Sort It ~ Professional Organizing for the Toronto Area

It’s Planner Time!

I’m just over the 6 month mark of using my first Quo Vadis planner, and I thought I would give you all an update from my earlier post Keeping The Calendar.

I have always been a planner-aholic. All throughout junior and high school, as well as university, I would be the first one with my planner out, making sure all of my life events were scheduled out. First, let me confess that I used two other planners last year. My first was a small, very thin, planner that cost quite close to $1. If you’ve been an avid reader of mine, than you’ll know that this is not uncommon for me, as I tend to be on the thrifty side. I used this planner (which I got for Christmas 2010) for about 7 months, but I really wasn’t fully satisfied with it. The style had 3 days on the left page, 2 days (plus a small weekend section) on the right. Also, the times slots that it gave were sparse, at best (7 & 10 a.m., 1, 4 & 7 p.m.). I guess those “in between” hours didn’t really matter to them. But, I made due, thinking that all planners are created equal. Then, I moved up a step. Someone gave me their daily Brownline planner, because they didn’t like the style (that should have been a flag, no?). I wasn’t a huge fan either, as each day had its own page, and it was very bulky and heavy. Although, I could include a lot of detail, which was nice. I will admit that I am probably busier than most, but I was never busy enough to have to put in 10 back to back appointments. I used that planner until November 30th.

Why November 30th, you ask? Well, let me tell you. I attended a Professional Organizers in Canada conference at the beginning of November, last year. We had about 5 different sessions, and they were all, for the most part, fabulous. I was incredibly fortunate to also take part in a LinkedIn session, conducted by Margarita Ibbott. Much to my excitement (perhaps over excitement to some), there awaiting me, like a beacon in the night, was a green, medium sized, Minister 2012 Quo Vadis planner. (Actually, I think that it may have been black, and a size up, but I stealthily swapped for one in my company colour 😀 ). Did my eyes deceive me? An actual, quality planner? Just for me? Sweet!

This particular model, so to speak, is fantastic and perfect for me for three reasons:

  1. It has a whole week on 2 pages. When I get into a daily situation, I lose sight of the big picture, plus it would probably triple the thickness of it. Remember: Less is more.
  2. It has a notes section – for each week! Five medium sized boxes to jot down to-dos, or in my situation, driving instructions (no, I don’t have a GPS – I have a love affair with Google Maps, because I’m a visual person). Looking back, there has only been one week when I haven’t used that handy section.
  3. It fits in my purse. Granted I’m not carrying around a clutch, but it is a great size to fit into any medium sized purse.
  4. BONUS: It’s green! Did I mention that I love green? And next year, I only have to order the refill. I don’t have to purchase a new exterior 🙂 Less waste is always a good thing.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m a busy gal. To recap from my previous post, I have a colour coded system that I use to keep myself straight:

Blue ~ Toronto Willowdale Aquarium Society (Blue = water 🙂 )

Brown ~ Tutoring

Orange ~ Brownies (Their uniform colour is now orange, not brown)

Green ~ Sort It appointments  (My business colour)

Pink ~ Personal

Purple ~ Church events

To do this, I utilize my Pilot Frixion Pens, which are erasable. Yes folks, erasable colour pens. And not like the ones we had back in high school, that would only take a layer off, but you could still read it. No, these erase fully, which is incredibly useful when a client cancels or changes the time to get together. I have too much going on in my mind to occupy it with trying to remember dates and times. I also hate double booking myself, as I try to be a woman of my word.

So, in short, would I recommend a Quo Vadis planner? Absolutely. It’s cute, and it’s easy to maintain. I will certainly be purchasing a refill for next year, if I don’t happen to “come across” one in the meantime 😉

What quality do you look for most in a planner/agenda?


Get Organized to Change Your Life

A guest blog post for a fellow blogger 🙂 How does being organized change your life?

My House, Myself – Readytochangenow

I am very excited to feature our first guest blog post! Readytochangenow has been blogging for about 163 days, and I’ve really enjoyed her candid take on getting fit, getting out of debt, and chasing your dreams (hers is to climb Manchu Picchu). She has honestly, and openly, tackled the psychological, as well as the physical, aspect of taking back your life. If you haven’t already, please take a gander at her blog, Stopping The Wind.

My house, myself 

I want to thank Sort It Canada for inviting me to write a guest post – I have always enjoyed her blog and her amazing tips to clear the clutter of our lives.

When I was nine I moved from a standard, yet immaculate, upper middle-class home to a dilapidated house on the bad side of town that always seemed to smell of cooked meat.

I did not react well to the transition.

