PUT IT WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT

Something you need to do soon, or want done by the end of the week? Place an object in sight that will catch your eye and thus nag you frequently during the day.

  • I have a problem with magazines piling up, unread. Probably because I stash them away, out of sight. Now I plop one on the table next to where I sit to remind me to read through it when I have a few moments. After I’m done with it, I get another one out. I also tear out the ads and pages as I read them and throw them away because I tend to skip around instead of reading straight through. Each magazine gets smaller and smaller, I don’t have to remember what I read and haven’t read, and it helps me realize it won’t take that long to finish it. Husband reads from front to back, and he simply folds down the last page he read. Do what’s best for you.
  • Been putting off the dusting? Take whatever you dust with—rag, feather duster, micro cloth–and put it where your glance will catch it often. Get out the vacuum or dust mop if your dusting is up to date. I don’t recommend putting the toilet brush within sight, though. You’re just going to have to remember that chore on your own.
  • Need to send a sympathy/birthday/get well card, but you’ve been putting it off because you have to look up the address and put a stamp on the envelope? Put it right next to where you sit to relax.
  • Keep forgetting to empty the dishwasher? Open the door when it’s finished running, even if you don’t have time to empty it right then. The open door will remind you to put everything away.

You get the idea. What tricks can you think of to nag, er, help you remember to get something done that really, really needs doing?

DO LITTLE THINGS THAT WILL SAVE YOU TIME LATER

Small things can make a big difference. When you have the mail in your hand, for example, stand or sit next to the wastebasket and discard all the junk mail, unopened. Next open the rest, throwing away all the outside envelopes and junk. You now have a manageable pile to work with. Going even further, if you have set up a good filing system, simply file away the papers you don’t have to do anything further with. The trash can and file drawers are your friends.

Other suggestions:

  • Empty your purse every evening and throw away used tissues and other trash, and remove sales receipts and anything else you won’t need later.
  • When you call someone new, business or personal, whom you think you will need to contact again, be sure to enter the info into your phone directory immediately so you don’t have to go hunting for it later.
  • Put away things when you’re finished with them. Always. You’ll be amazed what a difference this can make
  • The day before garbage collection is the day to empty all the trash cans in your home and go through the refrigerator to throw away anything that’s green that isn’t supposed to be green.
  • Arrange everything you own into categories and store them all together. Everything you use to do your hair, for example, should go in one container or drawer. Same for stuff for your nails, for the beach (yes, put the suntan lotion with your bathing suit and towel—you’ll always know where to find it), for baking anything you bake or cook often, for working on a craft or hobby, etc.

If you open a drawer or cabinet and see something you haven’t used in years, consider throwing it away. Once a year, go through each space and discard anything that’s broken, never used and no longer loved.

Every time you bring something new into the house (except for groceries), discard something old. In other words, if you can’t resist a particular decorating item and end up buying it, then pick something out you no longer like as well as the new purchase, and get rid of it. Same for clothing. Even better, if you have a lot of clutter, get rid of two items for every new one you bring home. Donate, give to someone you know who wants/needs it, or if necessary, simply throw it in the trash.

Little things can make a big difference when it comes to organization.

QUIT BEATING YOURSELF UP

We’ve now covered some basics for being organized. It’s time to talk about how you feel about your space and time.

If you’re reading this part of my blog about organization, you might not feel too good about your organizational skills. But you have to be careful about how you talk to yourself. If you constantly mentally berate yourself, if you’re always unhappy, it won’t help you improve.

“I did what I could” and “It’s good enough” are two phrases that will help you immensely in the process of becoming better organized.

At the end of the day, think about those actions that improved your environment and make you feel good about what you accomplished. And if you are not totally pleased with something you accomplished or didn’t finish or didn’t do to your satisfaction, let it go for now. It was either good enough or you can tweak it some other time. Congratulate yourself on the old college try and for getting something done.

Listen to your “self-talk.” What are you saying to yourself that is getting in the way of accomplishing your goals? Are you constantly berating yourself? Are you always feeling overwhelmed and voicing that to yourself over and over again?

It’s very hard to get things done if you’re tense all the time. The ideal is to have a plan (we’ll talk more about planning later), to do as much as you can on that plan every day, and then to relax, knowing you did what you could considering time, resources and energy.

Beating yourself up about what you haven’t accomplished just makes you feel bad, discouraged. Don’t do it! Treat yourself as well as you would anyone else. You deserve it!

