Hello there! I can see from here that your time is managed, your house is decluttered, and your chores are all finished! Nice job! Wait, what? You still have some organizational issues? Well, that’s okay, call us, and we’ll come help with whatever you need. Sometimes, it takes longer than a week to change everything you have done for years. I hope you are enjoying this series about the 5 simple strategies you need to live life organized. Feel free to go back and read the first three posts if you get a chance:
Strategy One: Managing Your Time
Strategy Two: Managing Your Stuff
Strategy Three: Managing Your Chores
Today’s post is about Strategy Four: Managing Your Paperwork. We all have a lot of paperwork. Mail comes almost daily and with it piles of bills, magazines, offers, and junk mail. If that weren't bad enough, we all get hundreds of emails a week from friends, family, school, stores, shopping sites, deal sites, and your uncle in Romania that you didn't know about, but he just left you a million dollars.
Paperwork is a beast that you must tame, or it will run your life. Luckily, here are some great tips to help with the process. As you read this, be aware that your goal will be to only look at or touch each piece of mail or email once and then be done with it. One simple and easy way to get less mail is to sign up for paperless billing, automatic withdrawal or online billpay. Most companies make it extremely easy and safe to do this, often right from your smartphone. There will even be a future blog post about how to do this.
Your first step is to have a family inbox. Buy a box that is about two inches deep and wide enough to hold most mail you receive. When you walk in the door with mail, school papers, flyers, or any other papers, put it all in your inbox immediately. Then you need to sort through your inbox. Take the time every day or every couple of days to go through your inbox. I find it is easier to go through 10 pieces of paper at a time than thirty. As you sort through your inbox, every piece of paper you touch is going to go into one of four piles. Then you are going to deal with each pile.
Pile One: Trash it
This pile is for junk mail, stuff you don’t need, unimportant papers. As soon as you are done making your piles, shred or recycle these immediately.
Pile Two: File it
This pile is for papers that don’t need an action, but you need to keep like school calendars, insurance cards, and health benefits. File these immediately. It is easier to file three papers than it is to file 73.
Pile Three: Deal with it
This pile is for papers that need an action of some sort: a phone call, an email, or a payment. Complete the action on this paper immediately. Pay the bill, write the email, call the company. The sooner you complete the action, the less time you waste thinking about doing it.
Pile Four: Pass it on
This pile is for papers that are not your responsibility. Perhaps your spouse pays the bills, and these papers can be handed off to him or her; or your daughter loves the American Girl catalog, and she can be responsible for it.
Email is often worse than snail mail. Since it is not actually piling up on one's desk, one tends to let the online inbox become very full. However, having 1300 emails in your inbox is not helpful. It is difficult to track down information that way, and it is difficult to see what has been dealt with and what still needs to be dealt with. Email must have the same rules as the actual paper that comes into your house. When you receive an email, read it and complete an action. You can trash it, archive it, file it, or answer it as soon as possible. Try to only read an email one time before you respond.
If you go through your paperwork and emails more often and more quickly, it soon becomes less of a burden to bear. Get into the habit of handling these right away. Once an invitation has been RSVP'ed for or a bill has been paid, it frees you to enjoy your life all the more.
I hope you are enjoying your newly decluttered and calm space from last week’s post. If you are just joining us, be sure to check out the first two posts in this series:
Strategy One :Managing Your Time
Strategy Two: Managing Your Stuff
This week, we are going to tackle Managing Your Chores. Sadly, we all have chores. Even Princess Kate said that they cleaned their own house. Hopefully, we can figure out a way to make those chores easier to handle.
First, have a cleaning schedule; it just makes sense. If you are a person that cleans all "willy-nilly," then you may miss things. Write it down, and stick to it. Then you don’t need to remember the last time you mopped. There are a lot of different cleaning schedules to follow. Some say to clean the whole house in one day, some say clean one room at a time, some say hire a housekeeper and never clean again. But whatever you choose, having a schedule will help you. There are several incredible bloggers that have designed some pretty fantastic cleaning schedules, like here and here, if you need some inspiration.
