I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m wandering aimlessly through a fog some days. There’s volleying between too many news updates and the worry that I’ll miss the latest news, along with the restlessness that accompanies fear and uncertainty.

I’m staying home trying to flatten the curve with social distancing for the foreseeable future, so I need to add structure to my days, stat. How often have we all longed for free time to get caught up on “all the things…?”

Before I go any further, let me take a moment to thank, with all my heart, the first responders, the health care providers, teachers, grocery store employees, mail carriers, and all the people who are out there doing what needs doing while the rest of us hunker down. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for all of you. On a personal note, as much as I miss not visiting my mom daily, I am so appreciative of the care she is receiving in the dementia wing at Elderwood Skilled Nursing in Williamsville.

Many of us are experiencing forced time off in an effort to keep ourselves, our loved ones, and our fellow community residents safe and healthy. How do we make the best of a very bad situation?

As an organizer, there are projects I see in many households (as well as some in our own house!) that could be tackled, providing focus and a sense of accomplishment. Here are a few ideas:

  • Laundry – what a great time to get caught up! That means wash it, dry it, fold it, AND put it away. Maybe you’re only two or three loads behind, so it’s no biggie diggie. But if you’ve got piles upon piles, set a goal of two or three loads a day, seeing each load through to completion.
  • Socks – I can’t tell you how many clients have baskets full of mismatched socks. How about a friendly family game of “Pairs,” offering a prize to the member who matches up the most socks?
  • Junk Drawers – Use my mantra of, “A place for everything, and everything in its place…” and turn those junk drawers into organized go-to homes for office supplies, batteries, tools, pet supplies, gift wrap, etc.
  • Closets, Cupboard and Drawers – extend your organizing beyond junk drawers and tackle the bathroom drawers, linen closets, dressers, clothes closets, etc.
  • Decluttering – pick a category, any category, and decide if you’ve got just enough, or perhaps too much. Candles, coffee mugs, tablecloths… the list is endless.
  • Cleaning – There are lots of ideas in this category, but a few that I’ve put on my list to accomplish during my at-home time are:
    • Windows – wash windows and sills to clear away winter grime and let in even more sunshine.
    • Spring Cleaning – wipe down baseboards and walls, clear clutter, and vacuum the furniture; we’ll focus on our family room first, but what a great time to “git’er done.”
  • Photos – Whether it’s downloading them from your phone to your online albums, or getting them printed and put into actual photo albums, this is a great project to tackle with this forced found time.
  • Files/Paperwork – File stuff, clean out files. Shred stuff. I know, I know, but if not now, when?

Instead of mindlessly watching TV, get productive while watching! Check out some of my ideas in this “Couch Potato Productivity” post.

Then of course there’s the all important “self care” category that many of us often say we’re too busy to tend to. Here are some ideas I plan to incorporate into my daily routine:

  • Mindfulness – From my thoughts (keeping them positive) to what I put in my mouth (no more eating outta the bag!) to taking deep cleansing breaths regularly.
  • Reading – no, not on facebook. I will read pages in a real book for pleasure every day.
  • Walks – one or two walks outside a day. Fresh air and exercise, a win-win walk, if you will. Of course, ANY exercise is good. Move, people!
  • Phone a Friend – not text, not facebook message, but call and talk to people I care about.
  • Gardening/Lawn work – For me, gardening has always been a great stress reliever. It’s early, but there are a number of little projects I could tackle to get a jump on garden cleanup. We went out the other day and picked up all the wind-deposited winter trash in the four corners of the yard and between the houses. Hubby raked the front lawn. It felt good to be out there.
  • Hobbies – Got one? Do it. Got none? Learn something new to keep your brain from atrophying.

Make lists. Set goals. Here’s a link to my recent, Procrastination Diet” post with a good list-making idea. I’ve updated mine and hope to tackle many of them during this period of social distancing.

How about you? How are you doing? What’s helping? Share your sanity-saving tips with us. We’re all in this together.

