Streamlining Your Digital Space

Photo credit to Maegan Tintari.

This week's post is a continuation of last week's post, Cleaning Your Digital Space.  One of my biggest goals as an organizer is not just to help a client organize a space, but also to pass on a skill set to them that will allow them to maintain the work that we've done together.

In order to maintain the work you've done with your own digital space, you will need to streamline and create your own unique and personal system for keeping your newly organized digital world, clutter-free.  I'm hoping I can help out just a little bit by sharing just a few of the things I do to help me streamline my digital space.

Today I'm going to share 4 apps (my favorites of course) that help me to keep my own digital life neat and tidy!

1.  Spotify

For Mac, PC, iPhone and Android

If you are a music-lover, (and lets face it, who isn't?!?) Spotify is really non-negotiable.  It's pretty much a lifesaver and a must-have.  You may think I'm being dramatic here, but if you haven't tried it then you have yet to transform your entire digital music experience.

Before Spotify I was buying tracks and albums on iTunes, syncing to my iPod/iPhone and watching my account balance dwindle.  Every time I discovered something new there was a fleeting moment of excitement, with a brief slide into anxiety over having to pay for every individual song that I liked.  If you think about it, it's a little ridiculous.  If you're the kind of person who always likes entire albums that's a little bit more reasonable, but if you like an eclectic mix of everything from here and there, then your pockets usually won't allow you to indulge in every catchy tune that comes your way.  Unless.....you're one of those rebels that torrents everything, and for the sake of the integrity of this blog we will just pretend that NO ONE WE KNOW HAS EVER DONE THAT.

Anywhoodle, Spotify pretty much solves every single musical problem you've ever had, and here's how:  it's free to have a Spotify account, and from your computer or tablet you can stream any song, artist, album, or playlist that you can imagine, on demand, FOR FREE.  You heard me.  It's free.  Yahhh, I know, I thought it was too good to be true also.  The catch?  There are ads of course, and if you want to do it from your phone and listen ad-free, you have to upgrade to Spotify's Premium account service which is priced outrageously at $10 a month.  I'm joking, that's obviously insanely reasonable, which is why I pay for it.  I no longer have a use for the radio, or really even for syncing anything at all to my iPod.  Of course Spotify thought of everything when they also decided to offer their premium members offline playlists, which basically means you can sync tracks from any playlist to your device so that you don't lose the service when you're out of range, away from Wi-fi or up in the sky on your way to somewhere fabulous.

Spotify gives you the option of browsing the most popular playlists, discovering artists you might like based on your current musical tastes, and offering a radio service if you want to keep things low maintenance.  Obviously I have was listening to my current song obsession.

Spotify's browse function lets you search through the  most popular playlists on Spotify, and under each playlist category there are hundreds of options created not only by Spotify, but mostly by its users.  There's a little bit o' somethin' in there for errrybody.

I know I'm going on and on and on, but seriously this is why you need to have Spotify:  no more music files eating up space on your computer, no additional mp3 organization required, and it's really a time saver because there's no more waiting for anything to sync, to play, or load.  All of your listening, browsing and playlist-creating happens more quickly and efficiently than ever before, which means life is that much simpler.  Now you can just sit back and enjoy the music!  Yessss.

You can find out more about Spotify and download the desktop app by going to their website.  To download the app to your iPhone you can visit the iTunes App Store.

2.  Unroll.me
For Web

The Unroll.me home page.

Are you tired of getting junk email about honey hams?  Are you still trying to figure out how you even got on the email list for the best Croatian skin care money can buy?  Do you feel like you spend wayyyy too much time clicking "unsubscribe"?  (No offense to honey hams which are quite delicious, or Croatian skin care which I'm sure is phenomenal, but I don't really need either of those in my inbox).

Unroll.me is going to be your 5 minute savior!  Promise.  All you have to do it go their website, click the "Get Started Now" button, enter your email address, and wait for that magical magical service to do its work.

I won't even give away the fun by describing how satisfying it is to go down a huge list of email subscriptions and to unsubscribe in bulk.  It's tantalizing really.  This is coming from someone who routinely organizes, categorizes and cleans out her emails (we're talking on the daily if not weekly) and even I didn't realize the sheer volume of how many of these emails I'm getting.

