Preparation is Key in the Kitchen

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Ben Franklin

Checklist

Failing to prepare, procrastinating, putting off until tomorrow what should be done today…
These are all strategies for disorganization, chaos, waste and heartache- outcomes that few seek. So why do we do the very things that sabotage success we crave? The answer is at least in part-we’re human and we’re creatures of habit. In our busy lives and fast-paced world, there always seems to be more to do than time to do it. Putting things off is a coping mechanism.

But preparation skills can be learned, practiced and habit-forming. And in the process, life becomes calmer, simpler and happier.

Consider these possibilities for success through preparation in the kitchen and pantry.

Grocery Store

Plans meals and keep a grocery list (easier than ever with technology) rather than impulse buying and not having anything that constitutes a meal. Shop less often but more intentionally.

Prep groceries when you unpack them. This means rotating your pantry stock, washing greens and cleaning veggies, unwrapping or unsealing the bottle or jar before you put it in the fridge. Spending a bit of time on the front end pays off handsomely on the back end.

Take stock of your pantry. Mystery jars outdated spices and cans all can be discarded. Food gifts you’ll never use can be donated to someone who will. Be ruthless. If you can’t fathom making a meal of something in your pantry, let it go. And don’t ever buy it again.

If you’re a small family, do you really need the jumbo-sized, discount grocery store? Just because something is cheap, doesn’t mean it’s a good value.

Not every meal has to be a gastronomic masterpiece. Ingredients for your go-to meals should be staples. If the ingredients are on hand (and prepped), eating at home is quicker, tastier, healthier and cheaper than blasting through the fast food drive thorough. And home cooking results in leftovers, which become the basis for lunches or subsequent dinners.

We’ve gotten in the habit of eating out. It’s dealt our pocketbooks and waistlines a blow. At Simplicity, we encourage you to get in the habit of eating in!


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


The Playroom: Where Fun Meets Function

Less is More.  This is a good lesson for children to learn early in life.  And toys are a great place to start.

Playroom

An organized play space is a functional and attractive alternative to the chaos that reigns in many homes.  If a dedicated playroom isn’t available, a corner of the family room, bedroom or kitchen can be a good substitute. For toddlers and young preschoolers, the more visible and central the location, the better.

Regardless of where playthings call home, avoid having more toys than space permits.  If you’ve already exceeded your limit, purge now, before the birthday party or holiday gift-giving season approaches.  If you’re at comfortable capacity, adopt the “one in-one out” rule to avoid overload.  Make sure your child has in mind which toy from home is going to leave before a new one is purchased.

Weed out age inappropriate toys.  For toys your child has outgrown, contain and label for younger/future siblings, share with friends, or donate to charity. Overly advanced games and toys will be frustrating. Store them until the appropriate time – and if that time is years away, consider letting them go.  Purge anything that is broken or missing pieces or that your child no longer enjoys.  If you have the luxury of additional storage space in your home, consider a toy rotation.  Keep only a portion of the age appropriate toys in circulation at one time.  Every few weeks, stash a portion of what’s in play, and substitute a few items from storage.  Make sure the toys that are being stored are clearly labeled and are very accessible.  This is almost as good as a trip to the toy store!

Establish activity centers. While the floor is great for blocks, Legos, and train sets, you’ll need a table and chairs for puzzles, crafts, and doll tea parties.  Don’t skimp on containers or chaos will be back in spades. Open shelves and lidded clear plastic containers are a good choice.  Ziplock bags work well for individual puzzles or games with many small pieces.  Avoid large baskets and bins, which quickly become catch-alls for unrelated toys.

If your children are old enough, allow them to be involved in the process.  Label containers or shelves so everyone will know what belongs where.  Printed word labels are appropriate for older children, while picture labels for younger ones will facilitate cleanup. If your child is learning another language, bilingual labeling is a good way to reinforce foreign vocabulary.

To summarize:

Designate a play space with several activity centers.

Ensure toys are age and space-appropriate.

Contain and label.

Fun meets function!

Looking for inspiration to declutter and serve the community?

This year, Simplicity Organizers are teaming up with Augustine Literacy Project and Freedom School Partners, to host their annual book drive in the month of May. We are encouraging the community to donate gently used children’s books (Grades K-5) to the Read a Book, Give a Book celebration. This year we will donate the books to Montclair and Rama Road Elementary schools in hopes that every single student will be able to take home several books to read over the summer! Please email us to find drop off location in your area.

