Monday, August 29, 2016

Trying to Stay Charged

I went for a walk last week. But my fitbit wasn't charged. And then my wireless headphones weren't charged. Oh and then there was my phone that was low on juice. So I grabbed my external battery charger only to find it low on power as well.

All I wanted to do was go on a walk. You know, like put on my shoes and go. But it suddenly wasn't that simple.

If I walked without my fitbit what is the motivation in that? I wouldn't know my step count for the day. The horror! I wouldn't get that satisfying buzz as I hit the 10,000 step mark.

If I didn't have my headphones on I wouldn't be able to listen to my book on audible or the motivational podcast I am currently obsessed with.

Oh and my phone. I can't leave the house with a dead phone. What if one of my children needs to call and tell me that they love me.

And that back up battery pack. Don't even get me started. It is like an umbilical cord to my phone. Keeping me connected, you know in case my kids text me a funny cat video.

But then reality seat in. It is a beautiful day in the upper Midwest. Winter will be here before I know it. The weather is perfect and we don't get enough days where a walk outside is a great idea.

I have shoes that feel good on my feet and my body enjoys the steps. The counting of the steps from an external source is not the important part. The fact that my feet are moving is the part I should focus on.

And those wireless headphones can be left behind and I can listen to the sounds of nature instead. The crickets and grasshoppers and the mourning dove and the killdeer as it runs in front of me on my walk. Oh and there is that sound of the leaves in the wind and that little stream that I could stop at to pause and listen to the flow of the water.

My phone. Yes my phone. That is a hard one. I may want to take a photo. I may want to text a friend. I may need to call for a ride if I fall down a hole. But then I got over myself and realized if I want my kids to get off of their phones shouldn't I be ok with leaving mine behind for an hour? And that external battery pack, scrap it too.

I realized that taking a walk is no longer an easy task. It seemed to be that our dependence to keeping our things charged that we are in fact not fully charging ourselves. I know how good I feel after I go for a walk. My mood is lifted and I feel a sense of pride after doing my loop through my neighborhood. I was letting a few electronics stop my walk.

Plus all those electronics add clutter to our lives. They are soon outdated and need to be upgraded. And there is the concern of how to dispose of them. So we just keep them a little longer until we find of a way to properly dispose of them.

And ask yourself the question, what would happen if I let the battery drain in the electronics and filled myself up in other ways? Read a physical book that your checked out from the library. Take a nap. Meet a friend for a cup of tea. Play a board game with your child. Write your mom a letter, an actual letter. It will be the best gift you could ever give her! Or volunteer at your local homeless shelter.

So take a look at your life this week and see what you have to keep charged in order to go about your day. See if you can let the battery drain.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,


MS. Simplicity


Melissa is a Productivity Consultant and author living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Melissa's e-book on Kitchen Organizing can be found on Amazon.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Organizing Starts in Your Head

When you pick up a typical organizing book or read an organizing blog it will often walk you though the steps of how to become organized. But too often they do not focus on the most important part of organizing, the mind.

Our head is where organizing starts and stops. It is where we feel the frustration and fear of failure even before we start. We look at the pages of magazines with their perfect pillow arranged on the couch. When in reality if I could even keep the pillows on my couch for more than three hours I would count that as a win.

Have you ever found any electronic cord clutter in those perfect magazine pages? Me either. However I do see a tangle of them under my desk. That is reality.

Have you ever found paper clutter scattered all over the kitchen counter within those pages? Nope. That is because that is not reality. These are not real homes with real people living in them. My house has papers on it now and I am supposed to be the organizing expert. I live in reality.

When my kids were little I could tell who left the marks on the wall by the level of the marks. The higher the marks the older the child. No marks on the walls in those magazines. I still have gouges on the walls from a kid running too fast in the hallway of my house. That is reality.

So as you go about your organizing journey start in the most important place, your mind. I am constantly reading books on mindset with the hopes that someday mine will be going in the right direction.

Use common sense when you organize. Do not think that you are going to pull off miracles in a few hours. However do think that with consistent effort, with the right mindset, results will happen.

If a particular organizing style does not speak to you, it does not mean that you are beyond hope. Find a style that works for you and run with it.

If you need to start by donating that organizing book that recommends you talk to your socks, then do it.

