Life Simplified: Expert Advice on Getting Organized

By Amy Trainum of Style Blueprint

Organization isn’t one of my strong suits … just ask my parents or any of my former roommates. I could care less if my personal belongings are scattered around or in a pile on the floor. Hunting for misplaced items has become routine — I’ve even had to resort to buying a few Tile Mates, which are tiny squares that attach to items like keys and beep to help you find them when they’re hidden. (If you haven’t heard of them, check them out! They are extremely useful and reasonably priced.)
Recently I decided to make a conscious effort to work on my organization and get things in order, except I honestly didn’t know where to start. So I took a guess — and purchased Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. You’ve probably heard of it, as it’s had a lot of hype, which is probably why I fell for it. While I wouldn’t call buying it a big mistake, it was definitely a little overzealous to think I’d be able to emulate Marie’s organizational extremes. As I read the book I was constantly overrun with questions like “I need to talk to my shoes? And fold my socks because they need to rest?” If you’ve read the book, you know what I am talking about. If not, you won’t understand until you’ve read the book. I still can’t explain the theory for the life of me. Instead of feeling encouraged and up for the task of organizing — or as Marie says, “tidying up,” I felt overwhelmed and hesitant. Yet, I refused to give up. Instead, I went to professional organizer (they do exist, thankfully!) in Charlotte, Laurie Martin of Simplicity Organizers, to get her help and am so glad that I did. Laurie broke down the really important aspects of getting organized from where to start, what supplies to purchase, what to keep or get rid of and, most importantly, how to maintain everything once you get it in order.
I’ve found Laurie’s tips and tricks extremely helpful, and I know you will too!

Here’s to getting organized!

Where’s the best place to start when tackling an organization project?

Wherever is causing you the most trouble. If your closet is a mess and driving you crazy, start there. If your children’s things went from barely under control to unmanageable over the holidays, start there. If you’re worried that your tax records for 2016 are scattered to the winds, start in your office. It’s like asking the doctor what’s the best exercise. The right answer is “whichever one you’ll do.” The same is true for organizing.

How do you help clients decide what needs to be tossed or just needs a designated place?

By reminding them of the definition of clutter. Clutter is anything that is unused or unloved, anything that exceeds your storage capacity, and anything that if tossed, can be easily and inexpensively replaced should the need arise. Let go of clutter and find good homes for the keepers.

 

When in doubt remember clutter is anything that is unused or unloved. #teamdeclutter

What are some small daily steps someone can take towards getting organized?

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Digging out of too much stuff won’t happen in a day either. Like any big project, small, sequential steps get the job done. Can you consider a “spending detox” while you dig out of the excess you already own? Stemming the flow of new things into your home will at least keep you at even. Can you commit to filling one bag each day with either recycle, donations or trash? Another way to consider small steps is by vowing to spend 30 minutes each day on de-cluttering. If you live in a family, get all family members on board. By actively participating, they are more invested in the project, and as the old saying goes, “Many hands make light the work.”

What’s the biggest mistake you see people making while trying to get organized? How can it be avoided?

The No. 1 mistake is leaping before looking. It’s important to really think about WHY you’ve gotten into this situation before you strategize HOW to get out. The solution is to think before doing. The doing is very important, but it will be greatly enhanced by doing some soul-searching first.
Filing important papers is something we absolutely dread. What’s the best way to keep everything in order?

A place for everything and everything in its place is a good mantra for papers, especially. If you have a system (whatever system works for you — and letting them live in unruly piles is not a system), it is very easy to put important papers where they are easily accessed. Most people like file folders with clear labels. Put newest papers either in the front or back — consistently. Purge old papers that are no longer active or relevant. Start your new year’s tax file on January 1 so that no tax record is ever “homeless.”

Laurie says it’s important to avoid unruly piles like this.

Once a house or room is organized, what steps are imperative to keeping it that way?

Set a timer, put your cell phone away, play some music, and spend 20 minutes (10 minutes for children) at the end of each day tidying your home. A designated time each evening will start you out on a fresh start for the next day. Daily tidying will prevent hours of organization overhaul. Follow the One In-One Out Rule. If a new toy comes in, an old one needs to go. Ditto with clothes and electronic gadgets. Remember, if an item exceeds the space available to store it, it’s clutter.

