One Bag Nation

Archive for the ‘getting organized’ Category

hitthewallThe last month or so really challenged my ability to keep lots of balls in the air; my little blog was one of the first to drop, and I’ve missed it!

I was feeling so discouraged that I couldn’t even rally to make any New Year’s Resolutions; somehow “get organized” is starting to sound really worn out and meaningless.

Instead I have committed to daily affirmations. I have three, which I write and say 15 times each, every day. My affirmations are big in scope; as I write them I think about the small steps required to fulfill their promise.

Do any of you make affirmations? If so, I’d love to hear from you!


Do you always imagine that everyone else has it all together? I do!

I imagine “everyone else” sailing through their days with amazing and natural efficiency, while their well-behaved children play in their lovely yards (or tidy bedrooms); their inboxes never overflow; their basements are clean and organized; and there is nothing resembling clutter – physical or otherwise – to be seen. My husband insists that I have an unrealistic view of “everyone else’s” orderly life, and I think he might be right . . .

In the past two weeks I’ve been to two different friends’ houses, and what did I see? A dust bunny or two (or more!), piles of mail, paperwork and magazines; a few stray hairs in the bathroom; messy teenage girl bedrooms that rival any of my daughter’s messes; crumbs on the carpet; the list goes on . . .

Did I decide that I could no longer be friends with women whose houses looked this way? Of course not! I thought: wow! life creates dust and crumbs and piles and stray hair at “everyone else’s” house too.

This is not to say that I want to live surrounded by clutter and chaos. I just need to realize that “everyone else” is struggling to balance work, home, kids, husband and self just like I am, and that I should stop worrying about being judged for not always being able to keep all the plates spinning.

Somewhere a few years ago, I read a great line – I think it was a comment on – that said:

If you’re coming to see me, come right over. If you’re coming to see my house, give me 30 minutes!

I loved that and I should remember it more often.

How about you? Do you feel like your clutter or sense of disorganization define you? Or maybe you’re on the other side, and really pride yourself on being neat, clean and efficient. Either way, let’s not lose sight of the rabbits for the bunnies – or something like that!

I was looking around my house this morning and realizing how far I’ve come in terms of decluttering, organizing and keeping rooms tidy – so much so that I’m feeling almost giddy and, I must say, very proud of myself. I feel like a huge weight is off my shoulders, like I’m literally lighter as I move through the house. The best part is, I can enjoy my hobbies, my family – even occasional mindless TV – so much more, knowing that I don’t have endless lists of things to be done. I have never lived like this before.

And I was wondering, why now? Where did I suddenly find the motivation, the discipline, the energy?

When I checked in with my favorite blogs, I got some of the answer. Barbara at Blogging Without a Blog had a post entitled “Why Didn’t You Say Goodbye”, which talked about the disappearance of blogs and bloggers with no explanation to their readers – a phenomenon that is oddly upsetting.

A lot of the discussion in the comments was about how time-consuming, even addictive, blogging can be, leaving less time and energy for other important projects and interests, not to mention family and friends. I’ve certainly felt that at times.

But as I was reading, I realized that my blog is a huge part of my success with getting my (literal and figurative) house in order. I feel motivated by the prospect of posting about my progress, and I guess in some way I feel a responsibility to my readers to follow through. I also think that having my very own, very personal creative outlet was energizing and empowering . . . especially at a time when I was so miserable with my paid work.

My journey is far from over (remember that awful basement?) but I hope with all my heart that along the way I’ve inspired or supported someone else in their struggle to create order, serenity and peace of mind . . . and that I’ll continue to do so as my quest continues!

Yes . . . chalk it up to end-of-school-year busy-ness, Father’s Day busy-ness, whatever! But this morning, I tried to pick up my check and it was stuck to a drop of maple syrup, left from yesterday’s Father’s Day breakfast.

And I was so proud of myself for getting the laundry done, making progress on clearing out my file drawer, going for a run, doing my five-minute declutter in the basement . . . oh well, a mother’s work is never done . . . and a little maple syrup never hurt anyone.

Happy Monday!

There are many areas of household management I struggle with, but I’m good in the kitchen. Even before I hit on some of these kitchen organizing solutions, I was able to pull meals together pretty easily. But I know that’s not the case for everyone!

My mother was and is a really good cook, and at this point in her cooking life, she hardly ever consults a recipe. I still love to read and collect recipes, and I aim to try a new one every week, but I do a lot of cooking out of my head, especially on weeknights. I’m infamous for tweaking recipes, but that’s half the fun!

