Review: Tickler File


Tickler File

Here’s the Tickler File I made for myself

  • easy to create
  • never expires – you can use it over and over again
  • easy to use – little decision making involved
  • no categories


  • challenging to find one set – up for you to jump into using
  • requires regular routines – probably new ones which can be challenging
  • with the full system, might be quite cumbersome
  • no categories
  • files could get overfilled


First, let’s get it out of the way – the name is just funny – Tickler File, or maybe it’s the idea of tickle that makes people giggle.  That seems to be part of the idea – these files are meant to tickle your memory so you won’t forget all the various things you are supposed to be doing.  And you can’t argue with that as a goal – to help you track what’s important and stay on top of things.  If only it was that simple.

Since many people I’ve mentioned this idea to have no idea what it is, let me begin with explaining what it is.  Ideally it seems to be a set of files that sits out on your desktop or some other surface for easy access.  You need hanging folders for each month of the year and some empty ones for the all the file folders.  Then you need file folders numbered 1-31, one for each day of the month generally.  Therefore, since this is February 20th, the front folder is February and the first file would be the one with the number 20 on it.  Behind the file with 20 is 21-28.  Then you’d see the March folder with 1-19 and then 29-31.  Next would be the folders for April, May etc.  At the end of today, you would move 20 to its spot in March.

The idea is that you put your various papers into the date that you need to deal with that specific paper.  Therefore, if you have to RSVP by the 28th, you might put the invitation into the 21st file, and make the decision and mail it on that day.  Or a bill that you need to pay on the March 5th goes into the 5 file.  Or you need to call that person on the 23rd.  When something comes up that you don’t need to deal with it in the next month, you drop it just into the correlating month folder and just as that month becomes relevant, you move the papers into their appropriate day.

You can probably see that for this system to be useful for anyone, they would need to check that day’s file daily.  As with any and every system, you have to use it.  And remember to use it.  Consistently and regularly use it.  This is often easier said than done.  It can be challenging anytime you try to implement a new way to handle your tasks – creating new routines – and with this system it isn’t necessarily obvious.  I think this system also requires that you have enough paper coming in that can get delegated to various days.

It’s easy to create and set up, including labeling – you need 31 file folders, a minimum of 16 hanging folders (one for each month and as many extra to hold all the file folders), and a container to hold all of them.  It will always work – since you simply move the old to the back.  The only decision that you need to make is when you will handle that thing you are putting into the system.  Of course, then when that day arrives, you do need to make decisions.  This system works for any papers – regardless of what action you might need to eventually take.

I got a lot of amusement out of the expressions I encountered when I would ask clerks if they happened to carry a tickler file system.  So, it’s not something that is readily available in local stores, even the national chains.  There appears to be a number that you can purchase online though I would be wary of any accordion styles (though I’m not a personal fan of accordion files in general).

For me, I simply don’t have enough paper to warrant files for each day of the month.  Though it occurred to me that it could be simplified by eliminating the daily and instead doing a weekly file folder – either 1-7, 8-14, 15-21, etc. or week 1, week 2, etc.

One of the most common struggles people face is trying to do too much on a given day (or even week).  It would be easy to drop papers into this system and not realize until the day of that there’s too much to realistically accomplish.

It also doesn’t break things down in any other way which means that I might end up working more that day when I had actually thought I would be home to make phone calls and check things on the computer.  It’s not often, although sometimes I want to get through all of one type of task – non-time sensitive phone calls is my prime example – and with this system they’d likely be divided up among various days since I limit the number of tasks for a given day.

Obviously this system has some great features and can be a good solution for some people.  Yet, it also would fail miserably for other people.  This might be an ideal example of how we each need to find what works for our situation and personality.  As well as an example of how you might need to tweak it to make it work better for you.  Nothing else really matters if it works for you!

