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Tips to Simplify the Holidays

Christmas wreath

Do you enjoy the holidays, or do you dread them?

Is this a typical thought for you: “I’m starting to get overwhelmed already, and it’s only Thanksgiving!”

And don’t you love to hate those friends who tell you on November 15 they already have all their Christmas shopping done? It’s not even black Friday, for Pete’s sake!

What can you do about holiday overwhelm?

Learn to KISS.

No, I don’t mean not kissing under the mistletoe, I mean learn to Keep It Simple, Silly!

If you’re a fan of the ‘be calm’ sayings, the holidays are a great time to embrace the ‘be calm’ attitude!

Don’t fall into the trap of trying to do everything just because the concerts, Christmas bazaars, in-person shopping, holiday parties and ALL of it is back on the menu!

From my vantage point, each aspect of Christmas can be simplified. And why not? Many other aspects of life have been scaled back. After 2 Christmases in COVID-19 isolation, be careful not to go hog wild!

If you’d like to enjoy the holidays this year instead of being stressed, KISS instead.

Simplify Shopping

Christmas presents for the holidays

After 10 years of being parents, my husband and I finally got wise. We created a simple budget, the same amount for each child’s Christmas gifts. Not only that, but we kept the budget quite low—under $50 each. Then we focused on the experiences as a family instead of the commercial aspect. Hiking into the forest and getting a tree, having a scavenger hunt Christmas day, performing a Nativity play together, and sledding & ice skating are all part of our family holiday traditions that stretch over the school break.

I’m not trying to tell you to keep your holiday budget as low as we did, merely to share the concept that once you set a realistic budget, you will avoid overspending and save time on shopping. Both staying within a budget and saving time will ease your stress at the holidays!

Another way to take the stress out of shopping is to have a list of ideas for each person on your list.

Also, shop as early as you can. I like to get most of my shopping done on black Friday weekend, and to KISS, I utilize online shopping as much as possible.

Simplify Social Engagements

Holiday concerts, parties, church events, luncheons, Holiday Bazaars, plays, and other social engagements all take up your time and can rob you of time and rest if you’re not careful.

I recommend listing all the events or social engagements you could go to and then prioritizing which ones are the most meaningful to you. Prioritizing will help you cut down the events you commit to, which will lead to peace of mind about your schedule if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Remember to KISS so you have time for the important people in your life!

Simplify Decorations & Cards

family making Christmas cards

For years, I sent out over 100 cards, and used an automated card service which stressed me out and didn’t save me any time! My holiday wish for you is that you will simplify your card list to save yourself time and stress. Maybe you’ll even decide not to send cards this year, to simplify your life.

If you feel guilty when a card arrives from someone you didn’t send a card to, do what I do, and have some cards handy to fire off to them.

Simplify Food

baking Christmas cookies

To me, food is one of the best parts about Christmas! I make cookies, pies and special dishes on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and New Year’s. Food becomes a cherished family tradition.

How to simplify Holiday food prep

  • Make cookie dough the first week of December and freeze it. You can actually create dough balls and freeze them on a cookie sheet so they don’t stick together. Genius idea I received from my sister-in-law, April!
  • Make not one, but 2 roasts at the same time. I do this because I serve pecan-encrusted pork roast, which has a time-consuming sauce. I’ll have a second roast to pop in the oven Christmas week.
  • Do anything you can ahead of time, especially dessert prep like baking the pies a day or two ahead of time. And don’t be afraid to use frozen pie crust. I do!
  • For Christmas morning or to save time at Hanukkah, try a casserole like French toast apple sausage bake, which is prepped the night before. Just pop it in the oven in the morning.
  • Enlist dinner guests to bring side-dishes to dinner!

I hope these ideas help you to simplify the holidays. I know it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but when you KISS, you’ll spend less time being stressed and more time having fun and creating memories!

Follow me on FB or Instagram, where I’ll share the 2 recipes I mentioned between December 13 and December 20!

(Pecan-encrusted pork roast and French toast apple sausage bake.)

Woman with cluttered clothes closet

The Great Closet Edit

Clothes Closets, especially walk-in closets, are a problem area in many homes. If this is you, help is on the way!

Even though I am a professional organizer, I admit, purging my own clothes can be hard!

The problem with closets is they are out of sight, out of mind. No one else sees the master bedroom closet but you, your family, and maybe your cleaning person.

It’s all too easy to let clothes and accessories accumulate over time in your walk-in closet. And before you know it, you are having to shove the hangers in because your clothes are packed as tight as sardines!

One common result of this is that you cannot see or remember what you have.

So, you end up buying duplicate items because you cannot find what you’re looking for.

