Category: Organizing Tips

What Really Matters

Will today’s emergency even be remembered? Will that thing you’re particularly anxious about have been hardly worth the time you put into it?

Better Question: What could you do today that would matter a year from now? Seth Godin


Anxiety became a part of my life at about age 20. I can’t say that before then I didn’t worry but it never caused me to lose sleep or suffer panic attacks. I was young and had no life experience. I was making decisions for myself with no thought about my goals. As a matter of fact, I had no goals.

My world was changing drastically and I guess you could say I was free falling, hanging onto my childhood and life at home for dear life. There was no push for me to go to college and even though I got good grades in high school, I had never thought about a career. In 1973 girls were still given a pass if they chose not to go to college. I had no money saved and going against type, I just left junior college without even withdrawing. I was bored and lost.

While I realize that my parent’s going through a heartbreaking divorce at the time had moved the needle toward anxiety, I cannot blame them or their choices for my own. High School was such a haven for me that I truly thought it would go on forever. How could I be so responsible yet so immature? I was definitely on a path to learn the hard way.

After reading the above quote from Seth Godin, I thought about what it meant. It seems obvious, the daily worries will subside and it’s better to plan for your future. I reread it many times to understand that anxiousness and worry are a dead end waste of energy. Then I realized that it took ENERGY (Definition: the capacity for vigorous activity; available power) to create my anxiety and more ENERGY to work through a panic attack. The lightbulb came on this morning to a solution — treat energy as a tangible thing, not just a feeling.

I’ve started taking a minute to test my energy level for every task of the day. Starting with just one day is less overwhelming. I’m trying to make my daily structure fulfilling and productive. Even cleaning a bathroom can be satisfying when you see the end result. Once the bathroom is clean, it leads to rearranging and moving things. A picture straightened and appreciated, a glass vase looking better on the other side of the sink with the dust being wiped off, the reflection in the mirror is better when there are no water marks on it. I began a process of being slow, steady and paying attention to what is front of me. While I am organizing and cleaning, my brain starts to sort itself out too. I faced each day calmer. My focus was better — instead of anxious I started to feel motivated.

My Energy Source

I was not ready for the world at 20 because I did not look at it as a great and wonderful source of choices. I was closed off to adventure. I stayed safe within the confines of pleasing. I followed the expected path. It doesn’t really please anyone to do what you think they want from you. The energy is directed away from your soul and dissipates out in the air with nothing to show for it. I now visualize my energy floating away — a great vision to check on myself.

So I thought about what and where I get energy from and how it has replaced worry and anxiety:

  • Writing this Blog
  • Organizing a Mess (throwing it all in the middle and sorting before it goes back)
  • Knowing what I have — financial and material
  • Reading Biographies (I am fascinated to see how people get where they are)
  • Bodhi Leaf Coffee and it’s fireplace
  • Listening to kids and learning from them
  • Binge watching a TV show
  • Hallmark Christmas Movies
  • Family Time (grown kids are amazing friends who are honest and true)
I Need More Adventures

One thing missing on my list is “Planning Adventures” — I need to start small with day adventures and learn to leave the chores behind once in a while. Sometimes doing nothing accomplishes exactly what you need for the day.

The Eye Of Your Camera

I was thinking the other day about the history of family photos. I remembered my grandmother sitting down with me as an adult and opening a shoe box full of photos. That is all she had of her past. They were special and she could remember everything they said about her life. I got one day to soak it in with her. She is gone now and so are her thoughts about her life. If I could have one more day with her. . . .

Grams Had A Story

My parents took more pictures and my mom got creative with scrapbooks. She bought books with black paper and used a white ink pen to label them. She took so much love and care with each photo, carefully placing them in order and I’m sure smiling as she pasted them in. I treasure the pictures of my parents as newlyweds—they were just starting out with hopes and dreams. Kids rarely let their parents be people. It is too hard to see their reality next to the person you need them to be. Those pictures became all that was left when they divorced 23 years later. Both never let us sit together just one more time — the five of us — to hear their stories of life together. The chasm between them grew so big that they both erased their marriage and created new lives with new spouses. Kids deserve to have the family pictures preserved and not hidden away in boxes never to be looked at again.

