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Apr 24

Two Ways to Track + Execute Anything

by Michelle Santaferraro

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“When I am doing one thing, I’m really focused on that one thing. I have no to-do list. I put everything on a calendar, [which helps me] know that this call is going to take 15 minutes or that this is a 25-minute project.” *

When I read this quote by Andrew Ross Sorkin, co-anchor of CNBC’s Squawk Box, I was reminded of a common principle I teach to my clients. There are two very different schools of thought surrounding execution in the productivity realm: force dates onto a calendar for all you have to do OR make a to-do list and block time in your calendar.

If you decide to take the route of Andrew Ross Sorkin, you will need to estimate the projected time of your project and make commitments on your calendar by scheduling an appointment with yourself to get it done.  Then you can be assured what you must remember is in one place [the calendar].  It is even better if you can search your actionable items in the calendar tool you have chosen.  Yet for many of my clients, this method leaves them feeling boxed in which makes them want to rebel.  Or if a day goes awry for them, then they are forced to move things around and adjust their projections.

If you decide to adopt the to-do list habit, be aware that your list can grow and grow if you do not allot time slots for what I call ‘focus time’ to address these actionable items.  You may spend your day simply getting the easy things done, and the temptation can be to wait until co-workers go home or come in early to address what you have to get done.  However, with this system you can be flexible with your time and figure out when you are in meetings and then simply tuck in the ‘focus time’.  Yet, I find many folks are challenged with this ‘focus time’ as a true appointment with themselves.

You may find one of these options suits you best.  Be assured that there are multiple differences, even amidst the organizing and productivity gurus.  The solution they think is best is typically introduced by, “Well, of course…”.  Yet, isn’t it wonderful that we can experiment with ideas that work for other people and then find our own rhythm?
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* Article published in the December 2016/January 2017 issue of Fast Company.

Posted in Personal Productivity

Feb 27

Time to Take a Stand?

by Michelle Santaferraro

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In the last few years, there has been a buzz around the importance of changing your position throughout the day in order to avoid sitting for 8 hours. Remember those friendly graphics and stretching exercises you could mimic when waiting by the company copier?  Now many of us have all our accessories at arms-length and could easily stay seated for hours. Several of my clients have recently made the switch to standing desks and love the variety they offer. If you have been curious about the craze, then here are some things you should consider when looking at stand-up desks:

Desk Space Limitations – Many of my clients have had to figure out where all their desk accessories will go when they make the switch.  Everything from the pens in your coffee mug to your favorite stapler may need to be housed just to the right or the left of the desk.  Pedestals are a good option for storing these items near your standing desk.  They typically have two drawers along with one file drawer and come with casters so they can roll.

Features of the Electric Stand-Up Desk – Most reviews agree that the noise of the raising and lowering of the desk is a top consideration in this category. The customer service reviews of each product are critical and the variation of shaking or wobbling while raising and lowering the desk should be considered. Many electric desks even offer automatic reset settings to the ergonomic heights that are optimal.  (NOTE: The Wirecutter states that proper standing posture should allow for elbows to be at or near a 90-degree angle, your eyes should be about 20 to 28 inches from a mark about two inches below the top of the monitor, and a roughly 20-degree top monitor tilt.)  The stand-up desk that seemed to be a top pick again and again was the Jarvis Bamboo desk made by a company called Fully (formerly Ergo Depot).

Features of the Non-Electric/Hand Crank Stand-Up Desk – This is a cheaper option for many folks and allows an easy point of entry in trying out stand-up desks. Humanscale and Steelcase make several models.

Desk Mounted Standing Workstations – You might also consider buying a desk conversion kit.  Some conversion kits can attach to your current desk or you can buy the frame to attach your desk.  This provides an opportunity for you to see if you like the set up in a typical work week. Some reviewers are excited about the Kangaroo Pro Junior. You could look at other options from Ergotron, Humanscale, and Veridesk.

One Mandatory Accessory – Many agree that if you are going to buy a stand-up desk, make sure you also look at an anti-fatigue mat as an added sidekick.  Some suppliers are offering the mats along with your purchase, but I suggest investing in a quality mat.

