Hate Doing Laundry? – An Alternative Solution

“I hate doing laundry,” someone told me the other day (we’ll call her Jane and respect her anonymity) “it’s the worst household chore of all.”

So I responded, “What is it about the laundry that you hate?”

One of the things Jane won’t do is mixing colors in the loads – each color needs to be washed and dried independently of the other colors. Jane has 3 closets of clothes, moving through them as the week’s progress, knowing when they get to a certain emptiness, laundry will need to be dealt with.

It turns out that Jane separates all her clothes by color immediately. She has 7 laundry baskets to collect the different colors and she avoids needing to sort the clothes when laundry time approaches. As soon as it’s time to handle the laundry, she can immediately begin the laundry process, loading a basket directly into the washer.

Jane went and bought the largest capacity washer and dryer available – despite the salesman questioning her that she didn’t need something so large for just herself. She knew what she wanted – a way to reduce the amount of laundry she would need to do. Jane definitely does not want to do laundry weekly – the least often is best for her.

Once a month she sets aside time, usually Friday evening through Saturday night to get her laundry washed, dried, and put away. She’s then free for another month from having to do any laundry.

The reality is that she doesn’t hate her laundry anymore – she found a way to handle it in such a way that actually gives her pleasure. Jane went on to say that she actually loves her laundry now!

How this applies for you:

  • Identify what it is you dislike or even hate doing – whether it’s laundry or dusting or whatever
  • Brainstorm an idea for how to do it differently enough that it becomes less burdensome – so often we cannot eliminate tasks, yet we can still find an alternative approach
  • Make it relatively easy for yourself – Jane has the different laundry baskets, the large capacity appliances, and does the laundry consistently in order that she keeps it easy enough to work for her – and if it’s too hard, we won’t do it anyway

As with so much when it comes to organizing, finding a way that works for you is most important. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense to anyone else as long as it does make sense for you and your life. In this example, weekly (or for some daily) laundry duty is the solution for many families, but for some it’s the wrong approach. Discover the approach that works for you and your family – and consider all options.

Efficiency can be Fun

Late last year I began thinking about 2 books from my childhood a lot.  So much so I decided I needed to pick them up and reread them.  I remembered them as being full of fun high jinx, which might be q given considering it’s about a family with 12 children.  Yes, you read that right, 12 children (no multiple births and all but 1 lived to adulthood) – and we might cringe at our one or two kids. My memories were accurate, yet it was not these escapades of family life that specifically caught my attention this time through.  Really, if it were just a fun read would I ask you to read my writing about it?

It turns out that the parents, Lillian and Frank Sr. Gilbreth, are motion study experts.  Frank (although there is a Jr. I will be talking only about the Sr.) applies his theories and beliefs about efficiency to the whole family.  Lillian was a psychologist as well, so their focus was on not just saving time and energy, it was about cooperation. An example of this was how surgeries were studied and simplified – doctors asking for the implements they needed and having them handed to them.  I took this for granted; yet when the Gilbreth’s were working it was the early 1900’s.

They applied these same ideas to learning, creating different ways to learn – from Morse code being written on walls in the summer home which sometimes gave locations of surprises, to developing how to touch type, to listening to Spanish and French lessons while you were getting ready in the morning and at night – all to increase efficiency.

I’ve talked about efficiency before – I am continually looking at how I do things, asking myself if there is a “better” way.  I do this when I wash dishes, in fully utilizing how I fill the dish rack, keeping both the loading and the unloading in mind.  When I mow the lawn, I consider whether there are other approaches to it, there are 5 different areas with certain obstacles.  Although I think some people can get carried away with shaving off a few seconds or minutes here or there, I am fascinated with the idea of efficiency from the standpoint of simplifying things.

