Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Tag: organization

5 Good Reasons to Declutter, Plus a Decluttering Challenge

I’m happy to introduce Amy Harke-Moore, who wrote this post for us today! She also guest posted around Christmas last year, with this very wise post.  Today, she has some great advice for reasons to declutter.  Plus, she is hosting a declutter challenge on her blog. Details following this motivating post!

Unless you’ve been living sequestered in an ancient mountain village and currently go by the name of Brother Paul, you can probably relate to having too much stuff. It’s a modern dilemma, to be sure, and for some of us our collection of material goods has reached the scary point. Where do you even start? Much easier to shut the door and forget about it, right? But I propose a different idea.  Instead of letting the overwhelm paralyze you, take courage. Here are five good reasons to motivate you to declutter.

  • Feel lighter. Don’t underestimate this! I had always heard this from the decluttering crowd, but it wasn’t until I actually took a challenge and got rid of over five hundred items in two weeks that I really understand the truth of the statement. I felt like I’d just lost twenty-five pounds on a crash diet. I probably did lose that much weight—just not off my person. Every item you own, however small, carries some burden, responsibility, or weight to it. Lessening your load can be life-changing!
  • Sell your items for quick cash. If you’re like me, you have clothes you bought and never wore and gifts you never took out of the box. Why not take those barely—if at all—used items and turn them into a profit? Have an old movie collection? Sell it on Craig’s List. Toys your children have outgrown and no longer care about? Take them to the consignment store. Or hold an old-fashioned garage sale. Just be careful you don’t spend the money on more stuff.
  • Give your items away to charity. Want to feel even better about getting rid of stuff? Take a box of items to Good Will or to a church with a donation center or one of those boxes you see in parking lots where you can drop off quality used items. You’ll have the satisfaction of helping others who might have been through a traumatic event like a house fire or losing a job.
  • Eliminate things to dust, clean, wash, and store. You can’t dust what you don’t have. You don’t have to find places for items you no longer own. The fewer things you have to take care of, the more time you free up from cleaning, storing, and worrying about those possessions. And the wide open space will make you feel like you have room to breathe.
  • Make room for what really matters. So maybe the spare bedroom has become the catchall place, but you’ve dreamed of having an art studio. Or maybe you’d like a dedicated place to work out. Decluttering can get you back in touch with your passion. You’re using the space in an uplifting, positive way instead of storing items that, in many cases, are no longer useful to you. You’re investing in something that brings you joy or challenges you rather than stuff.

So there you have it. Five good reasons to declutter. Are you motivated yet? Join me for a 7-day decluttering challenge running September 24 – 30 at A Rural Girl Writes. You just might get rid of a few things and have fun in the process!   Click here to find out more and join!  Margo says: “I just did and am ready to tackle my basement!”

Also, while you are here,  don’t forget to enter the photo caption contest and win prizes! It’s fun! It’s easy. It goes until September 30, 2018. 

 

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Organization Help: List of What Paperwork to Keep and What to Shred

Dear Self,

Why the heck do you feel the need to keep every single piece of paper that’s ever floated into your life in a hugely disorganized pile on the dining room table? Sure, some of them may be pretty important, but most of them could be introduced to Mr. Shredder, right?

Yours faithfully,

Clutter Is My Worst Enemy

We’re pretty sure many of us can relate to the above scenario because, let’s be honest, all of us have a mailbox that’s been infiltrated by “junk mail” we can’t decipher. Credit card applications, packs of insurance documents, bible-length retirement fund reports, pay stubs dating back a decade, all of it. Well, to help you overcome this pile of paperwork for once and for all, we’ve come up with a pretty extensive list of what paperwork you should pop in a safe and what can be shredded (and then recycled).

What You Should Keep A Physical Copy Of Forever:

To give you the sum of it: you pretty much want to keep a physical copy of anything that’s state related or a federal matter, such as certifications, licenses, deeds, etc. That’s partly because you’ll want to access them quickly when the time comes and partly because they are a nuisance to replace. Things–like birth and death certificates, social security cards, pension plans, IDs and passports, marriage license, business documents, insurance policies, wills, powers of attorney, car titles, loan documents, house deeds and mortgage papers –they should all be kept together in a safe place, preferably in a fireproof safe. 

