Make space. Find peace. Feel joy.

Mark your calendars! Organizing panel rescheduled for August 29

27 April 2015


In February, I was to appear on a panel of organizers here in St. Louis, taking questions from the public. Alas, Mother Nature intervened and a forecasted ice storm caused the organizers to cancel the event. I’m a white-knuckle driver in the winter, so I was overjoyed with the decision.

The panel has been rescheduled for August 29, 2015, which should be safe weather-wise, unless a tornado or failed air conditioning materializes.

The event is being held at The Lodge Des Peres, 1050 Des Peres Rd, Des Peres, MO 63131. Admission is $10. Please visit the NAPO-St. Louis website to register for the event.

The original panelists have been invited to return, though I haven’t seen the final line up. I’m delighted to be back on the panel. I think it will be a terrific event and I hope to see you there!

Dealing with business cards after a conference

23 April 2015

Dealing with business cards after a conference

I just returned from the annual conference of the National Association of Professional Organizers and, as usual, had a small pile of business cards to process. (That’s it in the photo.)

In the past, I would let the cards accumulate. Or I’d pop them in a box I kept for that purpose. And then I wouldn’t look at them, more than likely. In 2013, I went through those accumulated cards and finally dealt with them.

Since my business cards are under control, I wanted to actually process them, to keep my system going. I went through each card in the stack and divided them into the following categories:

  • Cards I can recycle
  • Cards that require action (if I’d promised the person I’d do something)
  • Cards that I want to enter into my contact database
  • Cards of businesses whose websites I want to check out
  • Cards I want to file in my file box (that’s a small category—see below)

I’m going to be the president of NAPO-St. Louis next year and I met a group of other chapter presidents at a meeting. I’m filing those cards together, in a section of my file box. I figure that until I get to know the individuals better, the cards themselves will help me remember who is who.

So my pile of business cards has been reduced to a small stack that I will file, a smaller stack of those I will enter in my contact database and discard; some whose websites I’ll look at, then discard; and, finally one card that require actions (which I’ll take as soon as I finish this blog post).

I’m glad I have a system in place, so that the business cards don’t just clutter up my desk! It’s also nice to process these cards while the memory of meeting the people behind them is still fresh.

Worth repeating: Lessons learned while decluttering

20 April 2015

Even professional organizers benefit from the help of professional organizers. After I worked with my friend and colleague Aby Garvey last summer, I wrote this post, which summarizes the insights I gained from our time together. Aby and I have swapped services for years, and I never tire of it!

I love it when I find myself in situations that plant me squarely in my clients’ shoes. This past weekend, my friend Aby Garvey, who is an amazing organizer, offered to come to my house to help me organize my office. We swap services occasionally and it’s always fun and rewarding.

While we were going through my vast collection of office supplies (oh, how I love office supplies!), I heard myself say some things that I hear my clients say with a certain amount of frequency. Here were some reasons I initially gave for not wanting to part with items:

  • I’ve had it for years!
  • That could come in handy some day
  • I don’t use it anymore, but it did such a good job when I did use it
  • I worked really hard to get that
  • It was expensive
  • It’s a keepsake

Even professional organizers can have difficulty decluttering

The truth is that once I got rolling, it became easier to give up items. I knew how much better everything would look there was less of it. But, as you can see from the above picture of my office-supply closet, I did manage to keep quite a bit. At least everything’s stored beautifully.

Here are a few things I learned:

  • I don’t like using binders, so it’s okay to give up my copious binder accessories
  • If I have a two years’ worth of a magazine I’ve never read, it’s okay to decide I’ll never read the issues-and give them away.
  • People are happy to take your free magazines via a free listing on Craigslist
  • It might be possible to have too many colored sharpies
  • Mason jars make great pen holders

It can be hard to give up items that you’ve had for years and that you bought for a reason. But identifying those items that you’ll probably never use can free up space for stuff that you actually need. Out with the old and in with the new (or in with the clean space)!

