Monday, May 26, 2008

How to organise (6) - maintaining your organised space

The most important part of the whole organising process is maintenance. And this is often the place where things get out of control.

When I first meet with an organising client, I ask them, “what’s working and not working for you?”
Often, people tell me, “I can get it organised but two days later, it’s all a mess again”. This tells me they don’t have a maintenance system.

I can have a beautifully organised bedroom but if I leave clothes, empty mugs and glasses, books, etc. to pile up everyday, after a few days there’s going to be a royal mess.

Making a daily habit of some very simple steps like throwing clothes in the laundry bins, taking empty dishes to the kitchen, returning items like books to their homes will maintain your organised room.

My 3-step solution:
1. Do a quick 5-minute check of your trouble areas every day. Train your family to do the same.
2. Build this time into a current routine that already works for you. If you make an evening cup of coffee/ tea like I do, when you turn on the kettle, use the time while you wait for it to boil to do your maintenance check. This is key!
3. Make time on a weekly basis to check through your house. This is the time to catch up just in case a couple of days didn’t go according to plan.

Do you have a maintenance plan? Please share in the comments.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I'm back!

Hi everyone

I arrived back from holiday to an absolutely freezing Johannesburg this morning. When the pilot announced the ground temperature of 6 degrees Celsius (at 6am), I said to the lady next to me, "did he just say 6????" :)

Of course I do love the cold but I had forgotten that South African houses are not made for cold weather. So after catching up on sleep, Dion and I both had hot showers and I am now in my pajamas :) Dion is watching TV and I am about to do some internet banking (quite honestly, I'm a little bit surprised every time a transaction goes through because I haven't transferred money into that card for weeks!

I've already done 3 loads of laundry (one while unpacking, one while sleeping, and another one is going right now), my work bag and more importantly, my lunch bag is packed! I have to get back to gym this week because I've definitely put on weight...

In a nutshell, we had a really good time connecting with old and new friends, I finally met Suzanne in Stirling, Scotland and Red Wine Gums in Cork, Ireland. We went to church with RWG - isn't the power of the internet amazing?!

Of course, the UK and Ireland are SOOOOOOOOO expensive - I could hardly believe it. If any of you are thinking of visiting SA, do it! You will have such a wonderful holiday at really, really good prices!!!

And on this week's menu...

Curry and rice with pumpkin (all in the freezer)

Baked potatoes with kidney bean and tomato sauce (also in freezer), topped with cheese

Stirfried chicken and veg in a satay sauce

Pizzas (also in freezer :))

Eating out

More importantly, how have you guys been doing?

And now, I'm going to phone my UK/ Ireland friends to tell them we've arrived safely. We had a really horrible eventful day travelling yesterday but I'll tell you all about that on our travel blog... and of course, the organised Suzanne has already put her photos on Facebook...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Indecision = clutter

The reason many of us have clutter is because we are indecisive.

1. We bring in a pile of mail, don't want to decide what to throw away so we just put it somewhere to decide later.
What is that called? Clutter!

2. We come back from the shops with bags and bags of stuff. We haven't thought about where all that stuff is going to go, so we just shove it in the back of our wardrobes where it becomes…clutter!

Let's do one more - and it's one of my favourite examples too!

3. You download emails. Some of them you can answer easily, so you do. You need to think about others, some are a bit difficult because you might have to say "no" and don't want to be mean. You don't know how to deal with those so you close the email and there it stays - electronic clutter!


Bet you didn't realise how quickly all those moments of indecision piled up and left you a house and computer full of clutter!

My challenge to you is this:
1. Spend 15 minutes going around your house and make some of those tough decisions so you can eliminate the clutter!

2. Spend another 15 minutes working through your email inbox and exercise some discipline in making decisions.

Personally, if I have some tough decisions to make, I'll leave emails for 24 hours.

But then I decide. I can always change my mind but a decision is better than none at all!

Let me know in the comments if you decide to take up the challenge!

I'm cheering you on.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Draft blogger works for me

Early in April I read about draft blogger on a works for me wed post.

I immediately set out to try it because that's what I do - I am impatient about learning new things and I just can't wait to try things out.

Oh my word - and it worked beautifully, so I set up the next week's worth of posts which all posted on time.

And I was hooked.

I'd considered moving my blogger blogs to wordpress because of exactly this functionality since as you know, I plan my blog posts.

Not anymore. Or at least not for that reason.

This feature enabled me to write up all the posts and schedule them to publish while I'm away on holiday.

I love it! And it's definitely working for me.

