Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Appearances May Be Deceiving

Last week I confessed to how messy my office is. I was approached at coffee shops this week from people saying how much they loved seeing that I wasn’t perfect and there was hope for them. I was shocked by that as I am far from perfect. But perhaps I am viewed that way and then it got me worried as I thought people knew that I am a hot mess. But maybe I am a secret hot mess? I am here to tell you, I am far from perfect and I don’t want you to think I am. I am worried that Dateline will show up at my house and call me a fraud in the organizing world. I do not want that scary blonde man shoving a camera and microphone in my face. So today I am confessing and coming clean, I am not perfect, far from it. I have however found some life hacks that do help me appear to have my act together.

1.       I only wash my hair every six days. This saves me countless hours in the bathroom. I have long thick hair that doesn’t require frequent washings. If you stop at my house you will often see my hair pilled on my head in a ponytail. Even though it looks like I spend a lot of time on my hair, I don’t.

2.       I spend little time shopping. It just isn’t something that I enjoy. I have found a line of clothing that I like and I stick with that. Too many choices overwhelm me.

3.       I wear the same clothes and will repeat outfits during the week. I am proof that you wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time. I work from home most days and when I leave it is only for a few hours a day. If my clothes aren’t dirty I will wear them again during the week. This also helps me cut down on the amount of laundry that I do. Most days if you stop at my house you will find me in my comfy clothes that may or may not be my pajamas.

4.       I belong to a meal delivery service that gives me three homemade meals a week. This way I get gourmet food without the trip to the store and the decision of what’s for dinner is made for me. I can quickly make dinner and satisfy my inner foodie.

5.       My one guilty pleasure in life is my eyelash extensions. If you don’t know what these are, look at anyone with long eyelashes, chances are they are extensions. This gives me the illusion that I have makeup on and I really don’t. Once again saving time in the bathroom is the benefit of this hack.

6.       I keep my car clean. Granted I only have one child at home now. But even when my kids were little my car was always clean. It may have smelled like a happy meal, but there was never any junk stored in the car. We emptied the car daily. Once we get into the habit of having a clean car, it is a pretty easy habit to keep. The outside is always clean too. Having the words professional organizer on your car gives you the pressure to keep your car clean, as you know people are looking at it. Want a clean car, just put professional organizer for the motivation!

7.       I write down what is in my head and only in one place. Gone are the days of being able to remember everything. My husband can remember every number, code and password but he can’t remember names. I can remember names and not much else. I now have little check boxes that I create in my planner for me to put my action items and reminders of the day. And it has to be in one place. I can’t go chasing down scraps of paper. My brain is full and I can’t fit anymore in. If I am arrested I only have one number memorized to call, my parent’s home phone. I hope they pick up the collect call!

8.       I keep all of our car keys in a basket by the front door. I never have to worry about where the car keys are as we all have the habit of dropping the keys in the basket. This gets me out the door on time and hopefully arrive at my destination on time. I have figured that I can get anywhere in my town in 15-30 minutes and I plan accordingly.

9.       When I give a gift I almost always give flowers. Everyone loves fresh flower and it is a gift that is a consumable so that it does not waste clutter. Ask any woman if she would want fresh flowers delivered as a gift and they will say yes. Having gifts narrowed down saves me time shopping for gifts.

So no matter where you are in your organizing journey, know that I am on the journey with you. In my case I may look like I have it all together, but in reality I am a hot mess. Because remember, appearances may be deceiving.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

From Chaos Comes Simplicity

Too often I let my own organizing projects go by the wayside. I am too tired when I get home and my creativity is zapped when I return from a client. I pour my heart and soul into figuring out their organizing solutions and often there is not enough left for me to take on my own projects. I let my organizing issues escalate to where I can't take it anymore and I have to give myself an organizing intervention.

I think it is important for people to understand that I do not live a perfectly organized life. I have areas that are great and I have areas that are in need of major improvement. Possibly my imperfection is what makes me a better organizer. I don't judge as I know the journey my clients are on, as I am on it with them.

