Pack Smart! Save Time and Money

Posted By on February 1, 2013

Guest post by Marketing Strategist, Social Media Consultant and International Keynote Speaker Crystal Washington

Pair the fact that most airlines charge upwards of twenty-five dollars per checked bag with the knowledge that some 26 million pieces of luggage go missing annually at the airport, and you will certainly think twice before checking a bag.

I travel to sometimes as many as three locations in a week for speaking engagements — that is a lot of plane rides and opportunities for disaster. I’ve suffered it all, lost bags the day of speaking engagements, busted hair products all over my clothing because of crazy baggage handling and even one incident where my luggage smelled like it was lovingly stored in a dumpster during the flight. No more! In 2012, I promised that I would never again check baggage. I even managed to keep that promise during three international trips — France, Germany and Trinidad.

The Secret to Packing Everything You Need Lies In Four Rules.

  1. Invest in a great quality carry-on. If you purchase a cheap, flimsy carry-on, your bag will likely not be able to bear the weight of your items. Be sure to check with your preferred airline carrier for the most up-to-date size specifications for carry-on bags. The size does differ for domestic and international travel.
  2. Only pack exactly what you will use. Not only does this apply to the clothing you will wear, but also to skin care, hair care products and makeup. Invest in small, sturdy containers to hold the exact amount of product you will need. Also, do not pack “just in case” clothes. If you need something else, you can buy it when you get there.
  3. Be willing to reuse clothing. While this is obviously not appropriate for undergarments, wearing pants twice may be an option if you are sitting in a cool environment.
  4. Pack as if you are playing Tetris. Smart utilization of space is key. Socks should be stuffed into shoes. There should be few open cavities in your bag. One of my favorite YouTube videos for packing is called Pack for Weeks in a Carry-on by Using this method, I packed clothes, including formal wear and a winter coat, for nearly a week in Paris using my carry-on.

Putting Everything in Its Place

For overnight speaking engagements, I can travel with my rolling laptop bag. For trips requiring two or more days, I need my larger carry-on.

On my inside flap, I pack my protein powder and throat lozenges. In the larger compartment, I place my shoes on the perimeter and then fill the middle with my toiletry and makeup bags. I put socks and other similar items in my shoes. Sometimes, when I’m somewhere for more than two nights, I’ll pack my Magic Bullet on this level.

Using the packing method detailed in the video mentioned above, I pack my clothes on top of the shoes and toiletries.

I add my small laptop case with computer on top of my clothing.

In the first front pocket, I keep my inflatable travel pillow, eye mask and ear muff band.

In the second front pocket, I include any and all documents, tickets, etc.

That’s it! Feel free to share your favorite packing tricks.

Crystal Washington is a social media marketing strategist and international technology speaker who has worked with companies, including Google, Microsoft and GE. For more information, please visit

Multitasking is a Bitch

Posted By on January 18, 2013

We poor humans keep trying to do it, but we can never do it very well.

Our job descriptions will say we need to multitask, and in job interviews, we all sit in the chair across from a prospective boss, claiming we are the kings and queens of multitasking. “Oh, yes,” we find ourselves saying, “I can multitask like there’s no tomorrow. Watch me read ‘War and Peace’ while creating a killer PowerPoint and ordering lunch for the department.”

Tired of juggling? Step away from the balls.Meanwhile, your coworkers are wondering why there are bookmarks on their plates instead of chicken salad. Your boss is tapping her foot about a tardy slide deck, and you’re banging your head against a hefty book.

Like I said, poor humans. Studies of our cognitive abilities keep showing that we are not good at multitasking. One study said men and women both lose 10 IQ points when they try to do two things at once. Basically, we’re making ourselves stupid when we multitask. This is why they say texting and driving at the same time makes you more dangerous than a drunk driver.

We live in a mobile, high-tech world where we have access to information at our fingertips 24 hours a day. We can check email in the middle of the grocery store or while sitting on an exotic beach because we can. But does that mean we should?

