Organized Treasure: Blog
Katie McAllister, Professional Organizer
Gretchen Rubin's book, The Four Tendencies provides insight into the way different people react to expectations and motivations. It considers weaknesses of each tendency and ideas to overcome the weaknesses. It also explores how each tendency reacts with others and how to "get along" with the mindset of each!
As you can see above, Upholders respond positively to expectations, both from themselves and others. They enjoy rules, routines, and structure. They thrive with goals and to-do lists. They are the people who find keeping their New Year's Resolutions an achievable plan, and also friends you can count on to come through for you.
Their weakness can be rigidity and inflexibility. They can get stuck in a routine because it is "what I said I would do", sometimes blind to the fact that it is not working for them anymore or no longer a priority. They can benefit from regularly analyzing whether the way they are spending their time is still in line with their priorities.
Because they HATE to make mistakes, they can take it very personally when someone calls them out on an error, especially publicly. As rule followers, they flourish in environments with fair and clear guidelines. They can frustrate others at times with their need to strictly adhere to expectations, but can sometimes be refocused on priorities with a question like, "Is this really important to you?", as it forces them to weigh their strongest internal expectations against a myriad of external expectations that would be impossible to juggle.
The Questioner cannot tolerate rules they deem arbitrary or pointless. They use logic to determine whether any expectations is one they personally find worthy, and if so, it becomes an internal expectation they are willing to fulfill. They like to improve processes, increase efficiency, and share their knowledge with others. They are likely to consider January 1 an arbitrary date to make a new goal, so they reject "New Years" Resolutions, but are fairly willing to make and stick to goals on other dates not set randomly by others.
Their questions can cause others to label them as "bad team players" when they seem to question authority, or group consensus. While internally motivated, they can have trouble completing tasks they see as "pointless". (And let's face it, sometimes in life items ARE silly in and of themselves - school assignments, paperwork in the government or a large business, etc.) It can help a questioner to look at the bigger picture and find motivation in the fact that this item propels him toward a greater goal - his degree or a promotion.
A questioner can dislike being questioned! In the mind of a questioner, the assumption is that of course he did his research and made a careful decision with all due diligence. Questioning such a carefully considered choice is offensive, while carefully asking them to share their process and explain how they came to their decision (to teach you) is more easily accepted. It helps to accept that a questioner needs to ask (and understand) WHY? This might come into play with deadlines - if you tell a group you need an RSVP by Friday, most people will accept that, but the questioner, if he thinks it is arbitrary, will NOT be motivated to comply. If you explain that Friday is the last day to purchase tickets, though, and he understands the reason for deadline, he is much more likely to respond!
An Obliger is dependable, meets deadlines, and keeps promises... to others. But those personal goals that are just for him? He tends to let himself down and just can't find the motivation to get them done. They are flexible, easy-going, willing to do their share, and great team players.
The first major weakness is taking care of personal goals that don't have external deadlines and expectations automatically attached to them. The solution is to find ways to attach that external accountability - the chapter on Obligers is FULL of tricks that might apply, and if you are an obliger who can do a huge project for a group but can't ever make time for self-improvement items, I would HIGHLY recommend for the specific anecdotes. Sometimes just making the to do list is enough to create an external expectation (I MUST check it off the list). For a health goal, working out on a schedule where others are expecting you, rather than alone, might help (same idea for a study group). You are probably the mindset that most needs to guard against the inability to say NO. Practice it!!
Because obligers say yes to others and NOT themselves, they can easily burnout. When they do, they can become resentful. Don't be another person taking advantage of the generosity of obligers! Help them set boundaries and protect themselves - rather than asking them to do it for THEMSELVES, though, ask them to do it FOR YOU!! (Ah, External motivation!!)
Rebels resist all expectations, and value freedom. They don't like to be controlled or told what to do - they will tend to dig in their heels. They even dislike being trapped by commitments of their own choosing. Usually they do the things THEY want to do, enjoy making their own choices, and stay true to their natures. They are driven, and great outside-the-box thinkers.
