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This is the way… to Organize!

Posted by Lisa Higdon, Professional Organizer on February 01, 2013  /   Posted in Blog

After she read last week’s blog, my cousin wrote me a lovely note saying that it reminded her that our grandmother always took time to pick up before she went to bed each night, even washing dishes that had been used after dinner. I never remember my grandmother being frazzled about her house. I remember that her house was in order, and she had time to sew, play solitaire, and do jigsaw puzzles. What’s different for women today? We know that for my grandmother, caring for her home was her job; and granted, I knew her when she no longer had four girls to care for. She also wasn’t being pulled in many different directions like we are today.  But it got me thinking that some of the “old fashioned” ways of getting things done could still serve us well. One of these is to assign a specific task to a specific day.

 

It’s like the song, “This is the way we wash the clothes, wash the clothes, wash the clothes. This is the way we wash the clothes so early Monday morning.” A chore assigned per day. Of course, this was written at a time when the washing was much more labor intensive. There was no putting in a load and leaving it while you attended to other things. Maybe that wasn’t as bad as we might think. Now is that we’ve got so much distraction, and we often have no systems in place to keep us organized. Assigning a task to each day is just that. A system.

Since I do my writing on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I decided it is a good time to do laundry. Doing it two mornings a week means it isn’t necessarily finished every time. I can live with this. If you can’t, choosing a day to get it completely finished would work better for you.

Look for things that should be done on a regular basis; things that tend to be forgotten. For me it’s cleaning. I’m good at picking up, but real cleaning – not so much.

So this is what I’ve come up with:

  • Monday: Cleaning up the bedroom. This room tends to gather miscellaneous stuff. I need to spend a chunk of time on it, on regular basis, picking up, dusting it, and changing the sheets.
  • Tuesday: Laundry
  • Wednesday: Washing floors. The bathroom and kitchen floors need a good washing regularly – not just a lick and a promise.
  • Thursday: Laundry
  • Friday: Cleaning my shower. Again, it’s some that needs more regular attention.

Great plan! You can make a great plan too. Make a list of the things that need more regular attention than they are now receiving. These are the things that you know are just getting away from you. Pick a few. Even one can be enough to begin. Consider which day, and what time of day will work for each task. There you go! You have a plan.

This idea can be used for office practices too. Billing on Mondays, correspondence on Tuesday, follow up phone calls on Wednesday… And exercise! This is especially good if variety would keep you going. Spin class on Monday, Wii Fit on Tuesday, treadmill (while watching favorite tv show) on Wednesday…

The key is, of course, implementation! How do you do it? Just like you wrote it. Post it somewhere visible and take one day at a time. If you miss a day, don’t sweat it, just go on to the next day and the next task. You’ll get it next week.

Soon things will become routine. We put the garbage out on a certain night, right? External forces made us develop that habit. We can develop habits from our internal forces too. Try it for a while.

This is the way…!

Just 5 Minutes to Clear Spaces

Posted by Lisa Higdon, Professional Organizer on January 18, 2013  /   Posted in Blog

This week I decided that there was just too much “stuff” hanging around my house. Not in the “I have too many possessions, let me clear things out” stuff. It was more like the things that just don’t get put away. In other words – I needed to pick up after myself. It’s a simple concept, but one that can elude us in our busy lives. I decided to take one room each day, and make myself pick it up for five minutes. It didn’t matter if the whole room was not finished in that time. The point was just to do it. I put the challenge out there on my Facebook page, and got some takers.

On day one, I chose the dining room. It’s been a temporary office for me since December, and that has put a crimp on family dining. There were papers on the table, leftover Christmas cards, and mail that tends to get left there. In five minutes I got the holiday things taken care of, and sorted through some of the papers. Most of it could be recycled. Soon I’ll be moving back to my real office, and I’ll be able to finish this room. For now it did feel like I’m putting closure on the holidays.