Frequency of Sitting vs. Standing – So, how much standing and/or moving should be practiced in a typical workday? Alan Hedge of British Journal Sports Medicine says “You should be standing and/or moving around 2 hours of every 8-hour workday.”  Yet Rachel Litsey, an ergonomics specialist and owner of Bouldergonomics shared, “In terms of the optimal amount of time a worker should be spending time sitting vs. standing, there is no definite consensus.  Frequent changing between sitting and standing is optimal.  It is best when the changes happen frequently throughout the day rather than long periods all at once.”

There are now even more options for stand-up desks and so reading reviews are encouraged.  I liked the guide from reviews.com and enjoyed the quirky tests that they put their samples through.  Their team spent six weeks researching and testing 67 adjustable standing desks before creating this guide. If you are like me, you might even get innocently drawn in by their other reviews … did someone say vacuums?

Posted in Personal Productivity

Nov 22

Tackling the Mile-Long To-Do List

by Michelle Santaferraro

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Do you have a to-do list that is a mile long? Do you find it to be a laundry list of things you need to do both personally and professionally? How do you get a long to-do list under control? I have found that probing a bit more about what is on the list may help you wrangle it in.  You could try to recategorize the items you have listed under these categories:

Priorities
What are truly the priority items that are on your list?  They could be those items that are part of your job description or business objectives, they could be goals you have set that relate directly back to what you value.  The priorities need to be delineated from the rest of your actionable items.

Reminders
What are the things on your list that are simply reminders? These are the items like updating the shot records for your pet, changing the oil, or changing house filters. If these items are triggered by a season of the year (e.g. house filters), then a calendar could be used for these reminders. I like to put the maintenance schedule on the machine itself if I can.  I go so far as making labels for the inside of my windshield for a needed oil change or a sticker on the water filter.

Shoulds
What are the things on your list that you feel you should do?  Is there an item on your list because you want to repay someone?  They did something nice for you and you want to reciprocate. These are the things that would be ‘nice’ to do, but you may or may not get to them. These things might represent obligations. If you have postponed them for some time, it may mean that you need to give yourself permission to let them drop off the list.

Delegated Opportunities
What are the things on the list that could be delegated?  There may be some items that would be better to outsource because someone else has the tools and expertise to accomplish them quickly.  Are there items that could be delegated to a house cleaner, dog sitter or virtual assistant? Maybe your children or a family member could take some of this load off you.

Errands
Do you find some of the items are simply errands you need to run? If you group these errands based upon location, you can knock some of them off at the same time.  Some errands involve returning items to a store or a friend. Stage these items in the trunk of your car. Then, make a quick note in your phone or on a 3”x 5” card listing the places you need to go so you can be triggered to remember.

Other Solutions to Break Down Long Lists:

Tried and True
Create a daily to-do list from your Master List.   Stephanie Winston, a veteran in our organizing industry, encourages folks to use the master list as a “reservoir … in which you capture everything you have to do.”  Then, she encourages a Daily List that pulls from the Master List – just 10 things. The Daily List becomes your “working daily action guide,” says Stephanie.

Bottom Line
Separate the list the way Alan Brown of ADD Crusher talks about it. Use his lighthearted approach in categorizing “the thing I’m doing now” from the “important thing that I am NOT doing now” and the “BS stuff that I’m NOT doing now” to approach this long laundry list of actionable items.

The 1-2-3 Approach
This approach can break it down into manageable portions.  Julie Bestry, CPO, with Best Results Organizing, gives this numeric solution to oversized to-do lists.  She has her clients identify one big task, two medium-sized tasks, and three small tasks for each day (it could also be for the week). She identifies a big task as a task that will make major progress toward an important goal or it will take some significant time, effort and/or attention. You can find the 1-3-5 Approach online as well.  It works on multiple devices to make it easy to capture what you need to do no matter where you are.

