I coined an interesting phrase recently when I was facilitating one of the teleclasses for my group coaching program, DECIDE to be Organized. I was speaking to the group about how so many high functioning, busy, successful men and women have all of these passions and get overwhelmed with trying to decide which to do and which to implement. I referred to the act of managing all of those passions as “Passion Management” (instead of Time Management, Project Management or Energy Management). Everyone loved the phrase and I realized I was onto something.

Passion Management acknowledges that we do, indeed, have multiple passions. I, for one, always refer to myself as a multi-passionate entrepreneur and person. Also, Passion Management is a much more positive way of describing our dilemma of what to do with all of these great ideas. Time management and project management are terms that are not only overused but, unfortunately, can be a negative reminder of our lack of time, as opposed to a motivating factor that leads to productivity.

Passion Management is the ability to manage all of the passions you want to tackle in business and life. Here are some tips to help guide your Passion Management.

Pick a Passion

Most multi-passionate people are swimming in a sea of great ideas, and often have the drive to make them happen. The conundrum is which passion to pursue. My advice — pick a passion and go for it! Author and life coach Cheryl Richardson talked about this when I heard her speak in NYC years ago. She said that so many of her clients get stuck because they have so many great ideas and passions, but don’t know which to pursue. So they wind up pursuing… yup, you guessed it — nothing. Don’t fall v ictim to passion confusion! It is better to pick a passion and allow it to blossom and flourish than to be trapped under a mountain of too many great ideas. If you pick a passion and it does not go well or does not take off the way you wanted it to, that’s okay. Regroup, learn from your passion exercise, and pick a new one.

Tap Into Your Passion

One of the best ways to determine what you should (and want to) focus on is to tap into your passion. Sometimes we lose focus with our business or personal projects and we need to take the time to remind ourselves what we value and why we are staying the course. It is all too easy to get bogged down in details and tasks. Try to ask yourself, “Why am I really doing this project?” and see if there is a reason that relates back to one of your passions, whether perso nal or professional. For example, maybe you are feeling the crunch of trying to blog several times a week. Ask yourself why you set this schedule and whether it taps into one of your passions. If your passion is to write, then write! Do you need to stay on a particular schedule? Will anyone, but you, notice if you only write when your passion strikes? Sometimes we set ourselves up for failure, or more likely, undue stress, when we remain too regimented. Yes, I am a professional organizer and see the value in systems, processes, and timelines, trust me. But it is vital to check in and ask yourself: “Is this tapping into my passion?” If so, it will help propel you forward and remind you why you are doing this particular task or project. If you realize this task or project does not tap into any of your passions, you may decide to abandon the project, delegate the task, or reevaluate whether you want and need to continue it.

Ignore the Naysayers

Often, you are making actual progress towards achieving your passions, but someone tries to sabotage you. Try not to let this derail your efforts! You need to stay the course, despite what they say. If you are truly passionate about the project, you will be able to withstand attacks. The famous life coach Martha Beck talks about surrounding yourself with people who can be your “believing eyes.” I love this idea! Adopt it and use it as your own. Stay away from the Negative Nellies, and surround yourself with people who believe in your passionate goals and will help you achieve them. Passion is contagious and can not only serve as strong motivation for you, but as inspiration for others. People notice passion. In fact, in my opinion, people often notice passion more than they notice productivity!

Celebrate Your Passion Successes

When we take on a project or task and successfully complete it, we often reward ourself at the c ompletion. But when we pursue a passion, we may not have any reward system built in. In some situations, it is hard to determine when we have “completed” a passion. Passions are often ongoing. They can be a particular way of approaching a topic, or a passion can be a mindset or belief. But it is important to come up with some way of rewarding your successes and milestones when pursuing your passions. Figure out ways to evaluate whether you have achieved a certain level of success for a particular passion. The more successful you feel at each step, the more apt you are to keep moving on the path towards achieving your passion goals. And most passionate people just want to keep the passion going! Copyright © 2011 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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Copyright 2011. Lisa Montanaro, “The Solutions Expert,” is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for the general public, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com.  Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

Ah, procrastination. Most people experience it at one time or another. Procrastination can be a deep-seated problem involving fear of failure or success, or a natural result of overload. Regardless of why you are experiencing procrastination, there are ways to overcome it! How you choose to overcome procrastination depends on the task involved, the people involved, and the underlying reason for the procrastination. Take a look at the following strategies, and see which help conquer your procrastination the next time it rears its ugly head.

Get Started

  • Stuck on a task or project? Take a cue from Nike, and ‘Just Do It!’ Once you get started, you gain momentum and energy. Usually, all of the thinking about and dreading starting the task is worse than the actual task!