Charity sites that accept toys and school supplies:


Overcomplicating Organization

Overcomplicating Organization

When it comes to conquering clutter, one goal is often to create simple, functional systems to make daily tasks run smoother. Labels, containers, calendars, lists- you name it, and we use it. But with most things in life, the “less is more” adage holds true here as well. When trying to get organized, it’s important to not overcomplicate it. Being honest with yourself, acknowledging other participants in the space you’re organizing and being realistic about your expectations will save time and money.

Some people start by making the (extremely fun) trip to The Container Store or Target for supplies. Whereas, anyone who has worked with Simplicity knows, we won’t bring anything in before we’ve pulled it all out, sorted, and purged. Our team leader as well as many of our project managers ensure clients that “it gets worse before it gets better.” You can’t figure out where you’re going until you know where you’re starting. Logically, all things are like this, you can’t solve a math problem without knowing the numbers. You can’t make a delicious meal without determining what ingredients you need. So how can you expect a purchase of essentially more stuff to help with your current stuff issue?

While organizing can be overwhelming, tackling projects with these tips can help minimize frustration and keep it simple:

–       Start small. Instead of tasking yourself with an entire room to accomplish, pick a single drawer or cabinet. The feeling of success will come a lot quicker and may motivate you to keep working!

–       Timeframe. Give yourself a time limit. Set aside a specific increment of time, ex. 1 hour or the afternoon 2-4pm. Set a timer. This keeps you focused on your expectations and decisions when sorting or purging. Even if you merely come to a stopping point in that time, it allows for a natural break as well.

–       Incentive. Although a newly organized, simplified space is rewarding enough, most of us are motivated by more tangible rewards. Especially if organizing is more daunting than fun for you, decide on something to work towards!

–       Challenge yourself. Your intentions to simplify are admirable and you owe it to yourself to do the very best. Ask yourself challenging questions about what you’re sorting, “Do you love it?,” “Do you use it?,” “Can you live without it?”  

–       Keep it simple. Sort into only a few categories, you’ll only confuse yourself if you try to get too specific. For example, if you’re sorting through kitchen utensils, consider your storage and create piles of frequent use, occasional use and seldom use (this pile you could potential purge and donate).

Keep it simple and STICK with it, you can do it!

 


From a Client’s Perspective

We take confidentiality very seriously in this company, however one of our clients, Cindy, has offered to share her experience of working with Simplicity.   We think you will benefit from her candid perspective of why she chose to contact Simplicity and why she has entrusted us to help her this year.

CindyMills

From a client’s perspective…

I am very grateful for your investment in me and my family. I was transparent and vulnerable because you created a safe place for me to be those things.

As the saying goes, “you sought to understand before being understood.”  And for that, I am thankful this morning.  This will be a journey, I know. But I trust where we are going even if I am a bit sweaty this morning at the notion of learning all of this and realizing how much I have to learn.  But as with life, it will make the destination sweeter.  I also reflected on the fact that through those lean years the Lord created a tender, empathetic heart in you so that you would not only have a thriving business but also be able to help others sort through the chaos to find a simpler life. Nothing ever wasted.

Yesterday, with your recommendation, I bought two open mesh file containers to put under the cabinet so that I can see and access them quickly.  I bought the file sorter you pointed out online as well as two paper trays to serve as my inbox and Ken’s.  I think

Ken has never been happier!!!  His mail is in one place and it is only Friday!!

I am committed to doing my tasks and believing I have to find JOY in the process and enjoy what lies ahead with life resembling a well-designed, well-maintained machine that operates efficiently producing “good works”. Then I will be prepared for what lies ahead as best I can at this stage in my life. This morning it occurred to me that it may prove helpful to journal this journey in case it will encourage someone else down the road. Getting back in the saddle this morning.

Looking forward to all that awaits this year!

Cindy

 

 

 


Good Intentioned Resolutions

The beginning of each new year dawns with good intentions that are much easier to make than to keep. Holiday excesses are fresh in people’s minds. Couple that with a yearning to live more healthy and productive lives, and getting organized becomes tops on many people’s list of resolutions.

So what can you do to enhance your chances of success this year?

