Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Organization 101

Organization 101

Webster’s dictionary notes the meaning of Organization as follows;

Organization; to form into a coherent unity or functioning whole.

In a nutshell, domestic organization - simply put, means to rid one’s surroundings of unnecessary clutter or solve the problem of mismanagement within the home. Otherwise this problem surfaces at the oddest times, creating havoc and chaos when everything is in disarray. Ultimately, the entire family unit will achieve stable peace of mind, especially when there is no negative visual impact in focus to distract everyone from life’s better priorities.

I’d like to be able to present the topic of organization as something obtainable and manageable, if only one takes the time to initially get it together. There are times I know for sure the very subject either intrigues people or turns them right off. I am not a professional anything here, rather I wish to share with you my journey into some sanity saving systems that have worked for me in the past and still presently.

Tools of the trade...
Bins, Containers, Jars, Oh MY!

Organization means something different to everyone. Just try browsing the Flylady’s website for her impressions of getting a household and personal life in order to see what I mean. Read the zillions of testimonials page after page, and then, just when one thinks they have a grasp on placements of items within their home, all lovingly organized very well, something happens to hinder the work efforts. That happened to me with our move east!

Fly Lady coined a few (inside jokes) famous phrases during her “Flying lessons”, fun lessons we can incorporate into our daily lives to free us from our domestic clutter and disorganization. Here are but a few of them, but get to the website to find out exactly what they are.

  • Super Fling Boogie
  • Weekly home blessing hour
  • Breaking our homes into “Fly zones” for ease of managing them.
  • Body clutter (and I’ll add…Mind clutter here)
  • House Fairy surprises (for children this one is great!)
  • Fly Crew featured recipes
  • Fly Lady’s toolbox
  • Pamper missions
  • Crisis Cleaning

It is within the FlyLady’s website where you can find respite and reverie from life’s overwhelming stresses, chuckling aloud while reading the fun, and getting a clear vision of your life when all rolls into its proper order. People have been paid enormous amounts of money to hire “life coaches”, “organizational coaches” (Fly Lady, Encouraging Coach below), “and clutter control teams to work on their behalf within their homes or offices”. My own husband was assigned a “life coach” for several years at work to mentor, guide and assist him in his executive position at the office. He would tell you it’s been very valuable to bounce off on another individual and has reaped benefits for someone outside of the box looking in. During his coaching, he was assigned many books to read, including Cheryl Richardson’s Life Coaching books, which are very good.

Many other assorted self-titled career handles surrounding the serious and often debilitating topic of organization in one’s life have cropped up over the years. There are reality TV shows where a family has been blessed by a home renovation project to get control of an area another family member notifies the show’s producers of. While living in our hotel for two weeks, we watched “Debbie Travis’s show” daily and were all inspired by the teary results from the surprise to the owners.

Debbie Travis

Why then can we not get it on by ourselves, or can we? We can. This new generation has busy lifestyles. It is not about who we are as a person, or if we demonstrate a lazy attitude, though if someone does have a tendency towards being slothful, perhaps they’ll need to decipher if it is time for a serious effort towards a definite lifestyle change. What it is about is getting control of our families, our domestic hearth fronts, or our offices, and I believe when we make the attempt to do so, our lives will allow for many more hours of free time for things we are yearning for, let alone the thought of simple contentment we can be blessed with with inner peace for a job well done. Our families will be happier, and we will be on top of the world!

Oh, just in case I haven’t stated the obvious, if you aren’t yet convinced on the value of getting and staying organized, read up on the topic of “Feng Shui”, as clutter does affect our state of well being and our mental outlook. Here is a great article you can tap into called “Feng Shui your way to a simpler home”. Briefly here’s what it’s about;

“Clearing the clutter and debris in your home and in your personal life is the first step of Feng Shui and it costs nothing. Clutter is trapped energy that has a far-reaching effect physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Clutter makes you feel unorganized and confused, keeps you in the past, congests your body, makes you feel lethargic and tired. As I instinctively knew when I started cleaning out the closet while pondering a life change, the simple act of clearing clutter can transform your life by releasing negative emotions, generating energy and allowing you to create space in your life for the things you want to achieve.”