Don’t Start at the Beginning

  • Sometimes, you get tripped up on how to start an activity. Well, often times there is no rule that says you have to start at the beginning. Start somewhere else if that is easier and then work your way back to the beginning once you’ve made some progress and get a handle on the task or activity.

Take it One Step at a Time

  • Many people procrastinate simply because it’s too formidable a task or there isn’t enough time to do it now. But you don’t have to do it all now! Break the task into small, manageable segments, each with its own end in sight. This encourages motivation and discourages procrastination.

Involve Other People

  • Being accountable to someone else can be a very effective way to overcome procrastination. Collaborate by working with someone else to get the task or activity started and finished faster. Two minds (or pairs of hands) can be better than one! Or you can assemble an entire team if that is feasible. You can also barter with someone to do the parts of the task or activity that you don’t like or are not good at, and then in turn, do something you do like or are good at for him or her. Lastly, you can give the task or activity away altogether by delegating it to a family member, friend, employee or co-worker.

Set a “Finish Line”

  • Ever notice that we call the due date for a task or activity a “deadline?” We attach a negative concept to the tasks and activities we want to accomplish. When you complete a task or activity, it is not dead, merely completed. Think instead, or reaching a finish line, so that you view your task or activity as a game or race. On your mark, get set, go!

Cause and Effect

  • Use good old behavior modification tactics. Don’t allow yourself to do something else until you start or finish your project. Or set up a reward that you treat yourself to once you reach a certain milestone in the project or at its completion.

Copyright © 2011 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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Copyright 2011. Lisa Montanaro, “The Solutions Expert,” is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for the general public, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com.  Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

Millions of Americans vow to be better organized every year. But did you know that being more organized can save you money? Yes indeed! Here’s how.

  • Organized finances – If your financial papers and systems are organized, you can easily assess your budget, track your spending and see where to cut corners if need be. It will be easier to access all the details of your accounts and finances. Knowledge is power and when your financial life is accessible and trackable, it usually results in more savings. An added bonus — you won’t have as many missed tax deductions due to your improved financial record keeping systems.
  • Effective bill paying system – Just imagine — no late fees or overdraft fees, your credit score goes up, and your interest rates go down. Sound like a dream? It is a reality for those that have an effective, and on-time bill paying system. By keeping track of your bills, and paying them on time, you can save a significant amount of money as finance charges and late fees can range from $1 to more than $35 per month. Setting up online bill paying and automatic bank account deductions can make financial organization painless, save you, money and protect your credit rating.
  • Donations = tax deductions – When clearing out your space, you may sometimes uncover items that you no longer need and cannot return to the store but are valuable to someone else. Charities need your excess stuff and you get a tax deduction.
  • Unwanted clutter for sale – You can sell your unwanted items (online, locally or through consignment) and cash in! Online services such as eBay and Craigslist are two ways to sell your items for fast cash. Consignment stores are another way to sell perfectly good clothing if you choose not to donate your items. Selling your items this way is usually quicker (and far easier) and results in more money than taking the time to have a garage sale.
  • No more duplicates – Many disorganized people buy duplicates or items in bulk that become obsolete due to expiration, failure to store properly, etc. Replacing items that have been “lost” or buried under the clutter is a big money waster because when the item has to be purchased again you are spending money you didn’t need to. By clearing clutter it allows you to see what you have and you don’t need to over buy.
  • Organized meal planning and shopping – By knowing what is in the refrigerator and cupboards of your kitchen, you won’t be over-buying and having food going to waste. Also, making a shopping list and planning out your menus in advance helps. An added bonus is that eating at home more frequently is less expensive than eating out.
  • Home and car maintenance – Keep on top of home repairs and car maintenance. If you take better care of the things you own, they will break down less frequently. Some examples include servicing your heating and air conditioning systems at home, changing the oil in your car, etc.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute – Another reason to be organized is to avoid paying a premium for things at the last minute because you are up against a deadline. Some ways to avoid late fees is to record due dates in a daily planner, sign up for email at the library to receive notices of overdue books before they incur a fine, buy gifts in advance, and book travel plans early. Also, you can save money by using your coupons, store credits, and gift cards before they expire, and sending in rebates on time.

The above tips are just a few ways that being organized can save you money. And who wouldn’t want to put some more money in his or her pocket in this “new economy”? So get organized, and reap the benefits financially.