Happy Marriage Stories — My Grandparents and My Parents

I am the generation that started with paper photos and transitioned to digital memories sitting on a computer. I kept the scrapbook tradition and have many books that I made sure stayed current. I also have three baskets in a closet of paper photos that never made it into a scrapbook. I did have our VCR videos transferred to a USB device. Our videos are treasures but lopsided in having much more footage of our youngest child than our older ones. I have digital pictures on the cloud and wonder who will ever really see them when I’m gone. I’m determined to not let my stories go when I do.

I met my friends, Amanda and Kristi, at a conference in Texas by chance. I volunteered at the welcome desk and there they were in front of me checking in. Amanda was not on the list (we later found her) and we laughed all weekend about her crashing The Photo Organizers Conference. Their lives are in Canada (each on separate coasts) but their friendship with each other is real. I dared to work my way into becoming the third wheel — I am happy to be in that role!

Together they formed Memory Momentum and are always finding solutions for their clients to keep their memories alive and safe. They have experience and a sense of humor. They care about stories. They care that you will organize your pictures in a way that will be easy to understand and keep up. Here are a few of their thoughts in beginning to change how we think about organization and it’s meaning in our lives:

  • Organization does not mean perfection;
  • Organization optimizes the quality of life;
  • Having a system means less time overwhelmed and frazzled;
  • Keeping the system up means more time for fun and less time recreating the wheel;
  • Starting is the hardest part — let someone teach you how to begin and how to keep only what you love!

Here are their tips on valuing the photos we save:

  • DELETE — schedule it daily, weekly or monthly. Keep only the ones that have meaning for that month and year.
  • TELL YOUR STORY — your photos are your story. More does not mean clarity. It is too overwhelming to see 1000 pictures in our digital photo album. They lose their meaning. Pick the right ones and lose your guilt over deleting the ones that are not meaningful to you.
  • BE MORE INTENTIONAL WITH YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY — If you end up with 12 for the year (one a month) that tell your story, there is no need for 1000 that you will have trouble remembering in 10 years.

Do yourself a favor and immerse yourself in Amanda and Kristi’s witty photo-organizing wisdom! You can find them at www.memorymomentum.ca — Don’t worry you do not need your passport or a one-way ticket to Canada — they are experts at remotely working with you. A video meeting is just as much fun as meeting them at a welcome desk!

Simplify and Be Intentional — such a great way to live if you just let go of stuff. You don’t need to be perfect, just know what you treasure and Delete the things that weigh you down. Make sure that your memories are safe and available for future generations. Nothing tells a story better than what your eye sees while capturing a photo.

Your Story In The Eye of Your Camera

Share What You Do

Is it okay to feel special because you know how to do certain things that others don’t? Is it right to hold that knowledge close so that no one can replace you? I was thinking about passwords the other day and realized that no one knows how to get to the treasure map of complicated paths that lead to the world I have created on my computer and IPad.

Then I read this article from the New York Times “Get Your Digital Accounts Ready in Case of Death” and I thought about sharing! (I use Last Pass as my password manager and I need to get going on the family plan!)

There are many layers to how I keep my financial records and the skill with which I handle bill paying. It is truly all in my head and I can wake up any day of the month and know what needs to be paid and when a deposit is coming. It is a fun game and it keeps me on top of things that I really want to control (my family gets me). I set up automatic payments with the skill of a surgeon. I can print a financial statement with the fastest fingers in town. I can handle the books of a small company and within a month get a glimpse of its past, present and future. This is from a girl who was failing in math in high school!

I’m not sure I want to share what I do with others. I have written down a simple “how to” guide on basic information but I shudder to think that someone might actually have to take this over for me. It would seem that my life was unfinished. I want to end this strategy with everything at a zero balance — no debits and no credits. Everything balanced and spent. Is that a life well lived?

Those who hire me to organize their worlds say that they want me to teach them what I do but when we actually sit down to start ~~ their minds wander to other things and eventually they leave a tutorial session feeling comfortable that I am doing it for them. I am happy to explain and leave them “how to guides.” They are showered with notebooks that hold profit and loss reports and projections but I think that they just feel comforted knowing the notebooks are there. I believe, though, that anyone will learn what they need to when faced with the challenge.

Is this a good thing? I think the answer is that everyone has a talent and gravitates toward creating what they do best. Our lives are valuable and each day should be geared toward what you set out to accomplish. I am a terrible cook and actually do not enjoy doing any of it. I would rather be setting up files or cleaning. Luckily, my husband is terrific at it and has become the best bargain shopper since he took over. I never price checked or cared what I brought home. I would rather go out to eat which of course is a terrible way to budget. He makes our meals stretch and they are such a treat for me at the end of the day.