If you're skeptical, you can go to the features page first to read more about what Unroll.me does to help you regain your sanity.  To find out exactly which email platforms are currently supported you can visit their FAQ section.

So, you have to do it, and it's so fast and easy that you won't believe it.  5 minutes was probably a generous estimate, because it was really more like 3 minutes.  3 seamless minutes to a less bulky inbox is a no-brainer.

3.  Sunrise Calendar
For iPhone and iPad
(Sorry Android users, as of right now Sunrise is only iOS friendly, but they have plans to get to you soon, so stay tuned!)

Remember that huge iOS update that was rolled out when the iPhone 5 hit stores?  If you are an avid Apple user you were probably pretty excited, as was I, until I opened the iOS calendar.  

You have to understand that as a mega Type A, a professional organizer, and someone with 2 of her own businesses and a full client load, my calendar was my everything...then it all slipped away with the new iOS because Apple turned what was once a simple and functional app (though admittedly it wasn't super attractive) into something that may have looked a heck of a lot more modern but seemed to lose its basic functionality.

Frankly, I went into change denial, threw a quick fit and decided to get a new calendar.  That's when I found Sunrise.

Sunrise of course performs all the functions of any standard digital calendar, however it also boasts mega cuteness in its modern but quirky design, integration with Facebook, Google calendar and Google Maps, iCloud, Exchange, and a number of other social media networks, as well as an amazingly simplistic but still feature-packed interface that includes a month view with a rolling and continuous daily view.  Don't want either of those?  Just switch to week view with a tap if you like to see your weekly activities in blocks of time rather than just by appointment.

I personally have my Sunrise calendar connected to my Google calendar so I can have separate calendars for different life areas, and each has a corresponding color.  This helps me keep track of what kinds of things I'm doing just with a glance.

A theoretical and totally made up day on my own calendar (because who would spend their Saturday paying bills?), just because you needed to see examples of the amazing little icons.  Are those not the most adorable thing ever?  Yeah.

My favorite part?  Sunrise is so adorable it assigns little icons to your activities that correspond to what you're doing.  For example, if I type in something like "Coffee date!" a little cup pops up next to my appointment.  No kidding.  It also has corresponding icons for things like Skype, making payments, making phone calls, sending out emails, dinner dates, and even consultations!

Of course Sunrise comes with every major holiday programmed in just in case you're the kind of person that forgets about President's Day and then tries to go to the bank (that's me), but it's optional for those of you who are coldly uncaring about presidents.  I also turn on birthday alerts which are pulled in from my contacts so I never forget an important one.

For those of you are real social butterflies, you can create and respond to Facebook events through Sunrise, and post and share events to your wall.  Facebook friend faces included.  ;)  Sunrise makes inviting people to events (no matter what platform they are on) a breeze.

Basically, if I could marry a calendar I'd have no hesitations about saying "I DO" to Sunrise.  It is my new, essential, delightful, easy, and colorful calendar boyfriend, which is why I feel an overwhelming need to tell everyone about it.

You won't find out much about Sunrise by going to their website since it pretty much sends you right over to the iTunes app store.  That means no discussion needed, Sunrise is so great it speaks for itself so give a try.  You can download the app here - let me know how you like it!

If you already have it and are as dedicated to it as I am, let's talk calendar talk.  Shoot me a comment.

4.  Wunderlist
For Mac, PC, iPhone and Android

Yeah yeah, I know, so predictable that an organizer would be telling you to get a list-maker.  You'll want this though, seriously.  Even if you hate lists, you won't anymore.

Of course Wunderlist basic allows you to make many different kinds of lists, and allows you to do things with those lists like share them, create due dates and reminders, makes notes about tasks, and then sync everything to your other devices.  If you make a list on your phone you don't have to keep it nearby to check things off when you're working.  You can open the desktop app and there it is!  Now you can check things off while you're on your computer and then next time you open the app on your phone you can congratulate yourself on your progress.

Here's an example of the Wunderlist sidebar in the iPhone app - here are my lists, with a numbered count of how many items are on each one.  Changing the order of the lists, or their names is a breeze.