What You Should Keep The Latest Versions Of For A While:

Just so you know, it doesn’t matter whether you keep a physical copy of these documents or you scan, then store them, in a highlighted folder on your computer – so long as you have a copy of them at hand. Anyway, to break it down for you a bit more, you want to:

  • Keep all of your tax records and receipts for a minimum of seven years, just in case the taxman comes knocking, you decide to start a business, need a large loan or want to buy a property.
  • Keep your bank statements for a year, at least. Of course, if you haven’t done this, you can always use a pay stub generator and start now, which is a great idea, as you never know when you might need to provide proof of your income later on.
  • Keep any documents relating to a property purchase, sale, renovation, or improvement job for at least six years after you sell it.
  • Keep every page of your medical records and healthcare bills for no less than twelve months after you’ve made a payment because you never know when you might find yourself embroiled in a dispute with an insurance provider.
  • Keep all the latest versions of your Social Security statements, annual insurance policy documents, and retirement plan statements, whether that is your 401(k), 529, IRA, etc.

As for everything else, shred ‘em.

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Why You Should Get Organized and Reduce Your Stress Level

A couple years ago, I picked organization as my word of the year, and I did get more organized. But I still have a long way to go! It is so true that when you are organized you have less stress–it doesn’t mean no stress, but there is less. So I really liked this contributed post when it came across my inbox. Here we go…these are all excellent reasons to get more organized, along with some tips on what to do to organize yourself! 

We are all guilty of misplacing documents or forgetting about deadlines. If you would like to make sure that you’re making the most out of your life and productivity, however, getting yourself more organized will help. There are plenty of easy ways of learning how to manage your time and resources better, improve your well being, and have more time to spend with your family. Read on to find out more.

Improved Sleep

If you don’t have to worry about missing a deadline, not paying your bill on time, or forgetting about a family member’s birthday, you will have fewer negative thoughts going around your head when you are trying to sleep; and as a result, you will get better rest at night. Once you know that everything is in order, the kids’ lunchbox is in the fridge ready to go in the morning, or your car is checked out before your road trip, you will have fewer things to worry about in the middle of the night.

Clearer Thinking

If you organize your life, you will have more space for new ideas. You can think clearer and focus on opportunities, instead of problems. It is a good idea to declutter your home every couple of months, so you are able to get rid of the things that no longer serve you and hold you back from achieving your goals. When everything is going smoothly, you will have the energy to focus on finding your true self, instead of going with the tide.

Being Prepared

One way to be organized is to be prepared for emergencies and mishaps. One of the most important ways to do this is to make sure that you have the most important emergency numbers handy, maybe a list on your fridge. You can also use a notebook, which can come handy, as you can list all the professionals’ details you might need in the future: doctors, dentists, police station, firehouse, car mechanic, etc. Alternatively, a calendar and contact list app can serve the same purpose just as well. You don’t want to spend hours trying to find a local hearing aid repair  company or a car mechanic if you have to get the kids to school.

More Time For You and Your Family

When you are organized, you use your time more wisely, and therefore, you have more time to get things accomplished and to spend with your family. For example, while your children are at football practice, you can do your grocery shopping, instead of wasting time sitting in your car or driving home and then having to drive back to pick them up. Likewise, you can team up with other parents to share the school run, so you have more time to get organized around the house while your kids are out of it. If you are accomplishing chores while your kids are busy, you’ll have more quality time to spend with them when they are home. 

Reduced Expenditure

Being organized and making preventive appointments will save you money and time! If you keep an eye on the maintenance schedules for your car or book your kids for a dental check, you can save money, as well. It always costs more to deal with emergencies than preventing them, so it is important that you book the important appointments well on time. If you decide where you want to go on holiday in the summer back in January, you will benefit from lower prices and more time to book your attractions, hotels and activities.

Better Health

Being organized also has health benefits. First of all, your reduced stress levels will help you maintain a hormonal balance that is necessary for your immune system to function. If you can plan your meals ahead, you will not have to rely on microwave food or takeaway options, and your diet will have a positive impact on your health and well being. Further, if you can schedule regular physical activities, you will lose weight, reduce stress, and feel stronger and healthier.

Improved Productivity

Being organized will also improve your productivity. If you don’t have to spend time trying to find manuals or emails containing information you need for work or your kids’ activities, you can get on with your work or scheduled activities straight away. An organized work space can make you more productive and efficient, no matter what your profession is. Lower stress levels, clarity of thinking, and being able to find all your documents and invoices at ease will make your life so much easier.

Getting organized has multiple rewards. If you are one of those parents always complaining about the lack of time, getting your life in order might be the solution for your problem. Improve your financial, professional, and family life by taking control of the things to do and making it easier to manage your tasks.

What are one or two ways you reduce your stress? 