HABITS FOR STAYING ORGANIZED

I’m watching the Olympics, so I don’t have a lot of time to do housework. Here are some habits I’ve trained myself to use over the years. Because I do these most of the time, my space is neat and uncluttered. Try it for yourself.

  1. Put stuff away after use. Most things need to be behind closed doors or in drawers. Have a designated place for everything.
  2. Put everything away after a shopping trip. And if your space is really cluttered, throw away two or three items you no longer need while you’re putting things away.
  3. Handle paper as little as possible—take care of it (answer it, call someone about it, mark it on your calendar, etc.), file or toss it. Open mail next to a wastebasket. Don’t even open something you know is junk, just toss it.
  4. Deal with dirty clothes properly—put in hamper or basket, wash when you have a load. Put away as soon as dry.
  5. Don’t leave the kitchen with dishes in the sink or unwiped countertops, food left out, or any other kind of mess. Immediately after finishing a meal, deal with the cleanup.
  6. Don’t leave any room without picking up everything that needs picking up.

Once all of this becomes habitual, your space will look fantastic, ready for company, and you will have saved yourself a lot of time. Win-win!

 

TO GET THINGS DONE, START BY FRAMING YOUR DAY

If you start your day by being organized, having a list of habits you perform to get you going, and end the day with a routine that clears the decks for the next day, you will be on your way to an organized, happy life.

If you begin your day harried and rushed, it will set the tone for much of the day. If you go to bed knowing that when you get up in the morning you will find your space in disarray, you will be uneasy and might even have trouble getting to sleep.

If your life is totally unorganized and chaotic, just begin with two steps, one for morning and one for nighttime. In the morning, do not leave your bedroom until the bed is made. And in the evening before going to bed, do not leave the living area without having the kitchen cleaned up and the kitchen sink clean, dishwasher emptied.

Do these two things for two weeks, then begin adding more small chores to your mornings and evenings. For example, in the morning, hang up or put away your nightclothes, and in the evening, clear off the area where you sit to read or watch TV. Do those chores along with the bed making and kitchen clean-up for two more weeks, then look around and find out what you can add. Maybe wiping down the bathroom sink area in the morning with a handy sponge, and before bed, setting up what you need to make and serve breakfast.

Someone said habit is destiny. The more chores you make into habits, the more time you have to think about other things and worry less about a mess.

What chores do you like to do in the morning and in the evening that make you feel good about yourself and your environment? I, for example, simply cannot go to bed without emptying the dishwasher, or leave the bedroom in the morning without making the bed. These have become habits for me, mindless activities. When doing them, I can think about other stuff. Maybe even what to write for my next blog post.

LET’S GET ORGANIZED

Organization takes planning. To plan, you need a few tools. For me, the most basic are a calendar/planner, some small, legal-sized notebooks and a pen.

When buying a planner, I’d look for a binder that holds both a yearly calendar with blocks on each day to write in, plus a few pockets for miscellaneous pieces of paper and some of your business cards, and, very important, a place for a small legal pad. If you can’t find anything like that, you’ll have to stick with a separate calendar/planner and some small legal size pads.

The calendar part of planning is obvious. Put down appointments and other important things you have to do each day. Another trick is, at the end of the day, write one line about the most significant thing you did. You can keep these as a kind of quick and dirty diary to look back at, if needed, or if interested, later on.

The notepads can have a cover or not. Have one for each project. Right now I have:

  • One for daily stuff—to-do lists, to-buy lists, notes about anything I find important, miscellaneous stuff. This one is with my calendar.
  • I also have one about writing. I jot down ideas for this blog, other ideas about writing, anything I need to remember about writing in general.
  • Another one is full of notes about organization; many of those ideas from that notebook will probably be expanded on for this blog.
  • Yet another one now is for plans being made for an upcoming road trip. To pack, ideas for sight-seeing, towns to stop in along the way and so on.
  • I write short stories, so I keep a notebook handy to jot down ideas for those.
  • Suggestions for others are: hobbies, reading, genealogy.

You’d think I’d have one for my novels. But I make all my notes about my current work-in-progress right in a document (saving it as: <Title> Notes.doc) in my word processor.

A single, large or small notebook can also serve the same purpose. With tabs for each individual project, you can keep it all together and quickly find what you need. Since I am on my laptop a good part of the day, I find the smaller, individual notebooks easier to handle.

Have you found a different system that works for you to keep the areas of your life separate? Please share them here in the comments section. I’d love to hear them.