This is the right-hand panel of the Wunderlist app that is highlighted when a list is selected, and this is where all the items you have nested within a list will pop up.  Checking them off is the best part...

At its core Wunderlist gives you all of the functionality that you really need in a list-making program without going overboard with the features.  I won't lie and say that I have never paid for an app that had SO MANY features that even I got overwhelmed and had to call it quits on that relationship.  Too many features make my life more complicated, which is pretty much the opposite of what we're going for here.

So, Wunderlist does everything I need and could possibly want my lists to do and more...but, not too much more.  Just the right amount of more.

In case you do decide you like it but do want that little bit more, you can always upgrade to their Pro account which adds subtasks, file attachments, and task assignments for a small monthly fee.

To explore Wunderlist and find out more about what it has to offer you can visit the Wunderlist website or you can just travel on over to the iTunes app store and download it yourself.  Get the iPhone app here or get the Mac app here.  Heck, get both, you'll want to!

So, you basically have no excuse now for ever saying you've forgotten anything because it should be on your calendar or in your to-do list, and while you're blazing through the day and efficiently and elegantly completing tasks and unsubscribing from junk mail you'll have Spotify to keep you company.

Do you feel streamlined now?  You're welcome.

What's Your Clutter Style?

Photo credit:  Stuart Heath

Unfortunately, clutter is a fact of life.  Really it's a luxury if you think about how little our ancestors had, and what an uphill battle it usually was for them to get the few things they had in the first place...kind of puts the whole idea of clutter into perspective.

Needless to say, we all have clutter, albeit on varying scales, it's still an everyday part of life that we all deal with.

As a professional organizer, I obviously see more than my share of clutter, however amongst all my clients I've noticed that some kinds of clutter and clutterers (we're going to pretend that's a word for the sake of this post) tend to have things in common.

Some people will pile things up and collect things for one reason, while someone else may have an entirely different explanation of what caused the pile up in the first place.  No two stories are exactly the same, however, many of my clients and pretty much every single person I've ever met has what I like to call a "clutter style".

Keep in mind that some people are clutter purists, meaning they only have one clutter style and they take it ALL the way.  Like a true sports fan, they do it big and they go all out with it.  Others may have a little of this style and little of that one, which would create a unique clutter style combo.

Even I have a clutter style and I'm a professional organizer, so if I have one, so do you...

Please keep in mind these are not in order of least terrible to most terrible or anything like that...we don't judge clutter styles here!  Anyone can take their clutter style to the extreme, or on the other hand could have just a touch of one or more of these styles.  No clutter style is better than any other.  Taken to the extreme, all of these styles can devolve in hoarding.  That's an entirely different matter all together which we will save for another post if you don't mind.

Ready to find out what your clutter style is?  Here are the clutter styles that I've observed.

Clutter Styles:

1.)  "Hide it" clutter
This kind of clutter is typically kept behind closed doors and cabinets.  Everything is in a drawer, on a shelf, or inside of some kind of bin or basket.  Everything looks pristine on the outside, but behind those doors and under those lids is a tornado of stuff that has been shoved down, pushed in, and mixed together just to "get it put away," which usually takes place right before company comes over.  This is the "slide everything off the table and into a bag with one arm" method.

2.)  "But I just love it!" clutter*
This kind of clutter includes collections of any kind, where similar items are purchased and build to a degree that they become unusable and neglected.  Having a sentimental and personal collection that takes up an entire (or even multiple!) rooms due to a deep and enduring passion for something creates the problem of having so many that you will never even get to use or enjoy the ones you have!  Whether it's books, candles, craft supplies, cat statues, pipes, or exotic hand-stitched rugs, it all connects back to the urge to create massive collections that you may never even get to enjoy due to the sheer volume of the beloved collection.

There are of course endless possibilities for the focus of the collection, here are just two examples that I see more often with men, however they could and have applied to women as well.