On to the living room for day two. This room is used mostly for reading, and there are too many books lying around. There were magazines to toss, and books that belonged on shelves in different rooms. I decided that the only ones to be stored in the living room are ones that someone might be able to read for just a few minutes, such as a book of Garrison Keilor’s poems, and one about the New York State art collection. I found a lot of dust, and some lost gumdrops.

Some rooms are more of a challenge. Today I will be tackling the upstairs bath. There are things there that everyone must think belong to someone else. None of it seems to be being used. This will require a family meeting, but again, five minutes will easily do it. It will make a big difference in clearing the space out.

Overall this Pick Up Project has been a success. I could be concerned that it left no room perfect; but I prefer to think of it as leaving all the rooms improved. Although it started out as an exercise to get caught up on things, I’m planning to turn it into habit. By spending five minutes on one room each day. I expect that I’ll be less likely to get behind. Also – and this is really, really important – it should make me more mindful of what I leave around in the first place. This will create an upward spiral and things will just keep improving. It will prevent “emergency” situations when guests are coming. Try it this week. It’s easy to make a plan. Write on the calendar which room you will do each day. Just five minutes. Ready? Go!

Organized to Organize

Posted by Lisa Higdon, Professional Organizer on January 12, 2013  /   Posted in Blog

So. How are those New Year’s Resolutions coming along? It’s only been 11 days. Really! You may be thinking that you’ve already broken yours, or that you never did get started. It’s okay. You are reading this, so making changes must strike a chord for you; but it’s really hard to jump in and do it. Any day can be your January First. It’s just a matter of making the commitment and having a plan.

Last week I wrote about New Year’s Resolutions versus Goals. For example, the difference between the resolution to lose weight, and the goal of losing 10 pounds by April first. The difference is that a goal is specific.  When you have a goal you can organize yourself to achieve it. But what is the driving force that will motivate you to get started? The answer is FEELINGS!

There’s an old saying that dieters use: No food tastes as good as thin feels. But if you don’t know how good thin feels, how do you get started? You have to imagine how you want to feel.

To apply this to organizing goals, think about what parts of your life being organized would help. How would that change feel? How do you want to feel when you walk into your house? How do you want to feel when it’s time to make dinner? How do you want to feel when someone shows up at your door? How do you want to feel when you sit down at your desk?

Next, consider why your house, kitchen, desk, etc is not creating these feelings. Is there never any food in the kitchen? Is the messy porch an embarrassment? Is it the desk cluttered with things that interfere with your work? Be specific. The messy porch could be broken down like this:

When someone approaches my house I’d like to feel proud of it. I’d like people to feel welcome and safe. At this time, there are kids’ toys and old paint cans on the porch. It’s cluttered and possibly dangerous.

Take some time and write out your vision. This is the beginning of clarifying and organizing your goal. If writing things out isn’t for you, have a conversation about it with someone. It would help if that someone is also affected by the disorganization.

Now you can come up with a specific goal. The kids toys need to be purged and sorted and put in a permanent place, and the paint cans need to be disposed of. Yes, you knew that on some level but this is concrete, especially if you write it down. It may still seem overwhelming at this point. The key is to break the goal down into manageable steps:

Step 1: contact the city to find out about what to do with hazardous waste
Step 2: do whatever that is
Step 3: purge the toys
Step 4: discard the purged toys
Step 5: put away the kept toys in an appropriate place

Set a realistic end date for completion of your goal. Doing all the steps in one day is probably too much – that’s why the job hasn’t been done before. Take one step at a time. Be okay with the fact that some steps may take more than one day to complete.

You have just gotten organized! I realize that this example lacks detail. I could write a blog about each step. The main thing is to get yourself going. Set a goal, make a plan that does not overwhelm you, and get started!

Organizing an Imperfect Holiday

Posted by Lisa Higdon, Professional Organizer on December 10, 2012  /   Posted in Blog

Wow! December 10th! Chanukah is already here, and Christmas is just two weeks away. I’ve been on a break from writing Clear Thoughts because I was trying to get my website upgraded. I thought it would be a one or two week break, but it has turned out to be seven weeks! That is way too long, and I’m going to tell you why it happened. I WAS BEING A PERFECTIONIST!