My new step-father was a hoarder and for the next 4 years we struggled against the tide of chaos.

Now 44, I have a very demanding job and am trying to radically change my life; the end result is a struggle against clutter – both in my mind and in my home.

I have three tools that work best for me when attempting to climb out of the wreckage.

Take Stock

Yes, I am one of those people – I make lists. When I have 40 things to do I tend to keep them in my head – they float around and knock into each other.

By writing them down, nice and orderly, I have room in my head to breathe.

The satisfaction of crossing an item off the list is my motivator –sometimes, that is all I need to find my momentum.

Start Small  

I have this mental image of sitting in a room stacked high with issues I need to deal with; work deadlines, phone calls, cleaning, maintenance, pets to brush, husband to love, plants to water.

I sit there like a brainwash victim trying to figure out how to fix it all.  It is the sitting that is the problem.

Do one thing, do it very well, and then move on.  Rather than deciding to clean the house, I clean a room. Once clean, nothing goes back into it but items that belong there.

This gives me a refuge from the chaos and evidence of my success.

Play Tennis 

We manage an incredible amount in our lives; information, people, responsibilities.  It is like standing in front of a tennis ball shooter while frantically trying to hit the balls while they fall to the court.

If I stop to pick them up, more will fall and I will never get ahead.  My strategy is to focus on the incoming balls first.  Once I find my rhythm, I can start to reach down and pick up a ball and knock it over.

This works only if I don’t try to track the ball once I hit it over the net.

One Life

I see no difference between my internal and external life.  Chaos inside equals chaos outside for me.

The advantage of this is that in order to clear my mind, I only need to first clear my house. I am committed to clearing out the clutter from both.

 Do you see the correlation between a clear mind and a calm house? How do you manage while “playing tennis”?

My Run and My Mat

Today is a day that I announce a couple of accomplishments.

1. I jogged 5 km continously for the first time in my life.

2. I completed my milk bag mat for Africa.

This is me after I completed my first 5K.

I live in Toronto, so when the weather became incredibly beautiful for about a week in March, I decided to start running (or jogging, really). I started off with 2 km, and decided to work my way up from there. My first day, I ran in intervals, telling myself to simply make it to the end of the street. The second time I went out, I wanted to run a little bit farther, so I was trying to make it to the fire hydrant about 20 meters beyond my first stopping (walking) point. However, as I neared the fire hydrant, I was amazed that I didn’t feel winded yet (which is usually what slows me down). So, I put up a farther milestone, but I passed that, too. I ran the whole way on my second run! Well, that did it for me. I was hooked.

I was trying to run 3 times a week, while increasing each week by about .5 km. Then I received an email update from WordPress telling me about the Worldwide WordPress 5K. I knew that I would have to step up my game if I was going to make 5 km in about a month and a half, so I increased it by 1 km two weeks in a row. I am really excited, and I hope to do another 5 km “run” in a couple of weeks to help support our local pregnancy care centre.

I also adore which is what I use to gauge my distance. I also “treated” myself by running through a ravine near our home. First time for everything!

Let me just say this: If I can do it, then anyone can 🙂 I also love this quote: “Someone who is busier than  you, is running right now” – Nike

Secondly, I completed my crocheted milk bag mat! I have been huffing and puffing through this one, so I am super excited to share this achievement with you. I wrote about this a couple of months back, and I just wanted to give you an update. Here is my original post. And here is me with my mat:

It will be sent off to Africa in a short little while. I will hopefully finish the last of my other mat that I have on the go, and then send off the remaining milk bags to Africa, where they now have a program where the people there crochet sleeping mats (bugs won’t nest in these), sandals, and bags to name a few. What a great cause!

What have you achieved this year that you would like to brag about? Please share! I want to know 🙂

Sleep Easy

Do you have trouble sleeping? Sometimes our minds are running a mile a minute, and so we have difficulty quieting those little voices in our heads. Other times, our bodies simply aren’t prepared to sleep. Here are a few tips to get a quicker, more restful sleep.

1. Prepare Yourself for Sleep – I read an article a while back (I’m sorry, I don’t recall where), but it said that your body will prepare itself for sleep. Many of us have habits before we go to bed. Typically, you’ll brush your teeth, wash your face, etc. I, personally, drink a glass of water so that it cleanses my system as I sleep. I have had the same bedtime routine (more or less) for the last 15 years. That being said, I don’t have trouble sleeping. As you practice the same routine, your body gets used to it, and it will prepare itself for sleep. Those habits will trigger your body to get into a “sleep mode”. Trust me, it works 🙂

2. Turn Off the TV – Okay, this is not directed at anyone. I know many people have TV’s in their bedroom, and that is a personal choice. However, if you think you need the TV to fall asleep, studies show that it will actually keep you up longer. TV, as mind numbing as some of the television programs are, is actually stimulating. If you need background noise to fall asleep, try a sound machine. They usually come with a variety of background noises like white noise, the ocean, or wind. Also, a radio set to a classic station will provide the same effect.

