January is GO Month!

Get Organized Month

January is the 10th Anniversary of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) Get Organized Month. 5 years ago I would have said, “Wait a second! There really is a national association for professional organizers… AND a get organized month? Hah, now that seems silly!” I now realize now how important being involved in NAPO is to me. They offer classes and conferences, and monthly meetings for Professional Organizers to get together and share tips and tricks and learn the upcoming trends in the industries.

So, if each year getting organized is a New Year’s Resolution, let’s make this year THE year to accomplish the task(s). EMPOWER! Professional Organizing is here to help you through each step along the way. Whether you want to organize your office, entry way, closet, storage, bedrooms, or anything in between, EPO is ready for you.

Here’s a week-by-week January template to get you started and bring in 2014 in an organized fashion.

Jan. 1- 4: Ask the organizer

Beginning on the 1st – 4th, I will be offering *FREE* email advice for your project. Email me a picture of your space and your thoughts of what you’d like to accomplish, and I will give you free advice on what steps to take. You can use the contact form, or email me directly at : Jessica@empowerpo.com

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Jan. 5 – 11: Time Management

If you haven’t already, now is the time to purchase a paper calendar, or choose an app to help you manage your calendar. Personally, I use the Cozi Family Calendar. Cozi

This web-based and app is perfect and holds everything I need, and as mentioned it is accessible from your computer or from the handy app. The calendar has a free version with ads, or a paid version ad-free. It is a shared calendar so different family members can use it and all have access to each other’s schedules. The two features I like most about Cozi are:

1) Color-coded appointment blocks for each person, or for different aspects of your life. With my busy life, I have different colors for my business, personal, and corporate clients. My husband has different colors for his work and personal life. It’s handy, and although our brains process things differently, this works for us.

2) Shopping lists! The shared shopping lists is so helpful. Our house has lists set-up for Target, Costco, Safeway, etc. This way, if one person is stopping by the store they ALWAYS have the shopping list on hand.

Time management rules for 2014:

  • Don’t overbook yourself
  • If you’re a tardy person, leave an extra 10 minute buffer (at least) before/after appointments so you’re not always running late
  • It’s OK to say NO! Don’t always feel obligated to say yes.
  • Schedule time in for YOU – you’re important, so make sure you allow adequate time for you to recharge your batteries. It could be as simple as a short walk, a bath, reading a book or magazine, or going for a massage. Whatever it is, that time is all about YOU.

Jan. 12 – 18: Organization

The first step to getting organized is always knowing what you’d like you finished space to look like. Most of the time, clients want their space to be less cluttered and more simplified. If this is the case, start by sorting out items that really don’t have any value to you anymore. It’s ok to donate items – it’s ok to throw things away… really, it’s ok! The goal is to eliminate extra clutter, or those trinkets that simply collect dust.

Jan. 19 – 25: Storage

Adequate and proper storage is key to organization. There are companies that specialize in installing storage, and I’m happy to refer you to a few if you’d like. Many people like to purchase and install on their own, and with any home project, I urge you to price out the time and cost of YOUR time for this type of project, in addition to all of the materials and extra unforeseen trips to the hardware store. If it’s not practical for you to do it on your own, hire the project out.

Oftentimes, I notice that most clients have adequate storage solutions, but the storage just isn’t being used properly. If you think you fall into this category, get in touch!

Jan. 26 – 31: Productivity

start-being-more-productive

UGH. Productivity. This word actually holds a lot of negativity for a lot of people. “Be more productive at work… If only you were more productive at home on the weekends…” I’m here to tell you to drop the negative connotation that comes with the word productivity, and begin to embrace the positive side of it. Be Pro-Active and Pro-Duce Results. You can do it. Here are my steps to setting up a reasonable Will-Accomplish (other than To-Do) list.

Will-Accomplish at Home List: Be realistic of your time and energy levels.

