Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Getting Started with STYLE

It's Wednesday again! If you haven't taken the personal and organizational styles quiz I posted last week, now might be a good time to check it out.

If you have taken it, I'm sure you were quite impressed by my very scientific, technical terminology. When I came up with these names, I was working with elementary school students, and so the names needed to be non-threatening and kid-friendly. As I began to transfer the information to adults, I found that they appreciated the silliness of the names, perhaps because they made an overwhelming task seem less daunting. And so the names stuck.

These silly names -- I love stuff, I love to be busy, I need to see it, drop and run, cram and jam and I know I put it somewhere -- will continue to pop up every time we discuss styles. The first three (bolded in black) are what I call the personal styles while the second three (bolded in orange) are the organizational styles. Hmmm....color-coding...any guess which personal style is mine?

Personal styles are the way we naturally function -- a part of our personality. Organizational styles are the methods we naturally use -- unchecked, however, they're more likely to lead to chaos than organizational successes. The key to organizational progress lies at the intersection of our personal styles and our organizational styles.

For example, I am an I need to see it/drop and run person. Left to my own devices, I inhabit a world I know I put it somewhere husband). But with the right tools, progress is not only possible, it's easy.
of piles, stacks and visible cues (and yes, I am quite often left to my own devices, much to the chagrin of my

As we embark on this process, there will be some things we cannot control: the size of our living space, the amount of available storage space and the number of hours we have in a day. Sure, we can move, build on and pull all-nighters...but do we really want to?

What we can do is impact those things -- and even maximize them -- by using our styles to our advantage. I don't know about you, but I'm sure I can expand my available storage space just by getting rid of stuff I don't need. (Please don't cringe, I love stuff friends -- I'm not talking about brutal purges).

So let's get started. Your first step is simply to take stock -- what's neat and what's not? Don't judge -- just observe. For example, as I sit here in my living room typing this, I see no less than ten items sitting out that can easily be put away (where they belong, not stashed somewhere just to make the room look better). I also see a bin that needs sorting (we won't discuss how long that's been there) and the dust that I don't need to see, despite my default personal style.

Step two: Before you start beating yourself up about what you see, view it all through the lenses of your personal and organizational styles. Does it make sense? My messy bin is a perfect example of the intersection of I need to see it and drop and run. It has potential, but its current condition needs...tweaking. For now, I'm simply making note of that because it won't fit into step three....

Give it five. I can't tackle that bin in five minutes, but I can put away all the wayward items and clear one spot where I know I can make progress in five minutes. If I still have time left after I've put away my wayward items, I'm certain I can find another spot to tackle in the time that remains. If the timer goes off and I'm still motivated, I can keep going until I've reached a logical stopping point. (For all of you overachieving organizers out there, that's before you've torn apart a drawer, a piece of furniture, or, heaven forbid, an entire room). If you feel yourself getting frustrated, stop. The goal here is see progress because progress is a motivator. Exhaustion is not.
the visual clutter in that time. After I assess what's neat and what's not, I'm going to select

Getting organized is a process...and so is staying organized. Both take time and conscientious, consistent effort.

Next week, we'll talk more about the details of the styles, but for now, I'd love to know where you landed. I hope you'll share your styles and successes in the comments section as we take this journey together.

And stop by tomorrow for a short bonus post -- a few ideas for what you can tackle in five to fifteen minutes.

(All of the photos of organizers in today's post are from thecontainerstore,com)

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Weekend Experiment

It's hard to believe that this is the last week of January. Three weeks ago, people were making new year's resolutions, and I was participating in Facebook discussions like this one:
Facebook friend's status: They say that what you do on New Year's Day will be your focus for the year. Yesterday, I was blessed to spend the day writing. How about you? Did you start the year with a special focus?
My comment: Laziness :-) Since "retiring" and embarking on new pursuits, I've been a hard charger, and because I'm doing what I love, work time and down time boundaries have blurred. I'm working on trying to take holidays when normal people take them.
On January 1, as everyone else was generating resolutions, I was generating a nervous tic. 