But, sometimes their desire to defy rules means they will stubbornly refuse to do what they have been asked, even if it is to their detriment, and EVEN if it is the thing they WANT to do! (Picture the child who has decided on the sweet surprise to secretly clean the kitchen the minute his mom leaves for the grocery store. But just as she is about to walk out the door, she turns and says, "Please clean the kitchen while I'm gone." This is the difficult plight of the rebel.) It was harder to get a read on solutions for this mindset. It seems helpful for the rebel to step back and ask what he really WANTS, identify it and avoid the self-sabotage of letting someone's expectations force him to take the opposite stand - which is really very limiting. They can remind themselves they have the power to choose what they want to do, and to be the kind of person they want to be (which like any of us considering our best selves involves many positive character traits.) Rebels need to work to intentionally have that mental picture and make choices to reflect that best self.
If you interact with a rebel, there was a bit more information - and most tips involved a bit of reverse psychology. For example, rather than issuing a deadline as a demand, try a challenge - "I don't think you could possibly get all of this done by Friday, do you?" It may help to clearly present the options and consequences and leave it as a choice, and allow the consequences to happen. I am not clear on how that plays out if your spouse is the rebel and the thing they don't do has consequences for BOTH of you, but it might be worth reading and thinking these things through if you identify this in someone close to you.
Thinking about our personalities and tendencies, and those of the people we are close to is very revealing. The insight into the strengths and weaknesses we each possess, and cultivating the wisdom to accept, embrace, and work with and around them, stretch and grow us! Best of luck as you identify your tendencies and learn to make them work for you!
We all have an innate desire to complete tasks, some personalities more than others! Harness the drive of that internal task master and put it to work for you! Here are some ideas:
1. The To-Do List: In one sense, the power of checking items off a to-do list goes without saying, but the benefits are so many. There is so much value in the exercise of considering your goals, breaking them into smaller chunks, and choosing your priorities for the day, week or month. Keep a long term/reminder to-do list, and one for individual projects, but keep the daily list manageable, and always highlight the top 3 items - if you've gotten THOSE done, it was a successful day.
Remember that sometimes, top items need to include caring for the physical or emotional health of yourself or someone close to you - health is a LOFTY priority and should never be dismissed as unimportant just because it is a little less tangible!
Consider your favorite way to mark items completed - a nice bold strikethrough, the classic checkmark, a smiley face, dragging and dropping a digital item to DONE? And relish the action! Have fun with your to-do list!! I've started calling mine my HOT List - it makes me smile and feel more empowered!
2. Don't Finish what you started: Sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out! I came across this idea in the book PRE-SUASION by Robert Cialdini (he is quizzing a colleague for tips on how she commits to writing so consistently) and it really got me thinking:
Then, offhandedly, she mentioned a strategy of her own that I have used profitably ever since. She never lets herself finish a writing session at the end of a paragraph or even a thought. She assured me she knows precisely what she wants to say at the end of that last paragraph or thought; she just doesn’t allow herself to say it until the next time. Brilliant! By keeping the final feature of every writing session near-finished, she uses the motivating force of the drive for closure to get her back to her chair quickly, impatient to write again.
his is so great! It overcomes your brain's reluctance to get started with the next session, because you AREN'T getting started - you are wrapping something up, and are anxious to get that done! I have a lot of projects to apply this to - research (Ancestry jumps out at me), photo books, writing - I would say most creative pursuits have that point where you can walk away and leave yourself ready to jump right back in. Here's a quote from Moveable Feast that shows Ernest Hemingway used almost this exact strategy: “I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing; but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.” So, you'll be in good company!
3. Start the next thing: As I was marveling through how true the idea above was, I began to realize that for less creative items, the strategy had a complementary flip side - start the next item NOW rather than in the next session. In working toward a reading goal, I am finding (especially with non-fiction) that if I start the next chapter in this session, I am inclined to pick the book back up sooner with the next chapter started - the finish is closer, I know the theme of this chapter and am eager to come back to it.
What about an email you need to write or a card you want to send - can you open the new email, enter the sender's name, a subject and a first sentence? Can you choose the card, find its envelope and write Dear ____? These are easy steps, won't take any time, and your brain will not be overwhelmed by them. But, when you come back to your computer or desk it will be a little easier to write the body of the correspondence, rather than starting from scratch. It really helps to overcome that very human mental hurdle to getting started!!