I for one always tell my clients to give themselves grace. When you are a mom with three kids and a full time job, chances are your house will look like a tornado at times. We are our harshest critic and we need to stop!

If you are a man with a house full of memories that needs to be sorted and organized, it isn't going to happen overnight, and that is ok.

And if that little voice in your head keeps telling you that you are beyond hope, know that it is lying to you and tell it to take a hike. Instead replace it with my voice telling you that you are doing a good job and to keep pushing forward!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Melissa is a Productivity Consultant and author living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Melissa's e-book on Kitchen Organizing can be found on Amazon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Organizing Myths

Organizing advice is around every corner and on every newsstand. But not every organizing rule should be treated the same. There are some of my favorites like the 80/20 rule of using 20 percent of your stuff 80 percent of the time. Or the one in one out rule of when making a purchase of clothes make sure you remove an equal amount from your closet.

However there are bits of organizing advice that I think are just plain silly and some are just straight up lies society tells us. 

The most prevalent organizing lie that we are told is to only touch paper clutter once. Are you kidding me? If I did that, I would never get my mail out of my mail box. I would be overwhelmed with anxiety each time I make the walk to the end of my driveway. I would wonder what sort of paper hell would great me in the box. 

I don't know how it is humanly possible to only touch paper once. For example if I was to get my electric bill in the mail, I would open it, read it and then put it in a pile to pay another day. Under the only touch it once rule I would need to sit down and pay it right then. But in order to pay it I would need to check my bank balance, find my check book, realize that I am out of stamps and decide to just call it in and pay online.

And then I think about the fact that I should be receiving statements online and why am I even going to my mailbox. So then I decide to sit down and signup for paperless billing. Then I remember I have to make dinner and I am only supposed to touch this dumb piece of paper once. So I throw it in a pile and get frustrated. My solution of my only touch paper clutter once is I hand the whole pile to my husband and have him deal with it. Done!

The second lie that people are sold is that if they have the perfect container will make the clutter go away. While I love shopping at the Container Store I know it never made me more organized. If anything I left feeling overwhelmed and inadequate.

In all my years of organizing I have found one organizing container that helps contain clutter and that is the garbage bag. That is the truth. Grab a garbage bag and start filling it with stuff that you no longer use or does not spark joy.

If you walk around every area of your house with a garbage bag I guarantee you will not need that perfect container. Take those filled garbage bags and drop them off at your local donation or consignment shop. You will find that your drawers and closets are less full. So when you get the urge to buy the perfect container, pause for a minute and walk around your home with a garbage sack and get ready to donate!

Finally my favorite lie is to tidy for a few minutes a day. Are you kidding me? My house is super organized and even I need more than a few minutes a day. Well, really if I put everything away right away I wouldn't need more than a few minutes to tidy. But for the most part people are so overwhelmed with that dang paper clutter it just continues to pile up. It is going to take more than a few minutes to tidy. 

I have found that the only way to get this whole tidy thing to work is to get the whole family involved. My husband had it down to a science when our boys were little. He would just sit on the floor and point to where the toys would go. I wish I could do that now, just point and have someone put the things away. Oh wait, I do. I am looking at her reflection of my computer screen. It starts with me. I am the messy one in the house. I am the one who needs to tidy. Dang, I was hoping I could just snap my fingers and have the organizing fairy come to my house too. 

So before you start jumping on the organizing band wagon remember that not everything you are told is correct. Use your lifestyle to determine what would work for you. Just remember to not beat yourself up and to be kind to yourself on the organizing journey.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Melissa is a Productivity Consultant and author living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Melissa's e-book on Kitchen Organizing can be found on Amazon.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Practice Simplicity Daily

I read somewhere today that this week is the week of simplicity. When I tried to fact check it I came up with nothing. So I purpose that this week and every week moving forward is one that we focus on simplicity. Sure there may be weeks here and there that we make life more complicated, but for the most part if we can live 80% of our lives with a focus on simplicity everything will go much smoother.

Simplicity in listening: I have been working on this the last month as I really listen to my youngest son. So often I am stuck in my own thoughts. My brain is stuck in the drama of personal relationships or work activities that I forget to really listen. He makes comments like he needs deodorant or shampoo and I too soon forget. Sure I could write it down but I always tell myself that I can remember it, and then poof it is gone out of my mind. 

