Social distancing and quarantine times, are they over? It’s hard to say. We’ve been too long on this. So, all that time we have been at home and with our loved ones? Make this time count!
Some of the practices we observed during 2020 and 2021 are still here, and some are here to stay.
For example, many companies have realized they are more productive when employees are at home. Therefore, more and more people are adopting this trend as the new normal.
In addition, some schools have kept remote learning as a permanent alternative for the students. As a result, we still share our home space (and for more extended periods) with other household members.
When we are closer together under one roof, clutter and lack of systems seem to hit us harder. Thriving under these conditions requires adjustments for most of us.
But change can be very positive, depending on how we take it. I, for one, have discovered a new joy in being around my husband and children. We have created a productive and harmonious work and play environment for the most part. And I don’t need to mention how ecstatic our dog is with this at-home arrangement.
But living, working, studying, and playing in closer proximity to each other for more extended periods may cause previously considered menial details about our space to appear more significant and bother us.
So here are some things that might help us enjoy our new way of co-existing to make the best of the situation.
Keep It Clutter-Free And Clean
Strategically place boxes of tissue throughout the house.
Have a trash can in every room and take out the trash daily.
Have antibacterial soap or sanitizer on every sink.
Wash towels and sheets more often.
Handle your incoming mail daily, rapidly, and efficiently. The last thing you need is more paper clutter around your home.
Take 15 minutes at the beginning of each day to put the house in order-clean the counters, vacuum floors/carpets, and open up shades or curtains to let in the sunlight.
Gather dirty dishes and utensils inside the dishwasher throughout the day so counters remain clear. It requires putting away clean dishes every night before bedtime or first thing in the morning, so the day starts with an empty dishwasher.
Get caught up with your laundry as soon as possible. Laundry is often the nemesis of many households. You don’t need the added clutter right now. Read my laundry process blog if you feel this is a weak point.
Embrace a Positive Attitude
Make beds every day – this gives you a sense of accomplishment to start your day.
Get dressed as if you were going to work or school – when you dress up, this shows in your demeanor on the phone and Zoom calls.
Enjoy Family Time
Go on walks outside with the family – if we are together at home, we can take advantage of that.
Watch a movie or play board games as a family – welcome back game and movie nights.
Get to know each other better!
Develop a system to ensure everyone takes their supplements and medications consistently.
Grocery shopping needs strategic planning to have what we need while avoiding waste. Although we eat more meals at home, buying more than we need leads to food waste. Have a well-planned system.
Go to bed and wake up at the usual time every day and keep meal schedules – these two practices allow the body to maintain a routine and feel better.
Assign spaces for each household member to work or study. These spaces can vary by day, but it is easy to control clutter and to have an increased focus if everyone has a space on their own to operate each day.
Avoid distractions by making sure your pets are cared for before starting your business or school day. Ensure your pets have adequate food and water, have gone outside (if applicable), and have safe and comfy areas to rest.
Try listening to Binaural Beats using headphones while you work or study to boost productivity. Binaural Beats in the Beta pattern may help promote concentration and alertness. Listening to Beta waves helps to increase focus, productivity, critical thinking, decision making, situational awareness, and memory. Beta waves also help increase your energy, sharpen your hearing, and improve overall well-being.
To take productivity to the next level, combine the binaural beats experience with the diffusion of essential oils that enhance your mood and increase brain activity. Young Living Essential Oils are the purest oils you can find. Some oils that improve brain function and affect mood are Vitality, Joy, Awaken, Motivation, Frankincense, Peppermint, Sandalwood, and Lavender.
I believe this time will show us that we can move forward in more productive and efficient ways than we ever thought. As a result, we will arrive at a better place as a society.
A significant component of the clutter we encounter in our clients’ homes is excess purchases. In this case, I’m referring specifically to those purchases driven by auto-shipping programs. So, how is that convenient auto-shipment working for you?
They offer savings on things we would buy anyway, so why not?