You might not be interested in thinking that much about your own efficiency.  I do not think you need to be.  Yet, for me the idea of efficiency is wrapped up in simplifying. With much of what I talk about, I encourage you to find ways to make organizing easier.  If something is too difficult, there’s a strong chance we won’t do it, even with the best of intentions. If the steps required to put this away are too many or too complicated or convoluted, that thing will not get put away.  If we can find a way to make it easier, we’re more likely to fulfill our intentions.  In many ways this is exactly what the Gilbreth’s focus was on – reducing the number of steps and complication of accomplishing this or that while not ignoring the human aspect of any of it.  They focused on reducing the amount of motions involved not on just speeding things up, although reducing motions did decrease the amount of time needed to complete an action.

Maybe today’s world is not that different from those of decades ago – maybe it is.  Regardless, as humans we all have limited time and energy to do all that we might want and need to do.  If you find ways to save time and also energy from doing it in the easiest way, you have that much more time and energy for what matters most to you.  When someone asked him, “But what do you want to save time for? What are you going to do with it?”  Frank responded with,

“For work, if you love that best. For education, for beauty, for art, for pleasure.  For mumblety-peg, if that’s where your heart lies.”


* The first book deals more with efficiency, Cheaper by the Dozen (not to be confused with the movies).  The second book deals more with running a home and being as economical as possible, Belles on Their Toes.  Both books are authored by 2 of the children – Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey.


A month ago I was ecstatic, my craft room was going to get a closet system installed. Oh the anticipation! For the week before the date, I kept talking about it, the joy of having a system and the organization I would set up. I was excited, at least until the system actually was installed. Then something happened. I became overwhelmed with feeling daunted by the effort and process of setting the closet system up. It confused me in many ways too.

I love organizing. I don’t do this for a living without a reason; I am passionate about organizing. In fact, if I am feeling a bit down about something, I will tackle an organizing project and immediately start feeling better. Can you begin to see how puzzling it was for me to feeling overwhelmed? Maybe you can, yet you might be asking yourself – “what does this have to do with ME?”

How often have you gotten overwhelmed at the thought of tackling a project? Although I did not take pictures of the piles of my stuff meant for the closet – the boxes filled up 3 ½ rooms here. Since it is my craft room, many of the items are smaller. It was going to be a process to go through it all and get it organized. It’s easy to feel like there is just so much to be done. Where do I start? I don’t have time to delve into this project.

Interestingly, this is exactly how I felt. This is how my clients often talk about feeling with their own stuff. I joke that this is why my profession exists – help in getting started and having some direction during the process. I know all this. I knew what I needed to do. Nevertheless I was still dreading it.

My point – we’re all human. We can each feel overwhelmed and reluctant to jump into a project. It doesn’t even need to be a big project, like my walk-in closet. Papers are a common area that causes significant dread among people. They tend to be tedious and time consuming. I have a lot of scrapbooking paper – possibly the easiest papers to organize and it still took me over 3 hours to organize the 12×12 loose sheets.

Another point – all it takes is jumping in. You don’t need to set aside a huge amount of time to get started. I didn’t organize those loose scrapbook papers first. I did find an “easy” place to start – in this case it was the completed photo and scrapbook albums. I already had at least part of a vision for the closet. Then I grabbed the next box. I won’t say that my feeling of overwhelm went away just because I got started. If only it was that simple. Sometimes it is, not always.

Sometimes it also means stepping back for a break. As I was going through things, I found items I spent money on and knew I would never use. I felt sad and frustrated. Even that feeling got overwhelming at times. When I saw this happening, I would try to finish the immediate stuff and then take a break and do something else entirely. Other times, I just moved the stuff off to the side and stopped anyway. This also provides a way to gain perspective – all this stuff was personal to me – ideas and plans I’d had at some point or another. Yet, I needed to let some of it go. Stepping back can be just as important as jumping in and getting started.

I’ll admit I have been a bit ashamed of feeling overwhelmed by my craft room closet. I mean I am an organizer, how can I of all people be overwhelmed by an organizing project? Yet, it also means I can relate to other people feeling overwhelmed. It also means that I will bite the bullet and jump in. You’re not alone if you too are feeling overwhelmed by an organizing task – just remember you are human like the rest of us and to just get started, somewhere or anywhere.

