Busyness Does NOT Equal Success

success

noun suc·cess \sək-ˈses\

: the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame

: the correct or desired result of an attempt

: someone or something that is successful : a person or thing that succeeds

We live in a world that seems to define success as busyness.  We bemoan the number of hours we work, the after school schedules our children keep, the extra curricular activities we engage in.  We greet each other and are immediately drawn into a discussion comparing schedules, time.
Busyness though has not brought success.  We live in difficult financial times.  Many families, even the extreme wealthy, are one paycheck away from disaster.  Businesses are not posting financial gains as they should.  We fail to compete in the global market in many areas.  As people, we are sicker than ever before, and a great deal of that long term illnesses like Type 2 Diabetes, Lupus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  The number of individuals taking anti-anxiety medications and/or anti-depressants is at one of the highest levels in history.
So, I wonder.  Why have we convinced ourselves that busyness is success.  Why do we leave no white space in our lives-time to stop, breathe, allow for reflection?
I am convinced that busyness is addictive.   There is a level of adrenaline that flows as our pace quickens and we move mindlessly from one task to another.  Busyness can also become an “excuse”, a means of justifying.  We don’t complete a task on time and we blame it on our overburdened schedule.  We take on a project, but do not do it with excellence.  We blame it on a lack of time.
I battle busyness.  I am sure you do too.  As I mature though, I am learning more and more that busyness will not help me meet my goals.  Busyness will not bring success.  Busyness is not required.  It’s hard not to give into it though.  We can get caught up in others’ busyness. We can fill compelled to do more, convinced it will set us apart and propel us to some sort of success.
I challenge you today to step back.  Remember, stepping back can give perspective.  Stepping back also gives room to breathe and opportunity to think.  I have said it before, but all too often my stress, my failures with my time management are really a result of not stopping to think about what I am doing.  I jump on the busyness train moving through life on auto-pilot.  Let’s jump off the “crazy” train.  Let’s step back and think about what fills our calendars.  Let’s identify those things that really move us towards the life we want and let’s consider giving up those things that simply fill our time, our children’s time.
Busyness doesn’t equal success.  Thinking equals success.  Step back today and give your life, your time some thought.  I’m going to.  It’s time for me to give some thought to those things that have crept into my days.

Managing the School Paper Beast

It is back to school time!   If you are a typical parent, you have mixed feelings.  On the one hand, you are ready for structure, activities to keep your child “entertained”, some routine. Then again, the morning rush, after school madness, homework and PAPERS have not been missed.

Over the course of the next few weeks we are going to share organizational tools and practices you can utilize to manage the piles of papers and the busy schedules.

Kids come home with lots of papers.  Some are meaningful.  Some are worthy of keeping forever.  Some are informational.  Some are of no value.  Some have detailed information for a later date.  Every day your child comes home with paper you have decisions to make.  What are you going to keep?  If you decide to keep it, where are you going to store it?

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Create a School Keepsake box.  Purchase a file storage box, one that can hold legal size hanging file folders.  With some personalization ( we like to use scrapbook letters, but you could have a monogram created etc…), this box will become the place to keep all of your child’s important school memorabilia.  Inside the box, you will need 13 hanging file folders.  Each one will be labeled for one school year.  You’ll begin with Kindergarten and label through to Senior Year.  Utilizing the legal file size will ensure you can fit class pictures, some art, special projects, report cards and award certificates.  The overall size of the box allows for binders/scrapbooks or other items made at school to be inserted behind the respective school year.  The folders expand enough to even allow for plaques or ribbons.

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If you struggle with photographs, like I do, you can even drop envelopes of pictures you have taken at field trips, birthday parties, sporting events etc… into the respective year folder. Come senior year, when you are trying to put together those slide shows, you’ll have access to school related photos.

The benefits of a School Keepsake box are many.  It keeps items sorted.  It is an easy system even your children can help maintain.  Best of all, it limits the amount of “stuff” you keep.  At the end of the year look back through that school year’s folder with your child.  Let them help decide which items they really want to keep and which they are happy to let go of.  Take pictures of large art projects and file the picture.  If it is that great an art piece, frame it and hang it in the playroom, media room or child’s room.  But don’t, please don’t just keep every item.  When tempted to do so think on this:  How much of your grade school memorabilia do you still have?  What were your thoughts when your mom called asking you to come get all you boxes out of her attic?  (be honest, we know they were not positive thoughts)  Don’t collect items that just become boxes of stuff to take up space in your child’s home once they leave the next.  Create organized memory boxes that hold simple treasurers, just enough to trigger memories and stories to pass on.

