Teacher Appreciation

Posted By on November 18, 2011

Guest post by Certified Professional Organizer® Helene Segura

Teachers are some of the most important people on this planet. They spend more waking hours with children than parents do. They guide students in the formulation of who they are, what they think about, and who they want to be. Yet despite the important role that teachers play in the development of our children – our future generations – the general public has little knowledge about what a teacher’s day is actually like.

Why would this be important to know, you ask? A single teacher determines how much knowledge in one subject area that a student will be presented – or not presented – over an entire year. While we can demand until we’re blue in the face that only the best teachers should be in America’s classrooms, they will not stay there if they are not provided with the resources to do a good job.

Fifty percent of teachers across the country quit within their first five years in the classroom, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The number one reason given is not the low pay. It is not student behavior. Instead, those who leave the classroom site a lack of support. Teachers are overwhelmed with all of the duties that are heaped upon them, yet they are not given the tools to face those pressures. Projectile decisions are hurled at educators at an insane pace.

Here’s one extremely brief example, taken from my book Less Stress for Teachers: More Time & An Organized Classroom:

8:20:00    “Open hallways” bell rings; stand at door for greeting

8:20:15    First smiles of the day greeting early birds

8:20:30    First student dress code violation

8:20:45    First student excuse for the day about dress code

8:21:00    First student stomp-off to fix dress code violation

8:21:15    First admit slip to sign

8:21:30    First grade check sheet to sign

8:21:45    First question about all make-up work for the 6 weeks

8:22:00    First question of “Are we doing anything good today?”

8:22:15    Principal walks by and says, “I need to see you” but doesn’t elaborate

8:22:16    Fear and paranoia set in; what does principal want?

8:22:30    Football coach walks up and says, “How are Johnny’s grades?”

8:22:45    Morning greetings continue as curt conversation with football coach ensues

8:23:00    Student returns and asks again about make-up work

That’s the first three minutes of a typical school day on a high school campus. THREE minutes! And class hasn’t even started yet!

One of the best attempts I’ve seen at trying to explain the work day responsibilities of a teacher to someone in the business world is this quote from Donald D. Quinn:

“If a doctor, lawyer or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.”

So, how can you help? Obviously, I’d love for you to purchase my book for the favorite teachers in your life. Or, if you have some not-so-favorite ones, maybe they’re the ones who truly need it. But this is what I’d love for you to do:

Walk up to a teacher and ask, “How can I help you?”

You might have the time to volunteer for thirty minutes each week in your child’s classroom. Or maybe you have only fifteen minutes to give on the last day of the school year. Or perhaps you can cook dinner on a Friday evening for a teacher friend. It doesn’t matter how small the task is. You’re showing that you care, and that will mean the world to a teacher.

Certified Professional Organizer Helene Segura, guest blogger for The Clutter Princess and author of Less Stress for Teachers: More Time & An Organized ClassroomHelene Segura is a former award-winning teacher turned organizing and productivity consultant who owns Living Order® San Antonio. Segura’s book, Less Stress for Teachers: More Time & An Organized Classroom, addresses the thinking behind how to overcome “the overwhelm” that teachers feel on a daily basis. It’s a thinking pathway that helps teachers bust through the emotional, psychological and organizational walls that prevent them from utilizing planners and other tools.

Readers of her book will learn:

  • The 5 most critical areas to control
  • To create time where educators thought it was impossible
  • To manage email, paperwork, lesson plans and other tasks
  • To set up a classroom in the most efficient way
  • To lower teacher stress levels during the school day

Clean Desk Policies

Posted By on November 14, 2011

Uncluttered desktop At work, a manager in another department recently sent me an email to ask how she could make sure her staff complied with a new clean desk and office policy she was writing.

Oh, this doesn’t sound good.

I’ve been an in-house organizer for nearly 11 years, and I’ve met with many managers who are unhappy about their staff’s organizational skills. Some of the time, there are some legitimate complaints with time management, paper clutter and productivity. But the rest of the time … Well, the issues are really about the manager. Let me explain.

Managers who have OCD, perfectionistic and hyper-organized tendencies will never be truly happy with the people underneath them unless they are exactly like the manager. To people who have one or all of these tendencies, a pile of paper on their desk and normal clutter make them feel like they should be on Hoarders.