You don’t have stare in overwhelm when it comes your long to-do list.  Whether it is categorizing what type of actionable items you are dealing with or utilizing the simpler sorting of doing a Master list and a Daily List.  Whichever one resonates with you, there is an answer for your mountainous list.

Posted in Personal Productivity

Oct 7

ONE Thing That Could Change Everything

by Michelle Santaferraro


I recently read the book The ONE Thing by Gary Keller, co-founder of Keller Williams Realty, and Jay Papasan.  In it, Keller shares the key principle to his success – focus on the ONE Thing.  He noticed he had huge success when he narrowed his concentration to one thing.

What is the ONE Thing? He describes it as a focusing question to keep you mindful of your most leveraged priority (Pg. 112). The focusing question he asks is: What is the one thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary? (Pg. 112). This question can be applied to different areas of life: work life, spiritual life, health, relationships, etc. This question must be asked in light of what your true purpose is – and the answer you give should tie back to that purpose.  He defines purpose as “what you want your life to be about more than any other [thing].” (Pg. 145)

I have begun to ask myself this question as I start my day.  It helps me hone in on what is truly the most important thing I must be doing. Sometimes that may be the very thing easiest to postpone.  Other times it is the phone call that must be made in which bad news must be delivered. It may even be the content development I’ve been putting off for weeks that needs to be created.

In order to actually focus on the ONE Thing you’ve determined and to be successful at it (in your work day or in your personal life), it takes practice in a few principles.  Here are a few of them that resonated with me:

Willpower has its peaks and flows.  Keller argues it is not that we lack willpower to get things done, instead we have limited willpower.  We should use willpower when we have the greatest amount of energy to exert it.  Do you have more energy to stay focused in the morning, early afternoon? Or later in the day?

Habits are formed in 66 days, not 21 days. According to research from the University College of London, it takes 66 days for a habit to become automatic or ingrained.  Keller quotes F.M. Alexander, “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” (Pg. 119)

Saying yes to working on your ONE Thing will mean saying no to multiple other things. The more things you do, the less successful you are at everything you try (Pg.193). Your talent and abilities are limited resources.  Your time if finite.  If you don’t make your life about what you say yes to, then it will almost certainly become what you intended to say no to (Pg. 195).

“At any moment in time there can be only ONE Thing”, says Keller. Success comes down to this: being appropriate in the moments of your life.  You become appropriate in your life by understanding what matters most.  That is when everything will make the most sense. When you don’t know what matters most, anything makes sense. Try asking the focusing question each morning to gain the clarity you need for your day: What is the one thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

Posted in Personal Productivity

Jul 15

Time Blocking 101

by Michelle Santaferraro

You know that task on your to-do list that you keep brushing aside? The one that lingers when everything else has been crossed off. The one that requires your full attention, no distractions, but that you always find a reason to put off until tomorrow. These are the tasks that often take you to the next level and also require some intention on your end. These are the tasks that require time blocking.

What is time blocking?

Time blocking is when you intentionally set aside time to put your head down so you can work on what moves you forward professionally and affects the bottom line of your business.

How do you guard it?

  • Put the music on (if this helps to focus attention)
  • Turn off email notifications
  • Choose to let incoming phone calls go to voicemail or silence your phone
  • Choose to say no to the easy interruptions that bombard you
  • Choose to postpone the requests and questions others think you should answer
  • Communicate with team members that you have your head down and give them a time frame of when you are available

Stay Accountable

So you have your space set but how do you make sure you stay on task? Call a friend before going into your “heads down” work and tell them you will call in an hour.  Tell them when you talk to them again after the hour is up, you will have accomplished “such and such.”

You could also ask an admin or a co-worker to be with you in the same physical space. They can work on their task while you work on yours.  Before you begin working, tell each other what you are trying to get done in the next hour. When your time is up, share your progress.

You may also want to consider calling your colleague, friend or coach on Sunday night to talk through the week ahead. Share with them about the upcoming week and go over what your goals and priorities are.

Use Props for Productivity

Sometimes you just need to let yourself and others around you know that it’s time to focus. Set up signage that goes across your office entry and alerts other co-workers that you are not available.  Some workers go so far as using Caution tape, but it could be a simple sign that says “Heads Down.”

