Monday, October 31, 2011

Labeling the salt

Last night my husband and I went through our apartment doing a basic de-clutter. We were looking at all of our possessions and asking ourselves if they still held a purpose in our lives. If they didn't, we put them in a bag to give away. A good by-product of de-cluttering with the person you share your living space with is that you learn things about each other and your space. For instance, I do most of the cooking, and it never occurred to me that some basic ingredients were invisible to my husband. He asked me, "So if I need salt, where is that?"

I pointed silently to the container of salt that sits next to the pepper and olive oil right next to the stove.

"That's the salt?" he clarified. Apparently it was hiding in plain sight.

"That's the salt," I assured him. Then I asked, "Would it help if I labeled it?"

He said yes. So I labeled the salt.

Need a professional to help you label your salt?
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Friday, October 28, 2011

News fasting

I spend a lot of time reading newspaper articles online and listening to the news on the radio. I like to know what is going on in the world, and I have some particular interests that I enjoy following in the news (movie news and box office returns, politics to some extent, Los Angeles arts and culture, etc.).

I spend a lot of time in the car, travelling to clients and I usually turn in to public radio shows like The Madeleine Brand Show, The World, Marketplace and All Things Considered whenever I'm in the car. I also just got an iPad, and the LA Times iPad app makes it super easy to read article after article with the flick of your finger.

It's gotten to a point where I check the LA Times website at least three or four times a day, just to make sure I'm not missing something important.

The time I spend on consuming news is probably not more than an hour a day...but that hour a day really adds up. It feels like I spend much more time and energy thinking about the stuff that I hear about and read about, and it doesn't always seem like time or energy well spent. There's so much negative news, and I'm a very action-oriented person. I don't like to feel like I can't do anything about an issue; I know I can't do something about every issue.

I'm going to try out a news fast. I don't know if I can give up my car radio news connection--at least not cold-turkey. But I'm going to skip the news websites for a while, and see what else I find to fill up that time. I have a feeling I'm already gaining some time and energy to spend creating something positive in my life (my fiction writing, cooking healthy meals) rather than just consuming information that I ultimately can do very little with.

Have you ever tried a news fast? What worked for you and what didn't?

Need a professional to help you get organized?
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

2012 LA Organizing Awards

The date of the 2012 Los Angeles Organizing Awards has been announced! In a change from the last six years, the seventh annual awards show will be in the fall, rather than at the end of January. The date is October 20, 2012, with details to be announced regarding location.

I'm really looking forward to attending one of the most important events in the organizing industry, and I'm so happy it's held right here in Los Angeles!

Need a professional to help you get organized?
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Monday, October 24, 2011

Hate to clean? Get organized.

Not liking to clean is a great reason to get organized. No one wants to live in a dirty environment, but cleaning isn't most people's favorite activity. Organizing first can help. Dishes and laundry are chores that can be streamlined to be less time consuming, if not more enjoyable. Actual cleaning tasks, like dusting, vacuuming, scrubbing of various kitchen and bathroom surfaces, are easier and faster to do when your home is already organized.

  • If you don't use your floor as a storage surface, vacuuming is a one-step process.
  • Keeping bookshelves, mantels and countertops clear of all but a few display objects makes dusting as easy as lift and swipe.
  • A decluttered closet makes putting away clean clothes a stress-free experience, plus you'll have enough hangers!
  • When toiletries and supplies are all regularly put away in their designated spaces, bathroom cleaning is just spray, scrub and rinse.
  • Schedule recurring cleaning tasks on your calendar. That way you won't feel guilty for not doing them, as you will have made a plan to do them in the future, and you also won't do tasks too frequently. Cleaning the air conditioner filter doesn't have to be done every week!
Creative Commons photo posted to Flickr by Valerie Everett

Need a professional to help you get organized?
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

4 things I love about NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. The new website is up and running and you can sign up now to be one of hundreds of thousands of other people around the world who will attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.

I'm not sure if their author buddy system is live yet, but if so, you can find me via my username: lbakerrabe. Add me as an author buddy so we can watch each other progress toward the finish line.

