Tag Archives: paper

How to Clear Clutter Off Your Kitchen Desk

The kitchen is the heart of the home. It is often a hub where people gather for nurturance and communing with family members. As mentioned earlier, the kitchen is often where women center their energy. As such, it has become an action area, not only for food preparation, but for women to coordinate a variety of activities as diverse as meal planning, scheduling appointments, coordinating schedules, and making important phone calls.

The kitchen desk probably came into being to accommodate the ever increasing needs of women to have an office of sorts close to where they spend most of their time. The idea was good, creating an area for the CEO of the home to work. I know, you’re already laughing! Who works at their kitchen desk? Who even sits in front of a kitchen desk?

First of all, kitchen desks are usually about the size of a postage stamp–too small to accommodate the needs of a busy family. Also, they are not comfortable places to sit because they are built-in pieces of furniture which force people to sit facing a wall with his or her back to the rest of the room. Sitting with your back to a room puts your nervous system on high alert, ready for any possible threat. In that state it’s difficult to focus. Consequently the chairs of those desks, if they even exist, are rarely used, except as a stacking spot for paper and other objects.

Kitchen desks of even the most organized women quickly become drop spots. Typical desk clutter consists of papers that come in from children returning from school, the mailbox, and meetings, not to mention all kinds of other objects that family members drop on their travels through the kitchen. Most people just roll their eyes when they look at their kitchen desk. Unless properly set up and managed, it is often a source of frustration, as well as an eyesore.

Clearing clutter from a kitchen desk first involves separating papers from other objects.

Work with objects first. Follow these steps:

  1. Sort objects into those that belong in the kitchen and those that do not.
  2. As you’re sorting, feel free to pitch any items you know you don’t need, love, or that aren’t worth the effort of moving to another location.
  3. Put items that belong elsewhere just outside the kitchen door to be dispersed to their homes after you finish working on the desk.
  4. Put away those items that do belong in the kitchen. That may involve going into drawers associated with the desk. Resist the urge to organize the drawers at this time. Your first focus is on restoring order to the desk top.
  5. If objects don’t fit in the drawer, put them aside for the clutter clearing session when you’ll address the drawers.

Once you’ve addressed the objects on the desk top, sort the papers that were on the desk.

  1. Pull out the biggest chunks first: the newsletters, magazines, and stapled-together papers.
  2. Toss or recycle those that are no longer relevant.
  3. Sort the remaining papers into the following categories:

Trash (recycling),

Refer Out (goes to another location or person),

Action (actions to be taken at this location),

Reference (e.g. contacts, schedules),

Filing (at this location),

Pending (e.g. tickets for an event, directions to a social event, etc.),

Reading (optional reading), and

Possibilities (e.g. information about products that you could use or events that you might attend).

The only papers that should remain on the desk are the action papers. The desktop is an action area. It ceases to be an action area when clogged with papers that need filing, reading, or are references and possibilities.

  1. Move reading papers to an area where they are most likely to be read.
  2. If you have room to store files, filing ideally would be done immediately up receipt.
  3. Reference items can be stored in files or binders.
  4. Pending and possibilities can also be filed for easy access.

A good filing solution for the kitchen is an open filing box for files to accommodate all the types of paper you need to access from the kitchen. It could be stored on the counter, but preferably under the counter in a cabinet or in the opening where the chair is supposed to be. It must be easy to access so frequent filing is easy to do.

Whew! Who knew that clearing clutter from a kitchen desk could be so complicated? Anywhere you have paper, you have complexity. When you set up a system for managing paper you need to access in the kitchen, and you use it, maintaining order on the kitchen desk gets easier.

Remember, keep only those things at the kitchen desk that you regularly use in the kitchen. I call those tiny desk areas “prime real estate”. If you want to maximize the potential of a kitchen desk, you can’t afford to park useless things on those small surfaces. If kept clear and set up properly, they can function as the cockpit for the coordination of most of the activities of a busy family. Is that how your kitchen desk functions? If not, why not? Claim your kitchen desk as a mini-home office, an action area for women at the heart of the home.

Income Tax Prep Without Procrastination

Do you dread getting ready for taxes? If you have a paper clutter nightmare to address in order

Don’t let paper clutter keep you from getting your taxes done!

to gather together the papers you need to complete your taxes, the task of getting ready for taxes can feel very heavy. For those of you with ADHD, it ranks right up there as not only a very heavy task, because keeping your papers organized is not your strong suit, but also as a VERY boring task. If you fear of the IRS or find the task anxiety provoking and too complex to face, this time of year is also much dreaded.

Procrastinating tax prep is very common. If you identify with scenarios above, I highly recommend you invest in support to get the task done. It will be money well spent!