  1. Monday – Friday (or your general work week): Pick 1-3 items each day that you’ll accomplish. These could be things like; separating the mail, doing 1 load of laundry, or cleaning the bathroom. Easy, accomplishable tasks.
  2. Saturday-Sunday (or your weekend): Pick ONE day to try to accomplish the major projects, and ONE day to accomplish the more minor projects. Major projects could include: yard work, mopping the floors, washing exterior windows, or shopping/meal planning for the week. Minor projects could include: cleaning the kitchen, taking out the garbage/recycling, or changing the sheets.

Will-Accomplish at Work List: It’s all about being practical. What honestly can you accomplish in a hard day’s work?

  1. List the items that need to get done day-by-day, and have the list by your side.
  2. Cross off the items as you complete them.
  3. FOCUS on the item at hand. This means NO checking email, or getting involved in other distractions. I realize that in a busy office you may need to answer the phone or speak with a colleague at times, but try to refrain for leaving a Will-Accomplish item semi-accomplished in order to pick up a new task.
  4. Leave work at work! In order to be more productive in your life, it’s important to establish the boundaries that allow you to leave work at work. If you need help with this, please get in touch.

Make sure that you have the Will-Accomplish items written/typed where you will see them, and be comfortable with making adjustments.

 

Remember if YOU want to accomplish your resolution to get organized, you can. Follow the weekly guide for a jump-start, and don’t hesitate to get in touch along the way. EPO offers a 3-Step Process to organizing: 1) Complimentary Phone Consultation, 2) Complimentary In-Person Consultation, 3) Appointments. I look forward to hearing from you!

Get Organized. Be EMPOWERED!

– Jessica Elix

jessica@empowerpo.com

(650) 279-5033

Organizing Your Pets – Toys and Supplies

My husband (Adam) and I recently welcomed a new member into our household… our handsome black lab-mix rescue dog, Hunter. He’s everything Labrador;  fun energy, a zest for pleasing his people, and tennis ball-obsessed. One of the best things about him is he’s full-grown and only 35 pounds! Adam and I have always grown up with animals, but we have been without a dog in our home for 5 years. We immediately fell in love with Hunter at the San Francisco SPCA. He was (at the time) 14 months-full-of-energy and in need of structure and love. We were just the people for him, and he the dog for us!Hunter bow tie

Now, with a new pet like Hunter comes a new level of responsibility and LOTS OF NEW STUFF! He has his bed, his toys, his grooming supplies, his treats, his food…. And all of these things needed a home, too. After the bombardment of supplies slowed down, I took the opportunity to get them organized by following these steps:

  1. Assess

  2. Group/Sort

  3. Shop

  4. Place and Label

  5. Give It a Home

Step 1: Assess

How many dog items do we actually have that need a home? The first step is to get everything together in one place (I used my covered kitchen table). Dog items

Step 2: Group/Sort

Next, I took a few minutes to group (or sort) the like and similar items together in piles/categories. This gives me a visual of how much I have of certain types of items, and I can visualize how much storage space I will need. As you can see, I have items used for: Travel, Walks, Care, NEW Toys, and Special Treats. This makes 5 categories total. We have his other everyday toys in a basket near his doggie bed, and his daily food in a critter-proof container outside.

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 Step 3: Shop

Now that I can clearly see that I have 5 categories total, I know that I need to find a storage solution that has 5 separate compartments. I don’t own this type of storage solution, so off to a general retail store I go – I prefer Target, since it’s close to my house and I know the store well. BEFORE you leave, scope out the ideal place where the storage will be kept. You may need to take dimensions of the space to the store, so grab a measuring tape. I found the perfect 5-drawer plastic storage container at Target. The depth of the drawer will allow for enough space, and will fit in my ideal space perfectly.5-drawer plastic container

Step 4: Place and Label

Once home, I began putting the items in the drawers in a logical order that makes since to ME and ADAM. We are tall, and will use the walking items most frequently, so the Walk drawer will be the top drawer. This ‘placing’ process, needs to work well for each human in the household.

