Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saturday Special: Clutter-Clearing Questions
When it comes to letting things go, every organizer has a system, but not every system works for everyone. I mean, let's face it -- it's always easy to tell someone else how to get rid of their stuff.

That's what I like about this week's Saturday Special, "10 Hard Questions to Ask When Clearing Out Your Clutter" -- even if only one or two questions help you make tough decisions,  you'll still come out ahead.

Happy clearing!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Freebie: What I'm Reading in Ten Minutes or Less: Student Loans
As we head into college visitation summer, I can't help but wonder what the logistics of my daughter's college financing will look like. Doing the math on four years of tuition, room, board and expenses is enough to take a parent's breath away. And while none of us wants our kids to come out of college saddled with back-breaking debt, as it turns out, a little college debt isn't such a bad thing.


Hey, don't just take my word for it. Click here to read "The Truth About How Student Loans Affect a Graduate's Life."

For once, the news is not all bad.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

But I NEED it! via
42 Craft Projects That are Easy to Make & Sell
It wasn't until I started last week's blog that I realized my third R isn't a Let it Go! strategy at all, but rather an escape route -- and one to be used with caution. While both Recycling and Reselling result in getting things out of our house, Repurposing actually makes it less likely that we'll get rid of the item in question.

That's not always bad. If repurposing a beloved (or simply useful) item gives it new life or helps it earn its keep, then hanging on to it is actually a good long as we follow a few simple guidelines.

  • Repurposing implies purpose. It's right there in the name. Is the item in question being used, or is it merely taking up space? One or two decorative items that add personality to a space, or a collection that's housed in an aesthetically pleasing way is one thing. A pile-up of "I know I'll use this someday" is quite other.
  • For items in limbo, designate a purpose. In our DIY, Pinterest-fueled society, it doesn't take much searching to come up with new uses for everything from empty soda bottles to old furniture. Here's where you have to be honest with yourself. Are you really going to do that project? If so, when? And where will the supplies "live" in the meantime?
  • Be selective: You can't save it all, yet the reasons we have for keeping things vary according to both styles and personality. Sentimental people keep things because they make us smile when we look at them or bring back a special memory. The more practical among us save things that solve a storage problem or serve more than one purpose. Those who are frugal often keep a backlog of things they don't want to have to pay to replace. Whatever your reasons, you need to set a limit to how many of those things you can realistically hang on to.
Next week, we'll talk about some ways to make decisions about the things we can't quite get rid of. In the meantime, box up those things you need to hang onto by category (e.g., sentimental value, future projects, I think I'll use this someday, etc.). That will make things easier as we move forward (and no, I haven't changed my mind about "making" you dispose of beloved items).

Next week will also mark my last week posting on this topic in this location. As we move into the last letter of STYLE in June, and begin talking about Easy Upkeep, I'll be taking the discussion to my "Organizing By STYLE" blog, as a means of both archiving all these posts in one place and continuing the discussion. You can still find me here on Wednesdays, writing on a topic still to be determined. 

Want to hear about something specific? Leave me a comment below. I have some ideas for where I want to go from here, but am also open to suggestions.

Monday, May 18, 2015

7 Things that Make a Good Speaker Great

Photo: breezanemom via Morguefile
I spent my weekend in Pittsburgh at my favorite writing conference. It was a great mix of speakers, socializing, and even a little writing when I could sneak away to my hotel room for a few minutes.

I never leave this conference without ideas. Some, I came in search of, and others I stumbled upon. A wide variety of speakers and topics ensures that there's bound to be something for everybody, even if sometimes two workshops I want to attend are offered at the same time.

Regardless of the topic of the conference, however, there are common threads among good speakers. Here, in no particular order, are seven criteria that separate a good speaker from a great one.

Photo: jppi via Morguefile
  • She can adjust her topic to suit her audience. I was impressed by the speaker who asked a few clarifying questions before she began so that she could adjust the coverage of her material to suit the audience. It was clear from the outset we weren't going to get a canned presentation.
  • She can speak extemporaneously and not just from notes. This same speaker could speak off-the-cuff, speak from her notes and field questions with the same level of agility. Though she had a sheaf of papers, she referenced them only occasionally when she wanted to move into a new topic. The rest of the time, she maintained eye contact with the audience, moving easily in and out of the presentation to field questions. 
  • He has visuals. When you spend three (or more) days moving from room to room, sitting in uncomfortable chairs and soaking in copious amounts of information, reference materials that allow you to soak in the presentation rather than worrying about getting every little detail into your notes are greatly appreciated. And handouts or links that give you access to the information after you leave the room? Priceless.
  • He is lively. A speaker who presents with enthusiasm generates enthusiasm, along with a wealth of new ideas. It's true: enthusiasm is contagious. 
  • She tells personal stories that complement the topic of the presentation. Many speakers tell personal stories. The good ones know when to stop talking about themselves and connect the story to the topic you came to hear about, because when it's done well, a connection between the personal and the technical will cement the information in the listener's mind.
  • She is a master of technology. Nothing slows a presentation down like technical difficulties. These are particularly difficult to manage when there's no tech support available. I'm always impressed by speakers (and there were several) who can seamlessly add bells and whistles beyond the basic PowerPoint, capturing attention, and even inspiring laughter.
  • He encourages audience participation...but knows where to draw the line. While it's true that people don't attend workshops to listen to the audience, sometimes good ideas and welcome comments arise. Confident speakers make those who participate feel glad they did, and the really good ones know how to avoid getting sidetracked in the process. 
It was another great conference, thanks not only to the speakers who demonstrated these skills, but also  to the hotel staff who welcomed us, and most of all, the writers who tirelessly planned and executed the conference, making sure to leave time for socializing and personal recharging. 

