Countdown to Summer

Posted by Lisa Higdon, Professional Organizer on June 14, 2013  /   Posted in Uncategorized

If you follow my Clear Spaces Facebook page, you know that I’ve been encouraging Spring Cleaning. Since May 29th, with twenty-two days until the start of Summer, I’ve been doing a countdown, and suggesting a cleaning task to do each day. Today with SIX days til summer officially starts, I thought I’d answer some questions about this venture.


  • Why did I do it?

Because spring in the great northeast has been pretty bad this year. We usually feel like it’s summer by now. We did have great flowers and the trees are green, but it seems to rain every other day, and it’s only been warm on a few days. It even snowed on Memorial Day! I thought that if we were getting something accomplished in anticipation of Summer, it might at least help our spirits.

  • Is it really spring cleaning if you don’t thoroughly clean every room from top to bottom?

According to the plethora of information that’s out there about Spring Cleaning, it would seem that if you don’t clean every room from top to bottom, you have not really done the job. I believe that this countdown is a way to make us more mindful about doing something each day to keep up with our homes. If you can do one thing, it is an upward trend.

  • So aren’t these just random tasks?

I’ve chosen tasks that don’t get done on a regular basis.  That’s what seasonal cleaning is all about.

  • I didn’t participate every day; or I didn’t complete some tasks very well; so my house isn’t really cleaned is it?

Ask yourself, “Was the house cleaner before we started the countdown?” If the answer is no, you’ve succeeded.

We now have SIX more days until Summer begins. That’s six more opportunities to take care of things that are so easily let go until “later.” When summer finally gets here we can enjoy – with fewer “shoulds” hanging over our heads.

Brain Purge

Posted by Lisa Higdon, Professional Organizer on March 09, 2013  /   Posted in Uncategorized

Is there is so much going on in your life that you feel like you cannot focus? I recommend a “clearing your mind.” I know that my business tag line is “Clear your space, Clear your mind,” implying that if your space is clear your mind is also, but sometimes the mind needs clearing first. I had been hearing the term “brain dump” lately and thought maybe this is the clearing that I’m thinking of. I did some research and found that it is, and yet it is not.

According to Wikipedia, (not being a student needing cold hard facts, I find their definitions good enough) a brain dump is:

  • generally, the transfer of a large quantity of information from one person to another or to a piece of paper.
  • a hurried explanation of a system, job, skillset, or other software engineering subject.
  • material that has been memorized from an IT certification [test] and used to provide an almost exact replica of the exam.the possibility that the contents of one’s brain can be loaded onto a computer.

It is also not the same as a brain storm. Brainstorming, also according to Wikipedia, is:

… a technique groups of individuals can use to generate novel ideas and enhance their collective creativity. This technique requires heightened expressiveness, postponed evaluation, quantity as opposed to quality contributions… Following a successful brainstorming session, group members will be left with an expansive list of ideas. Then, the most appropriate idea(s) can be selected, and further refined and perfected by the group members.

The mind clearing that I’m thinking of is much more personal than either technique described above. I’m thinking more of a term we Organizers love – PURGE. A Brain Purge would involve some aspects of both the Dump and the Storm. So this is the my Brain Purge.

First, get it all out any way you can – as a computer document, with pen and paper, onto a recorder… whatever works for you. Remember that this is not a to do list. This is the Dump part. What is going on this week? What is hanging over your head. What projects have you put off? What things do you really want to do? Just dump the tornado out of your head. You don’t even have to write this stuff on lined paper, and you can doodle or draw it out too.

Don’t worry about what to do with it yet. Like the other techniques, a Brain Purge focuses on quantity versus quality. Don’t worry so much about what you are writing, but how much you can get down on the paper. There is no need to make decisions.  It is not the time to evaluate or make the plan or agonize over details.
With the Purge – you are transferring the information in your brain to a place where you can look at it with some perspective. Are you feeling better? I always do. A Purge List is less intimidating than a “to do” list. The latter implies that it all needs to be finished, and soon, or else!

Now what? Now take a walk, get a cup of coffee. Try to do something that won’t make you start thinking again. Checking your email, for example, is not recommended. Just take a minute to do something different, and relaxing…something that will not take you too far away. You can even just sit with your eyes closed.

When you are ready, go back and look at your Purge List. Think of it as looking at your mind from the outside, in. From this perspective you should be able to see things more clearly. It gives you a chance to step away and look at the overall picture from afar, instead of having it all swirling around inside your head.

Next, continue the purge like an Organizer would do with the things in your home… Keep/Put Away, Give Away, Throw Away. Be brutal!

What can you throw away? There are things that you can decide to just give up, like ideas for projects that you’ll never get to, or unfinished ones. How long have you been holding onto some of these things? Let them go. And guilt is not allowed! Remember that choosing to give something up does not make you a failure. It makes you a smart person who knows how to set limits in order to be successful!

What can you give away. This is called delegating! Some of us are not very good at it.  Do you really have to be the person responsible for every detail? This category also includes not signing up for something new. Just like some people have the rule, new clothes in-new clothes out, don’t sign up for something new without giving up another obligation.

At his point you should be feeling less overwhelmed. The things left on you list are what you are choosing to Keep and Put Away. These are the things to plan for and act on! Make each one a concrete goal, and plan your tasks around those goals. Keep things written down, so you can look at them from afar, and try to be comfortable with the fact that it won’t all get done at once.

Organizing Resolutions

Posted by Lisa Higdon, Professional Organizer on January 04, 2013  /   Posted in Uncategorized

I’ve been researching  the “Top 10 New Years Resolutions” cited in various online articles. Acknowledging that some of these are similar to others, the top ten come to about the Top 15. In no particular order:

Quit smoking
Get fit
Lose weight
Eat healthier
Volunteer/help others
Be happier
Spend time with family
Save money
Get out of debt
Spend less
Drink less or quit drinking
Learn something new
Be less stressed
Enjoy life more
Travel to new places
Get Organized

How many are on your list? Which ones have you made before but seem to elude you year after year? There is something inherent about New Year’s Resolutions that says, “Don’t take it seriously, no one expects you to really keep them.” The gyms and weight loss programs are packed in the first week of the year, but by February they are emptying out. These businesses expect this, and in fact, count on making money from people who pay the yearly fee and then stop showing up.

How do we get beyond this mentality? If we are making the same resolutions year after year but not following through, there is something wrong. Our desires don’t change, but we can’t seem to make change happen. The key is to rethink the Resolutions and instead create GOALS. Look again at the resolution list. Almost every item on that list is vague. A goal is concrete, and specific. It has time frame, a plan for accomplishing it, and a means for evaluating progress.

As a goal, organization should really not be on this list at all. Organization is the tool that you use to reach your goals. People resolve to become organized because it creates an avenue to reach other goals and bring peace of mind. Try this: make a list of things that would happen “if I was more organized.” That is the Resolution List. Write out each one as a specific goal. For each, decide on a few steps you can take that would bring you closed to the goal.

For example, if you resolved to eat healthier, the written goal could be. “For the next six weeks, I will eat fresh vegetables at least once a day, and red meat no more than two times per week.” Perfect? Probably not by a lot of nutrition standards, but it is specific and achievable. The next step is to decide how to incorporate those vegetables into the daily meals, and what the substitute for the red meat will be. That’s creating a plan. Keeping track of progress could be as easy as checking off on the calendar on the days that vegetables are consumed. At the end of six weeks the goal can be reevaluated. At that time you would decide what further steps to take.

In other words organization is the key to every goal!


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