We are nearing the end of Purging Month, but just like doing laundry, mowing the grass and grocery shopping, purging your excess stuff never really ends. The good news is that it doesn’t require a lot of time or effort to keep up with it once you’ve completed your initial purge. This week, I’m gonna share a few easy peasy habits that will make divesting yourself of your overage an automatic routine. The more of these habits you embrace, the easier it will become to maintain your equilibrium of "stuff".
First, set yourself up for success with a solid plan for what you will do with each item you decide to let go. (For more ideas on this, go back and read last week’s blog post.) Establish a holding spot/s for items to donate and items to sell (if you decide that’s really worth your time). Make it an easily accessible and consistent location or locations in your home.
Next, create a regular schedule for getting your castoffs out of your home. Whether it is scheduling regular donation pickups (or just getting in the habit of always saying YES! whenever you receive a notification that a truck will be in your area), or finding a consistent time each month to drop things off at a local charity, put it on your calendar and set up a reminder to follow through. Likewise, if you are selling items, set deadlines on your to-do list for pricing, posting, or otherwise preparing your items for upcoming sales events or dropping them off at a consignment shop. Schedule one weekend out of every month (more if needed) for dropping off any recyclables or trash that can’t be included in your regular household pickup, or create reminders to take them whenever you are out running errands nearby.
Then simply collect as you go. Opportunities abound to identify items you no longer need/want/use. As they come up, decide right away if they are 1) Sell; 2) Donate; 3) Recycle; or 4) Trash and place them into the proper receptacle immediately. Don’t procrastinate! Take action at moments like the ones below:
Eliminating belongings you don’t need is just like discarding your food wrappers and containers when you’re done with them. You already know you can’t/won’t use them, so it’s just a matter of putting them in the correct receptacle and following through with your predetermined plan for getting them out of the house. Decisions will become quicker and easier each time you make them. Before you know it, it will become as second nature as throwing away your candy bar wrapper or recycling your empty soda bottle. If there’s an item you’re on the fence about, treat it just like something from your freezer you aren’t sure if you’ll eat or not and add an expiration date to it. If you don’t use it by then, let it go.
Finally, just like you occasionally still have to deep clean the rooms you clean regularly, make a point of “deep cleaning” your cabinets, shelves and drawers at least once per year to catch any expired or excess stuff you may have overlooked. You don’t have to set aside days or hours of time to do this unless that’s your preference to get it all done at once. Instead, just work on one room in your home each month and spend five to ten minutes per day performing the three Rs (remove, review, replace) on a single drawer, shelf, or cabinet at a time until the entire house is done. Then start again. The less stuff you have, the easier and quicker this ongoing process will be.
If you took my advice and joined an online give-away group like Freecycle or Buy Nothing, you’ll find that there are often people requesting one of your "someday/maybe" items. Knowing that someone else is looking for that exact thing may be enough to convince you to part with items you aren't sure you'll ever need again. These groups also offer assurance that you’ll be able to easily get whatever you need when you need it...for FREE, eliminating your need to hold onto things “just in case”. For this reason alone, I strongly urge you to consider joining one of these groups if you haven’t already done so.
I’ll be taking a week off from the EPL Blog next week. Enjoy your Memorial Day!
Coming Soon: June is Bed and Bath Organizing month! I’ll be sharing tips all month on organizing your clothes, accessories, toiletries and makeup both here and on my Facebook page.
Subscribe to this blog make sure you don’t miss anything!
ICYMI: Each month I issue a new 1-day EasyPeasy Challenge that can be completed in less than a day (usually in less than an hour) and keep you on the path toward orderly living. You have all month to take the challenge and then add a comment, photo or GIF to the challenge post that's pinned to the top of my Facebook page to be entered into a prize drawing at the end of the month. This month’s challenge is to join an online group like Nextdoor, Buy Nothing or Freecycle and give away just one item. It must be given away...with no expectation of receiving anything in return. Give it a try! I look forward to seeing your photos and comments on my Facebook page!
