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Thursday, August 30, 2012

What to Look for When Buying a Household Organizer

1) Does the organizing piece have a handle? An organizer (such as one for holding your hair-care products) with a handle is always a good thing, if it's available. If that handle is removable, will fold down or tuck around the organizer when not in use, so much the better. A handle will make your organizer more portable, easier to carry and/or open, will usually make it safer & quicker to pick up plus sometimes leaves it more attractive in appearance.

2) If it's woven, is all of the weaving in good condition? Is the coloring on it even & attractive? Is it coated or sealed to help resist spills, animal scratches & it's own rough texture damaging fabrics that brush against it?

3) Is the organizer washable? Consider carefully if what's being stored in the container could leak or stain potentially- if the answer a yes, then naturally you need to try & choose a washable organizer. Or at the very least, an organizer with a washable liner? If the organizer has a liner, is that also machine-washable? A basket liner is NOT an item you'll want to have to get dry-cleaned...

4) Will the organizer work with myriad paint tones, wood tones, flooring changes, decor styles & in a variety of rooms? Choosing an organizer in clear acrylic, plastic or polycarbonate can sometimes be answer. Ivory, white or other very neutral-toned baskets, cloth caddies & liners usually make sense in today's homes. Remember that while you love that lime-green basket today, a year from now you may be incredibly tired of it. While some people have the funds to replenish these items or redecorate frequently, that is an assessment that you'll have to make for yourself. Forewarned is forearmed.

5) Are there any reviews available on the product itself? Read the lowest-rated reviews first. Sometimes it'll just be some sneaky competitor throwing a bad review on a product, but a good volume of negative reviews warrants looking into. Watch for defective units repeatedly being discussed, poor vendor customer service complaints & admonishments of a short product lifespan.

6) Always, always, always measure the available height, depth & width of where you are going to place the organizer and write down those measurements. I recommend that you keep a divider with loose-leaf paper set aside in your control journal OR have a labeled notebook where you keep these measurements written down alone. Don't mix this information up with a bunch of miscellaneous note-taking. This will serve as a valuable reference guide, now & in the future, so treat it accordingly. I've been doing this for years- you will not remember these measurements off the top of your head later unless you are some sort of super-genius with a memory like an elephant. Trust me on this.

7) Does the organizer you're spying address every storage need that you have for the space? If it holds products in a drawer, does it store every single item that you own plus leave a little room to spare (hopefully)? Will the organizer take up vital space that you need to hold printer paper or some other large, loose item? Addressing every single piece that will need to be stored in the space beforehand is absolutely imperative before you shell out the $$$ for the storage container. If you desire to put new items in that storage space (including ones currently elsewhere in your house which are longing for a permanent home), think about that, too. This new unit should serve you for the foreseeable future. With today's plentiful variety, there is no reason to accept anything other than the perfect unit for your storage need & space available.

8) If applicable, watch for loose threads, unnecessarily-sharp edges, chipped paint & other signs on the organizer that the quality of the item is lacking. Buying Fair Trade and/or locally-made products can be the answer to quality woes at times. If you're buying an item off of the Internet, be mindful of the return policy of the vendor you're purchasing from. If possible, keep the original packing & the receipt for thirty days under normal circumstances. If the product has a warranty, keep a copy of that & your receipt for whatever length of time that the warranty is good for. Make a manila folder up for the item's papers & put it under an appropriate file folder (I titled mine, "Handbooks & Warranties"). This will make it easy to locate the paperwork, should you ever need it. If there are any product note cards to be filled out (the company will often ask for a serial and/or model number on these cards), write them up & send them off immediately.

9) Comparison-shop: Is the store where you're buying it from the one with the best price? If applicable (and this is true with the larger, more expensive items), is there a warranty & how good is it? Are the directions for putting the item together clear & concise, if applicable? Do you have the tools to put together this organizer, if required? How's the customer service of this company, based on previous customers' ratings? (If ratings aren't available to review anywhere online at all, BEWARE.)

Below are some shots of my favorite soft caddy in existence. It's available on www.amazon.com. I hope that they will inspire & motivate you to get organized. There's nothing mystical or magical about staying organized, quite honestly. You just have to purchase or make the tools that aid you in storing the items you've kept after de-cluttering & cleaning your home.