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Once you have the right order for the items, now you get to label. Labeling the drawers not only helps you, but helps any house sitters or visitor that may need to find the pet’s items quickly. Although I have a label maker, I tend to go for quick and easy in my home. I grabbed my permanent markers in different colors, and my sticky labels. Bold, short, one-to-two word labels work best.

Step 5: Give It a Home

Now, that the items are in the perfectly labeled drawer, it’s time to place the storage in it’s ideal location. This location may be different for you than it is for Adam and I. We know that we access these items multiple times per day, so having the storage in a convenient location is best for our home. It just happens to be next to Adam’s ridiculous DVD collection… As you can see, I put his “Good Dog!” dog biscuits on top in a air-tight coffee container. We access these regularly, and the container wasn’t going to fit in any drawer.

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Final Thoughts…

As with any organizing project, remember that it’s ok to adjust and re-visit if the process isn’t completely working for you. Although this process is geared toward Hunter’s dog items, it can also be used for kids toys, family games, and other projects. The organizing process is about you, your household, or your space. Your kids can be involved in every step of this process, as well! From gathering, to sorting, to bedazzling labels – organizing is kid friendly to and it gives the kids more accountability as well.

 

Get Organized. Be EMPOWERED!

– Jessica Elix

Creating a Great Guest Room

Guest RoomMaking your guests feel welcome is a wonderful way to begin a visit. Whether your guests are staying for one night, or for an extended period of time, here are some tips to help them feel comfortable during their stay.

  1. Power-Strip: Equipping your guest room with an easily accessible power strip is one of the most important items to add. Help prevent your guests from moving the furniture to use those highly sought after outlets.
  2. Hanging Space: Create a space for your guests to hang their clothes. You have the option to create this space in a closet, or on a hook behind the door. Have extra hangers on hand if needed.
  3. Towels: Make sure that you leave towels (bath, hand, and washcloth) in the guest room. Your guests can freshen up at the time that they desire, without searching for towels.
  4. Pillows and Blankets: Have extra sleeping pillows available that vary in firmness, and lay an extra blanket at the foot of the bed. Keep in mind some guests may be allergic to down filling. Your guests need the option of changing out pillows and/or adding extra warmth.
  5. Drinking Glass: In the middle of the night, one of the last things your guests will want to do is venture into your dark kitchen to find a glass for water. Have a glass in plain sight available for your guests.
  6. Ask Questions: What time do your guests normally wake up? Do they drink coffee? Do they shower at night, or in the morning? Get to know your guests’ routine to prevent awkward moments.
  7. Be available: If your guests need anything (toiletries, hair dryers, or access to laundry room) make sure that your guests know that all they need to do is ask!

Create a space that is comfortable for your guests that has the items they need to feel welcome and settled.

Simple Closet Organizing

ClothesClosets are oftentimes packed full of clothes for all seasons, follow these tips for Simple Closet Organizing, and remember: Purge, Organize, and Maintain!

  1. Purge Your Clothes – How many times have you pulled out that same top, only to say “This doesn’t look good on me”? If it’s more than once, be honest with yourself and donate the top. Fill your closet with items that you love, that fit you, and that are practical. It’s time to be honest and purge those clothes! If you went all spring/summer without wearing it, let the item go to someone who needs it.
  2. In with the Cold – The seasons are changing. Begin to work in clothes that you will wear in the fall/winter months. Store spring/summer clothes in a clearly labeled, clear plastic bin.
  3. Hangers – Now is the time to update your hangers. I love the hugable cloth hangers. These are so popular that you can pick them up virtually anywhere. Have the same number of hangers in your closet as you have hanging clothes. This alone will lessen the bulk in your closet.
  4. Rearrange – Hang clothes in your closet by article type. Put all short sleeved tops together, long-sleeved, dressy shirts, pants, etc. This will make picking out outfits easier. If you want to take it one organizing step further, group similar items together in their color order.
  5. Maintain – When you remove the item from the hanger, try to leave the hanger in the exact spot so it makes laundry day easier. This will help you maintain your newly organized closet!
  6. Use Your Space – Use all of the space in your closet. Pack lesser worn shoes or items in a small plastic bin and stack in the corner of the closet, or on the top shelf. Those places are tough to get to anyways, so leave the space for items that you don’t use often.