Use a Time Timer that can show you how time is elapsing. That way you will rely on looking at the timer and not the computer nor a digital tool for tracking time, so you do not get pulled into other work on your computer.

Don’t let those high-level tasks float from one to-do list to the next. Take them by the reigns and schedule them into your busy day, specifically at a time when your brain is fresh. As you begin to make this part of your weekly schedule, it will likely become something you can’t live without.

Co-authored with Bev Moranetz, owner of Streamline Organizing Solutions, LLC

Posted in Personal Productivity

May 24

How Clearing the Clutter Can Lead to Relationship Clarification

by Michelle Santaferraro

In my work, I have seen that when clients get organized, it can often lead to greater empowerment in other areas of their life – taking control in one area breeds the desire to take control of other areas of life.  The previous president of the NAPO Association (The National Association of Professional Organizers), Mary Dykstra Novess, concisely stated what we as professional organizers do for people: We give them a decision-making process.  We help them in clarifying what they might bring into their lives, where they might put it when they let it in, and when they are ready to let it go – how to responsibly release items to the greater humanity.

Getting clear on possessions involves several criteria – keeping what is useful and beautiful.  Additionally, if something does not serve a purpose then it needs to be released.  Now there are, of course, mementos and memorabilia that simply do not fit these categories and some things to be kept for posterity.  Yet, I always encourage my clients to keep this in perspective.

As possessions are evaluated, ‘shoulds’ emerge, becoming a collection of reasons by which possessions are accumulated.  Sometimes, the item was ‘gifted’ from a relative or friend.  That friend or relative may have traveled and found something to capture the moment of their trip, but often times, it holds no special meaning to the receiver.  Other times, there are possessions that are gifted because other friends and relatives don’t have the guts to let it go. Every time the possession is passed around, the letting-go decision is postponed by the giver.

How does clarity of possessions relate to clarity in relationships? 

Many times the same ‘shoulds’ exist in the relationships we maintain.  Sometimes people try to manipulate us by using guilt, anger or fear. When we know what we want and how to ask for what we want, we are getting a clearer sense of our boundaries.  I like how Brene Brown describes folks who have good boundaries: “They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it.” She goes on to say that their boundaries keep them out of resentment.

There is process I begin to see in the questions my clients start to ask and the observations they make. They alert me that the ‘wheels are turning’ towards greater clarification.  One client recently stated she had never taken real thought to the contents on the bookshelf in her living room until we started working together. When I asked her about the items, she was slow to admit many of them had been chosen for her (i.e. were ‘gifted’ to her).  When she mentioned that one particular item was kept since her ex-husband gave it to her, she began to view the other items that were also given by him.  She said, “I don’t even like that!”

I start to see the wheels turning when they look at other items around them and start making observations about relationships that hold ‘shoulds’ – just like possessions can. I’ve seen this process reveal which relationships are obligations or may be energy sucking.

It may start by simply getting rid of items that don’t mean anything, but it often leads to greater clarity around what a certain relationship adds to life or takes from it.

Posted in Organization

Jan 28

Getting Organized & Staying Organized

by Michelle Santaferraro

A cluttered desk can breed a cluttered mind. But imagine an organized workspace where you can find what you need and feel free to do your work without distraction. Even better yet, consider what it would be like to stay organized no matter what comes your way. Organomics creates a system that works for you; based on your personality, preferences, and work style.