Copyright © 2011 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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Copyright 2011. Lisa Montanaro, “The Solutions Expert,” is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for the general public, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com.  Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

Professional Organizer + Disorganized Friend = Valuable Lessons

First, let me start by saying that, if it weren’t for my friend, Tracy, I probably would not even be a professional organizer, or at least, it would have taken longer to find the profession that is my true calling.  Tracy, demonstrating the intuitiveness that I have come to know is her classic style, guided me to the field of professional organizing in 1999.  I was living in Michigan at the time and working as a lawyer–the career I trained, studied, and prepared for most of my life, and which has never brought me real satisfaction–and expressed to Tracy that I wanted to do something more creative, hands-on, and that would directly help people.  My husband, Sean, whom I also must give credit to for helping guide me to professional organizing, used to tease that what I was really excellent at was planning lives.  Indeed, his slogan for my not-yet-created organizing and coaching business was “Montanaro, Inc. – We Plan Lives.”

Tracy was surfing the Web and discovered the National Association of Professional Organizers website (www.NAPO.net),  as well as that of the local New York Chapter.  She forwarded the link to me by e-mail and basically said, “See, what you do is a ‘real’ profession!”  This was news to me.  I thought, “People pay to have their lives organized?  There are ‘professional organizers’ who do this type of work for a living? Amazing. And awesome!”  I then spent a lot of time researching the profession, as well as brainstorming how and when I could “legitimize” my organizing skills by launching a business.

It wasn’t until the year 2000 when I relocated back to New York where my husband and I are originally from, that I seriously explored the organizing world as a profession.  I attended a one-day conference sponsored by NAPO-NY, “Putting the ‘Professional’ Into Professional Organizing.”   It was there that I learned what is involved in running an organizing business and what sets a professional organizer apart from someone who merely likes to organize.  I realized that I have been organizing people’s lives on an “amateur” level my whole life, and that my organizing and coaching skills transcended my work as a lawyer, educator, mediator, administrator, writer, public speaker, and performer.  Becoming more excited at the prospect of launching a business as a professional organizer, I decided to “practice” on Tracy, one of my closest friends.

Tracy and I met through our high school chorus, and were co-stars of our high school musical.  Our friendship blossomed over the years through college, graduate school, relocation, and marriage.  We always supported each other and considered the other a nice combination of a guardian angel and a tough cookie; hence, our nicknames for each other–Thelma (Tracy) and Louise (Lisa).  I had been providing organizing and coaching services for Tracy for years: assisting her with writing letters to creditors, planning her vacations, reviewing her resume and cover letters, preparing her for job interviews, etc.  It seemed only natural to start my career as a professional organizer with my number one consistent informal client, my disorganized, but brilliant and wonderful, friend.

Interestingly, some people thought this was not such a great idea.  “Don’t mix business with pleasure,” is the old adage.  “You don’t want to spoil the friendship if something goes wrong,” people warned.  As a lawyer, I often referred friends and family to other lawyers when asked to assist, often because the area of law was one that I did not practice in but, sometimes, because I did not want to mix business with pleasure.  Yet, I felt entirely comfortable doing organizing work for Tracy.  “Well, she IS one of your best friends, and you had been doing organizing work with her all along,” you may be thinking.  This is true, although the work I had been doing for Tracy all along was never part of an official professional endeavor.  No, the reason I chose to do organizing work for Tracy was because it just felt natural.  Not just natural; more like it was what I was supposed to be doing.

So we started.  My first task was to plan her wedding and honeymoon in 2001.  Success.  We then moved onto organizing some of the rooms of the newlyweds’ apartment.  Done.  In 2002-2003, I assisted Tracy and her husband Mike with the first-time home buying process.  Voila—they now live only a few miles from my husband and I in the beautiful Hudson River Valley of NY.  Over the years, I have repeatedly provided organizing assistance to Tracy.  We have delved into time management, space planning, bill paying systems, paper management , and organized the master bedroom, master bathroom and home office.

Tracy is an extremely intelligent, self-aware woman who has made great strides when it comes to organizing, and benefits greatly from working with an organizer.  You may be wondering why she needed an organizer in the first place if she is so smart.  It is a common misconception that an intelligent individual who has it “together” does not need an organizer, and would not benefit from professional organizing assistance.  My clients are intelligent individuals that excel at many skills and have many talents.  However, they need assistance with organizing.  Organizing is a skill, but it is not taught in schools (a fact that NAPO is trying to change – check out NAPO in the Schools on the NAPO site).  My clients may not have had the benefit of a parent, teacher, mentor, work colleague, or friend that could serve as a role model with regard to organizing skills.  Some of my clients are organized at home, but not at work, or visa versa.  Some are organized physically, but their time management skills are lacking.  In other words, there is no standard disorganized person profile.  My clients all have their own strengths and weaknesses, and that is why good organizing means tailoring the system to match the needs of the client.