Support can be asking a friend or family member to be with you while you gather your papers together. Or, it can be hiring a professional organizer to help you complete the task. An organizer will get the job done about four times faster than you could do it yourself. Plus, being in the presence of the organizer, a productivity and paper-sorting expert, will make the job seem far less daunting.

With the support of a knowledgeable, caring person you will find it much easier to manage feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, embarrassment or shame, common feelings that emerge at a time like this. The whole process becomes more of a social event than a dreaded task.

I help one of my ADHD clients find and organize the papers she needs to submit to her accountant every year. We’ve been doing it for 10 years or more. Together it only takes about 30 minutes at most to gather all the information she needs. She is then ready to submit her information to her accountant or knows exactly what to do to acquire any remaining documentation. If we didn’t tackle her taxes together she could easily procrastinate doing the chore right up to the deadline.

If taxes are your nemesis, a task associated with high anxiety, embarrassment or shame, get help! Gift yourself with the peace of mind that comes from getting that important yet dreaded task done. 

SPECIAL OFFER!!! Contact me at 804-730-4991 by April 15 to receive 25% off the cost of two hours of hands-on paper clutter clearing and organizing to get ready for taxes.

Organized Papers are Empowering!

Papers associated with challenges can empower you when they are organized. I had thegesture-772977_640 chance to observe this first hand when I helped a very dear friend organize papers associated with her son’s very challenging disability.

We faced numerous binders, paper storage containers, and piles of papers, the kind of paper challenge that makes you want to run from the room. We went through all the binders, storage containers and paper, sorting papers into easily identifiable stacks: IEPs, psychiatric evaluations, medical evaluations, reference materials, etc. In the process we got rid of a whole box of paper! By the time we were done she could put her hands on any document she might need, and had plans for sustaining the order we created.

My friend began the sorting process feeling overwhelmed and anxious, focused almost entirely on how very difficult her journey on the painful road to obtain help via a less than cooperative school system and a medical establishment that had led her son down some rough roads. By the time we’d finished she was calmer, and saw the remaining papers not as a big burdensome reminder of her difficult situation, but rather as resources to use as she continues to advocate for her son. The process of purging and organizing those papers not only made the papers more manageable, but also helped her ground herself to face future challenges.

Disorganized papers can keep you anxious and overwhelmed. Organized papers can empower and support you!

Getting Things Done: A Floating Reminder System

Some people assume that since I’m a professional organizer I have many sophisticated systems for keeping my life in order. As I observed myself capturing “to do” items yesterday I smiled to myself and thought, “Oh, if they could see me now!”

My current system for making note of action items that I want to be sure not to lose sight of is anything but sophisticated! I always carry a small pad around with me. When I promise to do something for someone or a task I need to do pops into my head, I jot it down on a page in that pad. I then rip out the page and stuff it in my purse. Because loose papers in my purse almost always catch my eye and bug me, they get removed from my purse when I get into my car. The items that will be done from the car stay in a section of my console where I put reminder notes. The others are put in my lunch bag that gets emptied out every night. From the kitchen counter my notes are then transported to my desk where I take action on them.

Now, this system would not work if I had a purse full of all kinds of loose paper. Those reminder notes would just join the sea of paper and be lost. It would also not work if I weren’t pretty systematic about regularly clearing papers from my purse on a daily basis. It also helps that I am visually hypersensitive, meaning I see EVERYTHING, particularly things that are out of place! Those loose papers really bug me which spurs me to move them along to where they can be acted on.

The systems you use to keep track of the multitude of tasks you must do to keep your life running smoothly don’t have to cost much nor do they have to be sophisticated. What’s most important is that they work! For now my floating reminder system works. How do you keep track of the action items that come at you as you move through your day?

Best Ways to Manage Clutter Clearing Overwhelm

Clutter clearing overwhelm. We’ve all been there. We have the best of intentions about tackling clutter in some part of our lives. We even make the time to address it. And, when we face the challenge, we freeze. For some it’s the enormity of the task at hand that shuts them down. For others it’s not knowing where to start. And, for others it’s not knowing what to do. Whatever the reason, clutter clearing overwhelm is a challenge for even the most motivated of us.

In this article I’m going to share guidelines for managing clutter clearing overwhelm that I intuitively developed in my early days working as a professional organizer. I had to figure out how to make progress despite feeling overwhelmed by the negative energy of clutter. After all, I was being paid to do just that! Here’s what I learned and what I recommend you do.