Tasks – Big Picture View

I suspect that Stephen Covey is right when he commented that the “urgent” things in our life rather than the “important” things drive many of us.  The distinction between these two things comes down to whether those “things” further our goals, the long-term ones that give our life meaning.  If we’re repeatedly running from one urgent task to another urgent task then we’re not focusing or working on the big picture view of our lives.

Of course, Stephen Covey isn’t the only one telling us how important it is to plan, to be mindful of our goals – both short and long term ones – since most (if not all) time management experts address this concept.  When we avoid planning, it’s that much easier to focus our time and energy on working on those urgent tasks.  The urgent tasks tend to be in our face – virtually demanding our attention or something bad will happen, often the crises.

Yet if we only think about the immediate things that need our attention, when do work on the things that actually have value for our lives?  And don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy to shift our focus.

One of the most helpful ways to tackle this, for me anyway, was to think about the roles in my life.  Each role that I fill has meaning – whether it’s required or voluntary – and deserves my time and energy.  Not necessarily equal time and energy mind you.  So I made a list (and yes I do like lists) of what different areas of my life I wanted to spend time and energy on.

We’re not all going to have identical lists – though many of us have jobs and families – both of which need our attention.  The idea is to keep it relatively short since ideally you’ll set aside at least a little time each week for these areas of your life.  This could relate to Your Needs and Values – as some people might put Spirituality on their list – for me, that’s contained in my Personal category.  My list has evolved over time but I’m currently working with 5 areas that I want to attend to each week: Business, Household, Volunteering, Relationship, and Personal.

This means when I look at both my calendar and to-do list, I am actively thinking about when I will focus on the various areas.  It doesn’t mean that it always works as I planned; yet it’s not supposed to.  “Urgent” tasks do come up and it’s not about ignoring or avoiding those.  It’s about making sure your life isn’t driven by those urgent tasks.

It means that we’ll have less regret at the end of the week, month, and year.  We’ll know that we’ve directed our energy toward things that matter to us – personally.  It doesn’t matter if you make a list of your categories; it doesn’t matter if you create a mission statement for yourself; it doesn’t matter how you go about it.   What does matter is finding a way that works for you to make the most out of your life in the big picture view.  How else does your life have a greater meaning?


With the never-ending to-do lists many of us face, it can be challenging to balance productivity with reality.  None of us can go, go, go and never stop – we have to stop at the very least for sleep.  Yet, we need to stop for more than sleep.  The challenge in this busy world is to find the pace that makes sense for you.

First, let’s talk about productivity – the definition that fits this context best is “yielding results, benefits, or profits.”  If you view this definition narrowly, you might only apply it to those tasks that give you hard, clear results – things that you can see and measure immediately.

I’d imagine that many of you view time with family valuable.  Would you consider it “productive”?  I would, as there are many benefits and even results.  It’s hard to measure.  You can’t really know what would be if you didn’t spend your time with family – for you or for them.

One of the ways I think about the idea of productivity is whether I’m making the most of my time.  This shifts the idea from trying to accomplish tons of things to being effective and working on those things that are important.  In this case, the word important refers to the big picture view – those values and needs that provide meaning and purpose to our life.

The amount of time – “free” time – we all have varies – from person to person and depending on various circumstances – activities, obligations, support and assistance, health, family, etc.  If your “free” time is minimal, it’s all that more important to maximize that time.  The idea of “free” time seems an oxymoron to me – as who has free time or at least feels like they have free time?

Something that you need to consider is what is reasonable for you personally.  The amount of what we can each accomplish in a given day – the degree of productivity – will vary from person to person.  What factors are you dealing with that could limit your productivity?  How can you maximize your effectiveness?

Inc. Magazine had a blurb about the 3 secrets of most productive people a while back – these illustrate that productivity is about more than accomplishing things.

  1. they take breaks
  2. they are great collaborators
  3. they have lives outside work

All three of these focus on the benefits of stepping away from being in the midst of “working” or being productive in the strict definition.  There’s an additional comment about having lives outside of work also reveals these highly productive people have interests that don’t relate to their work.