Due to her background and intelligence, I knew one way to reach Tracy was by helping her to examine the psychological side of being disorganized.  She is an avid reader (as well as one hell of an editor, proofreader and writer!) and has digested a plethora of organizing books.  She approaches each book as a true researcher, going deep into the topic, highlighting the pages, and marking them up with notes in the margins.  She then discusses them with me, giving me the important client-focused perspective.  She is convinced that her lifetime of struggling with organizing her time, space, paper and possession stems from having ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).  Her light bulb moment has brought her a sense of clarity and understanding, as well as a renewed sense of hope that she can overcome these obstacles with the proper coping mechanisms and systems in place.  Furthermore, she is planning to write a book to share her story so that others can benefit from her knowledge and experiences with ADD and disorganization.

Indeed, that is what I have gained from this relationship.  While many outsiders may only see the benefit Tracy has received from being the guinea pig that I practiced on early on in my organizing career, I have truly benefited too.  I have been able to follow her struggles, research, revelation, and education process, while honing my skills and developing my unique approach to organizing systems.  This organizer-client relationship with a close friend proves that you can mix business with pleasure and not only have the friendship survive despite the business relationship, but improve the friendship and business because of it.

Copyright 2009 © Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

It is difficult enough for one person to be organized and maintain that state of organization on a daily basis. Now imagine being thrust into a living situation with a person you have never met before, who is not a relative or even a friend. A person with different sleeping, grooming, eating, and studying habits, who may be from a different background or culture, and who has a different schedule and interests to boot. Enter the college roommate. When described in the abstract, the college roommate situation reads like a recipe for disaster. Yet, thousands of college students manage to live successfully and harmoniously every year with a roommate who, just days before the beginning of the semester, they had no contact with. Often times, this exercise in living is a wonderful entrance into the “real world” for college students and can serve as an example of the importance of compromise and flexibility that will serve the student in years to come.

Two such young women decided to work with a professional organizer and life coach, hoping to not only improve their living situation, but their overall lives and habits as well. Let their experience serve as an inspiration to all roommates, college or otherwise, who find themselves living in close quarters with a person they’ve never shared a space with before.

Meet Marta and Maria: So Alike and Yet So Different

Marta Anderson-Winchell and Maria Boere found out they were each other’s roommates about one week prior to heading to college. They had never met before.  In many respects, Marta and Maria have a lot in common. Both entered Pace University in September 2003 as freshman and reside on the Briarcliff, New York campus, in the suburbs of New York City. Both attend Pace on a soccer scholarship, are interested in pursuing a career in human services, maintain good grades, and consider themselves family oriented. Yet, there are many differences between the two young women. Marta not only plays soccer for Pace, but also basketball, which forces her to engage in some serious time management. Marta’s family lives within an hour’s drive from campus, which means being able to head home every two weeks to do laundry. Maria isn’t so lucky, as her family resides in Nashville, Tennessee. Maria shared a room back home with her older sister, while Marta never had to share her space before. Although in the same year of college, they are almost an entire year apart. Most importantly, however, is the fact that the two have very different habits when it comes to organizing and maintaining their space and lives.

When I first visited Marta and Maria, I was struck by how small their dorm room is, but isn’t that par for the course in college? What separates organizing a college dorm room from a traditional house bedroom is that the college dorm room must function as a lot more than just a place to sleep. If you split the dorm room into zones, you realize how multi-functional the space must be. There is the sleeping zone (bed and dresser), the dressing zone (armoire style closets), the food zone (mini-refrigerator and dry food storage), the studying zone (desk and bookshelf), and the hanging out zone (television and chair). That is an awful lot of stuff to cram into one space, but then you also need to double almost everything in order to accommodate two people. It’s no wonder college students are often disorganized – there’s too much stuff in one little space!

Maria is a self-professed procrastinator. She likes things clean but let’s the chores go until she cannot stand it anymore (sound familiar, all you procrastinators out there?). In fact, she will let her laundry pile up until she runs out of undies (if she runs out of clothing such as sweatshirts, however, she often steals Marta’s!). She admits that this stresses her out and she’d like to “change her ways.” Marta does more of the general straightening of the room on a daily basis, while Maria actually does more of the cleaning, such as sweeping and mopping the floors. Neither really likes to or has time to cook, so they usually eat in the cafeteria, but they do keep some food staples in their room (although not near the fridge, but we’ll get to that later).

Doing Better Than They Think But There Is Room For Improvement…

So how are they doing? Not bad. Not bad at all. For two people who have never lived together before, Marta and Maria have managed to figure out a way to make it work. Instead of working against each other’s weaknesses, they compensate for each other. Heck, some married couples could learn from these two! But before we give them a freshman-student-living-together-harmoniously-award, let’s focus on what can be improved.