Moreover, they save us the trouble of having to remember to reorder. What can be better? How can this be so bad?
First, lured by the savings on what you intend to purchase, you might get into the bundling of items you did not need or want to qualify for reduced shipping rates or discounted prices. That means additional unnecessary expenses and more clutter in your home.
Second, there is the quantity of stuff shipped. I often see an excess of products delivered to my clients’ homes.
Whether they order an excessive amount of the product to qualify for the program parameters or take advantage of the shipping expense per fixed order amount, they get more than they can use before the next shipment arrives.
The third is the shipping frequency. It could be that the program establishes a specific frequency to lower the shipping costs or ensure future purchases. It may also be a misjudgment of the reordering time. But truth be told, pre-scheduled deliveries also compound the situation by arriving way too frequently.
What is the result of all this, and how does this affect how you live?
If you have the situation mentioned above, then you probably are experiencing one or more of the following factors:
Boxes and other packing material from deliveries that are so frequent that you can’t seem to catch up
An excessive number of products need to be stored in odd or illogical places because you no longer have space in the logical area for that type of item
Product overflow is lying around just anywhere because it does not fit anywhere else or you “have not had time to put it away.”
That pesky recurrent charge on your credit card that you always say you will eliminate, but you always forget to
Can you relate to any of these?
In principle, these auto-ship programs may save money and offer the advantage of not thinking about placing future orders. However, they work under limited circumstances and for certain kinds of people or certain types of products.
Often, we just let things go. The status quo goes on as days, weeks and months pass. But, because we don’t manage these subscriptions, we have to manage the clutter that results.
If automatic deliveries are running your life and home, please take care of this situation now. Adjust the frequency of deliveries, the amount of product, the products you buy or eliminate the auto-shipment. Go! Now!
We will not give you little “tips and tricks” about how or where to store your things. Instead, I will shed some light on a simple truth that is obvious yet incredibly overlooked.
Do You Need It Out There?
We all need certain things handy. I hear it all the time – “oh, this is out here because we use it all the time, and we needed it handy.” So, let’s consider this for a moment.
If you have already purged everything that does not serve your life anymore, what you keep, by definition, is something that you or your household members need.
If you were to apply the same reasoning of “it is out there because we use it all the time,” everything you own would be “out here.” Add to this all the things you do not need or use frequently that are still in your home, “out there,” because no one cared to put them back where they belong. Can you see the chaos?
You would be surprised at the amount of unused space or underutilized space we find all the time in clients’ homes. The reasoning of “it needs to be out here because we use it all the time” rules.
A Place For Everything and Everything In Its Place
Sorry to break the news to you, but to stay organized, you need to have a place for everything, and you also need to put everything in its place. That is why we find each item a good home in the first place.
It does not matter how wonderfully organized a home ends up; if everyday effort and discipline don’t follow, chaos will return.
A couple of things left out of place due to frequent use will soon justify all other things that we use often left out of place. That mess that drives you crazy will come back.
We create systems and organize, considering accessibility and frequency of use of the things we use the most. After all, the idea behind organizing is to make life easier. But there is a fine line between making life easier and making it so easy that all discipline and effort goes out the window. Things still need to go back to where they belong each time to maintain the home organization. That is key to finding those things again quickly.
Many have trouble understanding their disorganization. Some want to buy containers and additional storage solutions. Others go after the latest trend in organizing, devour books related to the topic and try all sorts of methods. Unfortunately, the result is usually less than satisfactory.
The truth is that none of that matters if you don’t first let go of all the excess in your life, assign a home for everything you own and put everything back in its designated spot after each use. Those three things are fundamental to maintaining an organized space.
We Can Help
You might need help with that initial organizing effort if your home has never been in top shape. The initial organizing of the house can be a profoundly confusing process to many people. If that is your case, do not hesitate to look for help. We can assist you with the initial organizing but, most importantly, help you develop the systems and methods to keep your home space in great shape. Contact My Space Reclaimed, LLC!
