My Three Words for 2014

Posted By on December 31, 2013

When I first stumbled across Chris Brogan’s posts about using three words to set your intentions for the New Year, I thought it was brilliant.

Instead of writing down a bunch of resolutions, using a word or two or three helps you make decisions about the actions you take. It’s easier to let go and move on when you have a firm boundary.

I also like creating vision boards to help set intentions too. This year, I created a Pinterest board as a digital vision board for 2014.

So without further ado, here are my three words for 2014.

Nourish. This is a big one for me, and it really covers a great deal of ground.  In the coming year, I want all of my actions to nourish my heart, my soul, my relationships, my career, my time and my life.

Like I said, this includes a multitude of things. Basically in 2014, any decisions and actions I take must nourish me in some way. Using the word “nourish” will help me prioritize my choices and boundaries about my health, fitness, self-care and stress management.

Creativity. When it comes to creativity,  I want to do it, follow it, go with it, pursue it, celebrate it, revel in it, embrace it, write it, read it, paint it, love it and respect it.

Gumption.  To me, gumption is similar to fearlessness, momentum, courage, drive, motivation and the simple “get it done.” We all need gumption to get moving. Yes, we may fail, but as Tom Peter said several years ago, “I would have rather a spectacular failure instead of a mediocre success.”

Happy New Year! Let’s be unstoppable and awesome in 2014.


Need an Organizing Tool? 3-D Print It!

Posted By on November 2, 2013

I first heard of 3-D printing during a webinar about The Future of Work. During the webinar, they showed a video about how they were testing 3-D printers and “living” ink to create an ear prosthetic.

Very cool stuff for a geeky, sci-fi chick like myself.

I work with clinicians and scientists who are always curious and always looking at the latest technology, and they like to see what these gadgets can do. Several researchers I know have 3-D printers at home to see what they can create.

Since our division moved to a new building, our Senior Vice President found the perfect organizing trays for his office. Since the desk trays he found didn’t have label holders, he made his own on his 3-D printer. Each label was sized to hold a slip of paper for his tray names, and he used small nails to fasten them to the trays. He also made a calendar so he can easily see today’s date when he signed paperwork.

I thought both creations were brilliant, and I am enamored by the magical world of 3-D printing. I love the idea of creating your own organizing products when you can’t find what you specifically need. Choose your design, the color, and presto – you have an original organizing tool.

Our Senior VP and other 3-D creators post their creations on the Maker Bot Thingiverse website. Visitors to the website can download the posted patterns to create their versions.

On the Thingiverse site, I found an assortment of organizing tools, including assorted boxes, organizer trays, and cable organizers. Some others that I liked:

One entry on the website was not a printable 3-D design but rather a suggested way to organize your 3-D tools.

It’s going to be exciting and fascinating to see how 3-D printing will continue to evolve in the future – in all aspects of our lives. At some point, we may go to our favorite office supply store and tell them what we need, and they will print out a customized product for us. How cool will that be?


Easy Raking Tips for Fall

Posted By on October 17, 2013

A note from Janice: Someone from Hefty contacted me about writing a fall-related guest post about lawn care. I said yes since I try to avoid lawn work as much as possible so I’m not an expert on outdoor matters.

Now that fall has arrived, it’s time to pack up your gardening tools and bring out the rake. Raking leaves is certainly not the most fun part of fall, but it’s a chore that has to be done if you’d like to keep your lawn healthy and looking nice all season long.

Fortunately, there are simple tips you can use to make the task of raking leaves more efficient and less of a hassle. Use the following ideas to make raking a breeze this fall:

  • Don’t run outside to rake after the first big leaf fall. If you wait a little while after the leaves start falling, you’ll have to rake less frequently. Let them lie there for a bit and then rake everything up at once.
  • Invest in leaf and lawn bags to hold yard refuse. These bags are typically thicker than your average trash bag, making them ideal for holding sticks, twigs and piles of leaves.
  • If possible, rake downhill. Although leaves are light, gravity will still help make raking easier. Additionally, make sure you’re raking in the same direction as the wind to prevent everything from blowing away.
  • To avoid whole leaves from blowing away before you bag them, stomp through your piles to crush down the biggest ones and keep them closer to the ground.
  • Rather than raking everything into one big pile, rake smaller piles in different areas around your lawn. This way, leaves will be less likely to get loose as they’re being dragged across the yard and bagging smaller piles is much more manageable than bagging one gigantic one.
  • Even if it’s not too chilly out, make sure to wear long pants, long sleeves and gloves as you rake to prevent getting bit by insects or scratched by loose twigs and branches.
  • While it might be tempting to get every single leaf into the leaf bags, you actually don’t have to rake every single area in your yard. Don’t rake up the leaves that fall underneath trees since they can turn to compost and feed the roots.