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I first wrote about the Procrastination Diet in 2015, and my need to stay on top of things has increased since then for a variety of reasons. People don’t realize I actually have a propensity for procrastination because I’m organized. I’m a great juggler, adept at prioritizing and meeting deadlines, but that can be a stressful way to exist on a daily basis.

I just re-watched a video by Robin Sharma, an internationally-known life and business coach titled “How I Beat Procrastination.” I was probably avoiding one thing or another when I originally found the link; the irony of not doing what I should’ve been doing in order to watch something on procrastination is not completely lost on me. I highly recommend checking out the entire video, but to summarize, his five tips for beating procrastination are:

  • Create a vision board / dream collage and a “Big Dream” statement
  • Go on a  30-day procrastination diet
  • Exercise with a focus on a second-wind workout later in the day
  • Create a distraction-free environment (Mess Creates Stress!)
  • Release your self sabotage (self-limiting beliefs) and rewire your brain

For the 30-day procrastination diet, he suggests taking a calendar and on each day for a month, write one thing you’ve been resisting doing and then… do it.

It’s time for me to re-commit to this, but I tweak it a titch: rather than using a calendar and trying to determine which thing to write on which day, I format mine as a list titled, “30 Things in 30 Days.”  That way, I can do any thing on any given day in any order I choose. The flexibility works better for me.

This weekend, I will compile my list, and my procrastination diet officially begins on Monday, February 3rd. Pfft, I don’t need it to start on the first day of a 30-day month, any old day will do. I like Monday. It will be a mixture of business and personal items I have been avoiding, ignoring, fearing, or pushing to the back burner for too long.

For my lists, I now use Google’s Keep Notes because I can access it on my laptop or smartphone, allowing me to review or update my list from either device. I like that I can set it up so there’s a little check box to click on and, upon completion, it draws a line through the item and moves it to the bottom of the list. There’s a psychological benefit, seeing the growing list of “done” things and viewing the shortened list of to-do items. I prefer this to a paper list that I’d forget to carry around with me, but many of you probably have daily planners you use… whatever works is fine!

At the end of 30 days, I’ll report on my progress. Anyone interested in joining me? You don’t have to share your list, but please share your intention to accomplish 30 things in 30 days with a comment! There’s strength in numbers… let’s do this thing.

If you’d like to get future blog posts delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for my monthly newsletter titled, “Organized Thoughts.

It’s not what you think…I don’t have an “organized” garden, nor do I have organized spreadsheets listing all the perennials, the kazillion varieties of hosta, or even the annuals I need to buy… annually. Gardening is a passion of mine that I approach more with emotion and instinct than organization.

BUT! (yes, that’s a big “but,” not to be confused with a “big butt.”) I do approach the process of tending our gardens the same way I encourage my clients to tackle large organizing projects – using BABY STEPS. Yep, baby steps.

When Mother Nature finally delivered Spring weather to us, there was much for a gardener to do: rake, gather winter’s abandoned trash, weed, edge, thin certain plants, as well as some general examining and pondering. If I were to look at that as one giant task, I’d feel completely overwhelmed. Instead, I mentally separate our garden beds into sixteen sections. By breaking things down into sixteen parts and then sub-categorizing each part into tasks, it becomes much less intimidating. I tackle tasks based on my available time as well as the mood I’m in. See? Not particularly organized, but certainly more doable.

My husband and I are homebodies for sure. We enjoy eating dinner on the patio or relaxing in the hammock, cooled by a gentle breeze.  We work to entice birds such as hummingbirds, orioles, and catbirds to visit the feeders and flowers. We’ve even got two raised beds filled (this year) with kale, a variety of salad greens, basil, three kinds of peppers, tomatoes, and snap peas. Gardening isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it sure is mine.

If you’d like to learn more about my “baby step” approach to tackling otherwise overwhelming projects, you can check out this blog post.

Sometimes a downsizing or senior move management job goes so well —all the moving parts coming together like a well-oiled machine—it’s as though I have a sparkly wand that gets waved in the air and *poof* magic happens!