For the most part my  house is very organized, open any drawer and look at the counters and 90% of the time you will find simplicity. I give much credit to MR. Simplicity. He likes an organized home. I joke that if you are going to stop by please give MR. Simplicity 10 minutes notice so he can make everything tidy. For me, come on over and see that I haven't gone through today's mail and I am wearing my comfy clothes with my hair in a pony tail on top of my head.

But I realized an office intervention was in order as MR. Simplicity kept going in my office and "straightening" my piles of paperwork. I have been on trips without him and he has asked about my office and I said just throw everything that isn't essential into a box and I will deal with it later. Sound familiar? Yes I have the "deal with it latter" dilemma too! It should come as no surprise that those boxes are still siting there taunting me as I look at them. One is in my bedroom closet and one is in my laundry. Yes, he has done this twice for me. There they sit, jeering me. Rearing their ugly head saying things like, "you call yourself an organizer?" or "you need to deal with this mess."

I have recently started working with two business coaches and one gave me the assignment of being more authentic and the other had the assignment to get my office organized. I have major goals for 2016 and they are not going to be completed if I ignore the elephant in my office. Ok, I don't have an elephant in here, I think?

My office has good bones. I had a closet installed last year and it has made a major difference. But one of my favorite organizing phrases is, it's the process not the products. So I could have every organizing product made, and I do, but unless I take the time to go through the organizing steps I am going to go nowhere.

So this weekend I pulled everything out of the my office. I took everything on the floor that was hiding under my desk and under my bench and stuck on the floor of my closet. I cleaned off my desk and only left my monitor and a lamp. I put everything on the floor of my living room and removed the chaos from my office.

I took the time to wipe down my desk and lift everything up. Lifting up my monitor I realized I didn't like the books that were underneath it adding height. I quickly figured out I had the perfect thing in my bedroom. It gave my monitor the height and allowed me to even hide my speakers behind it.

Gone is my mouse pad that was a little grungy. I vowed I was only bringing in items that brought me joy. So MR. Simplicity made me a mouse pad from pictures that I had taken down off of my wall. Now I look down at those pictures and a smile comes to my eyes as those are joy filled pictures of my life.

I took things off the wall that added clutter. One was a large collage of photos and words as part of a gift MR. Simplicity gave me a few years ago for Mother's Day. It was hard to get rid of the gift but he understood my need to get rid of all visual clutter in my office. In this case, clutter extended to the walls too.

I worked in small chunks of time over the weekend. I would stop and really think about the items I wanted to bring back in. Organizing is not a sprint, it is a marathon, taking time. Miracles are not expected in hours, but in days.

Yes I wrestled with the guilt of gifts I had been given or items that I had paid good money for. But I would remind myself that I needed to do what I tell my clients and let go of all those feelings of guilt along with the items.

I have implemented the rule of putting everything away when I am done with it. Usually I just move from project to project or use my office as a dumping ground as I wait to someday put things away. But too often someday never came and increased the chaos.

Now I sit with my office with only the things I want in it. I have fresh flowers on my desk. I have hand lotion to my right for my dry chapped hands that smells like spring and my paper calendar at my left allowing me to quickly glance and see how my week and day are going to unfold. I am taking my time bringing things back in. The office of calm and serenity has returned.

Footnote: Step out of my office into my living room and you will find the dumping's from my office. I have set a deadline of one week. I have started making piles for MR. Simplicity to take away. He anxiously asks me if I am ready for the piles to disappear. I think he is nervous that someone is going to stop over. This week you may need to give him an hour's notice.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

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


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Honey We Weren't Robbed

Did you ever have that day where you had to send your spouse a text letting them know that when they walked into the house that it may be a tad messy? To me this is becoming more and more apparent that this is a necessary text message. I only have one child left at home and we no longer have a dog. The list of people that I can blame on being messy is very short. And they are smart enough to know who the real messy person is in our house.

