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September 30, 2011

Freebie Friday: Simplify Your Life with Habits + Routines

When you hear the word “habit,” do you immediately think good or bad? Do you think about things you shouldn’t be doing (smoking, overeating, biting your nails)? Are you filled with “I ought to…” feelings for what you’d like to do (exercise, be more organized, wake up earlier)?




Our habits and routines are the things we don’t even have to think about – they’re just part of our day. When you have good habits and simple routines in place, your day flows smoothly, because you don’t have to constantly remind yourself to get things done. Do you need more habits and routines to free up your time and mental energy? Me, too!


I am so excited about simplify 101’s brand new workshop — Simplify Your Life with Habits + Routines, which begins next Tuesday, October 4. This workshop is taught by Aby’s dear friend and fellow professional organizer, Janine Adams. Janine will take the mystery out of creating new habits and routines, so you can lead the life you want to live! Sounds pretty great, right? Here’s something else super great… We are giving one of our blog readers a free spot in this online workshop!


Here’s how to enter for this giveaway: 

1) Leave a comment sharing one positive habit you’d like to create.

2) For a second chance to win, mention this giveaway post with a link on Twitter or Facebook. Then, leave a comment telling me where you mentioned this giveaway.

3) For a third chance to win, like us on Facebook. Then, leave another comment telling me you did.


Post your comments by Sunday, October 2nd at 9 PM US CST. Winner will be selected at random and notified by email!

 **Comments are now closed. Thanks for entering! The winner will be announced soon.**


It’s Time to Get Organized for the Weekend!

Happy Friday my friends! I hope you had a terrific week. It’s hard to believe that it’s already Friday again, isn’t it? It was another speedy week around here.


Are you ready to share your weekend to-do list? I hope so! It’s supposed to be a super nice fall weekend here. I’m excited…but I have quite a few indoor projects to finish up and work I will add "spend time outside" to my play list. :) we go! 


Checklist-copyright-simplify101 Play List:

  • Movie night with friends. We’re going to go see The Help. Have you seen it and if so, what did you think? 
  • Boot camp. 
  • Spend some time outside.


To Finish:

  • Finish laundry.
  • Start + finish cleaning the house.
  • Finish video for True Scrap. Are you going? It’s going to be great—I’m getting really excited! You can learn more (and sign up!) here. And if you sign up by today you get a chance to win some extra goodies—like a free pass to my Get Organized for the Holidays workshop. So if you know you're going to sign it today! :)
  • Finish October checklist post. Look for that tomorrow!
  • Enter donations in Its Deductible. This should take literally five minutes.
  • Get a birthday gift for my brother.
  • Get birthday gift for party this weekend. 
  • Work on a house project. I like to let inspiration be my we'll see what I come up with off my master project list. 
  • Publish a Freebie Friday post. That's right—check back later today for that. Woohoo!


Okay…there’s my list! What’s on your list this weekend? Thanks for sharing! Have a terrific weekend!

September 29, 2011

Create a Sick Stash - Organize Supplies Before You Need Them

We all do our part to avoid getting sick, but how can you be prepared for the inevitable during cold and flu season? Jennifer shares her ideas on creating a "Sick Stash" to help get her and her family through the sick days.


Cold and flu season, you are so not welcome! We have already had our first big bout of illnesses at my house, and nearly everyone I talk to seems to be coming down with, or just getting over, something. Ideally these things would strike at a more convenient time, right? But you know how it really works. In our case last week, I reached down to detect a feverish forehead just as my husband was packing for business travel. There we were – the children and me - virtually homebound for 4 days. And it’s always the way it goes, isn’t it? You are also sick, or your partner is sick, or everyone is wildly contagious and ought to be quarantined for three weeks… Ah, but I suppose there’s never truly a good time for illness, no matter what.


