Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Get Organized, Stay Organized...is it really that Easy? YES!

Getting organized is a process and staying organized is a mindset, so it is easy, but it will take some effort. In order to get organized you need to understand the "why" behind being unorganized.



Most people who live in a cluttered and unorganized world don't have good systems or habits to tame the clutter and keep it under control.

When you are cleaning the house, do you find yourself trying to "find" places to put things away?
If you answered YES to this question, you need to ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I have a place for this item?
  2. Is it necessary in my life/home?

If you don't have a place to put the item, then you need to evaluate the things you have and where you need/want to keep them
If you don't have a place for them and they aren't necessary for your life/home, then THROW IT AWAY or give it away, but get rid of it!

When I am cleaning and run across an item that I just can't seem to find a place for, I ask myself:  Is it necessary? Is it important enough to create a long term space to keep? If the answer is ever NO, then to the trash it goes.

Over a year ago, I embarked on a journey to completely declutter my entire home and, in essence, my life...I am still on that journey, but now I look forward to it, rather than procrastinate even getting started.

What I found along this journey were a series of things:

  1. I have a huge house but NO storage or organization systems to speak of.
  2. I have a problem with paper clutter - I don't know how to throw it away :(
  3. I procrastinate putting things away - if it goes back to the 3rd floor and I am on the 1st, it can wait till later...the problem is remembering to grab when "later" finally arrives...
  4. These are all problems that have a solution!


Let's tackle #1: Huge House with NO storage/organization systems
This one is actually the easiest of the three.
You can run out and buy all kinds of items to put things in, but that can also require $$ that you may or may not have...no worries! Pinterest to the Rescue!!
Did you know you can create the most awesome items from recycled cereal and shoe boxes? I do now and while I was embarking on this journey realized that there are so many things that can be turned into the cutest of functional storage solutions for very little money.

Here is one of my favorite projects from Karen at sewmanyways using propel sports drink boxes:
http://sewmanyways.blogspot.com/2011/02/organize-your-lifeone-spot-at-time.html






You can also visit my pinterest page for more creative organization ideas:
http://www.pinterest.com/ali_mcarthy/


Dollar Stores can also be great places to pick up inexpensive storage bins and containers.
But, I caution you before you set out to start filling your house with containers...start with one room, or better yet one area in a room that seems to have the most clutter. For me it is paper! I bought 2 small 3 shelf bookcases for my office to start and started laying things out on the shelves in the order they would be most useful and then decided what types of container would best suit the items.

It is a process and not something you do in one single day...instant gratification on a large decluttering and reorganization project is not a reality. It took me a few months to figure out the system that would work for the items I had and complete it with purchased and homemade storage systems...so don't be discouraged if you have to do this gradually. I save up for 3 weeks to purchase the two bookcases and then purchase and make the containers to house the items I had on the shelves.


#2. Did I Mention My PROBLEM with PAPER?!?
This wasn't a storage issue, it was a habit issue.
I realized that I would procrastinate dealing with finding place for new pieces of paper until there was a pile of it on my dining room table, my office desk, my bulletin board, the corner of the kitchen counter....and so on!
This required changing my HABIT!

I started with the one place that brought in the most amount of new paper: THE MAIL :(
It takes about 30 days to change a habit, or so I have read.


So, on the first day of June last summer, I started getting the mail and walking directly to the trash can with it, went through it over the trash can and threw away anything that did not require my attention or a need to keep it. I decided that for one single month the only items that would be kept were bills...everything else was looked at and thrown directly in the trash. Since bills were the only items being kept, I decided to put a file folder marked bills on my desk (where I pay them) and would walk directly from the trash can and file them. I did this for 1 month and have ever since. The bills have a place now and the junk mail too! It no longer resides in piles all over my home.

As time went on, I have used this system with the kids homework that they bring home too (another huge paper clutter disaster if you don't have a good habit in place). As soon as the kids get home from school and we are going through their folders, we pull out the papers that aren't necessary and they go directly in the trash. The papers that need my attention get signed and returned to their folders immediately and homework get worked on and returned to the folders/backpacks - Crisis SOLVED!

