Thursday, October 29, 2009

Organizer's blog digest: Halloween

Halloween is a couple of short days away, and has always been one of my favorite holidays. It's just so much fun to get to dress up and eat sweets and indulge in the spooky and the macabre for a night! My Halloween tradition is to make chocolate chip cookies and watch the classic Disney short film "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," narrated by Bing Crosby.

Here are some fantastic Halloween-related tips and organizing advice from around the web:

Paula at Organizing Tips and Thoughts for Moms posts a countdown to Halloween with a good checklist for everything you need to think about in advance of October 31. She includes a sample Halloween shopping list to help you out.

Mary Frances Ballard shares some safety tips for trick or treating, including ideas for how to keep germs out of the equation at Organizing Tips From Orderly Places.

Jan at Ask an Organizer has a few ideas for how to get the most out of the holiday, such as make a note on the calendar to watch your favorite Halloween show or movie.

Finally, Jeri at Jeri's Organizing and Decluttering News offers some beautiful and creative organizing products found on Etsy with a Halloween theme. Check them out!

Happy Halloween!

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Paperless billing and living simpler

Over the last few years, I have slowly switched from traditional paper bills to paperless billing, where instead of getting a piece of mail that you have to open, read, store until you are ready to pay the bill, then file instead you get an email that you have to open, log in to read, and then either go back and pay at a later date or sign up for automatic bill pay (which is extremely convenient). Aside from saving paper, as well as a money for both the service provider and you in the form of stamps, the biggest reason to choose paperless billing is to never have the dilemma of what to do with the bill after you have paid it. Most bills you will never refer to again, and knowing that you can access them online if necessary is, for most people, enough to ensure peace of mind. For those people who feel like they need more control than that, or who track their expenses far more minutely than most, you can always save electronic copies downloaded from your service provider's web site in a folder on your computer (and back it up with the rest of your files regularly).

I just signed up for paperless billing from my electric company, and in the email from them thanking me for doing so, they actually touted "helping you live simpler" as a main reason for choosing paperless billing. I never thought that huge companies would be interested in helping their customers live simpler, but in this case what benefits them benefits us as well.

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Change and organizing

Here's one of my favorite quotes about organizing, from the veteran organizer Julie Morgenstern's book Organizing From the Inside Out:
“Every time we go through a major change, we experience a breakdown in our organizational systems.”
This is really true, and it means that when you know a big change is coming, you can anticipate the havoc it is going to wreak on your systems and plan for that. Expecting this can make it so that when the change and the disorganization happens, you don't feel so out of control and you can get back into the swing of things, or adapt to your changed circumstances more easily.

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

Monday, October 19, 2009

On NaNoWriMo and time management

Let me start this post on time management by saying I haven’t posted in almost two weeks, but not due to poor time management (exactly), but to a temporary shift in priorities. Not only have I been thankfully busy with client work, I took a long weekend out of town and got engaged (!)—two things that both kept me away from my computer and also started me rolling down the steep slope of wedding planning. (You can expect more than one wedding planning inspired posts over the next six months or so.) Anyway, excuses aside, I have another big project looming that puts time management in the spotlightNaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is an annual challenge to writers worldwide. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Yes, one of the days happens to be Thanksgiving. You “win” if you actually write that many words. If you’re participating, I’d love to connect with you, so add me as a buddy.

I’m letting you all know that I’m participating because in addition to all other other things going on in life, work, family, eating, sleeping, exercising, Twittering and yes, now wedding planning, I’ll be writing an average of nearly 2000 words a day. Every day. For 30 days. That not only takes a little bit of crazy gumption, but it takes time. Even though the point is just to write a lot, not caring if it’s polished (it won’t be), writing that much still takes me a couple of hours a day.

So how does one manage to find the time? My solution is simple, if perhaps unexpected. I’m not going to tell you that you can multitask your way through the month, doing laundry, writing a blog post and listening to your kids tell you about their day all at once (especially if you do that already, it isn’t going to save you enough time to write a novel in a month). I’m not even going to preach about productivity. Trying to squeeze an hour’s worth of work into half an hour isn’t really feasible unless you already spend half an hour of every hour surfing the Internet for cat videos instead of working.

Rather, the way to make enough time for an ambitious but fairly short-term project is to decide not to do things you would normally do. I’m not talking about washing your hair or feeding your dog, or even going to work. You still have to do all those things. I mean things like watching Netflix, going out to dinner with friends, getting your car washed. I’m choosing writing a novel over socializing, just for 30 days. I’m also going to put my Netflix subscription on hold for a month, which can be done easily. I’m going to make big batches of soup so dinners can be reheated easily and eaten in front of the computer. I’m basically trading some of the things I like to do as part of my normal routine for the ability to intensely focus on one project that has a start date and end date and promises to be richly rewarding to me. You can make the conscious decision to put a few things on hold while you reprioritize and work on a dream at any time. This kind of time management means realizing that you can’t do it all, and you have to be willing to make decisions about what is most important to you, otherwise in these times of intense focus you risk not having enough time to do even the basics.

So wish me luck on finishing NaNoWriMo this year, and I’ll see you on the other side!

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Organizing myth: Organize once and never do it again

Organizing Myth #002: If you take the time to get your space and your life organized, that's it. You're set. You'll stay organized forever.

Organizing Reality: Doing a massive organizing push to get your home, your office and your life in order is satisfying; you get to see dramatic results pretty quickly and it feels really good. However, it's not like a vaccine you get once to be clutter-proof forever. It's not even like a flu vaccine you get once a year. Getting organized is the imperative first step, but staying organized is like taking allergy meds--they work best if you take them every day. Staying organized is simple--it just requires maintenance. Even if you hire a professional organizer to help you start your life down an organized path, it will be up to you to do the work it takes to keep your space and schedule organized. The good news is that once you have the organizational systems in place that work for you, it's much easier to do the little work it takes to stay organized than it is to let your life slide back into old patterns and have to deal with the clutter all over again.

There is no clutter vaccine.

Quick tips for maintaining an organized life:

  • Return things to their homes immediately after you are done using them.
  • Open and organize your mail every day.
  • Leave the kitchen counters clean and dishes done every night before you go to bed.
  • Keep a running to do list in your favorite format and set each day's list the night before.
  • Stay in the moment and do things as they come up, if they can be done quickly. Otherwise, add them to your to do list so you don't forget them for later.
Creative Commons photo posted to Flickr by alvi2047

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

Monday, October 5, 2009

Twitter, networking and magnetic wall paint

As a small business owner, I find myself doing a lot of networking to meet and support other local entrepreneurs while spreading the word about my business. Sometimes these efforts yield surprising results, such as finding out that the person you just met at the business mixer and you have mutual acquaintances or are from the same small town. Sometimes they end with the traditional exchange of business cards (remember to write the date and how you met before filing) and adding a new Twitter buddy or Facebook friend. Through one such networking move, I started following Sarah Shaw, a designer and entrepreneur who sent me this neat video. I love the idea of making wall space more functional, especially in this age of non-magnetic fridges. Even though I'm a proponent of the almost-bare fridge surface, sometimes it's nice to have a place to stick a photo, calendar or grocery list without having to think too hard about it.

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email