Rolanda L., Professional organizer shares one of her classic strategies for organizing closets
The Advantage of Learning to Budget Your Time
In the inaugural lesson of OrganizeU, entitled “Getting Organized for a Good Night’s Sleep” we explored steps toward establishing a foundation for better time management. In this installment, we will begin to focus on adding more detail to the way we structure our time by creating a schedule. The ultimate objective of creating a schedule is to gain the ability to optimize the way you utilize the hour you are awake. Budgeting your time will allow you to readily examine which activities add value to your life and are, therefore, more worthy of your energy and attention. I will note that in this case, “worthiness” does not necessarily correlate to “enjoyment.” There are some activities that are not very enjoyable for most people, yet they are of a high level of importance; therefore, we must do them. An example would be standing in line to renew your driver’s license. By creating a schedule and evaluating potential opportunities to maximize your time, you will be in a position to make better decisions in advance such as reminding yourself to renew your license online, thereby avoiding long waits at the DMV, or to better manage your time waiting in line by bringing a book to read or a work task you can complete remotely.
Before You Make a Schedule
For most people who have never operated on a self-generated schedule and stuck to it, structuring their day into preset time slots may seem like a very daunting, possibly stifling task. Therefore, I recommend individuals spend one week simply assessing how they currently use their time. For seven days, simply keep track of how long it takes to complete each task, from waking up to getting out of bed, brushing teen and showering, getting ready for work/school/other daily activity, mealtimes, even downtime. The time expenditure record can simply be a list of notes regarding all daily activities and the start and end time for each.
Week 2: Create a Schedule
At the end of the seven day tracking period, review the notes, and create a rough schedule based current time expenditures. While the goal is to devise a schedule that overall works with your current lifestyle, some opportunities for time savings may already be evident. Adjustments may be made at this time; however, the schedule can and likely will be tweaked as time passes and more opportunities for better time manage are discovered.
Week 3: Follow the Schedule
Over the next week, do your best to follow the schedule. Expect that you may not be able to perfectly adhere to it, but always try to get right back on track if you exceed the allotted planned time. Also recognize that you may need to adjust your parameters if you find you need more or less time to complete certain tasks.
Week 4: Maintain the Schedule
By Week 4, you will have had time to create your new schedule and tweak it to increase practicality. From this point on, proceed to use your new self-made schedule as a general guide for performing daily tasks as well as for scheduling appointments and social activities. You may find that your confidence grows as you observe all the tasks you are consistently able to complete along with your ability to communicate your newly optimized schedule to others. As outlined in the previous lesson, your schedule should begin with your self-established wake-up time and end with your designated pre-bedtime preparation (shower, reading, quiet time, etc.) followed by sleeping at bedtime.
Adjusting to a schedule may not happen instantly. The key to success is to continue to work diligently in spite of mistakes and to remain patient with yourself.
Lesson 103 will feature customizable sample schedules for those who may have difficulty deciding where to begin when attempting to budget their time. See you in the next installment of OrganizeU!
**In the meantime, check out this handy supplemental list that condenses this entire lesson into four streamlined steps.
Rolanda L. discusses approaches to helping kids learn to become more organized.
This post was inspired by back-to-school season; therefore, it was written with kids in mind. However, many of the principles are easily transferable to adults. The following suggestions many help ease friction between parents and their children by making the process of getting and staying organized more manageable for a child or older youth. In addition to making the completion of chores a smoother process, families may also realize time management benefits by employing the following tactics to help kids manage their own rooms.
Acknowledge that Your Child May Be Overwhelmed
I work with adults who often have significant anxieties around creating organizational systems in their homes and workplaces. Oftentimes, they have long been afraid to experiment with the trial and error that may be involved in finding the right system. This is a common reason some people immediately shy away from the notion of establishing a system or organizing and working within it. Anxieties often begin in childhood. In some cases, a child may not understand exactly why his or room becomes messy because he or she perceives space differently than the parent. In other cases, the organizational system in place may simply not work for that particular child’s way of perceiving and interacting with his or her environment.
Differences in Space Perception
Space perception always comes into play when multiple people reside in the same home. A hyper-organized person may prefer to keep all household items hidden in closets, opaque bins, and drawers. For a child, maintaining the visibility of certain items, such as stuffed animals, Legos, books, or awards, may create a sense of comfort. To that child’s parent, I would suggest solutions that allow a few of the child’s favorite items to be neatly displayed in clear bins or on shelves. The child would then be responsible for ensuring the items are neatly stored in their display areas as one of his or her bedroom or playroom maintenance tasks.