But sometimes the listening is for much deeper things. It is the way he sighs or answers a question reluctantly that I know to dig a little deeper. By being an active listener you become more privy to private information. I was reminded of this today while I was video chatting with my middle son. He could see the distraction on my face and hear it in my voice. He finally called me out on it and told me I wasn't listening to him. He was right. I was in a hurry between appointments and wanted to talk to him so I squeezed in 10 minutes. 

Simplicity in shopping: I love Target and Costco but when I go I spend more money than I intended. I try to go only when I need something and then I stick to my list. But sometimes I slip up and go on a whim, big mistake. I now am the proud owner of a wooden paddle grill grate scrapper. Yes we already have two similar grill cleaners. But I was with a friend and she told me how great it was. So I bought it. My husband uses it when he cleans the grill, along with our other two. I need an intervention! Or never shop with my friend again. 

I need to keep in mind that the impulse buy is never a good idea. I need to stick to my list and my budget. If I do not see an immediate need for it, it needs to stay in the store. I also try to imagine where I am going to store it when I purchase. If I don't have room for a new sofa, I don't buy it. If I don't have time to read a new book, the book stays at the store.

Simplicity in scheduling: Taking control of my time is essential. I schedule organizing clients only three afternoons a week. I have tried mornings with clients and weekends and it just does not work. To be at my best for my clients I need to work at my optimal time. It took me some time to figure that out. But once I did my schedule became one I look forward to.

I also know how important it is to spend time with a particular friend of mine. She calms me down. Often neither of us need to say a thing. We can look at each other and know what the other is thinking. I told another friend last week that my job is connecting with people over a cup of tea and listen. Listening is a lost art, one that I practice daily and am trying to get better at.

So this week see where you can practice simplicity. Be mindful of it and realize that for most of us it does not come natural. We are so busy that we miss living a life. We think we need to keep up with the Kardashian's. I am here to tell you that you don't. They are not real people. Your friend fighting cancer is a real person. Your neighbor down the street who lost her husband is a real person. So take some time and schedule time to spend with them and listen and practice a little simplicity. 

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Melissa is a Productivity Consultant and author living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Melissa's e-book on Kitchen Organizing can be found on Amazon.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Preparing For High School

When my three boys went to high school, they all seemed to have variations of the same nerves. Worried about the upperclassmen. Worried about the locker combination. Worried about walking in between classes in a bigger school.

But today there is even more to worry about now with social media and cyber bullying. What is a parent to do? All those hormones and our own insecurities about our high school experience leaves us not knowing where to turn. I had a great high school experience and each of my kids have as well. I think if we set our kids up for success, they will be successful. If we fill them full of anxiety and horror stories, their experience will be less than stellar. 

I spoke to a group of middle school students this spring on preparing for high school. I asked my three kids for their best advice as well as did some research of my own. Here is what we came up with.

1. Take high school credits seriously. Your future self will thank you for studying and pushing through to get that "A." You may not understand now how important it is, but when you are a Junior and looking for colleges you will have the epiphany of why working so hard for that "A" was worth it. 

2. Color code binders to match folders and notebooks for each class. My middle son did this all on his own. I bought him white binders and primary color folders and notebooks, a set for each class. He then took a permanent marker and put a dot on the spine of each binder with the color of each class to correspond with the folder and notebook colors. That way when the binders were in his locker he could quickly scan the spine and grab the one for the right class. 

3. Set up a family command center. Spend the last few weeks of summer looking at how to better streamline the family schedule. Talk to friends and neighbors now about carpooling. Don't think you have to do everything, bring in reinforcements to help schlep the kids. 

4. Pack the night before. Always make sure your backpack is ready to go the night before. Better yet, pick out your clothes as well. There will be mornings that you want to hit that snooze or you over sleep, you will be glad that you prepped the night before and are ready to dash out the door and not be late. 

5. Look at your grades weekly. This is important for both parent and student. Find out how best to look at the grades, usually an online portal. Don't look at the end of the semester and hope for a miracle. Keep on track weekly, so that there are never any surprises.

