Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Get organized with a method that works for you

Living an organized, minimalist lifestyle that's not centered around stuff is a goal for many people. After all, being organized comes with a whole host of benefits, including less stress, improved health,
more time, more money and an overall enhanced sense of wellbeing. But sometimes, that goal remains just that: an elusive dream always on the horizon, just out of reach. Oftentimes, that's because no one-size-fits-all approach to organizing exists, and many people simply haven't found a method that works for their personality and lifestyle. If you're one of these people, check out a few of these practical methods, strategies, and challenges that just may help you finally overcome your organizational plateau:

Four Box
The technique and principle behind this method is pretty straightforward. Essentially, when you start de-cluttering a room, you have four boxes on hand at all times: trash, donate, keep, and relocate. Every item in the room must be placed in one of the boxes, and nothing gets passed over. As soon as your donate and trash boxes are full, take them to the garbage bin or to your car so you aren't tempted to pick anything out.

Box and Banish
This method is a variation on the Four Box method, except a bit more drastic; simply gather all the clutter in a room – including items on countertops, desk surfaces and drawers – until the space is clutter free. Next, you have the option of sorting through each item and organizing the clutter into piles, as the Four Box method calls for, or simply getting rid of it all. The downside to this method is that it doesn't treat the underlying problem, while other de-cluttering methods force you to re-think your habits and routines and mindfully process each item you've accumulated. However, the benefit is that it creates instant results and may energize you to take on more de-cluttering projects, jumpstarting your efforts.

KonMari
Wildly popular, the KonMari method was created by Japanese organizing consultant and author Marie Kondo. This organizing method forces you to address the root cause of your clutter through seven main steps or principles. These include:

• Organizing all at once, before things have a chance to get messy again
• Visualizing your end result in concrete terms, such as “I want to create a feeling of peace in my home.”
• Identifying why you want to live in a clutter-free way. So if you want to be able to invite friends over more often, ask yourself why that is. At the root of this questioning is the motivation you need to get organized.
• Finding out if items spark joy. This requires sorting through each item, like the Four Box method. If something doesn't spark joy when you touch it, you must throw it away or donate it.
• Organizing by category, not space. So if your shoes are located in multiple areas, for instance, you must gather them together and sort through them all at once.
• Organizing in a specific order. According to Kondo, that order is “Clothes, books, papers, and then miscellaneous items.
• Discarding everything you want to get rid of before putting any items back.

Oprah Winfrey Closet Hanger Experiment
If you need to pair down your closet, try this method popularized by Oprah. Hang all your clothes with hangars in reverse order. After you wear an item, hang it up in the correct direction. After six months to a year, you'll have a clear indication of which clothes you no longer need. You can also apply this method to other areas in your home.

If you don't enjoy methodical approaches but love challenging yourself for a cause or campaign, you may want to try out some of these ideas instead:

12-12-12 challenge
This super simple challenge can easily be turned into a fun, friendly household competition. All you need to do is find 12 things to donate, 12 things to throw away, and 12 things that need to be returned to their proper spot. This challenge is a quick way to de-clutter and simplify your home.

Project 333
Invented by minimalist Courtney Carver, Project 333 challenges people to wear only 33 items of clothing for 3 months. This challenge is a great way to learn how to live with less. Get your friends and family to participate so you can share your challenges and triumphs.

365 Less Things
Blogger Colleen Madsen came up with this easy strategy to get rid of clutter – All you have to do is give one item away every day. You'll simplify your life and enjoy the gift of giving on a daily basis. Check out Colleen's blog for more information.


Which of these approaches do you identify with the most? Do you have any other methods, strategies, or challenges that aren't on this list? We'd love to hear your thoughts – Reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter and let us know!  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Top excuses for not getting organized (and how to overcome them)

Excuses, excuses, excuses. We all have them, and sometimes we can't seem to hurdle past them. But when it comes to organizing and clearing clutter, every excuse can be overcome with determination and a strategy. Recognizing which excuses are preventing you from enjoying a simpler, clutter-free lifestyle is the first step to conquering them. So here are some of the most common excuses for not getting or staying organized – Which ones do you repeat on a regular basis?

I don't have time
If your schedule is packed all day every day with work, volunteer, and family activities, it's easy to let your surroundings get as chaotic as your life. But the truth is, by staying organized you'll actually spend far less time looking for things around the house, tracking down important pieces of mail, and catching up on missed appointments and bill payments. So stop thinking of organizing as a time waster and start thinking of it as an investment that gains interest – The more you put in, the more you get out.