 

Clearspacesorganizing.com was down for about a week because someone was working on it for me. When it came back up, it was not all I had hoped it would be. I didn’t write because I didn’t want anyone to see the website as it was. It is still not where I want it to be, but I had to make the decision. I had to bite the bullet and just let it be seen. For today, it is good enough.

This is quite relevant to Organizing and Planning; especially at this time of year. We worry about perfection. We worry about tradition. We worry our children’s expectations – even our adult children. We are often afraid of disappointing others.

Do you try to bake every single kind of cookie that mom used to make? Do you beat yourself up if you don’t get it done? What about decorating the house? I decorate our fireplace mantle in a way that I think is quite festive. However, yesterday I saw a pinterest photo of a fireplace all decked out that was just amazing. Of course that got me thinking, “Hmm…. Maybe I can up my game.” Those magazine and tv divas, and yes, even mom, can make us feel very inadequate.

Let me tell you a secret. The divas have staff; and your mom was probably exhausted.

Right now we are fast approaching panic time. I have exactly nothing done. That’s unusual for me; but this year is unusual. Until just yesterday, I have had no kitchen sink, water, or counters for about two months. I’ve left my salaried job, so the irregular income makes it harder to get the gift buying done. But – taking a deep breath – I’ve decided to let it go.

For the past three years I’ve hosted the family – 20 plus people – for Christmas dinner. I love it! This year my sister expressed an interest in hosting in her new home. I hesitated. Isn’t it tradition to have it here? Can I let go of this? When I decided that the answer is YES, I truly relaxed. For some freeing reason it changed my whole mindset. I not only let dinner go, I’ve decided to edit some other things too.

Everything important will be done. Every detail will not be magazine perfect. It never will be. It never should be. You and your family, your home, and your circumstances – are ever growing and changing. Your traditions and celebrations can change to reflect this. By rethinking our definition of perfect, we can truly enjoy the holidays with our family and friends. Perfect is the wonderful feeling created by the time well spent with family and friends.

Happy Holidays!

Slacking

Posted by Lisa_Hidgon_Professional_Organizer on October 19, 2012  /   Posted in Blog

This week I am on vacation in Los Angeles, so instead of writing something brand new, I want to see how you all are doing with the “Throw Away” experiment. If you read Clear Thoughts on October 5th, I hope you are participating in getting rid of one thing a day until Thanksgiving. It’s been two weeks. With five weeks to go, you can still jump in.

Some people have told me that it is harder than they thought it would be. Just remember that it doesn’t always have to be big things. One day I threw out a some rusty tweezers, and on another day, some old make up. We literally threw out the kitchen sink last week. Someone picked it up from the curb within 15 minutes. I hope it was a scrap metal collector, and that it is not becoming someone else’s clutter.

Yesterday, since I was traveling, I thought I wouldn’t be able to toss anything, but opportunities arise. Southwest Airlines serves their coffee with a red plastic stirrer with a little heart on it. It’s sooo cute! It wasn’t easy but I resisted the urge to keep it. I gave it to the flight attendant instead of shlepping it to Los Angeles and back home; where it would sit around in some awkward place until I eventually decide that I really never will use it. This illustrates am important point: Getting rid of things can be made vastly easier by not acquiring them in the first place!

My concern for the “Throw Away” participants is that at two weeks in, it may be becoming easy to forget about. Remember to check off each day in your planner, or on a calendar. Also try writing a list of everything that you have let go and post it in a visible place.

Well friends, not to rub it in, but I’m writing this is a sunny courtyard next to a fountain. I know that the Northeast winter is not far away, so I’m going to close and soak up the sun. I would love to hear from you about how your Throw Away is going.

Home Organizing Albany New York

Tetris

Posted by Lisa_Hidgon_Professional_Organizer on October 12, 2012  /   Posted in Blog

I have a confession. This week while battling a cold and not sleeping well, I found the Tetris video game on line. It has consumed me. I try to write. I wander back to Tetris. There is a definite guilt factor here. While I know that I should let myself rest, I feel that I should be doing something productive.