Best products someone should have in their home to prep and stay organized?

Label maker, file folders, clear lidded containers, drawer dividers and matching slim-line closet hangers will all make your life easier and neater. But don’t go overboard. And don’t buy supplies until you’ve done the first step in getting organized. Buying organization supplies might be an endorphin rush, but without serious thinking first, these purchases are likely to become more clutter.

Before buying a bunch of organization items, have a plan in place, and get rid of what you don’t need.

Favorite places to shop for organizational products to use in clients’ homes?

The Container Store, Target, Lowe’s and an office supply store. If you can’t find what you need there — consult Google!

 


The Why and How of Order

Clutter comes in many forms- none pretty. We have cluttered homes, calendars, schedules and minds. How to deal with all the clutter and chaos is where many people start. If you’re a shopper, buying matching containers and bins to hold all your things sounds like fun. Hiring a professional organizer seems like the perfect solution for taming too much stuff. With the right supplies and the right talent, the clutter problem will be solved!

Hold on a minute. Buying more things to solve the problem of too many things is an inauspicious start.

A more reasoned starting point is why. Why do I have so much stuff? Am I a recreational shopper? Am I a doormat for family “heirlooms”? Am I keeping up with the Joneses? Am I buying ‘just in case’? There are plenty of whys. And the answers may vary, but one thing is certain. If you don’t explore why, the how will suffer.

At the Cornwell Center’s Learning Connection, Robin’s Rules and Simplicity Organizers connect and you will learn why and how to make 2017 your best and simplest year ever.

The Why and How of Order

Wednesday, Feb. 15
10:30am-12:00pm
The Cornwell Center
FREE- no registration required

Robin’s Rules of Order will help you with why. The principles and practices explained in the book will guide your thinking. Thinking that should precede any doing. The Rules pave the way for Simplicity Organizers to do what they do spectacularly well. The how. These professionals specialize in clearing out the unnecessary to focus on what matters most-creating space, balance and harmony in homes and lives. Simplicity does much more than just purging and organizing stuff. They’re really your partner in ‘life simplified’. You’ve answered the why by considering Robin’s Rules.

The next step is for Simplicity to show you how. That inauspicious start can be the perfect ending!

Why? Robin’s Rules of Order

How? Simplicity Organizers  

 

 


Procrastination

 

When we willingly defer something even though we expect the delay to make us worse off, we’re procrastinating. (per Piers Steel) And most of us are guilty as charged. It’s so easy to find a distraction that doesn’t demand much commitment that avoiding a demanding task or project is commonplace. But dragging our feet doesn’t make the job go away. It only makes us feel guilty, inadequate and ultimately overwhelmed.

Procrastination has many faces. The thrill-seeker loves the euphoric rush of waiting until the last minute. The avoider often has unrealistic expectations or a serious case of perfectionism. The decision avoider feels that by dilly-dallying, he’s absolved of any responsibility for the outcome.

Procrastination might be a basic impulse, but it’s also bad habit. It’s costly and anxiety producing. Failing to file taxes on time results in fines. Late papers and projects can mean failing grades. Dithering over a decision often closes the door on options.

Here’s a procrastination conundrum: Avoiding the onerous task doesn’t seem to make people happy. This is what William James was talking about. Not doing something we know needs to be done is exhausting and defeating. In our heart of hearts, we know that “One of these days is none of these days.” Henri Tubach

So how can we overcome the tendency to dawdle? Try better planning. Set deadlines or have others set them for you and impose penalties for failure to comply. Expect interruptions- they’re part of life so give yourself enough time to complete the project even if the roof springs a leak or the dog goes missing.

Divide projects into smaller parts, each with better definition so the tasks are concrete and you don’t have to think about how to start. Restrict your options.   If you need to buy a new washing machine, determine your budget. Ask two friends for recommendations. Read several consumer reviews. Pick one that looks good enough- no expectation of perfection. Buy the darn thing!

Will power has been compared to a muscle that can be strengthened through exercise. Making now the time to act, paves the way for that pattern to more easily be repeated. You can become one of those people who accomplish things in a timely fashion. The best way to get something done is to begin.