I am the self proclaimed organizing expert. Not only am I self proclaimed but I have the credentials to prove how much I know about organizing. I am a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers. Not only am I a member but I am a Golden Circle member, which means I have been around for awhile and know my stuff, or should know my stuff!

So if I am messy is there hope for anyone else out there? The answer is yes. I know where I am falling apart and failing miserably at. Learn from my mistakes and don't worry about being perfect in the process.

Set aside 20 minutes a day to just put things away. Last week I had three pairs of pants laying on my bed because I couldn't figure out what I wanted to wear. By the time I figured out what I was going to wear I needed to leave the house. So there they sat, and were moved to another area of my bedroom to be dealt with later.

Start your day earlier. I know we all like staying in bed until the last possible minute, but I am here to say to you, get up a little earlier. Wake up before the rest of the family. Start a load of laundry or finish a load. Take some time to simply breathe.

Make checklists. I have started doing that this week and I must say my days have been going better. The feeling of checking something off a list is so freeing. I want to shout on Facebook, "hey I just did a load of laundry!" as I check the box.

Meal plan. If you know what you are making for dinner before you leave the house for the day you will save so much time. You will be home so you can see what you have in the cabinets so that you are not overbuying and finding yourself with 15 cans of tomato sauce. Even getting the evening meal into the crockpot or the meat marinating to go on the grill will give you so much peace of mind during your day that you can focus on the important tasks at hand and find the 20 minutes you need to just put things away.

Focus on your problem areas for two weeks. My problem areas are my makeup and my clothes that are in transition, you know the ones. The clothes that have been worn once and aren't dirty enough to get washed but not clean enough to be hung back up. So there they sit...in their transition chair. Waiting to be dealt with. You will find that after you have focused on your problem areas for two weeks that you will find solutions that work for you. Don't give up after a few days, keep going! I know for me what needs to be done, see my tips above. If I do all of the tips I know in two weeks my problem areas will be taken care of.

And if my problem areas aren't solved in that time period? Time to get another dog so I have someone to blame and who will love me despite my messy ways.

And now to deal with my other message that I frequently send, "there was not fire in the house. I was just browning meat." True story.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Picking the Perfect Planner

The calendar is about to turn to another year. I am grateful for one thing, not writing checks because I always wrote the wrong year until about June. Please tell me I am not the only one who would write 2001 when it was really 2015? Worse yet was when I would write 1999 like I was a diehard Prince fan or something. Now my only issue with changing years is wondering where 2015 went, along with 2014 and its cousin 2013. Seriously, I use to laugh at those people who told me that time flies. Now I get it. I am suddenly one of those women in line at the grocery store saying you blink and your babies are grown and going to college in another state.

I do think that having the perfect system to keep track of the time we do have is essential. Nothing is worse than missing an appointment or being late to a kid's concert. The market is flooded with the "perfect" planner, but one thing I know is that there is not one perfect planner out there for everyone. We all have special needs and considerations when buying the perfect one. I have found the perfect solution for me but I will say it has been a lesson in trial and error.

Here are some questions to consider when looking for the perfect planner for yourself.

Are you the only one that needs to look at it? Now that my kids are grown, I don't need to keep track of their activities. But when I had three going in separate directions, I needed to be the queen of schedules. I would keep my planner laying on the kitchen counter so everyone could look at it as they left for the day. Digital planners did not work for me at this stage as appointments were stacked on top of each other in cyber space and I would often miss one, or ten.

Does it need to be portable? Size does matter if you need to keep your planner with you. A large and heavy planner with lots of bells and whistles isn't fun to carry. Instead a small planner the size of a small paperback book is the perfect size. This will be a no frills type of planner with a small block for each day. If you don't need to write down lots of appointments this is the perfect solution.

Do you need your day broken up in hourly chunks? Some of us need to know what we are doing every thirty minutes. I have never been that detailed but when you are a person that is having back to back meetings, this type of planning is essential. These types of planners tend to be bigger and bulkier but you won't forget your appointments!