Here are some simple first steps to take. One, keep your cleaning supplies all over your house. Each of my bathrooms has a toilet bowl cleaner, an all-purpose cleaner, a bottle of window cleaner, and a roll of paper towels. The kitchen has dishwashing supplies, window cleaner, counter cleaner, etc. You don’t need to cart your supplies all over the house if you just want to wipe down the bathroom mirror. Two, keep to a schedule and perhaps a time limit for cleaning. Give yourself 30 minutes per room, or 10 minutes at the end of each day, or 4 hours once a week, but stick to it. No one wants to have to clean every day for six hours or waste an entire beautiful Saturday with a mop.
Also, there are certain things that need to be cleaned every day and some things that can be cleaned on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. Here are a few examples.
Wash dishes, wipe down the counters and sinks, pick up the house, make the beds, etc. I give myself about ten minutes to do this during the day, ideally in the morning.
Dust, clean toilets, bathtubs and showers, wash the sheets and towels, clean the mirrors, vacuum, mop, etc. This takes a larger chunk of time. I pick one day a week and do these chores all in that day.
Wipe down baseboards and vents, dust fans, wash windows, wash rugs, etc. Spend a little extra time on your regular cleaning day and add one of these chores a week, or plan to spend an extra day each month doing them all.
Quarterly, Semi-annual and Annual Cleaning
Change air filters, clean the oven, wash comforters, wash shower curtains, etc. Schedule these when you change the clocks or sprinklers or when the seasons change.
Next, do your laundry often and do your laundry only when you can finish it. Meaning every load of laundry should be washed, dried, folded, hung, and put away each and every time you do it. Since clothes are hung up or folded immediately, they do not get wrinkled, so you won't need to iron. If that means you only have time to do one load a day, then plan to do one a day. If that means you dedicate one whole day to do 5 loads, then plan on staying home all day and catch up on House Hunters. It’s probably on.
The next chore is washing dishes. And there are a lot of dishes. I feel like we use more dishes in a day than we could have possibly used, but somehow they sit there taunting me like they walked over from the cabinet to the sink by themselves. Here is the simple truth: someone has to do the dishes, and it is probably you.
If you can, wash the dishes after every meal. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it should be a habit to do the dishes after every meal, and it should be the rare occasion when they get left. Then, wipe down the table, and clean the sink. Finish each meal with a fresh slate.
Here is one way to do that. NO ONE LEAVES the kitchen area until the dishes are done, the counters are clean, and the table is wiped down. EVERYONE HELPS!
Run the dishwasher. Run it often. Run the dishwasher every single night. The dishwasher does not have to be full to run it. It costs around 20 cents to run a load of dishes. And I live in Las Vegas where there is plenty of water to go around.
Empty the dishwasher. Right away, as soon as they are finished. I timed myself the other day to see how long it took me to unload the dishwasher. Two minutes and fourteen seconds. Seriously. Tell me you do not have 2 minutes and 14 seconds in your day. In addition, if you unload the dishwasher as soon as it is finished, then you will not have a pile of dirty dishes on your counter waiting to go into the dishwasher. You will not need to buy one of those cute magnets that say “CLEAN/DIRTY” because you will always know that if there are dishes in the dishwasher, they are dirty. Unload the dishwasher in a way that makes sense. I open up all of my cabinets and take things together. Stack all of the plates and then walk to that cabinet with all of them.
Last but not least, take out the trash. If your trashcan is full, take it out. Don’t wait to see just how many paper plates or wrappers you can stack on top. If you've reached the top, take it out. If it smells, take it out. If company is coming over, take it out. Trash is gross, why do you want it in your house any longer than necessary? The night before your trash men show up, collect all of the trash in the house to take out. Grab a big bag, carry it around and dump all of the little bags into it. Keep one or two new trash bags in the bottom of each trashcan, so that when you pull out the last bag, you are already prepared with a new bag. Replace these extra bags whenever they run out.
Although we can't whip up a spell to have our mop do our chores for us, we can try to ease the burden of them a little bit. Allow others in your family to help. Assign specific tasks to each person. Let your two-year-old wipe down the chairs after dinner. Tell your 10-year-old to bring all the dirty laundry to the washer. If everyone contributes, it is more fun and a little easier.
