Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ready to Get Organized for Good?

The New Year is just a few days away, which means that many of us are taking time this week to set goals and resolutions for 2011.

If "get organized" is on your list of aspirations for the year ahead, don't go it alone! You're far more likely to succeed in your quest if you have the right knowledge, structure, and support--and that's where Organized for Good comes in.

This 6-week, web-based class is designed to help you not only achieve a challenging organizing goal--and to enjoy the results of your work--but also to develop the habits, practices, and methods of staying clutter-free and in control over the long term.

Each week, we'll focus on one phase of the organizing process, and you'll get handouts, worksheets, and an audio recording with related tips, assignments, and recommendations that you can put to use in your own organizing project. You'll also have access to an online discussion forum where you can share your challenges and successes with your fellow classmates and get support from others. In addition, the class fee includes a private 30-minute organizing coaching call with Emily, your course leader.

The class begins on Sunday, January 9--just in time to help you get the year off on the right foot.

Serious about making 2011 the year in which you make solid steps to live a more organized, more meaningful, less stressful life? Reserve your spot for Organized for Good today.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Celebrate Good Riddance Day

Tip of the Week, December 19, 2010

It may seem like the last thing December needs is another holiday, but here's an unusual one worth celebrating: Good Riddance Day (December 28).

The brainchild of the Times Square Alliance (the people behind the famous New Year's Eve ball drop), Good Riddance Day is a chance to say a permanent goodbye to anything from the past year that's not worth bringing into 2011, from difficult experiences to limiting beliefs, from overexposed celebrities to a terrible boss. In Times Square, the day is marked by the shredding (literally!) of thousands of bad memories from the past 12 months; you can submit your own good riddance requests online, and they'll be added to the shred heap.

Good Riddance Day is also a great opportunity to bid adieu to physical things that no longer deserve a spot in your space or your life. Ready to get rid of some of the clutter you've been tripping over, fretting about, and doing battle with over the past year (or longer)? Take time this week to round it up, then make a point of giving it a permanent heave-ho next Tuesday: toss it in the trash or recycling, bring it to a local charity, or post it for free on an online bulletin board (such as Craigslist) and let others who'll put it to use come take it off your hands.

While you're at it, take the opportunity on Good Riddance Day to toss out whatever has kept you from achieving your organizing goals in 2010: the belief that you don't have the skills to get organized (you do), that you're too lazy to really make lasting change (you're not), that your stuff is more important than your happiness (it absolutely isn't), or whatever other thoughts, emotions, and excuses have been holding you back. Starting next week, I'll share tips on how to achieve organizing success in 2011; in the meantime, use Good Riddance Day to wipe the slate clean from 2010.

Here's to joy-filled celebrations over the next few weeks, and to a refreshing, satisfying, and cleansing Good Riddance Day!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Stay-Sane Holiday Travel Tips

Tip of the Week, December 12, 2010

Traveling during the holidays can reduce even the heartiest passenger to a quivering pile of nerves. While it's not always possible to ensure a completely stress-free trip every time, there's plenty you can do to avoid some of the most common travel frustrations this time of year. Whether you're going by air, train, bus, or car this season, use these tips to keep yourself sane.

Avoid Airport Security Headaches
We've been hearing a lot about the new airport security measures now in place throughout the U.S., including the dreaded pat-down. Here's how to make it through security as quickly and painlessly as possible:
  • Be prepared. Have your boarding pass and ID out and available as soon as you step into line, finish beverages before you reach the screening area, and be ready to remove laptops, liquids, and other items that need to be screened separately. If you're bringing gifts, keep them unwrapped in case security personnel need to inspect them.
  • Be mindful of what you wear. Opt for easy-off, easy-on shoes and limit jewelry and metal embellishments on your clothes (which can set off metal detectors). If you're wearing a jacket or a heavy sweater, be prepared to take it off while you go through security.
  • Know what you can carry on. Avoid the heartbreak of having that gift of wine confiscated from your carry-on by brushing up on what you are and aren't allowed to bring on the plane with you. Click here to read the TSA's list of prohibited items.
Know What to Expect
No matter how or where you're traveling, you'll save yourself a heap of frustration if you take time before your departure to check out the weather in your destination (as well as en route, if you're traveling by car), bring along appropriate clothes, gear, and supplies for the activities you'll be doing, and get clear on the details of your stay: what's the address of the hotel where you'll be lodging? What time can you check in? If you're driving, where are the rest stops you can rely on along the way? If you're traveling by train, how will you get from the station to your final destination?