With only four days notice, my hubby was offered a work transfer which would require a move geographically for our family, almost across an entire country! Four days notice was all he was granted to pack belongings, fly to his new destination, and report for duty when arriving. This was our family’s first shock. Five months later when the moving truck arrived in our driveway and four men proceeded to the front door; I wondered about their packing abilities and felt a wee bit drained at the prospect of “them” sorting and removing items from all areas of my home into boxes to proceed with the moving process. In the end the men worked so incredibly hard, and did a marvelous job at getting the entire house packed and in the truck in just under two days.

There have been times in the past when I have been overwhelmed with stacks and piles to file, assorted objects requiring re-entry into their own spots, and mountains of children’s items to keep in order for pure personal sanity reasons. People wonder why I “color coded” each child, assisting them in choosing their very own color for almost most things they possess. Subsequently, I always knew “who” the culprit was with the wet towel left on the floor, whose knapsack was thrown against the boot rack, whose toothbrush was still dry (!), and all sorts of great time savers. In the process of raising a family however, there is so much more to the importance of keeping order within a home, and for this reason alone, there are times when I move like the wind to reinstate law and order in our home, sometimes to the chagrin of others in the family. The children wince upon occasion, or they clap for joy. Comments range from good to not so great, things like;

- “Oh goodie, she’ll help me sort my messy closet so I can find my stuff again myself.”

- “Can we go through those clothing bins to see what fits me now, and then sort my dresser drawers afterwards?”

- “Do I have to help run up and down the stairs as a delivery person?”

- “This is good for me to learn, as one day I’ll have my own home to do too.”

- “Why now mother?”

- “It’s about time you got this project rolling mom!”

- “Where do you want this to go?”

In addition, certainly, there is always the infamous line;

- “I think I have something else to do right now…sorry mom.”

Having our homes in some sort of livable order frees us from a stressful environment where chaos reigns within the family from the discovery of misplaced or lost items, toys scattered all over the house (or all over the back yard) instead of being assigned to a specific area. Perhaps it’s a disaster of a kitchen with items falling from the cupboards when doors are opened up, scary incidences when a closet door is opened in a hallway or bedroom (remember the movie; “Cheaper by the dozen” when the father cleaned house with children?), the dreadful thought of stepping on a Lego piece at 3am when the baby needs a feeding, tripping over a colossal mound of shoes from everyone allowing them to land wherever they may fall, clothes left behind the bathroom door or wet items still on counters. Sometimes it’s grossly overdue stove interior gunk cleaning where the odor of something burnt revisits the kitchen daily, or storage underneath of children’s beds from months ago out of sheer lazy habit. Of course there are so many more examples you may be able to relate to I could type up here.

Here’s a funny. How’s your recipe box sorted, or your cookbooks? Would you be as organized as a friend of mine who announced she can find a recipe is mere seconds? Can I confess that when she told me that, I took the time to check mine out, grabbed my recipe box and was astounded (!) at the mixture of little cards from teenage bakers who weren’t so eager to keep up the organized interior for me. They were in the recipe box, or somewhere around the cookbook shelf unit. No more! This is but a wee little area with a big concerns for finding favorite recipes in a hurry when time is of the essence. teehee

There are also items, “hot spots”, outside of the home to attend to; the neglected vehicle with food wrappings, old water bottles, and garbage on the floor, snotty dried up tissue balls laying around, toys and books scattered about, basic clutter, clutter, clutter! A forbidding thought if someone wasn’t able to find something of importance in there at a moment’s notice. The family vehicle needs attention frequently, if only for air quality and no bacterial build-up, likely at least once a month scour it out and vacuum it up. Once a week is better if there are many passengers to chauffeur about. Ever wonder why interior windows get a film on them? This is caused by all the breathing in there, imagine the invisible particles floating around on top of these?

A garage, storage shed, or playhouse requires frequent consideration also. I have a friend whose husband begged the children to have their toys gathered by the time he got home in the evening, and built them a special storage area to place them in. He was so fed up with the toy litter all over the yard, especially when he was to get out there and mow the lawn after work. Having the children pick up after themselves when finished with their playtime fun keeps them accountable to remain clutter-free too. It’s never too early to train the children.