 Getting Things Done by David Allen is full of time- management tips.

“The Thief of Time” essays edited by Chrisoula Andreuo and Mark White

By Robin McCoy

 

 

 

 

 


Use Your Gifts for Good

Earlier this year Simplicity and Carolina Organizers volunteered their skills for a major transformation of the Fashion & Compassion’s* jewelry room. Even Laurie Martin, the team leader at Simplicity, was speechless when she first stepped into the room and saw the huge quantities of beads to be organized!

Our jewelry room is the where the heart of our ministry in Charlotte happens… Women overcoming human trafficking, addiction, incarceration, domestic abuse, as well as refugees and immigrants find purpose, peace and community in this room as they create the beautiful jewelry designs we sell to fund our work. These women’s lives are often full of chaos – when they come to Fashion & Compassion and we want them to find hope and healing rather than disorder and disarray.

Fashion Compassion sorting

Creative-types aren’t known for their organizational skills and this is true for our wonderful jewelry-project staff! They have amazing design skills and huge hearts, but keeping thousands of beads in order is not their specialty. We’re so grateful that Simplicity and Carolina Organizers took our project on… Simplicity developed a plan and we secured the supplies needed, then a dozen of Charlotte’s finest professional organizers went to work sorting and arranging beads for 2-3 hours one weekday night. Our jewelry room was transformed! The atmosphere of the room now matches the peaceful, happy spirit of the rest of the beautiful 116-year old Victorian house in Dilworth we call home.

Fashion Compassion beads

Everyone has unique gifts and skills this world is desperate for. I’m grateful that Simplicity and Carolina Organizers blessed us with the gift of their skills and time – we were certainly in desperate need! What do you have to offer to a world in need? Creativity, bringing order out of chaos, or one of millions of other gifts and skills? Consider what you have to offer and find a place where you can use your gifts for good.

Fashion Compassion

*Fashion & Compassion is a 501c3 non-profit organization providing part-time, transitional employment to women (and some men) in vulnerable communities around the world – including Charlotte! Fashion & Compassion’s products are available for sale at their website and their local boutique and workshop located at 1717 Cleveland Avenue. Please consider shopping with a purpose at Fashion & Compassion as you purchase gifts for loved ones this holiday season.

Fashion Compassion leader

By Michele Dudley, Executive Director, Fashion & Compassion

 

 


What Type Are You?

The idea of personality type has always been intriguing to me. Over the years, I’ve taken several personality tests – Myers-Brigg, Enneagram, Love Languages, etc.  With each test, you can learn a bit more about yourself. Are you a judger? Agreeable? Introverted? Extroverted? Do you like to receive gifts or spend quality time?  The list goes on and on.

carson tate working simply

Recently, I had the opportunity to take a different type of personality test. I was able to learn my “Productivity Style”.  For two days (approximately 20 hours), I attended a two-day implementation boot camp called “Working Simply: Work Smarter, Not Harder”.

Led by expert and author, Carson Tate, the purpose was twofold – to learn more about my own style and how to increase my personal productivity, but also to learn how to detect and identify other people’s styles so that I can help clients not only in their homes but also their lives.

The first morning began with a seemingly innocuous task – use a large blank sheet to describe your productivity in various ways.  Being the prioritizer that I am, my sheet contained bullet points, numbers, straight lines, and I finished first. Apparently, finishing first is a common trait for prioritizers. As I looked around the room waiting for others to finish, I realized immediately the purpose of the task.  With a very short and concise activity, it can become quickly obvious to detect someone’s “type.”

carson tate workshop

From prioritizers (me), to planners (my colleagues), to visualizers and arrangers, we covered the gamut.  I learned that my “prioritizing” style tends to be straightforward and fact reliant (not a big surprise).  We moved on to sequential and organized “planners” and intuitive and big picture “visualizers”. Lastly, we became acquainted with “arrangers”, those who thrive on relationships and like to focus more on people than the process.

The rest of the two day boot camp was an intense study of personal productivity. How do you manage your schedule – on paper or digitally? How do you manage your time – focused or distracted? We learned how to improve communication when considering your audience – how to determine your co-worker’s and client’s productivity style? We even spent time with a tech guru to make our inboxes work for us rather than us working for our inboxes? Do you ever feel like a slave to your inbox? I’m sure I’m not the only one.