All month, I’ve been encouraging you to reclaim space in your home by purging items you no longer need or want (big emphasis on “need’). While deciding to part with your cherished stuff can be challenging, doing so makes it easier to access the belongings you do use regularly and just makes it easy peasier to navigate your home. So now that I’ve hopefully convinced you to rid your home of your excess, you need to figure out exactly what to do with it all. Having a solid plan for where it goes next is crucial to your success, because simply piling up bags and boxes full of items you’ve decided to let go won’t help you until it’s actually gone!
You have only four basic choices on what to do next:
1. Sell or 2. Donate (for things that are still usable)
3. Recycle or 4. Trash (for things that are not still usable).
Obviously, there are pros and cons attached to each of these and the decision for which to choose depends, in part, on the item in question but also on your priorities. Picking the best option will make you feel better about letting it go. Consider each of these questions carefully to help you narrow down your choices:
If you need to get rid of a perfectly usable article of clothing quickly and don’t really care if you recoup some of your initial financial investment or who ends up wearing it next, dropping it off at a local charity like Salvation Army or Goodwill is probably your best bet. But if you need to make some money and don’t mind investing a bit more time and effort, trying to sell it at your local Tot Swap or consignment shop may be a better option. Or if you really want it to go to someone you know, try joining a neighborhood group like Freecycle or Buy Nothing or passing it on to a friend or family member who needs it.
Use your determined priorities to help you identify one or two go-to choices in each of the four categories.
Connect Online for each item:
Visit our Donating/Recycling page (it also provides info on Trashing and Selling) for more detailed information on many of the various options mentioned above.
There are as many ways to get rid of your excess items as there are items to get rid of. If you are stumped on what to do with a specific item, ask members of your network (friends, family, co-workers, neighbors) or Ask the Organizer. Chances you aren’t the only one who wants to know!
One final note of caution: Each of us has a responsibility to learn what is and isn’t safe to discard in the trash and what can and cannot be recycled. Discarding just one wrong item can contaminate an entire truck of recycling or create a serious hazard. Even if you aren’t particularly concerned about the environment, you can do a lot of damage to our planet, yourself and your community if you are reckless or too lazy to educate yourself on the basics. Always follow package directions on how to safely dispose of anything that contains chemicals or toxic ingredients or Google it if you aren’t sure how to handle it.
Stay tuned next week to learn a few easy peasy tricks for maintaining your newfound space and accessibility forever with minimal effort!
ICYMI: Each month I issue a new 1-day EasyPeasy Challenge that can be completed in less than a day (usually less than an hour). You have all month to take the challenge and then add a comment, photo or GIF to the challenge post on my Facebook page to be entered into a prize drawing at the end of the month. This month’s challenge is to join an online group like Nextdoor, Buy Nothing or Freecycle and give away just one item. It must be given away...no selling or swapping. Give it a try! I look forward to seeing your photos and comments on my page!
You know those people who always seem to just have it all together? The ones who are usually calmly waiting, scrolling through Facebook, when you burst through the door feeling frazzled and out of breath because you're late meeting them...again!? The folks who have the PTA calendar memorized and always seem to have contact information right at their fingertips to meet every conceivable need, from trusty mechanic or top notch medical specialist to medieval jousting expert? They remember to return your book, even though you forgot you loaned it to them in the first place. They know when and where outdoor movie night is happening and exactly when to score free cones because it's National Ice Cream Day. They always acknowledge your birthday and never forget to send in non-perishables for the school's canned food drive (while you, on the other hand, can be found desperately hunting through your pantry at the last minute for cream of mushroom soup or something else you'll probably never eat).
Yeah, we all know at least one of these people, but starting today, you can become one with much less effort than you think.
New Habit #4: Take and Use Notes. Keep track of everything as it enters your brain...reminders, to-dos, shopping needs, contact info, events, appointments, due dates... in a central, reliable system and--here’s the key--review it daily.
Why? The biggest benefit is the confidence and peace of mind you'll find from having a reliable way to tame your brain clutter. Yes...that's a thing...and too much of it leads to stress, whether you're consciously aware of it or it's just bubbling up right beneath the surface. That old expression "too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth" means that having no established leader to give clear direction will lead to chaos and, ultimately, failure. Well, that's what happens when you have competing priorities, demands on your time and random thoughts running wildly through your head without a central unified and reliable system in place for managing it all.