Incorporating these tips into your lawn maintenance routine will hopefully help speed up the leaf raking process and simplify yard upkeep. Keep up with your leaf raking this fall and you’ll find yourself with a clean and beautiful yard all season long!

Author Bio: This is a guest post by Katie F. on behalf of Hefty®. Visit Hefty online for more tips on getting organized for fall and products like recycling bags that can help you out.


Find Your Happy Place

Posted By on September 29, 2013

A funny thing happened while writing this post.

I decided to write about finding your happy place and started put fingers to keyboard. Then one of my friends gave her two weeks’ notice.

I wasn’t surprised. My friend has been miserable at her job for some time and had been searching for a new job in a tight job market. By quitting her job without another lined up, she chose her sanity and health over the stress.

It’s scary. It’s brave. My friend knows some may call her crazy, but life is a series of choices.

Life is too short not to be in your happy place.  I learned this the hard way, and since I didn’t learn it well enough the first time, it took a second experience for me to get it. In the two jobs I had before my current position, I stayed a year too long at each, and I was a burned out, unhappy and toxic mess by the time I left. When you’re burned out, unhappy and toxic, you are no fun to hang out with or engaged with your work.

I’m very fortunate to have been in a job for the past 13 years that keeps me engaged and makes me happy. Yes, there may be a bad day now and again, but I love my job.

Every now and again, I’ll have an organizing client who wants to talk to me about their productivity at work, but I quickly discover productivity isn’t the problem.  They’re not happy with their job, themselves, or the world in general, and no amount of help managing email and clutter is going to help.

Being the straightforward kind of chick that I am, I usually ask “Are you happy?” when I sense there is something lurking in the background.

It’s difficult to make changes in the best of times, but when you’re unhappy, making change can be paralyzing.  You can dip your toes in the water of change. So what should you do?

  • Seek help. Talking to a therapist or a life coach can be helpful in sorting out what’s going on in your head, what you want and how you can get it. I’ve used both a therapist and a life coach over the years, and I’ve found the work with them very, very helpful.
  • Make a vision board or list. Creating a vision board or drawing out your ideas, feelings and thoughts can surprise you. It helps you to realize what’s important to you and what goals you want to set.
  • Volunteer. If you’re not sure about changing jobs, particularly if it’s in a different field, try volunteering for a group doing the work you’re considering.  Many non-profits need help – especially the free kind.
  • Take classes. You can take in-person or online classes. Websites such as Khan Academy offer a variety of short videos on numerous topics. Many colleges and university also offer MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) – free classes open to everyone. Check out websites, such as Coursera.

It’s never too late to find your happy place. Trust me.


The Big Office Move of 2013

Posted By on August 26, 2013

For most of August, my poor Twitter followers and Facebook friends have had to read all about my recent office move adventures at work.

I have been consumed by the office move during the past several weeks for two reasons: 1) we moved into a new building and 2) I am the department’s move coordinator.

Yes, this is what happens when you’re a certified professional organizer. You get to be the move coordinator, and no one appreciates a move coordinator – except the facilities department since they’re in charge of the Big Move.

By its nature, moving is quite simple. You put stuff in a box, label the box, take the box to the new location, open the box and unpack the box. Humans are a messy lot, and human nature complicates everything.

For our department, this move was a big deal. We were moving from a space we outgrew before we moved in five years ago to a new building. The building is a block or two away from the main buildings, where our clients – clinical and research faculty – are. It was nice to run into the doctors in the coffee line, the cafeteria and the elevators, and I can’t tell you how many times I did “hallway therapy” for my organizing and productivity work.

In addition to the move, we were asked to take on expanded duties and change our department name. Naturally, this all occurs at the same time, causing a bit of stress and uncertainty.

Here are a few things I learned during our office move:

The Rules. A work move is completely different from a home move. We are a large organization, and we have rules. Lots of them. Facilities people oversee the construction or remodeling of space and are responsible for moving people out of old spaces and into the new ones.

Just a couple of examples of the rules we had about the move:

  • No refrigerators, microwaves and other appliances in your individual office since those are provided in the break rooms. One of my co-workers had to take her appliance collection home.
  • You are assigned a certain amount of office space based on your title. Most of us in my department have 100-square-foot offices. For several of us, this was an upgrade since we had to carve out offices from weird spaces in the last move. For example, my old office is still listed as a file room on the master plan – because it was a file room.
  • You had to choose between having a bookcase or a file cabinet in your office since there was no room to have both.
  • All boxes had to have a label with our office numbers on them, and the labels had to be placed in the same place on all boxes. This meant that the boxes had to be stacked so Facilities could easily see the labels.
  • As a state institution, oodles of forms had to be filled out before the move, including: badge reader access, keys issuance, signage list, asset transfer forms, parking, etc.