The actual room set up and design is working. However, Marta and Maria have a huge bean bag chair in the middle of their room. When asked if either ever really sit on it, the answer is once in awhile. Do guests sit on it? Sometimes. How often do they have guests? Not that often. Thus, we discussed storing the chair under Maria’s bed where there was adequate space. That would give a sense of openness to the small room. When guests drop by, they can just take beanie out from under the bed. Interestingly, once we discussed moving the bean bag chair from its precious center room location, the two confided during a later visit that they have been using it more often! Sometimes, when faced with the prospect of purging or relocating an item, a person realizes its value and begins to appreciate it and use it. At least now, however, when it is not being used, it has a “home” to go to that is a bit more out of the way.

Another design flaw of the room organization is that the dry food and cooking supplies are stored on the sole shelving unit across the room from the small fridge. I recommended moving the food and cooking supplies to an open area next to the fridge, which is now unused space. It is a narrow space but there is a lot of room vertically. Often times, vertical space is sorely underutilized and can provide the answer to a storage problem.  So we used a narrow, but tall, clear plastic drawer unit with 5 smaller drawers on top, and 2 deep drawers on the bottom. All of the food easily fit in, as well as the few cooking supplies. Now, they have an actual “food zone.” An additional advantage to this reorganization is that it freed up the shelves where the food used to be for storing things like videos, CDs, photo albums, and their toiletry carts (the bathrooms are down the hall, which means carrying toiletries back and forth). We stored those items in pretty open wicker baskets of varying sizes with removable cotton muslin lining for ease of cleaning. The design provides easy access as the baskets are open, and add charm to the space. We used a matching, but smaller, wicker basket to store extra videos that they watch more frequently on top of the television.

The clothes inside their small armoire closets are pretty well organized. However, their shoes are actually on top of their armoires. They claim they can easily see and reach the shoes up there, and they do not want them in the bottom of the closets so the shoes can air out properly after use (remember we are talking athletes here…). One thing organizers know to do is to work “with” the client, so we left the shoes up there as the system works for them.

As for Maria and her laundry, I recommended setting aside one night per week after soccer practice as “laundry night”. Using positive association, I offered up Thursday night as she can put in her laundry before Friends begins, watch the half hour episode, and then switch the clothes to the dryer. She can then take an hour or so to check and reply to e-mail, and then fold the clothes while listening to she and Marta’s favorite radio show, the Delilah show (which they bonded over when they first moved in together and realized they were both huge fans) while winding down before bed. Using positive association will help Maria not dread laundry, but instead think of it in association with fun television shows, e-mailing friends and family, and winding down with music and perhaps a chat with Marta. Having her laundry done every week will also avoid the pile up that stresses her out and causes her to run out of clothing. She gave this a try and said it did help somewhat. I reminded her that it takes time to make new habits, so she plans to keep at it. I have no doubt she will improve her laundry situation as she is motivated to change this behavior, despite her tendencies towards procrastination.

What Does the Future Hold?

Marta and Maria plan to continue living together as roommates in their sophomore year. They already heard that they are moving to a different dorm. Their actual room will be smaller (yikes!), but it will be part of a suite with another room for two other students, and a common living room and bathroom for all four to share. I have no doubt that they will make the smaller space work, and I plan to check in on them to see whether they have been able to maintain the organized systems we put in place. And when I do, I imagine they will whip out the bean bag chair from under the bed for me to sit on. After all, I may be their professional organizer, but I am also their guest.

This article originally appeared in Balance magazine in 2003.
Copyright © 2003 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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Copyright 2003. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

While “green” and organizing may sound unrelated, promoting green consciousness is a natural extension of the organizing process.  Professional organizers enter homes and businesses on a regular basis, and armed with proper knowledge, a professional organizer can assist clients in becoming more Earth-friendly.  As the Chair of my Town’s Earth Day Clean Sweep for the past five years, I am well aware of the importance of reducing and recycling, and relish the opportunity to influence clients and the general public in this regard.

What can you do to get better organized in a “green-friendly” way?  Here are some tips.