1. Be realistic: Remember, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

2. Celebrate small accomplishments: Since “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

3. Ask for help: Because “many hands make light the work.”

Simplicity-New Year

The clutter, chaos and disorganization that you want to conquer wasn’t created overnight and won’t be banished overnight. Your goals should be realistic. Start by making a list of projects you want to tackle. What will be your definition of success? If you have a busy family and work responsibilities outside the home, your success might look very different from that of the retired, empty-nester. Prioritize the organization tasks and projects. Estimate how long each will take. Be sure you have the necessary tools and supplies to do a good job. Remember, anything worth doing is worth doing well. A household that hums is surely a worthy goal.

The hardest part of getting organized is simply getting started. The enormity of the project can sandbag you from the outset. Now that you’ve identified and prioritized your problem areas, try this simple trick. Spend ten minutes filling two trash bags – one with actual trash and one with items for donation. Set a timer and spend only the allotted 10 minutes. When the timer goes off, you’re through until the next day when the exercise is replayed. At the end of a week, deliver the donation bags to your preferred charity and congratulate yourself on the progress you’ve made. The good news is that success breeds success.

When getting organized becomes a family affair, the rate of progress increases exponentially. If everyone played a part in creating the clutter, it seems only fair that everyone should help with the de-cluttering. If your organizational dilemma is overwhelming, outside help makes sense. A professional can provide whatever level of support you desire. Maybe all you need is the road map and a bit of assistance with the start. Maybe you want regular sessions with your organizer to tackle specific projects. Or maybe you want to have the organizational “swat team” descend on your home and not leave until there’s “a place for everything and everything’s in its place.”

Just remember, your home is the center of your family’s universe. With a bit of time and attention, it can be the sanctuary you all crave. If you’ve resolved to really get organized, Simplicity would love to help.

In addition to our tried and true services, we offer a Year of Simplicity program. It incorporates the three steps outlined above. By committing to work on a specific project or problem area each month, you’re setting an achievable goal. Having scheduled a monthly block of time with your Simplicity team member, you’ve already taken that first step – the hardest one – toward an organized household. And finally, an experienced organizer will lighten your load enormously. Working side-by-side, you’ll learn the tricks of the trade so you can maintain the organization you’ve labored so hard to achieve. 


The Clutter Cure

“I recently discovered the secret to livening up even the dullest conversation: Introduce the topic of clutter. Everyone I meet seems to be waging a passionate, private battle against their own stuff, and they perk up as soon as you mention it.” So begins Pamela Druckerman’s NY Times column.

NY Times declutter

It’s an interesting piece (click here).

Here’s her conclusion.

“But the more stuff I shed, the more I realize that we de-clutterers feel besieged by more than just our possessions. We’re also overwhelmed by the intangible detritus of 21st-century life: unreturned emails; unprinted family photos; the ceaseless ticker of other people’s lives on Facebook; the heightened demands of parenting; and the suspicion that we’ll be checking our phones every 15 minutes, forever. I can sit in an empty room, and still get nothing done.

It’s consoling to think that, beneath all these distractions, we’ll discover our shining, authentic selves, or even achieve a state of “mindfulness.” But I doubt it. I’m starting to suspect that the joy of ditching all of our stuff is just as illusory as the joy of acquiring it all was. Less may be more, but it’s still not enough.”

This rather bleak assessment begs the question:  In the humans v. stuff struggle, who is the consumer and who or what is consumed?  And how much worse does “digital clutter” joining our “carbon clutter” make us feel?

Druckerman’s hypothesis that our stuff is consuming us is born out by the proliferation of storage warehouses, organizing services, and garages with nary a car in sight.  With the proliferation of cheap imports and discount retailers, being awash in clutter is no longer just an affliction of the well-heeled.

We think of ourselves as rational beings and in truth, we’re often not so rational.  Dan Arieley,  behavioral economist and author of Predictably Irrational has conducted experiments to prove just how irrational we really are. The take-away message is that we are more pained, psychologically and emotionally in letting go of something (even if it’s something we neither love nor use) than we were pleased to have acquired it in the first place.  Our things have a strangle-hold on us.

So what’s a person to do?

Embrace Will Roger’s First Rule of Holes- “When you’re in one, quit digging.  Consider a “spending de-tox.  Follow the advice of Sarah Lazarovic from, A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy.  Learn to wait.  “Don’t buy anything the first time you see it unless it’s the thing you’ve been searching for all your life and it is flying by on a speeding train, never to be seen again.  Even then, don’t buy it.”  Practice waiting.  What starts out as a hope, will become a habit.   Saying no to impulse purchases will eventually become second nature.  Exercise your will power and it will get stronger.