2a.) A subcategory of "love it!" clutter would be "Carpenter" clutter
This kind of clutter includes tools, large machinery and parts, or enough building supplies to run your own leg of Habitat for several years.  Typically this kind of clutter builds up in a garage or shed with the intention to eventually create a "shop" or work area to retreat to, but truly it just usually ends up becoming a scene from American Pickers (believe me, I've seen it and have had the urge on more than one occasion to call Mike and Frank).

2b.) Another close relative is "Gadget" clutter, which is just a slight variation where the items that collect relate to electronic gadgets and their respective parts, cords, etc.  As opposed to concentrating on building supplies, or large machinery like cars or motorcycles, gadget clutter would include computer towers, CB and/or ham radios, antennae, receivers, recorders, microphones and other miscellaneous electronic parts for tinkering.

3.)  "Historian" clutter*
This kind of clutter includes mostly sentimental items, many of which never originally belonged to the keeper.  The Historian clutterer has taken it upon themselves to catalogue either their own or a close friend or relative's entire family history, and feels it is their duty to turn their house into a mini Smithsonian.  Historian clutter is commonly held onto or kept for the sake of memories and to soothe the guilt that someone feels will ultimately overcome them if they get rid of the item.  Getting rid of grandma's bowl = I will lose a piece of grandma.

3a.) A subcategory of historian clutter is  "Someone gave it to me" or  "Gift" clutter
This kind of clutter is typically tied into guilt (much like historian clutter), however there is less pride in keeping the items and more of a sense of anxiety or guilt that a visiting friend or family member will notice that their Christmas gift from 1994 is no longer being displayed in the corner china cabinet.  Upon noticing the gift giver will then become emotionally hurt or distraught, permanently damaging the relationship to the gift receiver.  Realistically, most people with this kind of guilt clutter are just too nice to get rid of the things they don't want and most importantly the things they don't even like!  Sparing someone else's feelings takes priority over their own sanity.

4.)  "...But it was on sale!" clutter
This is the kind of clutter that routine bargain hunters, couponers, and deal-seekers end up building.  They may not need it or use it NOW but they might use it later.....it's not uncommon for these sale clutterers to end up with a volume of things they don't even remember buying, things they may not even like, or things they've purchased for others that never end up in the other person's hands.  Of course, in the end, most of these items end up expiring, going bad, or getting neglected all together as newer items continually come in to replace them.  Sometimes this kind of clutter is just a symptom of boredom and on more unhealthy level can easily spiral into a shopping addiction or a hoarding problem.

5.)  "Remorseful" clutter*
A natural progression into remorseful clutter evolves from purchasing items that were very expensive but have become useless for some reason, and the person hesitates to get rid of these items because it would be "such a waste of money" (as if it isn't already).  Then expensive, useless items build up with nowhere to go, and typically the owners of these items like to keep the items around to remind themselves of how "nice" these things are/were even though they aren't being used.  This kind of clutter may seem similar to the sentimental clutter of the historian, however these items are usually newer, never belonged to anyone else, and really are kept (subconsciously) as a reminder of a more happy/prosperous time in the owner's life.

5a.) A subcategory of the remorseful clutter is "Eco" clutter
This kind of clutter is a symptom of the "it can all be put to good use somehow, and it's a shame to get rid of it!" syndrome.  Everything that isn't being used or hasn't been used either needs to be put in the arms of a new and loving owner or totally repurposed, otherwise the current owner cannot and will not part with it either out of guilt or a sense of duty to the environment, etc. (conscientious clutter).

6.)  "Too busy" or "I'll do it later" clutter*
This is basically the laziest kind of clutter.  This is the kind of clutter that usually comes in visible piles, is directly correlated to a full workload, a busy lifestyle, or a stressful life transition.  Items connected to this kind of clutter are usually tossed, stacked, thrown, shoved, or otherwise ignored entirely because the idea of even looking at it is too overwhelming.  99% of the time, this kind of clutter is made of paper and looks like bills, contracts, filing, etc.  Typically the owner of this kind of clutter is a hardcore procrastinator at home and puts things off until they become an even bigger and more overwhelming task later (the opposite of the temporary stress they were avoiding originally).