It is possible to create the life you want for yourself. And you might not even imagine how much this has to do with being organized, but let me connect the dots. Keep reading.
We, Organizers, preach how much easier life becomes when we get rid of clutter and get organized. We talk about how organization saves money and gives us more time to relax and enjoy what matters. But those benefits are not achievable without you doing your part. They require attention, intention, and slowing down.
Your commitment to learning and practicing new habits and systems until they become second nature to you and all others sharing your home space is fundamental to freeing your brain and soul to find the point of creation within you.
Slow Down to Find That Point
But how could you possibly slow down with everything there is to do every day? So many things need your attention and intervention. There are so many things you must solve.
Rene Descartes once said: I think, therefore I am. And he was entirely correct. We are co-creators in this universe. Thus, we must be able to create the life we want.
Whether we call it God, Universe, Vortex, Life Force, or Spirit, there is a place in the human mind where the power to create our reality resides.
We can decide what we want our life to look, feel, and be like. We can manifest it!
In this high-paced world, most people don’t ever stop to reflect on their high-level ideas. However, people who meditate, for example, can decrease their pace and raise the vibration of their creative energy. That’s when and where the magic happens- they access their point of creation and create the life they want.
But how do we slow down or free up headspace?
Stop. Breathe. Listen.
That learning curve in the organizing process requires that you stop and understand some essential things:
There are habits to eliminate while there are new ones to adopt
You need to understand the systems implemented as your physical space is organized – understand how these systems work to maximize your productivity and efficiency.
From this point on, it is essential to become intentional in everything you do
Like a Well-Oiled Machine
As a Certified Professional Organizer, I am responsible for educating my clients in organizing methodologies and principles, uncovering the root cause of their clutter, designing solutions for them, and showing them strategies and tactics to move forward confidently.
My clients seek results and effectively solve those issues that cause them to live small, disorganized, over-complicated lives.
However, their understanding of the organizing process and their long-term commitment to it are crucial to the long-term success of any organizing project. Without their understanding and commitment to the process, the best systems and most detailed organization efforts will fail.
When your home space is transformed, your old habits and routines won’t support the new way of living in that space anymore. You can’t expect results compatible with your new home environment, acting as you did before.
Also, the brain depends on action repetition for the body to develop that “muscle memory” to adopt a more intuitive way to do things. This is how routines become second nature – when newly created habits flow effortlessly. That’s when you have achieved a home that runs like a well-oiled machine.
Systems to Engage Autopilot
A system is a series of sequential actions to execute any given activity. Simple examples of household systems are how and when someone does the laundry, how they plan meals (or not), and even how they shower.
When we declutter, we remove excess from home. But when we organize, we sort through things, classify, allocate, and then custom-develop systems for the household and individuals within.
But the multiple benefits of an organized life depend on that person’s ability to systematize and automate their day-to-day tasks and effectively incorporate those systems and routines into their everyday life.
When daily tasks run “on auto-pilot,” that’s when a person finds the time and headspace to rise to the level of creation in their life.
When New Habits Become Second Nature
When new habits and routines become second nature to you and yours, then you can:
be proactive instead of reactive
dedicate time to what matters most to you
spend more time with those you love
work towards the achievement of your goals
Create your life and circumstances (in every sense of the word)
Voila! Those are the benefits of an organized home and life.
Higher Thoughts Turn Into Goals
Imagine three levels of existence within you. All those menial, mundane tasks should happen at the base (lower level). The mid-level is where you execute most of the time and where your attention should be 85% of the time. That mid-level is where you make things happen, no matter if it is stuff from the basic level or the upper one. Finally, the upper level is for high-level, life-changing thoughts and goals.
When you have lower-level tasks on autopilot, they don’t need much of your attention. On the other hand, upper-level ideas need sufficient attention from you to bring them down to that mid-level. Bringing those thoughts to the mid-level is crucial because it is in the mid-level where you give them shape through concrete planning and execution. This is where goals come from!
