Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Skinny on the Organized Closet

I have been having conversations this week with people who are transitioning their summer clothes to their fall and winter clothes. I love this time of year as I transition to a new set of clothes. Life is more interesting when you have seasons to work with. Gone are my maxi dresses and in are my jeans and ponchos.

Not only do we have the seasons of clothes that fill our closets, we also have the different sizes. So the question becomes, what to do with the clothes that are too small but we don’t want to part with?

You know those clothes. The skinny jeans you wiggled into once for a party and have not been able to zip since. That skirt that you bought two sizes smaller with the hopes of losing that last 10 pounds and being able to wear it again. Or that shirt that you wore in college that was your all-time favorite.

What do we do with these clothes that are whispering to us, begging to be worn again? I say take a look at the emotion that they invoke. For me I see the clothes that are too small and I want to go and eat a cookie. That is not the attitude I need in order to fit back into those jeans. Looking at them day in and day out becomes counterproductive in my quest to fitting back in them.

Here is my rule of thumb: if you are more than two sizes away from your ideal size I would remove those clothes from the closet. For me I had room in another closet and I moved them downstairs. This removed me looking wistfully at them every morning.

An idea I also like is to box them up and put a goal date on them. Put the goal date on your calendar and start to take action.

Don’t set unrealistic goals with yourself. An unrealistic goal is not going to be motivating. You will give up on day two if it is set too high and if you are like me go and eat a cookie. A good goal is to lose one to two pounds a week. Keep that in mind when setting your date for your clothes.

And what about those clothes that are too big now that you have lost weight? Get them out. Get them out as fast as your grow out of them. If they are a reminder of how far you have come, keep one or two items. But if you are storing them for the “someday” you gain the weight back, that is the wrong attitude. Box up those clothes and run to your favorite donation center and feel great!

Ideally you want a closet that has clothes that are the perfect fit and the perfect season. Work through your clothes and pull out the ones that do not fit. If you are not quite ready to part ways with them, start boxing them up with a “wear by” date on them.
Really take a good look at each item. I know for me my closet has very few wool items in it. No matter what the size, wool and I are not friends. Start working your way through your clothes until you are left with the ones that fit and bring you joy for the season!
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, September 21, 2016

Focus on the Joy

During my experiment with saying "yes" to things in our community I found that I also had to be firm in my "no's" as well. Too often we are drawn to saying yes because of outside factors. I have watched my friends and I say yes for all the wrong reasons.

Perhaps it is that Catholic guilt that I am wired with. Or perhaps it is that stoic German heritage that doesn't like conflict. Whatever it is, I sometimes find I struggle with saying yes when I really want to say no.

What I have found is that if I focus on the word JOY it seems to be easier for me to say no. The word joy can mean many things to people. But for me it simply means does it bring a smile to my face or make my heart sing? If it does one of those two things then I say yes.

Yes there are those things in life we want to say no to, but often we have a sense of obligation. But take a look at that obligation and can you find joy in it?

This past spring I went to the funerals of two of my good friend's fathers. It was a round trip of 600 miles for each funeral and I did it in a day. Was there a sense of obligation in going? Perhaps. But it was so much more. These were my friends. We stand with them when times are hard. Did I find joy in it? I really did. I loved my friends so the obligation disappeared and it was easy to make the trip. I took time to visit my favorite high school English teacher during one of the trips. The other I went and said hi to my dad for a few minutes before I made the return trip home. I found the joy.

My youngest son asked my husband and I to chaperone his homecoming dance on Friday. Having to spend a Friday night telling kids to behave is not my idea of fun. But the fact that he asked me brings me joy. Plus I know that I will make my own fun. Saying yes to this obligation made my heart sing.

When I hear my friends challenged to tell people in their lives no, I bring them back to the word joy. When they feel a sense of obligation I hear them lamenting the fact that they have to go and do something. Clearly they missed the joy conversation I just had with them.

I understand that we don't want to hurt feelings. But to me I would much rather you tell me no right away then give me a reluctant yes and resent the time that we spend together.

When I set my hours for my organizing clients I limit them to afternoons three days a week. I found that if I took clients in the evenings or weekends I would resent it. I would go to their homes reluctantly and was not giving my best organizing service. Now if I show up in the afternoon I am full of energy and ready to attack their project. But it took me time to figure out what hours work best for me. Do I get calls for people who want help on the weekends? I sure do. But I have found that for most people they can rearrange their schedule to accommodate an afternoon.

One of the hardest things for me to say no to were the toxic relationships in my life. I watch as a friend continues to try to bring me into her drama. I refuse to be drawn in. Friends will ask if I saw what this person posted on Facebook. My answer is always no as I don't go to that person's social media sites. I have learned to stay away from them because they do not bring me joy. Yes there may be the occasional cute puppy video they post. But for the most part it is postings about how cruel the world is. Sorry, that type of stuff does not bring me joy.

The beauty of social media is that you can turn it off and walk away. If you see something you don't like, say no. There are features that you can hide posts for a person. You also have the power to hit the unfriend button. If you are seeing things that do not bring you joy, turn the social media channel. For me I follow the people that make me laugh or inspire me. The ones that post political rants are hidden from my view. I have created my own social media channel with happy positive people and that brings me joy.