Can you relate to any of these things above?

Certainly there are multitudes of zany examples you could add to the list yourself from past experiences, and most of us are always on alert to the final straw clutter requiring a family effort to be dealt with finally. This is where we are at this month in our home.

When the moving truck arrived here in the east, three new men unloaded the truck along with the same driver as in the west for packing it all up. We observed box after box, after box, roll into our new home, attempting to direct each man to the rooms they would belong in within this house. In the beginning I never noticed anything out of order, though later on when I began to unpack many remaining in various rooms, I was struck by the notion a professional packer would write contents as; “Odds and sods – Living room”, “This and That- nothing else after”, “Misc.- nothing else after” and so forth. What a nightmare to get the final boxes unloaded! This was my second shock from this move! Mystery boxes!

Last summer we had workers attending to duties most of the weeks. Rising early we bid them entry, and proceeded with the notion we were to clean up every evening when they left anything untidy. It felt as though we were continuously working ourselves, leaving very little time to begin new projects, limiting our abilities into certain rooms, or areas outside. All we wished to do on a free day, or at day's end was to flee the home and "explore" to get out from the nutty environment. Thus began the slippery slope into a year of oblivion, though for the most part my head was above water quite nicely for things that mattered.

Over the past few months, I’ve taken time to study my daily planner, viewing the coming weeks and days ahead, noting down things of importance needing our attentions within the family. Each area of notation seemed to encompass large jobs rather than smaller and quick ones to accomplish, so I knew they would have to wait until my general time availability increased. I decided upon a name, giving the growing list the title of “My Midsummer Projects”.

As I jotted down each item on the paper hardcopy before my eyes, under this now noted title, it scared me at first to realize the list was long right at the onset, and then grew larger to become almost overwhelming at the simple prospect of achieving it all within this "Midsummer" time period. I wondered “how” I was going to accomplish such a feat of checking off each item when finally finished. Slowly but surely when the demands for my time grew less and less from being the sole driver in the house and running the children to their regular yearly activities, and also overseeing their educational yearly syllabus to completion for the year, I was mentally preparing myself for the tasks ahead, and making a list of any items required from town.

As the beginning of summer rolled in and a new season beckoned us to enjoy it all, slowly but surely I was finally able to roll up my sleeves a few weeks ago now. I began at the top of the list, moving downward. Swiftly I zeroed in on the lower floor thinking it the worst scenario of all, and began the most difficult tasks first with our older son here side by side with me. At the onset it was possible to concentrate on one room at a time, until alas, all began to blend into one big blur carting out items from one room into another, all rooms affected and happening at the same time!

While I was initially tweaking my list week after week awaiting the time frame to begin the Midsummer projects, I sorted through a whole host of organization books I already own, and became fascinated with my new find, Martha Stewart’s newest book , currently sitting pretty on my coffee table, but oh so useful. Even my hubby founds tips and hints for his beloved BBQ unit in the pages of this book.

To add flavor to the fun, I happen to come across an announcement for a new magazine that peaked my interest, and I found the magazine staring me in the face at Barnes and Noble bookstore when the family took a browsing session one afternoon. It is simply titled; "Organize" I was also able to pick up a mate on the store’s shelf by Better Homes and Gardens on the same topic. To my surprise, both magazines were chock filled with fresh and new ideas, and the whole concept of my looming project became almost enticing. Inspiration began to flow readily and I was not only eager to begin my “Midsummer projects”, but I was pumped to get going NOW!

Okay, I must confess it’s been a “closet addiction” of mine for many years. I “like” to be organized! Plain and simple, this is my crutch….laugh. This is how I survive life's crazy demands.

Let us begin by stating this disclaimer;

Since organization is sometimes a loaded bomb for many people and the whole idea of getting their house in order sends them loopy, I always like to encourage folks to take things one at a time, using small (!) baby steps. Take one drawer, one shelf, one box, one something, just one itty-bitty thing in your home that presently bugs you and step forward. And if you are in the midst of this challenge at any point this summer, I’d love to hear how you’re doing if something here inspires you to begin.

