Contagious Clutter

Have you ever heard of kipple?  “When nobody’s around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you to go bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up there is twice as much of it. It always gets more and more.” Philip K. Dick in his book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (which was made into the movie Blade Runner) said this.  Sometimes I feel like this is not some futuristic possibility, but the reality we all face today.

It’s not independent of our behavior though. When I was in my first apartment, I would often need to spend a day or more picking it up and cleaning to be ready for my dad to visit. (See, I wasn’t always an organized person!)  I’d plan that it’d never get that bad again, yet in that tiny studio apartment, one area would slowly start to collect clutter.  Before I knew it, the other areas would be infected with other clutter.

Some of that was that there was nowhere in there that you could not see the rest of the space.  When just a little bit of clutter starts to accumulate and you let it sit there, you are less likely to avoid dropping more clutter around.  Just the sight of a little clutter lowers your response to adding to it.  “It’s just a little more – and I’ll deal with it quickly later.”

And so it starts.

On some level this is unavoidable.  We all have the pending stuff we’re trying to deal with – it can’t get put away completely yet, so you set it off to the side.

Do you then see the piles begin to build up?  Whether it is from yourself or others in your home, it’s human nature to get a little “lazy” about adding to the piles.  Some of the most organized people I know struggle with this phenomenon – and often they berate themselves for it.

The multiplying kipple can be that much worse for those who share their home, with a spouse, children, even a roommate!  We all organize and manage our things differently, these differences can lure us into allowing the clutter to accumulate before our eyes and before we recognize it.

It comes down to maintainence.  I’ve accepted that a certain number of piles will appear over the course of a week – though the sizes vary.  What matters is what I do about it and what I tell my clients to do – make time weekly or even daily to deal with it.  I also make a point to evaluate what is getting piled – What types of things are there?  Do they have a home?  Do they need a home?  Am I frustrated with the things (and therefore not dealing with them)? Is there a better way?

Do I wish that there were never any piles?  YES!  We are not perfect, and at least according to Philip K. Dick, kipple is unavoidable.  Therefore, I’m determined to limit the kipple and encourage others to keep their own kipple under manageable levels.  ☺  Good Luck – don’t look away for too long since it does multiply when you’re not looking!

Schedule Your Resolutions

Picture this: me, as a young girl, I’m sitting down to make a list.  No, I’m not an organized child – it’s New Year’s and I’m writing my resolutions for the coming year.  Fortunately, I was not encouraged to make a huge list, though often had around a dozen items.  I had big dreams for all the things that I could change in that year.  If only making the list made it happen.  We all have faced the reality – it’s not that simple.

Creating new habits – changing our behavior – is difficult.  We’re creatures of habit, and cannot decide on a “complete overhaul” and expect that we’ll pull it off.  We need to train ourselves.  That means that we need to start simply – with a very limited number of things.  I’d even say that maybe even only one thing at a time.  You can work on multiple things; though try to make it for different times during the day.  If you want to try changing three things – choose things that are done throughout the day – one thing for the morning, one thing for the afternoon, and one thing for the evening.

Like any skill you want to have, you need to practice.  You cannot learn to play an instrument overnight; you need to start with something relatively simple and then practice.  And practice and continue to practice.  Then you can move on to the next step in the process – and then practice some more.  Eventually you’ll have the skills.  It takes time and work to cement those skills for yourself.

Don’t become a nagging parent to yourself to practice whatever you’ve decided to work on.  Hopefully you’re setting goals that you’re passionate about, and therefore want to succeed with.  Yet, you’ll need to figure out when it makes sense to practice them.  Put them into your schedule.  It’s quite a phenomenon that when we put something into our schedule that we want to do, we more often actually do it.

If you’ve decided to make time to exercise, look at the next week (or two weeks or month) and decide when you’ll do it.  The frequency is up to you, maybe you want to start slowly, and two days a week is all you can manage.  If you have a schedule that allows you to block the same time on the same days, it makes it easier.  If you have a more erratic schedule, just make sure you put time into the schedule.  Don’t “play it by ear” waiting for the time to appear for your exercise, doing that just makes it more likely this goal will fall by the wayside.

