Thursday, May 31, 2012

The two minute rule

My clients are familiar with the two minute rule, as it is one of my favorite ways to describe to them how to know when to do something now and when to save something for later. When processing an inbox (physical or email), an action pile, a box of random things from around your house, or even your entire garage, the two minute rule can save you a lot of decision making hassle. In order to make progress, my rule of thumb is if you can do the action associated with the item in two minutes or less, then do it right then. If not, then save it for a time when you can spend longer on completing the project (this is time you would want to schedule in your calendar).

Some examples:
  • You are going through your physical inbox and see a card from the dentist reminding you that you need to schedule a cleaning. Two-minutes or less? Yes! Pick up the phone and make the appointment, then put it in your calendar and recycle the card.
  • You are going through your physical inbox and see a stack of insurance reimbursement forms you need to fill out and mail. Two minutes or less? No! Schedule a half hour or however long you think it will take you on your calendar for a day when you can spend some time in your office taking care of it, and move on.
  • You are going through your garage, trying to make room for your car to actually park in it. You find a rake that you borrowed from your next door neighbor a while ago. Will it take you two minutes or less to return it? Yes! (Unless your neighbor is really chatty, in which case you might just want to leave it by their garage door.)
  • You are going through your closet, paring down your wardrobe by pulling out anything you haven't worn in a year. You come across a couple of nice items that need mending. Can you fix them or have them fixed in two minutes or less? No! Put them by the front door to take to the dry cleaners next time you are running errands, or put them in a place where you will sit to do your mending, and mark off some time on your calendar to do so.
The two minute rule is a bit subjective; what takes you two minutes to do might take someone else five. But it's simple and effective for making progress when you have a lot of processing to do. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A little help

There are certain products that have made my post-partum life a lot easier. In no particular order:

  • Send Out Cards. This service lets me send a thank you note with adorable pictures of the baby in about 30 seconds. I get it done, and the recipient gets a nice piece of actual mail.
  • iPad. Since I don't have a laptop, the iPad follows me everywhere and allows me to stay on top of email and the news when I'm sitting with a sleeping baby.
  • This is kind of a no-brainer, but when you can't easily get out of the house to go shopping, ordering from Amazon and having things appear on your doorstep really reduces stress.
  • Viva paper towels. I had all but eradicated paper towels from my household, but with a baby, these soft and strong towels are really super useful, and I don't think I could stomach doing any more laundry than I am already!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

L.A. City Passes Bag Ban

Yesterday, the LA City Council voted to ban single-use plastic bags in retail stores. The decision has been a long time in coming. I'm all for reusable bags and hope that the ban will have its intended effect, to reduce waste and pollution. Here's the LAist coverage, and here's my blog post on refusing plastic bags from August of last year.

One of my reusable bags.
For those of us who have been bringing bags with us as a habit won't have too much of a change in store (no pun intended). But there are many who never got on the reusable bag bandwagon, and they will need to incorporate reusable bags into their lifestyle if they want to avoid paying 10 cents for a paper bag every time they shop.

Some tips for remembering your reusable bags:
  • Get the kind that zip up or stuff up inside themselves and keep several at the bottom of your purse.
  • Stash bulkier canvas or vinyl bags in your trunk.
  • Create a place by the front door to hang bags (Command hooks are great for this) so you can grab recently emptied ones on your way out the door to replenish your car stock.
  • Always bring more bags in to a store than you think you will need, just in case you underestimate how much you will be purchasing.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Okay, I'm writing another post about books, but I just can't help it. I recently read a fun Agatha Christie called Postern of Fate, starring the married sleuthing duo Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. This installment, published in the early 1970s, finds them in their retirement years fixing up an old house in a small seaside village. The first chapter made me laugh. It is titled "Mainly Concerning Books," and, as in her way, Christie finds a way to talk about life's fundamental truths, in this case, regarding books.

Here are just a couple of selections:
"Books!" said Tuppence.
She produced the word rather with the effect of a bad-tempered explosion.
"What did you say?" said Tommy.
Tuppence looked across the room at him.
"I said 'books,'" she said.
"I see what you mean," said Thomas Beresford.
In front of Tuppence were three large packing cases. From each of them various books had been extracted. The larger part of them were still filled with books.
"It's incredible," said Tuppence.
"You mean the room they take up?"
"Are you trying to put them all on the shelves?"
"I don't know what I'm trying to do," said Tuppence. "That's the awkward part of it. One doesn't know ever, exactly, what one wants to do. Oh dear," she sighed.

