A Surprising Reason You Are Stuck in Overwhelm

There are a lot of reasons we get stuck in overwhelm.

Not too long ago I recognized another cause of overwhelm that is operating beneath the surface for many of the people I work with. It is not only the source of overwhelm but of guilt, disorganization, and even shame.

This cause is so common that I’ve given it a name: Always Available Syndrome.

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A Surprising Reason You Are Stuck in Overwhelm

I Can’t Find My…

Can't Find My Stuff

In my work as a professional organizer, I’ve heard that the average person spends anywhere from 10 – 55 minutes a day looking for stuff. As we all know, time spent trying to find what you know you have is frustrating! Typically, there are three primary reasons why this happens.

You Haven’t Designated a Home

The most common reason we “lose” items is that we haven’t taken the time to intentionally designate where they will live. As a result, we put them down in a variety of places, which makes them hard to find. By defining a specific resting location for commonly used items, you can significantly reduce the time you spend searching. Some commonly used items that you need to assign a space for include:

  • Glasses/Sunglasses
  • Keys
  • Cell Phone (and charger)
  • Purse/Briefcase/Backpack
  • Wallet/ID/Driver’s License/Passport
  • Pen, pencil, highlighter
  • Scissors
  • Flash Drive
  • Earbuds

Remember to think this through for your home, office, car and anywhere else you go. For example…

where will you put your sunglasses if you wear them into a store? 

where will you put your phone when you are at school? 

where will you keep your wallet when you are in your car?

You Put Things Down Mindlessly

For some, the struggle is less with establishing a home for items and more with returning them to their rightful spot. This is understandable…we walk in the door and the phone is ringing or someone needs our immediate attention. As a result, we tend to mindlessly put things down without taking note of where we are putting them.

Changing this habit is largely an issue of discipline. A few tricks to force yourself to put things away include:

  • Speaking out loud when you put an item down. “I’m putting my keys on the counter.” If this is the RIGHT spot for the item, you’ll feel good about it. If it is the wrong spot, you may guilt yourself into not putting them there… and even if you don’t, you will have audibly reminded yourself where you put the keys.
  • Asking others to hold you accountable for putting items away. For example, tell the kids they get a nickel every time they catch you not putting your glasses back in the holder next to the sink.
  • Focusing on one belonging at a time. Spend a month focusing on the one item you most frequently lose track of.

Stuff Gets Covered Up

A third common situation is when we put something down and then someone else comes along and covers it up with another object. Paperwork is the classic example. You put a school form down on the counter, and within an hour it is covered with the mail, the newspaper and the loose change your spouse emptied out of his pocket.

Unfortunately, we can’t always control the behavior of others. Therefore, the best way to avoid having your belongings covered up is to resist putting them where they can easily be piled upon. Hang them up, file them, put them away in a drawer… whatever it takes. In addition, make sure every family has a space somewhere in the house that is “theirs”… no one else can put stuff there except that one particular person.

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If there is one thing we can all use more of, it is time. Who needs to waste it looking for stuff?

What tricks have you found helpful for keeping track of your belongings?

photo credit: Hello Turkey Toe via photopin cc

Behind-the-Scenes with “Overwhelmed” NYT Bestselling Author

I had the good fortune to sit down with Brigid Schulte, a wife, mother, award-winning journalist with The Washington Post and the author of her new book: Overwhelmed: Work, Love, Play, When No One Has The Time.

In this heavily researched book, Schulte takes us on a journey around the world as she uncovers the roots of why we feel so harried and overwhelmed as a culture and what we can do individually and collectively to shift away from the devastating pace at which we are living.

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Behind-the-Scenes with “Overwhelmed” NYT Bestselling Author

Organizing Your Child’s Artwork

Organizing Art Cover Final - Copy

Now that the school year is in full swing, it’s the ideal time to set up systems for processing the various types of paper that you’ll begin to find in your child’s backpack on a regular basis. Today, we’ll tackle the vexing problem of what do with all of that artwork .

Create an Art Gallery Wall

Find a place in your home where you can prominently display your child’s best pieces of art. Your kids spend a great deal of time and effort producing these gems; creating formal displays that go beyond the front of the fridge demonstrate to them that you value their hard work and creativity! Switch out the pieces on a regular basis as new art comes in.