  1. Don’t start with paper. Paper has a loud, irritating, noisy energy that draws you to it. You will feel the urge to address the paper first. Resist the urge! Why? If you start with paper, you’ll quit! Paper is the hardest thing to clear. It’s one of the most boring things to clear. And, it takes forever to see and feel positive results from your efforts. If you have lots of paper distracting you from getting anything else done, gather it up into piles (without reading it), bags and boxes, and set it aside to deal with at the end of the clearing process.
  2. Don’t start with little stuff. By little stuff, I mean toy parts, paper clips, buttons, jewelry, small pieces of paper, buttons, etc. Because, like paper, it can have a distracting negative energy, gather it up into a pile, basket or box and set it aside to deal with at the end of the clearing process.
  3. Start with big stuff. The best place to start is with the BIG STUFF. Why? If you start clearing out big things like cardboard packing boxes, furniture, even books, you’ll be able to both feel and see appreciable results for your efforts. You’ll be creating big shifts in energy from negative to positive that will energize and motivate you to keep going.
  4. Start with what’s easy. What can you get rid of without even a twinge of indecision or regret? For me it’s packing boxes, magazines, books I’ve read, and clothes. But, I’d have a hard time getting rid of photographs and prints of dogs, original art that I love, and beautiful ceramic dishes that hold special memories. When you’re looking for big things to get rid of, choose a category that is easy for you to pitch, a category that doesn’t have your heart attached to it.
  5. Don’t look at the forest. As you work, if you focus on the forest, the entire task at hand, you’ll be assaulted by thoughts like, “I’ll never get this done. There’s so much to do. It will take FOREVER!!!!” Those thoughts will send you straight to the sofa or the door. Instead, choose big things to clear and keep your head down while you work. From time to time give the big picture a quick glance, but only to decide where to go next. Don’t look at the entire task for more than a few seconds at a time or you’ll be hooked into self-defeating thoughts that will shut you down.
  6. Choose positive self-talk. As you work, no matter how onerous the task, keep encouraging yourself with self-talk like, “I’m making progress. I can do this. I’ve gotten further than ever before. I deserve to live in a clutter-free environment.” Feeding yourself positive statements is like putting gas in an engine. It’s fuel for perserverence and success.
  7. Silence self-defeating messages and self-criticism. Watch your thoughts as you work. Catch the negative self-talk that may be as automatic as breathing. When I work with clients, I’m privy to some of those conversations. I hear, “It’s going to take forever to get this done. I don’t think I can stand this. There are just too many decisions to make. I’m too tired. I don’t know what to do. I can’t do this. It’s not worth the time and effort.”
  8. Celebrate any progress. If you only spend five minutes grabbing a few items from your closet to donate to Viet Nam Veterans of America when they drop off a yellow bag for donations, take a moment to savor how good it feels to let go of items you no longer love or want to use. Any progress is worth celebrating because it results in shifts of energy from negative to positive. Instead of doing what many people do, which is to focus on how much more there is to do, focus on the benefit of what you’ve done. What you focus on you attract! Wouldn’t you rather attract more clearing instead of more clutter?
  9. Refuse to quit. Don’t let feeling overwhelmed stop you. Those feelings will come up. They are a normal part of the clutter clearing process. When they do, stop. Acknowledge them. Take a deep breath. Identify what shut you down. Adjust your course to working on something bigger or easier. Begin again. Don’t let the overwhelm win!

This is what works for me. Give it a try! If you find it works, great! If you discover new ways to manage your overwhelm, please share them with me so I can pass them on to others. Together we can win the war against clutter in our lives! Remember, clear clutter for good℠! Your good, the good of your family and the good of your community!

© 2012 Clutter Clearing Community | Debbie Bowie

“Author, Organizing Expert and Feng Shui Practitioner, Debbie Bowie, is a leading authority on clutter clearing to attract more of what you want in life. If you’re ready to clear clutter and move your life forward, get your FREE TIP SHEET, “Feng Shui Tips for Instant Success” at http://www.clutterclearingcommunity.com.

Conquer the Paper Challenge! Process Paper Daily!

Some of you are thinking, “Duh! I already do that. Doesn’t everbody?” And others of you are going, “Ewww, I’d rather die! It’s overwhelming! It’s boring!”

For those of you who already have the good habit of corralling and processing paper daily, keep up the good work! Being conscious of the daily flow of paper and deliberately controlling its flow is the only way to win the war on paper.

A casual approach to paper is a guarantee that you’ll create your own personal paper nightmare. Paper is relentless in its flow into your space. You need to be relentless in your handling of it. Do it daily! It really only takes minutes! Minutes of agony or boredom are better than the hours and hours of excavation that will be required if you procrastinate and let paper accumulate.