Do you need space to write lists on? I like to have a place to put my daily reminders that are random and don't have a time associated with them. I am not a fan of writing lists on paper that are not in my planner. I can't tell you how many clients have random lists written all over the place. From the back of a receipt to a child's notepad to a deposit slip from the bank. Create only one system that allows you plenty of space to write your list on. There are planners out there that allow you to do that. I have one planner that all I do is take notes in.

Do you like it to be fashionable? I am someone who likes to be a little creative and I like to be unique. The planner that I fell in love with allows me to make custom covers with pictures of my family on it. This is probably a small detail to consider and not a huge requirement but still a question to consider.

Do you like online versions? Now, I have to confess, I do like my digital calendar. I am a fan of Outlook as it syncs with all my devices including my iPhone. Some reasons I love having a digital version is the reminders that I receive 15 minutes before my appointments. Disregard my tip above where I said to only have one system. Rules are meant to be broken. In this case I have tried to only have either a paper version or a digital version. Neither worked perfect for me. But I have found the perfect solution for me.

Just remember that whatever solution you decide on, take into account the things to consider. Only then should you buy a planner. This often is a trial and error process and you might waste some money in the process. But once you find the perfect planner, it is heaven. But then again I am a planner nerd.

 (if you want a $10 coupon for my perfect planner, please send me an email at Melissa@mssimplicity.com)

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

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


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Procrastinate on Purpose

When I first read the title of the book "Procrastinate on Purpose" by Rory Vaden  I will admit it took my breath away. I am a self proclaimed procrastinator. Could this book be the answer to why I always wait until the last minute to do things? For example, I waited until the night before in college to write that paper or study for that test. I wrote this post an hour before my deadline.

However I am married to a planner not a procrastinator. He has his day planned to the minute. I am a bit jealous. But then I realize he is not the one planning and making dinner. He isn't the one that the kids call when sick. He is the one they call and ask for money to be transferred into their account. I love being the parent they call because they are sick or need something brought to school that they forgot, but it does throw my day for a loop. Because I have been the parent with the flexible schedule I have designed my days around the unexpected emergencies. I always leave room for something that needs to be done at the last minute. But now I only have one child left at home and the emergencies are few and my excuses to procrastinate are ending. But my procrastinating skills remain.

According to this book it is ok to procrastinate but only after you have gone through a sort of vetting process. Vaden lays the process out in his book step by step, but some of my favorite steps are Eliminate, Delegate and Procrastinate.

Eliminate: Too often we find ourselves doing things we really don't need to be doing. He quotes the French writer Antoine de Saint Exupery; "Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." Take a minute and think about it. Work on your to do list so that is so lean and mean that the only thing left are things that you, and only you can do. I have taken many things off of my list that I use to do. I use to go through our mail every day. This was a time suck for me. Now my husband does it and he can accomplish it in minutes, whereas I would get distracted and it could easily take me 45 minutes. Which leads me to the next step.

Delegate: This is my favorite thing to do. I have a friend that we call Tom Sawyer. She is always passing off her work to her friends and family. She will have you come over and while you are there you may get talked into hanging lights on her house while precariously balanced on a ladder. So often we think we need to do everything ourselves. Rarely is this true. So often we fill our days with tasks that can be done by other people. Or if you are like me you don't think anyone can do it as well as you can. Sure nobody is going to be perfect. But what a gift of time you give yourself if you realize that you can hire a virtual assistant to write your newsletter. Or that once a week someone else can make dinner.

Procrastinate: Finally after you go through all of Vaden's steps you learn that it is important to know not just what to do and how much to do, but also when to do it. Sometimes you have to say no. Sometimes you have to wait. Sometimes you have to procrastinate. This does not mean that you get a pass and get to say no to everything. Vaden stresses that time allows for ideas to simmer and incubate. We need to have our relationships develop and we need to mature before we can make things happen. We don't just open a store, we take certain steps before we can hang that open for business sign.

