Preparing for an organizing appointment

9 December 2019


It’s not unusual for a new client to ask me what she should do before I arrive at her home for the first time. (And, yes, most—but not all—of my clients are women.) Most assume they need to clean up the house.

I almost always suggest that the client not clean up her home before our appointment. Piles and messy spots can be revealing. They reveal where the client and/or her family naturally tends to rest stuff. They typically reveal the stuff that’s actually in use. And they certainly reveal an absence of a working system for handling the mail.

There’s no need to be ashamed of piles and messy spots. It’s why you’re looking for help, after all. (And believe me, I’ve had professional organizers help me in my home, so I understand the discomfort of not cleaning up.)

There is something you can do prior to your organizing appointment that is really helpful: Spend a little type visualizing what you would like your space—and your life—to be once you achieve your organizing goals. Try to put that vision into words that you can share with your organizer. Knowing what success looks like is a huge part of achieving it. And being able to communicate that vision of success will really help your organizer.

So I suggest you put aside the notion that you have to clean up. Take that energy and put it into thinking and perhaps writing down what you desired when you decided to call in an organizer. And, please, be kind to yourself. Self-recrimination over a messy space doesn’t do you or anyone else any good.

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Letting holiday cards be easy

5 December 2019


I don’t celebrate Christmas, so December is a very easy month for me. I give few gifts so I don’t have to worry about shopping. And I don’t decorate at all.

But I do enjoy sending holiday cards. I actually always send out New Year’s cards because I like that they’re secular and they take away a little of the time pressure. I send two sets: One for Peace of Mind Organizing clients and colleagues and one for personal friends. (The personal set always sports a picture of our beautiful standard poodle, Bix, on the front.) Over the years I’ve been simplifying and making the process of sending out cards easier and easier.

How do I keep it simple? My secret weapon is Minted.com. I’ve been ordering from them for years and don’t even consider taking my business elsewhere.

As I detailed last year, here’s why I love Minted:

  • They offer beautiful cards (both photo and non-photo) designed by independent artists who win design competitions for the privilege of being included.
  • They offer addressing of the envelopes at no additional cost, in a design that complements the card. This is a huge time saver and looks great.
  • The quality of the card stock is excellent and they offer a number of options (like printed return addresses, “skinny wrap” return address labels, printed card backs and envelope liners) to snazz it up. You can customize both the front and back (or inside) of the cards.
  • They offer flat, as well as folded, cards. And they also offer postcards.

This year, I picked out my design, then edited last year’s address list. I removed a few people and added some more. Then I ordered stamps from the postal service’s website. The whole thing took an hour or so, partly because I didn’t let myself agonize over the decision. There are many beautiful designed from which to choose, but I went with the first one that caught my fancy.

For our personal cards, we opted for a postcard. Minted allows you to upload the photo so you can see how it looks with various designs. Genius! It was an easy choice this year and my husband Barry was enthusiastic about it. I chose to leave the back of the postcard blank, so I’m jotting a brief message and hand addressing the cards. We saved money because postcards are less expensive to print and the postage is less. (That’s a picture of this year’s postcard at the top of this post.)

My business holiday cards come pre-addressed, but I do write a personal message on each. (I opted for the flat cards that go in envelopes.) I ordered 125 business cards and 65 personal postcards. I’ve been writing a dozen cards and six postcards each evening. That’s easy and pleasant and will be done in four days.

I love sending out holiday cards, but if you don’t I encourage you to take that particular task off your list. As a card enthusiast, I always enjoy receiving cards but I don’t notice if someone doesn’t send me one. I’d be willing to bet that no one will hold it against you if you choose not to send cards! (And as an aside, you have my permission to let go of the cards you receive either right when they come in or after the holidays are over.)

But if you do enjoy sending holiday cards, you might look into ways that you can make it easier, like ordering online and having the addresses printed on your cards. Minted makes that easy. (By the way, that’s an affiliate link; if you use it I get a small commission that doesn’t affect your price.)

Holiday cards don’t have to be a burden!

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Lessons learned from 2019 NaNoWriMo

2 December 2019

On November 29, I finished writing a novel. Every five years since 2004, I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month and each of those years I’ve succeeded in writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days or fewer. It felt great to finish. I was very busy with client work this November, so writing my novel required me to get up an hour early to squeeze in my words and I was ready to sleep in!

This morning I thought I’d blog about the lessons learned and I looked to see what I’d written in the past. When I read my lessons learned post from five years ago I was struck by the fact that it contained the exact lessons I’d been reflecting on this year. So I’m just updating it a bit but otherwise running it as is. (Let it be easy, right?)