What else could you apply this to? Almost any kind of data entry or long impossible list - get through the F's, March, the first page. Just Finish the Thousand!
5. Just 10 minutes: You can do anything for 10 minutes (or 5, or 30). Let go of that mental requirement to get a PROJECT done, and just set a timer and be DONE then - 10 minutes of cleaning my kitchen sounds a lot more doable some days than getting my kitchen CLEAN. But I make a lot of progress in 10 minutes, and some days I just keep going, because, hey, I'm almost there! Either way, it is a LOT better 10 minutes later than if I hadn't tackled it at all!
6. So much finishing: Back to Hot Lists, some days and weeks having three main tasks works for me, at other times, I need MICRO lists - I break down tasks into TINY baby steps. Cleaning my bedroom could easily be 6 items on my list - make bed, file papers on desk, clear nightstand, new box of tissues, straighten the dresser drawer that's been driving me crazy, wrap the present that has been sitting in the corner for a week.
Sometimes my mindset is such that itemizing to that level and creating mini-wins that are easy to complete makes it easier to get started, keeps me focused, and encourages me with small successes - embrace the micro list if that is the kind of day you are having, or stick to the general categories and commit to your "three big rocks".
So, combat the part of your brain that throws up roadblocks to getting started, and embrace the side that likes to complete a job. Find ways to overcome those mental hurdles and finish some items on YOUR hot list today!
I actually love goal-setting: saying it out loud, writing it down, quantifying it - this is the first step! But it needs to be followed by the second step - making a plan - I always think of that as "baby steps" - how do I break this into bite-sized chunks I can actually wrap my head around?? (This goes for short term as well as long term goals!)
Two Personal Examples:
Goal 1: Read 50 books this year. That's an average of a book a week or just over 4 books a month. 4 books a month works better for me, because I like to keep a variety of books open for different moods - organizing books for when I am up and cleaning and learning, fiction and classics when my mind needs to wander, business books, etc. Even if I read on car rides, while cleaning, and before bed, I'm actually likely to reach the goal - so that's the plan! Have something in the queue for car rides, turn on an audiobook for 30 minutes of cleaning time, and read 20 minutes before bed. If you haven't checked out Scribd - I HIGHLY recommend it for audiobooks (works like Netflix for books!) https://www.scribd.com/g/6o2xxl
Goal 2: Get the CPO designation from NAPO - this requires 1500 paid hours in 3 years. Yikes! That's 500 hours a year which is 10 hours a week, but I plan to exceed that during the summer weeks. It is still a stretch for me, but I am making plans to average 6-8 hours and the goal is seeming reachable! I'll be tracking carefully and watching my progress!
Do you have any goals you are working towards?
Who's ready for a little organizing inspiration as we roll in to the New Year? Marie Kondo's 8 episode series on Netflix delivers lots to think about, motivational stories, and a whole bunch of cuteness (as my friend Brenda would say : "I just want to put her in my pocket!")!
If you've read my previous blog post on the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you know I think some of her methods might not be ideal for everyone - working by category, for example. This show really does demonstrate the pros and cons of the all at once method: CON: they pile all the clothes on the bed, do a lesson on the feeling of sparked joy - CHING! - , a lesson on thanking your items for your service if they no longer spark joy, and a lesson on folding clothes, then she leaves them with the rest as homework and comes back in a week. I wonder where a few of them (without guest bedrooms) are sleeping in the meantime! But, PRO: you definitely see the impact of seeing ALL the clothes in one huge mountain!
Here are more things I appreciated about this show:
1. The Timeline
These were not "knock it out in a weekend" fixes - most of the makeovers are averaging 30 days, and the homeowners appear to be really revolving all their spare time around this effort! True decluttering takes time and I think they did a good job of demonstrating that while still creating some pretty great before and afters!
2. A Variety of Life Transitions
From your first real place, the birth of a baby, the chaos of the toddler years, to moving on from the loss of a spouse, the episodes touched on many seasons of life and the changes that come with them - and the homeowners did a great job of knowing themselves and their motivations! (That can be so hard!!) They identified what they were moving INTO, and had great visions of what they were making ROOM FOR - it is so essential not to focus on what you are "losing" and reasons you might want to hold on to each item.