Which means you’re spending hard-earned money to buy duplicate items! This is especially true for people who have more than one closet where they store clothes and accessories–they forget what they have in the other clothes closet.

And yes, I have had several organizing clients who have 2 or even 3 closets or a room full of clothes!

Questions to Ask Yourself

Before you even get started, it’s a good idea to remind yourself of the WHY, why are you doing this?

(That way, you’ll be in the right mindset to let go.) Next, let’s look at this important  question:

What is your WHY?

What motivates you to organize your closet?

  • I want to get ready faster.
  • I am tired of not being able to find what I need.
  • I know half the stuff in there doesn’t fit.
  • I’d like to feel calm, not stressed, when I walk into my closet.
  • I want it to look pretty!

You are not alone! Thousands of women and men in the US want these things too. Did you know that clutter has a “negative impact on our subjective well-being”? It’s true.

messy walk-in closet

Did you know, messy homes leave us feeling anxious and overwhelmed?

Also, messy homes and workspaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed, according to a recent Huffington Post article.

If you’d like to feel better, purging and organizing your packed walk-in closet is the way to go!

The Great Closet Edit: Motivation

It’s time to dig deep and find the strength to let go. Purging your own clothes is hard! So, get yourself into a tough mindset by using the questions in the last section.

In addition, a loving heart can motivate you to purge your clothes. Here’s how.

I promise you’ll have an easier time giving away clothes by visualizing the look of joyful surprise on the face of the person who finds just what they needed at a thrift store (thanks to your generous clothing donation.)

Professional Organizer Jenny Morin with black coat from a thrift store, 1990

This is me on my mission, shoveling snow & wearing my warm thrift store find!

Circa 1990.

      I remember when I was a poor college student in Provo, Utah. I needed a warm dress coat for my upcoming mission. I browsed at TJ Maxx and the coats didn’t look very warm, so I decided to search some thrift stores to find a warm coat. (I had plenty of time, just not much money back then, so I didn’t mind combing the city for a coat!)

          I ended up finding a super-warm dress coat that buttoned all the way up and covered my neck—I was so happy! (Most women’s dress coats have a V-neck.) It was constructed of thick black wool, lined with thick black satin, and lasted many years!

So, it will help to picture all the poor or low-income working people who can use some of the clothes you never wear—especially if that motivates you to let go.

The Great Closet Edit: The Purging Phase

The purging phase is the most important part of the closet edit.

I’ve come up with some questions for you to make the process easier. My hope is these questions will help you make good decisions you’ll be happy with.

One caution: Do this when you are in a tough, not a lenient state of mind. If you under-purge, you’ll regret it because you’ll have to do this again in 6 months or live with a packed closet.

Helpful questions to ask as you purge your closet:

One: Does this fit?

That’s a simple yes or no. If it doesn’t fit right now, let it go. In some cases, I do allow a client to keep 1 small box of clothes which are too small. I call it the “skinny pants” box. 🙂

Two: Does it look good on me?

Definitely have a full-length mirror and some good lighting while you try clothing on! There will be some no-brainers here, but some clothes you are going to need to try on. Don’t be daunted. Do it!

Last time I did this with a client, she tried on a whole walk-in closet full of clothes in just two hours, with my help.

Don’t skip this step!

Piles of clothes during closet organization

A woman is never sexier than when she is comfortable in her clothes.” ~Vera Wang

Three: This _______ has a past with me, does it have a future?

You may have had some great times wearing that sequined dress, but if all your kids have married and you don’t go to swanky New Year’s parties, are you really going to wear it again?

Four: If I saw this in the store today, would I buy it?

If the answer is an emphatic YES, then keep it. If you’re waffling, or rationalizing why you should keep it, let it go, that’s a nope!

Five: Am I letting the original cost of this item get in the way of letting it go?

Be sure not to let the cost of the item keep you from letting it go. It won’t do you any good to let that fur coat sit in your walk-in closet taking up prime real estate for the next 10 years.

Sell it if that makes you feel better, but DO take it out of your closet and say goodbye!

The best thing to do, which takes the least amount of time, is to just let go.

boxes for decluttering and donating

I recommend just giving things away so you can move on.

Here’s a caution, though, take care not to make the donation process too difficult, or you won’t do it. For example, some people have 5 bags of stuff going to different friends. That is too complicated, too much work! Much better to take it to one thrift store so those bags don’t clutter up your house for months.

Make it easy on yourself and you’re much more likely to do it.

Six: Am I being honest about wearing this ____ again?