6. Use your smartphone to keep you organized. The smartphone is an organizer's dream. Photos can be taken of the class schedule and locker combination so you never have to worry about it again. Set reminders for important tests or quizzes. Send mom or dad a quick text to tell them how much you love them and not just ask for money. 

7. Find the study spot that works for you. Not gonna lie, mine was in front of the TV. I liked the background of the television. It forced me to focus more. Each student has different needs for study space, and respect that. Even though my kids had a desk in their room, none of them ever used it. Usually I would find them sitting at the kitchen table or island so that they are a part of the action of the household.

8. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Because I had two kids on IEP's, they were accustomed to asking for help. It takes a strong person to ask for help. Schools are set up to help you be successful. If you are struggling in math, talk to the teacher and see what services are offered. And please do not wait until it is too late to ask for help. Do it as soon as you feel some difficulty.

9. Make a note so you don't forget. I like to put reminders not only in my phone but also on post it notes. I then put the notes in places where I don't forget. I like to see the note so that my brain isn't full of trying to remember not to forget, that I actually forget other more important things. 

10. Don't procrastinate. Yes I am guilty of procrastinating. Yes I have certain offspring of mine that are guilty of this. Procrastinating is OK as long as you do not stress out about it and create stress for others. Having a group project and being late on your tasks is never a good idea. If you are a procrastinator, set up rewards for yourself for coming in on time or early. I am a fan of positive reinforcements! 

11. Equip yourself with the right tools. Two of my kids have auditory processing disorder. Which in essence means they have a hard time hearing when there is background noise. My middle son found that by wearing noise cancelling headphones his life has been changed forever, his words, not mine. You may need the right kind of pencil or pen to write with. Plan ahead so that you make sure that you have what you need before you need it. 

12. Proper amounts of sleep are essential. Don't think being a night owl is cool. It isn't. There is nothing wrong with telling your friends you can't stay out late because your parents have set a time for you to be home. My youngest loves to sleep and he knows when he is tired and he will come home and go to sleep.

Just remember the most important tool for the transition is having a good means of communication between the parent and child. You want your child to come to you with their struggles and share with you. Or even have other adults in their life that they can share with. I found out some bullying of my youngest son because he shared with his older brother and his older brother told him to tell us what was going on. I am so glad he did as we took swift action and it ended. Find those pockets of time to visit and check in on each other. It doesn't need to be hours on end. Often a ride to school in the morning can create memories. Create those pockets of time and enjoy the organized transition to high school. 

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Melissa is a Productivity Consultant and author living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Melissa's e-book on Kitchen Organizing can be found on Amazon.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Instant Gratification Takes Too Long

In a world of instant gratification, I would ask us all to take a breath and wait. I have found that if you can push past the urge to purchase, you will find yourself saving money by making fewer purchases. Today I am wearing a new pair of shoes. Shoes that I waited for four months to purchase. Since I purchased them two weeks ago, I have worn them five times. Last month I bought another pair of shoes that I bought because I wanted them. I wanted the rush of having a cute new pair of shoes. I bought them within minutes of trying them on. I wore them the next day for exactly two hours and I have not had them on since. They were a bit too high and I walked like a newborn giraffe in them. They were an instant gratification purchase that I now regret. 

When my boys were little they watched the release dates of video games. I implemented a wait and see policy on the purchase of the games. I created obstacles to prevent them from purchasing on the release date. I have used the "save your money" philosophy to get them to realize the cost of the item. Often when they had to use their own money, the desire decreased. 

I also have straight out told them we will wait for a few days after the release of the game. I used this delay most often for my oldest son who had a fixation with a particular line of games. I knew we could go out and buy the game for him. But I also knew he needed to learn to wait. We are the parents. In a world of instant gratification, we have to strip that urge away.

I watch this unhealthy obsession with the newly released Pokemon Go game. The amount of downloads this game created was record breaking. I am all for playing a fun game, but at what expense? People are getting physically hurt as people are becoming distracted in their walking while playing this game becoming slowly addicted. Law enforcement officers are warning people to not drive while searching for Pokemon. Wait a few weeks and see if the obsession goes away. Delay the instant gratification that society is telling you to download and play and not miss out on the fun. 

