I know. You’ve read it all before and you’ve seen it on TV. You know that you can’t get the most out of life if you have too much stuff. But you’re no hoarder. Sure, your closet and drawers and craft spaces are a bit cramped, but you’re not one of those people who never gets rid of anything.
“Why read another decluttering book?”
That was pretty much my attitude until I read the book Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD that I described in my favorite productivity books of the year post, I was completely enamored with its focus on practicality rather than Pottery Barn-beauty. After all, if it’s too much trouble to get something out of its pretty little container, you won’t use it. And if it’s too much trouble to put it back, your space will be messy in a hurry. That was me, so I was inspired to get rid of a lot of my excess stuff.
Then I read (or more specifically listened to) The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and I was a declutterer on steroids.
Here is why the book is not only helping me purge my home, but is helping me be more productive.
First, let me say that the spiritual aspect of the book is not for me and won’t be for most of my readers. My friend characterized it as anthropomorphic. Indeed. The author thanks objects for their service, for example. I’m all about gratitude, but I will give gratitude to Whom it is due. The majority of the woo-woo stuff is at the end of the book, thankfully, and by then you’ve come away with some real inspiration for simplifying your home and life.
#1 I’m only keeping things I love.
The author recommends asking yourself for each thing you own (especially clothing and books) if it gives you joy. For me, joy is a fruit of the spirit and not something I have as a result of wearing a particular sweater. But I got the point. I have enough clothing (and most of my readers do as well) that I don’t have to wear things that I’m not crazy about. I now ask myself,”Do I love it?”
The change that question has made is remarkable. Where I used to ask if it was “still good,” I now follow up the do-I-love-it question with “Will I wear it?” The result is I have donated or thrown away half my clothing. I was hanging on to thong underwear that I HATED, for heaven’s sake. Why? Because I had room for it. I knew I would never wear it, but I hadn’t asked myself honestly if I would. The second example was a formal dress I wore to our niece’s wedding. I wore it to a formal event for my husband’s business meeting out of the country as well. As I was packing it to take home, I realized that though I love the dress, I wouldn’t wear it again. The next formal occasion will likely be a family or business event and I won’t want to wear the same dress. I will want to buy new. So I donated the dress.
How does this apply to productivity?
First, I’m already enjoying a time savings. I didn’t realize until I got rid of so much clothing how much time I spend deciding what to wear. I’m a pretty decisive person, but when you go through things that you don’t like for one reason or another, it wastes time. Now I know that I love everything in my closet. As long as it’s appropriate for the season, I can grab and go and be happy.
The second way it applies is in principle. Just as I am not hurting for clothing, I am not hurting for free time. I do not work in a factory 12 hours a day. I don’t walk hours to get water. I am swimming in free time compared to many. So why am I spending time doing things I don’t love doing? Now don’t get me wrong. We all have to do things we don’t love doing. We have responsibilities or we can’t afford to delegate the things we don’t like to do. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about discretionary time. Shouldn’t it be spent doing things you really love?
In the same way I asked myself if I would wear something, I am asking myself if I’m going to do it any time soon. If not, I don’t really love it (at least not right now). It needs to get off my calendar and my to-do list.
#2 My family is only keeping things they love.
The author is pretty clear on not purging for someone else (though I’ve done it without the items being missed…). Instead, I decided to teach the kids what I’d learned. I encouraged them to go through all their clothes and only keep things they really loved and were sure they would wear.
I was in awe of what happened. The kids gave away brand new clothes I had purchased for them. In the past, I would have encouraged them to start wearing these clothes so I wouldn’t feel like a fool for buying them. But it had never worked anyway. I learned that no matter how much my boys want me to shop for them, I won’t do it. They will be coming to the store, choosing clothing, AND trying it on. They ended up keeping only the clothes I see them wearing.
