It happens to all of us: that creeping feeling of overwhelm as the tasks pile up, coming in via mail, email, voicemail, texts. Your head is over-stuffed with details and surely you’re going to forget something!
There is an extremely simple tool which is the starting place for any task or time management system: the LIST. The power of this basic tool is manyfold:
- Gathers all your tasks in one place
- Gives you a birds-eye view on everything
- Allows you to categorize and prioritize tasks visually
- Can create as many or few lists as needed to manage the different projects in your life
- Work projects
- Client follow-up
- Home design/repair ideas
- Travel plans
- Kid’s activities
How you create and manage a list is up to you – a simple piece of paper works just fine! If you want to get fancier, here are more options:
- Task/List Apps: Trello, Google Tasks, Wunderlist, Evernote, OneNote
- Bullet journal
- Post-its on a wall, on a paper in a file, on a white board
- White boards for temporary lists
- Project management apps: Asana, BaseCamp, Microsoft Project
Going digital with your list has some advantages of being able to share with others, color code, and to include formats beyond text. Each mode has pros & cons; pick a mode that works best for you. And don’t be afraid to go as simple as possible.
To start, grab a pad of paper and do a big brain dump of everything on your mind and on your plate. How do you prioritize?
- What’s stressing you out the most? Ask yourself: “If one thing got done on here, that would make me feel a relief of pressure, what would it be?”
- Which things have an actual deadline and what’s due next?
- When feeling unmotivated to get things done, look at the list and pick a few short, easy things to knock off just to reduce the volume.
And yes, you do need to keep updating them! This process of having to re-write your list is actually a valuable part of the process. The act of reviewing and revisiting tasks gives you the opportunity to reflect on their priority.
A place for loose change. A change bowl, a basket, a pouch – it’s possible you need one in each room.
A place for dead batteries and fluorescent lightbulbs – dedicate a location to safely gather them. Every city has regulations on how to dispose of these items.
A junk drawer — a place to put the miscellaneous utility things. This also applies to kid toys…one miscellaneous box for the little bits that you find around.
An adequately-sized laundry basket. The basket can be pretty, but it needs to accommodate the laundry you produce between wash sessions.
A donation box – make sure the container can be easily transferred to your car and replaced easily. And keep it in the house, somewhere accessible. If it’s in the garage, things will accumulate in the house and you’ll have a mess. Especially with kids who are growing quickly, you need a place to catch outgrown clothes. It can be as simple as a grocery bag in each person’s closet.
Honor the fact that the container is a limiter; once the bin is full, it needs to be addressed:
- Take the coins to Coinstar, or make an outing to spend your coins on an ice cream date.
- Make a plan to go to your local hazardous waste facility to drop off stuff you can’t just put in the trash.
- Regularly edit your junk drawer so it doesn’t become a complete mess.
- Create a regular schedule for laundering to keep clothes at bay.
- Set up a donation schedule. As soon as the collection bag is full, get it into the car and schedule yourself to drop it off…with a fresh bag in the closet to collect more cast-aways.
Try baby steps:
Monday – gather your coins into a container
Tuesday – label a baggie DEAD BATTERIES and dedicate a location to collect them
Wednesday – assign a junk drawer and clear out the true junk
Thursday – size up your laundry pile and procure baskets for each room
Friday – use a Sharpie to label a grocery bag and give one to each member of the family (and a general bag for the utility room)
Saturday – Congratulate yourself! You’re organized!
A great reason to declutter and organize your home is the possibility of leveraging it to rent or share or swap. Seeing your home through the eyes of guests can motivate you to pare down essential areas, streamline your own living style and in the process and create a more attractive place to live!
House swapping (HomeExchange) is a great way to eliminate lodging cost from a vacation. Short term rentals (AirBnB, VRBO) are a great way for empty nesters to earn some extra income. It can take a lot to get your space prepared to share – even partially – but comes with the added bonus of giving your home a refreshing makeover to make it more livable for you…and your family and friends.
Imagine someone walking into your home and saying, “What a nice place to stay!” You can achieve this effect without turning your house into a hotel. A few improvements can make a huge difference…and inspire you to do more. Here are 3 strategies to make this happen:
1 – Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
On visible surfaces — in the kitchen, the bathroom and the bedroom — clear out everything but the basics
- Excess products put away or discarded
- Clear the nightstand of dusty books and paraphernalia
- Simplify the décor
- Develop systems for managing laundry
- Take care of any outstanding repairs that create safety issues
There’s quite a range from being very clean, neat, usable, but looking very lived in to making it look more like a hotel…very sparse. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but usable. If you are renting you can charge more for a more hotel-like environment.
2 – Create Space for Overflow and Personal Items
- Make the house easily transformable to reduce the hassle of preparing to share. When you want to make it “guest ready” for yourself, for a relative coming to stay, for a party, or for a short term rental or house swap.
- Make space in a closet or part of a room where you can secure your personal or valuable items for things you would put away when someone is using your space. You can even dedicate an extra room for this purpose and have a locking door.