 

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Organizing Your To-Do List and the $10,000 Idea

I love a good to-do list. Who’s with me here? Without my daily/weekly/monthly list, I’m not sure I would get anything done. Actually, I think I may be a little addicted to my lists! I love to finish something and cross it off the list. Not only is it good to finish it, but it’s also rewarding to see all those items crossed off! Plus, as many of you know, in 2016, my word of the year was organization, so this all fits together. But where am I going with this post and what is a $10,000 idea? (It’s not, by the way, an idea that will make you $10,000! But don’t stop reading.)

The way I have chosen to organize the tasks I need to accomplish each day and week is on my weekly desk calendar, where there is plenty of room to write several items on each day. But last week, even this wasn’t working for me. I felt like some of these tasks I was simply moving from week to week, and they also fit in different categories in my life. There were tasks I needed to do for the house, for my day job, for creative writing, for freelancing, for Katie and Chester, and so on. So I took five blank sheets of 8.5 x 11.5-inch paper and labeled them:

  • Freelancing
  • Cleaning/House/Bills/Paperwork
  • Personal
  • Writing/Blogging
  • Day Job

Then I put the tasks that I needed to accomplish (some new, some left from my calendar) on the sheets in the appropriate category, so I could wrap my head around what I needed to do and what area of my life it would benefit. For some reason, this made my stress level go WAY down, and I felt like I could accomplish many of these things. Some of the items needed to happen immediately (like the laundry, critiquing my writing group’s work, and finishing my day job’s publications), and some of them were things that could be finished at some point (like writing a blog post and cleaning out my email inbox).

And then there were the $10,000 ideas. 

I noticed on each page, there were some ambitious goals, projects like: cleaning out the basement and finishing my novel that weren’t going to be done in a day or a week. They were also items that would make my life better and richer, and so I decided to call those my $10,000 ideas. I drew a spiky circle around each of these and wrote $10,000 idea next to it

This is very similar to making New Year’s goals; with these ideas, I’m saying: these are things I want to do, and they will make my life better, and I will do them eventually. I love how I have them on these lists in categories; and how every time I look at my list, I am reminded of these BIG TICKET items that will improve my life.

So if you see me around, ask me: how are your $10,000 ideas coming this year? And…of course, I must ask…do you have any of these ideas on your to-do lists?

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My One Word for 2018 and a Look Back at 2017

Each year, I pick one word to focus on, instead of making a bunch of resolutions I won’t keep. Sure, I plan to continue to do the things I’ve already been doing (somewhat imperfectly) in 2017: exercise, write and read more, eat healthy, spend time with Katie, sleep enough, enjoy life–but if I make too many goals, I’m really hard on myself when I don’t complete them, and that doesn’t do anyone any good.

So, in this post, I’m revealing my word of the year for 2018 and looking back at the words for 2016 and 2017 and how I’ve been doing.  No more suspense, my word for 2018 is CALM. (This is not that much different than peace from 2017, but read on to see what CALM means to me.)

As always, in December, I start thinking of what I really need to work on the next year. I don’t think you should just wait and start improving your life magically on January 1, but it’s a placeholder for reflection since it happens at the same time every single year. (Yay! for order and routine from the universe). I was going to pick LOVE, not necessarily because of being back in the dating game, but because I found myself being hard on people whom I love, and wondering why I do that to them (and myself). Love could also focus on doing the activities you enjoy and getting rid of the ones you don’t. And making sure to spend time with the people whom you love that bring joy to your life, and finally, even finding glass-half-full moments in activities you don’t LOVE doing, but you have to.

WOW! Why didn’t I pick love for 2018? Well, I feel like I’ve already been doing many of those things (or trying to) with the word PEACE, so I decided CALM was a better choice.

I’m not very calm. I don’t know if I seem calm to the outside world, but to my inner circle–my daughter, my parents, my best friends–calm is not a word they would ever use to describe me. I often hear, “Margo, do you ever sit still?”  “Chillax.”  “Everything is fine, calm down.” You get the picture. So one night recently, when KT (7 years old) was in the middle of another week of constipation (there’s a practical parenting post coming about that, trust me), I was at my wit’s end. I felt like I was saying the same things to her over and over each week, and she wasn’t listening. She was crying and yelling because her stomach hurt, and then I started yelling, and then I stopped and looked at her and said, “We both need to calm down. This is not that big of a deal.” So we did. We both calmed down, and then I told her about the Word of the Year, and how maybe both of us needed to work on being calm. She agreed. We shook hands.