The Office Pack Rats. Often, I get the question about whether I see hoarding behavior at work, and the short answer is YES. I’ve seen offices with stuff stacked to the ceiling, stacks of paper and things everywhere, and unpacked boxes from previous moves. Moves are harder for those with pack-rat behaviors, and, for some people, our move would mean less office space.

We held several decluttering days to prepare for the move, and we had dumpsters for recycling, trash and shredding. During the last two or three weeks of the move, I just kept the dumpsters in the office to encourage people to lighten their load.

The Office Stuff. As a co-worker and I went through our office supply areas, we discovered little nests of supplies, many of which had been over ordered.

We weeded out the stuff we knew we didn’t use or didn’t use any more, and I posted a Yammer (like in-house Twitter) post that we had extra office supplies.

People from several departments popped up to take extra file folders, a black and white printer, binders and other items to use in their own department. Instead of sending this stuff to our warehouse or tossing it, we saved the institution money by putting unused items back in use in other areas.

Because we obviously had a tremendous amount of office supplies, we decided any office supply orders have to go through our office manager. Anytime someone requests anything, the first question will be, “Have you checked the workroom to see if we already have it?” I’m convinced that the institution as a whole never should have to buy paper clips or binder clips ever.

Take Advantage of Change. I used the move as the opportunity to go as paper free as possible. I went through my hanging files, recycled the stuff that I no longer wanted or needed, and scanned the items I did want. The office manager and I did the same thing for department files so we were able to eliminate drawers full of files.

By becoming more digital, we had less stuff to pack and unpack. This saves us time and money.

Smooth Sailing and Rough Seas. As the move coordinator, my job was to make sure everyone else thinks the move is going smooth. You may be the one dealing with the waves crashing over you, but the others don’t have to see it. If they see it, they begin to panic and stress, and it’s easier to move people when they’re calm and focused.

I created a premove checklist for my department to remind them of what they needed to do before the move. This way, they didn’t have to think about what they forgot to do. Facilitiesliked it so much that they’re using it now.
I love details by nature, and because of my work as a professional organizer, Facilities staffers were excited that I would be an “easy” department. No pressure.

Postmove Madness. Everyone was fine with the move. I was the one who was a total wreck. Anytime someone came to my new office, they had a problem or complaint that I had to handle in some fashion. One person may have an issue or two, but multiply that by the entire department, it becomes a bit maddening.

During a move, you discover how high maintenance some of your co-workers really are. This didn’t really surprise me since the ones who are usually high maintenance were still high maintenance.

By the end of the first week in our new space, I was crankier than Grumpy Cat. I went home early and took a much-needed nap.

In the end, we survived the move as expected and are enjoying the new space.


This is Your Life. This is Your Life on Digital.

Posted By on July 1, 2013

On Saturday, I found myself at my phone store trading in my old iPhone 4 for an iPhone 5.

As we prepared to wipe the old one and gear up the new one, the tech Jason reminded me that I would have to connect to iTunes to download my apps again. As I played with the new phone as he did paperwork – which isn’t really paperwork when it’s on an iPad, I said, “Oh, I have to mark my favorites again in my contacts. Or do I? I may want to change who my favorites are.”

Jason laughed. “Yeah, you may want to change up things. After all, it’s your digital life.”

Digital icons = digital life“Yes. Yes, it is,” I replied, my head spinning with possibilities.

It is my digital life. We all have one.

Our digital lives are filled with work and personal email, photos, documents, clouds, social media music, movies and everything else we have floating out there on the Internet. There are now legal questions on who owns your digital content after you die.

Managing our digital lives has become so important that my organizing colleague and friend Allison Carter renamed her business Digital Life Organizing. (Check out her Pinterest board too.)

Later that night, I reloaded my apps, but I was much more deliberate about it. I have lots of apps since I play with many of them for both organizing clients and web posts to see which ones work better.

Although I always delete the duds, others that I have wound up not using were still floating around.

Apps are just like anything else you have in your life. You have to decide what to keep and what to ditch. I downloaded only the apps I use and ones my clients like so I can do show and tell. The rest remain floating out there in case I need them. My personal faves that I use frequently on my phone:

  • Dropbox.
  • Evernote.
  • Box – since we will use this at work soon.
  • Wunderlist.
  • Playlists on iTunes for my workouts.
  • Hootsuite.

I organized the rest of my apps into categories such as Food, Social Media, Shopping, Travel, Health, Entertainment and Utilities. Putting my apps into folders works out great since I can easily find what I’m looking for. I don’t always use the default folder name if it doesn’t work for me.

Photos on my iPhone and tablet are regularly backed up to Dropbox so I don’t have to worry about what happens to them. Once they’re in Dropbox, I can rename, move and edit them.

Managing your smartphone is just a drop in the bucket of your digital life, but it’s yours to manage.