What Type Are You?

There’s something I really struggle with when writing this weekly blog. Do you have any guesses? It’s not coming up with ideas to write about.  It’s not about making time to write and edit it (though I could be better here). It’s not worrying about whether it provides value to you, the reader, though I do want it to be helpful.  What it is for me – how to explain one way of doing something while I know that there are variants upon variants of how to approach the exact same struggle.

In the most recent coaching class we worked with processing modalities.  I learned about these in Gardner’s Frames of Mind, where he talked about the school system teaching in limited modalities and this neglected the children who learned in non-traditional ways, yet they were equally intelligent. I was fascinated.  Similarly, Meyer-Briggs (in Please Understand Me) can help classify how you interact and relate through 16t types, leaving you with 4 letters to describe yourself (the first one being whether you are an introvert or an extrovert).

Although these have interested me, they can be used to limit yourself – at least if you are willing to be boxed in by the results.  Really, they are designed to help you see the spectrum that makes you the unique individual that you are.

So, Jennifer, what exactly is your point here?

We need to embrace who we are and find those unique systems that work for you, the individual. It can be challenging for me, in this blog, to provide a specific solution for everyone since we’re all different. This is why when I come to your home, I do not advocate one way of doing something.  I love to recommend tools and tricks in order for you to learn what might work for you.

Let me give you an example: I had one client who worked from her bed.  There was no health problem to induce this approach – it was simply her preference.  Other people would be quite uncomfortable working in their bed. Does it make it wrong for her to work in bed? Certainly not. It works for her and we set things up so that the things she worked on would be nearby – easy to retrieve and put away.  I would never go into a client’s a recommend they work in their bed because it worked for this one person.  So, what works for you?

In order to figure out systems for yourself, you do need to be aware of your tendencies and preferences. It helps to look at both what encourages and discourages you.  This is something to accept in yourself, not judge or try to change.  Another client really resisted doing anything unless she could hear the television.  Happily, she wasn’t embarrassed about it and we developed some systems so her tasks could be accomplished near the TV. What are the reasons for your resistance? Too hard, too complicated, too time consuming, too _________.  What are the reasons for your successes?  Easy, simple, fast, rewarding, _________.

My cognitive strength supports me in the near constant problem solving I offer my clients, yet encompasses the clients strengths so they get systems that work for them. Although I will talk about this approach or that approach to something – there is such a plethora of choices on how to tackle any struggle.  As the modalities point out, we are all unique and this means we use our strengths to make things work for us and most importantly support us in the life we want to lead.

Goals, Already?

Yes, it’s not even Christmas and I am already talking about goals. I’ve mentioned before that for me I review my goals throughout the year, yet some people focus on the beginning of the year and the changes they want to make.  And it’s never too early to start planning for the New Year.  In fact, beginning now may even make a positive impact on your upcoming holidays.

Who is it that you want to be? How are you different from that idea?  Is it something you can actually change? I would love to be someone who doesn’t have a chronic disease, yet I have no control over that.  On the other hand, I am adamant that it does not control my life.

Supposedly one of the most popular goals of the New Year is to get into shape/ lose weight/ or other diet and health related goals.  Being organized is often up there as a popular goal. And we have all heard the dire statistics on how well we as a whole follow through on our goals, especially at New Year’s.

There are several reasons that we don’t make much progress on our goals: too abstract, too many, too dramatic a change, and the list goes on. This is a prime reason that it’s a good time to start thinking about what your goals will be – giving yourself time to let it float around in your brain and percolate.