- Make space in cabinets or closets to store overflow items neatly but out of the way.
3 – Making Key Supplies and Info Accessible
- Prepare an “Welcome to Our Home” cheat sheet with key emergency contacts, and basic instructions for things like TV use, internet access, and trash/recycling.
- Make sure you have clean towels and sheets available and visible
- Consider stocking the kitchen with a few basics such as coffee/tea to make guests comfortable
If you’re considering doing short term rentals, there are other considerations re supplies that renters might expect. Places like AirBNB provide convenient list of things you should have stocked in your home
Not sure where to start? An organizing assessment with a Professional Organizer can provide you a punch list of things you could do, give you advice on the viability of sharing and also give you tips on what to tackle first.
Filed under Decluttering, downsizing, Empty Nest, General Organizing, home organizing, Kitchen, Living Room, Memorabilia, middle-age, organizing, Perspective, Strategies
The first phase of moving was “planning ahead.” Now – at least 4 weeks from move day – it’s time to get into action. Packing and letting people (and companies) know your plans constitutes the bulk of this phase.
Picture this – the moving truck is pulling away from your new home. You’re worn out from the weeks leading up to the move. You open up a random box and are faced with all kinds of mixed-up items that now have to be sorted and then figure out where they live. That takes lots of energy and time you probably won’t have – Ugh! Now multiply that feeling by the tens of boxes you have in every room! Yikes!
Make a Packing Timeline – Spend the time and energy before the move taking care to weed your possessions and decide where things will eventually live. That way, you can pack and label the boxes accordingly.
There’s an analogy that a move is like a ball rolling downhill – the closer you get to move day the faster time will be flying by. And before you know it, you’re just throwing things into boxes (if you’re lucky) in order to be ready in time. Plan out a schedule for completing the major packing in each room and allow for a full extra week to catch up on all the things you didn’t plan for.
Get Supplies – If you do any of the packing yourself, you’ll have to gather supplies. Since the boxes are bulky and can take over your house, dedicate space to store them so they won’t get in the way.
- Places such as Home Depot and U-Haul offer online box ordering with easy “kits” for different size moves that you can customize.
- Buy rolls or boxes of packing paper; don’t rely on finding enough newspaper for padding delicate items. Large bubble wrap is often more useful than the small bubble wrap for medium to large items. And don’t buy cheap packing tape – it isn’t worth the hassle when it constantly breaks on your tape gun.
- Have a dedicated small box or basket and fixed location where you always keep your critical packing supplies: markers, post-its, packing tape, tape gun, utility knife.
Begin with the End in Mind
- Whether you’ve decided to pack yourself or hire packing help, it’s essential to segregate items you’re taking with you into “like” groups to make packing and unpacking. This is why it is helpful to start with an organized home. If you have pared down what you own so that you only have items you need to bring with you, there’s minimal decision-making come packing time.
- Make sure you label your boxes with the destination in your new home, i.e., master bedroom, downstairs bath, laundry area, for example. Consider labeling some boxes “UNPACK FIRST” for each room.
- It can help to have an inventory sheet with the box number and contents if the unpacking will happen over time or if your boxes will be sitting in storage for a time.
- Pace Yourself – Packing can be exhausting! Take breaks, plan your meals, be realistic about how long you can work each day. Ask for help if you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed.
Let People (and Companies) Know
- Contact your utility companies on both ends of the move and make arrangements to transfer or cancel your service on the date you hand over possession of your home
- In addition to the utility companies, make a check-list of the people/companies who send you mail: Banks, Insurance Companies, Medical Providers. Don’t forget to include:
- Consider sending out “We’re Moving” cards with your new address to your friends and family.
- Ask the new homeowners to forward any mail that slips through the USPS system and comes to your old address.
The Goal Is This…
You walk into your new home, energized and ready to get to work … every room has clearly labeled boxes of the items that belong in that room, the labels let you know which boxes you want to unpack first. When you open a box, you can efficiently put things away because you know where they’re going. Bonus if you have helpers it’s easy to direct them because the boxes are all well packed, labeled, and organized! Next post – Moving Day.
Make sure you don’t leave any special things behind!
It’s been said that moving is one of the top 5 most stressful life events –
- Death of a loved one
- Major illness or injury
- Job loss
And often moving must happen because of one or more of these life events!
While there’s no way to make moving completely stress-free, with some forethought you can keep the move manageable. There’s a lot to cover so we’re going to talk about moving in three phases:
- Planning Ahead
- Start Packing
- Moving Day & Beyond
Plan Ahead & Start Early
This is probably the biggest key to managing the stress of a move. Having enough time to organize all the moving parts (pun intended) and stay on top of details keeps you feeling in control. Often the timeline of a move will feel like a ball rolling downhill, picking up momentum and going faster and faster – the closer you get to move date the shorter each day will feel!
- Ideally, a minimum of 2 months before your move schedule movers and start to tackle problem areas, room by room.