Summer Vacationing Tips

Road TripThe summer months are quickly approaching, which means that mini-vacations and trips are also coming up! For the first EMPOWER! Professional Organizing newsletter, I wanted to share some tips to help keep you organized and refreshed for your upcoming summer trips.

  1. Begin Packing List Early: It’s easy to forget to pack certain items if you are rushing around at the last minute. Start a list well in advance with the items that you need to bring. Consider saving this list on your computer to use for future trips, or use an app like Cozi Family Calendar to help organize your lists.
  2. Days Approaching: Get all your errands done earlier in the week. Gas up the car, get snacks/drinks for the trip, give the key to whoever is watching the house, etc. Completing these things early will reduce your stress level.
  3. Plan Things To Do: It’s too easy to throw on a movie, listen to headphones, and start a vacation off without interactions. Have each person come up with a list of 5 things to do during your travels. These could be games, conservation topics, or jokes and stories to tell. Rekindle the relationships at the beginning of the trip – laugh, be silly, and have fun!
  4. Unplug: Vacations should be vacations. It’s about family bonding and spending time with loved ones. Make all attempts to unplug from social media, refrain from checking and returning work related calls/emails, and depending on your smart devices. Focus on your surroundings and let your body become refreshed and renewed.

If you need additional ideas about making your summer trips successful? Contact us!

Do you need assistance getting your home or office organized this summer? Contact us to set up a free assessment.

Oh My Garage!

garageLet’s face it – organizing your garage can be a daunting task. There are creepy crawling creatures, dust, surprise findings, and STUFF! If you’re part of the large number of people who could use a garage overhaul, then here are some valuable tips to help you succeed.

1. Imagine your Finished Garage: Before you begin, spend a few minutes imagining where, ideally, your items will have their home. Get creative, and really let your mind wander. It will be much easier to keep the garage organized if the items are delegated a home. Ask yourself these questions:
a) What do I want most accessible?
b) When/how often do I use this?
c) What’s bothering me the most right now?

2. Call in the Troops! Organizing a garage is a much more feasible task if accomplished with others. More hands make for quicker work, but delegate one person as the ‘Go-To Person’. This will typically be the home owner(s). The Go-To Person makes the final decisions on what items to keep, and what to toss. Put on some tunes, delegate tasks, and work together. Start early in the day, and provide lunch for your helpers.

3. Dress Appropriately: Although we’re in the hotter months, try to wear long pants, a long sleeved shirt, gloves that fit well, and closed toed shoes. You’re going to be moving, lifting, hauling, and cleaning… Chances are you’re going to be stirring up a lot of dust, so have a mask and goggles on hand just in case!

4. Be Realistic: Split the garage into sections and work on de-cluttering one area at a time. It’s very overwhelming if you pull every-last-thing out of the garage, and if you don’t finish that same day, your things just get shoved back in the garage in an unorganized way!

5. Sort Items: As you pull out items from your sections, sort into 4 piles: trash, recycle, donate, and keep items. If you think you’re going to have a lot of trash, consider renting a dumpster rather than taking truck loads to the dump. Be honest with yourself about the items that you want to keep.

6. Stay Hydrated: We oftentimes forget to drink water and take breaks during these projects. Getting your garage organized is a lot of work, and you need to remember to take care of yourself during this time.