Well, I hope after last week’s tips about time management, I haven't scared you off! I hope that you are super-excited to move on, now that you are well-planned, well-prepared, and on time for everything. Great! If you haven't had the chance to read last week's post, please check it out.
Strategy One: Managing Your Time
Now, let’s move on to the second strategy that will move you along the road to living life organized.
Strategy Two: Manage Your Stuff
There is really no other way to put this: we do not need as much stuff as we have. Do you really need your daughter’s stroller even though she is now 6? Do you really need to keep that old dvd player that would work again if you just replaced that one part? My brother-in-law is a pastor in Colorado Springs, and he said something very insightful the other day. As Americans we have this fascination right now with the world ending or the apocalypse coming, or the zombies, or the power going out, or crashing on a deserted island. Have you watched TV lately? Lost, Revolution, The Walking Dead. We have so much stuff that our biggest fear is losing our stuff. We don’t fear starvation or death as much as we fear losing our iPad or phone. Hoarding is now an official psychiatric diagnosis because it is only now that we have so much stuff that it can become an illness! We need less stuff. I organized a client's garage last year, and he had 8 monkey wrenches of the same size. 8. He only has two hands; there is no way he would need 8 monkey wrenches at one time, ever. Think through how much stuff you have. Now wouldn't your anxiety go away a little bit if you could weed through it all?
The very first step in decluttering your home is to know what you have and know what you need. Figure out what you have. I have cleaned out people’s houses and heard them say… “Hmmm! I didn't even know I had that!” Or we find 5 bottles of paprika because they kept buying it over and over again since they couldn't find the last one.
Follow the one room at a time, one week at a time philosophy. Start with one room in your house, take everything out, go through all of it and only put some of it back in. Then, the next week, tackle another room and then another and then another...
As you clean out a room, make a pile of things to keep, a bag of things to donate, and a bag of trash. Then, make a pile of things that have to go somewhere else. And then take them to that place as you leave the room. If you find a monkey wrench in your linen closet, take it to the garage where it is supposed to be (with the other seven). Go through things quickly. Don’t take 5 minutes on each item or it can become overwhelming. If you are unsure about an item, keep it for a while, but make a note of it, and then force yourself to do something with it by a certain date.
And most importantly, PURGE! PURGE! PURGE! Don’t attach sentimental value to everything. That great shirt that you bought in London is not going to keep the memory from that trip alive.
Once you have gone through everything and you know what you have, the next step is to decide what you need. Perhaps you need to buy some new bins to put all your newly organized Tupperware in. Maybe you need to purge even more because there still isn’t room for everything. I can promise you that most of us are living with much more “have” than “need”.
After you know what you have and what you need, you need to know where it goes.
Having a clutter-free house creates a sense of calm. Empty white space can be visually soothing and relaxing. With that said, we still need to own furniture and toasters and remote controls. Because of that, every item in your home should have a specific spot that it lives. Everything needs to have a home. Our corkscrew always goes in the drawer by the oven. It does not go anywhere else. It doesn't sometimes live in the drawer by the stove and sometimes in the drawer by the oven. This drawer makes sense because it also holds our bottle opener and wine corks, and other entertaining needs. So when I have had a long day, I don’t need to open every drawer before I can open a bottle of wine. I have a friend who keeps the colander and the cheese grater together in a cabinet because they are both metal tools with holes. The point is, it doesn't matter where you keep it, as long as it doesn't take time to find it, and you know where to grab it every time. Toys need a specific home. Your phone needs a specific home. If everything has a home, you will not need to look for things, and straightening up the house will be quicker.
Sometimes, we seem to have too much stuff for our square footage. If this is the case, think creatively. Put toys in bins under couches and under beds. Use your sideboard as your home office. Buy a storage ottoman instead of a coffee table, and use it to store extra blankets and bedding. Use the high spaces in your closets to hang extra bags or baskets you don’t use very often. Sometimes, you have to get creative to find homes for things.
Good luck sorting through your spaces this week, and if you need help, call us! That’s what we’re here for.
Welcome! I am excited to bring you my very first series. I think there is nothing better to keep you (and me) coming back to this blog than the promise of another post!
