simplify 101
Creative Organizing Blog

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July 31, 2006

making progress ...

... on my 12 week challenge. The good thing about this heatwave, (maybe the only good thing about this heatwave) is having a great excuse to stay inside and do some creative organizing projects, don't you think?

Are you making progress, too? I know some of you are (yeah!) thanks to your emails and blog comments. Thanks for updating me! It's exciting to see what you're all accomplishing in just twelve short weeks. Exciting stuff, isn't it?

Juel asked if I'll be doing an organizing challenge before the holidays. Thanks for the great idea Juel. What do you think ... should I do it? Let me know what you think ... would you join in?

Alright ... so here's where I am on the chore system for my kids:

1) Both children now have a clipboard to use to keep track of their daily chores. That was yesterday's project --- lots of fun.

2) We've decided on their weekly responsibilities --- for before school, after school and bedtime --- and have a daily checklist to use.

3) There's enthusiasm in the air for this new chore system. The kids are actually excited about it! Yippee! Now my job is to keep the enthusiasm going.

We have three weeks until school starts ... just enough time to get into the habit of doing these chores every day. So that's good.

What's left to do? Well ... I have to decide a strategy for weekend chores. This is when we do the serious house cleaning and laundry and I'd love some help from the kids on that. Who wouldn't, right? But I also want this to be less structured than the weekdays ... for all of us. So I have to figure out a system for the weekend chores, as well as how to make these chore lists "readable" for my daughter who can't read quite yet. I have some ideas percolating ...

More soon! Have a happy Monday!

July 28, 2006

have you ever had a day ...

when you're headed off to the doctor for an appointment for your nagging summer cold and you run by summer camp to drop-off one child only to learn that summer camp has no power so you can't drop off your child. So ... you turn to your child and say "you get to go to the doctor with me!" First child is mad. Second child is madder. "No fair, he gets to spend more time with you than me!"

Tears ensue. Screaming. Crying. And yet you're as undaunted as you could possibly be, and trudge forward, knowing your health literally depends on it.

You head to the second child's daycare only to get half-way there and learn that the road is closed right smack dab in front of you. You handle the slight detour with ease and get your second child settled at day care. She's even happy by the time you kiss her goodbye. Whew. Things are looking up.

On the way to the doctor, you swing by summer camp again and victory! the power is back on.

You are still on track to get to the doctor early, as planned, if only you don't miss your turn ... which you do, so you decide to take the long way, only to find that yet another road is closed. So you do a u-turn and head back to the original turn and (... you couldn't possibly do it but you do ...) miss your turn again! You have got to stop pondering life when you drive through the cornfields on the way to the doctor's office!

From there things calm down, you ... see the doctor ... get your prescriptions ... get back home in time for your appointment ... life is good. Until ... you go to fill the prescriptions.

You drop off the prescription at the grocery store pharmacy (because they're just so nice) and decide it would be speedier to run into Target than wait for the prescription to be filled. At Target you run into a friend and chat for 45 minutes ... and don't get out of Target until AFTER the pharmacy is closed. So you head home only to realize you didn't get one of your bags home from Target. So you go back to Target and for the first time all day, actually get somewhere without incident, just before the store closes. You retrieve your belongings, drive home (again without incident) and head straight to the computer where you know you can blog about your day and someone will bend their ear and listen. You're grateful.

Have you ever had a day like that? Me neither ;) ... and thank goodness ... it sounds exhausting. Doesn't it?

July 26, 2006

4 weeks ... but who's counting?

I am. Are you?

4 weeks left in our twelve week challenge. I've still got work to do on my remaining goal: get a chore system implemented for my two kids. It's number one on my to-do list for this weekend.

How about you? Are you making progress? Are you on track to be where you want to be at the end of the 12 weeks? Let me know! I can't wait to hear from you!

More soon. Have a great day! :)

July 24, 2006

creative organizing project

In the perfect world ... this project would have posted while I was away. In the imperfect world where I live ... it had to wait until I got back home.

This project is just a little something fun I did before I left on my trip. It was one of those super quick and easy projects (my favorite kind) and it was a little diversion from all the preparation involved in getting ready to be out of town for a week. As I was getting ready I was decluttering a bit and came across this magnetic clip.