So this week focus on the word joy and the yes and no will no longer be a focus. Let joy lead the way!

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, September 14, 2016

My Two Weeks of "Yes"

I recently finished a book by Shonda Rhimes entitled "Year of Yes," where she spent a year of saying yes to things she normally would have said no to. I was intrigued by the book as I remember her getting interviewed on the book tour for it and how she stated she had lost a tremendous amount of weight during her year of yes.

Whenever a woman loses a significant of amount of weight in a healthy way I want to learn more. But reading this book was more than about learning how she lost weight, it was about how she overcame her fear of being an introvert.

I think it would surprise most people to learn that I consider myself an introvert, more likely an extroverted introvert. (Yes I probably just made that term up.) I hate walking into events not knowing anyone. Sure I can have conversations with strangers. But that moment of walking in with a room full of strangers causes me anxiety. I will sit in my car and wait for a friend to show up. I will not walk in by myself. Often I simply will stay home and not go because of the anxiety. I prefer a one on one conversation than a room full of people.

Don't get me wrong, I like to go to things, but I often say no if I have nobody to go with. I have to admit I have this crutch that gets me through most social events, his name is Ray and I have been with him since I was 16. He is willing to go to things with me. He is a great sport. But he is really a true introvert. He would choose staying home as his batteries are recharged by being in silence.

What this book did for me was to challenge me to really start to say "yes" to things I normally would say "no" to. The amount of things that I have been saying yes to is allowing me to see my community with new eyes. I am meeting new people and learning new skills.

In the last two weeks I have been asked to be a part of a few fundraisers, I said yes. I have been asked to chaperone my son's homecoming dance, I said yes. I have been asked to attend a cruise for a friend's wedding, I said yes. I was asked to speak as a leader on a training call, I said yes. I was asked to attend a meeting on a local collation on hoarding, I said yes. I was invited to a sorority alumni event, I said yes.

What all of these "yes's" made me realize is that it is up to me to be an active member of my community. Most communities have many opportunities if we just look. This week I am going to go to the library and see what they have to offer. Churches and community education have so many options. Start reading billboards at coffee shops to see what is going on. Read local magazines and newspapers for community events. 

There are reasons that we need to be a person who says yes. Personally I am working through my anxiety. But we also become a vibrant active community who gathers when times are good and then can gather when times are bad. I am going to continue my experiment of saying yes throughout the winter and see what happens. And if you see me out by myself at an event know that I walked into that event by giving myself a big pep talk in the parking lot!

So this week find what takes you out of your comfort zone that you can say yes to. Is it that junk drawer that needs to be organized, the phone call to a friend, the medical appointment that needs to be scheduled, the gym membership that needs to be purchased? Take a look and say YES!

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, September 6, 2016

Time to Slow Down

The other day I realized that my online reading habits have changed. I used to read all the way to the end of an article. Now I read the first sentence of each paragraph and if the first sentence grabs my attention, I will read to the end of the paragraph, but rarely do. 

And then last week I had a conversation with my book editor. She said I need more white space and have shorter paragraphs. She is a well-known editor and so I took her advice seriously.

I reflected back on my writing and often I had seven sentences in a paragraph. If I was to read my own stuff, I would miss much of it due to my current style of reading the first sentence only.

But then I got to thinking of other areas of my life and what I am just getting an abbreviated version. 

Start with my marriage. I listen with half an ear. I ask how my husband's day was but I am not really listening. I don't speak geek. I have tried. We have been together for 30 years. Believe me, I have tried. He now gives me the cliff notes version of his day and I try to listen and not think about what I am making for dinner.

And then I look at the stack of books I am currently reading but not finishing. Oh and I also have a few books on audible that I am listening too as well and not finishing. And I like listening to podcasts too. But I have to admit, if the podcast is over a certain length I won't listen to it. The short ones I can complete. 

I remember asking a friend who was a doctor if I had ADD. She told me no, that I simply have been a busy mom of three with no time to slow down. 

So this fall I am challenging myself to slow down. To savor my house and my life.

I started this weekend by starting an organizing project in my own house. Not only did I complete it but I expanded it to three rooms. Normally I would just quickly attack the project and leave it undone for months at a time, usually throwing the unfinished items to sort in a basket for another day. But sadly another day never came.

This weekend the rooms were done and it felt great. Items were dropped off for donation. Pictures were snapped and sent to my kids who are at college to see if they wanted anything. Returns were made to stores for items that needed returning. And items that needed to be given to people were boxed up and mailed off! Such an amazing feeling. 

I went on a walk today and listened to my audio book. While I drove I had my audio book playing. I am bound and determined to finish this book before I start the next one. Ironically the book is titled "Year of Yes" all about saying "yes" to things that you would normally say "no" to.

The last two weeks I have been scheduling time for coffee and lunch with friends who I have missed. I am now a professional listener. I ask questions and simply listen. I put my phone away. Unless I take a photo of us, then my phone comes out. I am slowing down.

In a society of instant gratification and thirty second cat videos, I ask you to slow down. Join me and let's start a revolution of slowing down. All it takes is a deep breath and a willingness to start. 

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

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.

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