Before we tell our children they need to wait, we ourselves need to learn the lesson. Try waiting days, weeks, months or years before making a purchase. I did this three weeks ago with a shirt I tired on at one of my favorite stores. It was full price and I didn't want to pay full price for it. I came back two weeks later and it was marked down by half. Waiting in this case saved me money. 

With larger wants and desires for our children, we like to have them come up with half of the money. My youngest wants a car and this summer, I told him we would match his funds in order to purchase a car. As of today he has saved zero dollars and we are out zero dollars. When my oldest wanted a new viola even though he already had one, I told him we would match his contribution. He mowed lawns for the summer and came up with a nice sum of money that we matched. He purchased the viola and cared for it and never left it on the bus and as a senior in college he still plays in its orchestra.

So the next time you get an urge to purchase something, wait. See if you are purchasing because of instant gratification or for some other reason. Believe me the voice in your head will try to rationalize with you needing the item. You will play games telling yourself that this purchase is a necessity. But just pause. Wait the days, weeks or months and see if that purchase is really a necessity. 

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

Melissa is a Productivity Consultant and author living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Melissa's e-book on Kitchen Organizing can be found on Amazon.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Becoming A Minimalist

Hi, my name is Melissa and I am a mom of three and a wife of one and we have clutter. I now only have one child left at home so the clutter has decreased greatly. While my kids were never messy, we just always had a lot of stuff. Having a kid comes with stuff. There are birthday parties. There are holidays. Society says on these occasions to buy your kid more stuff. So having celebrated 59 birthdays (the age of my children added up) you can imagine we have accumulated some stuff.

But I am happy to report that you do not need to live like that. You can start to say no to consumerism and keeping up with the Jones's. Will there be an overnight answer to living with less? No. But I am all about gathering information and coming to an informed decision as to what works for me and for you.

The more I work with clients I am convinced that I am working with tired people. They are not lazy, they are simply tired. They do their best. They want to live with less but they just don't know how. Often it is a voice that is stuck in their head telling them that the secret to happiness is to have more stuff. But when I dig a little deeper by asking important questions I usually find out there is some mental clutter from years ago they are still carrying with them.

When I ask the client with a huge board game collection that is out of control and needs organizing why she has so many. At first she doesn't know why and then I probe a little deeper. Suddenly she is crying as she talks about playing Monopoly as a child with her dad who has passed away. Or the client with enough wrapping paper to wrap presents for the rest of her life. We discover that she never received many gifts as a child and so when she gives ones she wants to make sure that they are beautifully wrapped.

One place that I look to for my inspiration is with The Minimalists. These are two guys who are spreading the word of living with less. I have heard them speak on two occasions and have watched their documentary. When I am with them my wheels start turning in my head. They ask provocative questions about our possessions and really leave us with a lasting message of living a meaningful life with less stuff.

I have written posts about some of my favorite bits of advice from them like the 20/20 rule. The rule is simple: if you can replace something for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes you can get rid of it. This goal with this rule is to really focus on what you actually use. It is fun to walk around your house with the 20/20 rule in your head. And believe me your will have some funny conversations in your head about what you can get for $20 in less than 20 minutes from your home. Please keep your spouse!
Another favorite of mine is the 90/90 rule. Another seemingly simple rule that gets my mind working. If you have not used an item in the last 90 days and you are not planning on using it in the next 90 days, get rid of it! Like my prom dress with the big bow on the butt. Like I am ever going to wear that in the next 90 days! Adult prom is not my thing, ever!
Right here these two powerful rules will generate some serious purging.

So I invite you to start to ask yourself the right questions by getting to know these guys as they screen their documentary in Fargo on July 19th. Joshua & Ryan will be at the screening and will be hosting a Q & A for the attendees. I will be there cheering everyone on to live a simpler life.  The movie is full of singles and families living a minimalist lifestyle. These people exist and are real. They are showing how living a life with less can actually be a life filled with so much more.

To snag a ticket to what will be a sold out show, go here. You can also search Eventbrite website by looking for the Minimalism Documentary tour Fargo.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,
MS. Simplicity

Melissa is a Productivity Consultant and author living in Fargo, North Dakota doing her best of living a life full of adventure. Filling a life of memories and not of things! 

Melissa's e-book on Kitchen Organizing can be found on Amazon.

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