What a Difference a Month Can Make

November 01, 2019

The nicest surprise has been that I haven’t missed any of the things I’ve stopped doing. I did expect some resistance and struggle and there has been none.

I will say however that right up till midnight of Sept. 30th, I wasn’t sure I would actually be able to even start never mind carry through with what I had set myself. I watched tv and ate all the delicious and yet bad for me stuff right till the stroke of midnight. And as soon as that happened, I just turned the tv off, picked up my phone and deleted about 40 Apps on it that I would not be needing. I knew then that I’d be fine. The decision had been made.

The other thing I have started noticing is that I don’t know what to do without the tech. The phone had so many Apps that entertained me for minutes and hours at a time when I had some free time. All that freed up time is making me antsy, which makes me reach out for the phone to while away a few free moments, only to discover that, nope, nothing there to help me with that. I put down the phone to gaze at my navel and gather wool as they say. It’s so uncomfortable and so boring and so wonderful all at the same time. This, afterall, is what I went looking for – that place where the old habits are no longer available so there is no option but to find something new, different and better for me.

Now, I believe, the real work can begin. As the overwhelmed plate begins to empty and the head begins to see straight, I will begin seeing what’s what and then, hopefully, begin making different and informed decisions about what I want back on and what will permanently stay off and what new stuff will come in.

I’m a little excited and a lot hopeful.

Remembering to Forget

October 15, 2019

Forgetting yourself and your whole way of being isn’t as easy as it sounds – not when you don’t really have amnesia anyway. So how am I going to make sure that I forget the things I am choosing to forget and remember to, be, do and think differently?

I create an Excel spreadsheet of course!

I am very partial to a good Excel spreadsheet I must confess. I’ve spent many a good day engrossed in the creation of new ones. This is one area where my creativity really comes out and shines. But I digress…

Along with the spreadsheet to track the things I want to forget and the things I want to remember, I have put together some rules for the three main areas I will focus my year on.

My spending habits, my eating habits and my digital entertainment habits specifically will be under the watchful eye of the spreadsheet and the rules will help decision making be easier when it comes to what I can and can’t do. And there are exceptions of course, as with any good rule. There will be instances where I will need to spend money and eat out and watch tv. This is an exercise in changing the way I live, it’s not a prison sentence after all. The chart below shows the details.

My new eating habits will especially be useful as this is one area of my life that I could definitely be more organized in. In the past, I have tended to not plan ahead where food has been concerned so eating out and, on the go, which usually meant fast food, was the option I made available to myself. Now however, Ms. Organizer here is going to have to plan ahead or forego a meal here and there. Not the biggest problem since no one in this part of the world will starve if we missed a meal but I do like to eat so I’ll take option A please – plan ahead.

Being a problem solver, I look at things from the perspective of what could go wrong with any solution I put into place for a client. On a renovation or relocation project, will the trades show up on the days they are supposed to? What if the trades show up but the product to be installed, new carpet for example, doesn’t arrive? The what ifs and my answers to them are the backbone of my work. So in my own case, what would be the potential problems that could come up during the course of the next year to derail me?

I know myself well enough, and, if with no one else, I am always completely honest with myself so when I went looking for them, I found a few loopholes that on a bad day I could potentially grasp onto like a drowning woman. Don’t judge me please, it’s not easy to die unto your old self and be reborn. Even as a Professional Organizer, who generally has her sh*t together, I’m still human. Most people don’t realise the enormous pressure that people like me face, with the internal need and external expectations to always be perfect. And I’ll be the first one to admit, I am not. Far from it in fact.

So, the spreadsheet will help me remember to forget these loopholes. The document will track 31 things which can be categorized into two main areas, the things I must do, to begin, being and feeling different and the things I must not do for the same reason.

The actual hibits list isn’t very clear in the above image so here is the full list for those inquiring minds that want to know:

I could not have imagined the number of hours in my day that have opened up in such a short space of time as a result of following this daily practise. It has only been two weeks and life is already changing. For the better.

This list of 31 items looks like a lot but it really isn’t if one takes a closer look at what I’m actually tracking. I have my daily morning and evening routines and the rest is more about avoiding a few key things which doesn’t take any time. All in all, this new routine takes me approximately two and half to three hours per day with the major portion of it being in the morning. The time I invest in this is far less than the time I save to do other, more meaningful things, towards a life worth getting out of bed for – full of fun, freedom, adventure and learning.

One major rule for this year is that I’m going to treat this experiment like a game because if it feels like work, I won’t want to do it. And games are so much more fun don’t you think?

The Deliberate Amnesiac

Photo credit:  Greg McKinnon

October 01, 2019

What would it be like to wake up one day with no memory of who you are?  Where you have no idea about what and who you like or dislike, your perceived limitations, the things that you’re afraid of or for that matter the things that give you pleasure?  What if you woke up one day to a blank slate of a brain?  All the mental and emotional clutter gone?   What kind of a whole new life could you create for yourself?

I’ve decided to find out.  That is, without the head injury or trauma that usually comes with amnesia.

As a Professional Organizer, I make my living helping people with their clutter challenges, bringing calm back to what once was chaos, oftentimes in a matter of hours.  My work is rewarding, I pinch myself often that I actually get paid to do something I love and am naturally good at and would do whether I got paid for it or not.  I get a buzz from seeing my clients come back to life after having felt stuck and dead inside for so long.