I don't have space
If you have a small house, you might get frustrated by the lack of space and throw your hands up altogether. Maybe you're waiting until you make more money and can move into a bigger house or apartment. But why not start now? Organizing and de-cluttering will actually create more space you can enjoy on a daily basis. Consider implenting vertical storage options or other creative strategies to reclaim your home.

I don't know where to start
If you're feeling overwhelmed at the sheer amount of things you have or how messy everything has become, you might be tempted to procrastinate. But the best way to get over this feeling is to begin de-cluttering in increments. Breaking a large project into small tasks will make it feel more manageable. And as you slowly chip away, you'll start to see progress – Which will motivate you to keep going. Also consider writing a to-do list to help you stay on task.

I don't have the money
You don't need fancy storage products to get organized. Simply start by re-purposing what you already have – Baskets, jars, boxes, and chests can all function as alternative containers. Better yet, de-clutter as much as possible and donate it to a local charity. Or sell it online or through a garage sale and earn some cash. Either way, the less stuff you own, the less you'll have to keep track of – and the less time you'll spend dealing with missed payments and late fees because you couldn't find or keep up with your bills, as well as duplicate purchases for things you forgot you had. That means more time, and of course, more money.

It doesn't work for me
If you're distracted and have trouble sticking to organizational systems, you probably just haven't found the right one that works for you yet. Take your unique personality and lifestyle into account to develop habits and systems that are intuitive for you. Finding a system and developing habits doesn't mean organizing won't take any effort anymore, but it does mean it will make more sense to you than other methods and habits. You can discover what works for you through trial and error, or with the help of a professional organizer.

I'm a perfectionist
Maybe you don't want to begin organizing until you know you can complete something 100 percent, or until you have a full week off so you can devote all your energy to the task. But life tends to keep moving fast, and getting something 100 percent completed with 100 percent of your energy and zero interruptions often just isn't realistic. That's why it helps to view organization as a constant, ongoing process. Instead of spending an entire week on a project, find time to tackle small tasks each day. Make a list of your priorities, focus on what you can do, and stop stressing about all the things you can't.

I have kids who don't cooperate
If your kids don't respect your efforts to keep the house clean and clutter-free, set some clear expectations and boundaries. If they're old enough, give them a 10-15 minute task to complete every day, so they feel like they're working together with you toward the goal. These tasks will also help them develop good habits and life skills in the long run.

I don't want to let go of things
Maybe you have anxieties about wasting money by getting rid of something you'll need later, or you're saving something for a craft project. But if you haven't used the item in a year or longer, you're better off letting it go and freeing up space. Likewise, if you feel guilty about throwing away something you received as a gift, but it's been collecting dust bunnies, let it go. A gift is meant to be a blessing, not a burden.

Do you any other excuses that aren't on this list? How do you overcome them? Share your tips on Facebook and Twitter!



Monday, June 27, 2016

How technology can help you get organized

Life tends to get chaotic quickly. Juggling family schedules, doing chores, and working all vie for your limited time. Fortunately, technology can help. Even if you generally find computers and other modern day appliances to be more confusing (or frustrating) than beneficial, it doesn't have to be that way! There are many easy-to-use tech tools that will help manage, simplify, and organize your space and schedule. Here are just a few we'd recommend, organized by top clutter concerns:

Assorted paper piles

Do you have paper piles that you've been meaning to tackle for weeks (or longer)? Once you finally organize them, a scanner can help you digitize the papers you have left. Then, once they've been imported onto your computer, use Dropbox or Google Drive to safely store them. You can conveniently access and share the files anytime and anywhere you have an Internet connection. To file budget-related items, check out digital bookkeeping tools like Quicken and Mint.

Bills

If you're drowning in paper piles, it's easy to miss a bill. Enrolling in online automatic bill pay can simplify your schedule by saving you the hassle of physically paying it every month, helping you avoid unnecessary late fees, and shrinking your paper piles. You can make the transition easier by signing up for email or text alerts that let you know the bill is due, and can easily check your bank account online as well to make sure you have enough money in your account to cover it.

To-do lists and schedules

If you're on the go more often than not, technology can help you manage your time and eliminate your need for a physical to-do list. Google Calendar is one such tool that not only allows you to easily create and customize events throughout the day or week, but also gives you scheduling reminders. Cozi is another useful app designed specifically to manage and simplify family schedules.