The good news is, while I was flipping the shapes to fit into the correct spaces, I was subconsciously thinking about my writing. Something that I have recently read in a book about adult ADHD explains this. It seems that this is just how some people think. It’s your mind going where it needs to go, while you are doing something else. Usually the “something else” is considered a mindless activity. Do your best ideas come to you in the shower? If my kitchen design clients only knew how many solutions I have found in there! I am also the person who doodles all over the printed agenda at a meeting. You’d think I wasn’t paying attention, but apparently doodling is allowing me to pay attention.

The trouble is I can let myself go on Tetris “creative breaks” at a moment’s notice. It’s so easy to get sucked in. Just one more game, and one more game. This distraction could be the internet or television, or anything that keeps us from tackling the things we really should be doing.

What is the solution? How do we offset the plusses of the distraction with the time they take away from productive work? Here are some suggestions:

Use a Timer – make yourself work for a predetermined period of time. I often do this for writing, but especially for tasks that I don’t want to do. Cleaning is one for me. I will make myself do it for 20 minutes. This helps me to get started. When the timer rings the job either done, or I want to keep going.

Scheduled Breaks – Decide when to break and for how long. Employ the timer again to remind you to get back to work. An alternative is to plan a break activity with a definite finish – like five games of Tetris. This doesn’t give a set time but is still limiting. You have to be careful about the activity you pick. If you check the mail you could get distracted by something you receive, and find yourself paying bills while the original task goes unfinished. Something that has a definite finish like washing dishes may not seem like a break, but the mindless task may be enough to let your brain relax.

Buddy System – Tell someone your plan. It keeps you accountable.

Plan to split the task. With writing I write on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The Tuesday session gets me started. Then for forty-eight hours I have my ideas in my head. By Thursday I find that things come together and I can complete the work.

I must finish with a corny analogy. I tried to resist, but here goes… Like the pieces of the Tetris puzzle, it’s a challenge to make it all fit. Many times things get turned around and put in the wrong place. Make your plan, but be ready to adapt it. If it doesn’t quite work out, when the time is up you get to try again.

Life Organization Albany NY

‘Tis the Throw Away Season!

Posted by Lisa_Hidgon_Professional_Organizer on October 05, 2012  /   Posted in Blog

Funny how something that seems inconsequential at the time can be life changing. About thirty years ago I read a magazine article in the break room at work which turned out to be very influential in my attitude towards organizing and purging, simplifying, etc. It was called, “The Throw Away Lent.” Lent is a season preparation observed by some Christians for the forty days before Easter. It’s a preparation time of fasting, prayer, self denial, and repentance. Many people will “give something up” for Lent, like dessert or television.

The author of “The Throw Away Lent” told about when she decided to get rid of one thing each day for each of the forty days. She had a bag for give away and throw away, and I think that she also gave herself permission for a “maybe” pile.  The author’s purpose was to clear out and simplify her home. She was surprised by the unexpected benefit of emotional weight being lifted from her shoulders when she wasn’t bogged down by so much STUFF.

This appealed to me so tried it. She was right. It was freeing. I’m sure this experience is what inspired my business tag line, “Clear your space. Clear your mind.” I continued the habit after the forty day experiment. I became really good at getting rid of stuff. This was very helpful, as we lived in seven places during our first seven years of marriage. Unfortunately, after one lives in the same house for twelve years and adds a few kids, it is easy to get off track.

Right now we are having work done in the house. It has involved clearing out our kitchen, basement, and bedroom closet. What a wake up call! There is nothing like being forced to move things around to remind you how much stuff you have. I could argue that it barely counts as clutter, because it is organized and not really in the way. But consider the things that I have organized in the back room of the basement. Why was I keeping paint from three wall colors ago? And tiny baseball gloves from Little League? And worn out sleeping bags? I guarantee that you, like me,  have too much unnecessary stuff.