3. The messes
I kind of loved that these were generally clean and tidy houses - adorably, sometimes Marie looked SO disappointed entering their front rooms! (And then so excited when she opened a difficult drawer or closet - "I love a mess" - I think if I was the homeowner I might feel differently, but as a viewer - SO CUTE, and as an organizer - I can actually relate - "Let's dig in!!" would be my tagline!) With Hoarders as the starting mark, we all feel pretty good about our spaces (and I would NEVER want anyone feeling bad about their space!) but none of us want to wait for that level (an actual psychological illness) before reassessing, or calling in help and reinforcements! Even the "tidy" among us still live in the land of excess and it will always want to creep in, even when it is successfully hidden in closets and drawers for a time - it still affects us!
4. Is this something you'd like to keep as part of your life going forward?
In the Make Room For Baby Episode, I think we have my favorite breakthrough moment: Mario is cleaning the garage and is holding the mailbox that came with the home when they bought it. Marie asks her favorite question: Holding it in your hand right now, does it spark joy for you? She really doesn't get anywhere (we all agree that not every practical item in our home is covered by the emotion of "joy", right?). Mario gives a great description of the emotion behind the box - acknowledging it is not "joy", but it is clearly invoking a deep sense of pride in the history that brought his immigrant family to this point! Then Marie follows up by asking "Is this something you'd like to keep as part of your life going forward?" and the lightbulb clicks!!
We all have those "museum" items - that tell the stories of our personal pasts - our lives, loves, and accomplishments. But we don't have to travel into the future with each of those items that brought us to where we are - we can feel the gratitude for those experiences and let the object go (and we can ALWAYS take a picture first, if we think we need a visible trigger to bring us back to that memory!)
5. Gratitude and Vision
I am not a real "Thank your stuff" or "I'm going to introduce myself to your house" kind of personality, but I really want to find my own twist on the introducing myself to your house moment. For me "thanking your stuff for its service" is really about gratitude for your life experiences, and the "over"-abundance of blessings that has allowed us to own clothes we have never worn, or 50 pairs of sneakers, or a personal library of books. I think it is so great to get in touch with those emotions through the process of decluttering!
I see a huge value also in the minute she takes after the tour for quiet reflection ("introducing" herself to the house) - I think in that moment most people are picturing the space that is their HOME and what that space is to them - again, that sense of gratitude for the shelter, and the place of peace, rest, love and memories. They are not focused on the fact that their bathroom is too small and not an actual spa, or that their master closet is not as large as my children's rooms, like in the magazines. And that is the proper viewpoint to get started! They look ahead to the work before them and know it is worth it to achieve those priorities within their home and let go of the clutter that is overwhelming them. I think 5 big breaths to appreciate the blessing of the home, what it means to you, and to picture the peaceful, welcoming space you desire would be a great thing to do with clients between the tour of the problem areas and rolling up our sleeves to find the solutions! I just don't know if I can pull it off!!
I do hope you enjoy this series and let it inspire you to dig in! You don't have to follow the Konmari method to a T - make your organizing experience your own - but the best way to get something DONE, is to BEGIN!!
Best wishes on your organizing journey!
You make it look so effortless that your loved ones might not quite realize the effort that goes into making it all happen. (If you enjoy the magic-making of someone in your life, please take time to appreciate what they add to your family with each special memory!) If you feel like you are doing it all alone, know that your fellow magic-makers recognize you!!
So accept a wink, a smile, a hug, and a thank you from me and someone around you who is in on the secret:
It’s not magic, it’s LOVE!!
One of the places I consider myself to be "well-organized" is in my filing - I have always had a great system and kept good track of my paperwork. HOWEVER, I began to realize it had become an overly onerous task - as society becomes more and more "paperless", my system needed to catch up and get with the times. Although Generation X, I still receive most of my bills on paper when available - especially bills that vary month to month, that I want to read over and confirm everything is above board - credit card bills, bank statements, even my electric and gas bills where I compare month to month and usage compared to last year.