For my bedroom- it holds my body lotion, perfume, pillow mist, lip balm, saline spray & so much more. For less than $11.00, I get a caddy that organizes all that stuff here, there & everywhere on my nightstand. If you're struggling with keeping neat surfaces, let me tell you- unless you have a caddy & you're just lazy about putting stuff back, there is nothing wrong with you. It is the lack of a storage solution- in other words, a technical error- that is causing your problem. Stash your gear in an awesome caddy & never look back! Hey, some may think this is simplistic advice I'm giving. But I'm telling you what- no one ever sat me aside & told me to store my stuff in a caddy so it wasn't creating a clutter problem. Now when I'm dusting I can just quickly lift up my caddy, dust around & underneath where it normally is, then just sit it right down. No more pushing around & replacing bottles, knocking them over or losing track of them in a drawer. Drawer organizers are great, don't get me wrong. But the older I get, the idea of "out of sight, out of mind" applies to me!

 

 


 
Here is the same caddy, this time holding my items I use in the living room, just in a different color. I keep this right next to my favorite chair. (I'm like Archie Bunker when it comes to my recliner- anyone who sits in better move their tush to another seat, pronto. ;) This stores my eyeglasses in their case, a roll of paper towels, a back scratcher, Post-It Notes, hand sanitizer, Purell wipes, lots of pens & markers in loops that keep them upright, rewetting contact lens drops, throat spray, a flashlight, a candle lighter, my kitty's claw clippers, brush & comb, my scissors plus my own nail clippers & file/uffer. If you're a formally messy person like me, doesn't the idea that all of this stuff is in one safe, easy-to-reach, easy-to-see caddy wonderful??? If you need to haul your things out in an emergency, too, isn't this the most awesome way to store the items? I just adore this caddy.

 
 
Below are photos of my second teal caddy, which I use to stow away my hair-care products. As you can see, I'm able to make nice use of the pockets, inner loops & Velcro separators in my caddies. This caddy makes hair-care fun, quick & easy. Nothing shaves time off your morning schedule like being organized. I must once again advise- you HAVE to put stuff back in the same place after using it EVERY TIME. You'll be doing your brain, your schedule & your sanity an immense favor. I promise that this is the truth! It's a little take-off on religion here; I once was lost (in terms of organization) & now I'm found. If you want to buy this caddy, it comes in teal, purple & black. Forgive me for the photography. I'm not a pro at taking pictures & my digital camera isn't much of a help. :D 
 

 
 
Here's the link for the caddies online:

http://www.amazon.com/FindIt-Pockets-Compartments-Storage-FT07202/dp/B004R9SV2Y/ref=sr_1_11?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1353729956&sr=1-11&keywords=caddy

http://www.amazon.com/FindIt-Pockets-Compartments-Storage-FT07201/dp/B004R9Y4IO/ref=pd_sbs_hg_2

http://www.amazon.com/FindIt-Pockets-Compartments-Storage-FT07203/dp/B004R9Y4HA/ref=pd_sbs_op_1

Here's to being an organized minimalist,
Liz

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

For Those Who Work Outside the Home...Helpful Tips from Fellow People Who Got Organized

http://www.flylady.net/d/payroll-she-tips-and-testimonials/

This link from FlyLady's website can be a little hard to locate unless you know where to look, so I thought I'd post it here for you. This comes straight from people who work outside the home & have still adapted FlyLady's Sidetracked Home Executive system to work for them. Even if you don't follow FlyLady, the tips from these brave souls who've gotten their homes in orders already are priceless!