My Facebook status: Resolutions? Expectations? Hopes and dreams? Too much pressure for the first day of a new year. I prefer to evolve slowly.
A friend's comment: I was just reading a blog that suggested you select one word for the whole year. Then try to apply that word to your life throughout your whole year. Thought that was an interesting idea.
I did, too. And as I thought about that at the turn of the year, the word that came to mind was "balance." If you read last Monday's blog, you can see how well that's working out for me.

So, I started the new year with no stated resolutions. Lots of ideas, some goals but no "this is the year that..." promises.

But I keep coming back to my own response to the special focus my writer friend referenced. I find it very difficult to separate laziness from well-deserved down time -- not for other people, mind you -- just for myself. There are so many things I want to do that I feel as though I ought to always be doing something, at least until I run out of the physical and/or mental energy to make that happen.

But over and over again the same scenario plays out. When I simply cave in and allow myself to just be lazy for a day (which rarely means accomplishing absolutely nothing), the payoff comes in the days that follow. My energy is renewed, my resolve refreshed and a highly productive day follows. Sometimes, one highly productive day sparks several more as well.
Slowly, I am learning this. Slowly, I am experimenting with the idea of weekends -- a time when I don't make a list that contains more items than hours in the day.

But let's not call it a resolution. I prefer...experiment.

As we move into February, I look forward to more of the "Weekend Experiment." I have no illusions of something as ridiculous as four weekends a month, but the occasional day off when everyone else takes one might not be such a bad idea.

And if it works, I'll have ten more months in 2015 to perfect it.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Saturday Special: A Surefire Way for Knowing What's in that Folder

I have two great reasons for posting this particular Saturday Special:

  1. Label makers are excellent organizing tools that make everything look just a little more professional.
  2. You can win stuff.
I typically shy away from posts that are pushing something, so to speak, but since this one has good suggestions and an opportunity for you to win tools that will help you in your organizational journey, I couldn't resist.

Happy reading and organizing...and good luck!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Freebie: What I'm Reading in Ten Minutes or Less: Author Successes
Next week, I'm celebrating the first anniversary of my first novel, Casting the First Stone, so today seemed like a good day to do a Friday Freebie that focuses on authors much more famous than I am.

Writing is a profession, and one that many authors work at for years before they achieve visibility, let alone success. Not every author is a JK Rowling, bursting out of the gate with her first book and following it up with multiple blockbusters. Many authors start more slowly, peaking mid-career or even later.

Want to see where your favorite author lands? Check out this infographic. I was surprised to see how long it took some famous writers to get where they are now.

Who are you reading this weekend?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Organizing By STYLE: Claiming Your STYLE

Yesterday, I was browsing at Barnes and Noble with my sister when I came across a small book on organizing. As you can probably guess if you've been reading this blog, that's the sort of book I pick up immediately.

And so I did. But I put it back. One of the reasons I did so is that I'm currently writing about organization, and I was concerned that if I added a book on that topic to my reading list right now, its contents might seep into my posts. 

But a quick flip through the book made it clear that it was unlikely that would happen, as well as providing the second reason that I put the book back. The book was intriguing, the writing interesting, but the author's philosophy (based on a quick skim) is quite different from mine.  Like many other writers on the topic of organization, Kondo believes that to get organized, you have to change your thinking.

It's not a bad hypothesis. But it's one that has failed to work for me. If you've been reading my Wednesday posts for the past two weeks, I hope you've already figured out that I believe exactly the opposite. I believe that everyone has the capacity to get organized and that the trick to success lies in finding a method and tools that match the way you think.

So, how do you think about organizing? Take the quiz below and find out.