Now, the key word here is "reliable". Lots of people have calendars, address books, fancy apps on their phones, colored-coded giant whiteboards on the refrigerator....you name it, yet still suffer from brain clutter because they aren't in the habit of actually maintaining and using these tools properly. All the fancy pots and top-of-the-line kitchen tools in the world won't make you a master chef unless you know how to use them and do. With proper daily maintenance and a solid habit of reviewing what you’ve noted, you'll avoid overbooking (and overstretching) yourself, missing important appointments or deadlines, or forgetting to do tasks, and you'll be able to plan ahead with confidence. You'll also rest easier knowing you can communicate with your network whenever and wherever needed.
How? This is actually a three-part habit.
First, choose a format that you think will work best for you, be it electronic, paper, cave drawing, whatever, or even a combination of the above elements. This will involve some trial/error and re-evaluation as you go. Expect that...it's okay, and if you have to change formats along the way, it just means you are learning more about yourself and what works for you (or doesn't). There is no right or wrong way...just a right-for-you or wrong-for-you way. Whatever format you choose, it must meet these three criteria:
Next, add anything and everything you need to remember into your system as soon as you become aware of it.
Finally, make a daily appointment with yourself to review the data in your system so that you can bring it to life through an action plan. This is crucial. Without this, your system will not work and you will no longer trust it...reliability is key, remember? Simply sitting down each and every day to review what is coming up so that you can prioritize, plan ahead and share info with others as needed will save you time and stress otherwise spent worrying about what you're forgetting. Having a centralized system for tracking everything not only enables you to address your immediate concerns but also keeps the back-burner items on your radar so they don’t sneak up on you.
Already got this one down? Fabulous! Have you tamed your paper piles? Having a system in place for keeping track of appointments, reminders and contacts is a prerequisite to eliminating paper clutter. If you've already mastered Habit #4, go ahead and begin a daily triage of your incoming papers into these categories: action, file, pay, and read. Create calendar reminders/contacts for action and pay items, file reference papers and contacts regularly, and keep reading material handy and to a minimum (seriously, if you haven't read the fashion article you bookmarked in that 2010 magazine by now, it's probably safe to go ahead and toss it).
Tip of the Week
Speaking of taking notes, one way to improve your odds of adopting any new habit is to take note of what has (and hasn't) worked in the past. Was there a particular person who encouraged you (or sabotaged your efforts)? Is there a specific strategy that kept you motivated? Repeat the behaviors that have led to success and try to identify and eliminate the ones that led you astray.
It’s still not too late to join the official Good Habits Challenge! From this point on, only those who have actually joined the challenge will receive weekly emails introducing the remaining six habits of organized people. Plus, those who join get some free tools to help in adopting any new habit (not just these ten) and are eligible for free accountability check-ins and a chance to win a prize at the end. Joining is FREE, so what have you got to lose?
Email email@example.com if you have questions about the challenge, need more suggestions or encouragement, or just want to share your success story!
You’ve got this!
Can you believe we’re already more than halfway through the first month of 2021?!! Time marches on, and every minute you spend stepping over, working around, or shifting the disorder in your home is time you could be spending on something more fun or meaningful. The good news is that you can reclaim your time by establishing just a few good habits that lead to more order, less stress, and better living.
In the past two blog posts, I introduced the first two of ten good habits adopted by most organized people. If you missed them or need a refresher, click on the links below to read them:
Habit #1: Unpack upon arrival
Habit #2: Hang stuff up
Don’t worry if you’ve stumbled out of the gate. It’s never too late to get started or get back on track and keep moving forward.
Habit #3 is to make your bed each day as soon as you get out of it!
Why? It establishes a sense of order and accomplishment from the very moment you get up. Think about it...in the 60-90 seconds it takes (yes, it really only takes that long) to make your bed, you earn your first win of the day! Not only is it the quickest method I know to magically restore some visual peace and order to your bedroom, it makes a statement that you intend to make this a productive day. Let's face it, getting out of bed is difficult for everyone. Making your bed is a commitment to begin your day and really make it count. In his 2014 University of Texas Commencement speech, Adm. William McRaven (USN Ret.) explained,
If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made --that you made--and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.