True productivity can be as much about following your passions that give your life meaning as it is about completing your to-do list and earning money.  What your success at being productive will look like is something you need to figure out.  I can tell you that it will not mean working on your to-do list every waking moment.  And it might mean reevaluating what being productive means to you – considering those activities you engage in that don’t provide those measurable results.  I encourage you to discover your own version of what productivity means for you personally.

Hoarder? More Likely Challenging Disorganization.

With the proliferation of television shows about hoarding, many people see hoarders around them.  Or think they do.  It’s a pet peeve of mine that every person who has “too much stuff” is now deemed a hoarder.  Never mind that “too much stuff” is extremely subjective, hoarding is quite a bit more complex than to be simply about too much stuff.  Therefore, let’s explore different aspects about stuff and see if we can clear up these misconceptions about hoarding.  (If you want the more technical information about hoarding, see my post, “Defining Hoarding.”)

As I already stated, it’s about more than stuff.  I’ll admit it; I have a lot of stuff.  Even “too much stuff.”  As my husband and I have gone through various rooms, I’m amazed by the amount of excess we find hidden away, forgotten about.  And the large piles that I set out to be donated have shocked me and we have more to go.  The people I work with have varying amount of stuff; some quite a bit and some hidden away in closets and drawers where it doesn’t “look” cluttered.  Yet, we each want something different from our spaces – from the desire to be surrounded to the desire to have the open space (see my entry, “Envisioning Your Space”).  Believe it or not, there’s no one right way for a space to look and that means someone somewhere will think that there’s “too much stuff” there.

What is your relationship to your stuff?  This is one of the features that help to distinguish what is happening with the stuff around you.  I laughing cringe at the idea of getting rid of my media – those books, CDs, and movies and yet, that is exactly what I have been slowly doing.  My movie collection has been cut by more than half and it feels good.  Removing all outside obstacles, what happens to you when you decide to get rid of things?  Those obstacles can be:

  • minimizing the sense of being overwhelmed
  • the absence of someone judging or trying to tell you what to do
  • the freedom to take your time and think through your choices

Finding the space where these pieces come together can be challenging, yet what happens then?

It breaks my heart to hear about people being told they are “hoarders” and I know from my knowledge and experience that they aren’t even close to being hoarders.  From what I can tell, it’s more about someone in their life thinking that they know better than the client.  They believe that they “should” get rid of this or that; that they “should” not struggle with making decisions; that they “should” be able to easily change long time habits after a “clean sweep”; etcetera.  This is probably a large reason that having your family help you with your stuff often backfires.

There’s a different term than hoarder, for people who have struggled with stuff for a long time, that may or may not have clutter around them and that’s chronically disorganized.  Since this has a rather clinical sound to it, the Institute of Challenging Disorganization prefers to refer to it as challenging disorganization that can also be applied to the situational disorganization some people can struggle with after major life events.  They define chronic disorganization as:

Chronic disorganization is having a past history of disorganization in which self-help efforts to change have failed, an undermining of current quality of life due to disorganization, and the expectation of future disorganization.

Hoarding is about much more than the stuff – however subjective – and relates to how we deal with that stuff.  The chance is that your grandmother/uncle/brother-in-law is not a true hoarder.  That doesn’t mean that organization isn’t a tremendous challenge for them.  When there’s lots of stuff around, however hidden it may or may not be, it requires a lot of work and effort.  Simply modifying the behaviors is an extreme challenge and takes time.  Try to keep in mind your own biases – your own view of what makes up “too much stuff.”

Review: Arc Notebook System from Staples

4 out of 5 stars

Arc notebook and accessories

Arc notebook and accessories


  • versatile, customizable system
  • easy to use
  • good quality
  • inexpensive


  • hole punch is expensive
  • some wearing on pages where it attaches
  • only sold at Staples


I was excited to receive a complimentary Arc notebook with some accessories as part of my attendance at the 2012 NAPO conference.  I’d heard some discussions about it from other organizers although I had never seen it in person.  From the moment I looked at it, I suddenly understood why people talked about this style notebook.  Nevertheless, I wanted to use it for a while before I shared more about it with you, my readers.