Note-taking

If you have lots of notebooks and post-it notes scattered around your home or office, you may want to consider using Evernote to reduce clutter. Evernote is a cloud storage service that allows you to access information you've created – from Word documents to presentations to bookmarked websites – anywhere. If you want to jot down notes while you're in a meeting or just watching TV, you can simply and easily create a new folder and save it for later. As long as you have an Internet connection, you have your consolidated and organized notes at your fingertips.

Magazines, books, newspapers

If you're overwhelmed by piles of reading materials all over the house, consider switching to digital formats. Ipads, computers, and kindles allow you to access breaking news, a digital library of fiction and non-fiction books, and almost every magazine you can think of with a simple Google search. As an added bonus, you'll never have to slip on another magazine on your way to the bathroom again.

Movies

Whether you're a film buff, or just enjoy an occasional Friday night movie night, you can minimize cords, empty boxes, and loose discs by swapping your DVD collection with Netflix or Hulu. You'll also cut down on clutter, and save on storage space and money spent on movies you'd probably only watch once or twice. Additionally, you'll have more variety to choose from than just your own home collection!

Photos

Do you have scrapbooking paper, crafts, and photos that you've been saying you'll get around to for months or years? Minimize clutter by storing your photos digitally, then uploading them to a photo-sharing service like Shutterfly. Or, sign up for Animoto to easily create fun videos, slideshows, and other multi-media presentations. You'll save time and storage space, while still sharing your experiences in a creative way!


We hope this list will help you streamline and simplify your space and schedule, giving you more time and energy for what matters most in your life! Let us know what you think – or if you have any other helpful tech tools you'd recommend – on Facebook and Twitter!   

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How to stop procrastinating and get organized

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” ~ Lao Tzu

Procrastination begins where a sense of control ends. A task or challenge seems utterly
overwhelming, and we watch it grow bigger and more urgent like an impending tidal wave headed for the shoreline. Simultaneously, a cascade of negative emotions – shame, self-doubt, guilt, anxiety, frustration – paralyzes us, impeding our ability to take action.

However, if we step back, we can see objectively that the growing wave is fed largely by these negative emotions. We can dissipate the wave completely simply by taking one step forward, and then another, and another. The hardest part is beginning the process.

If you've been procrastinating on an organization project, this process is likely familiar to you. As you watch your clutter grow more and more out of control, you might be tempted to put it off even longer. However, there are a few simple strategies you can take to stop procrastinating now – And shrinking those piles around the house for good! Here they are:

Do the worst part first
If you hate organizing paperwork, but don't mind folding laundry, start by tackling the paper pile. The faster you can get dreaded tasks out of the way, the more motivated you'll be to keep going. Mentally, you'll know that you've made it over the toughest part, and the rest is downhill from there. Before you know it, your clutter piles will be banished!

Break up the process
If you get overwhelmed thinking about everything you need to organize, break up projects into a list of micro-tasks. Then, manage your time accordingly. If you only have an hour to de-clutter every day, simply start your way at the top of the list and work your way down over the next few weeks until you've finished. This process will help recalibrate your perspective by turning an abstract, overwhelming problem into a concrete, manageable one. Also, try to turn your organization sessions into habits, so in the future you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Stop worrying about perfection
If you've been letting clutter pile up for months or even years, your house won't be spotless in a day, regardless of how much effort you exert. Moreover, aiming for unattainable perfection will only make you feel more overwhelmed. In the same way, comparing your home to a magazine cover, or your organization habits to those of your friends and relatives, will only create more negative emotions like shame, self-doubt, guilt, anxiety, and frustration, thereby fueling your procrastination further. Let perfection go, and begin taking action at your own pace.

Give yourself rewards
Psychologically, reward is a more effective motivator than punishment. So work with this impulse, not against it; give yourself a small treat each time you finish a task on your to-do list. It could be something as small as a cup of coffee, a half-hour of reading a book you enjoy, or a nice meal out.

Get help
Sometimes having a professional aid you in de-cluttering your home can expedite the process of getting organized. They can help you stay focused on the task at hand, hold you accountable to your goals, and implement strategies to help you stay organized. If you need a little extra help, we have a compassionate, non-judgmental staff who can help you meet your goals. Contact us for a free consultation!


Do you have any other strategies that help you beat procrastination? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter! We'd love to hear from you!  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Six habits that will keep you organized when you're busy

These days, we're all busy juggling projects, deadlines, and work demands with family life and personal time. When the chaos of a hectic lifestyle looms, getting and staying organized seems like just another never-ending task to cross off an already long list. But what you might not know is that keeping your physical space tidy could actually make your life simpler in the long run by decreasing your stress and anxiety, and impacting your health, well-being, and relationships in a myriad of positive ways. And keeping that tidy environment doesn't have to be hard. Here are a few habits to cultivate that will make organization automatic and easy – so you can devote more time and energy to the things that matter most.