I’m not a magician; I don’t even play one on TV! It’s my job as a professional organizer to see the big picture, formulate a plan, break a project down into manageable components, and help my clients move forward, whether it’s to a new place or to simplify life in their current home.

It helps that in addition to an awesome employee, I have amassed a multitude of vendors and service providers I can call upon who have the same high-level work ethic as I do.

Often I must explain to a client, “It’s taken 30 years to gather all this “stuff,” it’s not going to disappear overnight. If you want to downsize, we have to address the accumulation efficiently, methodically and purposefully in order to get you where you want to be within a designated time frame.”

That’s why I tell people it’s never too soon to start the downsizing process, even if there are no plans to move in the immediate future. Most homes have multiple junk drawers, a few over-stuffed closets, and basements or attics filled with “postponed decisions.” The sooner you begin, the more time you’ll have to make informed decisions about what to keep, sell, donate, or toss.

If you’d like help for yourself or a loved one, a professional organizer is just a phone call away. You can find one by visiting NAPO, the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals. Scroll down the page and simply pop in your zip code, choose a mile radius, and voila! Just like magic, you’ll get a list of NAPO members in your area.

If you’re ready, don’t delay, start today!

It’s a fact: clutter can be overwhelming. buried in papers

Whether it’s a four-day pile of unopened mail or years of accumulated papers, there comes a point when tackling it becomes daunting.

Maybe it’s the hall closet filled with linens you no longer use. Perhaps the spare bed is overflowing with unworn clothes and you can’t muster the energy to separate what fits and is flattering from what’s outdated or no longer appropriate for your lifestyle.

Here’s the thing. The longer you wait for the perfect time or enough time to tackle the entire clutter project, the longer it’s going to build and build and nothing will get done and trust me when I tell you: clutter’s negative energy can affect you mentally, emotionally and physically. It can damage relationships, sometimes tearing families apart.

Fear not; I bring you tidings of great joy – well maybe not of great joy, but of hope. No matter how big your clutter issue is, it is not hopeless.

Stop looking at the big intimidating clutter picture and start breaking it down into manageable bits. Clutter’s ability to overwhelm diminishes when you chip away and begin to see progress. Remember that fable of the tortoise and the hare? Slow and steady can win the race.

Instead of thinking, “I need ten hours to open and process the mail,” try this: “Each day I will open and process today’s mail PLUS ten pieces from the backlog piles.”

If there are papers everywhere, gather ‘em up. Fill a bin or two or ten. Start sorting into broad categories: Shred/Recycle/Toss/File/Pay/To Do and dig in. Put on some music that will calm or energize you and focus for a set period of time. Make it a game: see how much you can accomplish in 15 minutes and do a little more tomorrow. Instead of just watching a sitcom, use that as a timer and sort a bin of papers. TV AND progress – win-win!

Don’t focus on the roomful of clothing. Get up 15 minutes early and try on three  items in the pile. Decide if you want to keep, sell or donate, then move on with your day. Wash, rinse, repeat.

If it’s a hodgepodge of clutter, pick something and gather “like with like” – all wrapping paper, all books, all seasonal decor, all garbage – whatever it is, gather it up and attack the room one “thing” at a time. Where should those books live? You can’t put something away if it doesn’t have a home…

Ok, that’s a blog post for another day so I’ll leave you with this “What About Bob” movie clip that I reference with clients all the time:

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There’s a saying, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”  Yes, it’s a graphically horrifying phrase, especially given the “lolz kitten” craze that threatens to collapse the internet with its sheer magnitude. But it’s a saying that goes back 200 years and I’m using it to make my point. I promise, no kittens were harmed in the writing of this post. Adorable kitten

Here, have a look at an adorable kitten.

My point? If someone tries to tell you there’s only one right way to organize something, (which, ironically, always happens to be their way) you shouldn’t automatically believe them.