  1. Picture Your Organized World – What will your office look like and how will you function in it?
  • Decide what you want your space to look like when you’re done.
    Where do you want space and where do you want your work?
  • Describe what it will “feel” like when you walk into the organized room.
    What words or phrases will you use to describe how you feel in your organized space?
  1. Get Equipped – What will you need to perform the tasks you perform in your space?
  • Identify the function of the space.
    Make a list of what you will be doing in your space. What functions will you perform?
  • Identify the tools you need to perform the function.
    Make a list of the tools and accessories you’ll need to perform you functions. Locate them nearby to make work easy.
  1. Sort and Purge – What do you need to do your work and what can be discarded?
  • Sort your needed items into categories.
    Group the items categorically or topically that you have deemed as useful and beautiful. Stage these items in the room.
  • Purge any items that are unnecessary.
    Place the unnecessary items into boxes titled “Goes Elsewhere”, “Give Away”, “Overflow Office Supplies”, and “Trash”.
  1. Plan Placement and Containerize – Designate a “home” for the items you have decided to keep.
  • Place items that you use frequently in close proximity.
    Placement is all about easy access based on use. Think about what you use daily, weekly, and monthly.
  • Contain like items in a single place.
    Filers can tuck things neatly away in files or closed containers. Pilers can use upright files and open bins for storage.
  1. Stay Organized
  • Invest 5 to 10 minutes each day to put things back.
    If you get into the habit of putting things away every day, you won’t have to go back to a state of disarray.
  • Continually remind yourself to follow through.
    Resist the temptation to “put things here for now”. It is easier to keep a space maintained than it is to dig out again.

 

© 2012 by Organomics®, Michelle Santaferraro

Posted in Organization

Dec 8

Kondo Craze: An Organizer’s Review

by Michelle Santaferraro

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I was recently motivated to pick up Marie Kondo’s international bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, because of a current client of mine.  My client loved her instruction to purge by category, so she gathered her books from recesses of her home, and reviewed them ‘all at once’ as the book encouraged.

I personally enjoyed her book and reading about organizing from a different perspective. Here is my brief synopsis of the book along with my two cents.

What is tidying? – Marie Kondo states that tidying is made up of two things – “deciding whether or not to dispose of something and deciding where to put it.” (pg. 19) She strongly encourages her readers to “…tidy up in one shot, rather than little by little…” (pg. 16).

Why? She wants her clients to see and experience instant results.  Making it a ‘special event’ as she states, will empower a person to keep the space in order. All this evaluation of your possessions has an ultimate goal, “…to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order” (pg. 21). I particularly agree with this, the goal I have with my clients is always freedom toward new pursuits as a result of organizing.

How is tidying done? She goes on to describe that tidying done by location is a fatal mistake, instead you need to tidy by ‘category’ and not by ‘place’ (pg. 25). She suggests you start with clothes, then books, papers, miscellaneous items, and lastly you address mementos (pg. 46).  She encourages you to gather ALL your clothes, books, etc.  This may require you to search through all of your closets so that you can evaluate the entire category in one swoop.  Kondo wants you to take each item in your hand and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” (pg. 39)

Once you do this, you are to only keep the things that speak to your heart.  I found this particularly interesting as I suspect, but cannot confirm, that Marie Kondo must be a very tactile person. She places a lot of emphasis on touching your items and having the client touch them, rather than just having the organizer show each item.  For folks that are highly ‘hands on’ this can be beneficial.

We are in-relationship with our possessions.  Marie began treating her belongings as if they were alive in High School (pg. 169). It bred respect in her for the things she owned.  She shares that the reason she does this: “…caring for your possessions is the best way to motivate them to support you…” (pg. 171)  I found this to be a beautiful way of describing what I call ‘stewarding’ your possessions.  She even has particular ways you should fold your clothes. For her, folding is a “form of dialogue with our wardrobe” (pg. 74) and her style encourages clothes being stored in a vertical fashion, not stacked.

Controversial Advice:

Storage Irritation. Marie Kondo and The Container Store may not completely agree when it comes to storage containers.  She says that “putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved” (pg. 23). Just “shoving stuff out of sight” (pg. 23) did not solve the clutter problem for many of her clients.  They needed to start with discarding.  Once the client has only items that “spark joy,” she encourages very simple containers; she suggests common household items like cardboard shoeboxes or Apple Product boxes.

Paper Simplicity.  She has a basic principle when it comes to paper – she encourages her clients to throw it all away (pg. 96). But, if you must keep paper, she defines the criteria as ‘currently in use’, ‘needed for a limited period of time’, or ‘must be kept indefinitely’. All your papers are to be stored in one spot and one spot only (pg. 97).