Arc leather notebooks

Arc leather notebooks

Let’s begin with the notebook itself.  There’s 2 different notebook sizes – a 6 3/8” x 8 3/4″ and a 9 3/8” x 11 1/4″ and 2 different ring sizes – 1” and 1 1/2″.   You are able to purchase just the notebook with rings.  When considering the notebook, you have choices between leather ($14.99-$19.99) and poly ($7.99-$9.99).  The leather notebook is thicker than the poly style.  As you would expect, the thicker rings allow more paper to be stored within the notebook.

Arc poly notebooks

Arc poly notebooks

The rings are a special design and provide the system with much of its uniqueness.  Its appearance is quite different and I discovered that I had to rethink how I thought about the available space.  Since the rings stick out, I needed to limit how much paper to store in the notebook.  What makes this so unique is the style of the punch, which you can see in the picture – it looks a bit like a mushroom.  This means that the paper can be pulled in and out.

Close-up of punch and ring

Close-up of punch and ring

I’ve had some concerns about the paper since the little side parts are being bent each time you pull out or put paper into the notebook.  Would it really hold up?  It certainly looks like they get tired, yet the papers continue to work well.  I expect there’s still a limit to how many times a paper can go in and out of the notebook.  Yet, this style is exactly what drew me to this notebook.  You might know that I’m not a big fan of 3-ring style binders – they can be a hassle for the paper to go and out of with having to pop the rings open and closed.  It takes a little time to adjust to getting the papers in completely – it’s something different to wrap your head around using.

There are many different accessories for the notebook – from the standard lined paper, to-do lists, project planning pages, graph paper, calendar pages to poly tab dividers, poly zip pockets, poly pocket dividers.  There are also smaller inserts available: a task pad and page flags.  This means that you can get only the accessories that make sense for you.  Most people I’ve talked about this notebook have opted for no calendar pages, yet one person chooses to include the calendar pages.  Although I don’t use them much, I do appreciate the task pad, with only a handful of pages kept inside the notebook though other people find them borderline useful.  I am disappointed in the page flags since pen ink doesn’t set on them – so the writing can be hard to read and smudges easily, though their stickiness is good so if you simply use them as page flags without labeling them, they’re good.

They sell a hole punch so you can make any piece of paper can be inserted into the notebook.  I find the price, at $39.99, to be more than I want to spend.  One person I showed the notebook system to did purchase the punch and shared that she finds it indispensable for her usage of the notebook.

As I get more digital, there were some things that I needed paper for.  This fits my needs extremely well.  I have the tabbed sections to divide categories into and even places to collect those papers that don’t fit into another area.  There has been some evidence that our brains process better with the process of handwriting and there seems to be some truth to that for me – I want a place to write some things and this notebook has become my place.  Since there are some papers I want to keep longer though not in the active notebook, I set up an archival type notebook.  Due to the relative inexpensiveness of a notebook, it’s easy to do this.

There are so many things I could say about this notebook, but there’s only so much space!  Levenger sells a similar notebook system at a higher price.  I found one review online that actually commented the paper from Staples is thicker and better quality.  And as with everything else, this can be a fabulous tool for people though you need to consider your own needs.

Defining Hoarding

You might have heard that hoarding is being added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) and hoarding has been approved as a separate listing in it (due to be released May 2013). I will refrain from a commentary on the issues with the DSM in general and simply point out that from a scientific perspective, they designate a series of criteria in order to prevent the definition from being applied too broadly. The very thing many people seem tempted to do with all the media attention hoarding has been getting in recent years.

In the case of a hoarding disorder, these are the proposed criteria:

A. Persistent difficulty discarding or parting with personal possessions, even those of apparently useless or limited value, due to strong urges to save items, distress, and/or indecision associated with discarding.