Ideally, you’ll want to make time to review how you’re coming on your goals.  If you’ve faltered along the way, you can consider what went wrong, make some adjustments, and begin again.  On the other hand, if you’ve made good progress, you can think about whether you want to add some new goals.

It’s remarkably easy to dream big – you’re determined that you want to do this and that, ad infinitum.  We want to stay on top of those regular tasks and have time to also do much more.  At this time of year specifically, it’s traditional to evaluate the things we want to change and make resolutions for the transformative powers of the New Year.

When you examine your goals and priorities, don’t overwhelm yourself by a long list – whether you think about it once a year or many times.  If you want to succeed, limit the goals to a small number.  Then the challenge is – you need to put concrete steps into your schedule.  You need to plan specifically what you are going to do.  This applies to everything you decide to work on, at any time of year.  ☺

Make It Fun

Is fun missing from your life?  I know I feel sometimes that life has become more drudgery than anything else.  And the truth is that you need to find ways to bring real fun back into your life.  Although I might be able to help inspire you to find some fun in general, right now, I want to talk about bringing a little fun to the various things that we need to do in our homes.  If we can make our chores less tedious, we’ll be more likely to get them done.

I encourage you to brainstorm your own ideas for making things more fun.  Therefore, to help get those creative juices flowing, I’ll share some of the ideas I’ve used and ones that have worked for others.  Use them for yourself if they interest you.

I’ve mentioned before that I am not an avid cleaner.  I also record TV shows to watch at a later point, often enjoying the ability to fast-forward through commercials. I now use those commercials as a perfect time to get some vacuuming done.  I look up periodically to see when the show starts again.  That is my cue to stop for the moment.  I then use that time to move things either out of the way, or back into place.  Our rooms are small, so the whole room is easily vacuumed within two commercial breaks.  It doesn’t necessarily make it fun, but it does help it feel less tedious.  It also stops the task from feeling overwhelming; I work at it for a limited amount of time and then stop for while.

Teamwork is a great way to make tasks more fun – even having company can help tasks feel more fun.  This can work in several different ways – from the actually doing the work with someone else to simply working in the same area on different tasks.  Another way to apply this idea is to have a phone buddy.  Before starting anything, you talk on the phone, sharing what you’re each going to tackle and agree on a time to call back.  You then hang up and begin your tasks.  You can imagine what they are doing and can look forward to talking later.  The key here is that if one of you doesn’t actually work on those tasks, you wait to talk.

I often play music while working on the various things around the house.  I’ve heard back from clients that this has helped them as well.  (It of course varies depending on the person.)  Going through papers are one of the most tedious tasks, and surprisingly draining.  One woman found that if she had music playing, she could sort papers for longer periods of time as it made it more enjoyable.  As my music tastes are quite eclectic, I vary the type of music – considering my mood as well as my task.

Be sure to have different tools for bringing fun to your tasks, so that our fun things don’t become routine!  Then it’s not fun anymore.  Mix it up, have alternatives, and explore what works for you.

Of course, anytime we can make our tasks enjoyable, the more likely we are to get them done and feel good about it.  I hope you will find ways to make your tasks fun – let your creative juices flow in finding ways that work for you. The holidays are here, and if we can employ ways to make the things we do more fun, it can only help us enjoy the holidays even more.

But It’s Free…

Can you say no to something you’re offered?

I mean, it’s free.
I don’t have to spend any money.
It’s in decent condition.
I MIGHT use it one day.
Why not?

Simply put, it’s more clutter unless you actually want or need it. If only this actually removed the temptation for taking it anyway! I am not immune to the effects of “free.” My husband laughs at me, especially when it comes to my personal downfall of media – I can rarely say no. Nevertheless, this is a struggle worth fighting and at least minimizing what comes into your home by these nefarious means.