  • Simply log into and
    you'll see your normal dashboard.
  • Type your post and change the post date and time.
  • Click Publish and you'll get a "this will be published on _______" message.
  • As easy as that - you are done!

BTW, my website and Clutter Control Freak are both on wordpress and I can't figure out how to increase the font size there. Can you help?

Monday, May 19, 2008

How to organise (5) - organise according to your personality

The key to organising successfully is to have a system that works for you.

It's okay to be different! You don't have to feel guilty about being a visual person and wanting more around your house than a minimalist has.

If you try too hard to adapt yourself to a style that's not comfortable, it will not be sustainable in the long-term (and by long-term, I mean more than a week).

I recently ran a tidy desk competition on this blog, and the different types of desks are testament to the different personalities we all have.

I personally like to start with an uncluttered workspace and have just the project I'm working on in front of me because I get distracted if I see lots of other papers.
However, I know someone else who works very comfortably with piles of paper all over her desk. My way freaks her out and her way doesn't work for me either. But that's okay because it works for each of us.

Remember to note down your requirements before you go shopping for a new desk so you're sure that it suits you.
  1. Do you like things visible?
  2. Do you want a small desk to fit into a corner of a room?
  3. Do you need a full-on desk with lots of drawers?

The way to make sure that your system is still effective is to keep asking yourself, "does this still work for me?"
If circumstances change, change the system!
Happy Organising!
Next time
How to maintain your organised space

Friday, May 16, 2008

Are you over-organised?

I used to think there was no such thing as too organised.

I was wrong - I have met Over-Organised and it is not a pretty sight!

Before I get ahead of myself, let me ask you, "Why do you organise?"

Generally, people organise their lives to save time, save money, for a feeling of peace and harmony in their homes, etc.

So if your organising is costing you these things, then I say you're over-organising.

Let me give you some examples:
1. If your stuff has to be JUST SO and it means that your husband and kids can't leave a thing out of place otherwise the MOMMY MONSTER comes out, then you're over-organising.

2. If you spend hours categorising and making folders and sub-folders in your inbox, and it takes you 15 minutes to find anything because you have to remember exactly how you filed it, then you're definitely over-organising!

Remember, the point of being organised is to save time.

So avoid complicated systems that you AND YOUR FAMILY can't use easily.

Does any of this sound familiar? Are you over-organised? What are you going to do about it?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Organising your recipes

I love reading cooking and baking blogs and imagining eating all the delicious, mouth-watering food.

Anybody else?

Well, if you have good intentions as I do, those recipes and recipe books pile up very quickly and start to overwhelm you.

So I thought I'd share what works for me.

1. I only buy cookbooks that feature my specialties.
I don't cook meat dishes very well; I don't know why, I just don’t. I also don't do cakes - that's a personal preference because I'm too lazy impatient for mixing this, and mixing that.
I love cooking stir-fries, pasta dishes and muffins, though, so that's where I focus my energies.

2. I learned to let go of my good intentions.
I am now coming to terms with reality and realize that I am never going to make a triple-layer chocolate cake even for my husband's birthday. I also deleted all the free recipe books from my hard drive that I now know I'm never going to use, like 101 recipes using coffee.

3. I have a Word document called Blog recipes to try.
When I'm browsing blogs and see a recipe that is (a) easy, (b) looks yummy and (c) that I am likely to try, I copy and paste it into this document. Then when I'm doing my menu planning or I feel like trying out new recipes on the weekend, I quickly print it.
This cuts down on the paper clutter!!!

4. I have a limited space in my kitchen for non-kitchen stuff.
Between the cupboard and my microwave (see picture), that's all the space I allow for recipe books, appliance manuals and my Household Organising File with blank menu plans, shopping lists, travel lists and so on..

The basket is also easy to carry to the TV when I need to declutter it every couple of months.

How do you keep on top of the recipe & recipe book clutter?

Monday, May 12, 2008

How to organise (4) - how to declutter

De-cluttering is the FIRST step to an organised home. And my personal favourite step :)

Why the first step?

Because you can't organise clutter. You've got to get rid of it first.

What is clutter?
1. anything you don't love
2. anything you don't use
3. any mess/ disorder/ confusion

Ask yourself, does this make me feel at peace? No? Then it's probably clutter.

The key to an organised home is making regular de-cluttering time.

It doesn't have to be a huge chunk of time - once the space is organised, five minutes once a week is enough. For example, while you're waiting for the kettle to boil, quickly check your kitchen cupboards and drawers.

It's all about BABY STEPS.

Next time
Organising according to your personality

Friday, May 09, 2008

What does it mean to be organised?