Stop hiding behind “conscious consumerism”. The goal of consumption used to be to buy and use things to satisfy (mostly) legitimate, practical needs.  Somewhere along the way, consumption morphed into consumerism. The goal of shopping became to kill time, drown our sorrows, keep up “The Jones” or even surpass them!

Again from Lazarovic, “Conscious consumerism is not an excuse to shop.  It may be a fair-trade, organic leg warmer, but if your legs aren’t cold, it’s still a frivolous purchases.”

Remember that just because it’s free doesn’t mean it isn’t without cost.  The kiddy meal prize, the thank you gift for the charity donation, the swag bag from a conference- leave them all behind.  If they never come into your home, you’ll never miss them.  Especially with the holidays approaching, be ruthless about what you let in your door.

By Robin Mcoy


Simplicity for Young Adults

You’ve heard the phrase “Start ‘em young!” Well that definitely applies to organizing.  Growing up, did anyone help teach you how to create and maintain organizational systems? Maybe it was your mother who showed you her meticulous methods or a teacher who demonstrated how to be tidy. Whatever the source, it is ideal for the origins of organization to begin in childhood when individuals are thrust into new responsibility and routines.  Since organizing does not come naturally to everyone, many need to be taught these important life skills, especially young adults who are venturing off on their own.

Here are some basic pointers for those just starting to structure their organizational success as an adult:

  • Create a paper or electronic system: Stacks of paper or rows of emails can accumulate quickly.  It is important to establish a folder or file system for all of your documents.

Simplicity for Young Adults

 

  • Carve out time to de-clutter: Set aside a day per week, either after work or on a weekend to maintain your systems. Put away dishes or hang your clothes.  Sort your mail and file papers.  Donate, toss, shred, or recycle what you no longer need.   Update your weekly calendar.  Remember it is much easier to keep up than start over. Maintenance is key to organizational success.

ical

  • Make lists and use calendars: DO NOT RELY on your young brain to remember everything!  Use one calendar to record all of your appointments. Write down your to do lists and plan your week accordingly.

 

Simplicity for Young Adults

  •  REMEMBER: There isn’t one right way to be organized. Systems can change and be altered with time and necessity. What matters is that they work for you –bringing order, structure, and simplicity to your life.

Principles of Simplicity: The 80-20 Rule & Less is More

The Pareto Principle  (aka The 80-20 Rule)

This principle was first conceived in over 100 years ago by an Italian who observed that 80% of the land in his country was owned by 20% of the people.  We’ve all heard in the classroom how 80% of the trouble is caused by 20% of the students.  So what does this have to do with Simplicity?  Actually, quite a bit:

We are all looking for efficiency and efficacy in our over busy, over stuffed worlds.  Figuring out what 20% matters- in what we own and what we do, would be huge.  Even if it’s not 80% wasted time or unused possessions, most of us have a great deal of fat in our schedules and bloat in our stuff.

Less is more

How you say?  For example-
How much of the contents of your closet never see the light of day?
How many of your children’s toys never come out of the toy box (if you were lucky enough to have them corralled to begin with)?

How much of the backlog of magazines, journals and papers will never be read?

How much of the stockpile of staples in your pantry will expire before being consumed?

How much of what’s on your calendar or agenda is productive, necessary and meaningful?

Maybe eliminating the 80% that isn’t used, enjoyed, productive and meaningful, could take you a long way toward accomplishing more of your goals.  Activities and commitments that are “low value” or “no value” may need to go.  The same is true of the unused, unloved, outdated clothes, toys, foodstuffs, and paper piles.

If you haven’t used something for a while, ask yourself why you are keeping it?  Because I might need it one day, or it’s too much trouble to make the cull are not good excuses.  If you’re saying yes to commitments out of fear or embarrassment, reconsider your motives. Before the onslaught of new stuff from the holidays and new obligations with the new year, get the old stuff under control.  Remember, better the right 20% than the wrong 100%!


Parkinson’s Law

(aka Nature abhors a vacuum)

A 20th century British naval historian made the observation that-

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”

The “stuff “ corollary is that things expand to fill the space available.   It seems that empty or unfilled spaces and time are unnatural and begged to be filled.