Over the years I’ve learned some tips and tricks that have helped me get a healthy dinner on the table in less time. If this is a struggle for you, give them a try:

Make a Weekly Meal Plan: I do this sometime between Friday and Sunday. I get out my calendar to see what the week holds, and then plan a meal for each night we’ll be home. I aim for balance between meat, chicken, fish, pasta, etc. and I try to include “something green” in every menu. I jot down my ideas, assign them to a day of the week, and then make my grocery list.

Keep A Running Grocery List: I have a supply of those long notepads with a magnet on the back, and one always lives on my kitchen cupboard door, where we have a magnetic bulletin board. My husband and I both add to the list as we discover things we’re low on. It works very well – we rarely find ourselves without the essentials.

Keep a Well-Stocked Pantry: I always have certain items on hand. Some of my staples include canned tomatoes and tomato sauce; various kinds of beans; pasta and rice; canned tuna; olives, capers, and artichoke hearts; kid-friendly canned vegetables; onions and garlic; soy sauce; chicken broth; and good-quality olive oil and wine vinegar.

Store Like Things Together: I have a bin for oatmeal preparation, since I make it almost every morning; another bin for rice and grains; a couple of bins for baking supplies and equipment, including measuring cups; and small turntables for things like oil, vinegar, soy sauce, kosher salt, and my pepper mill. Cooking goes so much faster when I can just grab a bin, instead of digging around in the cupboard for the various items I need.

Create a Favorite Recipes Binder: I’m a recipe hoarder, and a post on finally inspired me to do some organizing. I had a binder, but the recipes were stuck in there every-which-way; they weren’t even alphabetized – silly! I now have two 3-ring binders to hold my “favorite” recipes, organized by category; these are recipes I have used, like, and go back to regularly. I still collect recipes to try; they’re stored in file folders by category. When I feel like trying something new, that’s where I look. If the recipe is a success, it goes into the binder; if not it goes into the recycling! I asked my daughter to decorate the tabbed pages for each recipe category; above is her “Layr Cacke” collage – I love it!

Stay tuned for more detailed posts on these ideas, and for more suggestions for setting up and maintaining an organized, efficient kitchen – guaranteed to add a little order, serenity and peace of mind to your life!

You’ve finally decided to tackle the clutter weighing you down. You’re standing at the door of your closet, staring at the piles, and you suddenly decide: “I can’t do any of this if I can’t do all of it – right now!!” but you don’t have time to do all of it – so you give up entirely.

That’s an example of All or Nothing Thinking – and it can derail us from achieving all sorts of goals.

Many of us are (sadly) very familiar with this kind of thinking related to our food and fitness plans. One cookie, or one missed workout – and we give up – and we often fall off the wagon in a big, bad way.

“I ate one cookie and blew my diet so I might as well eat 10 more”. OR, “I didn’t get to the gym this morning so I might as well abandon my exercise program”.

Don’t let All or Nothing Thinking get in the way of creating some order for yourself! If you’re facing a big organizing job, make peace with the idea that it will take you a while to complete it. While it’s true that the mess may get worse before it gets better, if you keep at it – even in small bursts of work – you will get it done. So much better than the alternative of working like a fiend for two hours until you can’t stand it anymore, and then never going back to finish the project because it was so miserable! Or giving up completely before you’ve even started.

Clearing clutter can feel completely overwhelming; I know because I’ve been there. I used to set aside whole weekends to “get my house in order”, but it didn’t work; I just couldn’t sustain my energy or focus. I still have some piles of paper and files from my last marathon session – at least three years ago.

But now I practice what I’m preaching: I work for short periods of time (sometimes just 5 minutes) and I stop when I feel paralyzed and can’t make good decisions anymore. Slowly but surely I’m clearing out the clutter and gaining order, serenity and peace of mind.

Yesterday I spent 15 minutes down in the holiday room, chipping away at my great basement organizing project. I piled up all the ribbon and tissue paper and took inventory.

One of the best tips I got from Laura Leist’s book Eliminate Chaos is to sort and purge your stuff before buying any storage containers. Shopping is #8 of her ten steps to getting organized! All those fun stores like IKEA, Storables and The Container Store seduce us with bins, boxes and baskets of every shape, size and color, but you really shouldn’t buy any of that stuff until you know what you need to store.

I’m definitely in favor of investing in storage containers that you like to look at and do the job, but for now, my sorting continues. When I have everything organized in piles or temporary boxes, I’ll decide if I need to purchase anything to store it in.

I’m so looking forward to walking into that room and being able to put my hand on exactly what I need!