Don’t Let Others Hold You Back

Posted by Lisa_Hidgon_Professional_Organizer on August 17, 2012  /   Posted in Blog

It can be difficult to get organized when no one else seems to care. Living with people who don’t mind the clutter, or people who don’t want you to upset the status quo can make it hard for you to make the change. Since they don’t yet share your long term vision, it is hard for them to embrace the process. It is likely to make them uncomfortable.

What do you do? If the clutter is yours, inform your family of your plan and carry on. Let them know what to expect. For example, if you are organizing a lifetime of paper work that has been stored away in your home office, let them know that some of that paper will be spilling over into the living room for a while. Assure them that it is temporary. Be sure to tell them how your organizing will benefit them as well as you. Remember that if this is your mess, you do not need permission from anyone else to fix it.

If the problem is not just your stuff but others’, you’ll need a different approach. If you live with older children and adults who leave their belongings around, change will be more of a challenge. You can threaten and complain but unless their bad habits affect them personally, they are not likely to comply. Get their attention by putting things you find around the house in a designated area. You don’t have to be mean about it, or charge them a fee for return – although I like that idea. Just be matter of fact. Pick a place, or a basket that is big enough to hold shoes and cloths, books, and laptops. Do a “sweep” of the public areas of the house once or twice a day and deposit the items in the “found” basket.

I know that it may seem wrong that you are still picking up after people. However, it usually is less frustrating than having things left all over the house. Also, when you put an item in the “found basket,” it is still the owner’s responsibility to retrieve and take care of it. They may be annoyed, but it will create awareness. Having to search for the things they need, even if they can guess that it’s in the designated area, requires extra effort. It might just be annoying enough to change their habits.

Food and dishes left around are a different story. You can create rules about where acceptable eating areas are. You can send everyone off to their crime scenes daily to gather any food, dishes, or garbage. If you do this before serving dinner each night, you create a “will work for food” situation. The bonus is that after dinner, when it’s time to clean up, all the dishes in the house will be in the kitchen. It’s even better if everyone has loaded their returns right into the dishwasher.

The most difficult thing about any of the above its sticking to your guns. When you are sorting and purging, and putting things away in logical places, your home is likely to look worse before it looks better. It may be hard for your family to accept this. This can be a tough situation. They want you to improve things but don’t want to accept the discomfort that can come with change.

When you decide that you are serious about change you must do three things. Make a plan. Inform your family of your plan. Proceed with the plan. This can be done in a calm, non combative manner. “This is what I’m doing. This is what it is going to look like.”

Often, no one believes the change is really going to happen…including yourself. Be clear about your goals and your plan. Let those whose life it affects know you are serious. Although they may complain, carry on. There will come a time when they will see and appreciate the changes you are making.

Life Organization Albany NY

Avoid the Back-To-School Panic!

Posted by Lisa_Hidgon_Professional_Organizer on August 04, 2012  /   Posted in Blog

I was at Staples today and saw a mother and child shopping with the “school list.”

What? Already! The summer is flying by, and the back to school ads are in full swing. I think that the family I observed tackling the school list in early August the exception. The majority will hit panic mode about three weeks from now. That mode creates chaos, and contributes to overspending. But there are some things you can do to make this time of year less painful.

Your child may have received the list at the end of the school year. Now is the time to find it. If it arrives in the mail this month – do not file it away. Tack it up somewhere prominent. The important thing is to use it now! The stores are ready for you. If you start now you will have time to comparison shop and look for sales. Picking up a few things each week from now until school starts is easier on the budget.

Middle and High school students probably won’t get supply requirements until the first day of school. Let me share something I learned. Do not go to the big box office supply stores on the evening of the first days of school. First it’s a madhouse. Second, it’s expensive. Third, because everyone is there, supplies run low. Almost everything on the lists is available at the corner drug chain right in your neighborhood. Since most people don’t think about this, it will be a lot less crowded there. As an added bonus, the prices are usually lower in these stores. You may need to hit the office store for the fancy calculator that someone always needs, but students are usually given a bit more time to buy them, so wait a couple of days and go either very early in the morning or closer to closing time to get it. You’ll go in to get that one thing, and get out quickly.

The second thing that costs money and causes panic is back to school clothing. Again, you want to have a plan and avoid the rush. The mentality that the new school year requires all new clothes is a budget busting myth created by marketing. Sure, kids want new clothes for the first day, or maybe the first week, but those will only go so far. So just as you shop for school supplies, shop for clothing with a list.