Create a to-do list
Trying to keep track of things in your head will likely leave you feeling distracted and disorganized, a mental perspective that has a tendency to spill over into your physical surroundings as well. As David W. Ballard, the assistant executive director for the American Psychological Association, said in an article for the Huffington Post, "We spend a lot of mental energy trying to keep track of all the things we need to remember." So don't waste time and energy trying; every day, write down a list of items you need to accomplish, and keep a notepad close by so you can jot things down throughout the day. This strategy will help increase your productivity by keeping your mind free to focus on one task at a time.

Don't let things pile up
Think twice before you throw another file on your desk at work, or relegate some old pens to the junk drawer at home. Small things have a tendency to pile up over time. If you spend two minutes or less organizing at the end of each task, or ten minutes at the end of the day, staying tidy will seem far more manageable.

Give everything a home
Attempting to organize without containers is like trying to live in a house without closets or cabinets. To avoid chaos, develop an organizing system that includes containers, drawers, baskets, and bins. Then hold yourself and your family accountable to put items back in their proper places each and every time you use them. This strategy will significantly decrease the amount of time you have to spend organizing later.

Be a ruthless purger
If anything is better than organizing, it's purging. After all, the less stuff you own, the less time you have to spend on cleaning and organizing it. Minimizing the things you own can also make you feel less anxious and stressed. So start on one area or room at a time, and get rid of everything you don't want or need. If it works for you, use Marie Kondo's popular KonMari organizing method of holding each item and asking yourself if you truly need it or if it brings you joy. If you don't or it doesn't, throw it out and enjoy the freedom of having more space and time.

Keep it paperless
Nothing has the power to make you feel overwhelmed like stacks of bills, paperwork, receipts, and junk mail. Reduce this stress by spending a few minutes each day sorting through your paper piles – Better yet, sign up for paperless billing on each of your accounts online, or download an app like Genuis Scan to digitize each piece of paper with the touch of a button. The fewer piles you have to contend with, the more in control you'll feel on a daily basis.

Break up tasks
If you've already let clutter get the best of you, don't get discouraged or overwhelmed. Simply tackle one task at a time, one day at a time. If you prioritize organizing one thing a day, whether it's the corner of a desk or an entire room, soon you'll be back on track!

Good habits make a big difference, and they can make keeping your home and office tidy much easier over time. In all likelihood, you'll also feel more productive, healthy, and empowered, and even have more energy and time. Let us know on Facebook and Twitter if you have any other organizing habits that make your life easier or simpler. We'd love to hear from you!  

Monday, March 28, 2016

A show you don't want to miss: Practical Solutions is on Hoarders this weekend!

In November, we announced that Practical Solutions' owner Cathy Bates and professional organizer Hoarders, a popular TV show that helps people who chronically struggle with disorganization.
Patti Eickhoff were featured on a taping of

We have some exciting news: The taping will air as episode 15 of season 8 on Sunday, April 3, at 8/7c on A&E! The episode can also be streamed online at http://www.aetv.com/shows/hoarders.

Cathy and Patti with the show's ServiceMaster crew
On the show, Bates and Eickhoff assist show host Matt Paxton in clearing clutter for a family who struggled with hoarding for years. The matriarch of the family, Vivian, was at risk of losing custody of her grandsons because of the home's disarray. Faced with high stakes, she confronts her hoarding disorder head on in front of the cameras.

“Vivian was an amazing woman and was motivated to make some very tough decisions quickly for the sake of her family,” Bates said. “Her grandson was also an amazing young man, considering all he has been through – Be sure to watch for the big surprise he gets at the end of the show.”

Although the show was filmed in just three days, Bates said in reality helping hoarders get organized often takes months or even years. Typically, clients are encouraged to work at a pace that's comfortable for them, and adopt small habit and lifestyle changes.

Ultimately, she said the biggest reward to both the Hoarders taping and the everyday organizing jobs she and her team tackle is the same – That is, witnessing the impact that letting go of unneeded possessions has on a client's life.

“Lives are changed when clients finally let go of the clutter, whether it takes three days or three years, and make room for important relationships and experiences that last a lifetime,” she said. “I encourage those who struggle with hoarding issues to get help and get their life back like Vivian did.”