Be careful not to make up big, unrealistic scenarios for when you might use an item in the future. Example: “I’ll wear this one-piece hot-pink and yellow snowsuit from the 80s if I ever ski again.” See how silly that sounds?

Be brutally honest with yourself in this process of purging and organizing your closet.

As I like to say: be ruthless, not reckless when you purge.

Conclusion

Purging is a MUST to have the pretty, organized closet you desire.

And just think; once you purge all the stuff you never wear, it’s going to be so much easier to find what you want and get ready every morning. Not to mention, much faster!

Best of all, you can dress for work (or play) with a feeling of confidence now that you know everything in your closet makes you look and feel good.

Resources

“Why Clutter Can be So Bad for People With Anxiety (And What To Do About It,” Huffington Post, 4/8/2021

The dark side of home: Assessing possession ‘clutter’ on subjective well-being. March 2016, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 46.

Yes, you do Have Time for Goals: 5 Ideas to Reach your Vision this year

I do have time for my goals

Yes, you can make ‘thyme’ for your Vision!

Hi everyone, I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. Specifically, the VISION I have for this year, and how to make it all happen the way I picture it.

You have some great ideas and plans for 2021 too, and you may be realizing now that we are in mid-February that those goals are taking longer than you thought. At least that’s what I’m running up against.

Not enough TIME is the biggest obstacle that comes between you and your VISION for this year. So many people have told me that finding TIME for goals or working on a new habit is a challenge. Patience and perseverance come into play as well.  These qualities that come in handy when pursuing a long-range vision.

So I’m going to show you, using some concepts from my book’s chapter “Fitting in time for Organizing,” how you can consistently make room in your schedule to achieve those awesome goals and plans you made at the beginning of the year!

It doesn’t matter if your goal is organizing or working on a painting every week, these steps will show you how to make time for goals in your schedule.

Regarding the quality of patience, it helps to remind yourself often that projects and tasks usually take longer than you think.

Kate and Sifu Wing-chun-do martial arts

Remember to chip away at your Vision this year.

Here’s a life lesson I learned from my self-defense teacher, Anthony Morgan, “Sifu”, a multi-level blackbelt and a “grandson” of Bruce Lee. (Bruce Lee trained the master who trained Morgan.) My daughter, Kate, and Sifu are pictured above.

Sifu said when he works on a big goal, he thinks about it this way. He has a small pick-axe necklace that reminds him of this principle. He imagines using the little pick-axe to chip away at his goals.

Why does my martial arts teacher use a small pick instead of a big one? Because he will get exhausted if his pickaxe is too big. So, he patiently chips away at his goals a little at a time and doesn’t get overwhelmed or discouraged by the huge-ness of the project. In this way, he has become an expert at self-defense and, as a contractor, has built many houses for clients.

Recipes for success:

I’m gonna just get it out in the open right now.  

The following ideas are the basics which I teach to a time coaching client who has activities he/she would like to make time for. As with anything, knowing the steps is not quite enough. Knowledge is just the first step.

What I mean is, consistently applying these steps on a daily or weekly basis will lead to success in reaching your goals. You need to actually take the steps / do the action, even when you don’t feel like it. That, for me, is always the hardest part in implementing a long-range project.

See my post ‘Is Procrastination holding you back?’  https://efficientspaces.org/procrastination-holding/

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.”

~ Jim Rohn

The third recipe for success: be accountable to someone. A friend, a coach, your spouse, a sibling. Without accountability, most people’s efforts fizzle out after a few months.

I rely on the calls with my business coach, and just knowing that I have to report my progress spurs me to action. To gather my courage to call the newspaper or reach out to the head of HR at a big company—these are hard for me, but I know she’s going to ask me, so that pushes me to make the call.

And on the flip side, when I work with time coaching clients, we set aside time each week for their big picture goal. For many of us, it’s usually just a matter of making the time to do a thing. And being consistent about working on it each day or each week. But that is easier said than done, isn’t it?

See my blog ‘You can do Anything for 30 minutes’ here.

Emily is reaching for goals

5 Strategies to make time for your goals

YOU CAN DO IT!

1. State your vision.

What do you want to accomplish or learn? Picture yourself actually achieving this goal. Take several minutes and truly envision what it will be like when you accomplish this amazing thing. Going back to this vision will motivate you to keep chipping away at it when times get tough.

  • Who will you be with? Who was instrumental in helping you achieve this amazing accomplishment?
  • what will people be saying?
  • how will you feel?
  • how will you celebrate?

2. Look at your schedule.

To find a regular time each week that has fewer interruptions, pick a day when you usually get less interruptions or regularly have less going on/ less meetings, less clients and less looming deadlines.

