too good to use

Box by Serge Bertasius Photography

photo by Serge Bertasius Photography

Last week I was talking to a client about why people save things, instead of using them. Thinking that something is “too good” to use now, and putting it away for some magical moment, simply causes clutter. When you don’t use something that’s “too good,” you’re saying that you’re not good enough, that you don’t deserve it. That kind of thinking holds you back.

You might buy something similar because you’ve forgotten you have the thing that’s too good to use.

Or you buy something else to avoid using the thing.

You might not even like the thing, but you hold onto it anyway because you’ve kept it this long (or it belonged to someone else who never used it, then gave it to you).

The thing could deteriorate or lose its functionality before you finally get around to using it.

I’m reminded of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project, and her term “spend out.” She talks about receiving a gift that she felt was too nice to use, and how it broke shortly after she finally did use it. Her conclusion: It was better to use it, and enjoy it, than to have it sit around.

You’ve either spent the money on the thing, or received it as a gift, so use it. Don’t wait. It’s not going to get better with age, unless it’s a fine wine.

Do you have something you’ve been squirreling away because you think it’s too good to use? What can you do to change your mind? Leave a comment, below.

Marcie Lovett, Organized by Marcie
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national preparedness month

2017 Preparedness.pngSeptember has been designated Preparedness Month since 2002; since then, more partners have been added and the scope of emergencies has expanded.

The US has experienced several natural disasters recently, as have other countries. In each instance, people have been left without basic services. If your home, workplace or school were affected, would you be able to survive until help arrives?

Being prepared goes beyond having some canned food on hand. You might not be able to get back into your home for more than a week. You might not have electricity or phone service. How will you communicate with others?

As recent events have shown, neighbors often help out before emergency responders can get to you. Do you have basic first-aid skills and supplies?

September is almost over, but that doesn’t mean you should pack away preparedness, like holiday decorations. If you do decorate seasonally, you have an opportunity to “hook” two behaviors (as I mention in The Clutter Book) – look at your emergency supplies each time you take out and put away decorations. If you get in the habit of examining your supplies a few times a year, you can replace food that is close to its expiration date. Don’t have an emergency supplies kit? It’s not too late to start. While you’re at it, make or update your emergency plan, too.

Do you have an emergency plan? Leave a comment, below.

Marcie Lovett, Organized by MarcieTM
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5-minute organizing for mail

Mail by Gualberto107

photo by Gualberto107

Have you tried any of the 5-minute organizing techniques I’ve written about? You might be surprised to see how much you can accomplish in just five minutes.

Almost everyone complains about mail clutter. Mail doesn’t actually cause clutter; the accumulation happens because you don’t have a plan for your mail.

You can create a simple system for dealing with incoming mail. Setting up the system will take less than five minutes and maintenance will take less than five minutes a day.

  • Designate a “mail spot” in your home or office and use it for incoming mail. This is a great way to use a bowl, basket or other container you like but never had a use for.
  • Toss or recycle junk mail as soon as you come in, and put anything that needs attention in the mail spot.
  • Once a week, go through everything in the mail spot and take action – read, toss, file, or respond to it.

If you really want to stop mail clutter, keep these things in mind:

  • Don’t move your mail spot around – it needs to be in a consistent place so everyone can build a habit around using it.
  • Don’t dump other stuff in the container – if it becomes a dumping ground for all kinds of junk, you won’t have room for mail and you won’t use it.
  • Don’t open anything until you’re ready to process your mail. If something looks interesting and you open it, put it back in the mail spot until you’re ready to act on it. Otherwise, you’ll end up with piles of mail everywhere – which caused the original problem.

How do you deal with mail? Leave a comment below.

Marcie Lovett, Organized by Marcie
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the organizer comes clean: electronic files

xFile3 by TAW4

photo by TAW4

To cut down on paper clutter and increase productivity, I recommend downloading material to your computer and scanning documents whenever possible. Since I don’t like particularly enjoy filing and I don’t like seeing piles of paper, I follow my own advice.

Setting up electronic files is just like paper filing. You create digital folders that mimic the drawers in a file cabinet, then groups of files (like a hanging folder might contain), then document folders.

Here’s an example:

I have a folder in my computer called Organized by Marcie. Inside that “file cabinet” are all my business documents. One of the sub-folders is called Articles. Inside that folder are subfolders called Emergency Preparedness, Marketing, Productivity, Time Management, Universal Design, etc. You click on folders to reach the document you’re looking for.

Normally, the process works well. Unfortunately, I had computer issues recently and, after trying to recapture all my information, I found some documents had made their way into the wrong folders and I had duplicates of some files.  I didn’t realize that I had been editing two different documents with the same name, but in two different folders.

Since I caught it early, it was an easy fix; however I see this same issue in workplaces, especially where people share files. Someone creates a file and someone else works on it, then saves it to a different file or different drive. Before you know it, you have five different versions of the same document.