BUT! Here is the important part: 
you MUST create the habit and follow through...that is your system, and without the system and follow through, it does not work.

Don't try to tame all the paper clutter in your house in one single day...it won't work!
You must put a system in place and create a habit or you will set yourself up for failure.
Take this one slow and you won't need to go through it ever again :)

#3. Don't Procrastinate...a very nice way of saying Don't Be Lazy!
This one goes to having a system in place again and following through.
For me it was the constant carrying of things up and down the stairs all day...and that I was lazy about it.

I needed a simpler method than just remembering to "take it upstairs later" because, as I said earlier, later never seemed to come.

I have 4 small totes on my stair case now...one for each person in the house to manage.
If it is one of my girls toys, articles of clothing or books, then when I pick it up I take it straight to their tote and drop it in. Their first chore when they get home from school is to take the entire tote and put all of the items that are in it away.

Did I mention that I am lazy?....I have 2 totes: one on my first floor that goes with me when I go upstairs to the second floor. Once there, I put everything away EXCEPT items that need to go on to the 3rd Floor (my studio). If there is anything in the tote for the 3rd floor I drop it in my tote that I keep at the bottom of the stairs for the next time I get up to the 3rd floor. It's a system...It works for me...I am lazy about going up and down the stairs and figured out that this works.
You will figure out your systems and what works for you as you start to figure out the reasons around WHY clutter seems to form in your home...You will need to just be brutally honest with yourself...Did I mention I was lazy?!

Ok, #4. There is a solution to everything!
If you accept that you cannot declutter your home and life in a day, a week, a month, and possibly not even in a year, then you can do this...I promise!

Take each thing, one at a time and master it, and slowly those "things" won't be a thing anymore and you can move on. And, once your life seems less chaotic you will find yourself with time on your hands to tackle one of those super cute little fabric covered storage container projects for the kitchen, bathroom, craft area or wherever.

Let's Recap:

  • Locate the problem areas (hot spots if you will)
  • Figure out the Reason WHY it has become a Hot Spot
  • Find a "simple solution" to start you on your path
  • Create and Maintain the Habit
  • Problem Conquered!
  • Pat yourself on the back for A Job Well Done and then MOVE ON to the next problem area...


My home organization is still a work in progress, but I give myself a pat on the back on each small accomplishment and look forward to the time when all of my problem areas have been conquered...and you will too! 

So, don't procrastinate...start today with one little spot in the house and you will be so proud of yourself when that little spot brings you a smile that you won't let it get back to where it was and you will actually be excited to move on to the next one!

Good Luck on Your Journey!

~ Ali @ my (soon to be) UNcluttered life

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Time Flying By? ~ Take Control!

January is just about over...
Are you on track with all of your New Year's Resolutions?
Did you get every single one of the Christmas decorations put away?
Is that spiffy clean Holiday Home already showing signs of wear and tear?
Does it seem like "things" are piling up and time is slipping away again?

Sometimes it seems that the things we need to get done are piling up faster than the hours we have to get them done. Tasks can be sneaky little things that can seem to gain momentum and multiply when we aren't looking. But, that is the problem...we aren't looking.

Simply put, you can stay on top of those tasks with one simple trick: a To Do List!

It is a miracle worker at battling chaos, clearing clutter, finishing projects and regaining control of your day, your week and even your month. Putting boundaries on the things you have to do and limiting the distractions of the things that keep you from it is an age old fight that each of us battle every day.

By using a To Do List for the items that MUST get done and sticking to the list you will begin to stay focused on the tasks at hand and not let those distractions get in your way. If it doesn't warrant being put on the list, then don't let it detract you from checking off the items on your list.

I keep a list on my desk of those items that are priority tasks for Today, This Week & This Month. It keeps me focused on the things that hold precedence over all of the distractions that will interfere with getting them done if I let it. It is a written reminder, a contract with myself if you will, that I have tasks that I placed importance on over other things that may come up during my day.