When these types of managers want to have clean desk and office policies, I worry a bit. The biggest question for me is: Who sets the standard of a clean desk and office? What does a clean desk and office mean to you?

As an organizer, I have to make sure my clients get to the organizing level they want and need. It can’t be about me – although my ego would love it. One client would be happy to have desktop filing so they can see everything, and another is thrilled when we clear off the desk and put everything in drawers.

When I work with clients whose managers view them as disorganized, I have a few tricks up my sleeve:

Remove extra paper. Relocate or get rid of all (or most) paper and sticky notes taped to the fronts of overhang cabinets, file drawers, the computer, and the wall. If this is information you need, put them into a binder. For small pieces of paper, just tape them to a piece of paper and slide them into plastic sleeves. This immediately makes things look neater for a hyper-organized boss.

De-clutter bulletin boards. With bulletin boards, stay inside the lines and make sure no papers and pictures are hanging off the edge. Neatly tack papers and photos to the bulletin board to make it look more orderly.

Put things away. If you don’t use the tape and stapler every day, put it in a drawer. Make sure food, personal items, and supplies are housed in drawers out of the way until you need them. I recommend having one drawer for supplies and another for personal items, such as lotion, medicine, and food. When you clear out the items you don’t need every day, you have more elbow room.

Reduce the size of your shrine. It’s important to have photos at work to remind you of your life at home, but when doo-dads, photos, toys and other items begin to infringe on your work space, it’s time to reduce the size of your office shrine.

When you look organized, you feel organized, and when you feel organized, you are organized. Then you will make the boss happy.


Creating a Closet – Must-Have List

Posted By on November 11, 2011

Guest post by Professional Organizer Geralin Thomas

Want to build a better wardrobe? Build a better closet, first.

Closets are the secret sauce of a fabulously, delicious gourmet wardrobe. And, best of all, they come in a variety of flavors, but the basic ingredients are the same.

Below are several of my “must haves” when organizing a closet:

  • A large, full-length mirror (the bigger the better)
  • Valet rod and/or a large hook for hanging an outfit the night before wearing it
  • Thick shelves for folded garments
  • Sturdy and smooth rods for hanging garments
  • Boxes to store shoes  (I think boxes are the only way to go!)
  • A system for keeping accessories accessible (belts, scarves, etc.)
  • Wooden, plastic, padded or flocked hangers (the thinner the better)
  • A light fixture that is super bright
  • A basket for MIAs – items that need mending, ironing and alterations
  • Stain removal products – A basket or box of a few is a must, conveniently located where you dress and undress.
  • Wine bottles – Place them inside boots to keep their shape.
  • A pretty jar, dish or tin for extra buttons and pins

Are you obsessed with building a better wardrobe? Do you have a passion for fashion? Are you experiencing a conundrum trying to create a clutter-free closet? If you answered yes to any of those questions, please leave a comment below and let me know what’s on your “must haves” list, where you go for fashion advice and what’s on your “must have” list for creating a closet you love.

Geralin ThomasPast President of the NC chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers as well as a chronic disorganization and ADHD specialist, Geralin founded Metropolitan Organizing® in 2002 to help transform the lives of her clients. Geralin has been published in an array of national magazines. She is often featured on well-recognized television and media outlets, including A&E’s Hoarders, The Nate Berkus Show, Today and South Africa’s The Home Channel.

Geralin is based in Cary, North Carolina and works with clients around the world. She truly enjoys sharing her organizing tips, techniques and problem-solving skills with others – and has helped professional athletes, politicians, artists, small business owners and many others.


Organizing Product Review: Gift Wrapping Station

Posted By on November 2, 2011

When an organizing colleague posted the photo of The Container Store’s Gift Wrapping Work Station on Facebook, it was love at first sight. I knew I had to have one.

The Gift Wrapping Work Station has two sturdy sides to it and it unfolds like a sandwich board. You can hang it up when not in use. Compared to the standard hanging gift wrap organizer, this one has more heft to it and won’t tear. The retail price is $49.00, and it is available at the stores or their website.

Why It’s Awesome: Everything you need – wrapping paper, gift bags, tags, bows, and tissue paper – is all contained into storage item. You can see what you have and what you don’t. This station has two large hooks that can hold a tube of wrapping paper at table level, and you can easily pull the paper out to wrap gifts.

