Did you know Neatsmart has gift certificates? Giving the gift of organization is really giving the gift of peace, joy, calm, and most of all, time. Call Neatsmart to learn more about giving the perfect gift to your loved ones. http://ow.ly/i/3VAP2
As everyone is rushing around, getting and spending, I’d like to remind you all of our most precious gift that we can share with our loved ones: our time. Instead of struggling to find that gift that is just going to collect dust or be shoved in a drawer somewhere, give someone the gift of your time. You can give it in the form of a gift card to dinner, lunch, or coffee together, movie or museum tickets, or even a card promising a walk in the park together. Memories are the gifts that last forever and nobody eats fruitcake or needs another themed sweater anyway. Make a point to spend time with your friends and family instead.
Are you guilty of these closet mistakes? http://ow.ly/r7pyw Taking an inventory is the first commandment of organization: know what you have!
What is the first instruction anyone gets when there is a crisis at hand? Stay calm. How do I stay calm when my home has been turned upside down? When I can’t find anything and everything I wear or touch is dirty with soot? Staying calm is the answer, though, because panic helps no situation. I promise.
As a reminder, this was not a completely devastating fire. I’m sure there are readers that have been through natural and unnatural disasters much worse than this and I certainly don’t want to undermine their experiences. However, I’ve learned some interesting lessons during this event and recovery that can help anyone. Today. Now. You can benefit from my experience and I hope it helps just 1 person.
Things are just things and really don’t matter. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Nobody was hurt. People are irreplaceable; things are not. Case closed. We were extremely fortunate and didn’t lose anything super important or sentimental like wedding pictures or family heirlooms. On that note, your things take on a totally different meaning when they are covered in soot. I’ll admit that my desk was not the picture of perfect order and organization. I had stacks of business cards, receipts, notebooks, magazines, and other papers stacked on it just like a lot of you do. It was all super important to me which is why it was out in the first place. (Any of this sounding familiar?) I was going to work on them/ file/ read/ etc. them but there they were stacked up and messy. Now they were covered in soot. I don’t know if you’ve ever had experience with soot but it is not easy to clean. It’s not a dry dust you can just wipe away. It is oily and dirty so that when you wipe it, it leaves streaks. Not fun but dealing with that was a good thing. If it weren’t the case, I’d be writing about replacing papers because they would have all been burned up. It’s all about your perspective…
Those super important papers don’t seem so important anymore when you have to wear gloves to read them. Soot is a great equalizer. Magazines and notebooks can be replaced and receipts can be duplicated. If they had been soooo important I would have already read or processed them. I am guilty of time management issues just like you. I, too, get distracted doing “research” on Pinterest instead of recording business receipts. I get it. But time is fleeting and if you don’t take care of something in a timely manner, it will be much harder the longer you wait.
- Set up a time each week to go through papers like mail, receipts, and bills and stick to it. If you stay consistent the pile doesn’t get larger and it takes less time to process.
- Adopt a clear desk policy where you don’t leave papers strewn across your desk when you are finished for the day. This is a for-real compliance policy (it’s ISO 17799/27001 compliant for you compliance nerds like I used to be) that many heavily regulated corporations adopt and enforce to ensure that employees are not leaving private information out for others’ perusing. It’s good for civilians as well to make sure you are actually completing tasks and putting things away in a timely manner. When you are done for the day, clear the papers off your desk. It makes starting the next day there so much more pleasant, too.
- Apply the same policy to your computer so that you are saving files and sites in a timely manner. Leaving excessive windows open is akin to leaving open magazines or newspapers on your desk. Either bookmark the site or save the file so you can find it later.
- Get rid of the layers of papers. If they’re on the bottom layer, you probably haven’t missed them and could probably be tossed. If they are important, they need to go into a To Be Filed or To Be Paid or to be tossed pile.
- Set up a filing system and use it. Make it your own so it makes sense to you. Adopting someone else’s won’t do any good if you can’t follow it.
Set up a home filing system. While we are talking about papers and filing them in a timely fashion, I can no reiterate how important home filing systems are. Do you know where your birth certificate, passport, children’s birth certificates, adoption papers, wills, marriage certificate, etc are? If so, good for you and pat yourself on the back. A lot people have an idea of where these papers are but aren’t 100%. These are the types of papers that are a massive pain to replace. It can be done but with discomfort. These are the types of files to put in a Fire Box. We were fortunate and these documents were no where near the fire but I’m going to get one just for these documents. I’ve also heard from other organizers to store electronic copies of these in the cloud somewhere.