I did have a bright spot in the week of sickies, though. I didn’t have to text a friend to ask them to please pick up children’s ibuprofen. That seems to be the thing we never have when we need it, which is odd because it’s a medicine chest staple! I’m not the kind of person who can’t ask for help, but it was a relief to feel prepared for the illness at hand. That sense of relief got me thinking about the other things we seem to not have but really, really need when illness strikes. And then… AHA! Why did I never think of this before? If I create a stash of supplies to keep on hand, I’ll be a lot more prepared for sickness even if I am also sick/have a sick or travelling spouse/am required to wear a hazmat suit.



I made a quick list of things we seem to need or need extra of, scrounged up an unused canvas bin, and (as soon as we were well enough to get the store) put it all together. Here’s what I included:

  • Chicken noodle soup
  • Applesauce
  • White soda
  • Gatorade
  • Children’s ibuprofen
  • Tissues
  • Toilet paper
  • Cough drops
  • Disinfectant wipes



Honestly, this is all stuff that we usually have on hand (unless someone is ill and we actually really, really need it), except for the disinfectant wipes. I generally make my own cleaners and try to avoid commercial stuff. But when I’m up against something like strep or norovirus, it’s chemical warfare time. I also find it easier to grab one of those wipes and swipe over everything my sweet little germ-spreaders touch.


I am certainly not inviting illnesses to visit us again anytime soon, but I do wonder if my Sick Stash will be as handy as I expect it to be. What else would you include? What would you leave out?


Wishing you wellness,


September 28, 2011

Is Perfectionism Preventing You from Getting Organized?

If so, this book may help.



This past summer I had the opportunity to review the book Being Happy:  You Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Lead a Richer, Happier Life by Tal Ben-Shahar. Now I get a lot of requests to do book reviews—far more than I have the capacity to do. So I have to be selective. I say yes to books that are on a topic of personal or professional interest, and I say yes to books that I know will be a valuable resource for my workshop customers, clients and blog readers. And that, my friends, is what made this book an immediate yes. Perfectionism is an important topic to me personally as well as to so many of the people who take my workshops and who work with me one-on-one. Perfectionism leads to procrastination and often paralysis—which are huge contributors to clutter and disorganization. As we seek the perfect organizing solution or the perfect set of scenarios upon which to get started on our organizing journey, we procrastinate. This procrastination leads to a build up even more clutter…which so often leads to feelings of overwhelm and paralysis. See why this topic is important?


On a personal level, this book resonated with me, too. I’ve often referred to myself as a recovering perfectionist. I remember back in school the subjects that had clear-cut, black and white answers (like math) were my favorite. I had a way of knowing I was doing it right. I had a way to measure my performance and know if I was staying inside the lines or not. Ironically, subjects like writing were outside of my comfort zone. How could I know that I was writing the best possible story? How could I know I was getting it right? That I was getting it perfect?  I couldn’t…and that was really uncomfortable for me. I was also raised by a well meaning and very loving perfectionist too.  So I have seen firsthand how striving to do everything perfectly is the perfect path to unhappiness. 


On so many levels this book spoke to me at the get-go. So I picked it up with high expectations. As I devoured the pages of the book…I wasn’t disappointed. As you can see…I found many brilliant takeaways and nuggets I want to remember, apply in my own life, and share with others. 




One of the things I particularly love about this book is that the author Tal Ben-Shahar is not only a Ph.D. who has extensively researched perfectionism, but he is like so many of us, also a recovering perfectionist. Throughout the book he shares personal stories about how his pursuit of perfection robbed him of happiness and how he has now learned to be happy without leading a perfect life.


Early in the book Tal Ben-Shahar introduces the term “optimalism.” He explains that today psychologists differentiate between “positive perfectionism, which is adaptive and healthy, and negative perfectionism which is maladaptive and neurotic.” He uses the term optimalism to describe positive perfectionism.


This excerpt from the book sums up the difference between perfectionism and optimalism nicely. “The Perfectionist expects her path toward any goal—and indeed her entire journey through life—to be direct, smooth, and free of obstacles. When, inevitably, it isn’t—when for example she fails at a task, or when things don’t quite turn out the way she expected—she is extremely frustrated and has difficulty coping. While the Perfectionist rejects failure, the Optimalist accepts it as a natural part of life and as an experience that is inextricably linked to success.” 