Then the question pops in my mind — do we trade for a few months so that the other knows what to do if necessary at some point. I think I will just update my “how to notebook” more regularly and he has kept his recipes in a family cookbook!

There should be a checklist for everyone contemplating living with someone. Oh I just found another favorite word — checklist. A checklist of chores/duties/careers/goals all the things that come with a life. Brainstorm who takes care of what — Re-visit it every year to make sure no one wants to switch. I am on it —

Next week I will get into family photos and what to do now that home movies and scrapbooks are a thing of the past. I have two amazing friends who organize photos as their business and can help set up a system and make it fun while doing it– check them out “Memory Momentum.” This is a project I don’t want to take on either. Sadly, memories and family pictures are on phones that may not last a lifetime. The sheer volume of everyone having over 1,000 pictures at one time lessens the value they hold for us. BUT how sad if I could never find this picture —

My sweet kids

Why Organize and Where To Start . . . .

I love watching the CBS This Morning Segments “Note to Self.” Lately, I have been longing for my younger self to give her some tips on organizing her priorities.

There are goals that I could have reached sooner had I realized how simple it would have been to make some commitments early —

  • Pick the first home to be a starter to help build a real estate portfolio of rental properties — I so wish I had kept my first home that was bought for $75,000 in 1979.
  • Don’t be fooled by lower interest rates and refinancing too often, you lose ground every time you re-up any loan for the same term.
  • Don’t start the habit of accumulating things — get out and have adventures instead. It’s really only the big occasions in life that you remember what you wore — BUT — you always remember a trip and who you were with.
  • Keep active forever — feeling good is essential to getting up every day and looking forward to new life experiences.
  • Never stop learning — be curious and stay current on all new technology.

I never asked myself where I want to be in 20/30/40 years. It was not even a flicker of a thought. I never worried about retirement and what that would look like. I thought every book that professed a new idea for success was mandatory reading for me. Buying a family home was huge in my life plan but I never realized how the percentage that it took of the family income would keep adventures out of the realm of possibility. I stopped riding bikes and running on a regular basis — why?

Don’t feel bad for me. My life is good:

  • I have learned to not accumulate clothes or books — there are many of both that I have donated over the last 10 years. Especially those instant business success books that didn’t translate into my success.
  • The closets and cupboards are not hiding unknown surprises. I don’t buy the stuff that used to fill them up — never to be seen again.
  • I graduated from college with my Bachelor Degree later in life. It was a regret I could not ignore — it was worth everything to have that piece of paper.
  • I go over my financial picture every week with the help of Quicken.
  • I love to work and have created a career that incorporates all that I do well and look forward to in my day — I have had many jobs and took the pieces of each that I loved and created When House Is Home.
  • I created this website and am learning how to live in a paperless world (at work and at home). I must admit though, Minecraft still escapes me.

What would you tell your younger self? Do you regret the choices you didn’t make? Is there still time to reach your goals? I say YES!

It’s Never Too Late To Be What You Might Have Been

P.S. I still need to work on bike riding and running — I will update you on my progress. . . . .

Before Anything ~~ There’s Organizing

Has this ever happened to you?

  • Walk around the house and wonder where all the “stuff” came from
  • Find that you’ve put everything under beds and shoved in closets and drawers
  • Feel anxious when you walk in the house
  • Never feel done with chores
  • Procrastinate paying bills and reconciling accounts

How to start. . . .

  • Pick a small task, start a timer and finish it within an hour
  • Pick one day a week devoted to organizing — no more than 2 hours and write it on your calendar
  • Put on your favorite podcast, music or tv show to keep you interested in finishing
  • Hire someone to help you start

I want this for you. I want to make it fun and something you look forward to. I want you to have more time for the things you want to do and not feel weighed down by clutter.

Tips to start . . . .

  1. Watch the Marie Kondo Series On Netflix ;
  2. Follow Clea and Joanna on their instagram organzing journey The Home Edit — they have built an amazing business and their pictures are inspiring ;
  3. Go to The Container Store and just browse all the possibilities for your home (it’s better to walk the aisles first, then you can shop online ;
  4. Make a list of all of your bank accounts, credit cards and loans to start painting a picture of your finances — You can start with Mint Money Manager it’s free ;
  5. Start following Houzz on Facebook for ideas and pictures of your dream home ;
  6. Walk your neighborhood to see what you drive past every day!

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