- Decide if how much packing and moving you’re doing yourself vs. hiring help. If you’re going the DIY route, allow for more time. If you’re hiring packing help, you’ll need to pre-sort things to avoid having boxes of mixed-up stuff to untangle at the new home.
- Moving isn’t inexpensive! If you hire help for packing and moving, even for a local move, expect to pay a few thousand dollars. Hiring help can be well worth the value. With someone to schlep boxes, you’ll be able to focus your energy on decision making rather than physically wearing yourself out.
- Know the limits of your new space and let that guide your purging, especially for items such as photos, memorabilia and books. Floor planning ahead of time gives you the exact reality of what will fit in your space. You want to make sure the available storage will hold whatever you bring.
- Honor your own limits of time and energy for combing through these things in order to weed the collections.
- Think about what to do with everything you won’t be taking with you. Decide if you want to sell anything via a garage sale, estate sale or online. Identify local donation places and find out if they do pickups. You will have leftovers that can’t be donated; identify haulers or find out your city’s policy on bulky pickups as part of your trash service.
This first phase of moving is all about getting a handle on the big picture and getting through as much of the sorting and purging as possible.
Even if you’re not moving now and just considering it for the future, the process of sorting through things and paring down will make you more nimble if and when you decide to move.
Did you know organizers don’t just organize? Professional organizing comes in all sorts of flavors. Some organizers are more generalists and cover lots of areas; others pick one specialty and stick to that. Have a look at the variety of challenges where professional organizers can help:
- Business development
- Children and teen organizing
- Chronic disorganization
- Closet design and organizing
- Corporate operations
- Digital organizing
- Estate management
- Estate sales
- Event planning
- Feng Shui
- Financial management/Bookkeeping/Bill-paying
- Garage sales
- Hands-on organizing
- Hoarding behavior
- Home inventories
- Home offices
- Home staging
- Household management
- KonMari organizing
- Notary Public
- Online sales
- Paper management
- Personal assistance
- People with disabilities
- Project management
- Psychology involved in organizing/productivity
- Records management
- Relocation and move management
- Social media
- Space planning and design
- Speaking and training
- Storage units
- Task and time management
- Team productivity
- Travel prep
- Virtual organizing
No matter the size or scope of your project, we can help you find an organizer with the specialty you need! Ask us for recommendations or go directly to the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals — NAPO.net.
Filed under ADD/ADHD, artwork, Bathroom, Bay Area Services, Bedroom, Business Organizing, children, Closets, clothing, couples, Decluttering, disorganization, downsizing, Empty Nest, Garage, General Organizing, Holidays, home organizing, Kids, Kitchen, Laundry, Living Room, Memorabilia, Moving, Office, Paper, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, School, Seniors, Storage, Technology, Time Management, Travel, Wedding
Tip: Start your day with a routine that primes you to be in charge
All of us, at one time or another, get that sinking feeling of having way too much to do in way too little time. It’s demoralizing to feel overwhelmed by the routine tasks of everyday life. While barely treading water with the routine tasks, it doesn’t take much – a flat tire, an unexpected potluck, a roof leak – to push your schedule into full chaos. How can you reclaim your sanity and sense of control and competence?
Here are some strategies from a recent workshop we took from Productivity Coach, Steve Kirch.
Make Conscious Choices
Busy is a choice, but often doesn’t feel like it. You may not feel like you have choice or control over your time. But even in the most obligated person’s schedule there is enough wiggle room to create space for reflection, planning, and some choice-making. Regaining control of your schedule and your life, starts with making a little time to evaluate the bigger picture and consciously deciding what tasks are essential and where they fit best in your schedule. Otherwise, we get pulled from our important goals into other people’s priorities.
Purge, Purge, Purge
One of the most essential things to do is re-evaluate how much you take on. Just as our spaces get cluttered, so do our schedules. Given your personal priorities, figure out both your essential tasks and those that make you truly happy — and fit those in first.
Create a Morning Routine
It doesn’t have to take oodles of time to plan. Start with 10 minutes of any day and be intentional about how you are going to spend your day. What are YOUR critical few priorities for today? The ideal time to do this is first thing in the morning.
Consider getting up a little earlier and incorporating this short morning routine that grounds you for the day and helps you feel in control of the ship:
- Stretch or move
- Drink some water
- Plan the day (check your calendar)
Get Things Done
Try these strategies for actually getting tasks done:
- Time blocking – group like tasks together and schedule a block of time to complete them before moving on to a different set of tasks or project.
- Pomodoro Technique® – work for 25 minutes, don’t work for 5 minutes, for 4 rounds –then take a longer break.
- Don’t check email first thing in morning.
- Know your biological prime time – what is yours? Try and schedule important tasks during this higher energy time.
- If you’re naturally distractible (ADD), structure your planning time to avoid distractions and consider silencing your phone or putting it on airplane mode to avoid interruptions.
Try to incorporate one or two of these tips into your day and see how it feels. If you need more help, consult with a Professional Organizer, Coach or Productivity Specialist. Asking for help can be one of the most productive tips of all.