What I found to be extremely encouraging is that perfectionism and optimalism are not absolute. In other words, none of us are 100% a Perfectionist or 100% an Optimalist. (Which is great news, don’t you think?) Instead, think of perfectionism and optimalism as lying on a continuum, and think of each of us as tending to fall on one end of the continuum or the other. And where we fall on that continuum varies for different aspects of our life. We may tend more toward perfectionism in our professional life, for example, but be closer to the optimalism side of the continuum in our personal pursuits (or at least some of them.)


The book goes onto describe the many consequences of perfectionism and gives practical ideas and action steps to move in the direction of optimalism. I now like to think of myself not as a recovering perfectionist but instead as an evolving optimalist. I like how that feels. And the book has terrific insight and exercises to help me on my journey. 


If you’re procrastinating getting started on your organizing journey, or if you’re to the point of being paralyzed, I invite you to explore if perfectionism may be at play. This book is an excellent tool to help you do just that. Perhaps you may soon, like me, think of yourself as happy and evolving optimalist. 


If you’ve read this book already, I’d love to hear from you. What were your takeaways? Which concepts from the book most resonated with you?


By the way, if you’re procrastinating on your organizing projects or if you’re feeling paralyzed—I’d love to help you. The final session of Organizing 101 for 2011 begins tomorrow. This online workshop gives you the tools, ideas and support you need to get started and finish your organizing projects. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about this workshop. I'm happy to help. Thank you!

September 27, 2011

Use What You’ve Got Organizing

This past weekend I went to boot camp as I do most Saturday mornings. This Saturday, like so many in the past, I’ve come away with the belief that this class is misnamed—I think it should called “kick your boot(y) camp” because that’s how I feel in the midst of the class. (Like someone is literally kicking me in the backside!) It seems no matter how much I workout, this class always pushes me…up one more hill, down one more hill, just a little bit further outside of my comfort zone. And I love it.


Not only is this form of exercise great for my body…it’s great for my mind, too. Even though there are all sorts of people around me going through the same physical endurance test, boot camp offers me an hour of quiet time. For most of the class, it’s just me and my thoughts which offers a nice change of pace to the rest of my week. 


This past weekend as I was running down a hill for what felt like the tenth time (just before running up another hill for what felt like the twentieth time!) I had this thought:  “Use what you’ve got, Aby. You have long legs…use them! If you take longer steps down the hill you won’t have to take as many steps and you’ll get to the bottom a whole lot faster.” As a stretched my legs longer than I had that whole day (or maybe my whole life?) I realized that this same “use what you’ve got” advice applies to organizing, too. (Yes, this is the kind of stuff I think about when I have quiet time to myself. Go figure.)



So often we wish for the perfect set of scenarios before doing something. And yet, we’d get to where we want to be so much more quickly if we simply use what we’ve got. Here’s what I mean. Read on and see if any of these scenarios sound familiar to you, and then if they do, simply get started using what you’ve got.  


What you want:  You want a couple of weeks off from your other responsibilities so you can focus solely on your organizing projects.  


What you’ve got:  You have a few stolen moments here and there during the week, and maybe one solid hour or two on the weekends to work on your organizing projects. 


What you can do:  Use what you’ve got! Use those ten to fifteen minute slices of time during the week to make progress decluttering. Pull out items you no longer use and put them in a donate bin. Put away things that are out of their homes and create a bit of clear space and breathing room. Pick up the phone and schedule a charity pick-up. Bite-size your organizing projects by focusing on one drawer, or one shelf, or on cupboard at a time. You will be amazed at the progress you can make using what you have—even if it’s just teeny tiny pockets of time!  


What you want:  You want all new, matching storage containers.


What you’ve got:  Budget for something a bit less than all new matching storage containers and perhaps a mismatched collection of containers accumulated over the years. 