3. Examine your time preferences.

Figure out what time of day is best for you to tackle high-focus or difficult projects. If you work with your preferences, your experience will be much more pleasant.  Also, you’ll fit your new activity into the flow of your day naturally.  (Are you a Lark or an owl? See the Time Preferences Quiz at the end of the blog.) This will help you reach your vision for the year.

4. Work on your goal at a regular time.

I recommend the same time every day or the same day and time every week. Create a new habit that will get you where you want to go!

For example, say your goal is to complete a course on SEO so you can increase your website referrals. Thursdays at 10 am might be your golden hour.

5. Remind yourself.

  1. When working toward a new goal, it is important to remind yourself to do that new thing or add that new habit or practice into your life.

Use your calendar to remind you daily—especially if you are working on a new habit. I cover habits in depth using the cute and predictable Habit Rabbit to illustrate the best way to create a new habit or break an old habit.

Get organized quick by Jenny Morin
Get Organized Quick link: https://www.amazon.com/Get-Organized-Quick-Minutes-Organize-ebook/dp/B01KKY30TS

Or, if your plan is to work on your vision for the year on a weekly basis, set a reminder for that in your phone and your work calendar, then treat it like a doctor’s appointment. You wouldn’t cancel a dentist appointment to go to coffee or, read emails, would you?

Did this article help you? Did the questions cause you to think more deeply about your goal and how you’ll actually realize it? Would you benefit by having a coach keep you accountable to your goal?

To find out if coaching is for you, or to schedule a free time management assessment, please head to my website.

Time to find out what time of day you REALLY do your best work!

Time Preferences Quiz

Identifying your Energy cycles and sources

Write down your answers to the following questions.

  • Mornings are the best time for me to:
  • And the worst time for me to:
  • Afternoons are the best time for me to:
  • And the worst time for me to:

   My best time for focus work:

   My best time for low-focus tasks:

Thank you for reading, and have a great day!

Resources for you:

My blog ‘Goals: Aim for the Stars, Writing Goals you will Stick To’:

https://efficientspaces.org/goals-aim-stars/
woman on the phone

Working at Home During Covid and Rockin’ it! 10 tips to get more done in your home office

Has setting up your home office during COVID-19 virus been a headache? If productivity has been an issue for you, I’ll share some organizing and time management hacks that will make a huge impact on your work.

What people working at home don’t realize: everyone has an inner productivity circle.

In fact, if you think about your home office as a series of circles radiating away from you (like the parallel ripples that radiate out when you drop a rock into a still pool of water), you’ll realize that what you keep close to you is important.

Concentric Productivity Circles

I first learned about this concept from my organizing mentor, Porter Knight. She talks about it in her book, Organized to Last. In it, she coined the term ‘concentric circles’.

I recently taught this productivity principle at a lunch and learn for a large local company. Several people were blown away by this principle; the idea that your work output increases when you only keep frequently used items within arms’ reach.

It makes total sense to me, if you spend less time getting up to use tools in the office, your workday will be more efficient. I will illustrate.

Circle 1: For me, the tools I use every day several times a day need to be in my inmost work circle of my home office. I should not have to roll my chair or even swivel it to get the items I use more than twice a day.

Items in my inner productivity circle: computer, mouse, planner or to-do list, pens, Post-its, stapler, tape, tool drawer, timer, hand lotion, drawer of important files, and trash can.

You may need additional tools like a 10-key, calculator, or specialized items for the work you do.

Circle 2: The next layer for efficient work at home would contain tools and resources you might use once a day. For example: file drawers, your tissue box, projects file, business card binder, cork board or whiteboard, speakers, etc.

Circle 3: The Third layer, the one farthest from you, would have things like resource books, archived files, office supply storage, camera equipment, supplies you travel to clients with, a briefcase or bag for networking events, etc. This layer holds supplies or archives used occasionally or rarely.

When I work with a client, we concentrate on creating open space around them in their home office, The problem with most work spaces is they have TOO MUCH STUFF cluttering their inner circle. this is true for many who are working at home.

Stuff that clutters up our desks: papers that need to be filed, projects, ideas, mail, Post-its, business cards, books, food, and personal items unrelated to your work or comfort are some of the clutter.

Did you know that clutter actually distracts from your work? Visual clutter, like stacks of paper, magazines, or too much in your inbox contribute to a state of low-level anxiety for some people.

Watch what happens when you clear off all the clutter from your desk and floor in your home office. I know every time I put all my papers away in files or project binders, I feel a rush of energy and am motivated to tackle the most important task of the day. Try it, you’ll like it!

Some people I’ve worked with are comfortable with one pile of work on their desk or a large inbox, and that’s fine. The important thing is to find what works best for you.