4 things I love about NaNoWriMo:
  1. It's only a month long. Even though sometimes I wish NaNoWriMo was year round, having it come but once a year concentrates the creative and competetive juices that make doing it so rewarding.
  2. The goal is simple. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is a very specific goal, and pretty easy to track. It's also just about numbers and output, not about quality or something else subjective.
  3. It puts my priorities into perspective. Writing is extremely important to me, but often I can persuade myself to trade writing time for work time or house cleaning time or watching 30 Rock time. In November, I'm better at putting writing first.
  4. It's kind of silly. The people who come back for NaNoWriMo year after year and the ones who get a lot out of the whimsical online community that surrounds it and who don't take it too seriously. It might sounds stressful to write that much that quickly, but it's not supposed to be. It's supposed to be an adventure, just like all art.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Poll #7: Scanners

I have a few different ways to scan paper. I just got a brand-new, shiny and wonderful ScanSnap S1500M scanner. It's a desktop feed scanner that zips through my to scan pile with ease and whose software makes it simple to label and categorize my newly created files. I've been using a Neat Desk for a while. It's a similar desktop scanner, with a different software interface that is useful if you want to keep detailed track of your receipts, but it works great as a document scanner, too. I also have my trusty, eight-year-old, all-in-one printer that has a flatbed scanner option. This is what I used for years before I got my cool feed scanners, and it still works great--especially if you need to scan something too thick to pass through the feeder on the other scanners, like a passport or credit card.

My ScanSnap being unwrapped for the first time.
The ScanSnap's quality and user interface are more in line with the type of scanning I do, so I have a feeling my Neat is going to become obsolete. The scanner function on my printer will also be useful from time to time, and since I need the printer anyway, it doesn't bother me to keep them both on my desk.

Now, what do my readers use to scan? Several of you also have a ScanSnap and/or a Neat. 40% of respondents said they have a ScanSnap and 20% said they have a Neat. 40% also said they have a flatbed, but by far the most (60%) said they use their all-in-one printer to scan. No one said they don't have a scanner, which is interesting. In this day of sending fewer faxes and more emails, scanning is often the only way to get someone information electronically. However, since most printers have this function, there isn't a need to go out and purchase a separate scanner unless one is doing a lot of scanning, frequently, such as for a business or large household, or if you are striving for a paperless lifestyle. Scanners can give you more flexibility to get rid of paper.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Halloween is in 17 days

Halloween is such an enjoyable holiday, and compared to some other holiday events, it can take relatively little preparation. Here's the bare minimum I do to get into the spirit:

  • I hang up a skeleton cut-out on my front door
  • I get a pumpkin and may or may not carve it and make roasted pumpkin seeds
  • I send my close family and friends Halloween post cards using Send Out Cards because it's nice to get mail
  • I get ONE bag of Halloween candy just in case we have trick-or-treaters, but we never do, so I make sure I get a kind that both my husband and I like so we will use it up eventually
That's it. That's all it takes to get me in the Halloween mood. If you want a chuckle (at least this made me chuckle) read my Halloween prep post from last year that I just found--it is almost identical to this one, which I suppose says something for my low-stress Halloween style and traditions, and hopefully not that I'm just boring.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How to organize a book club

Book clubs have been around forever, and I like them because, as an avid reader, I sometimes need a reason to break out of my usual genres and stretch myself to read something new, and potentially amazing.

Image from Evite.
I'm a member of two book clubs. One I've been a part of for about three years, the other I started this year as a way for members of NAPO-LA to get together and discuss business development books. The two clubs function very differently, but they are both organized to a point where making the book club happen takes very little effort on any one person's part.

If you'd like to start a book club or are in one that isn't functioning very well, here's my advice:
  • Clarify the purpose or theme of the club. For instance, is your club more of a social occasion or a networking opportunity? The tone that you want the meetings to have will also dictate the book choices. For instance, one of my clubs is more social, and we have a fun theme: we read books that have been made into movies, read the book and watch the movie and then use the similarities and differences between the two as a basis for discussion. The NAPO-LA book club isn't dry and boring, but we read business development books and the conversation does focus more on our businesses and our business goals.
  • Take a poll of members to get a sense of how often they want to meet. Once a month is standard, but you might find that every six weeks is more doable for your crowd. The NAPO-LA group meets every other month.
  • Invite lots of people. You can have a good discussion with just two or three people, but if you want a variety of opinions and a good turnout for each meeting, you either need a small group of really dedicated people who never miss meetings (unlikely) or a larger pool of people who are interested in the group, but might not make it every time. 
  • Make the meetings effortless by either rotating hosting duties among the members, so one member might host every year at the most, and then make it a pot-luck or wine and cheese kind of event. Alternatively, find a venue that can accommodate your average group size and hold it there every time. Consistency takes the work out of finding appropriate locations and minimizes confusion. 
  • If you can, make one person in charge of invites and scheduling. If that job is too big for one person, rotate so the host is in charge of getting the word out about the book and the meeting details. In my social club, we use Google Docs to keep track of group member's emails, all the books we've read, and ideas we have for future book choices and then use Evite to spread the word about upcoming meetings and to get a sense of how large the turnout will be.
  • If you've been in a club for a while, but attendance is dropping off, create a free survey using SurveyMonkey and send it to the group, asking questions about meeting frequency, book choice, etc. to see if you can figure out how to make the group work for more people.
  • One of the best innovations of the social book club I'm in that I brought over to the NAPO-LA club was choosing the books two meetings ahead of time. For instance, at the September meeting (Misery), the group decided that in November we'd read The Cider House Rules, and we were reminded that the October choice was Interview with the Vampire, which we'd decided back in August (The Help). Planning ahead gives people more time to track down and read the book, which is helpful if you get the books from the library, as I usually do.
Above all, book clubs are supposed to be fun, so don't stress and enjoy your book-loving friends and acquaintances.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Things I love about Apple