So, two problems: My "to file" box would pile up, and then, because the stack was looking fat, would pile up some more, until I would spend an hours-long marathon catching up and filing months of papers. Secondly, the files themselves get FAT, and needed culled - another marathon job - amid so many decisions (how many years of each item would I keep? What could be disposed from each file?). Although I LOVE creating order from chaos, this recurring, time-consuming task was no longer something I wanted to invest hours in!
Then I found Freedom Filer. Freedom Filer markets itself as "self-purging", and once I truly embraced the system, I will say, no more marathon purging sessions! Their website www.Freedomfiler.com is a great resource for the "how to" of your system - and you absolutely could build your own with the information they provide! But their color-coded, ready made tabs look great and were worth it to me!
Here are the basics: Green tabs are for rotating, monthly files - There is a tab for each month "Even Year" and "Odd Year". It is November 2018, so I have a big paperclip on that file right now, to make it even easier to locate, because every paper that needs temporarily retained drops straight in there this month - credit card bills, doctor visit paperwork, "silly" warranty info (to the under $70 items that, honestly, are not worth calling in the warranty terms unless they fail in the first few months), large receipts, maybe cards or other items that are not quite ready for the trash. These will be retained until November 2020 when that file goes "live" again. Then, I will discard it all (I peek through and get a little memory, personally - oh my, how hard November 2016 was with Jeremy's surgery and all that my dad was going through!). In December, I will discard 2016 and start filling with this year.
Blue tabs are for taxes (I think Freedom Filer breaks this down a little too far) - we are up to 3 tax files now: Current Year Taxes, Business Income and Expense Receipts, and Medical (This comes and goes, as some years we have HSA/FSAs that in theory we have to have records for... if it would ever be questioned). If you just have one Current Year Tax File, I think that is good enough for most families!! And most years, it will sit empty until January save for an itemized Charitable Contribution here and there! It also files by "Year ending" 0-9, so you are keeping one decade of tax forms. I opted that when it is time to discard the 10 year old, I discard all of the supporting paperwork and just keep the actual IRS forms for reference - this is just about 5 sheets of paper most years, in a "Second Decade" file. Anything older than TWENTY years, I am definitely free to discard each year!
Red is for permanent - Freedom Filer made me much more picky about what is "permanent" - IMPORTANT medical records, school and employment records, the most personal cards, "real" warranties (with receipts), etc.
Orange is for "current contracts" and these papers get swapped out when the new one comes in - so, your insurance documents for the current year (discard prior year), apartment rental agreement, your SS Statement, even your will might fit into this category - only keep the current version!
Purple is for resource references - use sparingly! Maybe that vacation file or another file of accumulated research. Your family's ancestry documents or DNA tests. Most resource items anymore beg the question, "could you just look this up on the internet if you needed this information later?" But we all have those items we want at our fingertips, physically written right there in front of us when we need it!
Freedom Filer recommends HANGING FILES - I can't tell you how HUGELY transformative this part was for me. I was using the manila file folders. You adjust the metal bracket to the size of your files, but at first there is sliding room, and the files are leaning a little. As they fill up, you can't really stuff another page in without removing files or risking papercuts! So, you move the bracket, and they are slipping and sliding again. Hanging files hang straight and tall all the time! They slide easily, always staying upright - you open them, slip in pages and slide the door closed. If you already use hanging files you either understand my joy or are just thinking everyone knows it is the superior product. If you don't use them, they are WELL worth your investment. They can all be the cheapest green office color. They do not need to be color coded, but spend $10 on a drawer worth and decide if I'm wrong!! Seriously!
The combo of hanging file folders and rotating months means I do not have a to file box - items that I might need in the next 2 years get EASILY tossed in the current month's file - no fuss, no muss, no sorting type of bill or date, no removing an entire file so that I can force one page into a tight drawer. And it has eliminated the worst step: the purge step - bills and temporary items get discarded every 2 years. Taxes are automatically downsized or discarded each year.
Honestly, these are two items I recommend to every paperwork client who is struggling to keep up with filing or becoming overwhelmed! I think there are few who would struggle with the system. If you need help catching up on paperwork, or implementing a new system, reach out! It is a small time investment that will remove a huge weight from your shoulders!
