Un-organising

I read a recent article about certain spaces you shouldn’t bother trying to keep organised in your home. They included the junk drawer, kids’ toyrooms, laundry cupboards, your utensil drawer and photos.

It had an impact in my industry, with lots of Professional Organisers saying “WHAT??? WHY?? NOO!!!!” to the ideas expressed in the article.

But I agreed with the article (most of it, anyway, I DO think the laundry should be fairly well organised because having an efficient clothes-washing system and routine has a flow-on effect to the rest of the house). I agree because I think we place too much pressure on ourselves to have our spaces organised to the “nth degree”. To have all our drawers neatly divided and our books colour-coordinated. To have all the kids’ Lego sorted by colour. To have a house that looks like the ones on Pinterest.

I think life’s too short for that.

To show you how it’s possible to let go on some of these high standards, I’m going to show you my stationery drawers. They are sorted into broad groups (writing, drawing {my art}, attaching, labeling, personal and technical) and labeled all neatly on the outside. Now, that’s pretty organised; I always know what’s in those drawers (or what should be in them if I’ve been good and put stuff away!).

When you open the drawers, however, it looks like a bit of a shemozzle; it’s all just chucked in. And I think that’s fine. It still takes me no time at all to put my hands on what I want, and isn’t that what organised really means? I can see there are a few things that shouldn’t live in a couple of those drawers, but they aren’t bothering me right now so I don’t really care. I can find what I want when I want it.

Organised chaos. That's my thang.

Organised chaos. That’s my thang.

The same goes for my son’s Lego, which is in one big long, shallow tub. Not sorted. Not at all. He doesn’t care one iota. And neither do I.

And my utensil drawer – everyone just throws the stuff in anyway, so why bother trying to keep it tidy? I keep it decluttered so that it only holds what’s necessary, but… tidy? Not worth the effort!

So chill out. You don’t have to have everything lined up with the labels all pointing outwards to have an organised home. You just need to be able to find things when you want them, and have only what you can fit easily in their space.

So, if you want to throw stuff willy-nilly in your top bathroom vanity drawer, go for it. If you want to just throw your undies in with your socks all messy and unfolded, feel free. If you want to have your hairbands in the same box as your clips and bobby-bins, go your hardest. If you can’t be bothered putting your books in order of genre or author, that’s completely okay. You are free to have a jumble if you so wish.

You’re welcome.

Letting go of useful stuff a necessity for some

When I’m coaching clients through the process of decluttering and letting go, I use these questions initially:

  • “Do you NEED it?”
  • “Do you USE it?”
  • “Do you LOVE it?”

These questions help people decide if they really are going to keep the item.

Sometimes, though, you can have such a high volume of “stuff” that an item can fit that category but still need to go. It might be used, it might be needed, it might even be loved, but it can still need to go in order for you to achieve your goals.

It’s a very hard concept for people to get their head around, but if you want your house to have less clutter, it’s just going to have to happen.

Saying “No” at work

Whenever you answer your phone, reply immediately to an email or answer a knock on your office door with a “sure, I can help you now”, you’re effectively saying to the person at the other end “Here is my time – you do with it as you wish”.

As soon as you say “Yes” to a request, you’re changing from proactive work to reactive work. It’s not on your terms. Only you know your priorities, and only you should be making decisions about your time.

Sometimes it’s appropriate to respond immediately, of course. But if you’re honest with yourself, a lot of the time you don’t have to.

How to say “No” so you’re working on your own priorities first:

  • Have times during your work day that are proactive, focussed times and your phone goes to voice mail or to a colleague (you can return the favour during their quiet time if you both work together)
  • Turn off your email notifications and choose a few blocks of time a day for email and only check and reply in those times
  • Have a carefully scripted response to people who interrupt you. Something like “I’d love to help you; I can see it’s important to you. Unfortunately my focus is on another task at the moment and I can’t give your issue the attention it deserves. How about I come and see you in an hour?”. And then honour that promise.

You don’t need to say yes all the time – you can still help people and be proactive in your own work at the same time.