Just as with paper filing, electronic filing takes some maintenance. Weed out files you don’t use anymore and make sure you don’t have duplicate files. And if you want to make sure that everyone is looking at the same thing, don’t allow changes to the original. You can save drafts of documents, and call them Filename version2 or Filename update3 or whatever makes sense to you.

Do you cull your files periodically? Leave a comment, below.

Marcie Lovett, Organized by Marcie
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fighting procrastination, part II

BacksplashThis is a followup from last week’s post. The wallpaper is up! It took much longer than I anticipated, with all the cuts and matching the horizontal and vertical lines, so I didn’t actually finish until Monday. But it’s done, and it looks good and I’m proud of myself for having made the effort.

Like many projects, the doing wasn’t the fun part. I was excited to find the wallpaper, and I was looking forward to seeing the finished walls, but I didn’t really feel like doing the work. Especially after it took me an hour to hang the first piece.

Every day you do things you don’t feel like doing. I don’t feel like brushing my teeth. Or doing laundry. Or going grocery shopping. I know that there is a payoff for each of these things, and if I don’t do them, there will be consequences.

I’ve realized that projects without consequences are the ones that sit undone. They might have great payoff, but if there’s no penalty for not finishing them, they aren’t high on the list of priorities. My kitchen backsplash, for example, has been annoying me for years, but it didn’t keep me from preparing meals, so there was no consequence for leaving it as it was.

Once I found the wallpaper, I thought I’d put it up quickly, but that didn’t happen. I really thought I bought it a month ago, but I checked the receipt, and it’s been almost three months. I bought way more than I needed, so I have to return the extras. Target has a 90-day return policy, so now there was a consequence. If I didn’t want $80 worth of wallpaper laying around, reminding me of my procrastination, I had to get it done.

A lot of clutter is caused by ambitious projects. You want to do something, so you buy the materials, but never get around to using them. They end up in the basement or garage or spare closet, and you get annoyed every time you see them. You think about the money you spent and how much you don’t feel like working on it right now.

Take a look at your project clutter. Instead of putting it off for someday when you feel like it, decide whether it’s worth doing at all. Is there a cost associated with not attending to it (consequence) that outweighs the benefit of getting it done? If the benefit of finishing is greater, find a way to get it done. Can you ask for help? Can you pay someone to do it for you?

Fighting procrastination can mean changing your plans and realizing you’re not going to do something. If there is little payoff, maybe you can let it go altogether. You’re not a failure when you don’t complete something. Instead, you’re being realistic about the amount of time you want to dedicate to it. Return, give away or sell the unused materials if you’re not going to do it. That way you’ll avoid the nagging clutter.

Do you have a project you don’t feel like doing? How can you take it off your to-do list? Leave a comment, below.

Marcie Lovett, Organized by Marcie
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quote: fighting procrastination

Paint roller by supakorn

photo by supakorm

I bought removable wallpaper for my kitchen about a month ago. It doesn’t appear to be difficult to apply, but I haven’t started because I wanted to paint first. The walls are damaged and I want to make sure the wallpaper sticks. I gave the walls one coat of paint, and moved on to other projects.

Sure, it annoys me that I haven’t made progress on the kitchen, but I defended my inaction: I’m busy! I’ll get to it eventually! I have more important things that need my attention!

If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it. – Olin Miller

Yesterday I painted a second coat and next Sunday I’m going to put up the wallpaper. Either it will look great or it won’t. It could be more time consuming or more challenging than I anticipate. I won’t know until I actually do it.

The first Wednesday in September is Fight Procrastination Day. That means you have a little over a week to keep coming up with justifications for putting off a task. Or you can make a plan to finish something by next Wednesday, and feel good about getting it done. Break it into steps. Schedule them. Make a start.

I’m planning to have the wallpaper done by then. What will you do? Leave a comment, below.

Marcie Lovett, Organized by Marcie™
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productivity roundup – vacation edition

xShoreline by Jeremy Cai

photo by jeremy cai

Have you gone on vacation this summer? If you went away, did you actually leave work behind?

Among industrialized countries, Americans typically get less paid time off, and then seem to be the worst at using what they do earn. A May 2017 study by Glassdoor shows U.S. workers, on average, used 54% of their accrued vacation time in the previous 12 months.

When American workers take vacation time, they also are likely to “check in” with their jobs by email or text message. Why can’t we learn to relax? Turns out, vacation is good for productivity. Here are some articles that might make you think differently about getting away from work for a little while:

It may be fear that keeps American workers from using all their vacation days.

Taking vacation actually benefits workplace productivity and employee satisfaction.

One company, SimpliFlying, forces employees to take vacations, and finds an increase in employee productivity, happiness and creativity.

There are science-backed reasons for increased productivity when you take time away from work.

When you return to work, you want to avoid post-vacation stress.

And, if you’re stuck in the office, here are some ways to stay motivated when everyone else is on vacation.

Does your company offer vacation time? Do employees unplug when they’re out of the office? Leave a comment, below.

Marcie Lovett, Organized by MarcieTM
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