Let me cover some basic ideas and I am sure they are out there in cyber space aplenty:

  1. Get specific. If you want to lose weight, come up with a plan on how you will work on that. If you want to be more organized, define one area that matters most and focus on that specifically.  What steps are needed to accomplish this goal? Do you need to schedule time to exercise? Do you want to check the dining room table twice a day and spend time clearing it if things are accumulating?  What do specifically want? Set the guidelines for yourself.
  2. Choose one goal to start with.  If we divide our attention to many different goals, we’re likely to do none of them.  You can always add a new goal after a month or so of success with the first one.  Remember, on average it takes 30 days of doing something consistently for it become a habit – whether that’s exercising or keeping the dining room table clear.
  3. Start with small changes.  Our routines are hard to change, we’re used to doing things in very specific ways, and switching how we do them is uncomfortable and hard.  I’ve heard it compared to ruts in a road, it’s hard to get out of the rut and to not end up back in those ruts.  Our brains are used to us behaving as we always have, and to suddenly be trying to make large changes – it’s unsettling.  This is also where recognizing the ways you are successful can help, then making some modifications to become more successful.

One of my goals for the coming year is to monthly tackle one room in our house and review it and the things in it.  I’ve recognized how easy it is for things to build up.  I don’t always appreciate the decor as the years pass since I too can become “blind” to it.  I want to be surrounded by things that inspire me and especially not bogged down by things that aren’t relevant to me anymore. It will also keep the space relatively fresh, and I won’t stop seeing things out of habit.   Also, at the monthly level it will give me time to tweak some systems if they need it before we’re on to the next room.

What’s one thing you want to be different next year? You can make it happen, I believe in you.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! :)

It’s the night before Thanksgiving.


There are better times to be considering ways to be more organized.

There are better times to be considering improving your time management.


This is the time to be getting ready to enjoy your Thanksgiving, whatever you do.

It’s a great time to be continuing to think about the things you are thankful for.


Here are some quotes to inspire you…
I am thankful for a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home. I am thankful for the piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby.  ~ Nancie J. Carmody


As we express gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.  ~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy


Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.  ~ Marcel Proust


A grateful mind is a great mine, which eventually attracts to itself great things.  ~ Plato


Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day.  ~ Robert Caspar Lintner


An optimist is a person who starts a new diet on Thanksgiving Day.  ~ Irv Kupcinet


Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.  ~Native American saying

Negativity – Nip it in the Bud Now

A few weeks ago, I found myself leaving some client’s homes feeling very frustrated.  I realize most of you don’t know me, yet this is not typical.  To make matters even more interesting, it wasn’t about the clients. No, really it wasn’t.  It was actually about the family members I had been interacting with for a couple of moments here or there.  Part of me wanted to absolutely scream at them! Sometimes wishing I could shake them – jostle some compassion into them.

It also had me wanting to grab and squeeze my clients, hoping I could through osmosis make them not believe the negativity.  I know how challenging it can be to contradict the negativity of others.  Especially when they come from someone you love.  My frustration was coming from seeing the insensitivity to my client.  How pointless to comment on how “easy” or “simple” this should be – at least according to them, and not considering the client’s struggles or even that they’ve asked for help.  That’s why I am there after all (and hearing the comments).

Many people have different ways of approaching the same thing – while the end goal is relatively the same.  Often the struggles of getting to that place can be overwhelming.  Every person I work with has beautiful strengths, as well as the requisite challenges (this is called being human) and follows his or her own process.  They work at different speeds and make progress in different ways.

Can you allow this for yourself?  Can you have the strength to be whom you are and where you are at without negativity filling you?

The family members aren’t always the ones being critical.  Often it is the client themselves, beating themselves up.  Labeling themselves as this or that; at least this I can try to address directly.  Negativity rarely serves any of us well.  How often does it help you tackle that project?  Or think outside the box to come up with a different solution to this struggle?

I truly wish that organizing could be easier – and easy for everyone.  Just imagine the way our quality of life would improve! Also, frustration does often seem to come from love and the feeling of helplessness – the inability to help make a difference.  In the meantime, stop the negativity – whether from yourself or from listening to it from others. There’s no easy answer to this, yet beginning to be aware of it and contradicting it.  Discover your strengths and remind yourself of these.