  • Think Before You Buy – Try to transform your buying habits so that you are not accumulating too many items in the first place.  Most of the environmental damage is done in the manufacturing stage, so the less consumerism, the better.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans produced 254.1 million tons of household trash in the year 2007 alone.  In 2008, however, as a result of the economic recession and the resulting decrease in disposable incomes, landfills reported a 30% decline in waste levels.
  • Pay bills Online – According to Javelin Strategy & Research, 53% of Americans currently use online banking services, rising to an estimated 67% by 2012.  The report also estimates that Americans could prevent the logging of 16.5 million trees every year if all Americans switched from paper bills to Internet banking.
  • Repurpose and Reuse – Consider repurposing or reusing existing items in creative ways to avoid buying more and to give new life to forgotten items that are just taking up space.
  • Recycle – Throughout the sorting, purging, and organizing process, think of the benefits of recycling.  Often times, a person is unaware of the recycling guidelines in his or her particular area, or whether a particular item can be recycled at all.  For a list of lesser-known recycling programs, visit the Donation and Recycling Resources page of my website at https://www.lisamontanaro.com/donations.html.  Get educated so you can stop adding to landfills and recycle more.  Consider setting up an organized recycling center in your home or business to make it as easy as possible to recycle.
  • Donate – Remember, recycling includes donating items that you no longer love, need, or use often to those who could truly put those items to good use.  Adopt a charity, or even a particular family to donate to (check out www.TangibleKarma.com).  If you just want to unload items for free, consider giving them away on Freecycle (www.Freecycle.org).

Think “green” when organizing.  You will not only be able to reduce your clutter and find things more easily, you will be helping the Earth in the process.

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

Spring marks the transition from winter into summer. It is a time that most of us equate with renewal, increasing day length, and a symbolic changing of the seasons. Spring is seen as a time of growth, when new life (both plant and animal) are born. The term is also used more generally as a metaphor for the start of better times. For many, it is also a time for cleaning and organizing – i.e., the Spring Fling!

During the winter, we tend to stockpile. It is in our nature. Chances are you’ve got some clutter left over at work, at home, in your car, on your computer, and in your head. This is an ideal time to do some eliminating. The old adage, “Out with the old, in with the new” definitely applies this season. To help you with your Spring Fling, the following are some tips for clearing the clutter.

    • Purge Your Paper Inbox – When is the last time you’ve seen the bottom of your paper inbox at work and at home? Make it a goal this spring. Develop a paper management system to try to keep it that way.
    • Eliminate Email Clutter – Schedule some time to clear your email inbox. Delete unnecessary emails, capture contact information, delegate tasks that can be done by someone else, send those “replies” finally, and set up filters and folders to avoid back-log in the future. Once you get your email inbox down to one page (where you can see all emails without having to scroll down), try to maintain it.
    • Go on a Calendar Diet – Take a look at your busy calendar and try to clear 2-3 social or work obligations that you said “yes” to that you now realize you should not have. We all do it (yes, even the professional organizer/time management expert!). Time is limited and precious, so think carefully about what you want to fill it with.
    • Switch Clothes– If you have not already done so, this is the perfect time to switch your clothes from the cold weather items to the warm weather ones. Make 4 categories:
      1. Purge (damaged clothes)
      2. Donate (clothes that do not fit, you do not like, or that are out of style, but can be worn by those in need)
      3. Keep (clothes that fit, that you love and wear often)
      4. Dry Cleaning/Tailoring (clothes that need to be professionally dry cleaned or mended).
    • Retire the Christmas Decorations – You think I am kidding on this one. I am not. You know who you are. If the Christmas decorations are still up outside or inside your home, it is high time you put them away. Go do it, now. Your neighbors will thank you.
    • Take Care of Your Taxes – Yes, the official tax-filing deadline for personal income taxes is April 15th. However, many people take an extension, which means they will be filing this summer. Stop procrastinating! Gather the documents to get those taxes done. And for those of you that already filed, purge old tax records that no longer need to be saved (check with your accountant, but generally, the average person needs to maintain 7 years of tax records in case of an audit claiming fraud). Don’t forget to shred!
    • Declutter the Car – You will be passing many car washes held by various charities this time of year. You’d like to get your car cleaned, but you don’t want anyone to see the inside! Sound familiar? Clear that car clutter. Empty out the garbage that has accumulated, bring in items that you purchased that are sitting in bags in the trunk, and return all sorts of “stuff” to its place in the home or office that found its way into your car. Ah, now go get that car wash or, better yet, treat yourself to a full car detailing.
    • Organize Outlying Areas – Clear clutter in the garage and shed so that you can find the things you need this spring and summer. Take out the patio furniture and grill, dust off the bikes, and put away the snow blower. If you can’t reach the lawnmower, chances are you will not use it as much. You may have put the Christmas decorations away, but with that jungle you call a yard, your neighbors will still not like you very much.
    • Mend the Medicine Cabinet – Clear out any winter medications that you stockpiled, such as cough medicine and cough drops that have expired. Ditto for prescription medications that have expired. Buy yourself some new sunscreen, as that also has a limited shelf life.
    • Makeup Makeover – Makeup attracts bacteria. Therefore, purge any makeup that is “old.” While there is no exact life span for makeup, if you haven’t used it in a year, it is time to go. For more exacting makeup safety guidelines, visit http://tinyurl.com/punhg9.
  • Overhaul Your Toothbrush – You should replace your toothbrush every 3 months. Period. Get a new one. It feels great!