If you would like to order a School Keepsake box SOS: Simplified, Organized, Styled is currently taking orders.  We personalize each box.  You may contact us at simplifiedorganized@gmail.com.  The cost of each box is $55.00.  Must be in the central AR area.

Mid-Day Check-A Necessity

The day is planned.  You get up and out the door, or at least get dressed and begin your day at the “home” office.  You are feeling pretty proud of yourself for having a plan.  Then it happens.  You find yourself racing against the clock as carpool hour or closing time approaches.  The clock is ticking.  You panic.  Your desk is a mess and when you glance at your calendar/planner you realize not one thing on the list is done.

Making a plan is only HALF the battle.  We have to find ways to stick to the plan.  A mid-day check is a great tool.  In fact, in my view it is one of the only methods for keeping yourself on track.

What is a mid-day check?  It’s another one of those 15 minute routines that can change your life.  Just before lunch, take 15 minutes to push aside the phone, the computer screen, the pile of papers, and focus your attention on your calendar/planner/to do list.  Evaluate the situation.  How many tasks have you completed?  All of them?  GREAT-call a friend and take a little extra time at lunch.  You earned it.  None of them?  Don’t despair.  Instead, write down what you did do.  After writing down what you have done then assess your list.  Were you too optimistic about what all you could get done?  Were your plans misguided?  Are there some items that really should be delegated?  Is there something of high value you need to make sure you complete?  Highlight that item and block off 30-45 minutes to focus on that task after lunch.

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There are often really good reasons are day has been derailed.  A work event gets cancelled or rescheduled and the entire office is adjusting.  A child wakes up sick.  A co-worker or friend have a crisis and need our help.  However, there are also not so good reasons our day gets derailed.  We spend too much time in the break room catching up with a co-worker. We get caught up in e-mail, whether it is urgent or not.  We hop onto social media and lose track of time.

The point is this-be mindful.  If we allow ourselves to hit the ground running and keep running until the day is done, we lose track.  We lose track of time and purpose.  The little things become urgent and we fail to take care of those things that move us towards our goals.

A mid-day 15 minute break can make or break your day.  It’s a great time management tool, because it keeps you mindful.

Are You Suffering from Mess Stress

One of my girl’s has been helping me with a couple of our organizing jobs.  As she has helped, it has been a great lesson in seeing that more is not always better.  She has also recognized that much of the stress in our lives is created by our mess.  What is our mess? Our mess is usually stuff-too much stuff.

One of the most common first questions we get from clients is, ” Will I have to get rid of all my stuff?”  Our answer is always, “No.”  Here are the questions we walk our clients through in order to prepare them for the job:

  1. Which area causes you the most stress? (prioritize)
  2. What about this area causes you stress?  (be mindful of feelings)
  3. How do you use this space? (be mindful of purpose)
  4. Is the issue too much stuff, the wrong stuff, or poor storage?

After discussing these four questions it is easy to come up with a game plan.  Yes, there are times, when the reality is flat out too much stuff.  And in that case, yes we encourage purging.  However, often, the real issue is lack of storage, or the client has never given much thought to how they actually use the space and so all the wrong stuff is in the space.  Solving that problem may simply mean relocating items, shifting furniture or storage pieces, creating a space that works for the way the client uses it.

The other reality is that we all have varying levels of how much stuff we can manage.  When we hit our capacity, the mess begins to cause us stress.  Either our processes aren’t working, or we simply have more stuff than we can manage given our time, skill set, and space.  There is no magic formula, no recommended amount of stuff.  For example:  I am not a crafter.  I have visions of being a crafter and fall prey to all the cute Pinterest projects.  Set me loose in Hobby Lobby after a few mindless hours on Pinterest and I can come home with some crafting stuff.  It’s good stuff.  Given some time and effort it can become some really cute decorations or gifts.  Here is the problem though, I don’t execute.  I don’t like crafting enough to make it a priority.  I’d rather be re-doing an old piece of furniture, organizing the craft items, or cooking.  Plain and simple.  As a result, I am only capable of managing a small amount of craft items.  It doesn’t take long for the craft mess to cause me stress.  One, because I simply don’t manage it well.  Two, because it does nothing but remind me of all the projects I have never finished or never started.