Take socks, for example. Maybe you want to sort and organize them by color. That’s cool. Or maybe you want to organize them by type: winter, sneaker, dressy, or sports socks. That can work, too. Or maybe by height: anklets, crew, knee-hi…see my point? Where I will most likely flex my professional organizer muscle is if the quantity of socks you own threatens to take over the entire dresser, leaving no room for anything else. There is such a thing as too many pairs of socks.

And then we have kitchen cupboards. Some folks say dishes should go above the dishwasher for ease in putting them away. Others say they belong near the table for ease in setting it for dinner. Neither is right and neither is wrong. It might depend on who’s doing the emptying or the setting, or it might depend on the configuration of your cupboards and the quantity of your dishes. Food storage clutter

Speaking of cupboards, one thing I know for sure as an organizer is 90% of my clients relegate WAY too much real estate to plastic food storage containers. Raise your hand if this looks familiar!

There’s an organizing tip currently making the rounds that suggests the best way to store sets of sheets is to fold them and tuck them inside one of the pillowcases. Martha Stewart posted the tip in 2011, so it’s hardly new. I personally wouldn’t take time to fold and stuff sheets INTO a pillowcase, only to have to pull them OUT of the pillowcase to put them on the bed. But hey, if you love the idea and it helps in some way, have at it with my blessing. I will suggest that for a more streamlined, “professional” look than what Martha’s picture shows, turn the sets around so the closed edge of the pillowcase is visible.

My thoughts on how many sheet sets is enough? Two per bed should suffice, with the addition of two per season if you like to use flannels in cold weather. So often when organizing linen closets, we find sheets for mattress sizes that haven’t existed in the home in decades.

People ask me to teach them the “right way” to organize something and my answer is usually, “I won’t know until we discuss what is and isn’t working.”  That’s the part I like best: finding out why something isn’t working and figuring out what will work better based on their unique situations.

Stay tuned for my thoughts on the current craze in organizing: Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” – the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” Let’s just say I haven’t drunk the Koolaid, and I’ll tell you the many reasons why.

Sometimes, even an organizer needs to tweak the way things get done. procrastination_thumb.jpg

Many people don’t realize I have a propensity for procrastination because I’m organized. I’m a great juggler, adept at prioritizing and meeting deadlines.

But. That doesn’t mean I enjoy scrambling around to ensure all the things that need doing actually get done. I know that with a little more proactive planning, I could eliminate the pressure that procrastinating creates.

I just re-watched a video by Robin Sharma, an internationally-known life and business coach titled “How I Beat Procrastination.”  I was probably avoiding one thing or another when I clicked the link; the irony of not doing what I should’ve been doing in order to watch something on procrastination is not completely lost on me. I highly recommend checking out the entire video, but to summarize, his 5 tips for beating procrastination are:

  • Create a vision board / dream collage
  • Go on a  30-day procrastination diet
  • Exercise with a focus on a second-wind workout later in the day
  • Create a distraction-free environment (Mess Creates Stress!)
  • Release your self sabotage (self-limiting beliefs) and rewire your brain

For the 30-day procrastination diet, he suggests taking a calendar and on each day for a month, write one thing you’ve been resisting doing and then…doing it.

It’s time for me to re-commit to this, but I tweaked it a titch: rather than using a calendar and trying to figure out which thing to write on which day, I format mine as a list titled, “30 Things in 30 Days.”  That way, I can do any one thing on any given day in any order I choose. The flexibility will work better for me.

Over the next few days I will compile my list, and my procrastination diet officially begins on September 1st. It will be a mixture of business and personal items I have been avoiding, ignoring, fearing, or pushing to the back burner for too long.

For my lists, I use the free computer program/app Wunderlist, which syncs with my Android phone. This allows me to review or update my list from either device. I like that it gives you a little check box to click on and, upon completion, draws a line through the item and moves it to the bottom of the page. It’s a psychological benefit to see the growing list of “done” things just as much as viewing the shortened list of to-do items.

At the end of the month, I’ll report on my progress. Anyone interested in joining me? You don’t have to share your list, but please share your intention to accomplish 30 things in 30 days with a comment! There’s strength in numbers…let’s do this thing.