People are using the term “digital vacation” more and more. I, for one, encourage my friends, family and organizing clients to take digital vacations when they’re on vacation. During the recent Christmas holidays, I took two weeks off, and, to make sure I wasn’t tempted to check work email, I turned Outlook off on my iPad.

Email is never an emergency. If it’s a real emergency, people should call or appear at your desk.

Focus on doing one thing at a time. You will be surprised by how quickly you can finish up a task or project just by focusing on what you need to do.

Protect your time. Before you open email in the morning, take 30 minutes to 90 minutes and zero in on those important tasks. Brian Tracy refers to this as “eating the frog.” My organizing colleague and friend Ellen Delap calls them “power hours,” and Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project refers to them as “sprinting.” Call it whatever you want, but try it. You’ll like it. I know I do, and I feel more productive when I do it. Then check email when your time is up. It will still be there.

What is your MIT? I know how priorities can shift from hour to hour and day to day at work. No matter how much stuff is flying at you, one thing has to be the Most Important Thing (MIT), and that’s where your focus should begin. Each day, ask yourself, “What is my MIT?”

Reduce multitasking and email. Brainstorm with your team on how you can reduce emails as a group. This may require actually talking to each other. It’s okay. They want less emails and multitasking too.

Yes, multitasking is a bitch. But you can win and keep your IQ intact.


Organizing and Displaying Memorabilia

Posted By on January 15, 2013

Ah, memories. We collect things from our travels, our past lives and other special moments.

What do you do to honor these special moments? If you love it, it should be honored and respected.

Frame it.

Use a shadowbox or have it framed at a shop. One of my friends has a grocery list her grandmother wrote in a small frame in her kitchen.

I prefer making my own shadowboxes. I use fabric or scrapbook paper to line the back and then either pin things to the back, glue them or use Velcro, depending on what it is. I made one with my Barbie and Barbie-like dolls. I also like this Pinterest idea of using a drawer as a shadowbox.

I saw this Pinterest project where you decoupage photos on a wooden letter. You could do this on pretty much anything. Another Pinterest idea is simply decoupaging photos on a foam board.

Quilt it.

Back in the day, people used leftover fabric to make quilts. One of the old quilts my mother has from her childhood features leftover fabric from her own mother’s sewing projects. Mom, who loves to sew, can point to individual squares and say which one of her sisters had a dress out of that particular material.

Nowadays, people can use them to create a new way to honor old clothes. My friend Barbara makes rag quilts out of children’s clothing for her Etsy customers. A new client just asked her to make a quilt out of her husband’s work uniforms now that he’s retiring.

I’m planning to have a T-shirt quilt made from some special T-shirts of my youth. Another friend, who has a vast collection of rock concert T-shirts, had a quilt made. Or should I say had a rockin’ quilt made.

Display it.

Having treasures hidden away in dusty boxes is not a great way to honor the things you love. The traditional display on a shelf is always an option, but shelves can only hold so much. Plus there is so much a person can dust!


Long before becoming an organizer, I saw an interview actor Dennis Franz and his wife did on a decorating show. They showed video of their home and they had small collections on a few shelves. Dennis Franz said they liked to collect until the shelf was full, and then they stopped. I thought it was a brilliant idea.

I have a collection of salt and pepper shakers, and I have a curio cabinet in my home where I display them. I like shakers that are fun and whimsical, and I just don’t buy any old pair. They have to speak to me – like the Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson set I found at the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London.

Larger items can be used as bookends or wall art. You can really be creative in creating displays of your treasures.

If you love it, display it, quilt it or frame it. Honor your treasures.


Do You Want to Be Better in 2013?

Posted By on January 1, 2013

I always thought it was better to be good. Lately, I’ve realized that it’s good to be better.

Since this is the first day of 2013 and January is Get Organized Month, I thought it was fitting to talk about how to be better. I know many of us have made resolutions, and if we want to be successful, we need to be better.

Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson wrote about the nine things successful people do differently. One of the main points was the difference between having a “be good” mindset versus. a “be better” mindset. Halvorson said research has shown that people who adopt a “be better” mindset are more engaged, productive and confident about their decisions. “People whose goals are about getting better, rather than being good, take difficulty in stride and appreciate the journey as much as the destination,” Halvorson writes.