6a.) A subcategory of "do it later" clutter is "Perfectionistic" clutter
This kind of clutter also builds up from a "do it later" method, however the underlying reason has less to do with laziness and more to do with stress around how well the clutter is dealt with.  Perfectionists also procrastinate, but it's not the stress of dealing with an issue or item that is troubling, but the concern is that everything won't be dealt with or put away properly.  There is a certain ideal or vision that perfectionists would prefer to manifest, and if things can't be dealt with in just the right way (their way) then they'd rather not bother at all.  This kind of clutter hasn't been addressed because it can't be addressed perfectly.  Until it can look perfect (which clutter usually does right?) it will sit there.

Truthfully, at heart some of the messiest and most cluttered people I've ever met were perfectionists that would rather be messy than be judged for falling short of their attempts to keep organized.  It sounds silly, but it's true!

Then again, our brains are all wired differently and some people just aren't raised to be neat and tidy, however it's a skill anyone can learn - like riding a bike!  However, at the end of the day, some people are just messy and occasionally I run into someone who likes their clutter.  I say, if you like it, rock on!  If it drives you nuts, call me.  ;)

Remember back at the top where I mentioned that everyone has a clutter style, even professional organizers?  Ready to find out mine?  I'm not afraid to share - I'm an eco-perfectionistic clutterer with a touch of the "someone gave it to me" syndrome.

Now it's your turn, what's your clutter style combo?

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/misteraitch/5...

Organization Inspiration: The Pantry

Photo credit to Chalon Handmade.

One of my newer clients has the kind of pantry that homeowners dream about.  Once I got over being totally jealous, and having way too much fun helping her get things put away and organized, I started to think about my own pantry...

...Or lack of it.  The house I live in was built sometime in the 1950's, so not only are the closets the size of approximately one day dress, but it is entirely pantry-less.

I'm not sure where people kept food in the 1950's, but those shows you see with Lazy Susans everywhere....yeah, not in this house.

f course the solution to this large and unattractive problem is that we had to use an entire section of our cabinets as the pantry, and now there isn't enough room to put our actual dishes, pots, pans, etc. and all the other cabinets are crammed as a result.

It seems like a constant uphill battle to keep the cabinets organized, and it has almost driven me insane.  Okay, I'm not really THAT much of a type A, but it does bother me.  Anyway, because renovation isn't at option at this time, I'm currently coveting everyone else's amazing pantry spaces!

Because I now have to live vicariously through the pantries of others, will occasionally peruse Pinterest and stare at my favorites longingly...particularly anyone lucky enough to have an entire pantry ROOM.  Seriously?  I'd settle for a skinny stand-alone at this point.

Don't ever take your storage space for granted people!  Some of us live in 1950's homes.

I'm actually planning a pantry organization and overhaul project soon, which I'm sure will include plenty of before and afters, but until then, here are a just a couple of the drool-worthy pantries I have had my eye on lately.

Why shouldn't your pantry be functional and stylish?  {Source}

This is a great pantry remodel/organization project done with IKEA shelving.  {Source}

Last but certainly not least, this might be my favorite, because it's huge, organized and realistic.  Because who can actually keep everything looking immaculate all the time?  {Source}

Those are just a few of my recent favorites, but I'll stop there or I'll go on forever!

Head on over to my organizing-themed Pinterest board right now to see some more pantry inspiration.

What kinds of rooms or spaces do you find yourself coveting?  Feel free to share, and/or follow me on Pinterest!  I have a board dedicated to just organizing, but who knows, there may be various sub-categories to come.  ;)

Kindness In All Directions

Let's be honest, we all believe in basic kindness, but sometimes it gets hard.

Other people annoy us, they say things to us that we wish they wouldn't, they do things we wish they wouldn't and they aren't always kind back.

Extending the same courtesy to others can be a challenge at times, and it's even more challenging when we start thinking about how we treat ourselves.

Trust me, I'm a firm believer in kindness, I always say my "please and thank yous," hold doors, smile at babies...the whole good samaritan bit.  But like I said, we're all human and we all have days where we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, get stressed to the max, or find out something that is pretty much a day or maybe even life changer.  In those situations it's even harder to find the place in myself where my kindess originates.

If you really think about it though, aren't most of us preaching kindness without really walking the walk?  Obviously the word has been thrown around so often its meaning may even become fuzzy, but how many of us know the true origin of kindness.