There are certainly people who somehow are not affected by the allure of that offered item at no monetary cost to them. As with virtually everything, personality varies and there are any number of reasons why people are simply not tempted just as for why some of us struggle so much. One person I know who adamantly refuses those free offerings is proud, wants to save up and buy the exact item wanted and not settle for less. Both my parents have never seemed to struggle with temptation, both appreciate a sparse environment, and dislike too much stuff around them – though where that characteristic comes from, I have no idea.

Therefore, this is for those of us who drool over the idea of getting something free. A good friend of mine struggles with this, and I see those items I’ve offered her sitting around her home for months (even years sometimes). It makes me sad since I feel like I have inadvertently contributed to clutter in her home. This is the last thing I actually I want to do.

First, we need to recognize that this is our tendency. Simply becoming aware of how thoughtlessly we accept those offered items could help us curb bringing in more stuff. If it has been so automatic, we may not even realize the extent of how much is coming in by this means.

Second, we need to think about any items coming in with the same criteria as if we were spending our hard earned money. I discuss some questions to ask (and answer) for yourself before you buy something in “True Purchasing Power.” To quickly recap the major points: do you know whether it fits – from clothes to furniture, do you know where you will put it (including removing something else to make room for it), and finally do you need it.

Just because something is free does not mean we don’t need to consider those things with the same standards as if we were spending money. If you could actually use that free thing, know it fits, and where you will put it – there is no reason you need to turn it down.

There are other steps we can take to curb our taking what is offered and you know yourself better than anyone else does. Find steps that fit your style and start applying them. Discover how freeing it can be to turn down those items you don’t actually need or want, since in the process, your home will stay uncluttered and you will be able to find what you want when you want it – the real goal.

Where to Start with Organizing the Entire Home

“If I want to get the whole house organized, where do I start?” I have the answer though most people don’t like what I tell them. Ideally, you want to begin in the area where you store most of your boxed up things – the basement or attic, sometimes the garage. Here in the Midwest, the basement is usually the place where boxes and holiday stuff goes. In one client’s space, it was a section of the finished basement, the laundry area. If you have an attic and this is where you put things for storage, then this is where you begin. It is the least exciting area to begin this transformation of your home, but will make your life easier in the end.

“But why the basement?”

First, it is likely that what lives in the basement are things that can be removed from your home entirely. We put things in the basement, forget what we’ve put there, and it becomes a bizarre discovery of items. This varies, and you probably have plenty of things you will want to keep. Those holiday decorations are worth keeping. The point is that the basement is where you store the things you want to keep, but do not want to have out and your opinion of what to keep changes dramatically over time. It has probably been so long since you dove into a number of boxes, you will be happy to get rid of many things.

Second, you need to make room for all the things you want to save from all the other rooms in the house. Where are they going to go if you have no room to put them in your main storage area? If you clear out everything from the basement at the beginning, you know what’s left are things you want. You also know how much space you have left for the things from the rest of the house.

Third, by starting with the storage area, you will reduce the amount of repetitive organizing you’ll need to do. If you just start putting containers in the basement before getting it organized, when it is time to work there, you will probably end up going through some of those bins again. It is easy to forget what is in each bin. It feels more tedious and likely to add to feeling overwhelmed and therefore becomes that much easier to procrastinate. If you added stuff to the area before clearing it out, it is also harder to work in there.

Organizing is often a repetitive process. As you go through things, you put like items together. It is virtually impossible to organize the like items until you have all those items in front of you. It is hard to predict how much room or what size container you need before you see everything together.

As you are going through things in the basement, you can start containers for those – “I know I have more of this type of …” If you have the space to leave those bins open and accessible, all the better. Just like the items that you use regularly, it is easiest if you keep like items together, even in storage. If you have this option, as you move along organizing each room, you can bring the keep items for storage down and put them away immediately.

Just imagine filling a container of treasures from another room. You carry the container into the basement and there is a space for it right now. You get to put it away, safely and not think about again until you are ready for it. It is a completed task now.