All in all, we were able to come away with a toolbox full of ways to increase our own productivity and communication. We also walked away with many resources to help our clients in their lives; from home office organization to simply managing the endless to-do’s of daily life.

On the last day, during the last hour, each attendee was asked to “free-write” for ten minutes on a blank sheet of unlined paper.  My “visualizer” neighbor made a bullet point list…something she had never done before. My “prioritizer” bullet point list from the first day turned into a stream of consciousness memoir of the past two days.  I walked in as a “prioritizer” and walked away more in touch with my inner “visualizer,” a true measure of bootcamp success.

Carson Tate Group pic

Simplicity’s Shyla Hasner, Laurie Martin and Jenna Skaff with Carson Tate.

By Jenna Skaff


Simplicity’s Student Planner

student-agenda-cover

“The assignment is due when? Today??”

We’ve all been there at some point. Somehow, that assignment due date just slipped right up on us without our noticing. That is why organizational skills are so important to school performance.

Using a planner is the key to time management!

Students are doing more than ever before-taking multiple classes, completing homework, preparing for projects, studying for tests, participating in afterschool activities, playing sports, and attending family and other social events. With so much to juggle, it is important for students to have a planner that works for them. Planners help students track and organize all their to do’s including their homework, tests, projects, and other events. Planners reduce stress, increase productivity, and prevent students from feeling overwhelmed. It’s important to invest in a planner that fit’s your child’s needs.

Tips for Using a Planner

  1. Pick the right planner. Take your time when choosing a pocket planner. Find one that fits inside a special pocket or pouch in your book bag if you can. Avoid planners with locks or zippers that will only annoy you. Little things like that will become a hassle and create bad habits.
  2. Put your name on your planner. At some point throughout the school year-most students misplace their planner. Take 30 seconds to put your name and phone number or email on your planner-just in case!
  3. Make the planner a part of your daily routine. Carry it with you at all times and remember to check it every morning and every night.
  4. Fill in your assignment due dates as soon as you learn them. Get in the habit of writing in your planner while you’re still in the classroom. Don’t put it off!
  5. Learn to use backward planning. When you write a due date in your planner, go back a day or a week and give yourself a reminder that the due date is approaching.
  6. Use a color-coding system. Keep some colored stickers on hand and use those for reminders that a due date or other important event is approaching. For instance, use a yellow caution sticker to serve as a warning two days before your research paper is due.

Put everything in your planner. You must remember that anything that takes up time, like a date or a ball game, will keep you from working on an assignment. If you

  1. don’t put these things in your planner as time out, you may not realize how limited your homework time really is. This leads to cramming and all-nighters.
  2. Use flags. You can buy sticky-note flags and use them as tabs to indicate the end of a term or the due date of a large project. This is a great visual tool that serves as a constant reminder of a imminent due date.
  3. Don’t discard old pages. You will always have important information in your planner that you’ll need to see again at a later date. Old phone numbers, reading assignments—you’ll want to remember those things later on.
  4. Go ahead and congratulate yourself ahead of time. On the day after a big project is due, put in a reward appointment, like a trip to the mall or a meal out with friends. This can serve as positive reinforcement.

Things to Include in Your Planner

It is important to block off anything that consumes your time, in order to avoid conflict and crisis. Don’t forget:

  • Homework
  • Test, Quizzes and Papers
  • Holidays
  • Sports/Activities

If your child has lost their planner or has a planner that doesn’t seem to be working efficiently, consider using one of Simplicity’s student planners!

Simplicity’s planner includes:

  • A laminated, durable cover
  • 3 hole punched
  • Monthly calendars
  • A tab that divides the weekly calendars
  • Ample room to record assignments and projects
  • A special section to write announcements, reminders, and notes

To purchase a Simplicity Student Planner please email info@simplicity-organizers.com


The Domino Effect

A client’s perspective by Lauren Shapiro

Shapiro_Pantry-BEFORE-4

The worst part about going to the grocery store every week was the annoying task of putting things away. I say annoying because that is what it was – a skillful game of perishable item Tetris, trying to figure out how to cram soups, sauces, pasta, snacks, cereal, baby food, baking items, and any other random necessity my husband thought we needed at the store that week into our small pantry. I’ve tried to organize my pantry many, many times…but it always seems to become a giant mess in no time.