It's probably easier to explain what organised is not!
Neat is not necessarily organised.

I have seen some very neat but disorganised workspaces. Everything looks good on the surface, but watch the scrambling when you ask for a specific file!

Lining up all your pencils just so means that you like your pencils all in a row, not necessarily that you're organised.
I think people confuse the looking good factor with being organised because when things look good, it's gives the same feeling that being organised gives you.

I've also seen people who work with piles but they can locate whatever they want very quickly. However, when these people get overwhelmed by the piles of paper, then it's time to go through them and reorganize.

Personally, when I'm working, I spread out a lot so I don't work in a very neat fashion. But I'm organised because all that spread-out paper relates to only my current project.

My definition of organised is being able to find something in a minute or less.

This is always my aim both personally, and when I work with clients. I want to create a system, working with their personalities, where they can find something within a minute or less.

So my question to you is this - can you find what you're looking for quickly? Are you neat, organised or both?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Control the paper clutter

Does this picture look familiar?
Or maybe all that paper is on your desk or kitchen counter tops?

I love my lists as much as the next paper-loving person! But all that paper piles up so quickly and judging from all the emails I get, I'm not the only one.

Guess what I do now?

I laminated my monthly and weekly lists, and I write on them with a dry erase marker so I can keep re-using them.
This tip definitely works for me.
You can use this tip for anything you use often, from travel checklists to master to-do lists to monthly event planning lists.

How do you keep the paper under control?

Monday, May 05, 2008

How to organise (3) - what's your vision?

We’ve already covered that you should start with the area of your home or life that bothers you the most.

After you know which area to start in, decide what you want to have happen in that space.

In other words, what is your vision?

What do I mean when I say you need to have a vision?

Well, if it’s your family room that needs organising, decide what the purpose of that room is.

1. Do you want an entertainment area?
2. Do the kids need a play area?
3. Do you use a portion of the room as an office area?

In this example, you need three distinct zones and everything else must go!

In the picture of the kitchen drawer above, what is the purpose for that drawer?

It's to store dish towels, cloths and sponges, and nothing else. Everything else like cutlery or other junk that doesn’t belong, needs to go.

Your action plan
1. Decide on your vision for the room you've chosen
2. Go around and remove everything else that doesn't belong

See? It's totally doable :)

Next time
How to de-clutter

Friday, May 02, 2008

6 secrets to digital photo bliss

reprinted from Organise It - a weekly ezine by Marcia Francois

One of the things I tackled this week was sorting out our photos from our Cape Town trip nearly 3 weeks ago. You can see the results on our travel blog.

Photos are one of those things that can quickly overwhelm you if you don’t have a system.
Before you know it, you have thousands of photos on your computer and no idea where to start.

If this is you, make one folder titled Before _____ (today’s date) and start working backwards, just 15 minutes a day. Once you start, the momentum will easily carry you forward.

Then, from now onwards, do the following steps and you’ll never be behind again.

1. Download after every major photo-taking session
It’s far easier to sort through 50 rather than 500 photos. However, if you take photos daily, you might want to do this once a week.

2. Name the folder
For our trip, I named it Cape Town – Nov 2007. Because of this blog, I also have folders called Paper, Kitchen, Baskets, etc.

It is easy to do a search and find what you’re looking for later if you describe the photos first.

3. Delete the duds immediately
Scroll through each photo and delete any blurry, non-flattering or “iffy” photos immediately. When you postpone making decisions, it leads to clutter.

4. Select the photos you want to print
Make a new folder and call it TO PRINT.
When you come across GORGEOUS photos, copy them to this separate folder. Note I said COPY – you don’t want to accidentally delete the good ones. I only print the GORGEOUS photos, which means I don't even print 10% of the photos we take.

At least once a month when you run errands, cut and paste the photos from your TO PRINT folder onto a disc and drop it off at your nearest photo developing store. I’m not sure if I’m just old-fashioned but I don’t hear of too many South Africans using online photo facilities (Let me know if I'm wrong!)

5. Compress and crop photos
If you want to send some photos to friends and family, it is good manners to compress them first (to around 50KB) before emailing them.

Bonus for bloggers
Take a few minutes to compress and crop any photos you intend to blog. If you want to really save time, you could then upload the photos to your blog and save the drafts. Then all you have to do is type the text and publish! This explains why I have so many items in drafts!

6. Back up your photos to a disc
Every so often I do a back-up every month (or sooner if I feel the computer slowing down).
You definitely don’t want to lose any precious memories so back up regularly.

Hopefully these tips will help our US friends with Thanksgiving photos and definitely for all of us over the next month with all the other holidays.