There you have it — the Spring Fling checklist. Take your time, and work through it. I guarantee you will feel a sense of renewal, while clearing the way for a productive and pleasant summer season.

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

Well, summer is finally here, and for many people, that means vacation time!  Whether you plan to drive, fly, or travel by other means (a cruise, perhaps?), planning ahead will help your travel experience go off without a hitch.

I not only love to travel, I love to plan to travel. I can spend hours researching locales and lodging choices, preparing itineraries, packing, etc. Therefore, it seems only fitting to share some of my well-honed travel planning tips so that you can benefit from my travel planning addiction, and enjoy an organized travel experience. The 11 tips that follow may be common sense, but are not always commonly applied.

  • Create a Personalized Packing List – Create a packing list on your computer so that you can revise it constantly as you travel and realize what you forgot and would have liked with you, and what you could have left behind. My packing list is organized into the following major categories: Essentials, For Business, For the Beach, For Overseas Travel, For Active Vacations. It is then further broken down into subcategories that are specific enough to easily grab and check off each item without too much forethought (and certainly without that nagging feeling of forgetting something). My list has been customized over years of traveling. Make your list work for you and your family by personalizing it to match your needs.
  • Freshen Up Your Suitcases – Air out your bags before you pack. There is nothing worse than putting clean clothes in a stale smelling bag. (Hint: A scented dryer sheet or lavender sachet can work wonders.)
  • Check Luggage Guidelines – Go online and check your airline’s luggage guidelines to ensure that your carry on will fit, and that you will not be charged extra if you exceed the weight restriction.
  • Pre-Pack and Weigh – Print out your packing list in advance, and start laying out items so that you can get a visual snapshot of what you are bringing. It is wise to pre-pack in advance, especially with today’s strict airline luggage guidelines. I even recommend putting the items in the suitcase and weighing it. Better to know if you will make the cut at home when you can still remove things than to suffer an unexpected luggage fee at the airport.
  • Pack Extra Storage Bags – Pack a few storage bags for small items, like shoes, etc. Make sure that one is waterproof in case you need to pack wet bathing suits on the trip back home.
  • Get Your Gadgets in Order – Empty memory cards, and charge your phone and camera before you leave home. Consolidate power cords, chargers and extra batteries in your carry-on.
  • Refill Prescriptions – Refill prescription medications in advance, and pack in your carry-on in their original packaging in order to pass muster with the TSA. This also provides you with an easy way to remember the exact specifications in the rare event that the medication gets destroyed (melts in the sun, gets wet, etc.) or you are delayed longer than expected, and need to arrange a refill while still away from home.
  • Copy Important Documents – Carry duplicates of your passport and visa (if traveling outside of the country), travel itinerary, and any other vital documents that you need for safe travel, and keep them in a different location than the originals while traveling. Consider also emailing electronic copies to yourself or storing at a secure online site.
  • Give Your Wallet a Diet – Pare down the contents of your wallet to only what you need during travel. Only bring essential documents, such as driver’s license, medical insurance card (check to see if you have coverage if going outside of the country), passport, and credit cards.
  • Alert Credit Card Companies – Contact your bank and credit cards companies before you depart and inform them that you will be traveling, so that they will not be alarmed by out-of-town charges and put a security hold on your account.
  • Inventory the Contents of Your Suitcase – Take photos of your clothes, shoes, and jewelry, which will serve as documentation if your luggage gets lost or stolen. Download the shots onto your home computer or upload them to an online site just in case. It may seem like overkill (don’t all insurance and risk management measures seem so unless you need them?), but it will save you a lot of stress and money if your luggage gets lost or stolen, as well as peace of mind while traveling.

Now, you are prepared to travel. You can relax knowing that the essentials are in order. Enjoy, explore, and make great summer vacation memories. Bon voyage!

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I was working with a client recently to organize her home papers. We were purging papers that were no longer needed, and sorting the keepers into categories so that we could put them into files for future retrieval. So far, so good. My client confided that she considers herself organized at work, and actually likes a fairly clutter-free environment. She shared that at home, however, she has a really hard time dealing with paper. This is not uncommon. Some clients can maintain organizing systems at work, and not at home, while others can keep it together at home, but things fall apart at work. There are many reasons for this organizing disparity, and I assumed that as I worked with this client, the reasons would surface.