 

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.

Will it stay or will it go?

When you’re trying to reduce your belongings, it can be hard making the decision to keep or discard an item.

Here’s what I ask my clients:

1. Do you NEED it? This one is relatively easy to answer once you get the hang of it. If it’s a bike bell and you don’t have a bike, you probably don’t NEED it. Notice I didn’t say “want”. Be careful you don’t confuse the two – western society has a pretty warped sense of need these days.

2. Do you USE it? If you don’t need it you still might use it. I don’t NEED a white coat and a brown one, but I do use both of them regularly throughout winter.

3. Do you LOVE it? Is it neither a necessity nor used? Is it a teacup that belonged to your grandma’s special set? Not needed, not used, but certainly treasured.


If it fails all these tests, then it has no place in your life. Period.

 

Be careful: it’s at this point that the “other” criteria pop up in your head because fear kicks in….

“I might need it one day”

“I really should finish that project; I’m a failure if I just discard it now”

“What if Cath notices the frame that she gave me isn’t on display anymore”, or

“But I spent good money on it and now I’m wasting that money by giving this item away”.

None of these are good enough reasons to keep something. Don’t let the fear take over.

If you don’t need, use or love it, it’s making life that little bit harder for you. That little bit more cramped, that little bit more complex. Let go of the fear and experience the freedom!

 

Embrace the idea of less stuff so you can have more of life.

 


Storing kids’ artwork 101

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Our kids' artwork can be very special to us (copyright Ethan Mezzino!)

This is such a common question I get that I can’t believe I haven’t written a blog post on it!

A Facebook fan asks “Do you have any ideas for storing kids artwork? I have already accumulated a pile of “treasures” and my daughter is only 3. I obviously can’t keep everything, but how do I decide? And I’ll have the double the problem when my youngest starts getting creative. Please help!”

There are several ways to deal with kids’ artwork, so I’ll give you a run-down of a method that works for me and I recommend to the majority of my clients. It might work for you, too.

 

 

 

 

Firstly, have a place to put all the artwork when it comes in. You can put it on the wall, or in an artist’s folio sleeve, or both (the wall for a month, then the folio or a combination). The folios are designed for one or two pieces of artwork but I’ve shoved 6 month’s worth in there fairly easily! Slide it behind a piece of furniture for safe-keeping. Ours goes behind our buffet.

artist folio

A2 Artists' folio - this one from Officeworks

Create a routine in which you regularly (when they are little do it every season, when they are older you can do it twice a year or so), go through the folio and photograph or scan every picture. Have the children pick out a few originals to keep, then recycle the rest (or use it as wrapping paper, or give to family – whatever you like).

The originals that my kids keep go in an A3 display book with plastic sleeves that they can look in any time they like, and is stored in their bedrooms (slid behind a bookcase).  The really special ones get framed.

If they are attached to their artwork this can take some coaxing, and you may get tears, but they do get used to it and if you can create a little slide show of all their artwork on the computer, you’ll win them over – they love it. You could even get a photobook printed of all their creations every couple of years.

It’s important for children to learn that there is a finite amount of space that we live in, and we can’t keep everything. The alternative of having the photographs means you save space and you still keep the memories.

 

 

Don’t ask your kids to clean their room …

Instead of asking your kids

“Can you please go and clean your room?”,

try rewording it and saying

Can you please go and spend 5 minutes putting things in their proper homes?”.

 

The request is much more specific and it’s measurable for them. The limit on time also helps them to not get overwhelmed by the enormity of the task.

It doesn’t matter if the room isn’t finished in 5 minutes, but after another 5 minutes a few hours later, and then the next day, and so on …

you get the picture :)

A place for everything…

 

 

 

 

Lessens learned

Yes, that’s a deliberate pun – I DO know how to spell lessons!

Last year I gave up buying clothes, essentially. Read all the rules if you haven’t already…. I’ll give you a minute.

…..

Okay, now you’re up to date, I’ll let you know how it went.