It is quite a simple process, really. 
Start each day by looking at your To Do List - Add any items that have become a priority for that day and move any items that have lost priority for the day to either the Week or the Month column. This "rolling" To Do List will give you a little flexibility but at the same time put constraints on procrastinating away your day or getting distracted by things that are more appealing than what is on the list. 
As you complete a task or make a revision, check off or change it on the list immediately so that it is always current. Not only will this make it easier to get through the list, it will give you the gratification of seeing your accomplishments checked off as DONE!
The Week & Month columns are reminder columns that those tasks need to be given priority to be put on your TODAY column. Use them wisely and they will work to help you stay on top of tasks that tend to be "forgotten"...out of sight, out of mind and then you have tasks piling up again :)

Don't get overwhelmed with the details of making the list.
It can be as simple as a legal pad or notebook with 3 columns for Today, This Week & This Month on them or you can start off with a pretty printable like the one I use:


Get started on Getting Things Done!


~ Ali @ my UNcluttered life

Sunday, December 29, 2013

NEW 2014 PRINTABLE PLANNER: Get Inspired...Be Amazing!

Continuing with the theme of valuing the beauty within each of us, a new planner was designed to be a daily reminder to Get Inspired & Be Amazing in 2014!






Happy New Year!

~ Ali @ my UNcluttered life

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

hello Beautiful!

Stepping outside of the lines for a more sleek design to remind myself that I am beautiful...inside and out! ...and so are YOU!


Who doesn't want to open their planner everyday 

and see the words: "hello Beautiful"??



Everyday, we as women find every single flaw in ourselves and slowly chip away at our inner core: Our Beauty. Wouldn't it be great to wake up every morning and look in the mirror and say: "Hello Beautiful!" and really believe it...well, if you are going to believe, you need to be saying it to yourself.



This new line is designed to get you on your way...a first step if you will. Each day you open that planner or journal your brain will read those words and in turn you will be filling your brain with positive, truthful words to live by. If you don't think or tell yourself that you are beautiful, why should anyone else?


An A to Z (26 Pages) of words to live by:





If you want to find that Beautiful Woman inside you again, add this to your planner, your journal or your desktop binder...
and remind yourself that you are Beautiful!

You can find this and many more printable and printed planners, journal pages, 
To Do lists and more in my Etsy Shop: www.myunclutteredlife.etsy.com


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

TO DO: Make Every Day Successful!

As we begin our day, many of us feel overwhelmed by all of the tasks we are faced with the minute our feet touch the floor.  There are simple solutions we can use to save us from overloading our brain and adding undo stress to our lives...enter the "revised" To Do List!

Get clarity on what you are doing by putting it into perspective. A simple To Do List just keeps us from forgetting the scheduled tasks we need to accomplish, but add in a Focus List & Don't Do List and you will retrain your brain and move forward to your goals.

A Focus List answers questions and gives direction.
  • What is most important to me today? 
  • What is my main goal at this moment? 
  • What make me happy?
(Sam at Financial Upside wrote the article  11 Ways Successful People Start Their Mornings explaining this very concept.) Time is our greatest resource, but no matter how hard we try we cannot obtain more than 24 hours in a day! So use them wisely and always to your advantage.

The saying "Work Smarter, Not Harder" could not be more true and relevant in every aspect of our lives. Whether you are a stay at home mom with 3 kids or an executive on her way to the top, minding your time means the difference between success and failure.

Create your Focus List each morning BEFORE you enter the chaos of the world around you. If you are focused on what your goals are and what you want and need to get accomplished, you are much more likely to maintain that focus throughout your day and get things crossed off your simple To Do List. 

Create your simple To Do List each night BEFORE you go to bed. Just like studying for a test, read over your list before your retire and it will be at the forefront of your brain when you wake and jot down your Focus List....clarity is a very powerful tool.

So, you have your simple To Do List of "chores" whether it is in the home, at work, or both that you wrote down last night and you have your Focus List with the "Big Picture," but you have one more piece to this puzzle: The DON'T DO List!

This may be the most important list you have for yourself. If you think I am kidding, evaluate all the time you wasted today and where it went. That, is your Don't Do List! And, it needs to be with you at all times to keep you in check. It will keep you honest. It will keep you focused. It will keep you on the road to success.

How many times do you find yourself on facebook, twitter, watching tv, talking on the phone with friends, or reading emails that aren't relevant to your day and goals? Your precious time clock doesn't stop because you are goofing off...it keeps ticking. Rather than watch your time slip away from you, schedule it...give it a place in your day if there is time available.