Here's to being an organized minimalist,
Liz

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Quick List of Linens to Keep on Hand for the Minimalist

Kitchen:
7 white cleaning cloths (for wiping down the counters, stovetop & small appliances daily)_
7 dishtowels_
7 hand towels_

Bathroom #1:
3 white bath towels (changed every 2 to 4 days)_
7 white hand towels (changed daily)_
7 white washcloths (if you use one to wash your face and/or body, it should be changed daily)_
7 white cleaning cloths (one for each day's swish-and-swipe)_

Bathroom or person #2, or for guests:
3 colored towels (not white; changed every 2 to 4 days)_
7 colored hand towels (changed daily)_
7 colored washcloths (if you use one to wash your face and/or body, it should be changed daily)_
7 white cleaning cloths (one for each day's swish-and-swipe)_

(If there are more people in the house, just keep repeating this pattern, but with a different color for each person)

Weekly Household Cleaning:
12 white cleaning cloths (approx. 6 for the kitchen, 3 for bathroom #1 & 3 for bathroom #2; if you have more bathrooms, just keep adding 3 cloths for each one)_
5 polishing cloths (used with furniture polish; very large homes with a lot of wood walls, shelves and/or furniture may need more cloths, but 5 is a good for the average home)_
6 old white hand towels (for cleaning up fairly small household spills or carpet stains)_

Emergencies:
4 to 6 old bath towels (preferably white or ivory) for cleaning up carpet stains, wiping up water if a pipe or hose leaks or for cushioning items during a move (either in a cardboard box or in the car)_

Here's to being an organized minimalist,
Liz

Friday, August 17, 2012

Is Spring Cleaning Really Necessary? | Speed Cleaning | House Cleaning Supplies, Tools and Tips from Jeff Campbell's The Clean Team

Is Spring Cleaning Really Necessary? | Speed Cleaning | House Cleaning Supplies, Tools and Tips from Jeff Campbell's The Clean Team

Some people love spring cleaning, others loathe it & a good majority of people today find it just plain unnecessary. It just really depends on where you live (the age of your house, climate you live in, proximity to polluting elements, etc.), your general lifestyle throughout the year & your mindset. There's nothing wrong with making spring or fall your time to redecorate, replace or purchase something important & needed for the home or doing some good old-fashioned deep-cleaning. But, in general, the article above explains why we shouldn't feel guilty if we're not involved in spring cleaning each year. I believe I remember the FlyLady remarking that spring cleaning wasn't really needed anymore in her home because of her daily, weekly & Zone cleaning habits being in place. And I have to say, I've found that to be true for me, as well.

 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How to Get Things Done When You Hate To-Do Lists...Like I Do

Shock of shocks, I hate to-do lists. Well, I hate making them for myself. They're like a noose around my neck. I don't recommend making them to others, really. In the time that you have to take to write out the entire list, you probably would've accomplished at least one of the items on it instead. The lists get lost easily. Life is too changeable, as are goals, for someone like me. I have a thing about putting pen to paper- I never like to put down anything with a checkbox beside it that I can't guarantee I'll complete! Call me crazy, but I possess that quirk. I never write down to-do lists, but I always get done what I need to. There's a workaround for this quandary, I promise. If you love making to-do lists & they help you get loads of things done, more power to you. Just ignore this post. But if you're like me, read on.

Instead, I utilize my Google Calendar like it's going out of style. Whenever I think of something important, on it goes to the calendar immediately. From there, I make sure that it's sent to my Gmail account at the time that I want it come to me. Then the reminder can sit in my Inbox whenever it arrives & be a gentle breeze telling me something still needs to get done. I can delete it easily, once it's accomplished or is no longer relevant. I'm not wasting paper this way. I'm not losing any list, be it electronic or on paper. Actual appointments (not just things I'd like to get around to doing at home) go on my paper calendar, too, just to be clear. I'm still writing out my goals, it's just getting done electronically & in a time-relevant format. Since I check my email a billion times a day, it's very hard for me to overlook these reminders, too. I always found it very easy to "forget" to look at my to-do list, so carefully made out & then so carelessly disregarded. Google calendar is also nice because I can color-code it. When I bring up my weekly schedule, at a glance I know what I'll be getting into that week to come. I use the color red for tasks related to my household move (for now) or for holiday to-do's (when in season); orange for health-related tasks (doctor's appointments, medication refills, etc.); yellow for family birthdays & similar events; green for bill-paying & other finance-related matters; turquoise for fun stuff, like shopping, pampering time, dates or getting a haircut; true blue for weekly tasks such as cleaning the house; purple for daily reminders like my Nighttime Routine & grey for quarterly/monthly tasks such as cleaning the windows. You do not have to follow my system, but the color-coding instantly signals to my brain what type of involvement will be needed before I even read the text. I find this works for me loads better than a scattered to-do list, in any format I'd ever tried before. Fifty dollar day planners couldn't even get me that organized & productive. I used to blame myself, but now I know better. The Google calendar also enables me to block out the period of time required for the task, or the entire day if applicable. I believe that applying the actual time that a task will take & what hour I need to get it done makes the big difference. To-do lists can be too vague in that respect. Because ALL of this information goes to my email account, I'll be reminded of what I need to do even if I somehow forget to view my calendar that day.