B. The symptoms result in the accumulation of a large number of possessions that fill up and clutter the active living areas of the home, workplace, or other personal surroundings (e.g., office, vehicle, yard) and prevent normal use of the space. If all living areas are uncluttered, it is only because of others’ efforts (e.g., family members, authorities) to keep these areas free of possessions.

C. The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (including maintaining a safe environment for self and others).

D. The hoarding symptoms are not due to a general medical condition (e.g., brain injury, cerebrovascular disease).

E. The hoarding symptoms are not restricted to the symptoms of another mental disorder (e.g., hoarding due to obsessions in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, lack of motivation in Major Depressive Disorder, delusions in Schizophrenia or another Psychotic Disorder, cognitive deficits in Dementia, restricted interests in Autistic Disorder, food storing in Prader-Willi Syndrome).

Specify if:
With Excessive Acquisition: If symptoms are accompanied by excessive collecting or buying or stealing of items that are not needed or for which there is no available space.

Specify whether hoarding beliefs and behaviors are currently characterized by:
Good or fair insight: Recognizes that hoarding-related beliefs and behaviors (pertaining to difficulty discarding items, clutter, or excessive acquisition) are problematic.

Poor insight: Mostly convinced that hoarding-related beliefs and behaviors (pertaining to difficulty discarding items, clutter, or excessive acquisition) are not problematic despite evidence to the contrary.

Delusional: Completely convinced that hoarding-related beliefs and behaviors (pertaining to difficulty discarding items, clutter, or excessive acquisition) are not problematic despite evidence to the contrary.

Since these are simply the proposed criteria, it remains to be seen what the specific wording will be. This also doesn’t clarify how many of the lettered criteria need to be met for someone to qualify as having a hoarding disorder. With all DSM diagnoses, a person has to meet specific criteria. The purpose is to limit the subjective diagnoses – the possibility of someone to judge someone else based on their own viewpoints.

This is critical in my opinion as I see too much of someone (often a family member) deciding that this person is a “hoarder.” It’s not simply about having a lot of stuff around – even having severely cluttered living spaces – is not enough to qualify a person for having a hoarding disorder, that’s only one piece of several that need to be met.

One of the shocking and disturbing aspects of the hoarding television shows is the amount of trash that surrounds them and than how excruciating the thought, let alone the action, of throwing those things away is for them. This is one of the defining characteristics as defined by a number of presentations I have attended in the past years from psychologists. It’s more than struggling with making the decisions, there’s a terror about having those things removed. Although we might focus on the “obvious” trash that cannot be removed, someone who struggles with hoarding saves virtually everything, and it’s painful to consider getting rid of any of it.

I’ve briefly touched on the idea that hoarding is more complex than the media conveys. In a future post I plan on getting into more details as it applies to the general public. In the meantime, I hope this helps to clarify that hoarding is a true disorder that is often simplified by television.

13 Posts in Honor of the Beginning of 2013

In honor of the beginning of 2013, I’m going to share 13 posts I’ve written over the past 4 years (though my first year I started quite late in the year).  It’s hard to believe that I have been blogging this long and many of you might not have seen some of these posts.  Especially when you consider that I have about 170 posts at this point.


1- Ever feel like a bratty child approaching your dreaded tasks?  I know I have.  Check out “I Don’t Wanna!”

2- My first video where I reveal a dumping ground in our home and the approach we took to reclaim that room – “Revamping the Dumping Grounds in Your Home & Other Lost Rooms.”


3- The title of this brings a half-grimace and half-smirk to my face as I think about how it could be misinterpreted, though the point remains; do you have an “Organizer Problem or Personal Problem?”

4- When you’ve decided to tackle an organizing project, it can be challenging to manage your way through it successfully.  These are some of the questions I ask and suggest for people to consider as they work, “Ask Yourself These Questions During Organizing.”

5- It’s surprisingly common to struggle with handling those lovely plastic storage containers.  Therefore, here’s one take on how to “Tame Your Tupperware.”

