Too many interests makes for all work and no fun

A common theme among my clients with high levels of clutter, particularly those who are “information collectors” or “crafters”, is a very high number of interests.

The more interests you are actively pursuing, the more stuff you accumulate.

The more stuff you accumulate, the more time it takes you away from your interests.

Take stock. How many interests do you have? And how much do you even get to enjoy them? Ironically, the more supplies people have, the less they actually do.

IMG_6339I know you need your hobbies and pursuits for your mental health, but do you need all of them at the same time? Our lives are long enough to pick a few favourites at a time.

Consider dropping some altogether, or putting a lot of them on hold.

As Oprah says –

“You CAN have it all, just not all at once”.

 

Organising receipts

Receipts cause people stress because they’re hard to find a home for, and they often only need to be kept for a short time.

For small, store receipts, having some envelopes or ziplock bags on hand (near where you do your paperwork) to pop them into can be handy.

If you have 3 month’s worth, you can label them with the month, and when you start a new month, the oldest can be reviewed and either filed permanently (in the case of valuables, warranty items or tax deductions) or thrown away (in the case of clothes, groceries etc). You may wish to keep 6 month’s worth – whatever you’re more comfortable with.

What do Activity Based Workstations and Clear Space have in common?

One of the major trends in corporate workplace design is the move to an Activity Based Workplace environment (ABW).

It is a different type of work environment where workers are not assigned a permanent office, desk or workspace, nor are they assigned a particular type of space based on status or job type. Rather, workers predominantly use mobile devices and choose the appropriate workspace for the activity undertaken on a day-to-day basis or project they are working on at the time.  This is in stark contrast to the tradition of employees arriving at work and heading to a specific ‘owned’ workspace.

ABW strives towards a utopia where humans aren’t territorial or insecure and where the physical environment facilitates maturity and personal responsibility in all workplace situations.  ABW is the hot trend in workplace design because it can save millions of dollars in real estate costs and when done properly, improve productivity.  lt requires a largely paperless office which offers additional benefits, such as a reduced environmental footprint, reduced storage requirements and increased security.

Late in 2013, the Bendigo Bank will consolidate a number of sites in to their new Grenfell Street Head Office, which has been designed as an ABW environment.

Supporting employees with behavioural changes to embrace the ABW revolution is imperative to the successful implementation of the model – and the productivity and efficiency improvements that go with it.  To help with the transition, beginning in September, Clear Space will start delivering a number of workshops for the Bendigo Bank.  A customised program has been developed that will address specific challenges for their staff whilst complementing the other change management strategies the bank is assisting staff with.

Titled “Space, Time and Paper Management”, participants will learn simple yet effective, ready-to-use tips and techniques for instant results and application.  It will appeal to and deliver benefits for individuals working in various departments, and having differing needs and day-to-day objectives.

The elements and learning outcomes from the workshops include:

1)    Space Management

  • effective portability and mobility
  • locker storage and control / avoiding the need to store at home
  • choosing the most suitable ABW area
  • reducing belongings by learning how to let go

2)    Time Management

  • managing interruptions and distractions
  • single versus multi-tasking
  • batching tasks & using digital task lists
  • creating routines

3)    Paper Management

  • knowing what to keep, archive and cull
  • reducing paper use and dependence
  • finding what you need, when it’s needed
  • setting up a suitable system for actionable paperwork

We look forward to helping Bendigo Bank with this exciting transformation.

Weekend Weightlifter – cull some paperwork

This weekend we’re going to attack some old paperwork. You don’t need to spend all weekend on it – you can spend as little as 15 minutes and make a difference!

Find some old filing in the home and take a handful of it out of the files.  Assess each piece of paperwork one at a time and ask yourself if you need to keep it or not.

Reasons to keep papers include:

  • It was used as supporting documentation on one of your last five (seven in the US) tax returns (invoices, receipts, superannuation)
  • It has historical significance (your grandfather’s migration documents)
  • You need to keep it for legal reasons (your car registration papers or your Will)
  • You need to keep it for warranty reasons (the receipt for your vacuum cleaner)
  • It’s useful when something goes wrong (your dishwasher user manual)
  • It’s a hand-print of your daughter when she was a baby
  • It proves something (residency, that you paid for something, that you did a certain qualification, medical records etc)
  • You’re going to use it soon (a gift voucher)
  • It makes you very happy. VERY.