Life Organization Albany NY

This is a great time of year for a planned purge. The weather is not too hot or too cold, and it’s before the holiday season. Whether you decide to do the closets, the kitchen, the linens, or the toy room, you can create your own “throw away” time period. We have seven weeks until Thanksgiving. Could you get rid of one thing a day until then? The beauty is that it is not a goal which requires you to finish something. If you “throw away” once a day, you have met your goal. You will begin to see results well before the end of your chosen time period.

A few suggestions:

Make this about “stuff” – not papers. Getting rid of objects will feel like a more concrete accomplishment.

Create places for things you want to give away. I have a box for charity items, a box for an after school art program, and a place for things I’m giving to friends and family. Be careful of that one. Don’t make your junk someone else’s.

Give away the “give away” items! When things are still in the house, it’s very easy to change your mind and keep them; or to end up storing the give away boxes – which is really still stuff cluttering up your house.

It’s okay if you get inspired to throw out two or three things at one time, but resist the urge tackle a whole space in a day. The beauty of the one item a day experience is that it’s very manageable. You can choose to concentrate on one space for the whole time if you want. You’ll see great results without overwhelming yourself.

Most importantly keep track of your progress. Check off each day on a calendar that you can see. This visual reminder will keep you going. Don’t give up if you miss a day.

I wish I still had that magazine article. I’ve done online searches for it with no luck. I’d really like to give the author the proper credit – and my thanks. But I will honor her by participating in this for pre-holiday 2012. I hope you’ll join me. Forty-nine days. Ready….. GO!

What’s For Dinner?

Posted by Lisa_Hidgon_Professional_Organizer on September 14, 2012  /   Posted in Blog

Have you ever been in a supermarket on a weekday at 5:30 p.m.? It’s a nightmare. Tired people grabbing a few things for dinner, backing up the “10 Items or Less” lanes. It is not the time to be there but given the numbers, we have to assume that many people are in the same boat. They haven’t got a plan for dinner, and they don’t have enough of the right foods in the house to pull something together. Shopping without a plan causes overspending and often means buying more prepared food, which can be both expensive and unhealthy. It means more trips to the store, and spending more time there per visit. Many days it is easy to fall into the pricey alternative of ordering fast food, or going out to dinner.

Some people love meal planning and grocery shopping. Some hate it. If you hate it, making a plan is even more important. It makes every day less stressful. Making a food plan for the week and using it to shop, will give you peace of mind and wallet. You may laugh. Who would take the time to do this? It may seem like an old fashion idea. I’ve been approached many times at the market by people who are impressed by the fact that I’m actually using a shopping list. I learned this planning method when I was taking a home management course in college. We had to live in an apartment and manage our lives for a semester – for a grade! I have been using it ever since.

To begin with, choose a time period to plan and shop for. If you get paid on a regular basis – in this example, every week – plan for the time between pay periods.

Write in list form, the days of the week that you plan to shop for. Decide what will be for dinner each night and write it on the list next to a day. This does not need to be a detailed menu, just a dinner idea. As you do this, look at your calendar and make notes about events that are happening that week. Soccer on Tuesdays? Easy meal. Meeting on Wednesday. Note that you are supposed to bring refreshments this month. Let the family help. Ask for dinner ideas. Keep a note pad in the kitchen for everyone to write needed items on.

On your plan sheet also make some notes about what foods you will need for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, as well as toiletries and other nonfood items that you purchase at the supermarket.

Using your plan, make a shopping list on a separate sheet of paper. I find it most convenient to set up the shopping list based on the layout of the store. In my favorite store it goes like this: produce, deli/bakery, breads, condiments, baking supplies, fish, natural foods, frozen, cans, cereal, health, house, dairy. I write these categories on my list, leaving space under each to write the items needed.

Look at each meal on the plan, write the items you need to buy to make it under the corresponding category on your list.  Add items like salad ingredients, and fresh, frozen or canned vegetables, to round out the meals. After you’ve gone through the meals, add the other items that you wrote on your plan sheet and the items on the kitchen list. Now you have a working list to take to the store.