I’m not going to lie, I was nervous before Simplicity arrived to organize my pantry. I was embarrassed. But I was also extremely excited at the thought of having a professional organizer tidy my pantry. As you can see from the before pictures, I really did need help.

Shapiro_Pantry-Process

Once we pulled everything out of the cabinets and sorted into what seemed like a million bins and we got down to the actual act of organizing, I realized there was no way organizing was going to stop with the pantry. And then a thought came into my mind, you know the one where the person pushes one little domino over and about a zillion dominos follow? Well, that’s what organizing my pantry turned out to be: a Domino Effect.

Shapiro_Pantry-Process4

We started emptying drawers, cabinets on either side of the stove in the kitchen, cabinets under the island, and even the laundry room. Before we began, it all seemed overwhelming, but it was actually very liberating! As we sorted the items in the pantry, Simplicity organizers asked questions about which things I use the most, how I work in my kitchen, and of course the dreaded question of “When was the last time you used this?” Once we figured out what was going to live in the pantry, there was a ton of extra items that now needed a new place to go. The domino effect was highly motivating to start organize other areas.

BEFORE-AFTER2BEFORE-AFTER

It was amazing to see how much we were able to organize in just 2 1/2 hours. Perhaps even more important, I had a very real sense of how to tackle the never-ending struggle to stay ahead of clutter and mess. Thank you, Simplicity, for the help. I’m excited to ride the wave of dominos and bring order to other areas of my home!

By Lauren Shapiro

 


Happy Parents & Thriving Kids

HPTK_logo_color300

Simplicity is excited to be a part of a parenting summit called Happy Parents & Thriving Kids. We are a panel of trusted experts who will address important issues like:

· Putting together routines that work for your family

· Helping kids make healthy choices…yes, that means food

· How to manage technology and social media

· What anxiety looks like in a young child

· Self-care for parents

Digital_button

What you’ll get: You’ll be able to access great on-line interviews with experts starting September 14th.

The content will be available to you for one week only. SO DON’T WAIT!


Tidying

NY Times recent article, Marie Kondo and the Ruthless War on Stuff 

STUFF

Photo illustration by Christopher Mitchell

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up; The Japanese Art of Decluttering by Marie Kondo has been a NY Times bestseller for months, sparking joy in some and outrage in others.   To say that Marie Kondo is a phenom and her KonMari method of tidying is a sensation is probably an understatement. When the NY Times and Atlantic Monthly are talking about tidying up, we all should be listening. And for that, we can thank Marie Kondo.

Get over thinking that ‘tidying’ is a quick, quaint go with a feather duster and a whiskbroom. It’s deep, transformational work. Whether you take all that Kondo suggests or just parts, it’s unlikely you’ll not glean something of value from some time with Tidying Up.

Magic

Kondo has many admirers- even some professionals. Despite the vitriol expressed by some in NAPO, Simplicity offers this contrarian view. These comments are from Anne and Betsy, two seasoned Simplicity pros.
“The NAPO women seem way too judgmental and critical. There’s room for all types of organizers is this world, maybe even the organizer who’s getting $100 an hour to organize your thoughts.” Betsy

“With all the different personalities and different brain types, we NEED a variety of approaches for our clients.  Their (the organizing pros quoted in the Times piece) attitudes were petty and were drenched with the stench of jealousy, pitiful really.  I don’t know why women are like that.” Anne

“I personally liked her book, even though parts were a bit weird. I would never talk to my belongings. But after reading it I was inspired in several areas like my clothes and books to purge some more.

Her method is extreme, but she will definitely weed out those who just want things organized. She wants to really help free people from their belongings, once and for all. Many people aren’t ready for that, but for those who are, the KonMari method may help.

