.
Books come in to our homes so many different ways. Whether we bought them ourselves, we’re gifted them by a friend, or inherited them through family, they tend to quickly overwhelm us.
Here are questions you can ask yourself in making decisions on whether to keep or donate a book of fiction:
  1. Will I really read this book (or re-read it) in the next 6 months? REALLY?
  2. Is this book better served by someone else enjoying it?
  3. Am I fooling myself to think I would re–read this book?
Ask these questions of a non-– fiction book:
  1. Do I still have an interest in this topic in this chapter of my life? … No pun intended.
  2. Is this book still current or could I get more current information off the Internet?
  3. Have I referenced this book in the last 6 months?
  4. What’s the worst thing that would happen if I didn’t own this book?
    This last one, of course, is my favorite question.
Often we convince ourselves that we will read the book and yet, years later it remains on the shelf. Give yourself a deadline for books you think you will read and keep them in a separate area on the shelf.
There are many ways to give your book a second life:
  • Your local library will take it. Typically they put on one large annual book sale.
  • You can consign books at a used bookstore. Typically, these bookstores take a small percentage of your books and give you credit towards books in their store.
  • Your local donation center will take most books and provide you with a tax donation receipt.
Here are some outside organizations you can donate to that convert your books to money for a cause.
If you’d like to get money for your books try your local resale bookstore or have a fundraising event with Got Books?
For my local Triangle area readers with over 500 books to donate (preference is non-fiction and recent text books) try Mini City Media.
Many folks are converting over to digital books and that’s a great option going forward. Through online books you can often get a free sample to determine if you’re even going to want to purchase the book, which I appreciate. This is a great place to keep your list of books you may want to read one day.  I sample almost every book first. Digital books also help to keep your bookshelves clear now that you’ve done the hard work of editing out your books.
Happy summer reading!

Organizing Gifts for Mom

With Mothers day the 11th of this coming month, I wanted to share some organizing gift ideas to make mom’s life easier.
  1. For the “Taxi driving” mom, a trunk organizer helps to keep items tidier and does not allow them to shift around. This one has lots of flexibility in how you might use it and has a cooler included for times that mom has refrigerated goods and goes directly home from the grocery.
  2. For the “Fashion conscious” mom who likes to change her purses to go with her outfits, this purse organizer allows her to quickly and neatly make the change.
  3. I like these bags, called Organizer Bags sold by Thirty-One Gifts. There are many options with this one bag from beach to baby supplies. You can also choose your fabric and monogram!
  4. For the “Accessorizing” mom, I recommend and use this jewelry box for earrings, rings and dainty necklaces. This jewelry box keeps silver from tarnishing when not in use. Large costume jewelry I hang on a bulletin board on the wall in my closet.
  5. For the “Cosmetics Loving” mom, a train case is easily accessed, easily tucked away and allows her to sort her cosmetics for easy use each day.
  6. For the “Can’t find my keys” mom: Though this is probably just a little add-on gift, many of my clients have been delighted to find this simple device saving them time each week. This simple key hook allows mom to clip the keys in or on her purse or briefcase and easily locate her keys without digging and searching. You can often find these at your local hardware store.

Simplifying Your Wardrobe for Spring!

One reason we do not regularly clean our closets is that there are a lot of memories and guilt in there. Are you still hanging on to your prom dress or your bell-bottoms? It is ok to let go of any items that are no longer working in your current lifestyle. Make it a habit to clean out your closet at least twice a year. A good rule of thumb (and easy way to remember) is to clean it out Easter week and Labor Day week. 

Image Consultants are available and are a great place to start. They help to lead you to your style and they recommend colors and clothing styles that will work best for your figure.

A quick process to help you decide if a piece of clothing is still of value to you is to ask if it passesthe test of the 6 F’s.

  1. FIT  Does it fit? As we get older we may grow into or out of sizes. Be honest with yourself. If it doesn’t fit, but you need one like it, make a note to shop for it in your new size.
  1. FITTING  Is the item appropriate for your lifestyle today? If you are no longer a suit wearer now is the time to donate or consign it.
  1. FRESH – I got this one from a client that once said “This isn’t fresh anymore” as she handed me a well worn handbag. I loved thinking of well-worn items as no longer fresh. Often I see well loved sweaters and handbags hanging in a closet because, as my clients tell me, “I used to  wear that all the time.” Maybe a fair trade is to order a new one of the same style and color?
  1. FLATTERING  If you are getting compliments on your outfit take a look at what folks are complimenting you on. Is the item appropriate for your body type and is the color flattering for you?If you don’t feel good in something it may be that it is not flattering to your style, skin tone or figure type. This is a place to be brutally honest. Ask a friend whose opinion you trust if you are unsure.
  1. FASHIONABLE  Don’t kid yourself in believing that it “will come back around again.” When bell bottoms, rainbow suspenders and tie dye tops come back around again YOU are not the one who’s supposed to be wearing them.
  1. FAVORITE  We wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time. As long as your favorite is fitting and meets the above criteria, it’s a keeper!

Post this article in your closet as a guide. You may want to tackle 10 items a day until you have processed through your wardrobe. My guess is once you get going the energy will keep you motivated to do even more!

Ten Tips to Freshen Your Home for Spring!

 Not an hour ago, I saw two robins out my back window, a refreshing sight after such a cold winter. Yes, spring is on the way! Though it does not feel like spring quite yet it is just around the corner (some corners larger than others) and there are things you can do to bring the feeling of the season in ahead of time.