Organizing Art1

In addition to using traditional frames to create a kids’ art gallery in your home, you can get creative!  One of my favorite methods for displaying art is to use a simple wire and clip system on a long wall. I also love the Lil’ Davinci Art Cabinet, which provides another hassle-free way to frequently change out your art display.

 Designate a Temporary Holding Container

For artwork that isn’t quite “gallery-worthy”, designate a container for each child that will serve as a temporary place for all incoming art to be stored until the end of the school year. Make sure that the container is sufficiently large to accommodate oversized paintings and 3-dimensional pieces. I like to use under-bed storage boxes, since that’s where the holding containers live at our house.

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Stor-n-Slide Underbed Boxes

 

Review Your Collection at Year’s End

At the conclusion of the school year, take some time to sort through the holding bin with your child and determine whether the collection needs to be culled down prior to “archiving” it. As you review the collection, you and your child will likely identify pieces that are not significant to either one of you (e.g., coloring pages, etc.).

Give yourself permission to discard these and keep only the pieces that reflect your child’s talent, creativity, and interests. I recommend conducting this end-of-year review with your child; that way, you won’t be tossing any piece that is important to her (even if you don’t attribute any significance to it).

Archive and Share Each Year’s Collection

Once you’ve culled your collection, you may choose to keep the original art and store it in an archival quality container. Alternatively, you can archive the collection by creating digital images of each piece of art. I am a huge fan of this method.  Not only does it eliminate the necessity of devoting space in your home for storing tons of artwork, it opens up so many possibilities for sharing your child’s precious creations!

Artsonia

Artsonia enables you to upload your digital images to create an online art gallery to share with friends and family. It also serves as a “virtual museum”, in which your child can display their artwork publicly on the web. This service is available to parents, as well as school teachers!

OrganizingArt8

Artsonia Website

Artkive

The Artkive app is another option for creating an online art gallery that can be shared with family and friends. Artkive is a free app that boasts some great organizing features, including the ability to categorize your art by school grade, child, and child’s age. You can even name each piece of art. In addition, you have the ability to produce a photo book of your child’s art collection with a few clicks of a button.

OrganizingArt7

Photo Books

Creating digital images of your child’s art work enables you to take advantage of the dizzying array of online resources for creating digital photo books. Sites such as BlurbShutterfly, and MyPublisher make it easy for anyone to create a photo book these days.

Organizing Art5

You can create a digital photo book for each school year, or create larger books that curate art across several school years. I’ve created photo books for my children’s artwork using Artkive, Shutterfly and MyPublisher. These books can get pricey, so I suggest searching Groupon for current deals when you are ready to create your books.

Organizing Art2

 

Photo books are a great way to enjoy your child’s artwork for years to come with minimal clutter!

Organizing Art3

Making Homework Easy

Helping your child to be successful with their homework is about planning.

Plan a time when your child can concentrate and an adult is available to lend support to the task.  Some children will be able to do homework right after they finish school, other children will need time to do some physical activity  before they can concentrate, and yet other children will need to eat first.

homework

Have a quiet area near an adult . Children may need support from an adult at times to be successful You will need a spot that has limited distractions, minimize stimulation from video screens and phones and reduce loud conversations with other family members in the homework area.

Large projects take more than one night to complete.

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Back to School – Making Homework Easy

The Ins and Outs of Home Organizing

It is one of the unspoken laws of the universe… Things come into a house much more easily than they go out. The tide can turn, however, if you understand the full force of your actions and change the course of your behavior accordingly.

Think before you purchase. The term, caveat emptor, should take on a whole new dimension for many with shopping issues. Let the buyer beware of not only purchasing defective goods but useless or superfluous ones as well.

An incredible steal will never translate into a great bargain if it is brought home, thrown in a closet and promptly forgotten. By definition, you just bought yourself a heap of clutter.

Rather than constantly giving in to shopping impulses, pause and ask yourself if you really need it or, more importantly, if you really want it. Take it one step further and decide exactly where you are going to put it once you get it home. If the answer is an overstuffed drawer or the like, then reconsider your choices.

Another option would be to make a conscious decision to get rid of those belongings that no longer have perceived value. They take up premium space that could be used more wisely.