I downloaded the Google toolbar, then put the little buttons up for my email & calendar. I need all of the help I can get to remember stuff, and I've got my bookmarked Internet pages right at my fingertips that way, too. With other specific icons chosen, I gained the ability to post things directly to Facebook, Twitter & this blog. This further simplified my life & helped me get things done a little bit faster/smarter as I learned to use them. Google Documents is another option available, and I've slowly been switching these documents over from my Word program so that those are also uploaded for good. I do a lot of writing, and not just for this blog. Being able to see my master goal list (yes, I do still have that) in a heartbeat is terrific. It keeps me focused on what matters. Each day I take one baby step further towards ultimate dreams that I have for myself through this system. I hope that it will work for you, should you decide to try it. It's certainly made me more productive. I'm not making any kind of official paid endorsement (if only that were true...) I discovered all of this through trial-and-error. Again, it's not you that has an issue 99% of the time, if you're not getting done what you want to. It's the system that you've set up- technical errors, in other words. Keep experimenting until you find what keeps you productive, organized & happy.

Here's to being an organized minimalist,
Liz

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Stripping Down Your Calendar(s) to Just the Must-Do Items

This great blog entry below made me think about what I did for myself earlier this afternoon, which was to seriously strip down my calendar from a homemaking-central schedule to that of a woman preparing for a full-time college schedule & new career beginnings:

http://reallifehomelife.blogspot.com/2011/07/making-flylady-work-for-you.html

The article from the lady who wrote the above-mentioned blog is a wife, stay-at-home mom & homemaker. So you may be wondering why I'm seeing any similarities between her & myself. It's that we read both the initial ideas of FlyLady as presented & then (mostly through trial-and-error) changed them to suit ourselves. We both decided that we were not going to feel guilty for changing, adding or subtracting things from FlyLady's list of things to do or how to get them done.We've both had to drop things off of our schedules, change some priorities & adapt, regardless of our differences in lifestyle. I'm a single & child-free woman, but the narrative is always essentially the same no matter who you are or what your lifestyle may include. That is the one consistently running theme throughout all of us who learned something from and/or follow FlyLady- there is always going to be a need for adaptation.

Some changes that I'm personally making to my schedule/calendar: Unless someone is an invalid or working an insane schedule which is leaving them virtually no time at home, I'm no longer making their bed or cleaning their bathroom up every day. I'm not sorting through their papers, doing their filing or de-cluttering their spaces unless I've got a darn good reason to AND there's moula coming into my pockets under the same circumstances. Fellow adults or older kids with working brains, legs & arms need to pick up after themselves or suffer the consequences of not doing so- that is my new rule. Doormat am I no more. I'm not putting out fires for anybody who doesn't deserve it. It's not anger inspiring this, but a mere change in my own priorities. My time & energy are valuable commodities. I will not get either my hours if I spend them foolishly, even if it is done in the name of homemaking. For all of the pursuits that I've been doing for free which take up so much of my time daily & contribute no real enjoyment to my own life, I could be contributing to others that really fulfill me- like writing this blog.