  1. Replace those heavy decorative couch pillows and/or slipcovers to a lighter fabric.
  2. Springtime allows for less bedding! I recommend just one comforter on your bed for ease of making it each morning. Poof, the bed is made. The duvet (comforter cover) can be changed as you normally change your sheets for washing.
  3. It is soon time to move the spring wardrobe in and the fall wardrobe out of your closet. This is a great time to purge. Pack away only the fall clothing items you really love and found yourself wearing. We wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time!  Keep that in mind as you purge. Anything not worn, over worn, not your size or no longer your style needs to be donated or thrown away.
  4. Bring out your spring decorations! Even the organizer has a ceramic bunny or two to brighten up the place and give the room a fresh spring look. Maybe a basket, a simple bouquet of flowers, which costs little and brings that instant spring feeling to the room!
  5. Hardwood floors are nice and cool in the spring and summer, pull up any rugs that were used in the fall and enjoy the simplicity of the hardwoods.
  6. Let’s take a look at that coat closet. It may be time to purge coats that don’t fit, are worn out or that you just don’t need any longer. Donate the coats to others that may be less fortunate so they can stay warm next winter. Purchase wood coat hangers on your next trip out and put your spring jackets on the same wooden hanger to give your front closet that finished look, one simple move that really puts together the look of the closet.
  7. Some of my clients use a clear pocket shoe holder on the door of the coat closet, keeping children’s hats and mittens down low where they can see, reach and put them away themselves.  For spring you can simply roll this up and store it away with the winter coats to be brought back out next fall.
  8. Clean the windows; let the sun shine in!  Ok, those of you that are having convulsions at the thought of this, look for someone now that you can delegate it to, hire it out if you need to.
  9. Take a look at the deck or screened in porch. Develop a plan for bringing it back to life after the chill of the winter. Clean out the old plant pots, scrub the furniture, and clean the grill. In North Carolina in mid-April when the frost has no chance of destroying our plants, I plan a trip to the farmers market to purchase some new “life” for the outdoor spaces.
  10. Mix up a pitcher of home made ice tea and celebrate the fact that spring is on its way!

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New Office Trend – The Standing Desk

There’s been a lot of talk about standing desks, both for health and productivity reasons. Because of this, I have done a little research. Those with back issues or those in the wellness field looking for a healthier or less painful alternative to chair time seem to be the trendsetters here.

The majority of these desks are adjustable, in that they can be raised or lowered throughout the day, depending on your preference to stand or sit. When you raise one of these desks, they recommend pulling the desk to your elbow height and then adjusting, getting a feel for what is comfortable for you. It may require you to drop it a couple of inches at most.

There are many differing opinions on the actual benefits. Those with back issues are relieved to be standing as part of their day because sitting for any period is often unbearable. Those that have a history of using the standing desk recommend not standing still, but moving throughout your workday even if that is simply re-balancing yourself at the desk as you work. A stiff standing body does not do much for better health. Maybe that is how the tread desk came about. Yes, you guessed it, the cousin version to the standing desk, which incorporates a treadmill! They claim it’s a slow and steady type treadmill yet it sounds like too much coordination to me. Rub my tummy and pat my head? Not this girl!

The cost of these types of desks can run $500 and up so a little high for most budgets. Consequently, in my research I saw many “homemade” versions (a cut down desk on top of another desk), but the DIY creators were the first to admit that making it yourself is not the way to go. The desk ends up big and chunky and it’s difficult to get the correct height because DIY desks are not typically adjustable. These DIY folks also often work with a second desk for sitting.

Personally, I have to admit, I do sometimes work while standing up and I feel like it puts more urgency behind my work. I don’t have the standing desk, but there is still office activity I can get done while standing or shuffling around my office. I don’t have a bad back, nor am I overly concerned with my health, but for me, standing makes things happen faster.

In my time management education I have often heard about stand-up meetings. They are recommended to move meetings along, keep them timely and cover topics more succinctly. In my numerous management years I did not hold stand-up meetings as I was overly concerned with my staff feeling comfortable (with their coffee and donut in hand). Would I consider stand up meetings today? For some meetings I would say absolutely!

For more detailed looks at the desks described, here are some links I discovered.

http://www.treaddesk.com/
http://www.geekdesk.com/

I’m Getting Organized this Year! Where do I Start?

Many folks set up New Year’s resolutions to be better organized. They run to the local home or office store and find bins and containers at the store front just waiting for those looking to “get organized”. The clincher is that the bins and boxes are not the first step in getting organized, they are the third step.
  1. Clear – Remove all items from the space and dispose/donate those items no longer used or loved.
  2. Categorize – Sort remaining items by category to determine the size and type of container you will need.
  3. Contain – Place the items, by category into the containers.
  4. Place – Determine best placement for the container and put it there.
So, the first step is to clear. Consequently one of the questions I often ask my clients who are looking to get organized is, “What percentage of the items in here can you get rid of?” I encourage you to ask yourself the same question. Look at your spaces and determine what percentage you feel you can get rid of. Then, on your calendar set a goal. You might mark a recurring period of time to work on removing the clutter or set a goal for the number of items you’ll de-clutter.

As a guide to decision making ask yourself about each item.

  1. Do I need it?  (Items you need now, not those you used to need or believe you might need in the future.)
  2. Do I love it?  (Not kinda’ like it or could like it, but keep only those things you love)
  3. Do I use it?  (Items you use now, not those you used to use or believe you might use in the future.)
If you can answer “no” to these three questions it is time to set that item free. It is your clutter.

You will notice that as you lighten up your spaces through this process, it gets easier and more rewarding. You will also realize that as you get to the “contain” step, you need a lot less containers than you thought because you now have a lot less stuff!

Folks can easily give up on getting organized when there is too much stuff to organize. By clearing first you eliminate that bottleneck and can keep moving along in your organizing process.