The Don't Do List needs to be specific to you. For example, my Don't Do List might look like this:
  • Facebook Games ONLY from 12:30 - 1:00pm ~ Enjoy!
  • No Phone Calls this morning until after 10am ~ Finish up DayBook Additions First
  • No Digital Image searching today! You have plenty so save it for another day :)
Do you see where I am going with this...be specific to you and stay focused on the goals you have set for the day. Schedule personal time in with your day, no one can work 18 hours a day without any down time and be happy about it for very long. But, if you learn to retrain your brain and focus on your goals, you can accomplish your tasks and have fun doing it.

If you are ready to regain control over your time then please download this free Revised To Do List :)
I wish you great success on your journey to managing your time and regaining your life!


~ Ali

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

HELP! Where Do I Start?: Week #2

Last week I shared my favorite site for getting you to a clutter free and clean home with no stress: FlyLady 

The focus this week is Clearing Clutter from
Your Life Once and for All!


I am going to share with you my experience (gathered from following some of the best clutter busters, time management experts, and professional organizers and putting their knowledge into practice). My home is not perfect, it is "good enough"...it is where I need it to be to be happy, comfortable, welcoming of company, and ready to implement daily cleaning/organizing schedules into my life's routine.

The biggest trick to controlling clutter is to vow NOT to bring anything new into the home until the old is organized or gone. Sounds simple, but this is the one area that most all of us clutter bugs FAIL at miserably. Sales that are too good to pass up...an opportunity to obtain something you have wanted (but maybe don't really need)...Magazines/Newspapers that will pile up before you even have time to read them...McDonald's toys... Do you see where I am going with this?

It is critical that you make a solid commitment to halt the incoming clutter while you deal with the outgoing clutter. 

Here is my Hot Spot of Clutter: the Dining Room Table. Right at this very moment, it has 4 boxes of newly purchased shoes on it (all sales just Too Good to Pass Up), a barrage of school papers that need to be thrown away, a small bag of kids clothes (hand me downs from a friend, not NEEDED, but of course appreciated), four magazines from the mail/store last week and Sunday's newspaper (none of them even opened and it's now Tuesday), a stack of mail that needs to go to the desk and be filed and 2 McDonald's toys from last Friday's fun day Happy Meals (kids were off school). 
So, I completely understand HOW the new clutter gets into the house and becomes old clutter before we even know what happened...it happens to me every week when I let my guard down. 

Let's get back to where we started: 
"You have to start with vowing NOT to bring anything new into the home until all of the old is organized or gone!"
Until you make a firm commitment to this, you won't be able to get rid of the clutter you have. It is a vicious cycle and there is no end to it until you stop the incoming supply that is robbing you of your sanity. Clutter sucks the life right out of us until we become exhausted, depressed, overwhelmed, embarrassed, and ashamed. 
If this is you, don't give up hope, give up your clutter! 

Don't wait to start tomorrow, or next week...commit to end the incoming clutter right this minute and go and find your Hot Spot - the place in your home that makes you the most crazy, the place that makes you feel embarrassed or depressed every time you look at it and start there and start right now.

Grab 2 boxes and a trash bag (there is no reason to get fancy, you just need to get started). One box is for items that you are keeping, that have a place in your home and just need to be returned there. The other box is for items you are going to donate to the Salvation Army, Goodwill, Freecycle or wherever you take items that are too good for the trash but have no place in your home any longer. And lastly, that wonderful invention, the trash bag! If it can't be put away or donated, the only other place for stuff is in the trash.
--- For those of you (like me) who don't see Craigslist or Ebay on here, there is a very good reason why: If you are in the place in your home that has you so down mentally, you are not at a good place to take the time to sort, clean, and try to sell anything! Trust me on this one...I have been there too many times. You will pull things aside with the best of intentions and all you will be doing is moving clutter from one place to another. Those sites are best used when you have your house back in order and are just maintaining, spring/fall cleaning, etc. Again, right now is not that time. Donate it or throw it away and MOVE ON before another month goes by and you are saying "I should have..."