Decide on the Next Action

I’ve mentioned before that I can be a procrastinator, haven’t I? Now, I’ll admit that I have piles of books that need to be dropped off. We’ve had various ideas about what we want to do with them. Yet the piles continue. Then I got fed up and decided to take one box each week to Half Price Books – at least with most of them. One day I headed to the pile, ready to grab a box and go. Only they’re not all in boxes, a bag was the easiest to reach, and the bag disintegrated in my hand. Guess what, none of those books made it to the car, nor did I go to Half Price Books.

Often when we’re stymied by our stuff, we’re undecided about what we need to do with it. Sometimes when we procrastinate, we’re reluctant to tackle this or that item. These things require us to make a decision. Too often we aren’t even aware of what decision we need to make.

Decisions, decisions. Life is filled with them. Too often, we’re racing through life just trying to get everything done and not stopping to think about how and where we are spending our time and energy. Some piles of books on the three-season porch were frequently the least of my worries. You’ve probably heard the saying “When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.” (by William James)

Most of the time we need to consider what the next step we need to take is, specifically. It’s great that you can identify the things you want to do. You want to clear out the basement, or spend more time with loved ones. Sometimes we are talking about a “project,” whether we realize it or not. A project is typically any task that takes multiple action steps to complete.

Regardless of what you need to do – ask yourself “What is the next action for this item?” If you can do this, you will have clarity about your to do list. It also amazingly can motivate you to start tackling items you might have been procrastinating.

In fact, an extreme statement (especially from me) – never make a to do list that includes anything except those specific and concrete next action items. If you don’t write out to do lists – when you’re deciding what you’re going to do next, figure out the action.

If you can consistently take a moment, yes that’s all it takes – just a moment, to ask yourself what the next action is for each task you have, you can reduce the amount of time you spend on tasks and work through your tasks.

Unfortunately, the piles of books are still there. When I decided to deal with the piles of books, my next action was to take one box in. Lately when I look at my to do list, I see ‘take a box to Half Price Books,’ I avoid it. In my current situation, the piles of books moved from an action to a project, since I need to box up the books that I want to take in before I can take them in. I also cannot tackle my to do item immediately – the books aren’t ready to take anywhere. I can see how I’m procrastinating it since it’s more than this easy step. Now the to-do list is modified, my next action item is to box up the books.

What will your next action be?

Book Review: Buried in Treasures

There are 3 names that come up again and again when it comes to the topic of hoarding – from their independent work to their collaborative work: psychologists David F. Tolin, Randy O. Frost, and Gail Steketee.  All three wrote, Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding and although it was not the first book I read on the topic, it was the book I was always intending on reading – it’s “that big” a book on the topic.  I read it more than a year ago now, and happily made notes (and have the book to refer to) for both this review and how it can apply to those I work with.

First, let me share that I was almost shocked when I found a copy of the book – it was quite a bit smaller than I’d imagined, coming in under 200 pages long.  It’s also very much a workbook of sorts for people wanting to tackle their struggles.  Similar to many books on organizing and hoarding, it tries to make it clear that unless you are ready to make changes, they will be hard to come by.  It is discouraging to hear that the success of “recovery” is minimal; that it takes continued efforts and mindfulness.

This is the case though for all of us – and applies to any changes we want to make.  As they say in the book, “People start to work on their hoarding problem when the reasons for change outweigh the reasons for not changing, and not a minute sooner.”  Now if you take out the word hoarding, it applies to changes in general.  Changes are difficult to make, whatever they are, and we need to be ready and truly motivated.

They spend some time talking about reinforcement, positive and negative, and how these are critical to self-control and exert powerful influences over our actions.