It's so easy to think or say we are kind, but the reason it gets challenging is because we aren't being kind to ourselves.

When we judge, criticize, nitpick, and get annoyed and frustrated at other people, we are only doing to them what we do to ourselves or what we perceive that others are doing to us.  Even if we don't recognize it at first, any harshness we feel begins inside of our own minds.

Universal law teaches us that every cause has an effect, and science has told us time and time again that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  So it's natural to assume that any unkindness we have for ourselves, will spill out into our environment and come back around to us in other ways.  Of course this is getting into a whole other discussion, but I'm sure you see where I'm going here!

Kindness should always flow in all directions, and that means starting with ourselves.  Our teachers, parents and for some us, our religion may have taught us that kindness to others was the golden rule, but I would have to disagree.  The kindness you show to yourself is the foundation of your overarching attitude toward the world, and the amount you get back will grow in proportion to the amount you give to yourself.

I know because I may just have the loudest and meanest inner critic there ever was, and I have definitely had to work very hard on how I treat myself.  I say things to myself I would never utter to another...that's how mean I've been to myself in the past!  Not good.  However, I've also done enough self-work to see the effect my self-kindness or lack of it has in the world.

When I take care with myself, and allow myself the space and forgiveness that I would easily grant another, I see everyone and everything as much kinder.  Conversely, when I let my inner critic out of its cage I end up basically verbally assaulting myself silently.  This builds that feeling of harshness that I was talking about earlier, and not only do other people seem far less kind, I find it much more unpleasant to live with myself.

An ancient and very wise Chinese proverb, one of my favorites, says:

A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses.

That's so true!  Being kind and helping others benefits us, not just because it makes us feel good, but because any time you put positive energy out into the world you make it a better place for everyone.  When you help another you help yourself, particularly if you see all people as connected.  However, if you're working on this principle and then berating yourself for making a simple mistake, you're kind of negating the effect of it.

So let's all just make a commitment, myself included, to try to be kinder to ourselves.  This will naturally create an inner abundance that we won't be able to help but pass onto others, thus making our own lives more rich and fulfilling.  Let's make sure kindness is flowing in all directions, including our own.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bazilick/5971...

Organize Anything: My Favorite iPhone Apps!

Sometimes I feel so lucky to be living in an age where technology is so advanced that you can pretty much download an app for anything.  Other times I can't help but feel that this flood of technology is contributing to my own insanity.  That is when it becomes necessary for me to use it to my advantage, and find ways to at justify my frequent, mind-numbing iPhone use by at least making it "productive".

This is where the apps come in!  There are a few go-to apps that I use to help me keep my own busy life a little more organized.  Of course there are so many apps out there that you will have plenty to choose from, and it is only from downloading and trying out about a million things that I landed on my favorites.  I encourage you to do the same, but just in case you're not sure where to start, here are my recommendations.

Lists:

I'm an organizer, and admittedly someone who can, at times, walk too close to the OCD line.  I'm a chronic list-maker, and not just because I like to check things off (though it does give me a thrill to cross off something on a list...I wish I were joking) but also because when I don't make lists I feel like my head is a hamster wheel.  Life feels a little more in control to me when I turn things into bullet points.

I started out using Awesome Note by BRID because of the sheer number of different tasks, calendars, folders, labels, colors, tabs, options, etc. that you can create to basically form your own little overly organized universe.  I'm not kidding - the options in this app are pretty much unlimited for anything you could possibly want while trying to keep a list and "making it you" at the same time.  Awesome Note also syncs with Google Docs, so you won't ever lose your info!  Super important.

I used Awesome Note for a really long time, until I got so far into it, and I had spent so many hours in the app, that I kept feeling the urge to reorganize everything in there.  It actually started to have too many features for me, which was distracting me from just keeping my lists.  I spent just as much time trying to make them look good as I did making the lists, which is ridiculous.  That's when I decided I might need to move onto something simpler for a while.

Do! list view.

Do! label view.

Do! calendar view.