My husband hung out in the bedroom with us while we went through clothes. It so happens that he keeps clothing in half the boys’ closet. He has had some of the clothes there for at least 25 years! I have NEVER been able to get him to part with them, though he doesn’t wear them. This time I asked him if he loved each piece. He insisted on touching most of the clothes (just as the author suggests) and he got rid of more clothing in half an hour than he has our entire married life!
I applied the same principle to the kids’ books. If they didn’t love them and weren’t going to read them, I had them remove them from their bookshelves. Now know that I’m a book lover. Some of the books I rescued to go on the future grandma shelf. The fact is that I do love some of those books and do plan to read them again. So that counts.
How does this apply to productivity?
First, I’m saving myself some time. The younger boys protest each week that they don’t have anything to wear to church. Why? Because they have too many clothes. They can’t decide. Now that their closets hold only clothes they will actually wear, I don’t have to run to the rescue every week. This time savings will continue to accrue as I purge more and more of our unloved things. We will have half the mess to clean up!
Second, I’m teaching my children a principle that will serve them well as they manage their own responsibilities.
#3 I’m folding clothes the right way.
I thought I WAS folding clothes the right way. I had purchased these folders for the kids that allowed them to put clothing neatly away. But it turns out that I was making more work for myself. Not only does folding the traditional way obscure what you own (so you end up buying more stuff than you need), but it makes a big mess when you remove something from the drawer.
Here is a demonstration of how to fold shirts the right way!
The graphic at the top of this post shows my workout clothes drawer with everything folded using this method. The bottom part of the drawer is folded more loosely because I don’t have as many shorts I love as shirts. I still have quite a few shirts, but I love and will wear them all. Promise! One thing I have noticed, though, is that I do go back and remove something I thought I wanted to keep. You will, too.
The kids took to this method immediately and love having organized drawers. In fact, their drawers look so empty that they didn’t make for good photos!
How does this apply to productivity?
First, I save time choosing clothes from my drawer and putting them away. I also don’t have to get on the kids as much about getting their laundry put away.
Second, I am realizing how important it is for everything to have an accessible space. That goes for tasks, too. One of the hacks I shared is to make sure your work space is comfortable. Make sure your tools are easy to use and put away and you will be motivated to get more done. I actually enjoy putting my clothes away and I enjoy writing every morning because the space is accessible.
So what do you think? Could the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up make YOU more productive?
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I’m all about saner living, especially at Christmas time.
Too often, the season that should be the most peaceful and joyful can become stressful and unhappy. One reason we may experience less than the best at Christmas is because we don’t treat the holiday like the project it is. With cooking, cleaning, decorating, entertaining, church activities, gift making or buying, budgeting, work parties, and travel, it’s easy to see how we can become overwhelmed.
I have discovered some time savers for this time of year, including Send Out Cards and the mGifts iPhone app. But I have not thought of Christmas as one big project before now.
When I was given the opportunity to review The Simple Christmas Countdown Planner from The Sassy Slowcooker, I realized that I was not only making Christmas more stressful, but I was missing out on some of the possibilities the season offers. Here’s why.
The Christmas Countdown Planner offers some forms you would expect to make this project manageable– like Christmas card and gift lists. But it offers a lot more! There are spaces for tracking decorations needed, favorite traditions, and cleaning chores to be done. Using this planner can help me pick up some end-of-the-season bargains on decorations, help me delegate chores to the kids, and can ensure that we do the things that are most important to us this Christmas.
My favorite form is the daily list that will help me stay focused on the reason for the season. I love that it includes a gratitude reminder, prayer requests, a memory verse, a to-do list, cleaning tasks, and a menu. I could use this form all year!
There are also page dividers for storing favorite recipes and family devotions. (Click here for a list of all the forms that are part of the planner.) Why didn’t I think of keeping all of these things in one place? Because I wasn’t thinking of Christmas as a project.
You could absolutely create your own Christmas planner, but why take the time when this planner is so cute, thorough, and ready to download now? For just $3.99, you’ll be organized for a saner Christmas this year and next.
