Ahhh, shiny, new school and office supplies.
Do you find that aisle or display at the store particularly enticing? I do. All those differently colored pens, markers, neatly packaged pencils, and rows of empty notebooks seem to be full of possibilities. Considering these items are usually on sale around back to school time, they can be tempting pieces to “stock up” on for future use.
I was shopping last week, replenishing some essentials for the house. I just couldn’t help but notice these items as I was walked by, with a big “CLEARANCE” sign over them. It’s October - the back-to-school transition has now passed and the bulk of this stuff has to move to make space for the next season’s offerings.
I stood there and took a good look at everything. And then I snapped out of it, “you already have what you need.”
You might have several notebooks hanging around with something written on a few pages, and you keep them around “for when they’re needed.” I used to - they took up a lot of space on my bookshelf, and the collection seemed to keep growing.
Consider this: it can take months, or over a year to completely use up a notebook with consistent use - if you aren’t a student. The same goes for pens, pencils, and markers. A quick internet search told me that the average ball point pen gets you about 1 kilometer of writing. That’s almost 3/4 of a mile. If you’ve got hundreds of pens hanging around the house, consider that the ink might even dry out before you can get to them all, rendering the pens unusable.
Now I have one notebook. Along with a few pens and pencils that are my absolute favorites. Some markers go into my organizing tool kit for labeling. The rest have been donated.
I use the notebook to jot down quick lists, take notes in a meeting or during a call, and brainstorm ideas. And then I immediately take action on what’s written down: complete the tasks, transfer the notes to digital if needed, and get rid of the page. No more extra noise.
If you keep a paper journal, of course just having one going at a time keeps entries in chronological order. When it’s full, getting to pick out a new one feels special.
Here’s the bottom line: If school and office supplies are always available, and we’re using digital formats more and more to store our information, then we simply don’t need to have that many backups hanging around. Getting this stuff on an “as needed” basis helps keep the clutter at bay and saves the hassle of searching for a pen that actually works.
What do you use notebooks for? Are you inspired to pare down? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
If you’ve grown up in the US, you might have been brought up in a culture that believes rest is unproductive and lazy. The phrase “oh, I’m so busy!” being worn as a badge of honor, and living our lives at a frantic pace being seen as a marker of success has been the norm.
As you know, that came to a screeching halt in March of this year. Yes, there has been uncertainty and hardship since the start of spring, and we don’t want to minimize that. But there has also been a huge shift in our daily lives for the better - a collective slowing down and prioritizing what matters most. It’s something that many of us imagined would only happen later on, in our golden years.
When it all began, I thought, “now what?” Admittedly, I felt a bit lost when my calendar was suddenly clear of in-home client work, volunteer activities, and social events. As someone who helps others pare down and slow down to live easier, less chaotic lives, I found even I had some work to to. But as the weeks went on, I began to notice this slower pace allowed for higher quality experiences in my everyday life. A recent article from Psychology Today had me reflecting on how my own life has changed for the better:
“Someday when I have more time…” became “right now.”
Do you have projects and ideas you’d like to implement when there’s more time? Most of us do - there might be partially-completed craft projects, books to read, or new hobbies to take up. This became a time to face all of that - if I didn’t have time now, then it had go - and it did without guilt!
Activities outside of the home became enhanced.
With no pressure to plan or attend any large gatherings or distant travel, time out of the house has taken on a different quality. A walk at the same local place hasn’t become boring - instead it’s an opportunity to observe different wildlife and the changes throughout the seasons. Time with friends and family has taken deliberate planning and time spent in-person is much more appreciated than it was in the past. Less really is more, and has taken on a new meaning.
Moving forward with a less packed schedule is an attainable reality.
Having felt the benefits of slower and more focused daily living, adding more activity back in has become more intentional, and saying "no" a bit easier. The thought of going back to a frantic pace of life might feel overwhelming - this is a great opportunity to pare down the schedule long-term.