In order to live life organized, there are really only five things you need to learn. Easy, right? Five simple strategies that can change your cluttered life, and allow you to enjoy every minute of your day. Five simple strategies to free you from looking for your keys or your wallet, from wasting energy running to the store for forgotten items, from double booking a meeting with a lunch date, from having closets that you would be embarrassed to reveal.
Today, we are going to talk about Strategy Number One: Time Management. There are probably a thousand books written on this subject, and if you type time management into a Google search, there are about 1,330,000,000 results. Wow. I think this might be something we struggle with a little bit. So let’s dive in and see if I can help a little.
Managing your time is very important. If you know how long things take and what is coming up on your schedule, it is easier to know when to say "yes" or "no." Also, if you know your plan for the day or week, then nothing falls through the cracks.
First and foremost, you will want have a schedule. Some people are very creative and like to fly by the seat of their pants. I get that, but you can often find yourself in a situation where you can’t even be creative anymore because there are just too many things in the way. Having a schedule gives you more freedom in the long run.
It doesn’t have to be a daily, hourly schedule that is all written down to the minute. But you need to have your time planned out in some manageable way. Planning your day well can save you valuable time later on.
Every week, sit down and take a look at the upcoming week. For me, this works well on Sunday night. I sit down with my Google calendar and my planner and I figure out all of my have-to’s and want-to’s for the week. My kids have to be at school on time. I have to get groceries. I want to run. I want to have lunch with a friend. Figure out what is important. Get those things on the schedule first. Then fill in the unimportant things later. It’s sort of like that rocks-in-the-jar thing. Have you guys seen that? You know, the college professor has a giant jar, and he fills it first with sand, and then he adds little rocks, and then he tries to add the big rocks, but they don’t fit, so he starts again. This time with the big rocks, then the little rocks, and finally the sand, and then it all fits in the jar. First, I add in doctor’s appointments and meetings, then grocery shopping, then Facebook. I don’t start with Facebook.
Making lists will also help you in the long run. You will not remember everything. And even if you never forget things, you will still want to write them down. Having a list lets you stop thinking about things. It frees your mind for more useful tasks. If I know I have a bunch of errands to run, I write them all on a sticky note and then number them in an order that makes sense; for example, if things are close together in town, or if I need to get milk and then bring it home before I go out again, I can plan for that. I have ongoing lists in my smartphone of ideas I want to remember, clothes I want to buy, or things I want to pick up.
Lastly, be on time. People are late for a lot of different reasons. Poor planning, being unprepared, not caring about the time, and every now and then because of reasons you cannot control. But if you are chronically late, it is not traffic’s fault. And it is not usually because you were accomplishing some other really important task. Now there are times when you are going to be late. We all are. And that is fine; but, if it is a habit, it is something we will want to work on.
Prepare yourself to leave before you have to leave. Keep your diaper bag stocked and ready to go at all times. Keep your keys, purse, and phone in the same place every day, so you don’t waste time looking for them. Our hall closet is set up like a mudroom and holds backpacks, jackets, and other necessary things. We set up a station by our garage door that holds keys, wallets, phones, purses, planners, and anything else we need for the day. Make your lunches before bed the night before. Fill your water bottles. Lay out your clothes. Being well prepared will help you be on time.
Being on time isn't only about the drive time. If I am supposed to be somewhere at 10:00 in the morning, and the drive is usually 15 minutes, but it takes me 5 minutes to buckle the kids, and the walk from the parking lot to the office building is 5 minutes, I can’t leave at 9:50 and think I will be there on time! I have to start buckling those kids at 9:35 to give me my 15 minute drive and my 5 minute walk. It is about being prepared, and knowing how long you take to do things.
Try it my way for a week, see how it works for you. Sit down this Sunday night with a planner (or a piece of notebook paper), and plan your week ahead. Write it all down, your to-do list, your goals, your appointments, your laundry times. Think through your day, and be prepared for anything. If you are going to go grocery shopping, bring your reusable bags. If you will be gone for a while, bring a snack and a bottle of water. Finding yourself up the creek without a paddle is just bad planning. If you know you’re heading to the creek, bring your paddle, so to speak.