First – look at your kids! They have a habit of growing over the summer. If they have, you may need to budget more for clothing. Before you shop take some time to go through the closet with your child to determine what fits. Let your child help you create a plan for a school wardrobe which incorporates these pieces. The inventory may reveal that she has two good pairs of jeans. Focus on buying tops that will work with them. Or, he’s got a great T-shirt collection but the jeans are all too short. That shows you where to spend your budgeted money. Also, find out which one new clothing item is most important to your child. If possible, work it into the budget to buy at this time. Remember that you don’t have to by all their new clothes before school starts. If you have made a plan that incorporates their existing clothing, you will get them through the first several weeks. You will be able to buy more as the seasons change, the kids’ needs evolve, and as you can afford it.

One thing I did learn over the years is that money spent on a good backpack is money well spent. A cheap one will often have to be replaced before the end of the year, but a quality pack can last for more than one year. Of course, this doesn’t account for fashion; the “need” to have the celebrity pack. If you point out that the cost difference between the designer pack and the simpler one will determine if she can have one more new shirt, she might see your logic. This advice also applies to shoes. Get the best shoes you can for the money you can spend; and balance money you apply to style versus function.

Start now and pace yourself. Make a plan, have a budget, and choose your shopping venues wisely. Keep yourself sane!

Home Organizing Albany New York

Creative People are Rarely Tidy!

Posted by Lisa_Hidgon_Professional_Organizer on July 27, 2012  /   Posted in Blog

I had a sign on my refrigerator for several years that said, “Creative people are rarely tidy.” Now that I think about it, it was there for over 25 years! I found it in a gift shop in Wisconsin. I was there with my mother and we both agreed immediately that it was meant for me. Yes, me. The organizer. This is the truth. Organizing is not natural for me. It is necessary. I know that I function better when organized, but it is an up hill battle with plenty of backsliding. I think this makes me a better Professional Organizer. I can truly relate to the frustration of my clients, and show them ways work with their own traits.

Is it true that we creative types are generally less organized? It may be. We tend to be right brained thinkers who are known to be scattered and not particularly detail oriented. What is not true is the notion that we function better and are more creative in our messiness. Many of us love the “untidy” label because it gets us off the hook, but in reality disorganization is holding us back. Creativity takes place best in relaxed, calm, undisturbed places. Disorganization of our physical space slows us down and clouds our minds.  When your creative space is ready to go, you are ready to go. There are fewer distractions, and it is easier to find the supplies you need to let the creativity flow. This is true not only for crafters and artists, but for writers and cooks as well.

Begin by understanding that your workspace can be better, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Sometimes we don’t even begin our creative pursuits because the space is not just right. When I started Clear Spaces Organizing, I was trying to create a professional office space in my basement. Meanwhile I was doing business from my dining room table. This kept me out of the real office; and it didn’t do much for the state of my dining room either. Then I decided to get just the desk in order in the office, and to begin working at it. Once I did that, I felt more like I was really in business. Bonus: while in the office I was looking at the space and considering what works for me. I ended up getting much more accomplished, in both organizing the office and conducting business.

Think about how your space needs to work for you. Choose one place to start. Begin using your space before it is perfect. You will see the immediate benefits of accomplishing something. Working in the space will give you a better feel for what you’d like it to be. Take notes on this as you work, and make small changes over time. This method can be especially helpful for those whose creative space is shared with other family functions.

“Creative people are rarely tidy.” Well, we might not be. We don’t have to be. I threw that sign out last year. Don’t let that be your label. Revel in your creativity. Creatively find a way to make your space work for you. It will let your creativity blossom!

Home Organizing Albany New York

Organization is Not Really the Goal

Posted by Lisa_Hidgon_Professional_Organizer on July 20, 2012  /   Posted in Blog

So you’ve got the picture in your mind. Your perfect space. You know where everything is. It’s even all Martha with a bouquet of hydrangea on the table, or a matched fine writing set at the desk. Every thing has a place and is in it… but why do we want our homes and offices to be this way? What is the goal? Is the home magazine coming for a   photo shoot? Not likely.

The reason we strive for this picture of perfection is that we imagine that somehow our lives will be better if our homes looked like this, and to some degree they would. In an organized home, time spent getting ready for the day, and preparing meals, would be lessened. The less cluttered our physical spaces are, the clearer we can think and function. In an organized space, our stress levels and those of our family are lower.

Remember though, that the goal of organization is not to have a perfectly organized space. The thing with magazine shoots is that people rarely live in those rooms; and if they do, believe me, the room does not really look like that every day! If the end goal is perfection, you set yourself up for failure and increased stress.