Reasons to ditch papers include:

  • It’s a document you can obtain online whenever you need it
  • It’s a user manual for an item you don’t have anymore
  • It’s a bill that was paid 2 years ago and you didn’t claim it as a tax deduction
  • It’s one of 3,000 drawing of stars your daughter drew (a handful of the same drawing from the same age is sufficient)
  • It’s one of 50 payslips from 1987 (again, keep one for nostalgia, sure – but you don’t need them all)
  • You took it out of a magazine several years ago because you thought you might make that stool/soft toy/cake/party decoration one day (you can get SO MUCH online these days)
  • It’s memorabilia that makes you sad/angry/guilty

You can spend as little or as long as you want, as long as you ditch as much as you can in that time!

 

6 Quick Tips for Back-to-School

Going back to school after the summer holidays brings mixed feelings. Personally, I’m sad to see the holiday feeling leave us – I love the holidays. However, many kids are ready to get back into routine, and quite often their parents are more than keen for that, too!

Here are some tips for kicking off the year in an organised manner.

  1. Reinstate (or introduce) a morning routine. We keep ours during the holidays, but have a more relaxed version. If we didn’t keep it, I’m sure the kids would never clean their teeth! The morning routine should hand responsibility of their own self-care over to your children, encouraging their independence and easing your mental and physical workload.
  2. Similarly, ensure you have an after-school routine in place, even if it’s as simple as putting their bag in its home and handing over empty lunch boxes and any notices from school.
  3. Make sure they are getting enough sleep. If your family is anything like mine, they’re often in the pool until 9pm at night during the holidays. This works just fine because we let them sleep in to compensate. Once school starts, however, our kids need at least 10 hours of sleep a night to function at their best, and because they have to get up early to go to school, a 10pm bedtime is a bit late to squeeze all those hours in! Ensure they get back into the routine of a healthy bed time as soon as possible (depending on your child, you may need a week or more of transition – ours cope okay with a couple of days).
  4. Set up a system for organising your paperwork so that the school notices don’t get lost or forgotten. There’s nothing like having your child turn up for school in uniform and everyone else is dressed up as a pirate. Your child will take some time to forgive you that little slip-up!
  5. Have a home for bags, sports uniforms, shoes, hats, sunscreen and library books, and help reinforce the habit of keeping them in their homes. You’ll need to issue lots of reminders before it becomes second-nature to them, but it does happen.
  6. Introduce Menu Planning into your own routine. It will help ensure you never run out of bread and have to resort to buying lunches. It will save a lot of money and reduce morning stress.

What are your own tips for making Back-to-school time organised and stress-free?

 

What excuses do YOU use?

There are many reasons why people keep too many things; I hear them every day. Some are valid (ie, they need, use or love the item) but other excuses need to be challenged if people want to move forward with a simpler, less cluttered life.

Here are some of my favourite counter-arguments and challenges in response to some common excuses:

1. I might use it one day

This is the most common. I always remind people that for every item you keep for this reason, you are adding to your ‘To Do’ list. After all, if you do actually use it, it’s something to do, isn’t  it? Do you really need MORE stuff to do?  And if you’re keeping it out of obligation (“I really should finish that project”) then it’s not even going to be an enjoyable activity! Why do that to yourself?

When exactly WILL you use it?  How long have you been ‘meaning to’ use it? How is it affecting  your life right now? If you’re pretty sure you will use it, give yourself a deadline. If it’s not used by then, it is a negative effect on your life and it needs to go.

I also ask clients to ask themselves “What’s the worst that could happen if I get rid of this item?”. In most cases, you’ll just need to borrow one off someone else, or buy it again. And that’s the worst case! You can live with that, can’t you? You’ve certainly been through worse. Most  likely, you’ll forget it existed and be grateful for the peace of mind.

2.  I plan to fit into it again

Okay, so you have a few items of clothing that you love that don’t quite fit – fair enough. However, you need limits on how many you keep.  After all, you will most likely want to go shopping again if you lose weight, won’t you?