Everyone has their clutter threshold.

To help you even more, I’ll share a list of tips for staying productive while working at home. Time management tips like these are sorely needed in these unprecedented times when all the kids are home attending virtual classes because of COVID.

10 Secrets to Get More Done in Your Home Office

Tip 1: Focus Time

Figure out what your best focus time is. Do the work that requires the most brainpower then. If you’d like to pinpoint the time of day, email me and I will send you a quiz that will show you when you do your best work! jennym@efficientspacesco.com

Tip 2: Limit Distractions

If your spouse or kids are home during work hours, make sure they know not to disturb you. Close the doors if you need to.  Put on headphones with some music that helps you focus. This has a dual job: to let people know you don’t want to be disturbed, and it keeps you from hearing background noise.

Ambient sounds, especially with words, occupy about 5-10% of your intellectual bandwidth.  By wearing ear protectors, you acoustically isolate yourself.  This freed up bandwidth can now be focused on the desired task.

It’s a great deal.  Just put on some earmuffs and you become 5-10% smarter.”

~ Peter Rogers, Straight A Stanford and on to Harvard

Tip 3: Plan

To be effective, make a plan for your week and then break it down by the day. I I start out with a ‘dump list’ then transfer the tasks to my planner, which uses a funnel-down system to help me choose which day to put each task. I use my planner for my to-do list, but a notebook or a sticky note works well to identify the most important daily tasks. For most people, having a daily purpose is a huge motivator. It’s satisfying to check those items off when they’re finished! I would be lost without my to do list. Most professionals who excel at time management use some form of a to-do list, whether electronic or paper. *I use the Planner Pad Organizer.

Tip 4: File Emails

With emails, you can take one of 3 actions: File, respond, or delete. Try not to think about it too much!  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  The general rule of thumb: if it takes 2 minutes, do it now.  (From Getting Things Done by David Allen)

Also, have folders for emails or email categories. Organize them by topic, project, or individual names. A person wastes 6 weeks annually searching for lost documents or because of unorganized folders for the one project they need. Be consistent about filing them. It helps so much when you need that information later!

Tip 5: Clear your inbox

Have an inbox for paper, and clear it daily.

Tip 6: Prioritize projects

Have a “hot spot” for today’s most urgent project.  Personally, I prefer a clear file folder standing up in a vertical file sorter.  My home office file sorter holds 5 files.  Also, put your to-do list in plain sight and review it each morning before you start.

Definitely prioritize projects based on their ROI and on the deadline or due date!

Tip 7: Set a timer

If you tend to distract yourself:  ahem… yes I do that!  I find that setting a timer is very helpful.  This works well if you are easily distracted by “bright and shiny” new emails.  Say your purpose for opening your email is to write one necessary email and then close the email so you can focus on a project.  Set a timer for 15 minutes before you open your inbox to avoid getting “sucked in” by your email.  This really works! (I keep my timer within arm’s reach in my home office.)

One way to boost our will power and focus is to manage our distractions instead of letting them manage us.” ~ Daniel Goleman

Tip 8: Turn off alerts

If texts, incoming emails, Zoom pop-up, or calendar notifications have alerts that distract you when you are trying to focus in your home office, make sure to turn off those alerts for the hour or 90 minutes when your project needs your full attention.  (Before you do this, check your calendar to make sure you don’t have a meeting or scheduled phone call.) If you are not sure how to do this, ask a tech-savvy friends!  Or link to the article I provide at the end of this post.

Tip 9: Delegate

Delegate email deletion and unsubscribing from sites to your kids or grandkids (it works great!).  Also, make sure to limit spam by having good firewalls in place to limit what gets to your inbox. 

My daughter Kate creates a time management map for a client.

Tip 10: Scan

For information you want or need to keep, have it scanned by someone you can delegate to (an assistant, tech-savvy son/daughter, grandchild, high school student) and file or organize it into files. Make sure and have the helpers to do it at a time when you’re doing something low-focus, like responding to emails. That way the interruptions with questions won’t affect your productivity in your home office.

Use these 10 tips to achieve more and reach your business goals!

Related posts: 5 ways to keep distractions at bay: https://efficientspacesco.c.wpstage.net/2015/02/5-tips-distractions-bay/

New Habits: you can do anything for 30 minutes: https://efficientspacesco.c.wpstage.net/2014/05/30-minutes/

How to get an extra hour of productivity daily: https://efficientspacesco.c.wpstage.net/2014/02/extra-hour/

How to turn off distracting notifications:  http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/5-distracting-desktop-notifications-turn-windows/

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