The real end goal is to increase efficiency and productivity, to increase your peace of mind, and to make every day easier and more enjoyable. The way to achieve this is to become more organized in your spaces and habits. Organization facilitates these things. When you embrace this idea, it lessens the pressure for you to create perfection, and lets you make improvements over time, during which you will see life changing for the better.

Life Organization Albany NY

Organized to Survive the Remodel

Posted by Lisa_Hidgon_Professional_Organizer on July 13, 2012  /   Posted in Blog

I’ve ordered the cabinets. I’m ready with the crow bar to rip out the 80 year old kitchen. I’m getting excited! I’m picturing my new kitchen where water doesn’t flow through the countertops to the floor. I can see myself cooking in this wonderful new space… but I haven’t thought much about the time between tear out and brand new.

Those cabinets that I’m about to trash are full of things. Precious, wonderful, useful things that I’ve collected over the years. I’ve got to get it all out of the cabinets before the demolition. Also, there will be at least three weeks that I will have no operable kitchen. The pizza place is on speed dial, the paper plates are stocked, and I know we can eat on the back porch; but that’s really not much of a plan.

Time, space, and food money are big items that we often fail to put into our remodeling budget.

A little planning and organizing will make life easier during the remodel. Don’t wait until the cabinets arrive and the contractor is scheduled for the next day. Start a couple of weeks before the work begins. Before you start to empty the cabinets, look at the big picture. There has to be a place where the family can prepare a limited menu of food There have to be dishes and utensils to use. There has to be a place for eating, and a place for cleanup.

Where can you set up a temporary kitchen? The temporary space needs to have enough electrical outlets, room for a work table, and adequate lighting. It’s best if it is near a water supply. Even if you use paper plates and plasticware you will still need some water for food prep and clean up. If the refrigerator can be moved into this space that is best. The fridge is easy to move as it takes a standard power outlet, but remember that the water line for ice will be disconnected. Moving ranges to a temporary location is usually not feasible because it involves running a gas line or a 240 volt power source. Count on the sink being totally gone for most of the project. Consider where you will store non refrigerated foods.

Once you’ve chosen the place, you need to decide what to bring to it. Take some notes as you cook and eat for a few days. Notice what equipment you use the most. Think about the meals you make and whether they will be ones you can make with small appliances like your microwave, toaster oven, or electric skillet. Meatloaf no. Pizza – if it can be done in the toaster oven, yes. Plan what types of food you are going to eat during this time. Think about breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Brainstorm for ideas and keep it simple.

With this plan in mind, it’s time to empty those cabinets. Usually when decluttering we look at three categories: give away – get it out of your house, put away – find a logical place for it, and throw away – it will never be “another man’s treasure.” You can use this method when you are packing up your cabinets. However, with a remodel, the put away has a twist. Some items have to be set aside for the temp kitchen and some will be put in storage.

Have boxes ready for storage and give away, and garbage bags for the real trash. This is the time to purge. Consider each item. Will it have a place in your new kitchen? Now is the time to decide if you really still want all those souvenir cups from Yankee Stadium. Keep? Give Away? Trash? Do you ever use the milkshake machine? Keep? Okay. Storage or temp kitchen? Keep the temp kitchen to a minimum. Those of us who camp know this mindset already. One or two sharp knives will do for the short term even if you own a whole chef’s set. As much as you can, set up the temp kitchen as you go through this process. Consider leaving the utensils for the temp kitchen in the existing cabinet drawers. When D-day arrives just remove the drawers and bring them to the temp space.

A little planning ahead will make things simpler during the remodel and it will make the move into your new kitchen even easier. You may find that after living simply for a few weeks, you will purge even more when unpacking those boxes of stored must keep items.

Life Organization Albany NY

Just One Thing… Tips on How to Organize During the Dog Days of Summer

Posted by Lisa_Hidgon_Professional_Organizer on July 09, 2012  /   Posted in Blog

It is tooo hot! This summer is turning out to be one of those sticky ones. It’s one of those “don’t want to do a thing but sit and melt” kind of summers. All those ideas about getting the house clean and organized while the kids are on vacation and things are a little more laid back are starting to go out the window.

Don’t let it happen! July is the perfect time to get things done. By August you’ll be gearing up for fall again. Here’s how to get started. Pick one thing, and do it S-L-O-W-L-Y.  We up here in the northern states don’t understand that we really can’t fight the weather. In the southern states and the islands, they get it. They work with it.