6- Have you heard of the O.H.I.O. idea?  It’s interesting as long as it’s used in the manner it was intended, which not everyone realizes.  Check out “Only Handle It Once” and see what I mean.


7- I’ll admit it, sometimes it’s hard for me to remember all the things I’ve written about.  This one stays with me and brings a smile to my face – “Contagious Clutter” can plague all of us.  (And be careful it does multiply when you look away.)

8- There’s a common poem that outlines the “Guidelines for a Happy Home” which I use to illustrate some of the things that apply equally to be organized.

9- Although this title is a little misleading, it’s more about some steps to take when deciding to tackle an organizing project, including waiting until you are fully prepared, “You’re Organized, Right?”

10- This is such a little known planner, yet it remains as the one paper style I think about most as it limits our daily tasks, “Taylor Planner.”


11- We all collect things.  Yup, we sure do.  So, then it’s worth thinking about “Collections, When to Stop.”

12- Arts and craft supplies can be one of the most daunting things to try organizing, there’s so many different approaches and so many things.  That’s why I wrote about “Organizing Art & Craft Supplies.”

13- This was probably the most overdue topic since I only really broached it this past year, how to handle the small spaces – from the storage spaces like closets to the living spaces, “So Little Space.”

There it is, 13 posts to celebrate the beginning of 2013.  It wasn’t easy choosing which ones to share and I’d love to hear if there’s one that I missed that you appreciated.

I hope you all have a wonderful year.  Here’s to being organized – in the real meaning of the word, being able to find what you need when you need it. Happy 2013!

Review: 3M Command Strips

3.5 out of 5 stars

Some of the 3M Command products

Some of the 3M Command products


  • easy to use: no hammer needed, no need to know where studs are or what wall is made of, allows you to hang things where you cannot put a nail (surface being too delicate or hard)
  • damage-free removal
  • various styles and types
  • certain strips connect with any other strips – no “male” or “female” pieces
  • refill strips allow you to only replace one side when you move
  • saw-tooth picture hanger, wire-backed picture hanging hooks, and clips come with 1 refill included in the package


  • don’t address if they come off the item and if it’s possible; i.e. poster strips or frames
  • a 2 step process –> requires an hour between attaching to both surfaces and when you can leave item attached
  • recommend wiping surface with alcohol (no wipes included) and the process can feel long if you’re impatient
  • doesn’t adhere to every surface
  • basically plastic, for the hooks and clips even with various styles
  • some temperature limitations
  • a little expensive compared to a nail or even a picture hanging kit
  • the refill being included means having potential clutter around as well as needing to not lose it


I’ve been hearing about the various styles of 3M Command Strips for several years now and at least year’s NAPO conference received a couple of samples to try out for myself.  In that interim between hearing about them and getting the samples, I’d looked at them in the stores and considered purchasing them.  The thing that always stopped me was that I couldn’t think of where and how I would be able to use them.  And even after conference, back in March of 2012, they sat around for a while.

Let me take a moment here to share that in some ways this post will not be complete – I have not removed any of the Command strips that have been applied, so I cannot comment on how damage-free the removal truly is – though as I have done in the past, I will revisit this when I have more information to share.

Then suddenly I needed them – a magnetic white board we had hung in the kitchen came crashing down, the adhesive that came with it was jiggled loose when we were doing some other work.  Aha, this would be a perfect test for a set of Command strips for framed pieces.  I pulled out one of the packages, read the instructions, and got it put up.  As I was doing this, the handyman working on some pipes in the basement came upstairs and saw what I was doing.  He commented that he loved them – when his tenants use them, the walls are left undamaged.

I found that I was almost paranoid that they wouldn’t hold my magnetic white board.  I kept checking to make sure it didn’t seem loose and each day when I came home, to make sure that it was still hanging.  It has never moved to this point in time – it remains solidly attached, holding coupons and whatnot for our home.