A filing system is essential for tracking all kinds of important family paperwork: medical records, paid bills, important letters, contracts, receipts, manuals, user guides, employment documents, bank notices, in addition to the documents I mentioned above. You need a system to file these things that makes sense to you so that it’s easy to manage.
This situation reminded me that your home filing system should also include a section for large home purchases like computers, TVs and other expensive electronics, washer and dryer, rugs, furniture, artwork, and for pretty much anything you paid a lot of money. You want to be able to find documentation on what you had, how much you paid for it, and where and when you bought it. Our washer and dryer came with our house and we had to do some research to find out how old they were. Write down on your appliance manuals what the price was, where you purchased, and when. This will help immensely with insurance if this ever happens to you or if you sell your home. It’s also a good idea to have a file where you keep all of your manuals and user guides. If you need further assistance or have questions about what should be in your home filing system, send me a message firstname.lastname@example.org.
So this is the first lesson that I learned from surviving a fire: if your papers are really important, deal with them promptly. The less you touch them, the less you are building an emotional attachment to them. If they are important, you’ll handle them quickly. Develop, or have someone help you develop, a good management system that’s easy and sensible for you. Stay tuned for more …
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Some of you may be wondering what has happened to Neatsmart in the past few weeks since there have no posts or updates. Well, sit down, friends, and let me tell you a story that will benefit you all. Neatsmart World Headquarters, a.k.a. my home office, had a fire on September 15th. Don’t panic; nothing serious was damaged and nobody was hurt. This was not one of those devastating fires you may have read about here and here. This was a simple dryer fire that started on its own but did require the fire department to put it out and make sure everything was safe. I was at home at the time so that certainly minimized further damage or greater loss but what has been amazing is how much smoke damage we sustained.
Our dryer was located on our second floor in a hallway off the master bedroom. I had been doing laundry that afternoon and noticed that the dryer suddenly wasn’t working. It would not turn on. I didn’t think too much about it so I went downstairs to do something else. About an hour or 2 later I smelled smoke and went upstairs to check what it was. The inside of the dryer was in flames; not the drum, but the actual inside of the dryer. Ultimately, I had to call the fire department and they successful put it out without having to use the huge water hoses. In all, it was less than 3 hours of activity but the amount of work required to clean up and put back in order would end up totaling more than 4 weeks.
We were able to stay in the house a few more days but the smoke smell and damage was horrendous. All of our clothes, which were located in closets right next to the laundry room, had a layer of soot on them. The ceilings and walls were covered in smoke. The a/c intake vent was right next to the fire so all of that air had been dispersed throughout the house and attic. There was soot all over our shower, sink, floor, ceiling, walls, light fixtures, rugs, bed, Neatsmart HQ, etc. A huge demolition and reconstruction was going to be required which meant we were to be moving out of our house post haste. That means quickly and with little time to plan. Think about the last time you moved; my guess is you had some time to strategize, organize, and create a plan to have everything you needed throughout the process. I know I did. This was going to be a challenge because it would have to be quick and I’d need to be able to access files and work from various locations. We were extremely fortunate that we had lovely neighbors traveling for a couple of weeks so we were able to stay close by to keep an eye on things and still be in our neighborhood. We did have to stay in hotels a few times but were able to find ones that were fairly close and pet friendly which is not always an easy task.
Our entire construction process took about 4 weeks and we were able to move back in before the end of the 4th week. It really was a remarkably fast construction project and our crew was so wonderful. There were no less than a dozen people here on any given day and they worked 8-12 hours plus.
So how do you remain organized under pressure? How do you not go crazy living out of plastic grocery bags? Why grocery bags? Because our luggage had smoke damage and was removed for cleaning. You forget how important a little thing like a tote bag is until you don’t have one. Actually, all of our clothes had smoke damage and had to be cleaned which took about 3 weeks. Well, I’m here to tell you it is possible to not just survive a crisis but to survive with ease, low stress, and clarity. You are a lot stronger than you realize and I’m here to help you plan a little so that you are ready when the next challenge gets thrown in your path. Follow the Neatsmart blog on the right hand side of the screen or like us on Facebook so you don’t miss an update.