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My first inclination was to throw it away because it didn't meet the criteria. I didn't love it. I didn't use it. I didn't need it

But then I thought ... why not alter it? Then I'll love it because it'll be cute. And then I can use it for hanging the weekly menu plan on the fridge. Suddenly, I needed this clip and couldn't figure out how I had lived without it for so long. ;)

So here's my new clip.

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More fun, isn't it? To make this little beauty, all you need is a clip (yes ... this could be the hard part) and then simply use mod podge, a sanding block and rub ons --- just like the clipboard project only smaller. Very simple. Very quick. Very fun.

So if you dont have a clip ... maybe you can't play along this week. Or can you? What can you save from the trash can or recyle bin by altering with some cardstock, mod podge and a little imagination? Hmmm ... I hear the wheels in your head turning .... I can't wait to see what you come up with!!

July 23, 2006

home is where ...

... two little people who love me live.

... my TWO, perfect-just-for-me pillows lay waiting for me to snuggle into bed at the end of a long day.

... five loads of laundry linger ... waiting for me to take action. Yes, there are *five* loads of laundry STILL ... even though I've been doing laundry all day. What's up with that? Who wore all this stuff? Who used all those towels?

... I have reliable Internet access and the ability to send email ... ahhhhhh. Love that.

... the best coffee on the planet is made, each and every morning by the man I love. This coffee is made with just the right amount of milk and sugar for me. Not even I know how much milk and sugar I take ... but *he* knows. Nothing beats the coffee made by the man I love.

And home is where I am. Again. At last. And it is good to be back home. It's good to be back with my little people, my pillows, the Internet, the coffee and the man.

I love going away but it's always such a treat to get back home. I love coming back to the little things like coffee and pillows, and the big things like the people I love, who I miss terribly while I'm away.

How about you? Who do you miss when you're away? What little things make your house a home and anywhere else on the planet, no matter how wonderful in it's own right, simply *not* your home?

Let's savor these things today. Sound good? I think it does :)

July 21, 2006

do i owe you an email?

... if so i also owe you an apology! i'm having all kinds of technical difficulties on this week-long stint away from home ... and i can see emails but can't get them out of my out-box when I try to reply. so in short ... i can receive but not send. i thought i'd have great wireless access at this hotel i'm at now ... but what i really have is more technical difficulties. So i'm posting here in hopes that if you've sent an email, maybe you'll check the blog and if so you'll see that i haven't forgotten you ... far from it ... i keep thinking of you and wondering how in the world i can get an email to you. and this, is beyond my technical capabilities ... so it's a blog post for now. The good news: i'll be back home tomorrow so i'll email then or Sunday! Really looking forward to being reconnected to you and the rest of my world ... for now, though, i'm disconnected ... still ...

More later ... :)

July 11, 2006

make your planner work for YOU!

After my post about notebooks, a few of you emailed me wanting to know more specifics about my Circa ... so here's all the nitty-gritty details plus some ramblings about the trials and tribulations of finding a planner or calendar system that works for you. I'm living proof that sometimes this is easier said than done ... 

When I left the corporate world, I also left behind the "luxury" of a strictly electronic calendar. Back in the days where I worked in an office full time, I used Outlook to manage my meetings and appointments at work. I also had a pda, which I used to sync my home Outlook calendar and my work Outlook calendar. I always had my calendar / pda with me which made it very simple to schedule dentist appointments while actually at the dentist (and I loved this --- made me feel so organized!) This worked well until ... life changed. As a professional organizer, I set up some appointments while in my office, and many, while in someone else's home or office. In theory the pda should have worked just fine.

In theory, it did work just fine. It was in practice where I ran into trouble. In practice the pda was clumsy for me. I work best when I can see a weekly or monthly view of my life ... with a pda (or at least the one I had) this wasn't possible. Sure, I could see the days of a whole month at a glance ... but I couldn't see what I had going on any given day. So I was stuck clicking around with that little stylus and trying to put together a mental picture of my month in my head. Uh ... in practice, not so fine.