Although starting the process of organizing with the basement often sounds like the least exciting (and sometimes the most daunting), it will give you fabulous rewards. I have known many people who cannot believe the relief and ease of having that area ready, even lightening the process for them of dealing with the rest of the rooms. All of this is not to say that you can’t work on other spaces first, and I have done this plenty of times, just that this is the ideal place to begin.

On some level, I think of the idea of starting with the most tedious, hardest part first and then everything else feels easy. Having this done helps motivate you. As usual, I recommend setting aside small chunks of time to dig into the basement, not trying to make yourself tackle it in one weekend. Slow and steady wins the race, just direct your focus and energy in one area – make it the basement. You won’t regret it!

Carpe Diem – Now

“Seize the Day” – Is it that simple? It can be hard to grab each day and live it to its fullest. I know- I tried for years, though after the diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease, its importance became so clear. I was on leave, the doctor’s telling me to rest and recuperate, and I was going crazy. I was desperate to go back to work and feel productive, yet each time I tried, it was clear that my body was not ready. So much of what I had always taken for granted was now challenging. I could not simply sit around, and I needed to figure out how I could my maximize my energy and time. When I hear the phrase “carpe diem,” I hear Robin Williams’ voice intoning, “Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary” from the movie Dead Poet’s Society. This has become my motto, the thing that resonates deep within me, and inspires and motivates me to seize each and every day. It is important to make the most of your energy and time despite all the other things that require your attention and time.

The first step is to figure out what areas of your life you want to improve. You probably already have clear ideas of where you’re struggling, the things that cause you stress. Part of this first step, is then to come up with some ideas on how to help control those areas you want to change. If you are like most people the potential solutions can fall flat, leaving you still struggling. Depending on your resilience and experience, you might get so dejected that you give up hope of things changing. Please don’t. Not generally an optimist, I have eternal hope that there is a way to make effective changes for the better.

When I look at my own life, I see that some of the changes I wanted to make where ones that I was not ready for yet. This can be so frustrating. I felt ready, I had been problem-solving solutions, and trying to put them into practice. Except there were things that needed to happen before I was truly ready for change. I know a number of people who recognize this phenomenon also. If not being ready is a major reason for the failure, there is hope after all. At those moments I needed patience and a certain trust that the time would come when those changes were right.

Whatever struggles you are dealing with, there are ways to try to deal with them, reducing your stress. Since there are so many different kinds of struggles, I cannot address them all. Yet the one message I want to pass along- do not be afraid to seek help. This can be as simple as asking someone to be an accountability partner or it can be someone who specializes in a certain area. For instance, if there are health issues, find a doctor who will talk to you and come up with a plan to address the issues. There are professionals in every field and ways to get information and tips that can assist you in the journey of finding more peace. Just open yourself up to asking for help.

Sometimes things have gotten so bad that it can seem insurmountable, especially if we’re talking about clutter. If you have been struggling for years or even decades, the very idea of getting things under control again might appear to be daunting. How much time will it take? Will it be worth it in the long run, spending all that time de-cluttering? Getting through those things makes life so much simpler and is amazingly freeing. I like FlyLady’s point that it did not get that way overnight, so it is unrealistic that it can be fixed overnight. This is one of the reasons that taking small steps, like setting the timer for small goals is so helpful. You can continue to embrace life as much as possible, while still making efforts to improve it in the long run.

Even if your house is not filled with clutter, the inefficient or somewhat cramped space can add to your stress levels. I have been working with a woman facing multiple transitions and we’ve been slowly working on her entire home. She was raving the last time we met about the effects that the changes have been having, not only her home, but also on her mindset. Behaviors are changing- having space in her hall closet to hang jackets has inspired her to hang her jacket up each time she gets home. There is a greater peace in her and it warms my heart to see that.

In my own life, I am always looking for ways to simplify so that I can seize the day more fully. I am passionate about increasing quality of life, regardless of where the struggles come from. I encourage you to find ways to seize each and every day for yourself. I’m sure you’ve heard the story of the person on their deathbed and in looking back at their life, they do not wish they had spend more time working or cleaning house. Nevertheless those things need to be done, the key is to not lose unnecessary time to them. Reach for the highest quality of life possible and never lose hope. We are never too old to make our lives extraordinary.