And the tough question – how likely are you to actually lose weight?  How long have you been that size? It does get less likely as time goes on.  I always encourage my clients to focus efforts and space in their wardrobe on clothes that they can use, and that make them feel fabulous in the size they are, instead of resenting their size.  If skinny clothes could talk, all they would do is call you fat anyway. You wouldn’t keep a friend that called you fat!

3. I spent a lot of money on it

The money is gone – it’s not coming back. If you wasted the money, it’s already wasted; what you do with the item will make little difference to that. Accept the loss and move on. If you don’t use it, you’re wasting both money, space AND sanity. Why not consider selling it or donating it to someone who will get a lot of use out of it?

4. Someone gave it to me

Your affection for someone should not be directed towards items, it should be directed towards the person. Love the person; get rid of the monstrosity that stresses you.

5. It’s a waste if I get rid of it

It’s far more of a waste to keep it and not use it! Donate it to someone who will appreciate it and get use out of it.

6. We’ve always kept that type of paperwork

Just because you’ve always done it does not mean it’s appropriate anymore. Challenge your habits and rationalise your decisions with some logic. Do you need it? Can you reproduce it if you really do find you need it one day? If it’s available anywhere else, get rid of it and simplify your life. Less paperwork = more smiles!

What excuses do you think you need to remove from your decluttering experience?


Small desk syndrome?

Desks are fabulously useful. You can spend a lot of time sitting at them, pretending to work. And the more stuff you have spread around you, the busier you look, right? Well, what if you have a tiny desk?  How do you manage to look busy (or, more seriously, stay organised) when you have a teeny tiny amount of space on your desk?

Here are a few tips:

  1. Keep your active paperwork vertical. A stand of manilla folders takes up less space than a couple of piles of paper, and a magazine file of journals takes up less space than a pile of them on the desk corner.
  2. Keep your reference paperwork off your desk entirely. Try a filing cabinet, or binders on shelves. If you look at it infrequently, it should be off your desk
  3. Curb your stationery addiction. I know, it’s awfully pretty and fun, and it makes you feel organised, but you don’t need 60 notepads, 7 staplers and a bucket of paperclips. Nor do you need a billion pens that don’t work (throw them out – not back in the drawer!)
  4. Try to use your vertical wall space as much as you can – install shelving or add a hutch to your desk
  5. Have routines that include an end-of-day desk clearing – file your paperwork and put away your stationery. If you do it every day, it will never get out of control. And you won’t come in on Monday to the smell of curdled cappuccino, either.
  6. Try using a magazine file as your inbox instead of an in-tray (which is an unrestrained pile waiting to happen anyway!). And empty it daily (not yearly!).
  7. Ditch everything you don’t use regularly, and limit the amount of personal ‘knick knacks’ on the desk. They’re lovely, but it’s prime real estate that they’re hogging!

Tiny desk = no worries!

 

Getting organised for tax time

Are you scared of doing your tax? Overwhelmed by the enormity of the task? Wouldn’t you feel wonderful if this year you had it all wrapped up by the end of July?

The end of the financial year may not be looming large quite yet, but those that like to have their tax all sorted by the 1st of July are already getting organised for it.

If you’re completely overwhelmed by how you’re going to get this year’s tax organised, these simple steps can help.

  1. Make a 2010/2011 file – it can be a box, a manila folder or a binder. It doesn’t matter what you put it in really, so long as you have one.
  2. Write a list of paperwork that needs to be included so you can check them off when they go in the file. Include: receipts, charity donations, utility bills, group certificates, health insurance paperwork and dividend statements, among others. If you can get a list from your accountant that would be ideal.
  3. Go through your piles of paperwork (or filing cabinet, if you have it all organised) and collect up what you’re missing. Do it in small bursts (15 minutes or so a day) if your piles are largely unsorted.
  4. Add to the file for the next month or so, then at the end of June sort it all into groups (income, expenditure) and it’s all ready to do that return on time!

Don’t strive for a ‘perfect’ file. All it needs to be is all together. It’s as simple as that!

(note: this advice is for those in the Australian tax system. If you’re in another country use it as a guide, but be aware you’ll need to customise it to suit your nation’s terminology and tax laws).

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