Removing Attention From Menial Tasks
The benefits of being organized and having an efficiently managed home do not negate the need to attend to the menial daily chores. However, when we plan, schedule, and streamline everything that should happen in everyday life, we automate all those lower-level tasks.
This requires paying attention to planning and executing the menial stuff before automating these things. But once this is done, we can operate in a more stable environment, thus making it possible to focus on bigger, more important things.
In other words, daily living tasks get streamlined and automated in our schedule so that they don’t require our constant attention. When this happens (and these tasks become second nature), we hardly notice them. As a result, we stop feeling these to-dos interfere in our life.
And thanks to greater efficiency in our daily life, we have more time and headspace for the big picture and higher-level thoughts, which is where the point of creation resides.
Move Forward Create The Life You Want
And this is how you move forward to create the life you desire. The more streamlined and automated the lower-level tasks and ideas are, the greater the space in your mind to shape, plan and execute more significant ideas – our goals and dreams – the point of creation.
Not having the space or capacity to attend to the planning and execution of those ideas means living in the rat race where everything has the same priority and where we continually run around putting off fires.
That is an exhausting, reactive life. This unintentional life does not provide space or energy to think about what we want in life and much less to make it happen.
Generation Y (The Millennials), and Generation Z, are the most photographed people in history. Yet, these individuals see their pictures the least in the context of their life history. Why? Because everyone takes millions of images that remain in their iPhones forever, without any proper backup, rhyme, or theme. Therefore, what’s your story? Let’s discover this by organizing pictures.
Many people struggle with clutter and find loose pictures from years past, gathering dust, disorganized, among many unrelated documents, or stacked in plastic bags in the most unimaginable places.
But knowing our life stories and family history gives us resilience and enhances our self-esteem. Pictures tell our stories. Pictures are important. We need to provide those photographs with the respect and importance they deserve.
Let’s Do This!
But how do we reconcile the forgotten past (printed pictures in plastic bags) with the high-speed present (images hidden in our iPhones) to make them come alive and tell our stories? First, we need to organize the pictures!
So, here’s a detailed guide for you to organize all your pictures. Let’s begin.
1. Gather all print pictures
Find these pictures all around the house, office, car, and relative’s homes. You might want to undergo a thorough home organization process of your home to start (this is how we find most pictures!).
Do not forget to round up all those old photo albums and scrapbooks. Photo albums are rarely ever complete or coherent. Include all your framed prints; displayed and hidden in closets and drawers. Gather them all.
2. Remove prints from frames and photo albums
Remove all those pictures from albums and scrapbooks because chances are those hard copies are the only ones in existence. You might want to use a product like Un-Du to ensure album pages glue does not ruin the pictures while removing these.
Remove all pictures from their frames. Let these frames go by donating or discarding them. Place all empty frames you wish to keep in a box or bin. This box shall live wherever you keep additional home décor items. A hallway closet is an excellent place to store these things. Removing pictures from frames and merging those pictures with the others allows you to effectively preserve them without the added bulk of these frames that probably do not work for your space any longer and in the context of the story you are telling.
Consider that once your pictures are safe in digital form, you can easily decide what images might enhance your walls or surfaces. Then, you can choose the best sizes to print those pictures and get a similar collection of frames that will be compatible with your home décor and the picture grouping. In the meantime, your goal is to have all your pictures safe in digital form and a chronological context.
3. Sort pictures by year
Gather all those loose pictures and classify them by year (and, if possible, by month). If not possible to precise the year, start with a decade then. Then, after establishing the chronological order, sort by them by event, if this is an important criterion.
4. Store pictures in plastic bags
Divide and store pictures in plastic bags (for the moment, plastic is not suitable for photos in the long term) and place your labeled bags (with the year) in a bin or a box that will ONLY contain pictures grouped in this way.