How can you remind yourself to seize the day?

An Organizing Mission for You: Make a List of Things That Inspire You

Your organizing mission this week, should you choose to accept it – make a list. I hope your stomach didn’t just drop to your knees. This is a special list, one that will give you pleasure and one that you will refer back to regularly. The list I want you to make is of the things that inspire, motivate, and rejuvenate you. It needs to be compiled of things that touch your very being, excluding things that are mindless or allow you to zone out.

This list is important for several reasons. One is that, once it’s done, in moments of need (more on this later), you will not need to take time to think of things that motivate you. Second, the items on the list can be used before beginning a task or as a reward for completing an arduous task. Third, this list also tells you the things that you need to make time for even if you do not need a pick-me-up at other points.

A while back I was preparing a presentation and was thinking about the things women stereotypically report wanting time for, the luxurious bubble bath, time to label and organize photographs, or time to bake, yet everyone has their individual ultimate in relaxation. For me, the greatest contentment I can imagine happened for me one New Year’s Day, when I spent the majority of the day lounging on the couch reading. I spent the next several weeks feeling light and free, motivated to get things accomplished. Therefore, this is on the top of my list, though there is not always time for a day of lounging and reading.

There are three moments when having our personal list of motivating and inspiring things is helpful, times when a concrete set of choices that will benefit us. First, we all end up facing situations where our motivation is lacking some oomph. Second, there are times when our skills at procrastination reveal themselves more fully. Third, life sometimes seems even more overwhelming and we look up and see no end to the demands on our time, energy, or money.

Without a list, without that fast and easy way to remind ourselves of what helps us, it is easy to dismiss the things that benefit us. When we find that we are procrastinating or feeling overwhelmed, it is often a clue that we need to take time to care for ourselves. It is often the hardest time to stop and re-direct our energy inward. Having the list means that we can pull it out and refer to it, and we recognize the importance of self-care, and even that we are willing to try it.

Doing something off that list then can help revitalize us; sometimes we need to energize ourselves to work on the next task. Having a list that is comprised of the things that inspire and motivate us is useful in rejuvenating our energy to accomplish what we need to. Sitting on the couch and zoning out to the latest television program does not result in our feeling more energetic.

On the other hand, knowing the things that benefit your state of mind can also be a great “reward” after completing a project. Out of curiosity, I took an online procrastination quiz and many questions dealt with the idea of treating yourself to something nice after getting a dreaded task accomplished. The list that you create would be the ideal place to turn for any reward you want.

There is a fine line between using this list to motivate yourself and abusing it by avoiding the tasks you need to accomplish. Yet the benefits of recognizing the things that benefit your state of mind are immeasurable. This list might offer ways of combining unpleasant or dreaded tasks with things that also motivate you.

Is there music that touches you deeply or one that makes you bounce around with energy? There is no reason that you cannot put that music on while you work on something else. A while back there was a television show on during the day that I was inspired by, so I combined my watching it with my daily stationary bike ride.

The things that rejuvenate you are the very items that need to be on your list. They are things that hold meaning for you and therefore deserve to be done regularly. It is too easy to get caught up in all the things that demand our attention and energy, neglecting the things that can help keep us going. By making time to do some of the things on this list we decrease the burnout that life can bring our way. Doing things for ourselves from this list can also benefit our friends and family for we have more patience and energy by making caring for ourselves a priority.

So I challenge you to make a list of things that inspire, motivate, and rejuvenate you. You can choose to share it or not, but make sure that you can refer to it easily. Make sure that you do not forget about it, use it, remind yourself that you are important and deserve some pampering.

Coping with Feeling Overwhelmed

With all the work and chaos that re-doing the room brought about, I started thinking about the feeling of being overwhelmed. No one is exempt from feeling overwhelmed at times in life. Some people even seem to be perpetually overwhelmed, rarely feeling in control and at peace.