P.S. It’s not accidental that I’m writing about this planner now. Get a head start on Christmas today!
Clothes piled up on my closet floor because I hated how long it took me to put them away. When they were put away, I couldn’t find what I wanted because my closet was stuffed with clothes. When I went clothes shopping, I invariably came home with another pair of black pants to add to my enormous collection or the latest fashion that went with absolutely nothing. I needed help. Do you?
My Closet Today
If you think this picture is my closet, you’re the one who’s psycho! My closet isn’t nearly as picture-perfect, but it’s incredibly functional. I finally got my wardrobe together because I took a class from Brook Noel. I know. I can hear my mother now:
“You took a class to organize your closet?”
Yes, Mother (that’s what I call her when she gets high and mighty like that), I did and I’m GLAD!
To be honest, I thought I was nuts for taking a class, too. After all, I know the importance of decluttering clothes. I was doing that regularly, but since I store all of my clothing in one closet, it was still a challenge to choose which clothing to give away. At one time, I kept my off-season clothing stored away. But living in Missouri means that you need access to all kinds of clothing all the time. I wondered what else Brook could teach me that would make a difference.
I’m not going to give away all of Brook’s secrets, because I think I think her class is valuable for you. Be watching for when she offers it again! In the meantime, I am going to share with you a principle that saved my sanity:
Organize your wardrobe by outfit and accessibility.
At the time I started my class, my clothing was organized by color. It wasn’t bad. In fact, it made my closet look more attractive and gave me some ideas for outfits I hadn’t thought of before. But I had some problems.
- The items I used most often were the least accessible.
- I wasted time trying to decide on a nice outfit
- I didn’t know what I really needed to round out my wardrobe
I have limited drawer space, so all my pajamas are hung in my closet. I wear them most often, but I stored them where I couldn’t reach them easily. That’s one reason they ended up on the floor, rather than hung up. I decided to store my pajamas in the center of my closet, between the two sets of seasonal clothing. I also store jackets here. Holiday and formal wear are now stored in those hard-to-reach places. I know. A Ph.D. should have been able to figure this out, but alas. I needed Brook.
The second accessibility issue made a huge difference in keeping my closet floor clean. Rather than storing empty hangers all throughout my closet or at the inaccessible end, I started storing them all in the center of the closet. Now I can easily reach empty hangers. I don’t have to flip through every piece of clothing looking for a spare. Again, I’m rather appalled that I hadn’t figured that out before. It’s required me to form a new habit of always moving empty hangers to the center, but it’s going great.
I have no time to waste and I bet you don’t either. Instead of trying to come up with new combinations every time I enter my closet, I can now walk in and grab an outfit that I already know looks great. Sure, new ensembles can be fun, but on an every day basis, I just want to look decent! I went so far as to pair certain jeans with certain tops. I store the same types of outfits together. Dressy outfits, business casual, and completely casual are together. Some outfits that can mix and match are also hung next to each other. It’s like Garanimals for grown-ups! (Sorry, you younger peeps have no idea what I’m talking about.)
Organizing by outfit also made it easier to decide which clothes had to go. If I found a shirt that went with nothing, for example, and I wasn’t wild about it anyway–out it went. In the past, I kept things if they fit and were in good shape, even if they didn’t coordinate with the rest of my clothing.
Organizing my closet by outfit allowed me to determine what I still needed. I made a list of pieces I wanted to buy that completed outfits. I also added jewelry to the outfits that was purchased for them. I discovered there were some jewelry pieces I needed to buy as well. The first time I went shopping after organizing my wardrobe was amazing. I steered clear of the black pants and got a few inexpensive pieces to finish outfits. Shopping was not only easier, but cheaper!
What do you think? Would organizing your wardrobe by outfit and accessibility restore your sanity?