This means not only a vital change in scheduling is occurring, but also that a change is happening within my own mindset, as well. It's taking time to get used to the new mindset. I now realize that if I have the income to invest in it and my time is best spent elsewhere, I'm paying someone else to clean my oven, wash windows & do major housework from now on. That is a controversial choice for a lot of working women to make, I know, and many of us still get flack if we go for that outside help. But even if I'm home, I'm minimizing these types of chores down to levels easy even for someone like me with two bum knees, fibromyalgia & little patience. Don't get me wrong- I'm not about to go hog-wild & start hoarding. I'm merciless with dumping clutter & my minimalism isn't going to die anytime soon. Actually, I'm getting even more ruthless about buying unneeded items. I live with someone whose general shopping vices are of the temporary sort, like cosmetics- thankfully, my mother has as little patience for flea-market finds & the like as I do (i.e.- none). So while I could accuse her of laziness, I can't say that my mother does a lot of household shopping, because she doesn't. My home is still going to get dusted & vacuumed once a week- if maid service isn't in the budget, then of course I'll be doing it myself. I would never advocate letting your home go entirely to the dogs due to outside interests, because it can be disconcerting & out-of-balance. Housekeeping certainly teaches one a sense of responsibility & time management, which I'm all for. But obsessing over it is a thing of the past for me.

Here's my basic point for your life: take a good, hard look at your calendar(s) today. How many of the items on there go perpetually-undone? Be honest, because there's no reason to feel guilty about anything, and facing reality is going to help you make positive changes. Maybe they're going undone because they don't need to be on your schedule in the first place. How many of the items could get delegated to someone else? How much of your schedule is actually just unnecessary busywork? I'm no longer feather-dusting my bedroom every morning, for example. Time I've spent on that pursuit can be spent on homework, research or freelance writing instead, all of which I need to accomplish. Actually, I'm going to allow a certain amount of dust to live with me (shock of shocks, right?) because at this point I'm more interested in gaining a college degree & actually being able to afford my own place someday soon than I am with seeing a spotless house. I don't believe in ignoring genuinely-needed household cleaning or maintenance. Please don't misunderstand me, because I'm not trying to be flippant, and I have as much respect as I ever did for women who choose to be homemakers & put that first. I don't mean to turn it into anything political, because it's not about that. I'm simply entering a different phase of existence for myself. I want to keep my home as organized, minimalist & clean as I need to not to be distracted by dirt or clutter as I push towards developing other areas of my life- and that's all.

When you are planning & scheduling, you need to keep realism- not idealism- at the forefront of your brain. If you're a night owl, always have been & probably always will be, you are going to have a different schedule than someone who is an early bird. There is nothing magical about being an early bird. It's a preference many in society have, but it doesn't work for everyone, and it's time someone started speaking the truth about the subject. I know what FlyLady & others say about getting up early, going to bed early, etc.- and indeed, for some people in the world it is an absolute necessity. But for others, it is impossible to do this in the long-term & to continue trying is a difficult feat. If you have been struggling with this issue for years, you're not alone. Please read the following if you're a night person & have found FlyLady's admonition to go to bed & wake early impossible:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delayed_sleep_phase_disorder

Just to be absolutely clear, I do NOT believe that being a night owl is at all a "disorder". I think it's just how some people are wired. Thank goodness that there are people who work nights well- nurses, doctors, truck drivers, etc. The world needs all kinds of people to keep going well. For myself, I'll say the following: Without sleeping medication in my system and/or a something absolutely forcing me to get up early (which consistently requires an alarm clock and even then is hard to accomplish), I will usually not go to bed until around four in the morning & get up around noon naturally. When allowed to follow my own sleep schedule, this is consistently the schedule that I return to, and I've been that way since birth. Many people are exactly like me, and have been told for years that they are lazy or rebellious when they're actually neither. Once I understood this, years of guilt fell away, and I've been able to appreciate the quiet night hours with renewed vigor. A lot of my best writing work occurs at night. As long as you're not sleeping overly-long hours or in another way showing signs of depression, simply not waking up or going to bed early isn't in & of itself a problem. The only sense in which you would have to view this as any type of disability is if it's affecting your work life or education negatively- in which case I strongly recommend that you attempt to get them to make the necessary accommodations. I'm not giving anyone carte blanche to stay up long past the time that you're tired enough to go to bed, and then that's the reason why you can't get up in the morning. Delayed sleep phasing is different- you will absolutely know it if this is a biological pattern you've had for years (usually since a young age) & it's not just that you're staying at the computer or watching TV anyway while your eyelids are drooping downward come midnight. True delayed sleep phase people get a metabolic boost at night which enables us to stay wide awake through the moonlit hours- and even if we attempted to go to sleep at an earlier hour, we would just lie in bed thinking of all the things we could be doing instead. People who have this can rarely (if ever) revert to being a person who will go to bed naturally at what others believe is a normal hour, such as 11 p.m. & wake up at around 7 a.m. Sleeping pills & some natural aids like melatonin can change this to a degree, but they are an absolute last-resort in my opinion, and I don't think they work well for changing the hour that we awaken very well, either. Yes, they can make a night owl go to bed earlier- but I cannot find much evidence that regular sleeping pill usage makes waking up earlier any better. Anecdotally, they've never enabled me to go to bed at a "regular" hour, just sleep the normal eight- or nine-hour cycle that works for me & get up early in the a.m. I just keep on sleeping until late morning & then I missed my late-night work time, too. That is unproductive for me, and spending twelve hours sleeping each day is indulgent even by my extremely-loose standards. If someone else in your life is like this (instead of yourself), I still encourage you to read up on this info in order to gain an understanding of the physiology behind it.