I like to tell my clients that things have to get worse before they get better, and oh, did things get worse in my house when we were redoing and reorganizing the room. I hate admitting it, but in some ways when it comes to my own space, I can be a bit high strung. The mess that accumulated in every downstairs room from emptying the one room was something that had me feeling overwhelmed. Everywhere I looked, there was a mess. As I looked around, I was overwhelmed with all there was to do, feeling a little hopeless at dealing with it promptly. As much as I might not want it, as much as I might shake my fists in frustration at it, life did not stop just because I was re-organizing a room.

I had so many tasks on my list that it felt hard to make any real progress – completing one task still left me with a long laundry list. We’ve all been there – the battle that it feels like you cannot win. Part of the cost of feeling overwhelmed is that we are essentially beating ourselves up. We have lost any real sense of hope. We start thinking that there is no escape and no end. It is hard to move anywhere within ourselves when we are stuck with such thinking. We need to give ourselves a break; would you be so critical of your best friend for being in the same situation? We often offer much more leniency to others than we do to ourselves.

What I tell myself when I start to fall into this self-defeating thinking is that it takes consistent, small steps. It is rare that we have concentrated large chunks of time or energy to delve fully into fixing the various things that need our attention and getting through the things that have built up with time. This also does not address establishing new and more constructive routines. Small yet regular steps are enough to get through the disorder, as well as make sure things end up where they belong.

The way that you decide to react to the feeling is what matters most. If we let ourselves become stymied by feeling overwhelmed, it can be that much more difficult to start moving forward. Facing difficulties in life, whatever they might be, is challenging. It is easy to wish for an easy, fast solution.

Yet, if we can approach the difficulties life throws at us with determination, we will get through it and build up future confidence in ourselves. We can even “fake” feeling positive about our situation to help move us through the challenges we face; practicing the adaptability we would want.

I can tell myself that all it takes is the small, regular steps and even believe it, although it does not always feel that way. I wish it actually eliminated all feelings of being overwhelmed, but it does not always work that way. When I start taking those small steps though, I am reminded of how even 15 minutes can make a dent into what I am dealing with.

How resilient do you want to be? Do you admire people who seem determined to adapt to whatever life hands them?

I read a study dealing with resiliency regarding facing health issues. This applies to anyone facing any situation that feels overwhelming. Those people who scored high on resiliency also scored high in feeling “a greater sense of control over their lives, greater tolerance of negative emotions, trust of their own instincts, and use of spiritual practices to cope.”

Isn’t this what we all want? A way to adapt and avoid unnecessary stress despite what life brings our way.

Take the first step, take a little time every day and start addressing the things that are causing you to feel overwhelmed.

Oh, and the stuff in my house that ended up everywhere during the room re-organization? It’s finally getting back into place, while some of it is finding various new homes. If you know anybody who’s looking for a desk, let me know I have one needing a new home.

Change Your Resolution for the New Year

Tomorrow night we will celebrate by ringing in the New Year. It is typically a time for us to look back at the past year, evaluating the events and choices, and then set some goals for the coming year.

What I find interesting is that we often are inspired to do those same things at other times in our lives, moments that speak deeply to us. These personal moments of retrospection seem to have more power and influence than this externally prescribed time of New Year’s to set resolutions for ourselves.

A friend of mine felt this strongly after she had her first child, it altered her perspective on family, even to the extent that she felt that someone without kids would not understand the transformation she felt. Another friend was sharing that she experienced a similar feeling after she got married. I went through one of my own when I moved back to Wisconsin after 11 years.

The universal process they talked about was reevaluating their lives, their friends; examining the path they were on. They were choosing the values and direction they wanted to take in their lives.

For me, in moving back to the place that had always felt like home, I felt strongly that I was starting over in a way, or at least beginning a new chapter. After settling into my apartment, I wrote letters to various family members, feeling the importance of cherishing the family we are given, even if we do not always relate to them very well. I wanted to try to connect and resolve any issues. In response, I received a touching call from my aunt and we had a beautiful, honest conversation.