Now, I know there are those of you who will try to make the argument that you don't need to make the bed because you're just gonna get back in it a few hours later. Instead of looking at this as a dreaded chore requiring excuses in order to avoid it, view it as something you do to pamper yourself...a gift to the future you. You’d be pretty disappointed if you got back to your hotel room after a day of sight-seeing to find a rumpled bed, wouldn’t you? After all, one of the perks of staying in a hotel is getting pampered by the housekeeping staff. There’s nothing more luxurious than climbing into a neatly-made bed at the end of a tiring day. It's like unwrapping the well-earned gift of rest.
My husband works the night shift and sleeps during the day. Even though I know he'll be getting into that bed an hour after I get out, I still make it for him every single day, and he does the same for me. It's just one more way we show one another some loving care and say "Welcome to dream world. Enjoy your stay." Making your own bed is just another form of expressing some self-love.
How? I find the most painless way to make your bed is to pull the covers up as far as you can and smooth them out while you're still in it and then neatly fold back one corner to make climbing out easier. This way, you are practically finished by the time you are on your feet. Then just fold back your exit flap, smooth and tuck the covers, neaten up the pillows and you're done. If you're a messy sleeper, it might take you a few seconds longer. Regardless, I promise you, it will not take more than 90 seconds, max, to accomplish your first win of the day!
If you’ve already mastered Habit #3, well done! How tidy do you leave the rest of your room each morning? Nothing ruins the calm, peaceful feel of your bedroom sanctuary like piles of clothes lying around the room, a cluttered dresser, or stacks of reading materials collecting dust. If your resting place feels chaotic, focus this week on making sure all clothes are put away and the floor and surfaces in your bedroom are clear before you exit so that you can enjoy a restful sleep in your welcoming bed at the end of the day!
Tip of the Week
One of the most common pitfalls we face when trying to establish new habits is life getting in the way of our best intentions. It happens to everyone, but obstacles don’t have to end your journey toward better habits. You just need to find the quickest detour route and keep going. With the right amount of determination and experience, the little things that used to throw you off track will become nothing more than opportunities to learn and better prepare yourself for whatever roadblocks lie ahead. Commit to never skipping two or more days in a row of performing your new habit. Skipping more than one day establishes a new pattern of not doing it and makes it harder to get back on track.
And always remember: imperfect progress is still progress!
It’s still not too late to join the official Good Habits Challenge! I’ll be introducing Habit #4 in next week’s blog, but after that only those who have joined the challenge will learn the remaining six habits of organized people. Plus, those who join get some free tools to help establish any new habit (not just these ten) and are eligible for free accountability check-ins and a chance to win a prize at the end.
Share your success stories, tips and struggles at firstname.lastname@example.org, and stay tuned next Monday to learn about Habit #4.
I don’t know about you, but I had high hopes that 2021 would be an improvement over 2020. To say that the first ten days of the year have been disappointing would be a gross understatement. When the world is in turmoil, it is more important than ever to establish some order and control within the confines of your own home as a sanctuary from the madness. So let’s forge ahead, undeterred, with our restorative, calm-inducing challenge, shall we?
Last week, I introduced Habit #1: Unpack Upon Arrival. So how did everyone do? If you missed it or stumbled on this one, no worries. It’s never too late to start or reboot. Read last week’s post if you need to catch up. (Just a reminder for those of you who joined the official Good Habits Challenge: it’s never too late to request free accountability check-ins.) However, if you’re still on track with last week’s habit, you’ve got a jump-start on the next one.
Habit #2: Hang Stuff Up. Hopefully you’re now hanging up your coat, your purse/backpack, your keys, etc. upon arrival. Now add to that your towel, your bathrobe, your comfy hangout sweater...whatever items you tend to leave lying around that could be hung up in seconds as soon as you stop using them.