Creating a buffer

13 April 2015

Building in a buffer

Taylor and Miranda at Multnomah Falls

I just spent a week with my 20-year-old niece and 17-year-old nephew, which was a rare treat. They live in Australia, so I don’t see them often. In fact, the last time was when I visited them in Australia in 2009. They’ve grown up a lot since then.

It was delightful. They’re active, articulate and incredibly polite young people. We ended up with a theme word, one that kept coming up over and over: buffer.

Miranda, a recent college graduate about to embark on a new job, has always been very busy with a multitude of activities and responsibilities. Miranda and Taylor told me that their mother is always urging her to build in a buffer. She schedules herself to the minute, not allowing any time for slippage. Sometimes (most of the time, I think) that can lead to stress.

She and I share an aversion to getting places early, something I’m trying to change. (I really do like having a buffer!) I told her about the time I was almost killed because I was running late and tried to reinforce my sister-in-law’s message of building in a buffer.

Taylor, as is probably typical for teenage boys, likes to sleep until the last possible second. He says he’s actually able to get out of the house within five minutes of getting out of bed. Ensuring that Taylor was up in the morning early enough to get out in time for the two flights he had to take was another way that buffer entered the conversation.

I think that life is easier when we minimize stress. One way to do that is to build in a buffer around activities so that we’re not running around. In the past, I’ve tried to think of that as giving myself the gift of being early. You can read some of my tips for getting places on time in this Gimundo guest post.

Thanks to the time I spent with Miranda and Taylor, I’m switching it up. Now I’ll just repeat the theme word, buffer, when I want to remind myself of the benefits of not scheduling too much in too short a period of time. The word resonates with me and will be a helpful reminder!

Worth repeating: Getting past internal barriers

9 April 2015

I originally wrote and published this post in February 2011. I’m happy to say that my internal barriers to doing Quickbooks have pretty much vanished, though I still have some trouble making it a priority. (But at least I don’t dread it.) Perhaps you have some internal barriers that are getting in your way. If so, I hope you’ll find this helpful.

This the year that I’m all about creating new habits and routines. (At least so far.) In the past two months I’ve created strong habits surrounding cleaning up my yard and keeping the bedroom bureau top clear of clothing. I’ve also whittled my email inbox down to zero every day since January 2. (I’ll blog more about that another day.)

There’s one habit I’ve been meaning to cultivate for years. (Literally, years.) And that’s entering my financial data for my business into Quickbooks on a very regular basis. In December 2009, I blogged that I wanted to adopt that habit for 2010. Did I succeed? Ha! I found myself entering data for most of 2010 in January of 2011, all the while saying to myself, like I do every year, “This year will be different.”

I realize it’s only February 2 (happy Groundhog Day for those in the US!), but I’m excited to report that I’m caught up on Quickbooks and I’m indeed entering data as I earn and spend money. How have I been able to do this after years of failure?

I turned to my secret weapon, Shannon Wilkinson. Shannon is an amazing life coach, hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner. (She’s also my partner in Declutter Happy Hour and Why Resolutions Don’t Work.) For years, she’s been helping me get past my emotional barriers to action.

When I realized that I had some sort of barrier preventing me from facing my finances on a regular basis, I pulled out Boring Change: No Augers Required, Shannon’s amazing (and amazingly affordable) audio and e-book product that puts her brand of magic in your hands. I blogged all about it last March, when it first came out.

I spent just about 10 minutes with Boring Change and when I was through I was ready and raring to start entering data. And I continue to be excited. In fact, the other day when I looked over my to-do list, entering data into Quickbooks felt like a treat! When I realized that, I almost fell off my chair.

If you feel like something is stopping you from doing what you want or from achieving you know is desirable (or simply creating a new beneficial habit), I urge you to give Boring Change a try. It’s only $47 and it can make a huge difference in your life.

Choosing a label maker

6 April 2015

What to look for in a label maker

Labels are an important step in the organizing process. They help you establish a place for everything. They help you identify categories. They help you remember.

Most organizers I know have a label maker of some sort. They’re not required certainly. There are many ways to make labels, some of them less cumbersome than using a label maker. (There are some ideas in this post).