How has your life improved by slowing down? What are some habits you’ve incorporated that you’ll be continuing on with? What have you let go of that just wasn’t working? I’d love to hear from you, drop a line in the comments below!
As a business owner who loves living and working along with a diverse population, I feel called to respond to the civil unrest we are experiencing in the United States. It’s something that has been going on for hundreds of years, and is deeply rooted into the structures and institutions in our society. I would like to state that I stand by the Black community and the Black Lives Matter movement. I’m listening, learning everything I can about racial injustice, and speaking out in my everyday life.
I became a professional organizer because I care about people and it makes me feel good to help them. My work involves helping people declutter their homes and schedules, so that they can make space for things and activities that matter most, and that includes making time to connect with our community and helping others.
I know the perfect statement doesn’t exist. While these conversations are difficult and uncomfortable, they are necessary. In the past, my rule (like many other business owners and family dinner tables alike) was, “don’t talk about politics or anything controversial.” As we may discover while we’re decluttering our homes, change is often difficult and uncomfortable, but without it, we can’t experience growth or move toward a better situation. The work toward anti-racism doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a marathon. The COVID-19 crisis has shown us that we can respond quickly for the greater good, and justice for the Black community is no exception.
What follows is not a “definitive guide” on how to fight racism, this is what I have been doing to learn more and take action. If you're feeling like you want to get involved but don't know where to begin, this could be a start. And likewise, I welcome feedback and constructive conversation! Just like with getting organized, it’s those consistent, small steps that lead to big changes in the long run.
I’ve learned that no matter who we are, we all experience some levels of bias. Merely by living in a society where laws and rules disproportionately affect people of color means there's an effect on everyone. This can get uncomfortable, but self-awareness is a great first step in improving the situation for marginalized groups. I’ve been thinking about how I value differences and what I can do to encourage more diversity in my day to day living.
Reading & Listening
It has been especially helpful to take a step back from social media in order to read books, watch documentaries, and listen to podcasts. It’s also felt really supportive to listen to friends, colleagues, and clients talk about their experiences - what is it like to live your everyday life as a Black person? This is by no means an extensive list, but the following have been helpful so far:
The Super Organizer - James Lott, Jr.: James is a certified life coach and fellow professional organizer. As a black male in a predominantly female industry, he openly shares his insight with us. James radiates positivity, confidence, and joy - his clients in LA are lucky people!
The Super Organizer Man In The PO Industry: I'm A Big Black Man!
Super Organizer Man in the PO Industry: A Message from a Black Male PO!
An award-winning documentary about the prison system in America. This was an eye-opening watch: 13th
Brené Brown - Unlocking Us
Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations “Where do we go from here?” Part 1 and 2
Kimberlé Crenshaw - Intersectionality Matters!
Robin Diangelo - White Fragility
Ibram X. Kendi - How to Be an Antiracist
Layla F. Saad - Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor
Frances E. Kendall, Ph.D. - How to Be an Ally if You Are a Person with Privilege
There are many ways in which racial inequalities are built into our society. Do you have any issues that are near and dear to you? Just like when we’re organizing and decluttering, trying to focus on too much at once might be counterproductive. Consider your own interests and resources nearby. Donating money, time, mentorship, etc. can be a way to contribute to a cause that feels meaningful:
Do you have any additional resources to share that have been helpful? I’d love to hear from you as we continue on this journey together.
Change is something that is guaranteed throughout our lives, but it isn’t always easy to experience. Dealing with sudden unexpected change can be overwhelming - especially for those of us who like to plan and prefer to reduce the amount of uncertainty in our lives. For the first time in recent history, the whole world has been impacted by sudden unexpected change. It might be comforting to think that there are no exclusions - everyone is transitioning from the way life was to a “new normal.” We are all in this together. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of transition is:
A: passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another : CHANGE
B: a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another
One thing the dictionary definition left out is that transition is gradual, it doesn’t happen overnight. We're leaving behind the way things were and stepping into a new way of living. It’s also important to remember there are normal ups and downs, and no set timeline for a transition to be over.