The first step to organizational bliss is ensuring you have what you will require for tending to the little things. Everyone has a junk drawer, one which is out of bounds for critique. Why not “containerize” the inside with baskets to get it into some order. For us, it’s always been the girl’s hair accessory drawer. Always out of order, always junky and it’s amazing how the girls can never find what they are looking for within it. In this home, both girls have their own drawers and I was able to solve this “baby step” project a few months back. Like them, we’ve moved from overhead cabinets to drawers in our master ensuite, and I was finding a lack of order in the makeup and personal drawers. Ah-ha, our local dollar store solved the problem, with interesting items to choose from, cheap items of valuable use to keep us more orderly and items easier to find. Get the children involved, especially if it's their junk!

Girls' bathroom drawers with dollar store containerizing

And. not to be undone,
our younger son organized his drawer also.

Many hotel stays for a traveling businessman
pays off when the guestroom bathroom
is loaded with amenities for our guests.

Another item I purchased recently has been an incredible asset to our home. It is my beloved label machine. I can’t tell you how much easier life has become to have everything labeled when the organizing mission is complete. I used to use Avery computer labels on everything, but my labeler is faster, easier, crisp and clean, sticks on easily and if I ever need to lift it, I can. The labels are printed out instantly and are laminated for smudge proof applications. There are label ribbons in many colors to choose from, the sky is the limit!

My beloved label maker!

Imagine everything labeled when you’re done! One son suggested I label the lip inside a few kitchen cupboards so he can remember where things go while removing items from the dishwasher. My hubby suggested using labels for the hot and cold water piping in the basement ceiling panels, and has also expressed interest in remarking the electrical box. He sees each notation easier with the bold print and doesn’t always have to reach for his eyeglasses.

Labels can be found everywhere in our home.

While on the topic of the dollar store, this shopping venue is the perfect place for “baby step” project solving. Take a casual stroll through your local store’s aisles, and allow your imagination to take flight at the possibilities for anything requiring attention in your home. Set aside 20 minutes, that’s all, and do one thing. Repeat when you have another 20 minutes to spare. This is how I began years ago, but I realized it was feasible for me during the school year, but not always. I am a project orientated person who needs to complete something from the beginning to the end before I’m satisfied. I feel there have been times when I began something, and it never seemed to ever end! So, for the larger projects, I wait until vacation times around the school year. This works for me.

Normally I would not have thought of these clear zippered bags as anything other than a schooling item for the most part, however I quickly changed my mind and purchased five on the spot, at one dollar each! I’ve used them for so many things already, mostly for travel. I had my maps in one when driving to Cape Cod with our extra medical insurance papers. One had gameboy games inside for easy stuffing into a backpack. I’ve also used one to keep handy for attending my card classes, taking what I will be requiring tool wise inside, along with my cutter. Quick as a wink, I’m ready to go.

Fantastic zipper bags!
My dollar store find, one dollar each!

Lest you think this little plastic bag isn’t for you, I would like to pass along two links for your spare time perusal, and you may just be hooked like me!

The Lazy Organizer

I’m an organizing junkie blog

For years and years, emails flocked into my inbox from email subscriptions I registered for during my "Home-keeping" journey. The following are my two very favorite, though there are many others out there of valuable use as well.

1 - Get organized NOW monthly checklist for July. Peruse her site, as there’s much to read here. I met this woman online many years ago during her humble early beginnings on one of my email loops. She is incredible and filled with simplicity about getting and staying organized, PLUS she walks her talk very well. Her email subscription is free, and don’t for get to request her “Organized Now Idea pak", chock filled with handy tips.

2 - At “My Simpler Life’s blog – The Encouraging Coach” you can sign up for her life coaching emails, a short read, very simple and easy things to consider offered within them. It’s a low traffic email with only one, maybe two short ones a month. Here’s an example of this week’s simple thoughts;

1. Pay an extra $10 towards your debt.
2. Create a habit of flossing daily.
3. Get caught up with laundry - including putting clothes away.
4. Revive or get rid of dead plants.
5. Move furniture around or declutter so you aren't always bumping into something.
6. Apologize.
7. Cut TV time to 5 hours a week.