On the other hand, I am quite fascinated by the “velcro” that they use on these picture strips.  It’s not traditional Velcro, there’s no difference between the two pieces, which means that these any one piece can adhere to any other piece.  Unlike Velcro where you need 2 different pieces to connect to each other, any 2 pieces can connect with the 3M Command strip systems – at least with this picture frame style.

3M Command strips from back

3M Command strips on the back of the board and the cabinet.

Magnetic white board hung with 3M Command strips

Here’s the magnetic white board hung with 3M Command Strips.

Another time, my husband and I were talking about our coat closet (it lives in what is now the study – see the videos and blogs about re-vamping) and what to do about one of his hats.  Aha, I was given a 3M Command hook as well.  I immediately went and grabbed that and hung the hat up.  Somehow I was much less concerned about that falling, though it too hasn’t moved.  I find the white plastic appearance of the hook to be less than ideal, though considering what it is and what it’s used for – it’s fine.  It’s also completely hidden when the hat is hung on it.

3M Command hook without the hook attached

3M Command hook without the hook attached

Hat hanging on the 3M Command hook

Hat hanging on the 3M Command Hook

3M Command hook

3M Command Hook – this is what it looks like on the wall

There is quite an assortment of products within this category – from the picture and frame hangers, hooks, to clips, and poster hangers.  They offer different colors – from the standard white, to clear and metal appearance, and now a designer option.  3M has considered the dampness of bathrooms as well in their design – they offer a number of hooks for use in the bathroom, even in the shower itself.

They do talk about some temperature sensitivity – they cannot be applied without some pre-treatment at temperatures below 50° F and the adhesive can soften above 105°F.  None of these products are made for use in cars, where the temperatures and sun exposure can be so varied.  These are available in many stores – OfficeMax, Office Depot, Target, Walmart, Kmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menards, Ace, True Value, CVS, and JoAnn’s.

These might be quite useful for some of your needs.  They’re worth considering and trying out – if you can find a way to use them.  As with everything else, figure out what and how you would use them before running out to buy them!  🙂

Here are a couple of other examples of the 3M Command Strip products:

Wire-backed picture hanging hooks from 3M Command product line

Wire-backed picture hanging hooks from 3M Command product line

Saw-tooth hanger from 3M Command product line

Saw-tooth hanger from 3M Command product line

Reorganizing and Remembering

Have you ever had a time when you’ve been looking for something and can’t find it?  Of course, this is part of being human.  Let’s add another piece – you can’t find something that you know you “organized”?  This too is quite common.  Many times over the years I’ve had clients call me after an organizing appointment wondering where we put this or that.  Frequently I’m able to tell them – within one or two possibilities.

Nevertheless this can be supremely frustrating.  “Oh my, I went to all this trouble to make things logical and get organized and now I feel even more lost.”  Believe it or not, I’ve been there and done just that.  It can happen to anyone – from the most organized (which isn’t me by the way, I’m only mostly organized) to those who struggle more chronically with stuff.  The reason no one is exempt from dealing with this has to do with several factors – and these factors can give us insight into steps we can take to minimize this happening.

First, when do you work on an organizing project?  This is something to plan – design things with a clear intention.  And to be completely clear, that doesn’t mean you can’t sort and purge in the meantime.  It does mean to make intentional decisions, ones that you have thought out and considered for a while. There are times when our mindset can hinder our efforts – so if you’ve suddenly decided to reorganize those shelves, you might forget where you moved that one thing to that you didn’t want on the shelf after all those years.

Have you heard how it takes a minimum 30 days of doing something consistently before it becomes a routine?  Consider the impact of moving one thing somewhere else after all the years you’ve lived in your home.  You’re likely to automatically go to the shelf (or wherever) and be surprised that it’s not there.  Then you run the risk of not quite remembering where its new home is.

Choosing to change things is something to do only when you’ve had time and energy to consider your options.  If you’re tired, this probably isn’t when you are your best nor is it when you are making the best decisions for yourself.