Sad faces first:

  1. I didn’t enjoy it much. I missed having new clothes.
  2. I didn’t save much money, I just spent it on other stuff!
  3. I cheated a little, and feel bad

Now happy faces:

  1. I do feel a sense of achievement because despite cheating a little, I didn’t give up
  2. I found other ways to get clothes (taking donations of gifts, going to clothes-swaps) that I will use in the future
  3. I did get better at using my whole wardrobe
  4. I did get better at waiting for things
  5. I did have an emptier, more user-friendly and organised wardrobe
  6. I did get better at shopping carefully (I spent a couple of gift vouchers and made sure they were purchases that worked hard for me!)

So, the cheating occurred in December. I had just had a colour & style consult with Natalie from Defined Image and I was looking forward to buying stuff that suited me. Mum dragged me out shopping after my birthday because she needed some things herself (bad idea). Long story short, I bought a few sale items. I was half good, though, and gave my purchases to Mum to take home with her – she delivered them after Christmas and I waited until 2013 to wear them. So I failed, but not COMPLETELY. Yes, yes, I know, I know ;)

This year, I have certainly spent money on clothes. I went nuts in the first week (shopping with Natalie) and have eased off since (mainly because I spent so much in January that I ran out!).

I have a list of items that I want to get, and will only shop for them and not browse and buy random things just because I want new things.

So I am now getting wear out of all items in my wardrobe (Natalie also did a wardrobe audit with me and we culled what didn’t work) and enjoying choosing outfits. THAT is a big win!

I won’t be doing it again, but I will use my lessons learned well :)

Rebecca & Natalie

Here I am (in 'old' clothes), out on the town with my stylist and friend Natalie

 

 

 

Weekend Weightlifter – the utensil drawer

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This week – the utensil drawer. This is where stuff that won’t fit in the cutlery drawer goes. And it can get rather messy!

  1. Lay out a towel on the kitchen floor.
  2. Pull all of the stuff out of the drawer and sort it into like groups (ie “cutting” “scooping” “storing” “making” “decorating”) onto the towel
  3. For each item, ask yourself:
    • How many of these do I have?
    • How often do I use it?
    • If I got rid of it, would I be able to find a way to still do what I need to do if the need arose (the answer is almost always YES – there is more than one way to skin a cat, as the old saying…rather grossly…puts it)
    • Will I use it again more than a couple of times a year?
    • Is it still in good working order?
    • Can I live without it (that’s me being facetious – unless you have a dialysis machine in there, of course can live without it).
    • Does my bestie/mother/sister/neighbour have one I can borrow if I do need it again one day?
    • Does it even belong in the kitchen? (there will be rubber bands, bits of broken toys, coasters, orphan bits of sets, the odd hair band, a few receipts, stamps, paper clips, bandaids or bobby pin and the like that should be re-home completely)
  4. Cull everything that doesn’t make the cut
  5. Put the rest back in the drawer in its groups.  You may need to use ziplock bags to group the small stuff together, and drawer dividers to keep it all from getting too jumbled again.

 

Weekend Weightlifter – the cutlery drawer

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My cutlery drawer after a little spruce-up

This week we’re tacking the cutlery drawer. It’s a short job, but with great satisfaction because you use it so frequently.  I did it today myself and it took me only 8 minutes! (mind you, mine was more dirty than cluttered so most of the time taken was cleaning the cutlery tray!).  It should still take you less than 15 minutes.

Here you go:

  1. Pull everything out and place it all in like groups on your counter-top or table (knives together, spoons together etc)
  2. Take out the cutlery tray, if you have one (if you don’t, get one as it prevents a lot of searching!) and give it a good clean.
  3. Wipe out the inside of your drawer
  4. Assess your piles on the counter. What do you use all the time? How many do you REALLY need? What do you never use? What can you live without? (ie, if you didn’t have one, you could still make do).
  5. Put the frequently-used items back in the drawer in their groups
  6. Find homes elsewhere for the stuff that doesn’t belong
  7. Donate or trash never-used, duplicates or broken items
  8. Smile every time you  open the drawer!