Give Yourself More Than Enough Time
Few travel experiences are more stressful than being stuck in a glacial security line when your plane leaves in 30 minutes or finding yourself mired in traffic moments before you're due somewhere for Christmas dinner. Around the holidays especially, it's smart to allow yourself a big cushion of time to get where you need to go. If you're flying, get to the airport 90 minutes ahead of your departure at the very least (2 hours ahead is even better, and 2 1/2 if you're flying internationally). Driving into or out of a city, or traveling through snow or ice? Pad your trip time by at least an hour.

Be a Savvy Packer
I always preach the gospel of traveling light, but it's more important than ever around the holidays, especially if you're traveling by plane, train, or bus. Packing smart is one of the best ways of saving yourself time and headaches. Keep these tips in mind before you load up your suitcase.
  • Know your limits. Unless you're traveling in your own car, there will likely be limits on how much luggage you can bring without incurring fees. Check with your airline, bus line, or railway before you start packing to get clear on what the guidelines are.
  • Carry on if you can. Avoid the endless wait at baggage claim by carrying on your luggage--but only if you have bags that will comfortably fit under the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin. Be a considerate fellow flyer by not taking up more than your fair share of bin space and by keeping things like smaller bags, briefcases, purses, and jackets at your seat.
  • Allow room for expansion. If you'll be exchanging gifts over the holidays, give yourself space in your luggage for items you'll receive and will need to transport home with you. Opt for a suitcase that expands, or bring an extra bag that can be stored flat in your suitcase on the way out and called into service on the way back.
A few minutes of research, planning, and organizing before your holiday trip this year can spare you huge amounts of stress and hours of wasted time. Put these tips to use before you hit the skies, the rails, or the roads this season and you'll be far more likely to stay happy and sane.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Your Guide to Clutter-Free Gift Giving

Tip of the Week, December 5, 2010

I admit it: I love exchanging gifts with my family and friends around the holidays, and for me, the season wouldn't be the same without giving (and receiving!) at least a few presents. If sharing gifts is part of your holiday tradition, why not make this a year of presents that won't wind up as clutter?

Here are 10 ideas for gifts that are fun to give, fun to receive, and unlikely to wind up under a bed or in the back of a closet.

#1: Gift Certificates for Services
Many services that make life easier and more pleasant offer certificates, so you can give the gift of house cleaning, car washing, dog walking, meal prep, or errand running. Especially for someone who never seems to have enough time, the gift of a pro's help is a great option.

#2: _______ of the Month Clubs
Have someone on your list who's passionate about food and drinks? Consider a gift-of-the-month club. There are clubs that offer everything from coffee to cheese to bacon. Or create your own club, and send your recipient a new treat each month, such as a specialty food from your area.

#3: Entertainment
For the past few years, I've received a Netflix subscription as a Christmas gift, which I love. Know a music lover? Consider an eMusic or iTunes gift. Video game fans might appreciate a subscription to Gamefly, while book lovers (especially those with long commutes) can have a field day on Audible.

#4: Fun Learning Experiences
DIY classes abound these days, offering instruction on everything from knitting to cake decorating to video production. The gift of learning can be a great one for the curious and creative folks on your list. Other fun class options include wine and spirits tasting, languages, dancing, name it.

#5: Homemade Foods and Drinks
I received a very tasty--and unexpected--gift this morning from a friend and colleague: handmade pumpkin-chocolate chip cookies, bundled in a cute package and delivered to my door. And I've got some homemade treats ready to share with the recipients on my list, too. Think creatively when it comes to food gifts: things like flavored vinegars, ready-to-cook mixes of dried beans and herbs that can become a pot of soup, and seasonal jams or chutneys are easy to make, inexpensive, and can be enjoyed in the months ahead.

#6: Meaningful Donations
For the person who truly has everything--and doesn't want anything--consider a charitable donation. Choose an organization that's meaningful to your recipient and take the time to write a card or letter announcing your gift and why you chose the charity you did.

#7: Your Time and Talents
Last year, I gave my Mom the gift of organizing her recipes. (My parents own a bed and breakfast, and Mom does a LOT of cooking.) We sorted through her collection together so she could weed out those she no longer wanted; I reprinted from online recipes that had been torn, smudged, or spilled on; and then I organized everything into a 3-ring binder with dividers. She loved the results, and the gift cost nothing more than my time and a small sum for the binder. Whatever your talents are, chances are someone on your list would appreciate a gift of them.