How you say?  For example-

A closet you just purged or the desktop you just cleared is soon in need of attention again.

A bigger home doesn’t mean more breathing space but more opportunity to shop and fill.

A leanly stocked pantry or supply closet isn’t a sign that you’re managing your home inventory efficiently, but a signal that it’s time to whip out the credit card.

You feel not a sense of calm and relief when you see lots of open spaces in your calendar, but a sense of panic that you’re missing out on something or that you’re not considered a valuable contributor.

We are generally big on procrastination and not so bullish on actually getting things done.   In this 24/7 world where work can be anytime, anywhere, we’ve forgotten that it’s healthy and reasonable to limit how much time we spend on any task.  Be realistic about how long a task or project should take and limit yourself.  Maybe even give yourself a bit less time than you think you’ll need to really light a fire!  (This works well for children’s homework too.) Check to see how quickly you actually finished the task.  If you eliminate the dithering and handwringing, you’ll be surprised by how quickly things can be accomplished.

As to your material world, appreciate that less is more.  That needs and wants are not the same and that sometimes better is the enemy of good.

Either of these two principles can be helpful but there are synergies if you apply them in tandem.  When your friends, family and co-workers ask the secret of your new successes, just say Pareto and Parkinson!
Good luck!


Benefits of Organization for Children with Disabilities

As many of us know, organizing has many benefits. It can recharge us, motivate us, relieve us, and simplify us.  Adults can acknowledge these rewards and understand their power. However, children may need guidance to that insight, especially children who have disabilities. And we believe organization is crucial for children with disabilities.

Structure, by definition, is anything composed of parts, arranged in someway; an organization. Without structure, all that remains are individual parts; disorganization. Children with disabilities thrive in environments with intentional structure.  It allows them to follow through with basic tasks without having to process the “how” every time.

The key to a successful learning environment is structure.” Cara Carroll, teacher

Many teachers rely on routines and procedures to maintain classroom management by creating systems to help students function and gain independence. Repetition is one of the most effective techniques in special education. Organization is, in essence, a habitat for repetition.

Creating an accessible system within a bedroom, pantry, bathroom, playroom, or homework station for children with disabilities can aid in the successful flow of routines. Children with disabilities sometimes miss steps because they can’t find what they need. Organization and systems reduce that anxiety and uncertainty. Using clear storage containers and labels provide accessibility and minimize confusion. Knowing that everything has a place is a valuable tool to use with all children and promotes responsibility and accountability.

By including children with disabilities in the creation and maintenance of organization, it fosters independence, boosts confidence, and empowers them to understand that they are capable. For most parents, guardians, and friends of individuals with disabilities, removing the barriers to functionality is a main goal, thus attaining the greatest possible growth.

Simplicity Kids RewardVideo Game Controller

 

Above is an example of a chart that children can use to monitor their progress when working toward a particular goal. In this scenario, the child’s reward/goal was to play a videogame. After completing the four desired tasks, crossing out one letter for each, they’ve reached their goal. The chart is an active reminder of what they are working for!

Below are some basic techniques that can be extremely helpful when organizing kids with disabilities:Use a schedule. Create a plan for the day, including time of day. This will help develop routines while decreasing urgency. Time is a difficult concept for children with disabilities to understand, so representing time in the form of a list is a sequential, straightforward way of demonstrating expectation.

  • Class ScheduleAllow for choices! Most education and parenting guides encourage the use of choices with children with disabilities. But be thoughtful about the amount of choices. Children with disabilities can often be overwhelmed with too many options and become even more stressed.

 

Velcro Schedule

  • Lessen the amount of distractions in bedrooms, pantries or homework stations by designating areas, limiting what is at eye level to just important everyday items and using word labels or pictures.
  • Use visuals, such as labels with words or pictures. Matching is an essential skill that reduces error. Labels provide a quick reference and make sorting easier, a task that is often challenging for children with disabilities. Once visuals/labels are a part of the home routine, they can be used to aid other tasks such as chores.  For example, familiar labels on drawers and cabinets can be used for unloading the dishwasher.

 

 

 

Days of the weekAlways remember… “Organization isn’t about perfection; it’s about efficiency, reducing stress and clutter, saving time [and money] and improving your overall quality of life.” Christina Scalise, author “Organize Your Life and More”