3. Tidy Up – You had to know that there was an organizing plug in here somewhere, right? The more clutter you have in your bedroom, the more difficult it will be to fall asleep. Your bedroom is meant to be a sanctuary, however it can often take on many other roles – folding station, toy depot, laundry basket, to name a few. However, the more “chaos” you have in your room, the more anxiety you will feel. If you tidy up before you go to bed, you will feel less anxious, and sleep will come more easily to you.

4. Write It Down – Does your mind race at night? Do you feel like you’re mulling over the same thoughts over and over again. Don’t! Write it down. Get it out of your mind and on paper. Let your brain rest. I have been reading a fantastic book on productivity by David Allen called Ready For Anything. The one thing that keeps coming up is to write things down. As long as you’re keeping everything in your noggin, you’re preventing new ideas, and solutions, from being thought through. So, write it down. You may find the solution to your problem. At the very least, you’ll be able to approach your dilemmas with a fresh mind in the morning.

It may take some time for your body to get used to your habits, but I strongly encourage you to give it a try. What have you got to lose?

How do you prepare for sleep? Do you have a specific trick for falling asleep?

My hubby on our honeymoon. He was incredibly excited when he saw the two double beds pushed together. The prospect of not having to share the bed with me (essentially) was fantastic!

Coupon Clutter

I enjoy saving money, as do most of us. I am more than happy to grab coupons on my way into the store (they often have a board by the front door), or cut them out of the mail or newspaper. I’ll print them online if it’s really worth it. However, I believe that coupons create clutter.

I am not referring to having piles of coupons scattered throughout the house (a lot of couponers have their coupons neatly organized in a binder, or accordion holder). Nor am I talking about having stacks and stacks of invalid, expired coupons (make sure you go through them at the beginning of the month, and check the expiry date). What I am referring to is the need to purchase items because they are on sale, or at a “discount”.

When I watch the “Extreme Couponing” programs on TV, I am astounded at the quantity of items they have stored in their homes. They have mini grocery stores in their basements. The participants have had to purchase shelving (presumably on sale, or with a coupon) in order to store all of their “finds”. Coupons will sometimes offer a “buy one, get one free” type of deal, or “buy one, get one half price”. Either way, they are promoting the idea of purchasing multiple items in order to get the best deal. On one of the blogs that I follow, one couponer purchased 36 packages of Advil Cold and Sinus, because they ended up being $.99 each (regularly $8.99). Sure, it’s a great deal, but honestly, unless you suffer from some serious immune system issues, there is no way you can use all that up before they expire. Sure, you can use them as stocking stuffers, but I still maintain that 36 seems a bit excessive.

Let’s establish some ground rules:

1. Only buy it if you would typically purchase it – even if the item is at a drastic discount. It’s only a discount if you’ll use it.

2. Only purchase a reasonable amount of the discounted product. If you can’t use it before it expires, don’t buy it.

3. Consider your space. Your space has value, so use it wisely. If you don’t have the space for the discounted item (say 400 rolls of toilet paper), then it will be more taxing on your stress level than your pocket book.

Do you use coupons?

Clutter Free Christmas

This year, the youth group at our church is putting on the Charlie Brown Christmas play. 

In this classic, Charlie Brown goes around lamenting that Christmas has become “too commercial”. Lucy comments that it is being run by “a big eastern syndicate” – can you tell we’ve gone through these lines quite a few times? In the end, Linus points out the true meaning of Christmas – the birth of Jesus. I’m not trying to be all “religious”, however, I think  you’d agree that we, as a society, have certainly strayed from those classic traditions – spending time with family, enjoying a nice meal together, and being thankful for what we have.

Christmas has become a time of rushing around, long lists of “wants” and “to do’s”, buying the “I LOVE IT” presents (thank you Best Buy), and generally feeling stressed out. Then we have the aftermath – the mounds of once used wrapping paper, the gifts that were well intentioned but will sit around until they can be (safely) regifted or donated, and the swift realization that we “went a little overboard” this year, having to really cut back in January to make it balance out.