Anyway, I eliminated a lot of daily-repeat items from my schedule & I condensed a lot of other activities down to more manageable bits. The way that I was doing things before, each day included a repeat email coming to me from my calendar which included to-do items involving the home. While I still need a reminder for a few of these things, a lot of them have become habit & I no longer needed that daily review. I suggest that you regularly check these types of email or calendar reminders for editing, and if you feel comfortable doing so, remove the items that you don't need a reminder for (like making the bed for example). A few of my weekly FlyLady-based tenets, such as Wednesday's Anti-Procrastination Day, also got eliminated. Why? Because I don't procrastinate over important things anymore to begin with anymore. Once I became a more skilled prepper for activities & a knowledgeable time manager, procrastination ended because the mental blockages went away on there own. Impossible, you say? No. Am I special. Again, no. I possess neither amazing willpower, exceptional devotion nor a quest for sainthood. It's really quite a simple process. Make sure that you have everything together & in front of you for a task when you begin. If it's something like making a phone call, you might need a name & phone number, your calendar & perhaps your checkbook or a bill in your possession. Make it easier on yourself- if you're using Google Calendar, for example, put what you'll need in the subject heading or in the space where additional information can be listed in a message box. It's harder to procrastinate, and you'll feel less inclined to do so, when everything you need is right in front of you. If housecleaning is the chore at hand, putting your vacuum cleaner & a caddy filled with your favorite needed cleaning items in one easy-to-reach place will help ensure that you don't have to search all over the house before the task begins.

As far as time management goes, my quickest suggestion is that every time you write down a to-do item or a goal for yourself, also write down how much time it will take. And be a generous estimator on that time. If you need breaks in-between working periods to get a lengthier chore done, make sure that time is built in to your estimate, too. For example, if you know that it takes you two hours to clean your house & that's your to-do item, write it down accordingly. If you know that after one hour of work you need to take a break & get off your feet, add the fifteen-minute break to the two-hour cleaning time. Don't overschedule yourself. When you get more generous with the time you allot yourself, patterns might start emerging which need help. You may begin to see overlaps of scheduled items occurring on certain days- and then it's important to acknowledge that you only have so many hours in one day. You'll have to decide what can truly be scheduled on that day & what needs to be moved to another time or eliminated entirely. That is true for all of us. I don't have time to do every single thing in my life that I'll ever wish to do, and I only have a finite amount of energy- the same as everyone else. And my energy changes from day-to-day, as do my hormones, the weather & a zillion other things which throw kinks into my plans. This can be challenging to accept, but it is vital to do so for your sanity to prevail. When this is all accepted, it also means that you will very likely have to begin saying no to others more often. I sat down with my mother point-blank this week & said that my life is no longer going to revolve around the homemaking, including being home every night to make dinner. I was very clear, but I said it without blame- I've subordinated my own needs long enough, and have to begin putting myself first. It was ultimately my own decision long ago to make homemaking my priority, and playing martyr would therefore be sheer idiocy on my part. But I will not have a good life in the future if I continue down the path that I've been on, certainly not the kind of life that I want, anyway. I made it known that I have opportunities that need to be opened up for myself, and I can't do that & always be here at her beck and call. She wasn't thrilled, but I knew that she wouldn't be going in. You will have to be willing to deal with others not be happy about your choices when you make these kind of sweeping changes sometimes, I must warn you.