Differences in Organizing Styles
Even at a young age, a child may be inclined to organize differently than his or her parents. An adult may have the focus to separate items into drawers and compartments. While theses exercises may be effective for helping children learn to concentrate while grouping and sorting items, incorporating an organizing system that is too detailed may frustrate and overwhelm some children if the cleanliness of their room depends on it. Therefore, parents may wish to start with simple sorting tasks, such as creating distinctly separate open laundry bins for colored clothes and whites or clearly labeling each drawer and keeping a single clothing item in each (i.e. a drawer for shirts, a drawer for bottoms, a drawer for pajamas, etc.). The key is to keep organizing as simple and as basic as possible when introducing a new system. Also many kids, and even adults, are much more able to maintain their items in clearly marked open bins versus closed hampers and boxes. When using bins for storage, it helps if the container is transparent or only slightly tinted as being able to see the items inside will serve as a constant reminder to avoid placing the wrong items in the wrong bins. Color-coding and keeping the bins in distinctly different, yet still conveniently accessible locations around the room may also make this strategy more effective. When using bins for storing laundry or items that are used daily, it is important to place the bins in an area that is intuitive for the child or adult who will be using them. For example if a child normally piles dirty laundry on a chair, relocate the chair, and replace it with a laundry bin. Helping someone else get organized is much easier when you work with the current habits they have in place. Eventually, they will become more accustomed to having an organized room, and they will be more likely to begin seeking out ways to keep their environment organized.
Break the Task Down Into Steps
Children may need to have the steps for cleaning their room clearly outlined, enumerated, and thoroughly explained. Full disclosure: this was one I struggled with as a child. My mother would simply reference “cleaning my room.” In response, I would tidy up things in the room that seemed out of place to me. My idea of cleaning almost never overlapped with hers. To avoid frustration on both sides of the equation, parents must clearly and kindly communicate their expectations. Making written lists with descriptions of how to perform each task is extremely helpful. Adults use similar tools all the time; we call them contracts and checklists. The overall goal is to ensure both parties are aware of all expectations while providing the performing party with an accurate measuring stick for determining when those expectations have been satisfactorily met.
Be Patient; Expect Trial and Error
Helping a child or family member get organized requires patience. I recommend observing the person’s habits or having a non-confrontational conversation to determine why they store items the way they currently do and to assess approaches that require little behavior modification upfront (such as placing a storage bin in the exact same area where the person typically discards items; suggesting one day at the end of the week to clear out or sort the items in the bin will help the person maintain the area). Trial and error may be necessary. I prefer to work in one-week or two-week increments to give the person time to adapt to the new system and to evaluate the potential for modifications that may make the system easier to follow and, therefore, likely to be more successful.
At the end of the day, the ultimate goal in helping a child or other family member get organized should be the well-being of the person in addition to preserving harmony in the home. Before presenting a new organizational system to someone, it is essential that you evaluate your objectives and eliminate all semblances of a desire to control the other person. Any assistance that is offered from a genuine place of wanting to help the person succeed and improve his or her quality of life will consider that person’s perspective and individual needs. Therefore, suggestions that truly come from a place of selfless concern will generally be received much better by the intended recipient.
Rolanda L, Professional Organizer offers gift-giving ideas for students who are going back to school.
We’re not all parents, but most of us know someone who is heading back to school. The following gift ideas will help the scholar in you life prepare for a successful academic year while staying organized!
For those of us who ARE parents and are looking to save money and stock up on school supplies now, check out my new Back-to-School Stock-Up album on Facebook.
Writing Essentials Box
Basic School Supply Packs
Desk or Wall Calendar
Lunch is an important a child’s school day. Rolanda L. offers product recommendations to help parents encourage healthy, eco-friendly eating habits for children who attend school.
Nowadays in the United States, bento boxes are on every store’s shelves in the food storage aisle. Derived from 5th century Japan, the bento box has long been an effective means of organizing and packing a lunch and taking it on the go. Today’s Western bento box is available in a variety of materials, most commonly plastic. Fortunately for those who are attempting to reduce or eliminate household plastics due to health or environment concerns, bento boxes can be found in more stable materials. In addition to bento boxes, you will also find plastic-free utensils, water bottles, and neoprene eco-friendly, insulating lunch bags that can be used for packing lunches. All items are relatively affordably priced, especially considering the ease of cleaning in a dishwasher without fear of the material leeching, melting, or becoming warped.