Personal and Organizational Styles Quiz

Answer true or false to each question.
  1. You participate in so many activities that you have something to do nearly every night.
  2. The only way you remember to bring things with you when you leave the house is if you leave them out where you're likely to trip over them.
  3. Your closet is filled with clothes you no longer wear and/or things you no longer use, but can’t seem to get rid of. 
  4. Your house looks neat, yet you can never find what you need when you need it.
  5. Your papers are often wrinkled and/or torn -- even the important ones.
  6. Your desk, kitchen counters, dining room table and other horizontal surfaces contain piles of supplies from all of the activities you've done in the last few days.
  7. You rarely put papers in the rings of three-ring binders or the pockets of pocket folders.
  8. You can often find lost items by retracing your steps.
  9. You often feel bored when you have unscheduled time.
  10. You have more stuff than room to store it.
  11. You usually puts things away, but often forget where you put them.
  12. You forget things unless you write them down. 
  13. Your bookshelves contain:
a. books, papers, boxes and assorted paraphernalia.
b. overlapping sets of “collections.”
c. books in various stages of completion, stacked so that the titles are visible.
d. sports gear or supplies for hobbies, but no books. 
e. piles of items, with a telltale trail from the door to the bookcase.

All finished? Now let's compare your answers to the key below. Every "true" is a clue:
  • Item #1 is true for I love to be busy.
  • Item #2 is true for I need to see it.
  • Item #3 is true for I love stuff.
  • Item #4 is true for I know I put it somewhere.
  • Item #5 is true for cram and jam.
  • Item #6 is true for drop and run.
  • Item #7 is true for cram and jam.
  • Item #8 is true for drop and run.
  • Item #9 is true for I love to be busy.
  • Item #10 is true for I love stuff.
  • Item # 11 is true for I need to see it and I know I put it somewhere.
  • Item #12: I need to see it organizers are likely to do this.
  • Item #13a: Cram and jam or I know I put it somewhere; 13b: I love stuff; 13c: I need to see it; 13d: I love to be busy; 13e: Drop and run
Surprised? Or did you call this one before you even began?

Next week, we'll begin to talk about how to use these default styles to create systems that work for you. In the meantime, now that you've claimed your style, pay special attention to what's neat and what's not in your home or office.

And remember those bins in my bathroom closet? Which style do you think inspired them?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Falling Over
There is a yoga ball in my office. And only when I turned to it one afternoon last week and tried to balance some paperwork on top of it did I realize the irony of its presence.

The past week has been all about balance. Balancing my writing (as I near the end of the first draft of my work-in-progress) with planning for classes (which start this week). Balancing my work time (see the previous sentence) with my family time and, perhaps if I'm lucky, a little leisure time as well.

I thought I had it down. Then my mom fell and shattered her shoulder. My daughter got sick. Life intervened and the time I thought I'd have available to balance everything shrank...and then shrank some more. And the scales tipped, and my balance foundered.

By the end of the week, things were looking up. My daughter felt better. My mother came through her surgery and began the healing process. Less overwhelmed with concern for the big things, I began checking the small things -- which, a short time ago, had felt like big things -- off my list.

Balance is elusive -- here one minute and gone the next. Daily, we navigate missteps that cause us to falter -- a change in the weather, a change in plans, a change in schedule. Other times, the big things  -- an illness, a loss, a life-changing event -- cause us to lose our balance completely. Just as logic fails to chase away stress, mere wishes and intentions aren't enough to restore balance. Often, in fact, the harder we try, the more likely we are to topple over from the effort.

Which brings me back to the yoga ball. Why, you might ask, is there a yoga ball in my tiny, overstuffed office? Well, I thought it might make a good desk chair.

As it turns out, it makes an even better metaphor.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Saturday Special: Ten Organizing Tips That Will Change Your Life

As you've probably already guessed, I like resources that are non-judgmental; I don't believe that organizational struggles are a character flaw, nor do I believe that people with neat spaces are somehow superior to those whose spaces are cluttered.

When it comes to resources, I like those that offer multiple options and simple, inexpensive solutions that can have an immediate impact.

If you're in the mood to make some progress this weekend, click on the links in this article for more ideas beyond the title's 10 Organizing Tips That Will Change Your Life.

Which one is your favorite?