5. Digitize all prints
Photos are an essential category to digitize. Having all pictures in digital form has the following benefits
To have all of your images in one single format so that they can complete the story
To enhance and repair pictures
To use the photos in projects such as crafts, photo books, scrapbooks, imprint them on mugs, blankets, or other gifts
To intentionally select images to display at home or office
To control the size and format to show your enhanced pictures
To change your display as often as you like
To share all of your images online with everyone
So, create electronic folders in your computer according to the year, event, family, or person – Whichever way makes sense to you. But these files will be the framework of your project.
To digitize your pictures, you may get the equipment to do this yourself, send your photos to one of the many companies that offer the service, or contact a Professional Organizer to help you with this. Some organizers belong to the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO).
6. Evaluate photo editing needs
At this point in the process, you should evaluate if any of your print pictures should undergo a restoration process or other kinds of editing.
For simple editing, you might want to get one of the many software programs available such as Adobe Photoshop, Mylio, Forever, Historian, Google Photos, Flickr, and Shutterfly.
However, if your pictures need restoration, you should probably contact a member of APPO. They will be sure to help with this. But, more importantly, they will offer a white glove, personal experience you won’t find anywhere else.
7. Other media to digitize
If you find videos, reels, negatives, and slides while searching for all your scattered, loose print pictures, you want to digitize them as well! In this case, chances are you need professional help. Again, APPO professionals can help you. You can also opt to use the services of companies that will convert all that media into digital files and return that along with the original material. Just Google the service you need, and many options will show up.
In my case, I had to scan pictures and slides. I bought a $30 “contraption” (LOL – love that word!) that allowed me to stabilize the iPhone and slides. I also purchased a $29 app (Photomyne) to scan and optimize these slides. The process was time-consuming but straightforward.
8. Combine them all!
Combine the photos from all digital sources you have (iPad, iPods, iPhones, Tablets, laptops, and others) with your scanned photos (prints scanned). Do not forget pictures in Shutterfly, iCloud, and other places you might have shared photos to in the past.
9. Back up the mess!
Yes, you want to back up all that mess before you even organize it. You do not want to risk losing any of it.
10. Organize the new digital collection
Once all your pictures are in digital format, it is time to prepare digital folders by year and month within each year (or whatever criteria you wish to use) to organize all those pictures.
Rename all pictures in your digital file once prints have been scanned and merged with your other digital images. You want to have the images free of duplicates before you rename them.
Consistency is the name of the game to rename the pictures coherently. Here are some examples of ways to rename the collections:
Surname-Last Name, First Name
13. Backup again
Avoid losing your life story by employing two or more backup systems for the pictures once these are organized. The most common backup systems for photos are external hard drives and the Cloud.
14. Discard original prints
Once the process is complete, you can discard the prints. When you digitize your print pictures and toss originals, you recover all the space these take. You can let prints photos go by sending some to others appearing in the images, friends, or family members with interest in them.
Okay, this is the Organizer speaking. Experts in the field of photo preservation and photo organization will tell you about the many ways in which you can (and should) preserve your print pictures as well. Their information is extensive. I will limit myself to say that if you wish to keep your print pictures consider two things:
Your entire collection comprises the print photos (now digital) and the pictures initially in digital format. Preserving the prints will only tell part of the story. The complete story lives in your newly created digital collection.
To adequately preserve your prints, use special boxes that are acid-free, lignin-free, archival safe, and photo safe.
Should you wish to create photo albums or scrapbooks, use copies of the prints so the originals remain safe in the specialty boxes. Although a better alternative would be to create photo books, you only need the digital photos, and you can include comments and narratives that help tell the story much better.
15. Have a system moving forward
From this point on, have a system designed to quickly, efficiently, and systematically incorporate all new pictures taken (let’s say, every month) into your primary digital collection, adequately labeled, following the rest of the collection’s scheme. Keep in mind pictures you get as print only, should be transferred to digital as soon as possible. For a one-time scanning of a picture or two, any average printer these days might get the job done. Avoid gaps in your story!
The digitizing process can be daunting and the organizing part of it even more, especially if you don’t have the time. The Association of Personal Photo Organizers can help! In addition, some Professional Organizers specialize in picture organization.