Made from a more traditional material, this wood bento box is microwave safe.
Stainless Steel Bento Boxes – avoid microwaving
200-Pack of Wooden Disposable Forks (only $15.95!)
Silicone Snack Containers!
Stainless Steel Water Bottles
Neoprene and Other Eco-Friendly Lunch Bags
Neoprene – purportedly keeps food hot or cold for up to four hours
Insulated Reusable Tyvek Brown Bag
Thermal Insulated Aluminum Foil and Pearl Cotton Bag
For rooms that don’t have closet storage, a portable unit is often a simple solution that also delivers aesthetics. The following products are mostly priced under $50 and can be purchased at Amazon by clicking on the image [image are Amazon Affiliate links; Amazon pays me a small percentage for purchases made through my links. The purchase price remains the same.].
Modular storage with rack
<a target=”_blank” href=”https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01IBGYZX2/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B01IBGYZX2&linkCode=as2&tag=helpmelanda-20&linkId=a38efd6b4a980c8e703301d93a9791d9″><img border=”0″ src=”//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B01IBGYZX2&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format=_SL250_&tag=helpmelanda-20″ ></a><img src=”//ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=helpmelanda-20&l=am2&o=1&a=B01IBGYZX2″ width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />
Many of my clients are anticipating the start of a new school year for their children. Some are even returning to school themselves, either to teach or to work on earning a degree. This post is for those who are looking to map their route to success by putting an organized plan in place for the year.
[Note: The following products are available by clicking on the images, which will direct you to Amazon’s website. I am an Amazon affiliate; therefore, Amazon will pay me a small commission for all purchases made through the links from my site. The price for the buyer remains the same regardless!…Also…you can DIY many of these ideas should you choose to do so!]
I am a huge fan of these, and I recommend them in various forms to virtually any client who owns and desk and uses it!
How do I get organized by using letter trays?
I’m glad you asked. For most adults, I suggest having three trays and labeling them as follows: 1) urgent, 2) mid-term, 3) long-term.
As you may have guessed, the labels indicate the immediacy of the deadline by which you must address the items within each tray. Bills that are due within less than a month should go into urgent. Permission slips for next week’s trip to the zoo? Urgent. Choosing a new cable provider before the contract expires three months from now? Mid-term. A reminder that your yearly donation to your favorite non-profit is due by the end of the year? Long term. However, as a long term deadline nears, you should continue to move the item to the more immediate letter trays until the item is addressed.
I have seen this system work extremely well for even the most disorganized among my clients and those who absolutely hate structure. The key to staying on top of this system is to address the letter trays EACH time you sit down at the desk for the FIRST time within a 24-hour period, i.e. you should visit the letter trays once per day. If you follow these directions meticulously, I guarantee your desk will not overflow with paper.
This system also works well for older students who tend to have mid-term and longer term projects.
For young kids who have homework, I suggest using an inbox/outbox system. When the child arrives home from school, he or she should immediately place all homework in a letter tray labeled “inbox.” Ideally, the tray should remain on the child’s desk or work table. If the child works at a kitchen or dining room table, the inbox may be brought out when the child arrives from school and stored on a shelf or in another location out of the way once all the homework for the next day has been completed. Once completed, homework should be placed in another letter tray labeled “outbox.” The outbox tray should be placed near the home’s entrance (also a good location for the child’s backpack once packed) to ensure the child and parent will not forget homework on the way out the next morning. One tremendous advantage to using this system is that it provides a very natural way for parents to monitor their child’s progress in school and to ensure homework completion.
Okay, sign me up!
Here are some letter trays:
A dual wall file also works well for a simplified inbox/outbox system when attached to the child’s door or in another prominent place in the home.
Organizing Letters from School, Permission Slips, and Miscellaneous Papers
Younger students often bring notices, conduct reports, permission slips, and artwork home from school to show their parents. For parental notices, I recommend using a wall file or letter sorter with multiple compartments. Each file or compartment can be labeled by document type (i.e. one for permission slips/things that need to be signed and returned, one for PTA announcements, one for artwork/completed work the child brings home, and one very clearly labeled for signed items/notes that are ready to be returned to the teacher).
Stay tuned for follow-up Back-to-School posts on lunch boxes, backpacks, and school supplies!