Mess stress is real.  Mess stress is what motivates most of us to want to “get organized”.  Mess stress is most of what we help clients with.  However, the cause of the mess stress can vary and no real solution is attained until we know why the mess is causing us stress.

If you are suffering from mess stress identify the area that bothers you most.  It can be a room, a closet, one drawer or one corner of the kitchen counter.  Once you have identified it walk yourself through the questions above and begin to think of solutions.  If you can’t make it through the process, then consider giving us a call!

Dance Your Way to Organization

It is overwhelming.  You have piles.  The closets are full.  Boxes sit overflowing in the corners. Drawers are stressed and sagging with the weight of contents.  Stuff.  It’s everywhere.  You come home to rest, relax, yet you want to run the other direction.

Don’t distress.  Dance your way to organization.  Seriously, one of our best tools is music, rhythm and dance.  Put on your favorite playlist, throw off the shoes, and for 15 glorious minutes look one area of your mess in the eye and declare victory.  You can do it!  In 15 minutes you can dance your way right through a drawer, a corner box, an area of your closet.  Music loud, all distractions aside, make quick decisions: throw away, give away or keep.  Don’t worry about making it pretty.  Don’t worry about where you are going to put the keep stuff.  Just dance your way through the stuff.

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I said it earlier this week, but it begs to be said again.  WE are the biggest problem when it comes to organization.  We rarely want to stop and think about the cause.  Many of us will pay for house cleaning, personal trainers, take-out, but we won’t pay for help getting our homes/offices in order.  We say we are too busy, when really we are overwhelmed or refuse to get real about our time.

Organization is simple.  Making the decision to do something to get organized is hard.  This week choose one small area.  Dance your way to organization.

Time is Not Your Enemy-You Are

The average American wastes 55 minutes a day (12 days a year) looking for things they own, but can’t find.  (Newsweek)  According to US News and World Report that is one year of our life.

80% of what we keep we never use.  (NAPO)

Most people use 60% or less of available work time.  (Microsoft Survey, 2005)

Employees spend on average 36 minutes per day at work on personal tasks.  (Office Team Surveys, 2007)

80% of our medical expenditures are stress related.  (CDC)

The average woman between the age of 30 and 60 gets 115 hours less sleep than they should get in a year.  (National Sleep Foundation)

These are just a few statistics.  And yet each of them is a reminder that time is not our enemy.  Our decisions/our daily choices are the enemy.  Time is finite.  We are all given the same amount.  We can not add to or take away time.  We simply choose how to utilize our time.  And clearly, based upon the above statistics we are not choosing wisely.

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Learning to manage your time, is learning to make tough decisions.  Managing time is about living according to your priorities, knowing your goals and keeping your eye on the final outcome.  Too often we rush through our days making decisions on the fly, giving little to no thought to the long term impact and rarely giving thought to our goals and priorities.

The challenge today is this:  Identify your priorities.  If that process is difficult, then simply write down what you want your life to look like or make a list of your daily regrets.  In all probability the daily regrets are the things that really matter to you, they just are the things you fail to think about when the busyness hits.  For example-if you fall into bed each night wishing the family had eaten dinner at home together, that is most likely something you value and hold as a priority.

My priorities are as follows:

  1. Faith-my personal relationship with God is primary to my existence.  It comes above all other relationships.
  2. Marriage-my relationship with my husband is second only to my faith.  I have to carve out time daily to spend with my husband if I am going to keep him my second priority.
  3. Family-my children and my extended family.  Relationships don’t happen via Facebook, greeting cards or the phone.  I have to build in time weekly to engage with my children and create ways at least monthly to engage our whole family with extended family.
  4. Work-Owning my own business I have to set boundaries and create a work schedule so as to protect the above priorities.
  5. Ministry/Faith Community-some might argue with me about this being this far down the list, but if I am not caring for the people God has entrusted to me (my husband, children and extended family) any ministry is somewhat hypocritical and mute.
  6. Friends
  7. Extra Curricular-this is a hard one for me, because if I am not careful this falls off my list weekly and I suffer emotionally and physically.  I have to keep my eye on all 7 priorities.

