Friday, October 24, 2014

Organizing Our Home Office

The other day I tackled our home office.  We have been in our home for four months now and the office is the one room that felt unsettled.  It's our catch-all.  Where should I put this... the office.  Both my husband and I have small businesses and we use our office for this stated purpose.  However we added an electric keyboard for my piano playing dreams, decoration storage, my teaching supplies storage, Adam's guitar practice room and our sons' Minecraft addiction.  Tall order for a smallish room.  Get ready for tons of blurry pictures.

Let's start with some before pictures.

The desk area, notice the Tibetan Prayer Flags.

Desk and my pretty Wildtree figurines.

The sitting area.
Part of the closet.
On with the organizing!  I began by emptying the closet and sorting it into like piles:  teaching supplies, office supplies, computer items, exercise gear/DVDs, decorations, craft supplies.

Then I quickly sorted each pile.  Donate, trash, keep.  It went very quickly.  Here's a picture from the thick of sorting.

Teaching Supplies, decorations, luggage, office supplies

Remember, it gets worse before it gets better.
In the end, I had one box of Goodwill donations, three boxes of supplies to donate to the boys's school, and a box of garbage and several empty boxes to recycle!



Drumroll please!  The after pictures!

New sitting area by the pretty things and keyboard near the lamp.

The desk is now under the window and the Prayer Flags are centered on the wall.

There's a big change in the closet:

Left side: Photo albums and scrapbooks

Craft supplies, office supplies and decorations
We found these crates at Home Depot and stacked them vertically.
They make a great bookshelf for binders and baskets.

Well that does it.  Our office is now organized and feels more settled.  Thanks for looking at all of my pictures!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Walking the Walk

There is a common fear when hiring a professional organizer - Will you make me give up all of my things?  Some of this stuff is super important to me!

My response is that I won't make anyone get rid of anything they don't want to.  However, we need to think about what is important, what you want out of life.  It's important to decide how you'd like to use this space and are these items really important to keep?  More important than the possibilities that these items are taking up?

Real estate within our homes are precious.  Knowing that you have a crowded closet, filled with items that you want, but don't use can weigh on your psyche.  That space inhabited by your boxes of photos could become a crafting corner.  The closet of boxed up outgrown baby clothes could be a secret hide-out for your four year old.

Most of us do not have the luxury of excess space, but we do have an excess of clutter.  By thoughtfully considering what could be parred down, we open our homes up to the possibility of blank space and new adventures.

But how do you get rid of things that hold an emotional attachment?

Here's a story about giving up a dream.  I have wanted to be a teacher from my kindergarten year of school.  During high school, I became a teaching assistant in a kindergarten classroom and helped run the preschool attached to the school.  I took child psychology and any other class that I thought would help with my dream of teaching.

See?!  That could have been me smiling in my classroom!!!

I began college courses two weeks after high school graduation.  I was accepted into the elementary education program as a sophomore.  Completely driven and passionate about my calling, I continued to work tirelessly toward my goal.  Everyone, family and friends, knew I would be a teacher and I would excel.  I graduated Magna Cum Laude and began my job search.  I substitute taught in five different districts regularly and kept very busy.  I was even hired as a long-term substitute several times.  But a full time teaching position never came my way.

I was a full time mom, subbing only when friends could line up their time off with my child care.  I stayed busy with my boys and volunteering.  I also became a personal assistant to Brad, a man with Aspergers.  My family then moved across the country from Minnesota to Seattle, WA!  This prompted my shift to starting a professional organizing business.

Through all of these changes, I have always held out hope that I could still be a teacher.  I saved my several boxes of teaching materials, resource books, lesson plans, children's books, puppets, and stickers.  These boxes have been moved several times and lovingly put in a closet or on a shelf in the hopes that my teaching dreams would be realized.

Well folks, I've decided to move on.  I love being a mom and wife.  I love being with kids and I can be with them without being a teacher.  So, after some gentle nudging from my husband, I've decided to get rid of my teaching supplies.  Yes, you've read that correctly.  I have gotten rid of 98% of my teaching supplies.  

These are not just boxes with dusty books and cutesy bulletin board boarders.  These boxes held my hopes and dreams.  All of the concrete, tangible items that could make my goal a reality.  These held visions of reading aloud to my students, helping them conquer multiplication tables and cursive. 

This was a big deal.  I had moved these boxes to several houses in hopes of keeping the dream alive.  I thought that it would be emotional to get rid of them.  Luckily, I had thought about the freed up space that I would have mentally and physically in the office.  I was ready.

I took the boxes out of the closet and went through each item.  I made piles of teaching resources, children's books to donate to school, children's books to donate to Goodwill, children's books to keep for our kids and some to throw away.  It may seem crazy to have so many different categories, but I know what is acceptable in a public school classroom.  I wanted books going there to be good quality and without religious topics.  I wanted to keep a few for my boys, ones that I knew they would enjoy and that was age appropriate.

It gets worse before it gets better...

I spent the next few days slowly delivering the books to my kids's school.  The boxes were too heavy to bring in one day.  A note about donating to schools: bringing donations of books, art supplies, toys, anything are so appreciated and needed.  However, teachers are overworked and don't have time to sort through "junk" that people drop off.  Please make sure that the materials are in good condition and appropriate.

I divided the books into lower elementary and upper elementary reading levels.  I brought the materials to the teachers's lounge and asked the school secretary to send out an email to the staff about the boxes.  I also said that I would pick up any leftover books one week later to donate to Goodwill.  I don't want to make more work for the teachers.

Now I'm enjoying the space in my office and knowing that my decision has been made.  I don't have to keep an ear open for a teaching position.  I don't have to worry about keeping my license up-to-date or finding better materials to stock my classroom.  I can focus my attention on professional organizing and growing my business.  After the initial struggle of letting go, it has been liberating.  I wish you that kind of freedom.  And you can see that I don't just ask my clients to make the tough decisions.  I am walking the walk.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Paperwork and the Small Business Owner: A Love/Hate Story

Do you have piles of papers sitting around your office?  How about on your counter tops?  Kitchen table?  If you own a small business you probably have more than your fair share of paperwork.

I recently worked with a busy client with not one, but two small businesses.  One business requires her to order parts and send invoices.  The other has employees and requires a whole different set of bookkeeping.  This lady had paperwork for both businesses and her personal bills and she's drowning.

She had two upright filing organizers on the kitchen table (pictured below), a large two-drawer file cabinet filled to the brim, two banker's boxes of records and several piles of paper on her desk.  She had been taking care of her own books, but felt it would be better to find a professional bookkeeper.

I contacted a bookkeeper that I have worked with in the past.  He was able to meet with us and give advice on how he'd like them to be organized.  Once we had direction, we got down to work.  Working through the piles, we put the papers into different categories: action items (bills to pay, invoices to further investigate, items to be entered into Quickbooks), to-file (personal and business) and miscellaneous.

Once we knew where the papers belonged, we used her supplies file, box up and containerize.  Usually I can use supplies that the client already has, but sometimes I will purchase new materials to make the office space feel more professional. 

In less than five hours, we were able to clean up and organize mountains of paperwork and give this business owner piece of mind.  She is now able to hand over manila envelops with all her pertinent records to her bookkeeper.  Her business will be running more smoothly and she is definitely breathing a "sigh of relief."