Why? A better question might be why not? This is such a quick and easy way to reduce surface clutter, restore visual peace to your environment, and ensure your belongings will be right where you expect them to be later on. These items will also stay in better condition when regularly hung up properly than if left crumpled on the floor or piled up on a chair somewhere. Towels will dry faster, clothes will be less wrinkled, and the dog won’t shed as much all over your throw blanket or bathrobe. More importantly, this is what I would call a “gateway habit”...a habit that leads into another, even more important habit. Once you are in the habit of hanging stuff up and experiencing the payoff of such a minimal investment, you’ll be more likely to put other things away as soon as you finish using them too. The simple act of putting things away right away is the master key that opens all the doors to organization. So why wouldn’t you attempt to make a habit of it?
How? As I said in last week’s post, hooks make hanging stuff up easier. If hanging up your bath towel is a chore, replace the towel bar with hooks. Where else might you be able to add a few hooks in strategic locations to make this habit easier to adopt? Don’t overlook the backs of cabinets and doors. For best results, install them as close as possible to where you use each item. Identify other deterrents to hanging stuff up. Are you short on hangers? Are they too slippery? Do you have to cross the room in order to hang up your sweater? No obstacle is too minor to consider if removing it will help you become successful.
If you’ve already mastered Habit #2, well done! How are you about putting away your clean laundry in a timely manner? If you routinely let it sit for a day or more once it’s washed and dried, focus your efforts this week on putting it away within 24 hours.
Tip of the Week
In last week’s post, I provided a few tips for establishing new habits. Today I want to zero in on one of them. Tying your new habit to an existing one not only helps you remember to do it, it establishes a routine. Routines are merely a string of habits performed in the same order at regular intervals. They are like little programs your brain executes without much input from your conscious mind, freeing you to focus your attention elsewhere. In other words, they allow you to go on autopilot to accomplish a great number of small tasks. Aside from helping you remember what you need to do, established routines also remove much of the conscious decision-making of whether or not to perform the task. You just do it without giving it much thought. Once a new habit is part of your routine, it can actually require more thought and effort not to do it. This is the goal when adopting new good habits. (It’s also a big part of the challenge in kicking bad habits, but that’s a post for another time.)
It’s still not too late to join the official Good Habits Challenge! I’ll be introducing Habits #3 and #4 in the remaining blog posts in January, but only those who join the challenge will learn the other six. Plus, those who join get some free tools to help establish any new habit (not just these ten) and are eligible for free accountability check-ins and a chance to win a prize at the end.
Share your success stories, tips and struggles at valerie@easypeasyliving, and stay tuned next Monday to learn the details on Habit #3.
You’ve got this!
If you've resolved to get more organized in 2021, I've got great news...it's easier than you think! Orderly living is achieved by simply adopting a few good habits and sticking with them over time. Today we’re kicking off the Good Habits Challenge here at EasyPeasy Living. I’ll be introducing the first four key habits of organized people in this blog during the month of January, but it’s not too late to join the official challenge and discover all ten. Plus, those who join get some free helpful tools to promote success in establishing and sticking with any new habit.
New Habit #1: Unpack Upon Arrival. In other words, put away your keys, phone, purse/backpack/wallet, and coat in the same spot the very minute you come in the door.
Why? It saves you time and frustration the next time you depart your home, and it establishes a sense of confidence and control because you'll know just where to find what you need. No more searching for your essentials when you're rushing to get out the door, and no more worrying about misplacing your primary means of communication, funding and escape!
How? Establish a "landing pad" somewhere near the front door, aka your arrival/departure gate. If your home is in chaos, this is the ideal starting place for creating homes for each of your belongings.
Keep a spring-loaded clothespin attached to the neck of your coat hanger to quickly clip your jacket closed and prevent it from falling off without having to mess around with that pesky zipper. No coat closet? No problem. Hooks are actually the simplest and easiest ways to hang things up quickly with minimal effort while allowing you to capitalize on your vertical space. Don't overlook the prime real estate on the backs of doors and cabinets, or put a coat stand in the corner for lots of hanging space with a small footprint. Designate a spot for your phone and wallet too. A shoe basket or boot tray near the door is also helpful. And don’t forget a home for your masks. (We keep a basket of clean, reusable masks on the entry table that I refer to as the “masket”.) The main point is to always put things away in the same spot and as soon as you enter the house...before you do anything else. You’ll be glad you did the next time you need a quick and clean getaway!