Don’t forget to take her “self-care quiz” on her website here I also love to print off her monthly calendar declutter page, fun little things to do around the home to get it together. You can find July’s version here

3 - However, if I had to pick only one, “Laine’s Letters” might be it! It wouldn't be so much for the organization aspect, but more for the positive uplift she blesses people with. Laine is a lovely woman who lives an amazing lifestyle of simplicity, offering nuggets of wisdom to other woman as a personal ministry. Shortly before I was in the midst of a personal crisis nine years ago, when my hubby first had indications his health was on a fast decline, Laine came into my life filling my email box with her messages upon occasion, always topping me off with a positive and uplifting outlook. When I was no longer on the internet during a three month period of time, she obliged me by sending me every past issue, just to support me. Eventually, another woman offered to post all of her past messages online onto a website as a resource for all, and many of them are now there for reading. On the topic of organization, I printed off these two letters almost ten years ago now, and still find them useful for perusal upon occasion. One day I swear the kitchen scissors WILL be screwed into the drawer on a long string as she shared about, for they are always missing! Anyway, take a looksy and enjoy!

25 Easy ways

25 More easier ways

I read a great article many years ago about “Binderizing” the paper piles. Armed with a handy three hole punch and stacks of white binders sold in bulk at stores such as Costco, the ones equipped with clear see through windows on the front and back covers for ease of slipping a cover sheet into, sorting and sifting through the paper pile is definitely a productive accomplishment. I learned to “binderize" well, and so did our children. Think of all the possibilities in your own home! From loose music sheets, to the Lego assembly directions, and assorted other titles personalized for your family in a binderized version. Select the Clubs you belong to including the use of monthly minutes and handouts required to keep as references, and truly, the sky becomes the limit for "binderizing"! Binderize well, and when your project is complete these rest lovely on book shelving units.

Bin storage came up many years ago when I read books by “Emilie Barnes” and lapped up her ideas of organizing the home front. That was also when plastic storage bins were very costly and it took some time to accumulate all that I own now. Immediately after reading her book and attending a local seminar called "More Hours In My Day" she was a guest speaker for, I set up rubbermaid bins as my first choice for all children’s outgrown clothing to pass down eventually to siblings. I also loaded up five bins with Christmas decorations and items, loading them into the garage. The system recommended was to number each bin and corresponding lid, and then use a special notepad kept handy inside the home with a list of items inside the bin for quick retrievals. To this date, I still have those same bins, though recently I made a decision to get modernized (big grin) and update the fabulous family system by using clear bins so I can see inside of them instead. With four children out of the home and four still living here, the clothing bins have lessened from ten large rubbermaid containers down to four. This is getting easier for me, the seasonal clothing sessions so much less time consuming too. But, the bins are still clearly marked and this helps so much. Emilie has a great article HERE on procrastination in organization.

Office supply stores have always been my "cruising shopping" venues. When I was a teenager I got two friends hooked on our local office supply store, occasionally dropping by to see what was new. This sounds crazy to others I know, but when the very first “Office Depot” rolled into Coquitlam, I was online ordering a whole whack of items for our home office. Office Depot eventually merged with "Staples" warehouse office supply stores, and this latter one has become my store of choice for great things!

It suited me to purchase items necessary at deep discount pricing, and while I was there I got my fix seeing what was new and lovely. I’m the only person I know who gets excited about various hole punches, colorful folders, notepads, and other office/craft things new to the market. However, these are also the items I find both “useful and lovely” to work with. Perhaps the creative side I have oozing out at times allows for this impulse fixation to roll into a shopping memory, visualizing what I can use in my studio office. My love of “office supplies” rolled over from the office and into my plethora of hobbies.

