Packing light: Fewer choices = more fun (for me)

24 September 2018

How to pack light

I’m leaving on an eight-day trip this afternoon and am just now thinking about packing. I have a packing method I’ve been using for decades that helps me of avoiding overpacking. (I think I invented it.) I detail the method in the blog post linked above, but basically, I jot down and number the items I plan to take and then I write down the days and, using the numbers, I note what I’ll wear each day. I scan the list of things I’m planning to wear and make sure that all numbers are accounted for and each item on the list has a planned wearing. (Of course, I also pack undergarments, jewelry, pajamas and toiletries.) That’s today’s packing list in the photo.

I love packing light. I don’t waste time deciding what I’m going to wear each day. (I can just consult my list!) I love that I can easily fit everything in a carry-on and that I don’t have to schlep a heavy bag.

One of the other great advantages is that it will take me almost no time to pack. And when I come home unpacking will be easy too!

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Worth repeating: Lessons learned from writing a novel

20 September 2018

I wrote this post on December 1, 2014, after I’d completed the National Novel Writing Month challenge for the third time. Every five years since 2004 I’ve written a novel in a month. (So I guess next year I’ll be doing another!) I stumbled on this post this morning and I really liked reading the lessons I learned from doing a challenge like this. If you’re facing down what feels like a huge challenge, maybe this post will help you frame it in a way that will make it easier.

Lessons learned from writing a novel in a month

Yesterday, I completed the novel I was writing for National Novel Writing Month. I had 30 days to write a 50,000 word novel. I had no doubt I would finish the novel in time—this is the 3rd one I’ve written over the last ten years, so I knew I had it in me. (I do it in five-year increments.) But it still feels really good.

I was much busier with work this year than I was in 2004 and 2009, so writing my novel required me to get up an hour early to squeeze in my words.

I got to thinking this morning about some of the lessons I learned from this year’s experience. Here they are:

  • 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.
  • 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 early. If I can do that to write a novel, I can do it for other activities like, say, exercising. (“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 my friend Shannon Wilkinson 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.
  • 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 2053 words and on my most challenging day, I wrote 976, in an airport, waiting for my flight. 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 bet I would not have finished this novel. (There were some days where I couldn’t get all my words in before leaving the house and I finished them at the end of the day. But every day I at least started.) A couple of months ago, I decided to blog every morning before doing anything else and that has really helped me get my blogging done. For me, anyway, the eat that frog theory of non-procrastination is very powerful.

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. I’ll have to start thinking about what other seemingly impossible month-long activities I might try in the alternate years!

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Birthday special on Organizing Guides

17 September 2018

Birthday special on Organizing Guides!

I love birthdays and don’t think they should go unacknowledged. My birthday is on Saturday (September 22) and when I sent out my newsletter on September 15, I offered a birthday special on my downloadable organizing guides to celebrate. I want to share it with blog readers too!

Here it is: Between now and September 30, put two guides in your shopping cart and with the coupon code BIRTHDAY you’ll get the second guide free. (The guides usually sell for $9 apiece.) This applies to all three types of guides I sell:

If you’d like to buy more than two guides, just make each pair of guides a separate transaction and use the BIRTHDAY code again.

These organizing guides are an inexpensive way to tap into into my expertise. Now’s a great time to check them out!

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

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Backing up Evernote

13 September 2018

Backing up Evernote

I use Evernote many times a day. I use it to store many different kinds of information, including my genealogy research log. I love that it’s so easily searchable and so easy to use. (I blogged about how I use Evernote several years ago and my use has only grown since then.)

Lately, there have been rumblings online that Evernote might be in danger of folding. Whether those rumors are true or not (and I certainly hope they’re false), I take comfort in the fact that I can back up Evernote so that each note is an easy-to-find html file.

I learned this from one of the readers of my genealogy blog, Corbin Dodge, who offered up the step-by-step information.

Corbin wrote:

I share your concerns re: what if an app goes belly up (what nightmares are made of!).

One thing I admire about Evernote is that it is easy to backup your notes so they’re accessible even if the app goes away. To do this on Mac:

(1) select the “Notes” heading in the sidebar
(2) On mac, hold down the command key and the “A” key at the same time, which will select all notes (on PC, hold down the control key and the “A” key at the same time)
(3) On the main menu bar, click “File”, then select “Export notes…”
(4) A window will pop up. There is a drop-down box labeled “Format”. It gives you 2 options. Choose “HTML”
(5) Save*

To access the backups, click on any note in the folder. It will open in your default browser. You can backspace out the note name in the url to get the full table of contents of every note that was backed up. Not as smooth to browse as the app, but reassuring to know your notes are accessible even if Evernote goes away! It also saves the images, albeit as a separate image file

*I’ve found this folder structure works well to organize backups for my various apps:
Dropbox / Backups / Evernote / 2017-09-27 Evernote Backup

Selecting the HTML format is a safeguard in case Evernote ceases to exist. The alternate option is to save them as “Evernote XML Format (.enex)”, which is an Evernote-specific file format which saves more metadata about each note (e.g., notebooks, tags, author), so this choice could be useful if you ever need to restore lost notes into Evernote (i.e., if their sync ever messes up). The downside to .enex is that it’s not a universally-friendly file format, so it wouldn’t do you much good if Evernote ever goes kaput.

p.s., an added benefit of backing your notebooks up in HTML format is that you can easily go back and retrieve a previous version of any single note without affecting all of your Evernote notebooks (which would be the case if you didn’t select “HTML” in step 3.

You can learn about Corbin’s digital marketing business at and read about his adventures renovating his 100+ year home at Thank you, Corbin!

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Got questions about overcoming perfectionism? Ask the podcasters!