Now, I’m not trying to be a Scrooge. I love Christmas. It just so happens that Christmas is my husband’s birthday (and the day we got engaged), we celebrate the birth of Jesus, and all that that means, and I love the time we get to spend together as a family, snuggled up with tea, playing a board game together (Jeanette, if you’re reading this, please bring Ticket to Ride again – I love that game!). What I am saying is this: we typically don’t need the stuff we receive for Christmas (most of it, at least), but there are many others out there who go without. We often believe that we’re thinking of others at Christmas, and this is true, however, let’s think of those less fortunate. Here are a few gift ideas that won’t clutter up your home (nor someone else’s), but will certainly be a blessing to those in need:

1. Toy Mountain – there are many different organizations who have a means to hand out new toys to those less fortunate at Christmas. Take your child shopping, and have them pick out a great toy that another child will receive – perhaps you could volunteer to help hand those toys out. (Toy Mountain)

2. Gift of Compassion/Gifts of Hope – Compassion Canada and The Salvation Army are just 2 organizations that offer opportunities to purchase animals, clean water, mosquito nets, or education for those in developing countries. A couple of years ago, I did this for 3 of my closest friends. For Christina (who’s a teacher), we bought school books, for Sharon (who collects water bottles from all over the world), we bought clean water, and for Diana (who was in med school at the time), we bought a pig (emphasizing the need of good nutrition for health). My friends were really impressed by the thoughtfulness of those gifts, and they felt good that they had helped, too. We also gave them each little token gifts to remember the donation made in their honour. (Gifts of Compassion/Gifts of Hope)

3. Microfinancing – Personally, I feel that this is the best use of donated money for developing countries. Nationwares (there are other organizations who do this as well) is an organization that provides small, low-interest, business loans to individuals and small groups in developing countries. This allows the entrepreneurs to start up a business, and essentially become self-sustaining. They sell their products and pay back the loan, which is then put back into the system to aid another entrepreneur. These people may also hire others from their village, and the benefits are magnified. My father-in-law always said “A hand up, not a hand out”. (Nationwares)

So, this Christmas, consider cutting out the clutter, and helping others at the same time. Turn the focus around, and avoid getting caught up in all that commercialism. I promise you, your spirit will feel lighter.


Let’s De-Stress, Shall We?

Let’s enter our happy place. Light some candles. Put on some relaxing music (I’m a little partial to Michael Bublé, myself). Take some nice, deep breaths. Feel better?

Now, did you have to clear your table, so that you wouldn’t light your house on fire when you lit your candles? Were you able to locate that favourite CD? Or, did you open the case, only to find that it had been moved from its home? Were you able to do this exercise with your eyes open, or did you have to close your eyes to block out the pile of stuff mounting in the corner? Did this exercise cause you more stress, or help you to alleviate it?

The organization of our homes, and lives, has a great impact on our stress levels, and overall health. I won’t get into the physical health benefits of vacuuming, dusting, and overall cleaning regularly – which is far easier in an organized home. However, if you would like a little reminder, I highly recommend watch “How Clean Is Your House?”, hosted by the two hilarious British ladies, Kim and Aggie ~ many clips are available on YouTube. Granted, these are really, really, ridiculously extreme situations, but they are good for a scare, nonetheless. But let’s discuss how getting organized can help you de-stress.

Let’s not kid ourselves. The process of organizing can be a relatively stressful process. Having a skilled Professional Organizer (such as myself) can help keep that stress to a minimum, but in the end, you’re making decisions about things that have often gone by the wayside. You’ll have to seriously look at the items in your home and make those age old decisions: keep, sell/donate, toss. Once you’ve decided what all you’re going to keep, it is imperative to put it somewhere that makes sense, so that you’ll be able to find it again at a later date. If you’re going through things that the whole family uses, it’s important to get their input as well, so that they, too, will be able to relocate those items when needed.

Imagine, asking the kids to get something for you where they don’t require a GPS locator to find it! When your home is organized, things don’t seem to slip through the cracks nearly as often (have you had to ask for multiple permission forms for your child’s field trip because they keep getting “misplaced”?). Also, if everything has a home, it is a much simpler task to keep the home organized. You will feel far more motivated to put things in their designated spots, if they actually have one! Kids will also be more likely to tidy up, as long as it doesn’t require too much effort. If they are younger, don’t make them sort their laundry, simply praise them for putting it in the laundry hamper in the first place. Also, keep a hamper in each child’s room, or, if they have a shower every evening, and undress in the washroom, keep one in there. The fewer the steps required, the more likely they will be to comply (this little trick works for older individuals in the household as well, hint, hint). If everyone is on the same page, that is one less battle to fight.

Although getting organized takes effort, it is well worth it. In the end, you will save time in looking for things, save money by not buying something you already have, and save energy for more fun and exciting things. So, do it: de-stress!