With so much clutter and so little summer, how do you possibly choose one project? Go through your rooms one by one. Take some notes. Consider which one causes the most chaos in your life, or which one would be the easiest to complete.

Pick it apart. What exactly is the problem? What would the ideal situation look like? Is it clutter? Dirt? Traffic? Too much furniture? A closet full of clothes you don’t wear? Picture what the ideal situation would look like?

Start working on your “one thing” in the morning when the weather is cool, and then take a break. It’s not important to conquer it all at once. Fifteen minutes before work, an hour, whatever you can do is great. Remember you are just chipping away at it. Most projects will look worse before they look better. It’s a natural part of the process. Plan a place for the unsettled to be, and let yourself be okay with that.

When my pantry gets to the  point of no return, and really needs an overhaul, I take out a card table to put things on as I work. I have things in it, on it, and under it in the middle of my tiny kitchen. It’s in the way, but it’s temporary. If I can’t finish the job in one session, I can live with the table in the way for a few days. It’s kind of a motivator. Just don’t put the stuff in a place that will disrupt other areas of your life. If you put the discards from your closet on your bed, it will be a problem at bedtime. Even a pile on the floor would be a better place. A box that can be filled and brought right to charity would be better.

If you give yourself permission to do a project a little at a time, you won’t beat yourself up for not finishing it in one session. Sometimes we exhaust ourselves trying to finish.

If you have trouble stopping, use a timer. A timer is an organizing tool that many people use to make themselves get started and work for a minimum amount of time on an undesirable task. But in these “dog days” it can be used to keep you from overdoing and burning out.

Just remember, one project, one session at  a time. Before you know it’ll be done! You’ll be feeling the energy, and feeling the positive effects of you efforts! You’ll be motivated to look back at your notes and plan the next project. But wait! Pour yourself a nice glass of iced tea, sit back, and admire what you’ve accomplished.

Home Organizing Albany New York

It’s Habit Forming!

Posted by Lisa_Hidgon_Professional_Organizer on June 29, 2012  /   Posted in Blog

There are people who are just organized. I hate them. No, I’m not one of them, despite my reputation. If you know me, you know that I can let my papers go, or the laundry, or the dishes… but the pain it causes is not worth it; the frustration of searching for things, the anxiety of being late, and the time lost are just a few of the problems.

It is said that organized people have habits that keep them organized; and that  you only have to do something 672 times for it to become a habit. Ok, that’s sarcasm, not a real statistic. But what the experts are talking about are routines.

According to, routine can be a adjective or  a noun. As an adjective it means normal, usual, common, everyday, habitual, ordinary. As a noun it is, a customary or regular course of procedure. regular, unvarying, habitual, unimaginative.

By these definitions, routine might be considered negative or boring; but they are the key to organization. Both the noun and adjective definitions of routine include the word habitual. Routines become habit when we are not paying attention.

At one point in time, I was following an organizing professional on line. She encouraged developing routines such as making the bed as soon as you got out of it, and cleaning up a bit every day. Recently my husband commented that I didn’t seem to by following her any more. Just the opposite was true. What had really happened was that I had incorporated her advice into my daily routines (and so had he btw.) These forced routines have become so much of our daily habit that he didn’t even remember that they were originally someone else’s idea.

I used to be teacher of troubled teenagers. They often had problems transitioning from one class to another and settling into their work. I developed a routine for them for when they entered my classroom. They knew that they were to put their homework papers in a rack by my desk, put their books in the designated place, and check the DO NOW that was posted on the board. The DO NOW, was an introduction to the day’s lesson. Following this routine became habit for them, and that was the key. It enabled them to focus on learning.

We can set this up for ourselves and/or for our families. For ourselves we could put a note on the coffeepot, “Don’t make the coffee until you empty the dishwasher!”  Do what that note says and soon it will become habit. You will notice that when it’s time to make dinner, the dishwasher is ready and there is no backup from breakfast in the sink.

Put a dry erase board up in the kitchen with an expectations for the family. It could be a reminder have them check the backpacks for homework before dinner; or to walk the dog as soon as they come home. Does it take some getting used to? Yes. Will it mean instructing your spouse or kids to look at the board to begin with? Yes. A good trick is to occasionally put something outrageous or fun on the board to create interest, and to keep them paying attention.

Don’t overwhelm yourself. Start by choosing one thing for yourself and/or your family to work on. When this becomes the routine you will notice things will going more smoothly. A habit will have developed!

Life Organization Albany NY

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