6 September 2018

Getting to Good Enough podcast

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve started a podcast with my friend, Shannon Wilkinson, a life coach in Portland, Oregon. The podcast is called Getting to Good Enough and it’s all about overcoming perfectionism so you can do more of what you love.

We’ve started a feature, Q & A on the 5s, where each episode that ends in five will showcase questions from listeners (and our answers). We’ve set up the GTGE Hotline (413-424-GTGE) where you can call in and leave a message. We’ll address your question or comment on the air in the next Q&A on the 5s episode, using your voice from the voicemail.

Today we published Episode 15, our first Q&A on the 5s. It was really fun to hear our listeners’ voices and discuss their questions and comments. The conversations that came up this episode were about planning, prioritizing and empowering.

I want to encourage readers of this blog to listen to the podcast and submit any questions on the hotline. You can listen to or subscribe to the podcast by clicking on the appropriate link at the bottom of the website, or by searching for the podcast wherever you find the podcasts you listen to.

If you’re not a podcast listener already and are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, I describe podcasts as internet radio shows. When you subscribe to the podcast (you can also listen on your phone or computer straight from our website) new episodes will be downloaded automatically into your phone or computer (depending on where you subscribed). We publish a new episode every Thursday and the previous episodes (all 14 of them) are available for you to binge-listen right now.

Podcasts keep me company while I drive, while I’m doing laundry or cleaning up the kitchen, sometimes even when I walk Bix. There are so many great podcasts out there; mostly I listen to self-help, entertainment or news-related podcasts. In the near future, I’ll put together a blog post about the podcasts I listen to most often.

Please check out Getting to Good Enough and let us know what you think!

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Worth repeating (once again): Why I'm a professional organizer

30 August 2018

I originally wrote this post on why I became a professional organizer in 2013. Five years later, it still rings true. I will add that one other thing that keeps me going as a PO is the opportunity to help my fellow organizers hone their skills and earn income by working on my teams. I feel so fortunate to still enjoy my work after 13 years in business. If you’ve ever wondered what a PO gets out of her work—which to some people looks decidedly unglamorous—read on.

Often when I meet folks who learn what I do for a living, they’re keen on learning how I became a professional organizer. I explain the training I took and how I went about starting my business. (That’s all detailed in my blog post, Are you interested in becoming a professional organizer?)

But seldom am I asked why I became a PO, rather than how. I thought I’d spend a little time today exploring that question.

In my observation, there are two sorts of folks who become professional organizers:

  • Those who do it because organizing comes so naturally to them. Being organized is like breathing. It’s their passion. So why not make a living doing it?
  • Those who enter the field because of their own struggles in getting and staying organized. They’ve spent a lifetime seeking solutions for themselves and want to share those solutions with others.

I fall into that second camp. As I’ve mentioned over and over, I’m a naturally messy person. I’m pretty organized in my space and I’m definitely organized inside my head, but I’m a bit messy and unruly. I sought solutions for my time management and clutter issues throughout my life and I learned a lot. I felt it was time to start sharing.

When I first contemplated starting my business, I was a freelance writer. I’d been writing about pets for ten years and had written hundreds of articles on various aspects of pet care. I’d had seven books published (most of which are no longer available) and contributed to several others. I was working on my last book, an ill-fated venture called Jane Goodall’s Return to Gombe co-written with the famed primatologist. The process of that book about killed me (and was never published) and I knew that in order to get through writing that manuscript I had to know it was going to be my last book. So I started looking for other things to do.

As I considered becoming a PO, I thought of several very important things that being a professional organizer would offer that being a freelance writer was not delivering:

  • The ability to help people directly and tangibly
  • Respect for my expertise (I was being very disrespected during the whole Goodall book experience)
  • Payment at the time of service

That was very appealing and a big part of why I became a PO. But why do I keep doing it, now that I’m in my eighth fourteenth year of business?

Those initial three reasons did prove to be powerful rewarding. In addition, here are some other things I’ve found to be very rewarding:

  • I get to help people transform their lives.
  • I help people feel better about themselves as I normalize (and empathize with) their messy behaviors.
  • I can help my clients go from striving (and failing) to be perfectly organized to reveling in being organized enough.
  • I get to effect vast, fast change for my St. Louis clients by bringing in a team of organizers.

Being a professional organizer is life-changing work for me. And its results can be life changing for my clients. It is easily the most rewarding work I’ve done in a career that’s spanned more than three decades. And as long as it continues to be this rewarding, I’ll keep doing it.

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NAPO's Stand Out podcast

23 August 2018

NAPO's podcast Stand Out

I love podcasts. They keep me company when I’m driving and when I’m doing laundry and other tasks. If you like podcasts too, I hope you’ve checked out my podcast (with life coach Shannon Wilkinson), Getting to Good Enough.

If you’re reading this blog, you may very well be a professional organizer or perhaps an aspiring organizer. That’s why I want you to know about Stand Out the podcast from the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO). Stand Out is produced for professional organizers, but its content would be useful to all sorts of small business owners.

Host (and professional organizer) Sarah Karakaian does a great job interviewing guests for each episode. (There are new episodes twice a month.) I just listened to Episode 15: Living Fearlessly with Rachel Henken, transformative coach and author of Living Fearlessly. I find myself going back to it in my mind. In it, she talks about being effortlessly productive and how being overly focused on what you need to do stresses you out and causes you to get less done. That is a notion worth pondering.

I’m also a big fan of Episode 1, in which my friend Geralin Thomas, an organizer and coach to organizers, was interviewed. It’s entertaining and full of wisdom.

I encourage you to check out Stand Out, especially if you’re a professional organizer or aspiring organizer. If you’re a lover of podcasts, I think you might find it interesting.

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About Janine

Janine Adams

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