A good example of this can be when dealing with papers.  How many names can you think of for your car?  Car, Auto, Make, Model, His/Her Car, Old Junker, etc.  This can be applied to most papers, and the title needs to make sense to you or the person doing the filing.  It’s amazing how one title can seem logical in one moment and completely illogical the next – it becomes hard to locate the correct piece of paper.  This can be avoided by taking time to think about what makes sense to you and let it marinate – see if something better comes to mind.

Second, if you cannot wait to organize and don’t have time to make a plan, make a map.  You can create essentially a cheat sheet of where things are; it can be as simple as a list, i.e. 3 ring binders – lower right shelf in bookshelf in spare bedroom (behind doors).  This can be helpful too when your memory isn’t as good as you’d like.  I have a list of our files – the category, the file name, which drawer – and it’s in order so I can always find it even when it’s slipped down and looks like it walked off!  The map can even be more literal – a sketch that lays out what your space looks like and what lives in each space.

Another option is to label everything.  My husband and I joke that it could be so easy for me to take labeling to an extreme – where the cat would walk around with a label – “cat”.  Nevertheless, creating labels can be a good solution to help track where things have been moved.

Here’s a potentially disturbing truth – there’s no absolute answer for escaping our forgetfulness.  There are many factors that affect our functioning and therefore our effectiveness when we reorganize.  Keep these points in mind when you decide to tackle your next organizing project and minimize the chances you will need to send out a search party for that moved item.

Checking Tasks Off Your To-Do List

One of the questions I ask people when we’re talking about to-do lists is “do you write in tasks so that you can check them off?”  There are a fair number of people who admit with some embarrassment that yes, in fact they do that.  And I smile and say, “yup I’ve been known to do that too.”    I want those check marks – that symbol of having used my day productively.  Yet, it’s simply one-way to have the validation that the day was productive.

We all want to feel like we are accomplishing things – both those that are necessary and those that help us feel like we are moving forward.  The way that we feel about our to-do lists can vary.  It also varies over time – there are times I love my to-do list and times when it simply fills me with dread.  As with everything, there are many variables that affect our behaviors and feelings.

My biggest struggle is to feel productive – how many tasks are reasonable to accomplish?  There’s this nagging feeling like I could have done more, “if only…”  With all the variables of life, what is realistic for a person to do in a given day?

I’ve looked into this, from extensive reading to polling my friends and family.  The answers vary dramatically as well as the response that it’s hard to quantify – “it depends.”  There was a flaw in my polling – often we each view our tasks differently.  Does doing the dishes count as a to-do? Does taking a shower?  You can see how defining a reasonable number of to-dos can be challenging.

Tasks take a different amount of time to complete.  In a to-do list each item takes a line and can appear equal, even when they’re not.  Ideally everything on your active to-do list needs to be able to be completed in one step.  This means that projects are kept somewhat separate – like the brain dump to-do list, and only the next step goes onto the smaller daily or weekly to-do list (see my discussion of this in: Decide on the Next Action).

When it feels like I’ve been struggling with accomplishing my tasks, often I will write an estimate of the time I think each task will take.  This allows me to see how much I have set to do and gives me the chance to move things to another week (I currently make weekly to-do lists from the brain dump list).  Sometimes I will even take a list of tasks completed and note the time spent on each – this provides me with a realistic view of what I accomplished.

Too often I see people discounting the things they did do, as they view those things as minor or mandatory.  Nevertheless, everything we do takes time and energy – it counts.  During the times when I wasn’t really keeping a to-do list, at the end of the day I would sometimes write down everything I had done that day – another way for me to see what was accomplished.

Unfortunately there is no easy answer about how much you can realistically accomplish on a given day.  One thing to consider is how long the things on your to-do list will take – do you have time on this or that day?  Based on Harold Taylor’s planner, I recommend limiting your daily to-do list to no more than 3 tasks, above and beyond all those things you do each day anyway.  Those 3 tasks can be whatever you choose and of any length as long as they are able to be completed within a reasonable amount of time.  Test this and see how it works – when does it work for you and when does it break down?