Organizing Tip of the Month
I've just read a wonderful book called The Organized Student. If you know a student (or the parent of a student) who is struggling with organizational issues, take a look at this book.
When you bring clothes home from the dry cleaner, please take them out of the plastic bags. Those bags are only meant to protect clothes until you get them home; they aren't good for long-term storage. Moisture can build up in the bags, leading to mildew problems. The bags can also cause white clothes to yellow, and other clothes to fade. Store your hanging clothes uncovered or in cloth/fabric garment bags. I've also heard some suggest that you could cut off the plastic bag below the shoulder to provide dust protection while still avoiding the problems plastic bags can cause.
Do you have prescription or over-the-counter drugs that you need to dispose of? Please do NOT follow the old advice to flush them down the toilet; we now know this causes water contamination. The best ways to dispose of such medications is to do one of the following:
Take them to your local hazardous waste disposal facility. (If you don't know where this is or how to find it, you can contact me and I'll be glad to point you in the right direction.)
If for some reason that isn't feasible, the next best thing is to put the medications in your normal trash, following these precautions.
Thanks to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for a great brochure on this topic.
You've decided that you can let go of a large numbers of items that no longer enhance your life. Now, how do you dispose of them? Here are some of the major options; I can provide more information on any of them.
Donate the items and take a tax deduction (as allowed within your tax bracket). This can be the simplest answer - things can leave your home or office right away - and often you can support a cause that is meaningful to you. I've listed some places to donate, and have many many more I can suggest, depending on where you are located.
I'm going on vacation - and so is the tip. There will be a new one here in March, though!
Here's a time management tip to start out the new year. Give up on perfectionism in the areas where "perfect" isn't a requirement - which, for many of us, is most of our lives. I know that's hard; I'm a recovering perfectionist myself. And I want certain people, like my surgeon, to do a perfect job.
But I'm the volunteer newsletter editor for NAPO-SFBA (National Association of Professional Organizers - San Francisco Bay Area chapter) and I know we don't put out a perfect newsletter each month. We give it our best within the time we have, but there's always something that could have been improved. And you know what? All of us working on the newsletter have other things going on in our lives, and it's fine the way it is.
How many things could you do a little less perfectly - maybe only you would notice the difference - and thus free up time for the other important things in your life?
Organizing products can be utilitarian (manilla folders, clear plastic storage boxes, etc.) - but they can also be imaginative, fun, and attractive. For some people, that really makes a big difference. If you're one of those people, consider using products such as these:
Really classy binders, such as these
Do you really enjoy scrapbooking, or creating photo albums? If so, fine! But if not, and especially if you are pressed for time, give yourself a break. Those mementos from your trip, or your children's early years - or whatever event/time period you want to commemorate - can usually be kept in a nice box just as well as in an album. Do be sure to label those photos with dates and names, though - with a graphite pencil on the back of the photo.
You can find good archival-quality boxes at:
For detailed information on preserving memorabilia, I recommend the book Saving Stuff.
When setting up your files, distinguish between action files and reference files.
Here are some pictures of incline sorters.
Gifts are symbols of love. Keep the love and let go of the symbols.
It's OK to get rid of a gift. It doesn't mean you don't care about the giver. In fact, if that person truly cared about you, would he or she really want you to keep something that made your life less pleasant?
Do you have a to-do list? More importantly, do you have an effective to-do list? Or are your action items on scraps of paper, scribbled lists, and inside your head? Some keys to an effective to-do list are:
For more great suggestions, I highly recommend Getting Things Done by David Allen.
Maybe you don't need to get rid of stuff as much as learn to store it more effectively.
In general, keep similar things together - for example, all your flower vases or all the supplies you need to handle your mail and pay bills.
Once you know what you have to store, find the appropriate container. Containers help you keep things together for easier retrieval, and help you make better use of your space. You may already have containers you can use; if you need to buy something, be sure to measure first. Labeling the containers is very useful, especially if they are not transparent. Containers can include
Consider giving (and requesting) holiday and birthday gifts that definitely won't become clutter for you or someone else. Some examples:
As you go about clearing your clutter, here are some thoughts on what to keep and what to get rid of.
Someone asked me the other day for the most important bit of organizing advice I could give him. While it's hard to pick just one thing, I said "Make sure everything has a home." Things without a designated home (storage place) either wind up just laying around, or they get put away someplace where they'll never be found again.
Organizing for children presents interesting challenges. Here are 7 tips to make the organizing easier.
You know you have too much stuff for your space, but it's so hard to let go. Here are some ways to make letting go a bit easier.
Setting up files? Consider straight-line filing (all file labels in the same tab position) rather than staggered files (labels left, center, right). Your filing system won't be disrupted by adding a new file, saving you lots of needless effort in re-arranging files. And it's easier on your eyes - looking in a straight line is easier than looking back and forth. When I first read this suggestion from Julie Morgenstern, I implemented it on my own files - what a difference! Smead has some nice illustrations of straight-line filing; you don't need to use their products or use color-coding (as they suggest) to use straight-line filing.
Items to place in your launch pad could include keys, wallet, envelopes to be mailed, rental videos to be returned - anything you don't want to forget to take.
Go through your home and remove any items that make you grumpy when you look at them. Do you really want that gift sweater in a color that looks hideous on you? Do you want those photos of people you don't even like? What about that broken thingy that you know in your heart of hearts that you are never going to fix? Try to surround yourself only with items that you find useful, beautiful or meaningful.