Here are some of these tried-and-trued lessons:

  • Strive for imperfect. By embracing imperfection with this novel, I took the pressure off myself. For me, it was about achieving the goal of completing the novel, not about writing something amazing. Since I think about imperfection so much as the co-host of the Getting to Good Enough podcast, this really hit home this year. My co-host Shannon Wilkinson was also participating in NaNoWriMo this year and we did a couple of episodes on the NaNoWriMo adventure.
  • I can find an extra hour in the day. It took me about an hour each day to write my word quota. I almost always did it at the beginning of the day, which meant I just got up an hour early. If I can do that to write a novel, I can do it for other activities like, say, exercising or genealogy research. (“I’m too busy” is feeling like a lame excuse not to exercise.)
  • Short term goals are easier to achieve. If I’d set out to write a novel in a year, I probably would have quit after a fairly short time. Knowing I had to do this for only 30 days made it a lot easier to start. I think this applies to all sorts of habit-creation goals. If I tell myself I’ll do something daily for a week (or even two days), I’m a lot more likely to be successful than if I set a one-month or six-month goal.
  • Setting interim goals and tracking progress is really helpful. 50,000 divided by 30 is 1667. So I knew my daily word quota. And, thanks to the awesome spreadsheet Shannon created for us in 2009 when we were working on a NaNoWriMo novel, I knew exactly where I stood each day. Filling in my word count every day and seeing if I was above or below my daily goal and my running goal for the month was really rewarding. It felt much more powerful than just keeping an eye on my total word count of the book. This year we had a small group of NaNoWriMo participants supporting one another on the Getting to Good Enough Facebook group. We had shared Google sheet and I enjoyed entering my word count and seeing how others were doing.
  • Slow and steady wins the race. I talk with my clients all the time about how if they work on decluttering or organizing just 15 minutes a day, they’ll eventually get it done. I wrote this novel 1667 words at a time. On my biggest writing day I wrote 2592 words and on my most challenging day, I wrote 573, while I was on a girls’ crafting weekend. But generally I wrote between 1600 and 1700 words each day.
  • Getting the big task done first thing in the morning can be powerful. I would not have wanted my words hanging over my head all day. If I hadn’t been able to write first thing in the morning, I don’t think I could have finished this novel. I’ve learned over the years that if I want to get something done I do it first thing. That’s helped me safeguard my early-morning time. It was fantastic starting every morning in November with an achievement!

I don’t feel the need to prove to myself every year that I can do this, because, frankly, writing a novel in a month isn’t exactly my idea of a good time. But every five years I seem to get the itch. And no matter what challenge I set for myself, I’d be smart to remind myself to these lessons I learn every five years from writing a novel!

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Flash BOGO sale on Organizing Guides!

28 November 2019

Because I’m grateful for you, I’m offering a flash sale this Thanksgiving weekend on my Organizing Guides.

Use the promo code TURKEY to get a free guide when you buy one at the regular price of $9. (To buy more than one pair of guides with the discount, make each pair a separate transaction.)

The promo code works for both my Organizing Guides (eight to choose from) and my Insider’s Guides for New Organizers (there are five of them). And you can mix and match them. It expires at 12:01 am central time on December 2.

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Thanksgiving gratitude + a new gratitude practice

27 November 2019


Every year around Thanksgiving, like so many other Americans, I reflect on the many things I have to be grateful for.

I’ve had a sporadic gratitude-journal or gratitude-email practice over the years and I know how beneficial it can be to take some time every day to reflect and feel grateful. Over the past year or so I’ve taken up hand-lettering so I decided this week to try to start a gratitude journal that I could use as a practice for my hand lettering. It doesn’t have to be perfect, by any means, but it will allow me to practice my skills and, of course, give me the benefit of expressing gratitude. I’m hopeful that my daily gratitude practice will stick because I know how beneficial it can be for me. I need to strategize about making it easy—perhaps I’ll link it to my bedtime routine.

In years past, I’ve posted some of Thanksgiving gratitude posts and I thought I’d do another this year. I’ve handwritten these items in my gratitude journal as well.