By knowing my priorities I can periodically sit down and look at where I have spent my time and evaluate things.  Most often, I find I have let my priorities get out of order.  On occasion this is necessary or dictated by an event (illness, death, change in employment…), but most often I have allowed too much into my schedule and am making decisions too quickly, not giving thought to my priorities or the long term impact of a simple decision.

Give it a shot.  Identify your priorities and then think about what changes you need to make to get things on track.  Identify one thing you need to QUIT doing.  Identify one thing you need to do MORE of.  You won’t change your life immediately, but you will begin to live more mindfully, and that over the course of time will change your life.

How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck from the Professional Organizer

We love nothing more than working with clients to help them create the spaces they want to live in and/or have time to live their priorities.  But here is the deal-no change will be lasting change until you change the way you do things.

Too often clients hire us to come in and do a “project space”-organize the pantry, the closet, the garage.  However, what they DON’T do is hire us to help them create new systems/new ways of managing what they have and their time.  The end result?  They will hire us again to do the same space.

I love the way Alicia Rockmore & Sarah Welch of Buttoned Up Products and authors of “Pretty Neat” define organization.  “The goal of getting organized isn’t necessarily to have everything picture-perfect, but rather to eliminate inefficiency so that you have more time to do what you actually like to do.”  At SOS we want to help you efficiently do the things you need to do to be effective within your family, your circle of friends, your workplace.  Picture-perfect spaces, efficient systems are worth nothing.  You being a changed person, working differently, becoming more effective and thus fulfilled is worth everything.

If you want to get the most out of hiring an organizer, hire them to get to know you.  Hire them to help you set up systems and develop new habits that keep you engaged in your priorities.  Hire them to hold you accountable.  While I shouldn’t be telling you this, I am going to any way.  Hire the organizer to do the above and you may never have to hire them again.  It may cost you a little more on the front end, but in the end, you will be changed, not just your space.

15 Minutes of Execution or Failure

I am going to let you in on a secret.  The key to being organized is EXECUTION.  Believe it or not, it is not in the systems, the containers, the planner, the technology.  Nope.  It is ALL in the execution.

What would you do if I told you your life could be changed in 15 minutes?

Becoming more organized is about creating new habits.  Most of us have areas of disarray because we have not executed a behavior to move from disarray to organization/management.  We seek to find some system of objects to fix the mess.  We hire an organizer to come in and in a one to two day session fix the mess.  However, until we address the need to execute NEW behaviors, the mess will return.

Organization takes time.  Not just a block of time in which to tackle the pile of paper, or purge the closet, but blocks of time to daily manage the paper, the clothes, the tasks.  It is often as simple as setting aside 15 minutes.  That’s right.  15 minutes.  We call this living by the 15 minute rule.

Setting aside three to four 15 minute blocks of time per day to execute your organizational strategies can be life changing.  In fact, it can be the difference between new found success or failure.  Setting up the systems for organizing is the easy part.  Most of us are capable of figuring out what kind of files we need, how many containers we need, where to store like items.  The difficulty lies in creating new habits to help us maintain these systems.

For example:  Mail & school papers are often a source of disorganization and frustration. Having boxes in which to store the papers, a shredder and file folders are great ways in which to store these items, but that in and of itself won’t take care of the papers.  Someone at some appointed time needs to manage the papers.  SOS recommends blocking off 15 minutes upon arrival home to sit and process the papers for the day.  Say hello to the family, change clothes, grab a snack with the kids.  Do whatever helps you transition from work to home. Then block off 15 minutes, grab the papers for the day and process them.  Discard all junk mail.  Shred any documents pertaining to finances you do not need.  Place any dates or deadlines on your calendar.  Throw the magazines in the basket for reading at a later date. Sign all school papers and return them to the child’s folder or backpack.  You get the idea. Completely doable in 15 minutes.

