Organizing is a lot like Training for a Race

June 3, 2014 19:09 by elizabeth

Last Spring I started running. I hadn't really run since I was in elementary school, so it was a huge feat for me to complete half a dozen 5K races over the past year.

Organizing is a lot like training for a running race (or any competition):

  • Just start. I was totally out of my comfort zone when I started running, but I signed up for a beginning runner's group. Taking that first step was the hardest but most important. It's the same with your organizing project. It may feel overwhelming, but take that first step: just start.
  • Start small. The new runner training program started by having us run for a minute, and then walk for a minute as a break. That's easy, right? Each week we moved up to running for 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and so on until we were at 10 minutes running with a 1 minute walk break. We started small and made incremental changes over time. This is the same for organizing: pick one spot to re-organize, or one routine to improve, and work on it consistently. Small changes will add up.
  • Schedule it, and make it routine. Run 3-4 times a week-ha! That seemed impossible at first but my trainer gave me a calendar with a suggested schedule. I tried really hard to follow the schedule, even when I'd rather be doing something else. After training regularly for a month, running several times a week with my gals became routine, and even something I looked forward to. You may not ever look forward to organizing, but scheduling time to work on your organizing project-just as you would any other important activity-can help keep you on track. Over time you'll start to build new habits. Picking up each night or putting your clean clothes away in the closet, for example, can become routine.
  • Clarify your goals. Right from the start my trainer wanted to know what my running goals were: I wanted to prove to myself that I could workout regularly and run a 5K. We picked a 5K to be my first race and worked towards it.  Think about what your goals are for your organizing project: do you want to create more space, want to have friends over for a dinner party, or get your kids to pick up their rooms? Keep your goals in mind when you get discouraged or feel overwhelmed with your project.
  • When you get off track (and you will), start again (reset) and keep going.  After running for several months I had a knee problem that required doctor visits and physical therapy. And no running for at least a month! Some mornings I enjoyed sleeping instead of running, but it was also discouraging and frustrating. As my knee improves I'm starting to reset and get back into my healthier routines. It's the same with organizing. When we get off track it can be easy to forget how far we've progressed, and slip back into old habits.  It's inevitable to have some slipping in our progress, but reset yourself and keep on going. This is a good time to remember your goals (see above) and what you are trying to accomplish.

This article first appeared in the Summer 2014 edition of The Neat Sheet newsletter. Sign up here so you don’t miss a Neat Sheet, and read previous editions in the archives.

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Favorite Container #12: The Keyring App

December 16, 2013 20:16 by elizabeth

For the last installment of my year-long Favorite Container series I am highlighting an app that helped me to organize and “contain” my store loyalty cards: Keyring.

In 2010 I wrote about a great card holder for store cards. I got many compliments and queries about the card holder, and for three years it was the perfect old-school solution for me.

But since I’ve got this iPhone, I thought I should explore new ways it can make my life easier. The Keyring app does just that. It’s easy to scan and load your card information on to the app, which then stores the barcode or information. When you are at the store the clerk simply scans the barcode from your phone…and you don’t have to hassle with finding the right store card or sharing your phone number. It also works for storing my library card! The app is available for the iPhone, Android and Windows 7 phones.

What apps have made your life easier this year?

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Great Tip for Grocery Shopping

September 20, 2013 13:54 by elizabeth

MP900422831In the recent edition of my email newsletter, The Neat Sheet, I presented some tips for grocery shopping. I got some great responses from readers about that article.

Here’s one idea that I just had to share: this mom gets her boys to do some of the shopping! Her boys are in elementary and middle school so they are able to read a list and find the items. She sends them to get an item that’s an aisle or two ahead of where she is.

The mom noted that “it keeps them busy, gives them a sense of ownership (we are shopping because they get hungry too), and keeps them from arguing too much.” 

I love this idea because it builds the boys’ independence and responsibility, and anything that can reducing the arguing is a good thing!

Thanks for the great tips.  Feel free to email elizabeth@thatsneatorganizing.com your great ideas!

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Favorite Container #2: Media Storage Box

February 12, 2013 17:44 by elizabeth

Here in the Boston area we are still digging out from last weekend’s blizzard that dumped 2 to 3 feet of snow. With two snow days off from school, we ended up with a long weekend. In between shoveling and sledding we watched a lot of movies!IMG_0143

Watching movies is the inspiration for my Favorite Container for February: clear media storage boxes.

This great storage box comes from The Container Store. It’s clear, sturdy and stackable. It’s easy to look right through the top and find just the right movie. It also slides out of the cabinet, so I’m not shifting through lots of loose DVD boxes looking for what I want.

At first I was skeptical that I needed a box made for media, but it is the perfect size – with no wasted space. Once I had one box it worked so well, I had to get some more. We’ve now used these boxes to organize all our DVDs and games in our family TV room.

Your Turn: Can you find movies when you need them? If not, it may be time to get them organized. With all the on-demand options for watching movies now, be sure you are only keeping movies that you really watch and enjoy!  And finally, don’t even think about keeping VCR tapes unless you still have a working VCR.

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December Donations

December 13, 2012 20:38 by elizabeth

April 15th,calendars,deadlines,government,income taxes,Photographs,taxesWhen sorting papers or dealing with mail, my clients often put aside requests from non-profit organizations, arts groups, and schools to make an “end of the year gift.”  The folder or pile grows and grows.

Well, the end of the year is around the corner!  Now is the time to pull out that folder or get to that pile of requests, and make your decisions.

Here’s what to do:

  • Find your folder or stack of donation requests.
  • Grab your checkbook, or your laptop if you pay online.
  • Sort requests by organization/group, and throw out multiple requests from the same place.
  • If you write checks, keep a list with the organization’s name and the amount you gave this year.  Use this list to be sure you get all the acknowledgement letters.
  • If you pay online, you should receive an email confirmation. Set up a file in your email program and file all the confirmation emails here.

With a few simple steps you’ll make your donations and be ready for tax time.

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