What you can do:  Use what you’ve got! I can’t begin to tell you the number of clients I’ve worked with over the years who didn’t need to buy a single container. You can get organized by using the containers you already have on hand and by repurposing everyday items you have around the house. Use empty soup cans covered in paper to corral pens, pencils and other craft supplies. Use small bowls and ramekins to organize small items in bathroom or kitchen drawers. Or use those mismatched containers…and upgrade slowly over time! Don’t wait for the big windfall of cash to buy those all matching containers and then get started. Instead, start getting organized now using the containers you already have. 



What you want:  You want to have every step of your organizing project figured out before you begin (so you’re sure that things turn out perfectly!) The trouble is this causes you to feel overwhelmed, so you don’t start at all.


What you’ve got:  If you’re like most of the people I work with, you have a rough idea of what you want. And at a minimum, you know what you don’t want. 


What to do:  Whether you have a sketchy idea of what you do want (or a crystal clear idea of what you don’t want), use what you’ve got. Start with what you know for sure, and then, give yourself permission to figure out the rest of the details as you move forward with your project. When you make progress on your project, it will become much easier to see the next step you need to take. It will be simpler to put together the rest of the puzzle, with each new piece you put into place. 


Here’s a little secret:  this is how I do every single organizing project I do! I don’t know exactly how the project will come together before I start. Instead, I piece it together as I go. If I’m working on a project with a client, we collaborate. I ask my client questions as we work through the organizing process, and the answers to those questions lead us to the best possible finished result. It would be really hard to know all the questions to ask at the onset (let alone remember all the answers). And if I did it this way, we’d both feel really overwhelmed! Instead, I follow my tried and true organizing process, and proceed with confidence that the pieces will fall into place as we move along. Not only does this approach work, it’s much simpler than trying to figure it all out before you begin. 


What you want:  You want to find the perfect organizing solution.


What you've got:  A long list (or a closet full) of organizing solutions you’ve tried in the past that didn’t work as well as you had hoped.


What to do:  Use what you have! Along with those less-than-ideal organizing systems came a whole bunch of information about what does and doesn’t work for you. Use it! Every system you try that doesn’t work as well as you hoped gives you terrific insight that will help you create a system that will work great for you. Give yourself permission to use this information to tweak or create a new system that will work great for you! 


When you use what you’ve got you enable yourself to get started faster. You take bigger steps or you take steps sooner than you would if you wait for the ideal set of circumstances. The end result:  you get up the hill—or get organized—much faster than you would have otherwise. I’d love to hear from you!


What are your biggest obstacles when it comes to getting organized? Can you see a way to use what you’ve got to get started? Thanks for sharing!

September 26, 2011

How Was Your Weekend?

Happy Monday morning my friends. It’s time for the Monday morning check-in where we share our progress on our to-do lists over the weekend. I hope you had a happy and productive weekend! Ours was goood...but very full. Here’s my update on my Finish It Friday list:

Play List:

  • Boot Camp. Check!
  • Attend a time management seminar. Check! (And it was great.)

To Finish:

  • Laundry. Check!
  • Start + finish cleaning the house. Check!
  • Spend 30 minutes on some paperwork that needs to be done. Check! (But there’s still more to-do. That’s going on my list for today.)
  • Update my master project list. Check! (And wow, I have a lot of projects I’d like to-do. Glad I’m bringing back Finish It Friday. ;) )

Other notable finshes:  found a new comforter for Kailea, potted some mums on the front porch, and put together a bag of donatons for the food pantry. Hooray!  


How did your weekend go? I can’t wait to hear! And thanks to all for your enthusiasm about the return of Finish It Friday. I plan to keep it going for a while…so tell your friends and invite them to join the fun. Have a happy Monday!


September 23, 2011

It’s Time to Get Organized for the Weekend

Has anyone else missed Finish it Friday? I have. Last weekend in particular I really missed it…and so today, I thought I would bring it back—at least for today.