Why then do we get sucked into the mass mentality that we need to do this each year at this specific time? Why is it only once a year?

It is not a bad time to look back, to think about the direction you want to take in your life. We all hear about the lack of follow through on New Year’s resolutions. Making goals for yourself and having to think about how you failed is setting yourself up for guilt and disappointment, especially if your goals are aimed at a year’s time.

Therefore, I challenge you to think smaller. Instead of trying to figure out the whole year in advance, think about what you want in the next quarter. Just like with time management issues, keeping the list relatively short, avoiding overwhelming yourself with too many things, and especially to keep it simple.

Set an appointment with yourself to reevaluate things again. Coming back to Wisconsin, a state with distinct seasons that I had missed, I tend to look at things according to the seasons. It is a clear reminder of the passing of time and I use that to inspire introspection and a fresh time for resolutions.

What I despise most is seeing how we end up beating ourselves up for the failures of not achieving the goals we’ve set. Losing hope in ourselves for being able to follow through on our resolutions is the ultimate defeat.

All the more reason that we think smaller and aim for the shorter term. Life is constantly changing, and we can be that much more prepared to adapt to the events and maintain our footing.

What’s my New Year’s goals? I am going to embrace and adapt to what life brings my way. I am going to set small, short term goals and work slowly towards them.

I’d love to hear what your New Year’s goals are!

The Ever Elusive Time Part II

Last week I talked about setting the timer to find a distinct measure of how you are spending your time on tasks. Yet, this is only one side of the difficulties time throws at us. So often we feel that we just do not have time to work on this or that project.

Time is easily transformed by the feelings we have about how we’ve spent it. It can be our ally or the enemy that disappears without warning. Too often, it feels so fleeting that we have no idea what happened, it is just gone.

Our talent at procrastination can magnify the effect of time’s elusiveness. We’ll start that task in just a little while, but something comes along and distracts us. Maybe something that demands our attention interferes and since the task is a relatively low priority comparatively, that task easily falls by the wayside.

It is easy to tell ourselves that we just do not have the time to tackle cleaning out the closet, or whatever it is that we would like to find the time for, yet this is inaccurate. We fail to recognize that we can break things into smaller chunks, fitting it in when we have just a small amount of time.

Here we return to the importance of the timer.

Set the timer for an increment of your choosing and when it goes off you stop. If you feel you have more time to work on a project, great; set the timer anyway to make sure you don’t lose track of time. Be careful to not overwhelm yourself since there are alternatives to finding a day (or a weekend) to clean out the basement. Setting aside as little as 15 or 30 minutes every day to start working on your projects is a remarkably effective way to get things accomplished.

Many tasks that feel large can be broken down into smaller segments, where you can whittle away at them. You fit tasks into your schedule and do not feel controlled by them. That closet shelf (or even part of a shelf) can be sorted and purged in 15-minute increments.

If you enjoy watching TV, you can get up and work on something during the commercial breaks, and by the end of a one-hour show, you will have spent at least 15 minutes getting things accomplished!

Who does not have 15 minutes in their day to spend on something that will provide value for them? You will be amazed at what you can get done in those 15 minutes.

We all have things that we wish we had time for and yet somehow feel that there is not enough time. Even bigger or detail oriented tasks can be broken down into smaller segments. If you have a stack of photos you want to go through, but are convinced that you do not have the time to go through them, pull out a small pile and start with that. You can always pull another pile later.

This idea of setting the timer to help you track time can also be applied to ways to make time for any number of things you put off. If you wish that you had time to take a bath, time to luxuriate and relax, set the timer for that too. You can fill the bath and set the timer just before you hop in, then you can focus on enjoying that time and not worry about losing track of how long you’ve been in there.

Our time is immeasurably valuable. We can find ways to evaluate and appreciate how we spend it and maximize how we use it. It should not control us, and the timer is a wonderful way to take control of your time.

What are you going to do with your 15 minutes today? Tomorrow?