More to come soon…
As I’ve been working with a lot of different clients, one question that comes up during our discussions is “what do your clients have in common?” It’s fascinating because some are rich and some are not so rich. Some have big houses and some have small houses. Some work outside of the home and some work inside the home. Some have children living at home and some have no children, etc. But what they do have in common is just more stuff, which is of course why they call me. What I’ve learned and tried to teach them is that more is just more.
When they start to get rid of the stuff they don’t need, I can see a physical change in them almost immediately: their shoulders relax, their jaws becomes unclenched, and their breath becomes more stable. They feel like an enormous weight has been lifted off their backs and they are at peace. They are no longer burdened with having to make decisions and care for these objects that have been an incessant drain on their psyche.
Having more stuff does not make you happier or more content with your life. Actually, more stuff detracts from your quality of life very quickly. It means you have to spend more time taking care of things that you buy or more time doing projects you’ve committed to that don’t bring you joy. Time is money but time is also the one non-renewaable resource in your life. Think of what you could do with more time today: go on a trip, spend more time playing with your kids, take an extra long walk with the dog, talk with a long lost friend or family member. The stuff you bought will eventually deteriorate and become useless, however, the time you spent building memories will last forever. It is always ok to say “no” to requests for your time. If you don’t take care of yourself and your needs, you can’t take care of or help others.
More stuff is also more money spent. It’s gone. It’s not working for you anymore earning interest in savings or towards a larger goal like repairing your home or a vacation. While the acquisition process may bring some good feelings they are fleeting. And then you’re stuck with stuff you bought. Is it helping you? Do you love it? Is it necessary for you to function? These are all good questions to ask before you pull out your wallet and part with your precious, hard-earned money.
More stuff means more decisions to make. How do I wear this? Use this? Where do I put this? How do I use this? Whose is this? The more decisions you have to make every day, the more your brain is stressed trying to process each of those decisions. This is why people decide to eat the same thing for breakfast or wear the same clothes all the time. Having fewer options actually encourages you to think more creatively because you have to solve a problem (what to wear, eat, do) with fewer tools or crutches. Think of what you can do to minimize the number of decisions you have to make every day and you’ll have more time to devote to the tasks that need your full attention.
William Morris’s quote “Have nothing in your home that you do not find to be useful or beautiful” means so much in our fast paced, competitive world. Having more for the sake of more will not enhance your life in any way. Purchase items thoughtfully and carefully so that your home is a reflection of your best “you” and not some image you think looks best. Get rid of what is not essential, or helping you, or beautiful and you’ll have a home that brings you joy and peace. And who couldn’t use a little more of that?
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
While I’ve researched the origin of this quote, I was unable to find the true source. A derivation of the quote has been attributed to a couple of people, John Ray (1670) and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), but not this exact version of it. If I could, I would amend it to include “…and a lack of information.”
One trait I have discovered in working with clients is that they are very thoughtful people who are well intended with their possessions especially when they are ready to get rid of them. They want them to be cared for and utilized but, since they are not sure how to get rid of them, they don’t and end up with piles, full drawers and closets and even rooms full of ‘stuff.’ I’ve talked a lot about resources for donations (Goodwill, MUST Ministries, Salvation Army) of clothes and other household items but frequently there are items that can’t be donated and clients get stuck on what to do with these items. Here are some examples of things that aren’t trash but they aren’t necessarily treasure, either:
- Cell phones
- Electronic games
- Light fixtures
- Old paint
The issue of what to do with items is another example of why hiring a professional organizer is worth every penny because THEY KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THIS STUFF and they can usually help you dispose of it, too. Professional Organizers have a vast network of local resources that can provide a solution to just about any donation or disposal question. Also, if they don’t have the immediate answer, they know how to get it. Professional Organizers love helping clients clear their clutter and want to make sure that it is done in a responsible manner. Part of their service is to provide resources not only for products to aid in the organization process, like containers, shelves, and boxes, but also to help their clients dispose of their excess in a way that benefits as many people as possible. Don’t let yourself get hung up on not clearing clutter because you don’t know what to do with it. Call a professional to help you! You can find organizers in your area by searching on the NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) website:
Here are some resources you may want to think about bookmarking for your own clutter clearing projects:
So don’t let lack of information halt your good intentions to get rid of the clutter in your home. Call and organizer for help and advice. They are happy to hear from you!