If you’ve already mastered Habit #1, well done! Can you always find these commonly-misplaced items? If not, focus this week on establishing a home for each one and making it a habit to put them away there immediately after using them...every time!
General tips for adopting new habits
The hardest part about establishing any new habit is remembering to do it and staying consistent long enough for it to become second-nature. Here are a few tips to help you with that:
Share your success stories, tips and struggles at valerie@easypeasyliving, and stay tuned next Monday to learn the details on Habit #2.
You’ve got this!
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Piles of papers make me anxious. You will not find stacks of paper anywhere in my home. I dispose of any random slips of paper found in my pockets, purse or car as eagerly as tossing out used tissues. When I see unfiled papers, I see unmade decisions, incomplete tasks, and uncertainty, all of which provoke in me a sense of dread and anxiety. So keeping up with my daily influx of paper is my #1 organizing priority. Believe it or not, taming your own paper dragon can be as easy as changing a few bad habits and adopting one new one.
Nine bad habits that can lead to paper pileup:
1) Clipping coupons - Let's be honest...there are a very few people out there who do couponing well. The rest of us are just kidding ourselves. Unless you are a serious couponer who has a proven system that works, accept the fact that the time and effort you are wasting on clipping, saving, and organizing coupons that rarely get used before they expire might be better spent actually processing your mail instead. Toss all coupons but the ones you know you will 100% use. No, you don't need to look through them to see what you're missing. Your time is worth more than the few cents you might save.
2) Saving articles, ideas, recipes, or brochures for "future reference" - These days, very little of what we find in newspapers and magazines is not also available for free online. Chances are that it will take more time/effort for you to find a clipping you saved when you are ready to refer to it than it will to just Google it and find it online instead. Information on events can usually be found on an organization's website. Pinterest is great for finding and bookmarking decorating, entertaining, fashion, gift, and cooking ideas. You can bookmark links to relevant articles which are also often archived online by publication. If you really need to, you can maintain a list in your phone of places you hope to someday visit, helpful websites, names of recipe or other topic sources, etc. to help you find something later. There's no need to keep a stash of old clippings.
3) Using paper piles as a tickler for action items - Instead of creating an action pile, create an action file. Put the papers away and enter a reminder in your phone or calendar or on your to-do list to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Get in the habit of consulting these tools daily, or ask Alexa or Siri to remind you. Using the papers themselves as your tickler is ineffective because over time, as the paper clutter increases, they are likely to get lost or overlooked. By filing them, you will know exactly where to find what you need when you are ready to complete the task. The key is developing a system you trust for keeping your action tasks front and center in your mind, rather than on your desk or table.
4) Keeping papers out of fear/uncertainty - Do you really need to keep those old statements...receipts...canceled checks? Many people save old records unnecessarily because they think they may need them later. While it is true that there are definitely some important documents you should archive, many of us save papers unnecessarily "just to be on the safe side". it's worth taking the time to educate yourself on what you should keep and what can be tossed so that you can free up some space in your filing cabinet and make the filing chore less cumbersome. You'll find a downloadable guide here to get you started. Download the FREE Easy Peasy Paper Tamer Bundle for suggestions on what documents to keep and for how long. You can also check with your accountant or financial advisor if you're uncertain if you really need it. Just don't keep papers by default simply because you don't know whether or not you can safely get rid of them.
5) Saving information for others - Stop saving clipped articles for someone you think might find them interesting! Chances are, you will forget to give it to them, and they may prefer a text telling them where to find it online anyway. While it's nice that you are thinking of them, most people don't want more paper to deal with!
6) Saving papers to scan later - If you really want to scan it, scan it right away or schedule an appointment in your calendar for scanning everything and keep that appointment. Almost everyone I know with a "to scan" pile never gets around to scanning it and ends up eventually just tossing the whole pile.
7) Hoarding old magazines/newspapers - Keep only the current issue. If you haven't read it by the time the new issue arrives, toss it. If you find you aren't reading most of them, you should cancel your subscription. I'll bet you've never heard of anyone dying or suffering a significant consequence simply because they missed reading an issue of their favorite magazine...BUT, stacks of magazines and newspapers can present a dangerous fire hazard!