From "Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, and Make More" by Jason Womack

This year, productivity coach Jason Womack released his newest book “Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, and Make More.” I first met Jason several years ago when he worked for David Allen’s company. Jason later started his own company. (His wife Jodi is equally brilliant and runs a Women’s Business Social called “No More Nylons.”)

I’m a detail kind of chick, and I’ve always struggled with the big picture/vision thing for myself. Like many of my own organizing clients, I can get in my own way of accomplishing my goals. Jason balances both approaches with his work, and he helps you think bigger so you can become better. Here are a few thought-provoking questions he suggests you ask yourself:

  • Who do I spend time with that limits my thinking?
  • What is getting in my way?
  • What’s your why?
  • Why do you think the way you think?

One of my favorite chapters is Chapter 7 where Jason discusses his “so that” statements. These “so that” statements are very powerful and can help us rise above busyness that we use to hide behind instead of accomplishing our big goals.

After you establish your big picture, Jason drills down to those details – the kinds of things that I love. He gives great advice on how to track your time and thoughts.

Are You Ready?

If you want to see typical resolutions in action, go to the gym. There is always an increase of people in the gym in January, but by Valentine’s Day, the crowd noticeably thins. You will see a few people who “stick.”

If you want to be one of those people who stick to their resolutions, ask the right questions of yourself and adopt a “get better” mindset. It’s good to be better.


The Gravy Dilemma – Keep it Simple for Holiday Sanity

Posted By on November 19, 2012

I began cooking Thanksgiving dinner more than 20 years ago when I lived in Galveston. My friends and I who couldn’t get home for the big day gathered for the annual “orphan” dinner.

The one item on the Thanksgiving menu rarely went well. When you only make gravy once a year, it becomes a serious challenge.

One year, I used the packet and, since I only had one packet, we each barely got a spoonful of gray. Another year, my attempt at gravy separated while sitting in the glass gravy boat on the table, and we had to stir it several times before giving up. The only time we had decent gravy was when my parents came, and my mother made it.

I decided enough was enough, and it was time to follow my own advice about delegation and simplification. That year, I bought two jars of turkey gravy. My guests were thankful and enjoyed tasty gravy, and I was far less stressed about it. Lesson learned.

As we head into the holiday season, take a look, see what causes you unnecessary stress and figure out how you can fix it. Sometimes, it’s just as simple as buying a jar of gravy.


5 Ways to Freshen Your Space for Fall

Posted By on October 22, 2012

Fall into fall organizing - Get it, with the leaves?

The weather is finally a bit cooler as fall kicks into high gear. As we stand on the eve of the holiday season, freshen up your space in preparation.

  1. Clean out the pantry, freezer and refrigerator in preparation of holiday meals and baking. Toss expired items, donate unwanted and unopened items to the local food bank, and wipe everything down. Take inventory to see what items you have so you don’t buy duplicates in the coming months.
  2. Clean out your closet. As your summer items are packed up and your winter duds come out, check them to wear and tear. Toss anything that’s stained, donate items in good conditions that you no longer want, and have items needing repaired actually repaired. While you’re at it, go through your drawers and ditch the items that have seen better days.
  3. Clear out your flat surfaces – coffee table, kitchen counters, nightstand, bathroom counter and home office desk. Recycle magazines, newspapers, papers and catalogues that have built up over the summer. It’s time to deal with the stuff you’ve put to the side to handle “later” and make some decisions.
  4. Clean out your purse and wallet. Time to clean out the old receipts and other odd bits in your purse or wallet. Use a lint roller to clean out those crumb-like items that seem to congregate at the bottom of your purse, and wipe down the outside of your purse.
  5. Donate the stuff you’ve been meaning to donate. Load the stuff you’ve been stacking up for donation in your car and take them in. It feels good to get unwanted items out of your house. (Sorry, but I can’t help you with unwanted people who may be in your home.)

Clearing out the cobwebs will get you ready for the fall season.