Another example would be a disorganized desk.  The simple act of taking 15 minutes of uninterrupted time the end of each day to look over the papers on your desk- filing, noting tasks on your calendar/to do list, shredding or delegating the papers to someone else, can save you hours the following morning.

15 minutes of focused time to address the process is the secret to success.  As you begin to practice the 15 minute rule, you will be amazed at what can be accomplished and the transformation in your day.  Here are some simple tasks to do in 15 minutes:

  1. Start a load of laundry
  2. Unload/load the dishwasher
  3. Read through 2-3 articles in your “to read” pile.
  4. Sort mail and discard/file all papers.
  5. Purge you email In Box.
  6. Pay bills.
  7. Schedule necessary appointments for coming week.
  8. Vacuum and dust one room.
  9. Balance checkbook/on-line account
  10. Take a brisk walk to clear mind (also great for your health)

Purge, Place, Peace

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I want you to take a glance again at the before and after pictures above.  As you look at the pictures on the left, think about how you feel.  If you are like most people, you may feel your chest tighten a little, your breathing become shallow, your jaw clench.  A sense of dread may set in.  Now look at the picture on the right in each grouping.  Again, think about how you feel.  I imagine you took a deep breath, felt a sense of relief and may have even thought, “Yes, that’s my kind of space.”

Stuff drags us down.  It literally drags us down.  We walk into our kitchen to bake and the fear of spices falling out of the cabinet or inability to find the second beater for the hand mixer, forces us to make a quick run to the grocery store to purchase some pre-made item for the office potluck.  (Not that there is anything wrong with that, but you get my drift.) You set out on a beautiful spring Saturday morning to take a bike ride with your kids only to find two bikes with flat tires.  You can’t find the tire pump.  You know you have one.  Out of frustration you either make a run to purchase another one or you give up on the bike ride.

Life is busy.  For most of us, the days are too full.  As we accumulate stuff and live our fast paced lives we often fail to think about what we are bringing into our homes and we rarely have time to stop and think about where we are going to store said items.  For a while, living that way is fine.  But, at some point it takes its tole.  It impacts your finances, your stress level and your life, your family’s life.

SOS: Simplified, Organized, Styled helps clients regain control over their spaces and their lives.  As organizers we walk clients through the process of identifying what they have and determine where they want to keep it.  We often hear that people fear hiring an organizer because they don’t want someone to come in and make them get rid of all their stuff.  That my friend is a myth.  Our clients make their own decisions.  Our clients choose.  Rarely is it the case that we push a client to get rid of something.

Hiring an organizer forces once to stop, to deal with the dreaded task.  We all have them.  We all need help with them.  As like items are gathered together, one begins to see what one really has, the volume of it and the quality of it.  The decision regarding what to keep, what to “bless” another with (aka give away) and what to throw away becomes clear and clients quickly make decisions.   At that point, we as the organizers, get creative in setting up “homes” for everything the client wants to keep.  We work with the clients budget and attempt to re-purpose as many storage items as possible, unless the client’s wishes and budget are for all matching bins.

Purging and finding a place for everything brings peace.  Every client we have worked with breathes a deep breath of relief when the job is done.  Many even have tears in their eyes as they see the potential.   They are excited about found items.  They are excited to no longer face the stress brought on by the mess.  They are excited to know they can engage once again in those activities they love because they have conquered the piles, conquered the time wasting search for items.  Purging and placing brings peace.

Below are a few more snapshots of finished spaces.  SOS would love to help you find space, find peace.

Eat Together-Stay Together

Madeline and I are frequently asked how we manage to have dinner at home so often, and actually cook healthy meals.  First of all, Madeline and I both like to cook, so this is less of a chore for us than it might be for some.  Second, our husbands join us in wanting this to be a priority for our families.  Because it is a priority, keeping our goal to have a minimum of 4-5 dinners at home each week drives many of our other choices and decisions.  Why?  Here are just a few of the benefits reaped: (as reported on CNN-Sarah Klein, October 25, 2011)

  1. Dinner at home is a stress reliever for the whole family
  2. Kids 9-14 who eat dinner at home have better diets and make better food choices
  3. Dinner at home contains as much as 60% fewer calories than restaurant food
  4. Kids who eat dinner at home on average perform better in school
  5. Kids eating dinner at home 5 times per week have less chance of smoking, drinking or using drugs.

