Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tip 40: Baby steps

It's not uncommon for me, especially in the past five weeks or so that I've been writing a blog about being organized, to have a friend or colleague (or both!) say, "Yeah, well, you're so organized." I imagine this is followed in the person's head with something like, "Nerd." Well, yes, you are right, I am both organized and a nerd, or an organizing nerd, choose what you like. The point, though, is that you don't have to be crazy like me to still take some baby steps in your life toward better organization.

Today's tip 40 is more like 50 small tips mashed together (a tip mash-up! Where's my Glee song??): Create a schedule of simple chores you can establish to make your house a little cleaner and your life a little better. 

This is partially inspired by another organized Stephanie over at another blog called the Totally Together Journal. The name is apt -- she is totally together. Other Stephanie recommends establishing a routine she calls "The Daily 7." You'll notice that her daily routine also involves items that have to do with babies and children. Sure, maybe when I have kids I'll do a load of laundry a day, but right now I am content to do two loads of laundry every three weeks and call it a day. Matt does his own laundry because, you know, we're both competent adults and all.

For those of you 20-somethings who are baby-less like me, let me walk you through my daily routine. Let's all pat ourselves on our collective backs for all that we do every day to make our lives a little cleaner, a little more organized, a little happier. And then I'll tell you about what I'm trying to get better at as well.

Here's my routine:
1. Make the bed immediately after waking up. Other Stephanie believes in this too. To me, this is huge. It's like I can't function if I haven't made my bed. This is probably a diagnosable condition. I did a little experiment this past Saturday: I didn't make the bed. Then all during "Tiling with Jim" at Home Depot I definitely thought about that unmade bed about five times, and as soon as I got home, I made the bed.

Notice the difference...before

I timed myself this morning, out of morbid curiosity to share with you. It took me two minutes to arrange this masterpiece.

2. Before leaving for work, raise all the blinds. In this seemingly endless winter, this is a useful item on the agenda. Raising the blinds means more sun inside the house during the day, and that means more efficient energy use. In the height of summer, the reverse may be true, depending upon where you live.

3. Arrange throw pillows and blankets. Put away reading materials. Matt and I spend about 75 percent of our time at home on this couch. Pathetic? Maybe. A place I would like to keep clean? Definitely. Just simply folding up our throw blankets and fluffing and arranging the pillows immediately makes the place company-ready. And we read a lot and tend to leave our books, magazines and newspapers out -- sometimes for too long -- so I at least get them into our magazine rack, if not our recycling bin or our bedside tables.

Notice the difference...before (journalism students who meticulously follow this blog: note yesterday's newspaper sitting on our coffee table, right after Matt read your work!)

Above you may notice that there is still a gray blanket on the right-hand side of the couch. That's the "dog part." Before we put this blanket down, the couch was usually covered in hair. It made me straight up angry. Now if a dog (or, more often, both dogs) wants to be on the couch, he is required to be in the "dog part" and we'll even tell the dog, "No, you're not on the dog part. Dog part or nothing!" The gray blanket ain't beautiful, but it's how we roll.

4. Clean out the kitchen sink. Another one other Stephanie also promotes on her Daily 7. After dinner we always put everything that can fit in the dishwasher. But that rule is a little different in the morning, when the theme is rush, rush, rush. Matt takes mostly leftovers to work, so by the time the day is done I usually return home to a couple items in the sink, like today's image.

Notice the difference....before


5. Put your work clothes away right after you come home. Most days I am eager to change out of my dress pants, skirts and dresses, not because they're terribly uncomfortable, but because lounging or dog-walking is about to commence, and I don't want to mess up my nice outfits. So, instead of leaving my clothes sprawled on top of my dresser as I have for much of my adult life, this year I have tried hard to put clothes away immediately so I don't have to look at them anymore or let them pile up. There are three options: hang up, fold up, or hamper.

6. Deal with the day's mail. During last week's mail extravaganza I shared a lot of tips for handling all types of mail, but regardless of what makes it into your mailbox each day, it's always best to deal with it immediately. There are five options: recycle immediately, read soon and recycle soon, handle immediately (small bills), handle soon (big bills or requests, such as car inspections), or shred. Most of our mail fits into the first two categories, so much of the pile can go straight to the recycling bin, and other mail, such as magazines, we try to read quickly and then recycle.

Today's mail pile: only three items! Yay!

After some quick sorting, we've got almost all of the three items ready for recycling...

And two items I'll keep. Even though I haven't bought anything at The Limited in about two years, maybe they'll have something cute if and when I'm looking. Now it's in the coupon file!

No doubt you do many of the items listed above, if not every day then frequently. See, you're off to a good start!

Here's what I'm trying to get better at:
1. Sit down to eat an actual breakfast. I love waking up and having a leisurely breakfast. I am the world's slowest eater, as anyone who has been out to dinner with me can attest, so having an actual breakfast on a work day is a bit unrealistic. Still, I'm trying. Just recently I started adding milk to my cereal. This is a major breakthrough. Never in my life have I added milk to my cereal until last month, and I have to say that I now see the appeal. I also try to have a piece of fruit and some sort of beverage, sometimes juice, but more likely coffee.

2. Stick to a nightly routine. In the last year I've been using products that require morning and nighttime application, such as a scar cream for a lovely scar I picked up this summer when a family friend's dog attacked me, or this eye cream to help hide my horrible blue bags that are most pronounced in the winter. I also try to take a multivitamin every day. So, I can achieve this routine (on top of the typical nightly teeth-brushing, etc.) most of the time, but I am still working to make it constant. I'll share more of my personal-product discoveries in future posts!

Next up...three stupid discoveries I have made a little late. Doh!

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