So this week during the business of the holidays, walk yourself through the three steps of Eliminate, Delegate or Procrastinate. See if some of the stress lifts from your body. See if anyone missed you not making the special cookies that take hours to prepare. Ask your sister to bring a side dish to a holiday meal. And most importantly procrastinate and say no.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,


MS. Simplicity


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



Tuesday, December 15, 2015

I Am Making My List and Checking It Twice

Tree 1

Only a few more nights sleep left and believe me I am counting down the days. I am a little excited for this time of year. I am excited for one thing, my boys from college are coming home! The days are rare with all five of use spending quality time together. My heart beats a little different when all of my children are under one roof. I even breathe a little different. I am ready for my house to be messy and to have my grocery bill increase.

So with a little over a week away from the holiday I am thinking about how to best be most organized so that I spend time with my boys. I don't want to spend time in line returning gifts. I don't want to spend hours in my kitchen cooking. I don't want to spend time grocery shopping. I do want to spend time watching movies and playing board games. So this is the time to gather my organizing ninja powers and test my time management skills!

Buy gifts that you know won't be returned: Nothing is worse than having to stand in line to return a gift. I am not a fan of it! When I shop it is my rule that if I buy something and it doesn't work out I will return it within 24 hours. So this year when I bought some clothes as gifts and I wasn't sure if they would fit my boys, I had my husband try them on. They didn't fit. So I returned them on December 7 and not on December 26. The lines were non existent. Both the lines in the store and the parking outside were a breeze.

Stay within budget: Nobody likes having remorse over spending too much. When the gifts are opened you should be focusing on the joy it brings the recipient and not thinking about your credit card bill arriving in January. This year I am only paying in cash so I got this part covered! The gifts will be more lean, but they are paid for.

Meal plan now: I am one of those people that enjoys grocery shopping. I see it as fun and I think the reason is I often do it with a family member. My boys will still hold on to the sides of the cart even though one of them is 22. That practice of not getting lost in a store is deeply ingrained in them. We are a sight walking down an aisle with me pushing the cart and two grown men holding the sides of the cart. Hey, they could still get lost. What I don't like doing is leaving the house for one ingredient. So make that list and check it twice!

Schedule some fun: Our family enjoys seeing movies. I love the fact that you can go online and buy movie tickets before you go. Gone are the days of standing in line hoping you get a seat only to find out the only ones left are in the front row. We have already bought tickets to the new Star Wars movie and will be adding several more in the next few days.

Use gift cards quickly: This may seem like an odd thing to make sure that you do, but the fact of the matter is people forget to use gift cards. Every client I work with has a stack of unused gift cards, usually in a junk drawer. They are just there getting lost and forgotten, which is what the stores want. The percentage of gift cards that go unused are huge. So I challenge you to use those gift cards that you receive within a week of receiving them. Eat at that restaurant, get that massage and go and use it up every last bit. Another helpful hint is to keep the gift card in your wallet, purse or glove compartment of your car. Too often we get to our location and forget the gift card. If you keep it with you at all times, you won't have that issue

Schedule medical appointments: I know this may sound silly but I always schedule these over Christmas break for my boys who are away at college. I told my dentist they should only take appointments for college students this time of year. One has an appointment and one is on the wait list. My middle son is seeing his doctor at Mayo the first day of break and he is going to take my appointment at the dermatologist for his annual skin check. See when the last time was that they had an eye exam. Get these appointments made if it is not too late. If you are a planner like me you will call now and make the appointments for next year.

Take into account sleep patterns: Don't make breakfast if the kids don't wake up until 11:00. You will just get frustrated, been there, done that! I plan on making one nice meal a day and then we will eat leftovers and sandwiches for the other meals. As much as I love cooking I don't want to spend it in the kitchen.

Share in the traditions: If you always make roll out sugar cookies wait until you can make them as a group. I use to make them ahead of time but then I realized that my kids like helping. Yes my kitchen may become a bit more covered in flour, but good thing I have my husband on cleanup duty! Instead of baking weeks ahead of time bake with your family so that they can see exactly how long it takes to stand over the stove stirring the caramels to the soft ball stage! The benefit is that you will have someone to lick the beaters and eat the cookies that didn't turn out, saving you added calories!

