Monday, October 24, 2011

October Meeting Notes: Get Organized!

Last Thursday, CityMamas hosted Beth Giles of NW Organizing Solutions.  We had over 20 mamas in attendance!  It was great to see so many familiar and new faces.  We each introduced ourselves and gave a little insight into our organizing questions and problems.  Many of us had similar day-to-day organizing issues.  Beth has been kind enough to send us her powerpoint, which can be found here.

For those of you who want a little more context, I took a few notes:

We spent the first half discussing TIME. 

Beth gave us each two paper plates, stapled together.  On the first paper plate, we wrote everything “on our plate” – not just work and family, but all of the things that take up our day, that occupy our minds, e.g. hosting birthday parties, tending to a friend who is going through a divorce, dealing with in-law issues, driving to soccer practices or swim lessons, etc.  We each scribbled away.  Then she asked us to think about what we could take off our plates to free up some time and emotional capacity.  For everything we say YES to, she pointed out, we are saying NO to something else.  

She asked us to make sure that all of these things on our plate are priorities and reflect our values.  For instance, a client of hers once wanted to connect better with her child and so she joined the PTA.  The client realized that while this gave her a better connection to her child’s school, that was not her original intent.  Do the things on our plates reflect our values?  Could we take something off the front plate?  

She said that she gives clients a “time map” (see slide).  She has her clients write everything on the time map – broken into 15 minute increments – that they do every day.  A majority of time may be taken up on little things, such as hair care, packing lunches, cleaning the kitchen, etc. – not on the big things that we write down in our calendar and schedule time for.  Then she has her clients color code the list to see where time is going – for instance, “School Preparation” or “Cleaning”.  If you are looking for extra time in the day, then you will need to lose something on the time map.  She also suggested synching your calendars with your family – using Google calendar or other software.

[On a personal note, I actually keep thinking about that front plate – which was completely full, and I’ve already taken some things off.  Haven’t tried the time map exercise.  Anyone else tried this yet?]

She talked about having a “To Do List” of things that don’t have to be done today, but all of the things that need to be done soonish.  This should be a running list of short and long term tasks.  Short term meaning “stop by Jo-Ann’s to buy art supplies” and long term meaning “paint the living room”.  She suggested having a “Daily List” that is separate – of all the things that can realistically be accomplished TODAY.  She said to keep the “To Do List” available to draw from, in case it is convenient to cross something off from it. 

She also suggested to set a timer for tasks during our day.  Her example was sitting down at the computer.  Do you really need to be on for more than 10-15 minutes?  How long should you allow yourself to check FaceBook, for instance?  She recommended “Fasting”, or abstaining from electronics for one day/week.  One mom shared that her extended family practices the Jewish custom of “Shabbat”, or freeing oneself from the regular labors of daily life.  Today that translated for her family into unscheduled time every Saturday, even staying in their pajamas until two in the afternoon.  [Does anyone do something similar?]

Beth also suggested to schedule time for two things that don’t often get scheduled: FUN and CATCHING UP.

Next, Beth talked about SPACE.

Beth said that for each “space” in our homes, there should be a goal.  For instance, the goal for  the kitchen table may be an eating space, so we shouldn’t dump stuff on it that makes it difficult for it to meet its goal.  The bedroom goal may be resting or sleeping, maybe watching television, so the bills don’t belong in there. 
As far as “stuff”, she says to sort and purge.  Group “like” things together, and get rid of things we don’t need or use or want.  If we are sentimental about some things, e.g. clothes or items from our childhood or our child’s baby items, or “collections”, e.g. tea cups, there are many solutions – such as saving one or two items, taking a picture of the items (making a book with the photos?), making a quilt with the items, creating a shadow box, etc. She offers resources on her website for great places to donate used stuff.  

[Please share with us if you’ve done any of the above with your “stuff” – e.g. quilts, etc.  I finally took some time and created shadow boxes with baby items – a baby hat, shoes, i.d. bracelet from the hospital, birth announcement.  Photo on left is from Martha Stewart, not mine.]

As far as organizing the things we do keep in our house, she suggests creating “zones”, e.g. a reading zone for books, a chair, magazines – with everything that goes with reading.  She recommends creating a “landing zone” for all of the items that you “dump” when you walk in the door – such as a bucket for shoes, hooks for bags/purses and keys, etc.  

And she says that you must MAINTAIN your system.   

The slides also cover examples of space management, and PAPER.  [I needed to leave at this point in her presentation, so if anyone wants to share what they learned from the PAPER portion, please comment below.]

Happy organizing!

p.s. Here are Beth’s links, and a letter from her below:

Facebook link for weekly tips
Email if they’d like to sign up for monthly organizing newsletters

Hi City mamas,
Thanks for coming to the organizing workshop today.  It was great to see you all and hear what you are facing in your lives and homes. I  appreciate the opportunity to share with you some of the things that I see make a difference in people’s homes and schedules every day.  

The monthly organizing email article comes out the beginning of each month, and if you’d like weekly tips, you can like us on Facebook.

I will send separately the articles on the topics you requested. If your questions are not addressed in that article, there is always the past years’ worth of organizing  articles (and also another series of downsizing articles) on my website at NW Organizing Solutions newsletters You can also find a list of great resources  where you can sell, donate, or recycle. 

NW Organizing Solutions serves homes and home offices in the Portland metro area and in Vancouver. If you would like more information about how we can help bring order to your home or if you’d like to set up an organizing session, please feel free to contact me.

Happy organizing,

Beth Giles / 503-709-0791
Professional Organizer/Senior Move Manager
NW Organizing Solutions
We help families bring order to their homes

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