June, 2015: The extended family has gathered at the Outer Banks for a great family vacation. The usual ingredients: sun, sand, and a great beach read are all involved, including that "controversial" tome, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Discussion ensues. Opinions become heated, shouts are heard, children scatter.
Don't worry, it ends okay, and it is super funny now, but that vacation will always be, in my mind, the one with the fight about Organizing.
Looking back, kind of an Aha moment for me - I feel passionately about... organizing! I also feel passionately that there is no one size fits all answer to the process. This is how I ended up both the one who started it (I questioned the requirement that you find EVERY. BOOK. IN. YOUR. HOUSE. In a pile. All at once.) AND the first one to turn tail and run when the whole discussion went south (I mean, if you can get through it in one go and that works for you, you do you, Marie Kondo!!).
So, what works for you? As an organizer it is my job to figure out what clients want, need, and what works for them!
*One space at a time or one type of item at a time?
*Is considering the "feelings" of your belongings helpful? Or how an item or space makes you feel? (Those items that trigger feelings of GUILT are the most toxic, and letting them go is a HUGE WIN!!) Maybe you are somewhere in the middle and use phrases like "That dishtowel looks tired." Work with that!!
*Does it bring you joy? This is my favorite question, because it drills past all the excuses and is often a pretty simple yes or no, but there are so many other questions out there and if nostalgia or fear of the possibility of future need are recurring hold ups, digging deeper into those concerns and getting to the root of those emotions is more important than flying past them to decide on each item!
*Folding vs. Hanging, Rainbow order, upward slope, etc. I DO believe a tidy drawer can make you SMILE and an organized closet helps you make decisions, saving time and stress! And maybe her shirts are "happier" folded... but maybe yours are "cooler" and like to "hang" out! HA! And if sorting color or length of clothes is the difference between laundry finding its home or staying in the basket, guess where I recommend sticking the rainbow? Find what works for you!!
*Only tidy once or you'll be tidying forever? (This does not mean you never "clean" again!!) I think decluttering (tidying) breeds decluttering, so I think there is definitely momentum to keep up the system. But I think most of us let go in stages (especially with emotional clutter) and are inspired with each purge to tidy more and to change our lifestyle to prevent our spaces from sliding back that direction! I believe in baby steps, and if that is what you can do today, and tomorrow you find out you hadn't actually finished tidying... tidy some more!!
And if you ever find an organizing guru causing strife on your family vacation, I recommend you all become professional organizers!!
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up is an easy read and is sure to provide "tidying" inspiration! Available on Amazon
or as an Audiobook on Scribd.com. I love the all you can read monthly membership on Scribd! Click here for 2 months free!
Katie McAllister, Professional Organizer is an Amazon Associate and earns from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.
I saw this description of a professional organizer, laughed, and thought, "this IS me!"
I totally embrace that nerdy side of me that loves to implement the rules and systems that make REAL life work!! Not the airbrushed, staged, romantic photos with no televisions, bookcases full of décor but no books, and multiple vases of fresh cut flowers. (There's nothing wrong with any of these, of COURSE, but it is not the way most of us realistically live day to day).
I'm also a firm believer that when we simplify and streamline, we allow space in our lives to bring out those beautiful items we treasure (you know, without the beautiful vases sitting with DEAD flowers for the month following their glorious introduction!).
I am big picture and thorough, enjoy stability, order, and routine, and love to improve systems.
BUT, I totally understand that perfectionist side so many of us have that makes it hard to GET STARTED (for me it is the geeky side saying "do ALL the research", "make the 20 year plan before you take the first step", "if I can't complete the entire project today it is not worth starting")! No!! Overcoming that debilitating mindset is often still a daily choice for me - setting a clock for 15 minutes, breaking down a project into doable chunks, being okay with BABY STEPS!! There is so much productivity in the "Just Do It" mantra, and sometimes even more in "Just 10 minutes"!!
Find those personality traits and identify their strengths and weaknesses - and work through hurdles that slow you down or leave you frozen! You've got this!
Love, The Nerdy (Big) Sister
Embracing my love for organizing and the joy of encouraging others as we journey through the ups and downs together!
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