You may object:

It takes too much time to plan: Not as much time as it takes to shop several times a week, and you can do it while watching television.

I like to shop at several stores and get the sales: When you consider the time and gas it takes to do this, it is not much of a savings. I go to one supermarket chain for the majority of my items. I sometimes go to one of the “discount groceries” for some sale items. However, I only started doing this when one opened in my neighborhood, meaning it didn’t take much time. If you have time in your schedule to go several stores, do it if the cost savings is worth the time spent. Use the sale flyer from your favorite store for your planning. Bring only the coupons for things on your shopping list to the store with you.

I don’t cook and/or my family doesn’t gather regularly for meals: You still will be better off with a plan. Knowing that there is food for each day in the house, still brings peace of mind. Just plan around the types of foods your family eats.

This seems awfully rigid: It’s flexible really. If you list a quick meal for Thursday, but find that you need to use it on Tuesday, no problem. Also, often the ingredients on hand for a planned meal can be tweaked into something different that fits your schedule or mood.

I encourage you to do a two week experiment. For the first week, keep track of your grocery receipts. Also track the cost of fast food, school and work lunches, unplanned meals out, and delivered. This will give you an idea of how much you spend on food. Also keep track of the number of trips to the store.

The next week make a plan. Keep track again. You will begin to see the benefits of planning. You will be spending less money. You will be happy to find yourself only shopping during the week for a few perishables like milk. You can even do that when you are buying gas! Remember, just like anything new, it won’t be perfect but it will get easier and better with practice.

Life Organization Albany NY

La Rentrée

Posted by Lisa_Hidgon_Professional_Organizer on September 01, 2012  /   Posted in Blog

Well, here it is, September first. Time for wondering what happened to summer, and the unofficial time for resolutions. It’s a new beginning – school starts for many, and it’s back to routine from vacations and summer’s party. We’ve got this last chance for do-overs before the holidays come to ruin all our plans again. The French call this time of year  “La Rentrée,” with adults taking advantage of the new beginnings as much as students. I’m thinking that if I start today and really try, I can lose ten pounds before I go to California in October.

Although a new start is always good, maybe we need to take a more long term approach. Very soon I’ll be writing Clear Thoughts about how to plan for and survive the Holidays. But how can the new habit, plan, diet, etc that you choose today bring you through the holiday season – not just to it? We have to give up the defeatist attitude about the holiday season. You know the holiday season starts with Halloween and runs through Valentines’ Day, right? Well not really, but it is so easy to start panicking when you realize that the day after Halloween is already November; and at the other end of it, why bother with New Year resolutions if Valentine’s Day is going to ruin them? We can psych ourselves out of almost anything.

Let’s look at it differently. From today, there are 165 days until Valentines’ Day. So let’s think long term. As I’ve often said, pick one thing. One of my favorites is the daily sweep. This is taking a few minutes each day to go through the house and put things away. I’ll never forget how great it felt the first time I had kept up with this habit and was able to have company coming without stashing piles of paperwork and untended stuff into closets.

If you start today, taking time once a day to deal with the things left around the house, and maybe do a quick cleaning of one room a day it will not be a big deal to decorate, and entertain come November and December. By then it will be becoming your routine. By January, you won’t have to start again. The holiday season won’t have disrupted anything. Instead your new habit will have enhanced and simplified your days.

So choose your goal today. Maybe even check off each day on the calendar as you do it. Don’t let one slip be your undoing. If you want to make a New Year’s resolution in January, it should be because you are excited about the success you’ve had with this one thing, not because you regret something that happened – or did not happen – over the holidays. On Valentine’s Day have some chocolate and enjoy your success!

Home Organizing Albany New York

Bedtime for Grownups

Posted by Lisa_Hidgon_Professional_Organizer on August 24, 2012  /   Posted in Blog

One of my Facebook friends recently posted that he’s getting his kids ready for the start of school by having them set their alarm clocks to wake them up earlier and earlier each morning until they hit the wake up time needed for school. The same day, a seven year old asked Dear Abby for advice about his bedtime. She suggested that he figure out how much sleep he needs and work backwards from the time he needs to wake up.