But I do love my label makers. (I have two.) I love their ease of use. And I love the professional-looking, tidy, uniform labels they create. I’m sometimes asked what to look for in a label maker, so I thought I’d share my suggestions.

First, I’ve always had Brother P-Touch label makers. I know that Dymo makes good label makers too. (And I have fond memories of my handheld turn-the-wheel-and-squeeze Dymo label maker of my youth.) But Brother’s P-Touch label makers have always been more than satisfactory to me.

I have the PT-2030, which I think is a terrific label maker. I see that it’s been discontinued, unfortunately. I’m sure ones with similar features are available. I also have a ten-year-old (or perhaps even older) PT-1800, also discontinued. (In case you’re wondering why I have two, one lives in my organizing bag that I take to clients. The other lives in my office for use there.)

The PT-2030 has the ability to do fancy frames and also has some pre-loaded labels. Frankly, I rarely use those features. The PT-1980 is more of a no-frills workhorse. It has just the right number of features as far as I’m concerned.

Size is important to me. I’m a bit of a Goldilocks when it comes to label makers. I think they should neither too big nor too small. Mine are just right. My size requirements mean that I buy desktop, not handheld models.

Here’s what I look for in a label maker:

  • Full QWERTY keyboard
  • A keyboard large enough to type on with two hands
  • Device small enough to hold with one hand while hunting and pecking with the other, when necessary
  • Adjustable font size
  • Adjustable tape margin size
  • Ability to use different width tape cartridges
  • Easy to switch fonts and sizes
  • Easy-to-read screen

Here are features of a label maker that would make me reject it:

  • A keyboard that’s arranged alphabetically (so time-consuming for me to use!)
  • Non-laminated labels
  • Multiple steps to change the font or font size

The thing that amazes me is how many different models there are and how different they are from one another, even within the Brother P-Touch brand. On a team job, I like all the labels my team makes to match. Even though virtually all my team members carry label makers with them, each different device seems to print a slightly different label. The solution to that is to use one label maker, which sometimes is inefficient.

As I said, you don’t need a label maker, because there are all sorts of other ways to create labels. But if you want one (and you have a use for it), I hope that these suggestions will help you choose one.

Worth repeating: Five ways to make packing easy

2 April 2015

I’m leaving early tomorrow morning for a week-long trip and need to plan and execute my packing today. Happily, I have a system that makes it easy for me. This post, which I originally wrote last year, is a handy reminder, so I thought I’d share it again.

Five ways to make packing easy - Peace of Mind Organizing

I travel every month or two and over the years I’ve managed to make packing fairly stress free. There are five practices that I’ve adopted that have helped make packing a piece of cake.

  • I put together my outfits before I pack. I detailed my method in this blog post on avoiding overpacking but the basic point is that I plan my outfits before I pack and I don’t bring any more clothes than those that are needed for the outfits. It makes it easier to get dressed during the trip, too, since the decisions have already been made.
  • I limit my shoes. I know, I know. That’s tough. But shoes are heavy and space-consuming. I try hard to bring no more than one or two pairs of shoes or boots beyond the pair I’m wearing while traveling.
  • I keep a travel set of toiletries. I have travel-sized version of almost all my toiletries and they live in my toiletries kit. This way I save time packing and I don’t have to stress about forgetting something.
  • I take only the makeup I need. It’s not practical for me to keep a travel set of makeup (it would go bad before I could use it up), but I just pack it into a makeup kit as I put it on the day of travel. Unless I’m going to a super-fancy event on my trip, I just take along this everyday makeup, not a whole bunch of different shadows or potions to choose from when I’m at my destination.
  • I use a travel jewelry case. The Clos-ette Too Travel Jewelry Case makes it easy for me to take along what I need (and no more) and to see what I have brought. It also prevents my necklaces from getting tangled.

There are plenty of things to stress out about when traveling. Packing needn’t be one of them. By making decisions in advance and limiting my choices when I’m traveling, I make the process easier—and my bag lighter.

Photo by Susana Fernandez via Flickr

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