Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Organizing Mistakes (Part One: January Whirlwind)

Welcome to Part One of a new series. I’ll be identifying common errors that sabotage our attempts at organization.

(For those of you who grew up in my era, cue the mental Beastie Boys soundtrack. Indulge for a few seconds. …And, now we’re back.)

Whether you are struggling to get organized or just want to be more organized, I’d imagine that you are tempted by the first culprit I’d like to address: the January whirlwind.

No matter where you look, the instant that Christmas is over, everyone is trying to restore order.
Stores reduce prices in attempts to move inventory. The radio station quickly (and frustratingly) switches back to their typical playlists at 12:01 am on December 26, leaving you with no more musical joy for holiday gatherings that happen after that moment. Magazines instruct invite you to tidy up your home, using photos with plenty of white in the palette. Everyone packs up the formerly adorable decorations that have now just become “clutter”. And there are New Year’s organizing resolutions aplenty.

Obviously, if you are still with me, you know that I believe getting organized is a good thing.

But more important is staying organized.

You know that it takes anywhere from 21 to 30 days to make an activity into a habit. You also know that changing your personal behaviors requires extra motivation and discipline. And if you have a family, you know you’ll also have a bit of convincing, training and reinforcing that you need to do.

Is this a wholesale decision to make on December 31? No, not at all. While I am wild about doing things as well as possible and as fast as possible, this is not the time nor the situation. Planning and patience are required.

January Do’s and Don’t’s
  • Do not run to the store and wildly purchase bins or specialty containers.
  • Do not empty out large quantities of cabinets or cupboards with the goal of wiping down and rearranging them. You will burn out. Quickly.
  • Do not assume that one week of vacation and a full iPod will be enough to perfect the organization in your life.
  •  Do set a timer and tackle one shelf or one drawer at a time.
  • Do realize that small, successful steps will pave the way for you to make larger changes. It’s okay to start with a central place for keys and progress onto emptying the bedroom-turned-storage-closet. Later, much later.
  • Do take time to identify the problem areas or “subjects” (e.g. paperwork, children’s belongings, kitchen storage) in your house and brainstorm ways to improve the problem with family members.
  • Do take the list of disorganized issues (above) and assign each area to a month of the year. Work on each issue for a month and evaluate the impact.
  • Do realize that staying organized will require ongoing effort. We’ll talk more about this later.
So, how are you doing with your New Year's resolutions?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Grace Again

Do you recall my confession post?

Once again I find myself in a similar situation: I lost my phone.

This is one of the reasons that I don't have a smartphone. Let me recount the history of my cell phone fatalities: washing machine "ride", thrown down the basement steps by my eldest son, died for no apparent reason, dropped on the sidewalk and cracked the screen, and now, MIA.

In my mind, it's just not worth investing in anything too nice until I get this problem under control. Fortunately, the much-younger-than-me employees at the wireless dealer didn't make fun of me. They just gave me a new SIM card. For free. Oh, and they also gave me an admonishment to consider buying a protection plan.

For now, that new SIM card is in the phone with the cracked screen. I’m hoping and praying the old phone turns up. If not, you can believe I’ll be buying another unfancy phone. Hopefully it will last awhile.

Do you have any tips on how you keep your phone safe and healthy, especially when leaving the house involves many bags and small children?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Spiritual and Mental Clutter

Though I've posted links to Glynnis Whitwer's blog before, I was especially moved by her post today on quieting our hearts, minds and souls so that we can hear God's voice.

I hope you find it meaningful.

(Disclaimer: Though I enjoy Glynnis' blog and often read her devotionals, she has no idea who I am!)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Decluttering Success

A (very) belated Happy New Year to you!

For the third time in as many months, I feel like I’m on the cusp of “catching up”: bills paid, little snippets of paper under control, cleaning mostly up-to-date and only a handful of items on the to-do list. I hope I don’t jinx myself in terms of getting sick!

One of my proudest accomplishments: I’ve recently purged a number of items from our home via eBay, Craiglist and Freecycle. Though the proceeds have been minimal, I am delighted that these items have been given a second chance and will not be heading to the landfill for a while longer.

To date, we’ve parted with:
The above-pictured Ikea chairs (Freecycle)
A papasan dorm-style chair (Craigslist)
A spare set of yard sale golf cubs (Freecycle)
Four teddy bears that I was once collecting (eBay)
A necklace I never wore (eBay)
A highly breakable crystal bowl not compatible with young boys (eBay)

As a result, the basement is a lot less cluttered. I also have a few bucks in my PayPal account!

If you are highly motivated to pass on some of your earthly treasures this year, here are a few tips that I’ve gathered from my personal experience. I’d love for you to add your ideas in the comments section.

Choose the right listing venue
You must first decide if you want to dispose of your item quickly, or if you are willing to be patient in order to make some money.

  • eBay is a great way to get broad exposure for items that are relatively small and easy to ship. Though competing with many other sellers, you can offload almost any item in new or good condition that appeals to the average person (jewelry, accessories, clothing, children’s items, household items, etc.) 
  • Craigslist is a great option for items that are inconvenient to ship or that are showing a little bit of use, such as furniture, large quantities of clothing, large toys, etc.
  • Freecycle is a great way to get rid of nearly anything, and quickly. Your only investment is time in reviewing the myriad emails and putting the item out on your porch.
  • Facebook is a growing way to announce that you have items to part with. It’s also a terrific way to find a lender if you need to borrow something for the weekend.

Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes
Who doesn’t love free shipping? If you are listing an item on eBay, offer free shipping. However, please save yourself frustration by first packing it up and taking it to the post office or UPS store and having them give you a price to ship it as far away as possible. (I always seem to end up selling to people on the West Coast.)  Build the shipping into your cost and be realistic.

Also, be sure to take good photos of what you are offering, even on Craigslist. I’ll be turned off by seeing the item in your dank-looking basement, wondering just how creepy you might be. Take a few extra minutes to make it presentable. An honest representation about whether the item has been in the home of a smoker, or about stains/wear is also something I would expect before buying.

On the other hand, don't be ashamed of your ugly, beat-up possessions. There is probably a do-it-yourself-er that would love to get their hands on project materials. Remember that one man's trash is another man's treasure.

Time it right
Hands down, it seems like Sundays are the best day for Craigslist and Freecycle pickups. Post your items on Thursday or Friday night so they are gone before the next workweek begins. This is also a good timeframe for eBay auctions. People are more prone to be available to place last-minute bids when they are home, especially on these dark winter evenings.
So what are you looking to get rid of soon? How will you get the word out?