When people think about being organized, they might imagine picture-perfect pantries ready for a photo shoot. Organizing isn’t just about the physical stuff, our habits and routines play a big part in feeling and staying organized. Right now while we’re all dealing with containment is an opportunity to develop our habits and routines at home, either alone or with our families. It’s a time to reflect on all aspects of our lives and make adjustments where appropriate. My priorities have shifted to taking the best care of myself possible, and supporting my loved ones. Here are three things I focus on each day:
Be Kind and Patient
This is important, now more than before. Everyone is experiencing this situation differently. Some live alone, others have large families to manage. There are people who continue working with the public each day while the rest are hunkering down at home. Everybody has different needs and a different perspective. Some adapt to changes quickly, and others take more time - there is no right answer when it comes to this, only what works best for you. As restrictions ease, some people will be making changes faster than others, and some will still be choosing strict containment to protect themselves or vulnerable family members. As I mentioned before, whatever the situation, we are all experiencing changes together. Choosing to be kind helps strengthen our bond while we’re apart and gives others hope. I’ve heard a few people say, “smile under that mask every chance you get!” and have yet to regret taking the advice.
Maybe too much screen time and news reports leave you feeling drained. The seemingly endless raw, rainy weather might have you feeling restless. Try to recognize whatever it is that could be giving you the blahs, and focus on activities that help you feel better. While a lot is out of our control right now, a self-care routine is something we can control, no matter how big or small. Having something fun to look forward to each day has helped me keep a positive outlook. It might look like setting a timer and shutting down electronics for a walk or a family dance party. Rainy days are a good opportunity to work on some kind of fun, creative project indoors - whatever it is that interests you, go for it!
With this sudden unexpected change, we’ve been left with structuring our days from scratch. Many adults transitioned to working from home, children and teens are now learning from home, with parents juggling work and homeschooling. If your life was super busy before and felt chaotic, you might be enjoying this slower paced lifestyle at the moment. This could be an opportunity to drop what wasn’t working before we were all separated. Were there too many weekly activities on the calendar and not enough evenings at home? Are there things you’ve wanted to do “when time allows” that you haven’t gotten to? It’s ok to let them go. While there may be activities that you’d like to drop - there are surely some that are missed! What is it that you miss right now that you’re looking forward to when restrictions ease?
How has your life changed recently? What are some positives that have come out of this situation for you? I'd love to hear from you!
With many of us spending more time at home lately, we might be feeling like our spaces could use a little bit of sprucing up. There are areas we walk past daily, maybe hourly that we’ve been meaning to take care of “when we have time.” What better time to tackle that dusty corner over there, neglected houseplants needing attention, and that closet you’ve been meaning to organize?
The good news is, it can get done little by little by focusing on one task each day. If you have children at home, there might be some tasks they can help out with! Cleaning and organizing the house is a great way to move your body, take a break from screen time, and having something productive to focus on is going to bring on feelings of accomplishment.
If you fall behind, you can always use a day or two to catch up, and don’t forget to enlist help from family members! Some days might be more involved than others, and while this list has plenty of tasks to keep us busy, there are other tasks you might want to do to replace the ones I suggested. I invite you to follow along on Instagram, where I'll give more details for each day. I’ll be doing this challenge as well and would love to hear from you, let's keep each other accountable!
If you’re looking to move things out of the house but aren’t able to drop off donations due to the current health crisis, try Give Back Box. I’ve just learned about this genius service from fellow professional organizers. If you have boxes lying around from items you’ve purchased recently, you can fill them up and mail them to charities. It’s a great way to get your house in order and help people in need while we are all being urged to stay home. Check it out!
If you have extra food and household supplies, you can reach out to locals on platforms like Facebook, Nextdoor, and Instagram. It might be as simple as connecting and leaving the items outside your door for someone to pick up.
Are you motivated to get a good Spring clean done while we’re all spending lots of time at home? What are your go-to activities right now?