“We all tend to be motivated most strongly by immediate rather than delayed consequences.  This is a big part of the problem: instead of being able to step back and appreciate the long-term consequences of our actions, we become slaves to the here and now.  …long-term consequences, unpleasant as they may be, simply are not very powerful motivators compared to the immediate…”  Buried in Treasures

I see this in myself sometimes, and this does seem to be universal – we struggle with what impact our decisions will make down the road.  Or even struggle to make decisions in general, though not making a decision is ultimately still making a decision.

I’ve talked before about how I dislike the term “hoarding” and I will even talk to clients about how I myself have some “hoarding” tendencies.  On some level, we all do.  I do have close to 2,500 books.  My husband teases me sometimes about the number of containers I have.  I can resonate with the desire of collecting.  The authors were sharing a story and although the level of my stuff does not compare, it hit home for me: “…defining himself not by what he did, but rather by what he had and what he hoped to do. … Now ask yourself: is the amount I have proportional to the amount I do?”  I, like some many others, have big dreams – many ideas and hopes – and collecting items for that one possible day translates too often into having excess clutter.  Now, I evaluate whether the things are relevant for me currently or are more for a dream.  I can always find those again if it becomes more than a dream.

The authors spend time talking about some of the common struggles people face – the idea of “how did this happen to me?” There are many tips and techniques they share.  Two of them stood for me. One is the idea of the OHIO principle, which I talked about in a previous post – where you move pieces along in your system and aren’t worrying about loose ends because it’s been “handled.”  The other was “elaborative processing” where people have “the tendency to think of more and more uses for an object.” I played with this for myself, how creative could I get – and at what point do I not care anymore what it’s potential is.

In closing, another quote – a goal we all share, to find balance in our lives:

“…for most of us, successfully navigating life means striking the right balance between that feels good and what is good. … There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer; it depends on the person and situation.  But living a balanced and successful life does involve, at least some of the time, inhibiting things that are immediately reinforcing and instead choosing things that will pay off in the long run.  Another way of saying this is that we run into trouble when we become too dependent on immediate rewards, and lose focus on long-term goals.”

Hard to Believe – My 100th Blog

Earlier this month I realized I was coming up on this moment – number one hundred blog!  I’ve been trying to think about what I wanted to do, something that would be different.  I couldn’t come up with much, and it occurred to me that if you’re a more recent reader, you might not have seen some of my earlier posts.  Here comes 6 of my most favorite posts (I thought about a top 10, but it seemed too much, yet I couldn’t narrow it down any more than 6!):


Work to Be In the Moment – Every Moment

Being mindful of your present actions will save you time and energy, increasing your productivity, and allowing you to spend your time where you most want.

Use Your Time Intentionally

An odd synchronicity with “intention” in my life and learning (NAPO conference) and how it relates to how we spend our time inspired me to write this – sharing, not the need to be more productive, but rather just increase how conscious we are about how we’re spending our time.

Evaluate While In the Moment

Life is complicated enough without our many tasks adding to the demands on our time and energy. “Simplify, simplify” as Henry David Thoreau said, and here I talk about one way to help you simplify those tasks and make life a little easier.

Let Your Passion Lead You

Sometimes we have a moment, a sort of epiphany, when we realize that we’re buying things or have collected things that do not reflect the actual life we’re leading. There are several components of this and can help lead us to leading the life we want.

Considering Your Possessions by Time as well as Space

Possessions are unavoidable, space is a concrete limitation, but considering things in terms of time can prompt a fresh view of the things that you own.

Stop Inadvertent Multitasking

We’ve all accidentally started multi-tasking, digging into the dreaded junk drawer, and dread dealing with the various items, and often founder in making decisions. Save yourself the tedium and simplify things by dealing with each item as you handle it.


These six are where so much of my passion lies and I hope you enjoy them.  It was hard to eliminate so many posts, and I’m full of ideas for more to come.  It’s such a long way from the feeling when I wrote my first one, unsure whether I had more than 5 or 10 in me.

Happy 100th!  I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas – drop me a line anytime.  🙂