My biggest occupational hazard: Everyone thinks my house is perfect. Well, it’s not. (I have to live there, after all!) I make lots of messes, but I also have easy tricks for restoring order.
I quit stuffing papers into a file cabinet years ago, because I rarely (if ever) needed to access them. Almost anything can be converted to digital now. How-to:
• Find it online: If what I’m hanging on to (think instruction manuals and monthly statements) is available in electronic form, I toss the hard copy and take a minute to download the digital version.
• Create a system: To prevent digital clutter, I use folders on my computer desktop and obvious file names like “05-2017-checking.”
• Collect the small stuff: I rely on a free organizational app called Evernote to save anything I might want to reference later, from a magazine page to a gift idea to an account number. Since it lets me add a title, tags, and keywords and scans the text as an image, searching for something is simple.
• Skip the scanner: I don’t need another gadget when I have a smartphone. I use the camera app to take photos of important papers, then upload them to Evernote or my computer to keep my physical desktop clear.
Oh, how I hate folding and putting away clothes! I can wash and dry happily until kingdom come, but I have to push myself to finish the job. These are the tricks I play on myself for chores and projects I despise:
•Time the task: I remind myself it takes only three to five minutes to fold a load of laundry and about three minutes to put it away.
•Parent yourself: Make having fun contingent upon getting something simple accomplished first. I can read a book, but only after I put my clothes away.
•Adopt the “one pass” rule: As in, it’s OK to walk by the basket and ignore it once, but the next time it’s in my path, I have to take care of it.
Recently my pajama drawer was keeping me up at night. It was completely full, impossible to root through, and I was having a hard time parting with anything because I could think of a practical scenario for wearing each pair.
One of the best reasons to hire an organizer (or call on a friend) is that it’s hard to be objective when it comes to your own stuff. Even professional organizers have this problem. My friend Brandi can look at a pair of worn pj’s and say, “They’re past their prime” when all I can think about is how my husband bought them for me. I can become blind to my organizational options too. For my pj’s, Brandi suggested storing off-season pairs elsewhere—an obvious solution that quickly solved my problem.
This area always gets out of sorts after we’ve made a trip to Costco or our kids have been visiting. Different family members tend to put things back in varying places, and everyone thinks someone else is going to do the straightening up. Sound familiar?
You might think that as a professional organizer I would have a calendar reminder prompting me to sort through the pantry every six weeks. No way! It’s not possible to anticipate when a space will need tidying. If I open the door and get frustrated or overwhelmed, I quickly carve out 15 to 30 minutes to rearrange it. I want to feel relaxed at home, so if there’s a space that makes me uneasy or tense, I deal with it right away.
More often than I care to admit, I’m five to 10 minutes behind schedule because I try to fit in one more thing before I leave. Tackling clutter is easy for me (it’s visible and tangible), but time management is not. I can’t change time, but I can change the minute-by-minute decisions I make. These tips can help:
• Know what’s coming: I don’t trust my memory. I make a habit of reviewing my calendar and to-do list at least twice a day so I am prepared.
• Save it for later: It’s nice to check things off my list, but those tasks will be there waiting when I get back. I jot them down so I can mentally move on and prioritize being on time.
• Be realistic: I am Miss Positive Outlook, which means I never think I’ll get stuck in traffic or that anything will take very long. If you’re like me, practice padding your time estimates—and believe the GPS when it says the trip takes 25 minutes.