Clumsy becomes near catastrophe. Picture this. I'm at a client's home after just finishing up an organizing session. We're scheduling our next appointment. I pull out my pda, fumble around with that silly little stylus and attempt to get a picture in my head of everything I have going on for the days in question all while making small talk. We agree upon a date, so I use graffiti (pda letters) to s l o w l y enter her appointment in the pda. I had set up recurring appointments in my pda to indicate my available appointment times for in person organizing sessions. (If you don't use an electronic calendar and aren't familiar with recurring appointments ... it's OK ... the punch line is coming soon.) So ... I enter the appointment, shake hands with my client and go along my merry way, knowing vaguely in my mind that I'm coming back on some Thursday in the near future for another organizing session. I go home that night, sync my pda, only to find I have this client booked on *every single Thursday* from now until the end of eternity! Yep ... that recurring appointment had been changed to be this client, every single Thursday until the end of time. I gasped knowing I really had no clue which Thursday was the real Thursday for me to show up. Luckily my client had a great sense of humor and got quite a chuckle out of my electronic mishap. I, however, knew it was time to get some control over my calendar. Goodbye pda. Hello Circa.

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Here's how my Circa works:

I use the Circa Junior Agenda including the agenda filler sheets and tabs. I keep about three month tabs in my notebook at a time ... the current month plus the next two upcoming months.

I keep all my appointments in Outlook but print out monthly calendars to put in my Circa. I use my Circa punch (quite an investment to be sure) to make the calendar pages "Circa-friendly." I fold them so they fit inside the little notebook. I have them with me where ever I go so I can enter appointments by hand. And then, when I get home I enter them in Outlook. I know ... it's a two-step process, but step two in this scenario is much more comfortable then step two before: "Hello client, this is Aby Garvey and I'm afraid to tell you I have no idea when I'm supposed to be coming back to help you ... that's right ... help YOU get more organized." eeeeeeehhhh

I keep my kids' activities in Outlook, too. So I simply print a copy of the calendar and put it on the fridge. This way my husband can see it, know what's going on and know who needs to be where and when. Works great.

I also purchased the set of five tabs --- and used my labeler to label the tabs as follows:

action lists: which includes a short list of my most urgent active projects (those I'm working on that week); current action list (the "to-dos" associated with the active projects as well as single action items.) I also have a list of things to blog about, and a current action list for personal items (that I take care of during non-biz hours.)

agendas: this is where I record things I want to talk about with people ... mostly my husband. It's a habit I started back in the corporate world when I had things I need to talk about with coworkers, employees, my boss, etc. It's much more efficient to capture topics in one place and handle them in a single conversation than to rattle off an email or phone call any time a topic pops into your head.

errands: this is the place to capture all the little things I need to pick up when I'm out and about.

reference: this is where I put notes or ideas for active projects.

waiting for: this is where I record things I'm waiting for (clever name, eh?) I use this for things like "free bag from Domino." I ordered the magazine, they're supposed to send me a bag. I'm waiting for the bag ... still. Oh, I'm digressing. I also record when I call someone and leave a message since I'm essentially waiting for them to call me back.

For all of the lists above, I use the basic lined circa paper.

And that's my Circa a nut-shell.

So here's the big take-away ... whether a Circa works for you or some other planning system is the one that's best suited for you, just remember what I learned when leaving my corporate job: sometimes when life changes, we need to change the way we manage our life. It was easy to add dentist appointments in my pda but to plan my whole life looking at a screen smaller than a 3 x 5 card ... it just didn't work for me. Paper is better for me now, even though it means entering some things twice.

As I demonstrate above, finding a system that works for you can be easier said than done! (But isn't it nice to know that with some trial and error you can hone in on a system that works well for you?) So here's your challenge for the week. Is your current planning system working for you? If it isn't ... that's OK. Step back and think about why it doesn't work? Has life changed and your planner needs to catch up to where you are? What would make your planner system easier for you? Would it work well to merge things you like about two different systems you've used in the past (like I did with Outlook and the Circa?) If what you're doing doesn't work ... make changes gradually. My Circa is still a work in process. I committed to using this system and this system only for a full year. (Needed to do this to justify the investment in the punch.) But more importantly, it's given me time to set up a system, live with it for a while, tweak it, live with it for a while and tweak again. More tweaks will happen ... but the things that are working will stay in place. Alright ... according to my Circa I've got a meeting to go to ... more later :)

rainy day ...

I just love waking up to a rainy morning, don't you? My favorite is when it's a cool and gentle rain. Just like this morning. I'm hoping it stays rainy all day ... I love that and this time of year it happens so rarely around here.

Windows open ... listening to the birds ... soft gentle, rain ... getting stuff done. What could be better than that?