‘Frequency of use’ is irrelevant. When this term ‘frequency of use’ is typically used, it refers to putting things away based on where you frequently use the item.  She states as such, “A common mistake many people make is to decide where to store things on the basis of where it’s easiest to take them out.” (pg. 141,142) She is quite clear that she believes this is a ‘fatal trap’.  Why would she believe this? “Clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong. Therefore, storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort to get them out,” she states (pg. 142). Yet, she does admit a few paragraphs later that in an average Japanese dwelling, it takes ten to twenty seconds to walk from one end of the dwelling to the other side (pg. 143). I know that in America, we are typically dealing with a structure that has 3 bedrooms and 2 baths and this concept would be challenging in larger homes.

She closes her book reiterating the reason for tidying; you tidy up so that you can go on to live the life you want.  She writes, “…Pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life.” (pg. 204) Kondo found the ‘magic’ was in the effect that tidying had on her clients. It bred faster decision making as well as confidence (pg. 178 and 179). This book is refreshing and can give a different way to look at what you let into your life and what you choose to let go.

 

Posted in Organization

Nov 17

Put Yourself In A Place of Productivity

by Michelle Santaferraro

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I had a girlfriend years ago who would dress in her workout clothes first thing in the morning as a way to show intention around working out.  By putting on her workout outfit, she was ‘ready to engage’ and she knew that she would work out after dropping her kids off at school that morning.  These days, yoga pants and yoga tops are a fashion trend and may not indicate a person is intending to head to the gym or that they have just visited a gym, but in her case; it was the trigger to create the consistent habit of working out.

Putting yourself intentionally into a place of productivity can have powerful outcomes in your work and life.  We can orient ourselves to being more productive by either getting in a productive stance or getting ourselves in a place or location of productivity. In the coming months, we are going to take a deeper look at how to put yourself in a position of productivity, and thus a position of power.

A productive stance.

How you hold yourself is everything. When you walk into a meeting –whether you realize it or not — your posture could change the entire outcome of an important negotiation. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy has studied nonverbal expressions of power and dominance and she has done extensive research on the power of posture, which she expounds upon in her TED talk.

Is there an important sales call to make or a difficult phone call to initiate? You might want to think about standing while you do so. Many times when we need ‘power’ or ‘authority’ in conversations, our words are lost in a more sedentary and slouchy position. Standing gives us greater confidence and articulation.  When making a sales pitch over the phone, I have historically dawned my business suit before picking up the phone.  What is crazy is that my posture changes after I have transitioned to a suit – my shoulders are back and I am standing up straighter.

Stand and deliver.

The phenomenon of standing desks has swept the workplace claiming a myriad of health benefits and increased productivity. A handful of the best writers — Kierkegaard, Hemingway, Dickens, and more — did their most prolific, creative work at a standing desk.

In fact, Maria Popova–the creator of Brain Pickings — an incredibly influential and tediously curated blog about creativity that takes about 450 hours per month to run — boasts that her best work happens while standing on a wobble board. “It might sound crazy, but it actually helps you balance your posture much more evenly than just standing on your feet, in which case you inevitably shift your weight to one leg or the other, subtly twisting your spine. With the wobble board, so long as you have a single touchpoint—like a finger on the keyboard—it becomes incredibly easy to balance, and you’re forced by gravity into perfect alignment,” said Popova in an interview with Life Hacker.

Power in standing tall.

If you practice yoga often, you probably know that Tadasana, or Mountain Pose, while seemingly simple, is an extremely active and engaging pose.

Get up from your desk and try it for a second. Stand tall, feel your feet on the ground, open your chest with arms at your sides, slightly tuck your tailbone, engage your thighs, roll your shoulders back and down to lower your shoulder blades, and bring your chin back so your ears are above your shoulders. Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.

What happened when you did this? Believe it or not, this is one of the most powerful poses in the yoga practice because it is the foundation of all standing, balancing poses as well as inversions like handstand.