If minimalism's broad definition is to avoid unnecessary repetitive work, purchasing & time spent, then I'm definitely on my way to achieving it. For your sake, I hope that you feel the same way, too. Enjoy your life & drop the things from it that don't bring you any sense of happiness.

Here's to being an organized minimalist,

Liz

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Transitional Periods Within the Organized Minimalist's Quest

I promise that I haven't intentionally been ignoring you, my readers. I've been going through a household move, and it's been difficult to do the physical work & navigate a course in the midst of a boatload of cardboard boxes. I'm just in a real period of transition within my life, period- hence, why I even started this blog to begin with. It was not only to help you- my altruistic side was working there- but it was also to say (for once), "This is something that I alone created. It's all me, and I accomplished a work of importance to me." Don't get me wrong- I've had a lot of excellent teachers along the way, and I owe a lot to each of them. But I've put my own spin on things, added here, subtracted there, took off flying in one direction, then buried other things in the ground forever. I'm not particularly well-known for my ability to see things through until the end, so sticking with writing this blog means a great deal to me, as did just getting this site going & publishing my work. I've worked hard my entire life, but it's always seemed that the work was done for someone else to get the glory in the end (bosses, elders at home, church leaders, etc.) Writing this blog has been & still is to me the largest step out into the public with a "hidden talent" that I've ever had to take. While most people who know me personally realize that I've always tried to be a meticulous housekeeper & cook, presenting myself as a writer when they don't know me in that fashion is challenging. Whenever you put yourself out there like that, you immediately open yourself up to criticism, scam artists & even just the fear that people who do know you already will treat you differently. Maybe that sounds stupid, but it's the way the brain works. Publishing to the faceless masses of the Internet reading public are one thing- but knowing that family & friends will read my work is something entirely different. :)

Anyway, lately I start out writing about the topic that I want to discuss for you guys, and then somehow...it becomes more of an autobiography & a summary of my opinion on things than something that is easy for the reader to get true tips from. I don't intend it to be that way at all, but I can't seem to condense the information properly without giving you a decent back story. And maybe that's deliberate- it may be exactly what I should be doing. I've been working on new posts almost daily, but I don't get the work published for that very reason, because it takes longer to write in that personalized way. I think that those who follow me know that I'm not one to stop swimming in the shallow end, but that I head on into the deep. In this world, I think that maybe people need some of that, though. There's plenty of quick tip-heavy organizing writing out there; all one has to do is read an issue of "Real Simple" magazine or peruse the organizing book section of Amazon to know that. I hope that each of you will understand that I know something a lot of these articles & books don't acknowledge- all organizing, simplifying & minimizing accomplishment comes directly from within one's mind. The desire for organization, the drive to start pursuing it & the will to finish the journey- that's all mental. Without clearing the mind first, it's more than a little difficult to clear out space or time. This is what creates self-sabotage; not laziness, but walls built up in the mind that are quite transparent but nonetheless are very real. Because beliefs are often transparent, we can't see them & break the brick-and-mortar that makes them up easily. A-ha moments come when the wall becomes apparent- it's no longer invisible, so you can begin busting it down. Most of us hit conflicts in our lives mentally before we hit them physically or outwardly in a relationship. This is why we're incompatible with some people, places & things and completely compatible with others- because of our mental state. It explains why we change over the years, why occupations that once fulfilled us no longer do so & why we choose to leave certain aspects of our behavior behind periodically. I'm not a quick-tip kind of girl, my friends. If you're looking for that, you'll probably have to look elsewhere. Because when you stick with me, I'm going to take you through the wilderness & try to get you to The Promised Land of organizing. (Thank you to Joyce Meyer for teaching me about this concept in life.) It is not all about heavy lifting, buying new products to stick in your closets or checking your day planner each morning. There is so much more to it than that, especially when you are sticking with it for the duration & you are trying to not just create but MAINTAIN an organized home & life.