8) Reading/opening junk mail - Ignore the obvious junk mail! It's only purpose is to get you to buy something. If you truly need something, you'll remember without the solicitation and will seek out information on available options at the time you're ready to actually make a purchase. Tossing your junk mail will help you resist the temptation to acquire unwanted items that will only clutter up your home. If you feel a cursory glance is necessary, do it on the way in from the mailbox and then trash the sales pitch right away. It should never even touch any surface in your home!
9) Believing you have to shred everything - It may come as a surprise to many that your address is public information. Shredding everything will not keep it out of the hands of nefarious forces, unfortunately. You only need to shred items with sensitive information such as complete account numbers, your social security number, your tax ID, etc. Receipts that only contain the last four digits of your credit card number do not need to be shredded. Reviewing your credit report each year from each of the major reporting companies is helpful in protecting yourself against identity theft. If you have a large amount of old papers that really do require shredding, consider paying to have it shredded, or look out for free community shredding events in your local area to get it out of your way. Invest in a home shredder and keep it handy to shred as you go so that it doesn't continue to pile up.
One new habit to adopt:
Go through all incoming papers and mail each and every day before you go to bed and decide what to do with each piece. If you keep up with this, it should not take you more than 5-10 minutes per day to keep your surfaces clear of paper clutter once you get rid of your backlog. Set up a simple paper triage system to help you keep your papers neat, organized and put away out of sight (yes, that's right...see #3 above for why this is a good thing!) until you can complete any next steps like paying the bills or making a follow-up phone call. There are specific instructions in the FREE Paper Tamer Guide on how to set up and use a simple daily paper triage system to help you convert your paper piles into labeled files that are easier to manage.
With a little discipline and a large recycle bin, even preventing paper pileup can be easy peasy!
If you're suffering from what I call "Covid Fog", you are not alone! Almost everyone I've talked to has experienced this phenomenon on some level during the past six months. Covid Fog is when you have difficulty sharpening your focus and/or maintaining it for as long as you used to before the Coronavirus pandemic shooed each of us into our respective corners of quarantine. Several factors contribute to creating Covid Fog: looser schedules, more frequent interruptions, lack of structure, changes in routine, mild depression, fatigue, boredom, grief, a dearth of motivation, and lapses in self-care are just some of them. Whatever the cause, the results can affect everything from your job performance to quality of life issues. Adopting strategies to help you find your focus is an essential first step in coping with the uncertainty that is 2020.
Here are my top tips for finding and maintaining your focus:
With a little intention, perseverance, and these strategies, even finding your focus through the Covid Fog can be easy peasy.
Imagine standing in the bottom of a deep pit, looking up and wondering how you will ever get out! Actually, most of us don’t have to imagine that...we experience it every time we look at our long To-Do lists and bulging calendars (assuming you even have those...not having them is more like realizing you’re at the bottom of a deep well but being unable to even see the sky). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the only way out of a deep, dark pit of any kind is to climb out. You need a ladder, a rope, a staircase, or a lot of well-placed toe- and hand-holds. Then it’s just a matter of climbing one carefully-planned step at a time. Well, today I’m gonna teach you how to build yourself a staircase leading out of that pit of endless tasks, chores, projects and appointments that make up “adulting”.
As with building any sturdy, reliable staircase, the first step is always to set aside planning and building time. Constructing it in a slap-dash-as-you-go fashion will leave you with nothing but a rickety pile of lumber that could give way at any time, sending you back down to the bottom of the pit with potential injuries. So, if you don’t already have a calendar, get one. It can be an app you use on your phone/tablet or a good old-fashioned paper day planner...whatever works for you. Add to it a weekly appointment with yourself, preferably at a consistent time and in a quiet location with limited interruptions so that you can focus. Do not blow off this appointment...EVER! I know, I know...you’re busy...things come up...the kids never give you any peace and quiet. Just remember: you are stuck in a pit! Nothing can be accomplished--for anyone--until you manage to pull yourself out of it. So finding a way out should be your #1 priority!