Productivity isn’t always a noun, sometimes it needs to an intentionally manifested in our posture. As Cuddy says, “Change your posture, and you could change your life.”

Posted in Personal Productivity

Aug 28

Confessions From A Professional Organizer

by Michelle Santaferraro

The tables have turned, now it is my time to move.  I am downsizing.  Yes, the organizer is downsizing. What does that really look like honestly?

Moving is not for the faint of heart.

We had weeks to get ready for this move, and we had done some things ahead of time–like clean out crawl spaces and purge some closets–but not the kind of purge that should have been done for such a mammoth event as this. In weeks previous, I had been happily working with clients on their moves. It felt so easy, mainly because I had no attachment to their stuff.

When moving day was less than 2 weeks away, the obvious became inevitable…it must be faced. That fateful moment came on a Saturday morning when all the conditions just could not be put off any longer, but the reality made me want to flee. So, on the morning when I needed to be productive and focused, I delayed the start by going for a run.

On the way out the door, my husband who was already starting to pack the garage, was busy throwing things into a large black trash can.  I walked by a trash can that was filling up quickly and said without even a hesitation, “You’re not throwing my stuff away, right?”

He assured me that he was simply reviewing garden and household repair items, but I drove away with a tight stomach, wondering what he was really putting in that trash bag.

Not Ready for the Clean Sweep!

Now, I know from professional experience what a “Clean Sweep” feels like.  Maybe you have heard of the cable show that forces people to make decisions about everything they own, and justify the reason for keeping each belonging before bringing it back into the house. I, however, had not had time to emotionally disconnect from some of the items that I own. Many of my own clients have felt the same, that they needed time to ‘think’ about releasing items. Sometimes it’s not so much what the item is, but the association that it has with a memory or an event. Regardless, this act of purging is draining.

Upon my return from the run, the inevitable stared me right in the face. It was time to ‘deal’.  I grabbed a chocolate bar and headed out to the garage.  Chocolate for breakfast is a completely acceptable staple in this transition, so don’t judge me.

In this move, I can hear Barbara Hemphill’s voice in my head, “What will you know tomorrow that you don’t know today?”

Barbara is a fellow organizing colleague who encourages her clients that if tomorrow will not reveal new information in order to help you make the decision on an item you are unsure about keeping, then you need to face the facts that you are postponing the decision. I needed to decide right away what to keep or toss, yet I found myself putting some things in a pile that I had titled – ‘maybe’. The age old question was being rehearsed in my head: What if someone else could use this? As an organizer, I get tripped up by this one especially because I know about so many non-profits and associations that can always use things.  But, this time, time was not on my side, and I had no energy to do anything else.

Through this process, I found out that I am completely distractible, asBarbara Stoker calls it, zig zag organizing. Here are a few tips I am trying out to stay sane and on-track:

1. Gather, Categorize & Pack Together – Gather similar items you need to pack in one space. Place them on a table where you are comfortable. If you begin to contort your body early in the day, you get drained much faster. Pack them together, so they stay together in the move.

2. Turn up the Jams – Put on music to help you stay focused.

3.  Don’t be Afraid to Ask – Get the help you need and learn to ask for it.  This is the most difficult for me. I think I can do everything myself, but I simply cannot. I had a fellow organizer come to my aid who helped me stay focused and asked me the hard questions.

4. Manage Expectations & Delegate – Huddle with family members who are directly involved with the move in the morning so that you can talk through expectations for the day.  Identify what is the focus of your day for packing and what is their focus.  Who is calling vendors and who is simply making deliveries?

Moving is daunting. You need to pull in reinforcements and decide what you are going to do and what you will delegate.  Understand that some of the exhaustion comes in part from what you are leaving and the grief that goes along with that.  It’s healthy to identify what you are ‘losing’ in leaving one residence behind.  Both excitement and anxiety lie in what you are moving on to, the new and the unknown. Embracing a new location brings new routines, and as shared in The Power of Habit by Duhigg, to have a large part of your day bring new experiences is very draining.

Posted in Life Balance