Hope you have a great day, too! Blog post coming this afternoon about my Circa ... some of you asked for more info about how I use my Circa and it's coming soon. Stay tuned!

July 07, 2006

making space

My business is all about making space ... space in your home ... space on your calendar ... space in your life. I help people like you create space for new things ... things that are more fun. Things that are more in sync with your life today. Things that are more nourishing for your soul.

Sometimes creating that space can feel great in and of itself --- take the great textbook purge of 2006. It felt great in the moment ... very freeing. Sometimes, though, creating space can leave you feeling ... well ... empty.

Yesterday I created a bit of space in my business life. I decided to leave a business networking group that I joined when simplify 101 was in its infancy, as was I as a business owner. From a business perspective, the space was needed and the decision was the right one. The new space will give me the opportunity to focus my marketing time and efforts in ways that bring me the clients I'm best meant to serve. It was and is the right decision.

From a personal perspective, however, creating this space left me feeling unexpectedly ... empty.

As I made the announcement about my decision to move on ... I got choked up. Yes, I can be an emotional girl ... perhaps this is why the corporate gig wasn't the BEST choice for me. ;) I'm perfectly OK with the fact that I got emotional, it's part of what makes me *me* and I'm good with that. It's just that it caught me off guard. Completely. I had no idea I would feel what I felt, that creating the space would leave me feeling so empty. But it did.

When I think about it, it makes sense. When I decided to start simplify 101 the one thing that almost made me NOT do it was people --- or lack there of. When you start a business fully intending to be the sole employee at the onset you have to expect to spend a lot of your time alone. I knew I'd miss having coworkers. I'd miss the comfort of seeing the same people on a regular basis and just having these people be a routine part of my life. My business networking group filled that void and really made it possible to embrace the thought of going it alone for a while.

It's an interesting thing though ... I have met so many great people since starting simplify 101 ... people that in a million years I wouldn't have met had I chosen a different path. I have never really been alone in this venture. Not even slightly. I have new friends ... friends via blogs and emails and telephone and organizing conventions and business networking functions. These friendships, perhaps because they're rooted in a deep common interest and passion, go much deeper than practically all the relationships I made while in the corporate world. (There is one exception:  my husband. I met him at my first corporate job.)

So what I realize is this ... I will keep the friendships and business relationships I created in my networking group ... the ones that matter to me and to them. The emptiness I felt yesterday is passing ... and it's truly an exciting thing. What opportunity did I just create space for? Who and what will come into my life and fill that space? I can't wait to see.

What do you want to create space for in your life? You may be afraid of the pain or emptiness that space may create at the onset. That's OK. And it's perfectly normal.  Remember, to create something new in your life ... you must be willing to let go of something old ... an old belief, and old item, an old way of doing things. The list could go on and on. One way or another, though, if you want something new, you must create space for it.

July 03, 2006

notebooks, notebooks everywhere!

I loved this question: "... my problem is that I seem to have notebooks and tablets of paper with notes and lists and all kinds of things EVERYWHERE. Then, I get overwhelmed by the AMOUNT of notebooks and 3-ring binders, etc. that I use to keep track of everything from lists, journaling prompts, sketches, ideas, my writing notes, etc. etc. Any advice?!?!"

Yes! Here's some advice.

I like to keep little notebooks like the one in the previous post in various places around my house to capture ideas, thoughts and to-dos. The idea is simply to get the info out of my head and onto paper (so I don't have to keep thinking it or remembering it.) But this is a temporary holding spot for the idea. I then need to go around and collect the notes from the various temporary holding spots (primarily notebooks in my bedroom, office and kitchen ... come to think of it I should put one in the bathroom for all my great shower-time inspiration. Do they make waterproof notebooks?) Then, I get the notes and put them where they belong "permanently." Scrapbook page ideas in a folder called "scrapbook page ideas". Things to pick up at the store in my circa notebook under "errands." Ideas to blog about in a folder called "blog." Article ideas in a folder called (you guessed it) "article ideas." To dos go on a "next actions" list in my circa. New projects go on my master project list. And so on.

So the notebooks serve as temporary, unsorted places to capture ideas until they can be sorted and put into the permanent system --- like the folders in my office or lists in my circa notebook (which I use like a planner.) So I think the big trick is to differentiate between notebooks designed to capture info and those designed to house the information permanently or at least until you're ready to use it.

Does this help?

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