367 days until the next one.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Saturday Special: Packing it In

Photo: kolobsek via Morguefile
Since I spent yesterday traveling to the Pennwriters Conference, today's Saturday Special is travel-related. Last week, I shared the tips section from The Container Store (which actually happens to be having a travel sale right now!) This week, I found 6 Tips for Better Organizing Your Travel Bag. Had I been organized enough to read it before I left, I'd have definitely followed their "Keep Clean" tip.

Next time. Till then, happy trails!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday Freebie: What I'm Reading in Ten Minutes or Less: Don't Worry, Be Happy

Photo: jppl via Morguefile
Okay, so I promise this late posting thing isn't going to become a habit....but while we're on the topic of habits, today's post will connect habits with exactly what I'm doing (and why this is late).

I finished up the semester's grades last night so that I could head to the Pennwriters Conference in Pittsburgh today. I got here just in time to attend Larry Schardt's session on happiness and optimism (officially called "Putting a Positive Spin on Rejection (And Enjoying the Magic in Every Moment"), which aligns perfectly with a First Year Seminar I'm working on for the fall.

Larry didn't disappoint...and he gave me a perfect set-up for today's (belated) Friday Freebie: Seven Positive Psychology Happy Habits for Work and Life.

I hope your weekend is every bit as happy as mine promises to be!

Photo: dhester via Morguefile

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Let it Go: The Second R
Sorry for the late post -- again. I'm hoping that now the the end of semester craziness has subsided, I'll get back on a regular posting schedule.

Last week, we started talking about ways to let go of things we no longer use or need. I got so excited about the potential reuses for things that I jumped into Recycle, which is perhaps the most difficult one of the three to do. If you managed to make some progress with that R last week, congratulations! You belong at the head of the class!

If not, no worries. This week, it gets easier as we tackle the second R: Resell.

Like recycling, reselling allows us to get things we no longer use or need out of our homes and helps us to "do good" at the same time. After all, someone else might just love that flowery dress or set of dishes that's not your style. When we recycle, we don't simply throw things away -- we give them new life. For those who get attached to their things (yes, my I love stuff friends, this means you), sending them to a new home can making parting with them less painful.

But for some of us, nothing short of the lure of cold, hard cash can soothe the ache that accompanies getting rid of our "stuff." I have friends who do yard sales every year, freeing up space and raking in cash at the same time.
I'm not really a yard sale girl, but I love consigning things. I pack up the clothes we've outgrown, grown tired of or never should have bought in the first place and take them to a local shop that sells them and then cuts me a check. In the meantime, if I want to buy something there, I can spend the credit I've accumulated (between the time they sell my things and the time they cut the check) instead of spending cash, which feels like getting something for free. If I stay out of the store between drop-offs (which I generally do at least twice a year), the credit keeps accumulating until the end of the consignment period, when it turns into cash, and I avoid bringing new things into the house to fill the space vacated by the old ones.

I use clothing consignment more than any other, and, in fact, have two favorite stores (one for women's clothing and one that's for a younger clientele). Each accepts clothing by season, so I've learned to take things right from the dryer to one of two boxes (one labeled spring/summer and the other labeled fall/winter) because if I put the clothes back in my closet, it's that much less likely they'll ever make it out of the house. There are consignment stores in our area for furniture and household items, too, though I've never tried those.

If you'd like to make recycling or reselling a part of your routine, think about the containers that work for your style. As an I need to see it/drop and run organizer, I need containers that are open on top and labeled; otherwise it's easier to put things into the laundry basket than in the consignment box. Cram and jammers need to have containers large enough to keep them from, well, cramming and jamming, as many consignment stores are particular about the condition of the clothing they accept.  And I know I put it somewhere organizers will benefit from labeled or color-coded containers that have a specific home so they can remember where they put things when it's time to consign them. I love to be busy folks may want to put their containers into the trunk of the car as soon as they're full to make it easier to fit a drop-off into their busy schedules.
Photo: DodgertonSkillhause via morguefile

Regardless of the lure of cold, hard cash and the desire to "to good," most of us (and not just the I love stuff people among us) will still end up with some things we don't need, but just can't get rid of.

More on that next week.