The other evening, when we were at my parents’ house, I had given them (my parents and KT) some instructions (drink a full water bottle and eat a fiber cookie) that I wanted them to follow during the day.  When I arrived, I discovered these instructions were not followed. Now all of you who are lucky enough to have doting grandparents for your children know this is very common. My mom said, “Well, I didn’t want to harp on her all day.” I get it. I do. But I started to get that lecture-y tone I can get, and Katie looked at me and said, “Calm, Mommy. Calm.” (insert ROFL emoji here). But you know what? It worked. I took a deep breath and said, “Well, I wish these things would have happened, but we’ll work on this for the next time.” And then we went on with eating the delicious vegetable beef soup my mom made.

So, CALM it is…in 2018, I want to work on thinking before reacting. I want to work on taking deep breaths. I want to think about my tone and the words that come out of my mouth (or on to a computer screen) before I act.

Now, how are Peace and Organization doing? Well…I would say for 10 months of 2017, I didn’t do a great job with peace. But then something happened in November (I don’t know what–I guess everything just started clicking), and Peace was actually a reality. There are many times during the week, where I can now say I truly feel peaceful with my life, in spite of there being just as much chaos as there has always been. I really am learning (imperfect progress) that it is how you react to life and not what happens to you.

And this has been the second year of organization, well, I guess it’s better…I am kind of learning that organization also has to do with prioritizing and making sure you can find things when you need them. Also, don’t let paperwork and deadlines hang over your head–face them and tackle them.

How about you? Are you choosing a word of the year? What do you want to work on in 2018? 

 

 

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Word of the Year (Part One)

A couple years ago, my writing friend, Sarah, told us about a New Year’s resolution-type thing called: ONE WORD. I wrote about it pretty extensively on WOW!’s blog last year, where I explained my word of the year for 2016 would be Organization; and I wasn’t making any specific resolutions or goals because my life was chaotic and changing, and I didn’t think I could stick to anything too specific. This One Word theme really worked for me. I did get more organized in 2016. Here are some ways:

  • Cleaned out several closets and drawers and donated loads of stuff to charity
  • Got all of my retirement money from teaching and my new job in order with my financial adviser
  • Created this blog for writing and a separate one for Editor 911 (although still in progress)
  • Realized Katie and I need to follow a nightly routine MOST nights in order to have a successful week
  • Followed through on a system to remember to take my medicine (hormones from hysterectomy, which need to be taken twice a day)

I’m sure there are more, but for now, that gives you an idea of how one word helped me in many areas of my life. I also managed to buy a new car and set up my insurance payment and car payment to pay automatically out of my bank account. I count all of this as organization. Because I did have some female health issues this year, I lost huge chunks of time, and so I am keeping Organization for 2017 AND adding one more word. I am still contemplating 2017’s additional word and plan to decide next week. The ones I am thinking about are. . .

  • Peace
  • Practical
  • Boundaries

I probably need all 3! 🙂

I’m hoping some of you reading this post will share a word or two of the year that you would like to consider. Just because you write it down HERE does not mean that you HAVE to do this word of the year. But it might get people thinking about words they could adopt. Also if you are explaining yourself when typing a comment, it may make you think about your hopes and dreams for 2017.

 

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Are You a Planner or Flying By the Seat of Your Pants?

Is organization and planning in today’s fast-paced world becoming more rare than ever before?  When you ask a busy parent, what are you going to have for dinner? Most will answer: I’ll figure it out at 5.  Wondering what you and your friends should buy a co-worker who is having a baby? Good thing someone is an Amazon Prime member, so the gift can be delivered, gift-wrapped, in two days.

I know for myself I’m often figuring out what I need to do the day of an event or even the day of my surgery (where I wished I would have read the information the night before). I used to be a planner–a big planner–because my thought was that things went better, especially as a mom, if I planned them in advance. But then I got a divorce, and there wasn’t time or energy to be such a planner. So I learned to do a lot by the seat of my pants, and one thing I did learn is. . .we survived. Planning may help, but sometimes, it also causes more stress.

fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pantsRecently, I had a discussion with someone, and here’s what he had to say about a recent business trip, where he was asked to give training with no preparation and fix complicated machinery (which is not his job) in very little time:

I was thinking about this week and how it has been just one ridiculous, crazy adventure after another.  No plans, no preparation, under the gun every single day. And my life has always seemed to be like this…Over the years, I have just learned to shrug it off. I don’t stress over it because I know there is nothing I can do. All I can do is just face it head on and do my best. And every time this week, somehow I made it work. So obviously, the next thought to cross my mind was…What happens when one day we can’t make it all work out? What happens when I fail to figure something out on the fly?

Maybe this has already happened, and I just don’t think about it because I knew it was the best I could do.

How about you? Have you faced situations like this? Do you stress out about them? Do you think they are teaching you coping skills? Do you plan?

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