During your first appointment, create a blueprint for your staircase by considering your hierarchy of life priorities. What’s at the top? Health and fitness? Time with family? Your career? Knowing exactly which side of the pit you want to emerge on will determine how you build your staircase, so it’s worth recording your hierarchy and referring back to it whenever you’re not sure how to prioritize. For more guidance on how to determine this, go back and read the Achieving Simplicity post from August 3, 2020.
Next, you'll need to gather all your building materials. This involves brainstorming about everything you think you might need to do this week. Include errands, chores, phone calls/emails, research, work and home improvement projects, appointments, volunteer work, meals, and all other commitments and responsibilities. This step will become easier in time as you gain a sense of which materials (to-do items) you really don’t need for your staircase and build up a stockpile of the ones you use each and every week. Keep a running task list that you continually add to as you think of new things.
Once you have a comprehensive list, identify the components you really don’t need and get them out of your way. In other words, delegate as many tasks as you reasonably can and eliminate or defer the optional things that don't align with your top priorities. (Here’s where that blueprint really comes in handy!) Where might you be able to relax your standards or expectations to make this climb a bit easier? What optional tasks can wait? By the way, relaxation time is not optional. While you may need to tweak how much of it you get from one week to the next, trying to make do without it is like building a staircase without any hardware. Eventually it will collapse under the pressure.
Now you just need to order your steps. Fill out your calendar and daily tasks lists while answering these questions:
Once you’ve completed your staircase, you’re ready to start climbing. But first, don’t forget a daily safety check. Each morning, consult your plan, just as you would double-check the reliability of each step before placing all your weight on it. If you discover a weak or missing tread up ahead, don’t panic...just replace it. It’s a whole lot easier to tweak your staircase as you go through your week, than it is to try to climb out of that pit without one.
Download our FREE Week-Ahead Planner to help you get started.
The best news is that the more staircases you build, the better and quicker your construction becomes. With a well-drawn blueprint and the right tools, building a staircase to any solution can be easy peasy.
Quite a few years ago, when my kids were younger, I spent a much-overdue weekend away with my three older sisters. It was the first time I had ever been away from my children, then ages 7 and 9, for more than one night. I was sure they would miss me, and I knew I would miss them, but my son responded to the news of my impending trip with this elated proclamation to his father:
“Hey Daddy, that means that we can do whatever we want all weekend, because Mommy won’t be here to boss us around!”
Alas, it’s true that we all need to take a break every now and then from doing what we’re supposed to do. That’s why we take vacations or occasionally skip the gym...why we sometimes take a “mental health day” from work, or cheat on our diets. In this case, my son thought that with his drill sergeant mom on leave, there would be no one ordering him to clean up his toys, make his bed or clear his dishes. He envisioned my time away as one long boss-free, video-game-playing, TV-watching, Lego-dumping weekend filled with Cocoa Puffs for dinner, chocolate cake for dessert and no church or teeth-brushing to cramp his style. Except he forgot his sister would be staying home with him. Here’s how he described her at the time:
It says: This is some big information. I have one sister. She is really bossy. For example, she tells me what TV shows and DVDs I can and ca'nt wach [sic] I like the great-white shark. It eats fish.
(I wonder, are those blue things fish, or a bossy sister's feet? Hmmm...)
Anyway, a little time off from the regular routine is both healthy and necessary, and summer is the ideal time for relaxing our standards and enjoying some easy, laid-back simplicity. But there is a fine line between a relaxed routine and a free-for-all that can be difficult to reverse. Just like enjoying that all-you-can-eat dessert buffet, the long-term negative effects of your binge can be minimized with just a smidgeon of advance preparation and a plan in place for easing back into the rigors of everyday life when reality resumes in the fall. Also remember that kids need a little structure in place to reassure them when they crash from that sugar rush.
Here are just a few strategies that I have found make for a smoother transition back to reality when summer ends:
So go ahead, turn on Nat King Cole and turn up the volume as you savor the sweetness of these long summer days, but just remember that you still need to brush every day if you don’t want a cavity!
With a little structure and routine over the summer, even transitioning your kids back to a school-time schedule in the fall will be easy peasy.
Valerie Sheridan is a professional organizer, wife, mother of two, and Founder/Owner of EasyPeasy Living.