That's when I found Do! - The Best Simple To Do List by Su Won Shin.  This app is just basic enough to keep me from falling into a black hole of over-organization (believe me, this can occur) but it's also adorable!  Score.  The whole package.  The best part is that there are enough customizable features, like fonts, backgrounds and tabs, but not so many that you forget you were making a list and not building a website.

I liked this app so much that I paid to upgrade from the free to the premium version, and then something even cuter happened.  Su Won Shin put out a Spring version which functions in exactly the same way, but just looks even more adorable.  I could barely take it, so I had to download that one too.  Who said making lists couldn't be easy and attractive?  (Sidenote:  Make sure you turn the sound on when you make your first list item, so you can hear the little scribbling sound.  It's great.)

Evernote.

Notes:

I'm not always making lists, really...and when I'm not, sometimes I just want to jot something down.  Like an idea or a quote.  I keep a pretty extensive record of my dreams, a catalogue of beauty products I like and want to repurchase (with photos), and sometimes ideas about Christmas presents come to me early.  That's when I use Evernote.  You can keep all sorts of notes, and you can even record audio clips.  Everything syncs to your own cloud on Evernote.com, so again, you won't have to worry about losing anything.  This is a must-have!

Tracking Hours:

If you're a freelancer or anyone who does any kind of contract work, you know the importance of keeping track of your time.  If you're only using the clock to log your hours, you're probably missing out on some pay, and having your own time clock will make life much easier!  I'm kind of married to mine.

HoursTracker by Carlos Ribas has a clock in/clock out function, with editable times (just in case you forget to clock out for lunch and need to go back and edit), the option to export, and you can even keep track of multiple jobs or clients at the same time.  This was one of the main features that simplified my life, because now I can keep track of how much time each client has logged with me, export them separately, and set different rates of pay for each job.  

HoursTracker keeps track of all of that for me, so I don't have to spend any more time than I need to going back and checking my calendar.  When I'm working, I clock in to whatever job I'm working on, and when I'm done I clock out.  I can look at my hours my day, week, month or just the job in general, and I can always add a note at the bottom if I need to remember something specific about a certain time slot.

The best thing that HoursTracker did was show me just how quickly those couple of minutes here and there checking emails could add up!  It's only 2 min. out of my time right now, but in a year I've spent several extra hours working for free without even knowing it.  So, if you're a freelancer who values your own time this app is definitely worth a try!

Sharing documents:

Dropbox is not negotiable for some of the contract work that I do with my distance clients, however it's even better that I can access it on my phone.  I mostly use the mobile version when I'm traveling, though the desktop version is a staple.  Dropbox makes sharing any kind of document between two people completely flawless, and my favorite thing about it is that they allow you to earn more space by referring other people!  If you aren't already using Dropbox I suggest you give it a try, because the days of fighting with email attachments, or putting things on a CDRW are over.

Inkflow.

Inkflow.

For creatives, designers & artists:

Last, but certainly not least, Inkflow was created for all of the creative types and visual thinkers out there!  You didn't think I would leave you out did you?

If you have a habit of scribbling, doodling or even drawing out your ideas, then Inkflow is a great alternative to the traditional and stuffy list apps that type A's use all too frequently.

If you're working in any sort of creative field, especially in design or art, Inkflow is the perfect app to draw, paint and plot out your next project or idea.  It has much more of a "flow" than a note app, and you can easily share or export any of your pages into high-quality documents.

Just looking at it makes me feel creative!

I'd love to hear from you some of you!  What are you favorite iPhone apps for staying sane, organized and more productive?

*All the apps I've mentioned can be purchased through the iTunes app store either on your phone, desktop or by clicking the links I've provided.

Shoes Matter. My Love Affair with Chacos!

I spent most of my college years working in retail.  Chances are if you went to college, the retail world isn't totally unfamiliar to you either, and like many clothing store employees I had to stand up during my entire shift (this was usually somewhere between 4-6 hours with a small break).  The standing up part was pretty standard, but at the particular store where I worked the longest we were asked to model the merchandise on our feet as well as our bodies.