And surface they did. As soon as we started to set up the filing system, I noticed that my client lacked confidence in her decisions. When I would ask her what to name a certain file, she would get very nervous, mention a possible name, then second-guess herself almost immediately. She became visibly distressed, and started to lose steam. We took a break, and started discussing what she was feeling. She was feeling overwhelmed with choices, and was scared that she would make the wrong choice (her words) and not be able to find papers when she needed them later on. This, my friends, is what happens when someone does not trust his or her instincts when organizing.

It is not a surprise that my client became overwhelmed as soon as we got to the implementation phase. This is when you set up the organizing system in a way that makes sense to you, and can be integrated into your life (for more information on the stages of organizing, check out my unique approach to organizing, DECIDE). For many people, this is the toughest part, as it requires the person to make decisions and own them. If a person lacks confidence in his or her ability to set up a system or to maintain it, that lack of confidence usually manifests itself through indecision. For my client, this reared its ugly head more at home than at work. At work, often the systems are already in place and an employee merely has to follow them. For some, this makes it harder as the system may be far from what he or she would have created. However, for others, following a ready-made system is easier as it takes the decision-making part out of the equation.

So what to do? Use your instincts. Go with your gut.

If you were unfortunate enough to have to sit for the SAT exam in high school, you may remember the common tip that people would give: do not change your first answer, as it is usually the right one. You can say the same thing when it comes to organizing systems. I often will say to a client when they are having a hard time choosing a name for a file, “Quick, what file name would you think to look for this paper under?” I am trying to make my clients use free association, and not over-think the naming process. File names are only important when it comes to retrieval, not storage. Most people get caught up in what to name a file because they are focusing on the front-end – the storage process. But filing is most important on the back-end, during the retrieval process, when you need to access something quickly after time has gone by and your memory is not as fresh.

I am amazed how often clients will fight their natural organizing habits and tendencies. For example, a client will explain that he is having a hard time with mail being everywhere in his home. He will advise that he has a mail slot system but is not using it. I ask why. He tells me it is hanging by the front door, but he uses the back door. I then suggest moving the mail slot to hang near the back door. My client will say, “Oh that makes sense, why didn’t I ever think of that?” Sometimes the easiest solution is staring you right in the face, but you don’t trust yourself to grab it. Organizing systems should be intuitive, not difficult.

Back to my recent client. She realized that she wanted to set up her filing system by using each family member’s name and then using sub-categories within each person’s file area. For example, let’s say her son’s name is Tom. She wanted to have a main category called Tom, and then file folders within that category for Tom-Auto, Tom-Education, Tom-Medical, Tom-Work, etc. The reason for this, she explained, is that she tends to think of each person as a universe unto him- or herself. Once she is within that universe, then she wants to break it down by subject matter category. Others set up their filing systems based on main subject matter categories of Auto, Education, Medical, Work, etc. and then use each family member’s name as the sub-categories and file folders within.

Which is right? Well, both, actually. It depends on the way your brain thinks about and processes paper. For my client, this system worked. As soon as we set up her filing system in this manner, I could see her confidence come back and her spirits rise. This felt “right” to her. She just lacked the confidence to try it before.

So, when organizing, trust your instincts. They usually guide you to a great solution. 

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

To-do lists. Just the name of them sounds exhausting. They have become the thorn in many of my client’s side. Whether they are written in long form on paper, or maintained electronically on a computer or handheld device, they cause much stress.

And here’s one reason why. Most people unknowingly combine their master to-do list and daily to-do list together. This one act causes the list to become lengthy and overwhelming, which in turn almost guarantees failure. The person with this massive all-in-one to-do list will either abort the list altogether, or try desperately to get tasks done, all the while feeling inadequate and like a failure due to his or her inability to accomplish the items on the list.

What to do (yes, pun intended!)? Keep ’em separated!

Create a master to-do list and a separate daily to-do list. The master list includes tasks you plan to and want to get to, but cannot accomplish in one day, similar to a project list. Your daily list is only made up of the tasks you intend to, and can realistically accomplish, in one day, which is usually only about 3-5 items. The daily list puts your master list into action on a daily basis. That way, you get the satisfaction of actually crossing off your daily to-do’s, but have a more comprehensive list so you don’t forget tasks you need to tend to at some point later on.

 

Here’s an example. You need to do a home renovation project like paint your basement. Your master to-do list reads: paint basement. But the daily to-do list will break down that master item into several separate entries over a longer period of time.

  • Monday: choose paint color
  • Tuesday: call 3 painters for estimates (this is called delegating, but let’s save that for a future blog post!)
  • Wednesday: clear furniture from area to be painted
  • Thursday: buy paint.

Get the picture? The master to-do list names the project and the daily to-do list breaks out the action steps in a manageable, reasonable and realistic manner in order to accomplish that project. That way, the items actually get done. And isn’t that what a to-do list is supposed to be for anyway?

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.