You need to separate yourself emotionally from the items in your Hot Spot and remove the personal reasons surrounding why you purchased that item. If it is in your Hot Spot of Clutter, it no longer has real value to you (if it ever really did to start) and the only thing keeping it hanging around is your attachment to the reason you bought it...You MUST get past this! You are standing in your own way when it comes to ridding your home of the clutter that is robbing you of happiness.

OK, so you have your 2 boxes and trash bag and are standing in front of your Hot Spot....what to do?
1. Take a deep breath and remember why you are here - to remove the Hot Spot of clutter and return to its original use: ie, dining room table, bedroom dresser, etc.
2. Start with the simple trash...real trash - wrappers, paper, bags, empty containers, whatever
3. Load the box of items to Keep with those items you don't even have to think twice about where they go (you will put those away in just a bit).
4. Load the box of items to Donate with those items you don't feel any attachment to and are happy to give away to someone else who can use them.
5. Now, grab a timer (if you have one) and set it for 15 minutes. You can definitely do anything for 15 minutes :) This one is a little harder, but is so much more satisfying than what you have done up to this point...I promise!

Here's how the rest of it works:
You have 15 minutes to fill the donate and trash bags as full as you can before the timer goes off. The object is to make a decision within a second of touching the item and stick with it. If you pick up an item and can't make a fast decision set it back down and move on quickly. You do not want to give your brain time to start associating feelings to each item of clutter. You are just deciding if the item is trash or worth donating.
When the timer goes off, I want you to go do something else for a bit...laundry, have a cup of coffee and call a friend, figure out what you are doing for dinner, read a book, look at a magazine, or whatever you need/want to do for 15 or 20 minutes. Then, I want you to return and reset the timer for another 15 minutes.

This time, I want you to take another deep breath and say to yourself: 
"These are just things. Things that are taking time and fun away from my life. I don't care how I got them and now they need to go in the trash or to someone else. These things are no longer mine!"
Now, start the timer and GO! Go through the items as fast as you can and again, if you have to hold something or look at something for more than a second, move on. You don't have time to reminisce over items that you no longer own. You should be able to completely clear this Hot Spot this time around, but if not, when the timer goes off this time, go put away the items in your Keep box that you filled earlier. Then, come back and start again.

This is just one area, but if you apply this method to all the clutter spots in your home, picking one or two of them daily, depending on the amount of time you have to do this task, you will see huge differences in clutter reduction in your home in a very short time, especially if you maintain your vow of keeping new clutter from invading your home.

I hope this post has offered you a plan of attack on clearing your home of the clutter that is keeping you from starting to organize and create a regular cleaning and maintenance plan. But, most of all, I want you to know that you are not alone...there are many of us that are working to do the same in our homes too!

Good Luck! and be sure to share your accomplishments and ideas that you have at conquering the clutter that is attacking all of our lives daily :)

~ ali

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Think Ahead Thursday: Never Forget Another Birthday!

The holidays are over...we have (hopefully) put the last box away until next Christmas. This is a perfect time to start thinking about areas in our lives that can sneak up and take precious time away from us. For me, birthday cards always seemed to have me running out to the store, last minute, to buy the card that I forgot to put in my day planner...not to mention the time to stand in line at the post office to mail...ugh

No more! A simple Birthday Calendar will save the day ~ I promise. 

Take time this week to Think Ahead about all of the birthdays that will pop up all year long and have your "managed" time thrown into a frenzy to get Happy Birthday wishes out to a friend or loved one. Birthday calendars are a constant. There is no need to spend time filling in every single birthday in your day planner at the beginning of the year. Take time once to create a Birthday Calendar (or download the FreebieI have made for you) and then just keep a copy in your planner.

I created one and made several copies: one for my planner, one to hang next to the calendar at our Command Center and another that is in my Home Management Binder just in case I lose it or it gets destroyed.
Birthday Calendar Freebie Download

This is a very handy little document that can save you hours and hours of time over the course of a year. Trust me, I know all of the birthdays of my loved ones, but in the day to day busy of our life, sometimes it is nice to have that "in your face" little reminder :)

I hope you love this simple little printable and consider Thinking Ahead...

Enjoy!
~ ali