This year I’m grateful for:

  • My good health and that of my family
  • My close relationship with my 89-year-old father, even though we live a couple thousand miles apart
  • My wonderful clients
  • My wonderful team members
  • My great friends and colleagues in the organizing community
  • Yoga with Adriene
  • The bonding experience that the Whitman College Men’s Basketball season brings my family
  • Our delightful 70-pound poodle, Bix
  • I’m almost finished writing my fourth novel-in-a-month
  • My genealogy blog and the genealogy community surrounding it
  • The freedom I have in my life to spend my time in ways that fulfill me

That’s it for this year. If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving, I wish you a warm and wonderful holiday full of gratitude and good eats.

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Worth repeating: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: A Review (part one)

21 November 2019

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: A review

Marie Kondo is back in the news, having launched a store on her website that sells her favorite things. I don’t want to go into the seeming incongruity of that. But it seems like a good time to re-run my 2015 review of the book that launched her success. You might also be interested in this post, where I describe trying out her system and this review of her Netflix show, which I did enjoy.

Have you read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo? She’s the Japanese “tidying consultant” whose book has sold over 2 million copies worldwide.

I initially resisted reading it because I was irked by all the attention it had garnered. (It has received loads of media attention, as well as bestseller status.) But a couple of people mentioned that the advice in the book echoed much of what I write about, so I thought I’d better check it out. I was also intrigued by how it seemed to really prompt people to take action.

I bristled as I read the first couple of chapters, because the author spoke in absolutes with a “my way or the highway” attitude. She basically said that if you follow her method you will succeed and never backslide. And if you deviate from her method you’re pretty much doomed to failure.

My clients know that I don’t speak in such absolutes and that I’m all for custom, not cookie-cutter, solutions.

But I kept reading. And as I read, I found myself nodding along at many of her ideas. I’m not necessarily thrilled with the directive way they’re expressed (which could be attributed to culture differences or simply the translation), but I saw truth in much of what she wrote. For example:

  • Keep only those things that spark joy
  • Decide what to keep, not what to let go of
  • Let go of excess in order to cherish those items that are important to you
  • Don’t start organizing until after you’ve decluttered
  • Keep storage solutions excruciatingly simple

She and I deviate on a few points as well. For example, I don’t agree with these points:

  • There’s one right way to do things—the organizing method should not be changed to suit the person using it
  • You should aim for perfection
  • It’s a bad idea to declutter a little at a time
  • Storage experts are hoarders

I also felt like some of her advice, while viable for her clients living in small spaces in Japan, might not be realistic for many of my clients’ larger homes. For example, she advocates storing all like items in one area, not spreading them throughout the house. In a 5,000 square foot home, it doesn’t make much sense to me to have all your pens, for example, in one desk.

All that aside, there’s one thing I can say for this book: It does spark action. I read it on an airplane and was itching to get home to do some decluttering as soon as I finished it. I’m looking forward to trying out some of her methods, and even exploring her uber-simple paper organizing method (papers to be acted on and papers to be saved; the latter is divided into two subcategories, infrequently used papers and more frequently used papers). She made me want to discard all the old seminar notes that are cluttering up my bookshelf—because it’s true; I never look at them.

And I can’t wait to try out her signature question, “Does this item spark joy?” during the decluttering process in my own home. I’m back from my trip and today I’m going to give Marie Kondo’s advice (which she has named “the KonMarie Method”) a shot. My home is in need of some decluttering attention, so it’s the perfect chance to give it a try.

I’ll blog about the results on Thursday!

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Be careful with Full Adhesive Post-it® Notes

15 November 2019

I love 3M’s Full Adhesive Post-it® Notes. One of the reasons I love them is that they stick well to plastic bins and lay flat. In addition to being Full Adhesive, they are Super Sticky.

However, I had a mishap with the the Full Adhesive Notes the other day that prompts to issue you a warning to be careful when you use them. I stuck a note on door of a client’s bathroom and later in the day, when it was no longer needed, I plucked it off. The door was partly open and I did it an angle. To my horror, some of the door’s paint came off with the note. I snapped a picture as a cautionary note for others.

Thankfully, the client is moving and the home will be repainted, so she wasn’t as upset as I was.

I’ll continue to use these notes, but I will more selective where I put them and very careful when I remove them. Just wanted to share in hopes that it will save you the same mishap!

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About Janine

Hello! I’m Janine Adams — a certified professional organizer based in St. Louis, and the creator of Peace of Mind Organizing®.

I love order, harmony + beauty, but I believe that the way that you feel about yourself and your home is what truly matters.

If you’re ready to de­clutter with a purpose and add more ease to your life, you’ve found the right blog — and you’ve found the right gal.

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Recommended *

  • NAPO Golden Circle

  • Getting to Good Enough podcast