Actions have consequences. A prudent amount of self-control will lead to desired results. By figuring out a few of the ins and outs, you can lay down your own laws and take command of your own universe.

For more information on this topic, visit How to Stop Shopping: Curbing Spending Habits by Monica Jamer for Today’s Mama.

Are You So Far Behind It Feels Impossible to Stop?

Most people have no idea just how much you do in a day.

Between the demands of your job, taking care of your family, managing the house, and squeezing in a few minutes of social time if you’re lucky – it can feel like everyday is a marathon.

What’s especially frustrating is when you work so hard and do so much and still don’t feel caught up at the end of the day.

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Are You So Far Behind It Feels Impossible to Stop?

5 Tips for Keeping Your Vehicle Organized

Image office.jpgVehicles are used as mobile offices, restaurants, entertainment centers, locker rooms and homework stations.  Keeping a car clean can be easy.

Here are 5 tips to help you organize your vehicle.

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5 Tips for Keeping Your Vehicle Organized

How To Structure Your Workday To Minimize Distractions

The Speed of Life Is your typical day a chaotic free-for-all filled with overflowing emails, last-minute meetings, and impending deadlines?

Are you regularly frustrated by how little progress you make on your projects?

Do you feel bone-weary tired at the end of the day – totally depleted and unable to focus?

You aren’t alone. Not by a long shot.

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How To Structure Your Workday To Minimize Distractions

Jumpstart Holidays… October

Getting ahead of the holidays

The secret to a smooth holiday season is starting early…. as in starting now, in October. This may seem ridiculous, but by knocking off some of the time-insensitive tasks, you can significantly lessen the stress that November and December can bring. To get a jumpstart, use the next couple of weeks to:

Discuss holiday plans

  • Decide if you will host any parties, and if so when?
  • Decide if you will attend any special events (concerts, shows, performances, etc.)
  • Buy any required tickets.
  • Reserve babysitting for high-demand December weekends.

Nail down travel details

  • Decide if you will be traveling or if anyone will be coming to you.
  • Purchase any necessary tickets (train, plane…)
  • Make necessary reservations (hotel, pet boarding, rental car, airport transport….)
  • Purchase hostess gifts now to be delivered at the appropriate time (most websites let you pick when you would like gifts delivered.)
  • Request/communicate special dietary needs to help with meal planning.

Complete Holiday Greeting Cards

  • Decide on a card design.
  • Finalize your card list and update addresses.
  • Order the appropriate number of cards and envelopes.
  • Write any personal notes or a family letter.
  • Address envelopes (by hand, print envelopes from the computer, or print labels.)
  • Buy stamps. (If you like holiday stamps, you can pre-order online at usps.com; they typically ship the 3rd week of October.)

Plan Food

  • Stock up on wine and spirits.
  • If you bake or give food gifts, start buying supplies (flour, sugar, butter, chocolate, etc.)
  • If you are hosting, begin making lists for items you will serve and ingredients you will need.
  • Prepare anything that you can freeze (easy go-to dinners, pie crusts, cookies, stock, etc.)

Get Ahead on Gifts

  • Make a list of everyone to whom you will be giving gifts (friends, family, teachers, service providers, work associates, charities, etc.)
  • Decide what you will be giving to each recipient (gift cards, cash, specific items)
  • Watch for sales, look online, and take advantage of the slow pre-season retail time.
  • Check your stash of wrapping supplies and supplement as needed (paper, tape, boxes, bows, ribbon.)
  • Wrap items and label gifts as you bring them in and put in a designated holding area.

Prepare Your Home

  • If you are hosting overnight guests, begin thinking about who will sleep where. Make sure to have sufficient clean bedding, towels, etc.
  • Polish any silver you will be using.
  • De-clutter and make space for holiday decorations (sort any stacks of paperwork, get rid of old magazines, give away unwanted clothing, clear off shelves, etc.)
  • Sort through toys and make space for any new items that might come in.
  • Give your house a thorough cleaning.

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The holiday season should be enjoyed. While there is no eliminating the “hustle and bustle,” checking items off your list early is the best way to ensure a happy holiday.

What ideas do you have for getting a jump on the holidays?

 

Submitted by Professional Organizer Seana Turner, founder and President of The Seana Method.