She sparked joy with me” Betsy

“I do not talk to my belongings. If she wants to talk to her socks, good for her, they are her socks and she can talk to them if she wants.  Me, I’m just tossing them in my drawer or wearing them to get my work out on.” Anne

“I will say that her book has TRULY inspired people and really thrust the professional organizing industry into the limelight, and for that I am so grateful. I have had several clients who talk about how this book has seriously motivated them to take their work with Simplicity to the next level, and for that I am also grateful. I am totally on board with how her approach does truly seek to get to the heart of the matter, which is a matter of the heart.  She is working with her clients to free them from the burden of lack-luster lives packed with meaningless items they hope will give them meaning – it’s madness.” Anne

“Despite working as professional organizer for years, I still struggle with keeping my home organized, Her book gave me a new perspective in many areas and for that it made for a good read for me.” Betsy

“I like her.  I think she’d be super fun to work along side, or put in your pocket and run around with.” Anne

A few snippets from the Times article…

“NAPO women seek to make a client’s life good by organizing their stuff; Kondo, on the other hand, leads with her spiritual mission, to change their lives through magic. ”

“I think the NAPO women have Kondo wrong. She is not one of them, intent on competing for their market share. She is not part of a breed of alpha-organizer “solopreneurs” bent on dominating the world, despite her hashtag. She has more in common with her clients.”

“She leaves room for something that people don’t often give her credit for: that the KonMari method might not be your speed. “I think it’s good to have different types of organizing methods,” she continued, “because my method might not spark joy with some people, but his method might.”

Simplicity hopes you’ll read the full article (any maybe even the book) and see what comes upjoy or outrage or some of both. Don’t let the naysayers put you off “tidying” up.

By Robin Mcoy

 


Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

Thanks to Simplicity, the documentary, Minimalism, was recently screened in Charlotte to a full house. And a full house, or more specifically, an overly full house is exactly what the film was about.  My husband and daughter were my sidekicks for the evening-one, enthusiastic and one a bit reluctant.  But when the lights came up, we all agreed that Minimalism was thought provoking, inspiring and a bit guilt-inducing.

Minimalism

The film documents the two Minimalists’ odyssey.  From more is more, to less is more. From keeping up with the Jones, to charting one’s own path. And from piles of unused stuff, to owning just enough. Their journeys resulted in freedom- financial, emotional and physical.  And their mission now is not to climb the corporate ladder, in the right suit with the right gadgets, but to inspire others to consciously examine what they own and why they own it.  For the movie trailer click here

Less

In the spirit of Simplicity, each of us gives our single most important lesson from the film.

From the 30 year old:

Only hold on to things that bring value to your life.

There isn’t just one template for how to deal with possessions.  Each of us has our own threshold for what is enough and what brings value to our life.  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. A collection of snow angels might make one person grab a trash bag but for someone else, it could be a treasured and tangible connection to a loved one. And how do you measure the value of something?  Do you use it?  Do you have space for it?  Can you afford the time or money it would take to replace it if you ever decided you needed such a thing?  No matter the value in absolute monetary terms, if the object doesn’t bring value to you, let it go.  Paradoxically, your life will be enriched by having less.

From the 60 something male:

A big change is easier than small one.

As counter-intuitive as this may seem, there is neurobiology supporting it. Often the trigger or nudge is more compelling for a big change than a small one. We evolved as horders. Stockpiling worked in times of scarcity when basic needs were hard to meet but our biology betrays us now.  Biology begets “buyology.  With small changes rather than a sweeping change, there can be a feeling of continual deprivation.  It’s like the addict who needs another hit. And this need for more precludes the feeling of contentment from having the “luxury of enough”.

From the 60 something female:

You think you own your stuff but your stuff really owns you. 

We’re hardwired to feel loss more strongly than we feel gain. Letting go of things is more painful than acquiring them is pleasurable.  We’re wired for dissatisfaction.  Advertising and social media feed that dissatisfaction. Dubious claims of ‘New and Improved’ render the existing version unsatisfactory.  Keeping up with the Jones is exhausting and expensive. We live in a junk culture where ‘more is more’. The cheaper, the better is the lifeblood of mass retailing. We can turn that around when buying fewer things, but better things becomes our habit. Remember the Chinese proverb, “Buy the best and you only weep once”.

Here’s one final thought from the film. You can never get enough of what you don’t really need because what you don’t need, no matter the quantity, will never satisfy.

And lastly, a possible mantra for those on their own minimalist odyssey-

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”  Hans Hofmann, German abstract expressionist 

By Robin McCoy