7. Putting It Together – Keep Items: Group similar items together (sporting, holiday, tools), and put in the ideal location. When you want these items, where will you look for them? Arrange your clean garage in the way that you’ve always wanted. Use labeled bins or baskets to contain items. Hang bicycles and golf clubs. Utilize cabinet space.

Look at the garage as an accomplishable task, because IT IS! Plan, prepare, and have confidence!

Your Brain on Organizing

This article first appeared in Aligned Magazine in 2012.

brainPeople oftentimes ask how I went from graduating in Kinesiology (study of human movement), to a career as a Professional Organizer. It’s actually fairly simple. I love working with people. Oftentimes in my profession as a Professional Organizer, I have to understand the way a person process things and how their brain works. Asking leading questions for increased understanding is necessary in developing organized processes that make since to that particular person.

As you organize your home, office, or any space, it is very important to know how to best organize for our brain type. Depending on what your bring type is, it’s very important to develop organizing processes that are specific to your brain type. This is necessary in finding organizing success. The processes that you have at work and at home could be very different from one another, so ask yourself, “What works the best for me?”

Right Brain Thinkers: Free thinkers, artistic, less focused on organization, musically inclined, spontaneous, large group of friends, outgoing, communicative, feeling-orientated, comfortable in large groups and/or being the center of attention.

Left Brain Thinkers: Literal thinking, more reserved, comfortable in smaller group/ small group of friends, organized, follow manuals, focused on one task, increase of anxiety levels, plan things out, on-time, rule followers.

If you are a Right-Brained Person, please consider these techniques:

  1. Designate time to file: Once a week, designate the same time on the same day to complete your filing. Oftentimes right-brained people have a pile-to-file and items stack up over time and get pushed to the side as new and exciting things come up. In order to prevent this from happening, devote 15-30 minutes into your weekly schedule and stick to it.
  2. Use colors and pictures: Whatever you are trying to organize, use colors and pictures to help organize your brain. By color-coding things (files, boxes, clothes), you are more likely to follow the organizing process that is established. Maybe your brain doesn’t work ‘alphabetically’, so use the colors of the rainbow instead!
  3. Plan your week: On Sunday night, or early Monday morning, plan out your week and the main tasks that you’d like to accomplish each day. Make sure that there is a balance between work and play, interactions with people and quiet time.
  4. Visualize: Close your eyes and visualize your ideal, organized space. What does it have in it that you don’t have right now? Slowly incorporate in these changes.

If you are a Left-Brained Person, please consider these techniques:

  1. Lists: Keep to-do lists for the different aspects of your life – Home, Work, and Play. It is very important that you designate time into your schedule for play. Read a book, go on a walk, do yard-work, or take a weekend trip. During this time of play, focus on clearing your mind, enjoying the break, and lowering your naturally high anxiety levels.
  2. File: Set up your paper filing system like you would your electronic files. Group together a main topic, and include alphabetized sub-topics.
  3. Let Go: Consider letting go of one small thing/task each day. Allowing yourself a ‘break’ from a task that you normally accomplish multiple times a week (laundry, dishes, vacuuming, filing, returning a phone, etc.). The extra break is good for your body, and also for your brain!
  4. Breathe: If you find yourself beginning to get overwhelmed or overly-anxious, take a few minutes to focus on your breathing. Once your heart-rates slows back down, you will be able to focus on the task at hand and accomplish it much easier!

Understanding the way that you individually process things is key to your success. I encourage you to spend some time this week learning about your brain, the way you process, and your personality. Want a more in-depth study? Take the Myers Briggs Personality Test to take your organizing one step further!