"...I think if I could just finish this side of the room, just get the books in here..."
"Well, I'll help you," said Tommy.
He came over, tilted the case more so that the books fell out, gathered up armfuls of them and went to the shelves and shoved them in.
"I'm putting the same-sized ones together; it looks neater," he said.
"Oh, I don't call that sorting," said Tuppence.
"Sorting enough to get on with..."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spring cleaning with summer in mind

**This post was originally published in my monthly e-newsletter, Lelah's News. Don't subscribe? Sign up here!

Spring is well underway in southern California. We've had a good mix of rainy, mild and summer-hot days, reminding us that California indeed gets all sorts of weather, and that once May Gray and June Gloom pass us by, summer is just around the corner. Spring is a wonderful time to put your home in order before the demands of summer, when vacations and beach days and camping trips throw your routine all out of whack. Here are some of my favorite spring cleaning ideas that might not be on everyone's to do list, that will help you get a head start on summer organization.

  • Clean your air conditioner vents.
  • Gas heat? Turn off your pilot light until fall.
  • It's never a bad time to check your smoke detector batteries.
  • Consider hiring window washers to clean the outside of hard to reach windows. You'll be amazed at the difference really clean windows will make to the light in a room.
  • By the same token, if you've been considering window tinting for a window or glass door that gets a lot of sun, do it now in order to fully reap the benefits all summer long.
  • Go through your bathroom cabinets and toss old or unused makeup and toiletries, and any expired or nearly empty bottles of sunscreen. Replenish your stock and only buy bottles with expiration dates on them.
  • Get your car road trip ready by performing any necessary maintenance and giving it a wash. Take out anything that doesn't need to live there and keep that stuff out by taking everything out of your car that you put into it - every day.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Changing lifestyle, changing priorities

**This post was originally published in my monthly e-newsletter, Lelah's News. Don't subscribe? Sign up here!

There has never been an undertaking that has so drastically changed my life as having a baby, and he hasn't even arrived yet! Getting married was a drop in the bucket compared to the way my life is changing with a child on the way. Physically, the changes are obvious. I can’t do everything I did before. Professional organizing is a very active job, and it was a bit scary to have limitations placed on my physical work. Mentally, the changes are different. I have to limit my commitments and make sure I have time for the most important things. I am reprioritizing. I’m planning even farther ahead in some areas of my life (meal planning, stocking up on supplies) and not planning at all in others (leaving entire days free so I can be rested enough for the demands of pregnancy and motherhood). All in all, it’s been a challenge, which is something I actually appreciate. Life should be challenging, otherwise how we will grow and learn?

For me, the biggest key to this transition has been realizing that it is just that, a transition, that it takes time and I have to give myself the room to make mistakes and learn from them. The rewards of doing so are great, I find, even as I miss certain things about my old lifestyle. I'm used to being able to take on a lot and accomplish it with energy to spare. But pulling back and taking on less is showing me that I don't need to do it all in order to find satisfaction or success.

**Update: My son was born April 9. Life is changing every day in even more incredible ways than I could have imagined.  Stay tuned to this blog and my newsletter as my organizational approach is informed by being a new parent!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Books with inscriptions

It probably seems like I'm always writing about books - both what I'm reading, and how to keep books from overrunning your space. I love reading, and books themselves, so they occupy more of my organizing attention than crafting, for instance.

Here's a problem many of us have. We get books as gifts from friends, relatives, or even just acquaintances. They have written a lovely inscription, or perhaps just the date and a quick scribble. We thank them. We read the book (or not). Then we put the book on a shelf, and are never going to read it again. What to do when it is time to de-clutter the bookshelves? I have found those books that have been marked by the giver tend to stick around, for a few reasons. We feel more connected to them. We don't want to offend the giver (what if they should be poking around a used bookstore and see their own gift to us on the shelf!?!). The inscription might remind us of a happy memory associated with that person rather even more than the book does.

Obviously, you can always keep the book. However...I'd suggest that if the book itself is not meaningful, and the inscription isn't that meaningful, then it's perfectly fine to let it go. Like any gift, the giver was pleased to give it to you, and that's what's important. If the book isn't meaningful and the inscription is, you can do a couple of things. One, take a picture of the inscription along with the cover of the book and keep it with your keepsakes, then let the book go. Two, carefully trim out the page with the inscription using a straightedge, and keep it with your keepsakes, then let the book go. Either way, the positive association you have with the item doesn't have to stand it your way of a light and clutter-free bookshelf.