Smiling family dining together

Eating dinner at home is possible.  Now remember, this isn’t driving through the restaurant and then sitting down at home to eat out of the take-out box.  This is eating food prepared at home.  For some, this is more difficult, and if cooking is not your thing, it will feel a bit more like a chore.  However, it is still doable, and we promise, worth it.

There are lots of ways to engage in this process.  There are meal planning sites.  There are now services from which you can order pre-boxed, fresh produce meals, complete with recipes and instructions.  Then there is our preferred method, the old fashioned cookbooks and recipes off of Pinterest (not so old fashioned).

Cooking meals at home will require planning.  Wish we could wave a magic wand, but it just won’t happen.  Madeline I keep on hand ingredients for some staple go to meals.  Think of at least 3 meals your family loves-baked chicken or fish, tacos, spaghetti…  Make certain you always have the ingredients for those items on hand.  Any time you find yourself in a crunch or not having planned meals, you can prepare one of these.

I typically plan out menus for at least two weeks on a Sunday afternoon (same time I clip coupons).  I like to print out recipes off of Pinterest or cooking pages, write down recipe and page numbers from my cookbooks.  I am a visual person, so working off of an iPad just doesn’t work for me, but it may for you.  I then make a grocery list of ingredients and attach any corresponding coupons.  The recipes are put on a clipboard which remains in my pantry.  Some weeks I go ahead and assign certain meals to certain days, but many weeks I am a little more relaxed with it, knowing I have the ingredients on hand, cooking whichever of the recipes seems right for that night.  I try to cook at least one menu item each week that can be turned into another meal, and if possible try to cook multiple meals at once.  This doesn’t always happen and at max, means one evening of some serious kitchen time.

Last night was a good example of this.  Ham and pork loin were grocery items for me this week.  So far I have already used the ham twice.  Monday night was eat out night as I had an event at my home and the girls had sports events.  We had some leftover rolls this weekend, so Tuesday night I made ham and bacon sliders with salad and Quinoa chips.  Last night, I knew I had a lighter day and evening, was the major cooking night.  Even at that though it was under two hours in the kitchen. The menu for last night was Ham and Shrimp in a Creole Wine sauce.  I have a standby breakfast casserole that refrigerates over night, making it great for school mornings and when guests come.  I browned the breakfast sausage for that in the skillet I was using to then saute the shrimp and ham slices.  This allowed me to quickly throw together the breakfast casserole while the dinner items were cooking, AND added extra flavor to the shrimp and ham.  The shrimp dish was to be served over rice.  I decided to make Quinoa instead.  I made 4 cups in the rice steamer.  This allowed me to save 2 cups for Quinoa salad this weekend.  (Cooked Quinoa will keep up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator-although I have never kept any that long.  It is great for salads, using for “fried rice”, or heating up like oatmeal.)  After dinner I pulled out a large pork loin I had purchased at Sam’s.  I cut it into 4 small pork tenderloin pieces, trimming the fat.  I am taking two of them to another family in need of some help with meals, and then will grill the other two for us tonight.  I marinate the tenderloins overnight in an soy sauce and orange juice mixture with garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin and chile paste.  The leftover meat from tonight I will chop in the food processor and use for barbecue sandwiches tomorrow night.  Sadly there was no shrimp and ham left, otherwise it would have been used with the leftover Quinoa to make up some “fried rice” for lunch on Saturday.

All in all, you can see that with a little planning (no more than and hour or so on Sunday) you can easily get 4-5 meals put together, often using leftovers from one night to create a meal for the next.  Not to mention, I promise you’ll save money!

Eating at home keeps our families together.  It is around the dinner table we find out the details or our children’s lives.  It is around the dinner table we get to know their friends. Often it is around the dinner table we decide what all we are doing the next week, where we are going on vacation etc…  Eating together keeps us connected.  It forces us to slow down.

We challenge you to eat together.  Need help menu planning?  Check out Pinterest.  Need some help setting up family systems and executing them through coaching and accountability?  Call us.  Eating together will help you stay together.  It’s worth the extra planning and time.