One of my hobbies is trying new applications to make life easier, more productive, or just more fun. These ten applications have been added to by productivity arsenal in recent weeks.
- ActiveInbox You may recall my love affair with Goodtodo. The Goodtodo website and accompanying iPhone app helped me get to inbox zero and stay there. There was only one thing I didn’t like about it and that is that it isn’t fully integrated with Gmail, my email client of choice. In other words, while I could forward emails into Goodtodo (and that’s the point), I often had to go back into Gmail to access emails with lots of links, as these aren’t clickable in Goodtodo. I had heard of ActiveInbox before, but was put off by the Getting Things Done moniker. I don’t use every aspect of the GTD approach. What I didn’t realize is that ActiveInbox does everything that Goodtodo does and more. While it’s not meant to be your primary task manager, that’s exactly how I’m using it and I love it. I have the paid version and feel it’s worth every penny.
2. Springpad Everyone knows Evernote and lots of people love it. I liked it, too, but had a particular frustration. I didn’t like that I couldn’t make a checklist that I could easily rearrange or easily make a note that was a task to complete. Springpad does that and more. The user interface is much more appealing to me as well.
3. SmartPad Even though I have my tasks neatly organized in ActiveInbox, I have days when I don’t know how I’m going to fit it all in. One app I love to use in that situation is SmartPad. This iPad app tells you how much you can get done given your schedule and time you have to work. If you dawdle, you can watch the tasks you hoped to accomplish fade from possibility. SmartPad will soon integrate with a SmartDay website which will make the app even more user friendly.
4. Final Version – Wunderlist The man pictured above is not an app, but Mark Forster, who comes up with a new productivity approach every few months. As long as you don’t think of the “Final Version” as the be-all-end-all, but rather as a fun way to gamify your task list, you might enjoy it. I like to use it when I am feeling unmotivated and then Wunderlist is the iPhone app I use. As you tap the stars to indicate that this is a task you prefer to do before the last starred task, the items are put in order at the top of the list for you to begin working on.
5. Clear This is another iPhone app that works for doing the Final Version or just as a great list app. The beauty of it is its simple, clean interface. To make an item a priority, move it up on the list and it’s in the red zone. To add an item between items, simply spread your fingers apart to make room for the new one. If you just want a simple means of organizing tasks in terms or priority, Clear is a great option.
6. Schedule Planner Pro Research shows that we accomplish more of the tasks we schedule. This iPhone app not only allows you to schedule your tasks, but compare what you actually did with what you planned. It’s not perfect, but I love the concept and will use the app when I am working on schedule discipline.
7. Task Current I think of the Task Current iPhone app as a Fun To Do list that I can use to inspire me or even as a reward for doing less-than-fun to do’s.
8. Fitocracy Fitocracy is a seriously addictive website/iPhone app for people like me who thrive on compliments. This diverse community will make you feel like a million bucks for completing your workout, whether you’re a seasoned exerciser or just getting started. There are groups for Christians, but I’ve found the whole community to be very supportive. I was doing squat thrusts at 11:00 p.m. just to finish a “quest” and earn the approval of my fellow fitocrats. What on earth?
9. Daily Feats In case you were wishing there was a pat-on-the-back app for things like housework and parenting, I have good news. Daily Feats gives you points, social approval, and even tangible rewards for doing tasks related to your goals. While company reps are often giving out what are called “props” and sharing links to their products, I’ve found it to be welcome as the products are appropriate to my goals.
10. 750 words Are you a writer who wishes there was a social gaming app to help you get writing done? There is! Earn points for logging 750 words into this writers’ website and compare yourself to others with writing muscle.
What new apps have you found for getting things done?
I'm on a USTA tennis league and have been for the past 2.5 years. There are many aspects of playing that I enjoy, but the one that has been a particular blessing lately is the opportunity to work on my thinking.
You wouldn't think that I would be nervous on the tennis court, being a speaker who's comfortable with any size crowd. But when I first started the league, my anxiety was crippling. The second I thought about losing the point or double faulting, that's exactly what happened.