Mark your calendars to watch Practical Solutions in action this Sunday, April 3, at 8/7c on A&E, or online at http://www.aetv.com/shows/hoarders. Also, let us know what you think on Facebook and Twitter!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Spring cleaning: Your clutter can make the world a better place

Spring is finally here! If you live in California like us, birds are probably already singing in the trees outside your window, heralding the hot weather ahead. Colorful blossoms are bursting forth, and fragrant citrus fruit hangs heavy on the trees. As the outward world takes a deep breath toward new growth, it's also a great time to focus on new growth inwardly. This process doesn't have to be intimidating, though; it can begin with a simple spring cleaning. Begin by noticing how much stuff you have around the house that could be eliminated, saving you time, space and energy on a daily basis. Wouldn't it be freeing to just let it go?

If cultivating a simpler life with less clutter and fewer distractions isn't motivation enough to purge unneeded items, know that donating them to charities could also benefit other peoples' lives in huge ways – By choosing to give your clutter away, you'll bring joy into someone else's life, fulfill their needs, and support the environment by not unnecessarily filling landfills. That's why we've compiled a list of places to donate your discards. Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive. If you know of a local charity that will take your donations, feel free to let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

Here's that list – Simply click on the link to find out more about how to make a donation:

Where to donate clothes, shoes and accessories

Dress for Success provides professional attire and development tools to low-income women. Donate women's professional clothes, shoes, and accessories.

CareerGear provides professional attire and mentoring services to men seeking employment. Donate men's business clothes, as well as briefcases, portfolios, watches and cufflinks, and coats.

Clothes4Soles and Soles4Souls provide clothes and shoes for people in need around the world. Donate all types and styles of new or gently used clothes and shoes.

Where to donate toys and children's items:

Project Night Night delivers packages to homeless children that include children's books, stuffed animals, and blankets.

Stuffed Animals For Emergencies donates children's items such as stuffed animals, books, coloring books, crayons, blankets, children's clothes, and baby-related items to benefit children during emergency situations such as fires, illness, accidents, neglect, abuse, homelessness and weather emergencies.

Where to donate electronics:

HopeLine from Verizon provides refurbished cell phones to victims of domestic abuse and violence so they can stay connected to support networks and achieve a fresh start at life. They accept all functional cell phones.

Lifecell Project recycles old cell phones in bulk at environmentally-friendly centers, and uses the funds to purchase water filtration systems for those in developing countries. Just fill out a donation form and they'll send you a postage-paid envelope in which you can mail your old phone.

World Computer Exchange gives used but functional technology to schools, libraries, community centers & universities in developing countries

Where to donate school and office supplies:

Develop Africa provides children in Africa with school and teaching supplies, as well as scholarships, small business training, computer training, school uniforms, and mosquito nets.

The GrayMatters Foundation supports and empowers people impacted by brain tumors through outreach, awareness and assistance programs. They make supportive cards to encourage brain tumor patients and survivors, as well as their loved ones.

Where to donate books:



The A.K. Smiley Public Library in Redlands sells donated books through the Friends Bookstore, located in the lower level of the building, in order to raise funds for the library's collections, services, and programs.  

Books For Africa's mission is to end the book famine in Africa by creating a culture of literacy and providing the tools of empowerment to the next generation of parents, teachers, and leaders in Africa.

Global Literacy Project donates books and literacy support materials, and conducts educational programs aimed at improving knowledge, enhancing global awareness, and developing skills in the U.S. and abroad.

Books Through Bars sends reading and educational materials to prisoners.

Where to donate musical instruments:

Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation keeps music alive in schools by providing durable, high-quality musical instruments to deserving, under-funded music programs nationwide.

Marching Mountains supplies public school band programs in distressed counties in Appalachia with donated new and used musical instruments

Where to donate eyeglasses:


Lions club members and community volunteers ship prescription glasses to people in need in developing countries.
  
Unite for Sight
Unite for Sight provides eye care for people in developing countries. They only accept new, unused glasses and sunglasses.

New Eyes for the Needy distributes used glasses around the world to those in need.

Where to donate (almost) anything else:
Goodwill provides opportunities to build skills for people with barriers to employment, including single mothers, veterans, and those with physical and mental disabilities.

Salvation Army provides a host of services and community programs to those in need, including children, single parents, veterans, and those who are homeless, displaced, or in prison.

Vietnam Veterans of America provides support for Vietnam veterans and their families.


We hope you've learned how much good you can do for others by de-cluttering! Again, please let us know on Facebook and/or Twitter if you have any other favorite charities we missed that you'd recommend. Until next month, happy organizing!