So spend some time in the next few days and see where you can maximize your time. Don't forget that you don't have to do it alone. Everyone likes to help and pitch in. Make memories together doing the things you love during your time together.

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,


MS. Simplicity


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

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Let There Be Peace On Earth and Let It Begin With Me

This week I have been surrounded by really sad things happening to the people I love and care for. This season is hard for so many as we see the visions of what a Christmas celebration is suppose to look like in the media. The family gathered around the tree as cars laden down with beautifully wrapped presents descend on grandma's house. The delicious meal is prepared and gifts are lovingly unwrapped and treasured by all around.

But the reality is different for many families. There may be members missing this year due to death, physical distance or emotional battles. Not everyone has an idyllic holiday season. I was home visiting my parents for a week and I saw the nativity scene that has been there all of my life. But the little angel at the top had fallen down and needed a little help from me to get back up. I could have let it lay there, but I took the second to help it get back in place looking down at the nativity scene.

This image of being a helper has stayed with me ever since. I want to be a helper this holiday season. My client last week reminded me that I am living that already when she told me that she sees how I value people in my life. As we were working hard to get rid of her clutter she saw how I was helping a friend through a tough custody decision. Or sending positive messages to friends.

I told one of my best friends who loves to buy gifts that she didn't need to buy me anything, just a coffee date with her is all I want. She replied that she already figured out the perfect gift and it was a coffee gift card so that we can spend time together. I love that she knows this about me. She loves giving gifts and I love spending time with people so we both win out on this.

Here are some ways that you can be a helper this holiday season:

Make a phone call. You have that person that you haven't talked to in a very long time. The thoughts of calling them are always on your mind. Just pick up the phone and call.

Do some housework without being asked. My husband has the love language of acts of service, so whenever I can I do things around the house that he normally does. This season I will make an extra effort of rinsing the dishes and loading the dishwasher, even though it is his chore.

If you see a stranger in need, help. Last year while walking into the grocery store I was worried about falling on the ice and the kind bag boy told me not to worry as he would be there to help me up. What a reassuring thought he gave me that allowed me to walk a little bit more confident. I have held babies in airports so moms flying solo can use the restroom. It is a gift to help as it feels fantastic.

Volunteer. Find a place in the community that needs help over the holidays and show up. Ask your friends to join you. Perhaps instead of the typical gift exchange or evening out you cook a meal in your community for the homeless or the senior population.

If you see something out of place, put it away. When I am walking with my middle son I often see him pick up trash and throw it away. I asked him what he was doing and his reply was simple, if he doesn't do it, who will? It is up to all of us to be good stewards. This doesn't just mean trash, it could be the items in your house too. Just like the angel on the nativity set, it was out of place and I put it back where it belonged.

Smile more. It makes a difference to the service providers around you when you smile and make eye contact. I use to work as a cashier and it was surprising to me how many people did not make eye contact and smile. You will make someone's day while giving a genuine smile and if you know their name use it and say thank you as you leave.

Make the trip. Sometimes you need to pile the family in the car and go to the relatives for the holidays. You may not want to, and the kids and spouse may groan, but know that it makes a difference to the people you are visiting. This 4th of July my family and I drove 500 miles round trip for a 90 minute lunch with my extended family. I knew it meant a lot to my mom, so we made the trip. I don't regret it for a minute.

Listen more, talk less. This is the time of year that we all get so busy, but take the time to stop and really listen. It could be a choir that is singing in the mall or it could be your spouse (believe me I need to do that more!) Or it could be your child reading a bedtime story. Just stop for a minute and listen.

So as you go through this holiday season think less about the physical gifts and more about the other ways that you can help. I want to live in a JOY  and peace filled world and it begins with me and hopefully you too!

To Joyful, Simplified Organizing,

MS. Simplicity

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


Pin it