Things I love about Apple products:
  • They boot up quickly
  • They look nice
  • Hard drives are easy to navigate
  • The way things look on screens is beautiful
  • There's less after-market software and hardware, so to find products and solutions you don't have to wade through a million similar products
  • Buying products from the Apple store is generally a satisfying experience: lots of helpful people who want to get you into the right product and will find the answer to any question you might have, and I love that you can buy from anyone anywhere in the store
  • Apple programs I like: Pages, Numbers, Bento, iCal, Preview, Stickies

Things I don't love about Apple products:
  • Their mice are not robust. I use a Microsoft mouse with a hearty scroll wheel.
  • Apple programs I don't like: iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie
  • That's all I can think of...

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Book review: Enchantment

A few months ago one of my fellow NAPO-LA chapter members, Deborah Kawashima, mentioned a book she had read that she found extremely insightful. It was Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki. I had never heard of him, but I ordered Enchantment from the library to see what it was all about. Kawasaki was an early Apple employee and has written many books about products and business strategies. Enchantment is a great book for people who want an introduction and overview of what it takes to launch a company that has the potential to be as impressive as Apple.

I'm not going to go into a detailed review; if you check out the book on Amazon, the chapter titles pretty much tell you what you are in for. How to Resist Enchantment was one of my favorite chapters. I like the idea of an entire book about enchanting someone with your business also including the inverse - how to be wary of people trying to enchant you.

I also liked the How to Prepare section where he talked about conducting premortems where you assume your idea failed, speculate about what caused it to fail, then fix those problems before launch. Advice such as dressing on the same level as the people you interact with and how to shake someone's hand is always appreciated and too many business books take that stuff for granted.

My favorite quote from the book doesn't have much to do with enchantment, but it gripped me:

"When you buy something cheap and bad, the best you're going to feel about it is when you buy it. When you buy something expensive and good, the worst you're going to feel about it is when you buy it." --Sasha Aickin's grandmother as published in Enchantment, The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email Sign up for Lelah's News, a once-monthly newsletter.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Hungtington Gardens

Over the weekend, I went to San Marino to visit the Sam Maloof exhibit at the Huntington, which is part of Pacific Standard Time, the huge collection of shows all related to the theme of Art in L.A. 1945-1980. The Sam Maloof stuff was fantastic. His mid-century furniture is the embodiment of incredible craftsmanship and form mated gracefully to function. The gardens are always a treat, and here are a few photos from the (sunny) day.

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email Sign up for Lelah's News, a once-monthly newsletter.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Poll #6: Books

I've been more and more curious about the proliferation of e-readers and e-books as I do two things: look into publishing an e-book, and contemplate buying an e-reader (well, an iPad). I've been planning to purchase an iPad for a while. In anticipation, I downloaded the Kindle app for my iMac and bought my first e-book. The experience of reading it on my desktop was not very pleasant, but it was pretty amazing to browse, purchase, and have a book instantly downloaded from the comfort of my desk chair. I wanted to know how most of my readers currently get their books. Here are the results of the poll:

The two books I'm currently reading for my book clubs.
50% said they get their books from the library, just like me. I rarely buy a physical book, and I have about four books out from the library at all times, both fiction and nonfiction. The library has a fabulous selection, you can order books online and pick them up when available at your local branch, the cost is free, and it's also a clutter-free option.

25% said they read e-books. That's quite a high percentage, I think, and I also think that's the way that we're headed. As more and more devices are available, the advantages and ubiquity will convert a lot of people over to e-books, especially as the younger, tech-savvy generations get older. We'll always have paper books, but e-books have lots of things going for them, from speed and price to not taking up shelf space.

12% said they borrow from friends or buy them from a traditional brick-and-mortar bookstore. No one responded that they bought their books online. I love to go to bookstores, and I do trade-ins at used bookstores all the time, which is a wash for me in terms of clutter. However, I rarely buy books new at bookstores. Instead, I get ideas for books I might be interested in, make notes and then order them from the library.

Thanks for participating in the poll and check out the new one!

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email Sign up for Lelah's News, a once-monthly newsletter.