However, this very ability, to be organized, to get done things in a fraction of the time it would take others has silently been working against me and I have been too busy to notice.  In my eagerness to be all things to all people, I have been taking on more and more stuff and it’s never occured to me that if I put something on my plate, that perhaps I should remove something to keep my life somewhat balanced.

This past Summer, after my daughter’s wedding, I sat down on the couch with my bowl of cereal before I got on with my day and found myself not getting off it for five weeks.  For the first time in the 14 years I have been in business, I found my body and mind rebelling and refusing to get back up.  I’d pushed myself as far as I was going to and now mind and body decided to take an unplanned vacation whether the bank account or anything else allowed for it or not.  So I chose to be graceful about it and do it guilt-free.  A novel experience for me for sure.  For those glorious five weeks all I did was sleep, eat, watch tv and read, on repeat.  I loved every moment of it! 

As my tired brain and body recovered, I realised that I had forgotten how to simply rest.  I came to understand that I have been unhappy for a while and to cover this up, I had started taking on more and more things to do in order to distract myself.  First I took on more by saying yes to everything that got asked of me, and then I didn’t even wait to be asked, I volunteered myself.  

It’s then that I realised that this Professional Organizer needed to take a step back and reassess where my current life path was taking me. All things considered, a five week flake out on the couch is a gentle nudge for me to wake up before something much worse and undesirable happens.  I’ll take it – don’t need a bigger or nastier nudge thank you!

So, I am making a very conscious decision to be different and do things differently in order to have a different life to the one I have been blindly running headlong into.  I’m doing a pivot via my little year long experiment which I have dubbed, The deliberate amnesiac.

I’m going to consciously slow down and forget about how I used to be, do or think. I’ll go searching for that “being” part of myself that managed to get left behind somewhere.  It’s time for this Organizer to get to work on being her own best client to get rid of some mental clutter in her own closet.  This means letting go of some habits I’ve picked up along the way and dusting off and re-strengthening others.  And I’m going to track everything.

The deliberate amnesiac experiment is my cold turkey deep dive into 12 months of abstinence from spending, eating out, junk food, TV and so much more to re-shape a stress-filled, busy and lacklustre life to one worth getting out of bed for again.  Every area of my life will go under the microscope to declutter physically, mentally and emotionally – my work, finances, body, relationships, with self, others and technology. Maybe I’ll even change my name while I’m at it.  Nothing is taboo or off limits.

Welcome to my adventure!

How to Organize Your Office

So you want to get organized?

Whether you occupy the corner office, a cubicle, or a little nook at home as your office, maximizing your workspace – and your productivity – means organizing your information. Most people feel they are far too busy to get organized “right now,” that they should wait until they have more time on their hands. All organization really is asking and answering a few key questions. Investing as little as a few hours asking and answering these questions can get you quickly back on track at work and as a result in your personal life.

Here are ten steps to follow for a more efficient and tidy work space that you will love being more productive in:

1. Decide to get organized

Disorganization is a result of a whole bunch of unmade decisions and if you dive in without a full commitment and a plan, the potential for going right back to where you started is pretty high with a lot more time and energy being expended than was necessary.

2. Understand your work style

Do you like to have things tucked away or are you the type of person where out of sight means out of mind? Are you a paper person (need to touch and feel it?) or do you prefer going electronic as much as possible? It is easier to find a system that works around your habits than you having to work around a cookie cutter system.

3. Scan your space

Does you current work area reflect your style? What do you see that is working for you and what bothers you the most? How would you have it look and feel like in your ideal world?

4. Start at one end

To get more done in less time, start from one end of your space and systematically work your way across to the other end, making sure you touch everything in your way as you go.

5. Sort by category

As you touch an item, categorize it and gather it with others like it in one spot: newspapers, magazines, promo items, reports, TO-DOs, To-File, To-Read, office supplies, books, etc. “This focuses the decision-making process. The key here is not to stop and think about each item - just sort - discarding the obvious.

6. Ask questions

To help with the decision making process, ask yourself questions as you sort and purge: Is this still relevant to me and my business/my role? Do I have duplicate copies? Is the same document available online?

7. Purge by category

Now that you have all your information categorized, tackle them one at a time with the easiest first. Go through the stacks quickly discarding everything you don’t need and keeping what you do. Don’t stop to look at things you need to take action on, just keep purging and keep aside your TO-DO items for handling after the organizing process.

8. Organize by category

All that remains is what you actually want and need (is it 20% of what you started out with? J). Look at the space you have, figure out who else needs access to the information and then decide where best you want to find each type of information and “file” it. Your knowledge of your organizing style will come in handy here.

9. Position your equipment

There are silent stressors in and around your workspace that you may not even be aware of. Whether you are left or right handed will determine where on your desk your phone and computer equipment is placed. Moving things around will make all the difference in yours and your work space’s effectiveness.

10. Maintenance

At the end of each work day, use the last 10 to 15 mins to bring your space back to order ready for the next day. Coming into a fresh and clear work space the next day can have a huge impact on your mood and efficiency.​

Everything we do is a system. When we run into trouble, the wrong system may be in place. Taking the time to put the right one in place for yourself can reap immediate and long-term rewards of more time, space, resources and money.