As I mentioned earlier, my own home & life is in an unheard-of period of transition. It is my hope that you'll understand I've made the decision to no longer put homemaking first, nor caretaking or being around to cook dinner every night. I have weight to lose & nighttime calories have to go, for one thing. I also have a career to plan, get educated & possibly move yet again for. I've made the conscious choice to push these things to the forefront instead of homemaking & caregiving because I need to. The economy certainly makes this choice both necessary & challenging, but I think that the internal changes were happening in my brain anyway. Emotionally, I need to stop letting my own needs take a backseat while everyone else's get met- I've been resentful & angry for a long while at home, and I know that this is the reason why. It's no one's fault but my own that I have my existence, but it's time now for me to change it. This is not an easy decision, given my culture, religion or family. I've been raised to put homemaking first, and my society has certainly contributed to that old belief of glorifying that option. But these are necessary steps that I have to take, requiring putting myself in first place after three decades of subordinating my own desires to someone else's life & needs. In other words, I'm hitting what's been called a mid-life crisis about twenty years early. :) I've been homemaker & caretaker for twenty years "officially", but my own needs came second to someone else's since my life began. And it's time for me to end all of that for good & move on to the next phase in my life. That next phase includes many things that I put off earlier in my life- going to college, starting a different & better-paying career & probably moving out of my home state to a place where more well-paying jobs still exist. At this time, I absolutely intend to keep this blog going, because I don't think that any organizing, simplifying or minimizing mindset dies with a change of goals- I believe that my skills will translate to the career-focused lifestyle just as much as they have the home-focused one. I hope that my deliberate life changes will give me far more to write for you in the future, and from a broader perspective than the one I share with you now.

Thank you for continuing to read this blog,

Liz

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Create a Master Username & Password List

Making a list of this kind usually takes about an hour to draw up, yet it can be one of the most vital documents that you ever make. The list should be encrypted & should be absolutely unviewable online to anyone but yourself (or someone who legally needs/deserves access to it, in the event of joint accounts). I don't recommend putting this information on an outside server's document database, even if it's password-protected. If their servers ever got hacked- and it does happen- your information could be putty in a thief's hands. Keep the info solely on your own computer as a Microsoft Word document or typed into a similar software program. This list should include all voicemail passwords/telephone access PIN #'s, ATM PIN #'s for debit or credit cards & all other needed info to access accounts. If a symbol such an hourglass comes up when your password is typed in, to verify that it's only been you getting into the account, be sure to include that symbol's info on the list, too. This is vital information to have should you misplace the original documents possessing this information, if those documents get stolen (this list will enable you to quickly contact all businesses who will need to stop fraudulent activity on your accounts) or if you just go blank & completely forget your own password. A natural disaster could also occur & instantaneously take away old paper documents holding this information forever, so it's essential that you take the time now to preserve it in another manner.

NEVER type this up & keep it on a computer system that does not have a complete anti-virus, -worm & -Trojan system on watch at all times. Do NOT type it up & print it off of a shared computer, meaning one at the public library or work. Don't put it on a computer that minors can access, even your own children.

If you print off a version of this in order to have a paper copy: I highly recommend that you do NOT put this in your purse and/or Office in a Bag- anything, in other words, in any bag that would leave your home. This list is something that should be regarded in the same manner as your Social Security card or birth certificate- NOBODY should have access to this unless you specifically give it to them for a good reason. Store this document ideally in a waterproof, fireproof safety deposit box or safe- preferably one that cannot be easily lifted from your premises. I DO think that having a paper copy is a good idea- after all, hard drives can get destroyed just as surely as paper documents can. But just like your Social Security card, this should be treated with the greatest of care. Guard this document with your life precisely because it is your online lifeline, literally. That said, it's an important document to have completed, because if you pass away or are ill for long periods of time (without being to use a computer) a trusted family member or friend will have to know how to access accounts in order to pay your online bills. They'll also need to know this info in order to shut down accounts that will no longer be used in your name, such as Facebook & Twitter accounts, in the event of your death. Yes, they can obtain this information eventually if they provide a death certificate or power of attorney to the company- but that is not a quick or easy process. As usual, I urge you only to do what will make your life simpler & more organized- nothing more & nothing less.

Here's to being an organized minimalist,

Liz