Clear Thoughts

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!”

Home Organizing Albany New York

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 dictionary.com, 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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