Now if you’re new to this blog and aren’t familiar with Finish It Friday, here’s how it works. You simply share your to-do list for the weekend in the comments, and then come back here on Monday to report how you did. It’s simple but fun and motivating to read what others are doing and know that you’ve gone public with your own intentions.


Around here Finish It Friday lists include something fun and something you intend to finish. Mine always includes boot camp on the fun list, and laundry and house cleaning on the to-finish list, because that’s what I routinely do on my weekends. Alright, shall we give this a whirl?


Checklist-copyright-simplify101 Play List:

  • Boot Camp. (So happy I’m still doing this. Finish It Friday was part of what helped me cement this habit!)
  • Attend a time management seminar today. (I love learning new approaches to this topic. I’m quite excited.) 

To Finish:

  • Laundry.
  • Start + finish cleaning the house.
  • Spend 30 minutes on some paperwork that needs to be done.
  • Update my master project list. 


By the way, here's a printable for recording your Finish It Friday list.  Download Finish-it-friday-list

Who wants to play along? If so, simply post your to-do list in the comments. And…if you aren’t one to post your to-do list here but you enjoy reading the Finish It Friday posts so you can play along at home, please let me know in the comments. I’m trying to decide if Finish It Friday will be back to stay for good. Thanks! Hope you have a terrific weekend!

September 20, 2011

Getting Organized Now for the Happiest Holidays Later

In this blog post, Jennifer faces her challenges and hopes for the upcoming holiday season. Think it's too early to start thinking holidays? Check out Jennifer's reasons for getting started sooner rather than later.


The holidays. (gulp) This subject is already coming up regularly for me! My mother-in-law asked the kids for their wish lists. My aunt called to ask about sizes. And at lunch with friends yesterday, our talk turned to trying to get our to-do lists together now.



It seems so early, doesn’t it? And part of me sort of cringes at all the holiday talk that seems to come earlier each year. I really want to enjoy the gifts of this day, not make myself crazy buying gifts for the next 90 days! The consumerism of the holidays drives me mad, but here’s the thing I’m realizing: If I don’t have myself prepared for the holidays, I am actually more likely to end up with a version of the holidays that looks nothing like what I envision. I want a season with more laughter, boundless joy, and lots of love. But I know from past experience that without a plan, I end up stressed out, sleep deprived and over budget. Trust me, I’m not very merry in that state. ;-)


So when I say “prepared,” I definitely don’t mean that I intend to have all my shopping done by October (although, that would be nice) or that I will deck the halls the day after Halloween. I do, however, want to sit down with a nice cup of tea and some paper and map out what’s most important to me and my family. I want to make space for the things we value, and I want to make peace with letting go of what we don’t.



A few years ago, a friend gave me a great holiday planning notebook along with an assignment. After the holidays, I write down what I hated and what I loved. It is so great to pull that out each year! I actually have a pretty good memory, but sometimes it isn’t until I’m in the midst of something I swore I’d never do again that I remember why I said that! Especially when it comes to the holidays. It seems my memories can grow a bit fuzzy with nostalgia or twisted with fantasies of how I thought it would be.


One thing that’s top of “what I hated about the holidays - 2010” is the bazillion little details I seem to leave until the last minute. I do most of my shopping early, so in my head I think I’m done. I bought the teachers’ gifts, so I check that off my to-do list. Suddenly I am up until wee hours trying to write “heartfelt” cards and wrapping the teachers’ gifts!  This year, I intend not to be bogged down by small details that in the past I left until the last minutes. I also want to make sure a task is fully completed before I check it off my list. If the teachers’ gifts aren’t wrapped and accompanied by cards, that task doesn’t get a check mark!




That’s just one small change, but I think it’s going to be huge in enhancing our holidays overall. I could certainly use some more help, though, in making our holidays even happier. How about you? Check out our Get Organized for the Holidays online workshop. It begins November 1, and it’s a great resource for preparing for and cleaning up after the holidays. AND, if you sign up early for this workshop, you can also score 20% off! It’s on early bird special until Thursday, September 22, 2011.