Drawbacks: As with any organizing system, you have to keep your collection of gift wrapping paper, bags, and bows at healthy proportions. To hang it up, you will need a solid closet rod or hook because the station has some weight to it, and it will weigh even more once you fill it up.


Perfectionism and the Case of the Over-Thinking Weedeater

Posted By on October 31, 2011

Weeds aren't perfect, why should a weedeater be?The drought and my lack of watering have killed most of my lawn, and I cancelled my lawn service. I realized that I needed to stop paying someone to mow dead grass.

A month later, I realized the remaining grass clumps were growing and needed to be mowed. Instead of calling a lawn service, I decided I would buy a weedeater and just “mow” my clumps. Easy!

Last weekend, I found myself standing in the garden aisles of two home improvement stores, staring at the array of weedeaters. I did a lot of blinking and frowning. I realized I needed a cordless one since my house does not have any outside outlets, but that’s as far as I got.

I was overwhelmed with the decisions. I only recognized one brand, and I was surprised that weedeaters could run over $100. I left both stores empty-handed, muttering to myself about looking online and asking my Facebook friends.

Let go of perfectionism (and paralysis)

A couple of days later, I realized I was overthinking. It’s a bloody weedeater, not a refrigerator or a car, and it didn’t require agonizing decision-making. I’ve seen this with my clients many times – that spinning around in circles. I stopped myself from the perfectionistic spinning and decided to just buy a weedeater.

On Saturday, I went back to the home improvement store, grabbed a cordless weedeater, and bought it.

I spent about 20 minutes wrestling with it to put it together, and it took me around 15 minutes to figure out how to turn it on. The clumps of tall grass are now uneven, chopped clumps, and I call that a victory.


Checking Your List for the Holidays

Posted By on October 24, 2011

Halloween is next week, and soon enough, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas will be nipping at our heels.

It’s okay to give some thought to your holiday gift-giving now before trick-or-treaters arrive on your doorsteps.

Here’s how to get a jump on the holiday season:

    Make your gift list. As Santa says, you need to check your list and check it twice. Create your list on paper or digitally, using Evernote and other note-taking apps. For your list, write down ideas, sizes, favorite colors, and other important information. I use Evernote for my gift list, and it’s easy to add URLs for items I may find online.Back in the days before smartphones, I used spiral-bound index cards for my gift list, and each person had their own card. It was small enough to slip into my purse. To me, Evernote is the digital version of my old spiral-bound index cards, and I have my list at my fingertips.

    Edit your list. When making your list, also see who can come off the list. Last year, my parents asked if we could skip buying Christmas gifts for each other, and we only focused on gifts for the kids. Several of my friends and I stopped exchanging gifts several years ago and just have a nice lunch or dinner together. We decided spending time together was more important and fun than “stuff.” Speaking up and talking to the people in your lives about gifts may lead to welcome relief for all sides.

    Determine your budget. Decide how much you will spend per person, and write it down next to the person’s name. Be realistic. Too many times, I’ve seen organizing clients who have shopaholic tendencies go overboard and overspend at the holidays because they don’t want to disappoint anyone. Gifts should be given out of love, not out of guilt or as a way to “buy” someone’s affection.

    Stick to your budget. Several stores, such as K-Mart and Wal-Mart, have brought back layaway, and layaway is a great way to purchase higher ticket items. Make sure your budget is realistic and you can pay for gifts without running up your credit cards.

    Create gifts. The economy situation for the past several years has led to people creating more handmade gifts. Websites, such as Pinterest, Craftsy, and Craftgawker to name a few, offer lots of clever ideas to create gifts. If you don’t want to create something yourself, check out Etsy, where other people sell affordable items they make.

    Consider charitable gifts. If you are not into making your own gifts but still want something meaningful, consider making a charitable donation in someone’s name. At Heifer International, you can purchase a flock of geese, a llama or a water buffalo for needy families around the world. The Children’s Art Project, at MD Anderson where I work, has numerous gifts for purchase, and the proceeds benefit pediatric cancer patients. Many other charities out there offer gift-giving so check out your favorite group.

Hope these tips will help you have a sane holiday season.