Here’s what I mean by PROCESS PAPER DAILY:

Make sure paper follows a specific route, a paper path.

  • Paper should not float from room to room. When paper comes into the house, make sure it lands in one spot to be sorted into categories instead of allowing it to land in any one of a number of different locations. If you decide the kitchen counter is that spot, make sure everyone in your family knows that mail always lands on the kitchen counter.
  • After being sorted, make sure the different categories of paper are immediately moved to their next logical location. Bills, for example, would go to the bill paying area. Once the bills are paid, the paper associated with them would then be filed or pitched. So, the paper path for a bill would be: from the mailbox to the kitchen counter; from the kitchen counter to the desk of the home office where the bill is paid; from the desk to the filing cabinet. It’s important to create paper paths for every category of paper you regularly handle.
  • To simplify this process, consider having all paper move from its sorting location to a home office where the different categories can be processed and stored if necessary. That way the path would be: from the mailbox to the kitchen counter for sorting; from the kitchen counter to the home office desktop for review and action; from the the desktop to the filing cabinet or the recycle bin.
  • Making papers follow specific paths puts you in charge of paper instead of feeling at the mercy of paper. Your work is to determine the paths and to discipline yourself to make paper follow those paths every time. Just one lapse in maintaining your new paper system can cause paper to spiral out of control. Remember, digging out takes much more time and energy than maintaining paper paths! It will take over if you let it stray from a defined route.

Sort incoming papers into categories. I recommend these categories: trash; refer out to someone else; action; filing; reading; holding for later reference or action; and possibilities of things to do, buy, etc. It’s best to separate the action category into bills and other actions. That way you are less likely to lose sight of your bills.

Distribute papers by category to their appropriate locations. For example, trash goes to the recycling bin or trash can. Action papers are moved to the desk or countertop where action will take place. Filing is either filed or stored in a filing tray until you make time to file. Reading is taken to the location where you do your reading, perhaps a basket on your desk or next to the sofa.

You’ll notice I don’t recommend that you complete all the tasks associated with those papers on a daily basis. That would take more time than you have every day. I am just recommending that you control the flow of paper coming in, sort it and distribute it to the place where it will be acted upon or stored. If you do that much paper processing every day, you will find your stress goes down and your productivity goes up. You’ll be in charge of paper instead of feeling at the mercy of it!

© 2012 Clutter Clearing Community | Debbie Bowie

“Author, Organizing Expert and Feng Shui Practitioner, Debbie Bowie, is a leading authority on clutter clearing to attract more of what you want in life. If you’re ready to clear clutter and move your life forward, get your FREE TIP SHEET, “Feng Shui Tips for Instant Success” at http://www.clutterclearingcommunity.com.

How To Stay Organized When Life Throws You a Curveball

“Things went downhill when we had three family crises in a year,” said a new client who was explaining how her lovely home had evolved into a cluttered, chaotic mess.

It is very common for people to lose control of the order in their homes during times of crisis. Crisis situations that go on for an extended period of time consume time, energy and the motivation required to maintain an organized home.

It’s not uncommon for people to find that once they’ve gotten past the personal crisis–illness, death in the family, caregiving for aging or sick relatives, recovery from surgery–they have another crisis on their hands, a living space that is such a mess that they have no idea how they will ever get it back to its more orderly state.

Twice in the past year I’ve been thrown into crisis mode, first when my step-father began deteriorating mentally and had to have brain surgery and then when my disabled brother developed a serious infection in his artificial knee joint requiring surgery, weeks of IV antibiotics and another knee replacement. Both events were incredibly energy consuming for me because I was a key decision-maker, the coordinator of communication between family members, a key source of emotional support, and I had my own fears and other feelings to manage.

It was all I could do to get through each day dealing with the crisis at hand, much less tend to my small business and maintain order in my home. Those two crises were an opportunity for me to learn how to get through difficult times without losing control of other parts of my life.

Here are 6 of the important lessons I learned:

1. Identify tasks to be done no matter what.

Then do them! I am the money manager in our house. So, making sure bills got paid and that money was in the right accounts at the right time were two tasks I had to get done so we could avoid consequences like ruining our credit rating. Keeping us afloat financially during those difficult times helped ground me. I liked knowing that no matter what else happened, we were operating on a firm financial foundation.

2. Defer whatever tasks you can to other people.

Instead of trying to keep everything in order by myself, I asked my husband to do many tasks that normally I would have done to maintain our home and our lives together.
Also, people offer help during times of crisis. Let them! Last summer when I had bi-lateral bunion surgery I asked friends to help provide food and walk my dogs. They were happy to have something to do that would help me, and their help provided a type of emotional support I really needed.