There is much emphasis on being sure children are rested and ready, but we often ignore the importance of sleep for ourselves. As adults we accept tiredness as a fact of life. Because of this, we don’t feel our best or perform at our best. Also, it can be dangerous. Have you ever put the car in park at a stoplight because you think you might fall asleep? I have! It’s scary to be that tired.

You may ask what any of this has to do with organizing. We can look at it two ways: Being organized affects how well you sleep, and good or poor sleep affects how well you can become and stay organized. The organization of your time, talent, and possessions affects your whole life. So sleep has everything to do with organizing.

To start with the first point: Organizing affects your sleep. My business tag line, “Clear your space. Clear your mind,” applies to the bedroom. Bedrooms are easy to ignore because generally no one sees them but family. However, making them a priority is essential to your well-being. Your bedroom doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be clean, uncluttered, and well ventilated.

If you were to pick one thing can you do to make your bedroom a better place to sleep it would be to pay attention to your bed! Make it in the morning when you get up and it will be inviting at night when you are ready for it. This does not have to be perfectly done. Shake up the sheets a bit and smooth them out. Fluff up the pillows and cover it with a blanket or comforter. Change the sheets often. Please don’t use your bed as a closet! There are people who sleep on a bed full of clothes; and people who just sleep on the sofa because the bed is full. If you are “solving” this problem by putting clothes on the bed during the day, and throwing them on the floor at night, it adds to the chaos. If you don’t put all your clothes away, have a designated place for things that you leave out.

When I was a teenager, my mother used to complain that the chair in my bedroom was always full of clothes. It did look bad I suppose, but in retrospect it wasn’t a bad thing. My closets were really quite organized, but there was always a pile that circulated through the chair, either on the way to be worn or on the way to the closet. My bed was clear, I slept well. It was part of how I operate and it still is. So don’t beat yourself up looking for perfection. Your closets may need clearing out, but that’s not the main point here. If you start with the bed, you will probably find that you’ll go on to improve other things.

The second point: Being well rested affects your organizing. If you are well rested you have a fighting chance of accomplishing the things you want to during the day. You are less likely to put off the picking up, straightening up, meal planning, mail sorting, laundry, etc. Procrastination creates a downward spiral, culminating in chaos.

Try to think of it as an upward spiral instead. For one week, emphasize good bed rest. Give yourself a bedtime. Just like Abby told the seven year old; figure out what time you have to get up and work backwards. The research I’ve read explains that we naturally sleep in 90 minute cycles. If you set your alarm to sleep the standard eight hours, you will have slept for five cycles plus one interrupted cycle. This may leave you less refreshed than six hours of sleep – four full cycles. If you use this theory to plan your bedtime, you also have to consider how long it takes you to fall asleep. I generally need 20 – 30 minutes of reading time before the book falls on my face. So… If I need to wake up at seven a.m. and I want seven and a half hours of sleep. I subtract that plus the half hour reading from seven a.m. This puts me in bed and reading at eleven p.m.

To be truly relaxed, wear something comfortable to sleep. Have your clothes for the next morning ready. It’s amazing how much this takes off your mind. Don’t watch television in bed and consider it bedtime. Some say you shouldn’t watch it in bed at all. I’d say it’s okay to watch, but if bedtime (sleep-time) is eleven, turn off the TV at eleven. Most televisions can be programmed to turn off at a certain time. This is a good idea if you tend to find yourself getting sucked into the next program. Try setting your morning alarm for the latest time you can get up and still have a sane morning. If you have based you sleep time on the 90 minute cycles it is possible that you will wake naturally without the alarm.

The object of bedtime is to make your well-being a priority. It’s so easy to not to; but if you don’t you aren’t helping yourself or others as effectively as you could. If you are a parent, be firm about the kids’ bedtime, because you have a bedtime too. When you wake refreshed you will have a better day. Remember that old saying, “When you feel good you do good!”

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