Organization is one topic which seemingly affects and encroaches into every facet of our daily living. When I want to get into the crafty side of my life, I find it so very valuable to have items at my disposal, ready and sorted for quick usage. It is no secret Creative Memories is my favorite scrapbooking company to purchase items from, so when they introduced a line of Creative Memories organizational items (found HERE), I was right there in front of the line purchasing them from my friend Debbie, for I knew they could provide simplicity and orderly possibilities immediately, thus becoming a valuable asset to my time for performing well in my limited hobby hours. In addition, rubbermaid and dollar store items are handy for hobbies too, so don’t limit your shopping to one store. I have no regrets with the investment purchases I've made through the years to acquire these items, none at all. Thanks too for finding a perfect three drawer dresser at a thrift store for $5.00 last summer when my mother was visiting with me, I was able to paint it for my office room, and both sewing machine and serger sit nicely on the top. Inside the three drawers I have containers to divide the space, holding all my many crafty tools and accessories for quick grabs when needed. Besides, even the children can use the items and KNOW where they belong afterwards. No more chaos in the crafty times. One has to remember when browsing the photos below, it took me years to gather the hobby items I currently own. It’s not a shopping spree in a day for me!

Tools, mostly punches

Stamp pads, Adhesives, and other tidbits

Cutters, Eyelets, Embellishments

These are but a few organizational tidbits to pass along if they help you out in any way, but one last tip I will pass along to you, is to consider the importance of making a sincere habit out of using a daily planner and/or a very good family calendar.

Amongst the obvious basic appointments and daily happenings in our home, my daily planner is always within eye sight and a continual work in progress to keep me on track. Each time I see something in the local newspaper of interest, or if there’s a radio program I want to listen to on a specific day, I will clip those items out and tape them onto the day corresponding to it inside of my daily planner. I note the "Saint of the Day", special feasts within the family, days to celebrate, telephone calls to make, groceries to buy, errands to run, anything benefitting the family for me to store in my "brain". At a glance, I see choices to make if it suits our family.

The coupons found in the mail stash from stores such as Costco I’m interested in using during a weekly period of time are also taped inside my planner. I place yearly reminders from the dentist, doctor and specialist appointments, orthodontists and other professionals inside my planner, business cards too. In order to be able to do so, obviously I need to have a planner large enough to hold such items, and I find it a terrific reference area where tidbits of paper aren’t flying out from the pages when lifting it from the desktop. Everything I do is on my calendar and inside my planner, it’s my “daily brain” and without it, I’m simply lost! Forget the PDA I tried to use years ago, I need a hard copy before me to write in, make notations continuously, and it’s easier this way for me. You have to find your own niche, what suits you best.

Family communication is so important, we have color coded our calendar writings in the past according to child, and immediately we know, by color, who is going where and when (and HOW often!) just by noting the colors for the present day. It keeps everyone in the know around here and without a decent system, I have no idea how I would have managed my home and all our children over the past thirty years. The main culprit however has been my hubby, who had his own daily planner and never seemed to remember he was not an island unto himself, forgetting to consult the family calendar to find he often conflicted with the rest of us, so admittedly, life outside of the office and without a secretary to prompt him, it took time for all of us to get him linked up to us off of work hours. (grin) So keep the communications open, get everyone to note their comings and goings on the family calendar, chalkboard, or daily planner.

My favorite calendar and daily planner

If you have a large family like we do, forget those calendars containing little wee squares too small to fill in, the ones that don’t hold much information inside of them, and purchase something more practical so when a youngster uses his super big capital letters taking up the entire square to write down his activity for you (wink), it won’t be a calamity. I buy my calendar and daily planner yearly at Costco, and the makers are “Polestar Calendars”. I’ve just purchased mine for next year already, such a great buy to suit any budget at only $8.49 for the daily planner and calendar. You can find more information on these items by clicking onto the above link.

For now, I will leave all these organizational possibilities and reference reading links with you until my next post, where I will show you exactly what I’ve been up to around my own home. Since example is everything and I try to teach our children about the importance of remaining clutter free in their own lives, they have seen me in action and it feels so good at night when my head hits the pillow to know how much was accomplished. There is a physical sacrifice though, sore neck and back, but then the adrenaline keeps me truckin' on again the next day.

I hope you will still consider the remaining “Midsummer” days left on the calendar to check out your own home for tweaking your to- do lists.

Midsummer is upon us!