3. Lighten your load by eliminating obligations.

It became clear to me pretty quickly that helping my mother and step-father through my step-father’s health crisis and staying healthy myself during that stressful process was more important than writing checks for a professional organization. I actually chose to resign from two volunteer positions because taking care of family and myself were the priority.

4. Control paper flow even if you can’t regularly process it.

You may not have time to do much with paper that flows into your house on a daily basis, but you can make sure that it all flows to the same place. That way, when you need to find something in that pile of paper, you have only one place to look. You might stack it in piles in your home office or get an open box and store it there. Just don’t let it float throughout your space!

If you want to go one step further, pull out bills and magazines/catalogs/newsletters. Put the bills in a highly visible location so you don’t forget about them and so they are easily accessible when you are ready to pay them. Place the magazine, catalogs and other reading materials in a location where you spend time reading. Removing those items from your paper pile will make it shrink and also make it easier to access things to read when you need a source of distraction.

5. Resist the urge to do nothing.

In times of personal crisis it is very normal to shut down because of overwhelm, fatigue, or just not knowing what to do. While it is important to take breaks to rest, recharge, and recover, it is not a good idea to go to ground and let everything go. It takes only a day or two for your space to go from being a peaceful haven to a chaotic nightmare. Then you not only have a crisis going on outside your home, but also inside your home. You have no safe place to retreat. Messy houses scream, “You slob! Why don’t you do something about this mess!” Make yourself do at least the bare minimum to maintain order, like controlling the paper flow, washing the dishes, straightening up daily.

6. Remember that maintaining a basic order will ground you during difficult times.

You may resist doing maintenance activities because you are exhausted, but if you override the urge to stop and plop on the sofa and instead do a few tasks to keep your space neat and organized, you will find that doing those things will help ground and calm you. You will then be better able to go out and deal with whatever challenge is going on. If you are physically incapable of maintaining order yourself, because of illness or disability, ask others to help you do that. Many people want to help in some way. Let them know that their help will ground you and facilitate your recovery.

© 2012 Clutter Clearing Community | Debbie Bowie

“Author, Organizing Expert and Feng Shui Practitioner, Debbie Bowie, is a leading authority on clutter clearing to attract more of what you want in life. If you’re ready to clear clutter and move your life forward, get your FREE TIP SHEET, “Feng Shui Tips for Instant Success” at http://www.clutterclearingcommunity.com.

Conquer the Paper Challenge! Process Paper Daily!

Some of you are thinking, “Duh! I already do that. Doesn’t everbody?” And others of you are going, “Ewww, I’d rather die! It’s overwhelming! It’s boring!”

For those of you who already have the good habit of corralling paper daily, keep up the good work! Being conscious of the daily flow of paper and deliberately controlling its flow is the only way to win the war on paper.

A casual approach to paper is a guarantee that you’ll create your own personal paper nightmare. Paper is relentless in its flow into your space. You need to be relentless in your handling of it.

Do it daily! It really only takes minutes! Minutes of agony are better than hours and hours of excavation that will be required if you procrastinate and let paper accumulate.

Here’s what I mean by PROCESS PAPER DAILY:

1. Make sure paper follows a specific route. For example, papers may arrive from a mailbox or kids backpacks to all many different locations in your house. Teach family members that papers either go to their space to be dealt with (like homework or the spouses business papers) or they should end up on the kitchen counter to be sorted and deliberately distributed to places where they will be acted on, stored or referenced, like the desk, filing cabinet or home office. Paper should not float from room to room. It will take over if you let it stray from a defined route.
2. Sort incoming papers into categories. I recommend these categories: trash; refer out to someone else; action; filing; reading; holding for later reference or action; and possibilities of things to do, buy, etc.
3. Distribute papers by category to their appropriate locations. For example, trash goes to the recycling bin or trash can. Action papers are moved to the desk or countertop where action will take place. Filing is filed or stored in a filing tray until you have time to file. Reading is taken to the location where you do your reading, perhaps a basket on your desk or next to your sofa.

You’ll notice I don’t recommend that you complete all the tasks associated with those papers on a daily basis. That would take more time than you have every day. I am just recommending that you control the flow of paper coming in, sort it and distribute it to the place where it will be acted upon or stored. If you do that much daily, you will find your stress goes down and your productivity goes up.

© 2012 Clutter Clearing Community | Debbie Bowie

“Author, Organizing Expert and Feng Shui Practitioner, Debbie Bowie, is a leading authority on clutter clearing to attract more of what you want in life. If you’re ready to clear clutter and move your life forward, get your FREE TIP SHEET, “Feng Shui Tips for Instant Success” at http://www.clutterclearingcommunity.com.