Are the holidays already in your thought process? Is there something you’re planning to do to improve your holidays this year? Please leave us a comment or tell us on Facebook!



September 19, 2011

The winner of Southern Living Style is…

Style Cover-1 ...Misty Olsen who said “Thanks for the great organizing tips! I liked simplify 101 on facebook. I would love to win this book! I love Fall!”


Congrats Misty! I will send you an email to get your mailing info. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I am. Thanks everyone for entering!

September 16, 2011

When You Don’t Have Time to Get Organized

Orange-clock-200dpi There’s something in the air. I’m not quite sure what it is but recently I’ve been having lots of conversations with people who feel they don’t have time to get organized. Do you feel this way, too?


If you’re overwhelmed by clutter and aren’t sure where to get started on your organizing journey, this can so often lead to paralysis. It feels like it’s going to take forever to clear out all that clutter, and quite frankly you don’t have forever. It feels like a hopeless battle so you don’t get started.


Now it’s not because you don’t want to do something about the clutter. And it's not because you're lazy. (So please, quit telling yourself that!) It's because it feels like whatever you do it won’t be enough. It will hardly scratch the surface. 


If you’ve taken any of my online workshops or worked with me via coaching then you know my go-to strategy for getting organized (and staying organized, for that matter) is to declutter or organize for fifteen minutes a day. But if you’re faced with a lot of clutter you might hear that advice and think “What’s the point? Fifteen minutes may work for other people, but it isn’t going to make any noticeable difference in my home. I need to do more.”


Well…yes, you will need to do more. (We all will.) Fifteen minutes of organizing in any home won’t get the job done forever. But when you’re feeling overwhelmed by your clutter the goal isn’t to get the job done…it is to get the job started! Take your mind off of finishing and put it on getting started. Don’t worry that you don’t know all the steps to get to a clutter free home. Pick one step…and do that one thing for fifteen minutes that will move you toward that vision of a peaceful and organized home.


Here's something else to consider that you may not have before:  your home got cluttered in small bits of time, too. It didn't get this way in a single built up slowly over time. So it's reasonable then, that small organizing sessions over a period of time will help you work your way back to where you want to be.  


So don't worry if it feels like fifteen minutes won’t make a difference—it will make a difference. You may have to trust me on this one, but even if you can’t see a difference after fifteen minutes, you will feel it! You will feel different when you get up off that chair and start taking action. And every single minute you spend heading in the direction of that organized home will make a difference! Every single step you take forward…moves you one step closer to where you want to be.


I know you’re busy…but do you think you can find fifteen minutes this weekend to get started? You’re much more likely to be able to find fifteen minutes in a day to start making progress on your organizing projects than you will be to find an hour…or even four hours! Right? 


So think of it this way:  no matter how you slice it, four hours of organizing is made up of sixteen 15-minute blocks of time. You could wait to find sixteen continuous blocks of 15 minutes (a solid four hours) or you could find fifteen minutes right now. And then…maybe you’ll feel so energized that you’ll starting looking for another fifteen minute block of time, maybe tonight before bed. And then…you’re feeling so great that you decide to spend fifteen minutes tomorrow morning before the day starts…so you can do just a little bit more. (See how it works?) And in time after a few of these fifteen minute sessions…you won’t just feel different but things will start looking different, too!


Let me know if you give this a try today or this weekend, or please share if you're already a believer in the fifteen minute approach. I would love to hear from you. Have a wonderful weekend!


P.S. As I was writing this post, I got this an email that said this:  I purchased and downloaded your “help, where do I start” booklet. Read it. Started yesterday with a large load of stuff from my kitchen. Honestly it was a bit crazy how much I was able to get rid of in 30 minutes. Tackling another 15 minutes in the kitchen today and then moving onto the bathroom.

 It really does work, my friends. I hope you'll try it for 

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