Healthy Holiday Habitat

This article first appeared in Roman Paradigm Massage and Therapy’s blog in December, 2012.

dishesAs we prepare to have our homes filled with the laughter of family and friends during this holiday season, here are a few tips to keep the widely used areas of your home healthy and organized during the holiday hustle-and-bustle:

  1. Soaps: Check the soaps in your kitchen and washrooms to make sure that they are contain an antibacterial agent. A lot of times, the soaps that we typically use to hand-wash the dishes do not contain this agent, which is important to prevent the spread of germs.
  2. Kitchen Sink: While the holiday meal is being prepared, delegate one person to be on dish washing duty, and another person to dry and put away dishes. Keeping the kitchen free of dishes will help prevent contamination, unwelcomed anxiety, and help keep you organized.
  3. Kitchen Counters: Whether you are cooking a turkey, ham, Turducken, or tofu turkey, keeping our cooking areas wiped down during and after the preparation of meals is extremely important. Any dish that contains uncooked meats need to be properly cleaned and sanitized. Sanitize the sink, cooking utensils, and cutting boards as well.
  4. Too Many Cooks: Limiting the amount of traffic in and around the kitchen will help keep you organized and focused. Encourage some (or certain) guests to refrain from coming into the kitchen, and pets should be kept of the kitchen at all times.
  5. Know your Guests: Vegetarian, gluten-free, non-drinker? Know if your guests have any limitations, and take appropriate considerations.
  6. Washrooms: Your washrooms will get more use than normal this time of year. Supply festive paper napkins in the washroom to prevent the hand towels from getting too damp. If you would like to stay green, delegate a person to change the towel frequently.

Creating a habitat that is warm and inviting is very important for our loved-ones feel welcome in our homes. This time of year is about spending time together, laughing, sharing stories, and joining around the table. We oftentimes get caught up in the hustle-and-bustle and forget the real meaning of these times. Staying organized in the cooking process and delegating certain tasks will allow the host/hostess the opportunity to enjoy these times with the guests.

Top 3 Tips for Organizing Holiday Décor

This article first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News Winter 2012/2013.

broken ornamentLIGHTS: You don’t have to invest in high-priced pieces to keep holiday lights organized. Holiday lights can be easily wound around a piece of cardboard. Cut small inserts into opposing ends of a rectangular piece of cardboard, and slowly wind the lights around. You may need to adjust the depth of your cuts. With a permanent marker, label the lights’ location directly onto the cardboard’s edge (i.e. outdoor over garage, indoor tree, etc).

ORNAMENTS: Pack ornaments away in small labeled boxes or plastic tubs. Wrap your ornaments in paper or bubble wrap – REUSE these packing materials every year! Put all fragile ornaments in one tub – line this box with bubble wrap, and mark ‘Fragile’. As you pack up the ornaments, if you see one you are unattached to donate this item to a home or organization that will enjoy it.

UN-DECORATING: Spend the same amount of quality time un-decorating as you did decorating. Use the time un-decorating to share your favorite stories of this year’s holiday season. Un-decorating should be as fun and memorable as decorating!

Organizing Your Holiday Meals

turkeyI really enjoy planning for holidays meals. It’s a time to get together with family, friends, and loved ones. Whether you’re hosting (or going as a guest) here are some tips to organize your holiday menus.

  1. Plan Early – Know what dishes you are serving and have the ingredients on hand. Stores are crowded this time of year, so get your shopping done in fewer stops. Create a master list that has all of the items needed, and which stores to go to.
  2. Make Ahead – Prepare dishes early that can be made a day or two ahead. If you are bringing a dish to a party that needs warming, ask your host ahead of time if s/he can accommodate the dish in the oven or on the stove.
  3. Timeline – The timing of hosting is always difficult. Start backwards from the time you want to serve your main meal, and start plugging in numbers. Add in your oven and stove timing (with temperatures) to make sure that your items have enough time to cook.
  4. Prep – Chop, mix, and measure ahead of time. The amount of time these things take oftentimes gets overlooked.
  5. Delegate – Write a list of tasks that you can have certain guests help with. People want to help, so let them! Have guests set the table, freshen drinks and appetizers, and wash dishes.

Remember, we are coming up on a time of year that focuses on love, laughter, and quality time together. Let’s not forget these things as we prepare for the festivities.