#8: Gift Certificates Beyond the Usual
Gift certificates sometimes get a bad rap for being unimaginative, but with a bit of creativity and research, you can make them very welcome presents. Rather than defaulting to the usual department or clothing store gift card, think about what your recipient enjoys doing, and choose a gift certificate for a related store, restaurant, or venue in their area.

#9: Travel and Adventures
For the explorers and thrill-seekers on your list, consider the gift of travel--an airline or hotel gift certificate, say--or adventure, such as a kayaking or whitewater rafting session, afternoon at a go-kart track, or indoor skydiving jump. For a giftee who's short on cash but has been bitten by the travel bug, you might band together with other friends or family members to give a group gift, such as a flight, rail pass, or tour guide in a destination you know the giftee plans to visit.

#10: A Way of Enjoying Memories
Finally, consider giving those close to you gifts centered on family history, special occasions (such as weddings and births), and other memories. Use a photo program to create a slide show, complete with music, of old family photos. (Many programs will let you transfer slide shows to DVD so you can duplicate and share them.) Put together an album of pictures, letters, or other memorabilia. Or take care of digitizing special photos, slides, and videos through a service like Scan Digital.

Here's to a meaningful, happy, and clutter-free season of gift giving!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

4 Ways to Declutter Your Holidays

Tip of the Week, November 28, 2010

Having a more organized, less cluttered holiday season doesn't mean going bare-bones or avoiding celebrations altogether; instead, it involves finding meaningful ways to observe this month's holidays without filling your life or home with unwanted, unneeded stuff.

Here are 4 straightforward ways of celebrating without clutter.

#1: Simplify Your D├ęcor
If you decorate your home for the holidays, consider using some basic, multi-functional items to add seasonal flair, rather than buying lots of decorations you'll only use once a year. For example, instead of investing in a full set of Christmas-themed dinnerware, linens, and serving ware, opt for solid green, red, or gold dishes and tablecloths (which you can reuse for other occasions throughout the year) with a few Christmas-specific pieces for accent. And try swapping a few standard decorations, which you'd have to store after the holidays are through, with things like pinecones and bunches of holly, which can be composted at the end of the season.

#2: Re-tool Your Gift-Giving Traditions
Exchanging gifts, while a delightful part of the season for many, can be a quick route to clutter, especially when it involves giving (or getting) presents that aren't sure-fire hits. If your gift exchanging traditions with family and friends leave you overwhelmed, reconsider them. Instead of giving gifts to everyone in your extended family, for example, perhaps you could all agree to draw names from a hat and focus on exchanging only with one person. Or arrange with friends to give each other handmade items that can be used up--cookies, candies, jams, soaps--or to exchange services, such as errand runs, childcare, or help with a project around the house.

#3: Limit Self-Gifting
While you're out shopping for other people or picking up holiday supplies, it can be very tempting to take advantage of the seasonal bargains and buy things for yourself. If you run across a truly great deal on something you're absolutely sure you need (and are equally sure you won't get as a gift), it might be worth snatching it up. Otherwise, challenge yourself to leave it in the store. Self-gifting can strain already-fragile budgets around the holidays, and often the stuff we buy proves to be neither essential nor especially desirable once it's home. If you encounter something you truly want, put it on your wish list, or hold off until after the holidays.

#4: Focus on Stuff-Free Ways to Celebrate
In a culture that ties the spirit of the holiday season to the buying and exchanging of stuff, it can be easy to forget that things don't need to be at the center of our celebrations. In fact, for many, holiday events and traditions that don't involve stuff are more meaningful and less stressful than those that do. Keep clutter at bay this season by finding other ways of enjoying the holidays with friends and family: have a party to which everyone contributes something to eat or drink (no gifts, please!); schedule a gathering at an ice skating rink with some friends; use your extended family's holiday party to share stories and family history, which you could even record and edit into a mini-documentary--something more enjoyable and longer-lasting than any knick knack or sweater.

I'd love to hear your suggestions for ways of celebrating the season in clutter-free ways. Does your family have a tradition that doesn't involve piles of gifts? Have you and your neighbors created a way of sharing community without sharing unwanted stuff? Do you and your friends have creative ways of honoring the holidays and each other without things that will wind up as clutter in a few months? Post a comment and let me know.