I've been reading a variety of books on the mental game of tennis, but this one really convinced me that no matter how far behind I am, I can still win. The author gives many examples of pros who just gave up and lost matches that were theirs for the taking and other examples of players who seemed to come back and win against impossible odds. The key to winning? Believing that you can.
A couple of weeks ago, my partner and I handily won the first set of a match, then fell apart in the second, and finally lost the tie break. Yesterday, we seemed to be repeating that disappointing pattern. We won the first set without much trouble, then soon found ourselves down 5-2! If you know anything about tennis, you know that the other team just needed one more game to win the set.
I could see the discouragement and frustration in my partner and I could feel it developing in me. Then I told her, "We're going to pull a David Freese and win this set." She smiled. When either of us made an error from that point forward, I made a point of saying, "That's okay. We can still win." Many times we were in a David Freese, World Series kind of way by being one point away from losing the set (though not the match). I felt the pressure, but refused to give in. Neither did my partner. We came back to win the set and match 7-5.
The truth of Allen Fox's words became very clear to me on the tennis court, but they've become clear to me in life, too. Maybe you're against impossible odds like:
- You're getting older and you still haven't met "the one."
- You've filled out dozens of job applications and you're still unemployed
- You have a hundred pounds or more to lose
- You've been trying to conceive for months to no avail
- Your house is such a mess that it seems it would take a team months to clean it out
- You've been unhappily married for years and nothing you've tried has worked
- You have an addiction you just can't beat
- You're tens of thousands of dollars in debt
- Your loved one is elderly and still hasn't received Christ
While it's true that the right attitude doesn't guarantee victory, I believe it's also true that no matter how far behind you are, you can still win. I could give you examples of people I know personally who've experienced an unexpected victory in these situations. The key? Believe that you can.
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)
I was on relay teams in high school track and while I had plenty of poor starts and bad hand-offs, there is one thing I never did in response–go back. Imagine the reaction if I had jogged back mid-race to the starting blocks to try it again. What if I just ran off the track in defeat? Or picture me insisting that my teammate hand-off to me again. Crazy, right?
Yet that is what you and I often do when we feel like we've gotten off to a bad start or have made a poor transition. We oversleep, don't have time to work out or make a healthy breakfast, and we figure the day is lost. We stop running and fret about our imperfect start. We might even do this in marriage or career settings. We might wonder if we really knew what we were doing when we said, "I do" or took the job. Instead of finishing the race we're in, we long to return to the start.
I didn't realize what havoc my habit of returning to start was wreaking in my life. If I didn't get up on time or get every part of my routine done, I was either getting quite cranky about it or I would foolishly try to get my morning routine done when it was too late. Believe me, if I miss my devotional time before the kids are up, it's an exercise in frustration trying to have it with them around. The more I tried to catch up, the behinder I got! I found myself running the wrong way on the track, getting tripped up, and wondering what was wrong.
In a race, I worried about getting out of the blocks poorly or fumbling the baton after the race was over. Until the next practice, I just ran for all I was worth, not worrying about what didn't go well before. That's what I'm practicing now. If my day is interrupted, I start where I'm at. If I have extra time to go back and do the things I missed (fat chance), I can. If not, at least the latter part of my day will go smoothly. At day's end, I can evaluate what went wrong in the morning and take steps to prevent it from happening again.
Maybe you're struggling with something more serious than an upset day; perhaps it seems that you've gotten a bad start in life and you'd like a do-over. What if you started where you are? Made the most of the marriage and career you have? I'm not suggesting that this is good advice for every situation, but it's an option to consider.
If today's gotten off to a bad start, either pick up your routine from here on out, or make a new, short list of what you'd like to accomplish with what's left of the day. Remember, plenty of relay teams have gotten off to a bad start or bungled the hand-off and went on to win the race.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1)