Here's where the real problem comes in...this particular store did not sell anything resembling a full shoe.  They only sold flip flops.  That means that for approximately 20 hours a week for almost 3 years, rain or shine, winter or summer, I was standing up and wearing flip flops.  Seriously?  Yeah...unfortunately, this company was too focused on image to worry about their employees' feet, and I was too young to worry when my elders commented that I "needed more support" or I'd "be sorry later."

Clearly that day has arrived, and it wasn't too long after that I began to experience the increasing symptoms of plantar fasciitis.  I didn't know that's what it was at the time, but after a trip to the podiatrist and a necessary pair of Powerstep insoles (these are amazing too - I use these when I'm wearing shoes without arch support), I realized I had done some real damage.

Since then I decided I would make a marked effort to take much better care of my feet with the idea that this condition could improve, and even go away.  Of course it didn't, which makes sense given that scientists still aren't even sure what actually causes it.  Then again, I'm a glutton for punishment and I ended up in another series of jobs that required standing for long periods of time.  I've done it all, and standing!

Working outside at a local plant stand I met a coworker who introduced me to Chacos and my feet have been thanking her ever since.  Chacos were perfect for my outdoor job, because not only are they approved by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), which means they're as comfortable as ugly old people shoes, but they're also machine washable and virtually indestructible!

Kitty with one pair of Chacos.

This is why I mentioned the indestructible part.

I know I already said they were comfortable, but when you're used to having your heels feel like they're on fire, or your arches pulling like an old rubberband, you will feel like the word comfort is leaving your vocabulary.

Now that I've started my own business where I also, again, spend several hours at a time on my feet helping people organize, Chacos have become an important investment, a trusted travel buddy, and basically a necessity.  I now have a full on love affair going with my Chacos, and have since become a little obsessed.  I even had 4 pairs at one point, and am currently considering another.  [Here's my favorite style]  I don't go out of town without them, and my favorite pair has enjoyed many vacations around the world (see below for my favorite Chaco memories).  It's a problem, but not a bad one to have, so thank you Chaco!

My Chacos in South Beach, 2012.

My Chacos in Ft. Lauderdale, 2011.

So, the moral to this story (besides go buy yourself some Chacos) is that shoes are important, because they make or break your feet, which impacts your overall health and happiness!  Our feet are the base of our entire body, and we use them tirelessly and many times without even realizing the miles and stress we are putting on them.  Don't get yourself into the foot "situation" that I got myself into - care for your feet before they demand to be cared for and they will thank you.

There's no longer the excuse of compromising on look for comfort, because Zappos exists and it's basically a shoe encyclopedia   So, if Chacos don't strike your fancy there are thousands of other pairs out there waiting to make your feet happy...though I doubt their ability to measure up.  ;)

Chacos = 1, Norman's mini-Hurricane of 2011 = 0.

*This is not a paid advertisement for Chacos.  All content of this blog is drawn from my honest opinion and experience.  I really do love Chacos that much!

Just Relax.

We all get stressed out from time to time, and then there are those of us that are prone to being a little more...tense, to put it nicely.

I'm one of those people and maybe you are too.  It's so easy for me to watch myself spinning into stress if I'm not careful.  I have a pattern of overworking, trying to please everyone, do everything by myself, and when I have some downtime I feel like there's probably something else more productive that I should be doing other than making sure I don't go insane.  Fail.

The truth is, yes, we all have things we have to get done, deadlines that we need to meet, places to go and items to check off of our to-do lists.  But, there is also a time to relax.

You don't need me to bring up all those science experiments do you, where they prove that stress pretty much wrecks your entire mind and body over time?  Just Google stress and there are pages and pages of articles that pretty much all say the same thing...chill out!

Stress not only impacts your mind and body, but also impacts your happiness and personal well-being.  Ultimately, nothing is worse stressing out about enough to do that to yourself, and think about this way...if you have a heart attack, it won't matter whether or not you got that promotion or missed that deadline.

What would you say to a friend who was as stressed out as you are?  You'd give them the same to thing to them that I'm saying to you, so why not be your own friend and talk yourself down from that stress ledge.

Today I am choosing to relax.  I am ignoring all the thoughts in my head that are anxiety provoking, and I'm deciding to choose myself over my stress.

I decided a part of this process would be to try something fun that I've wanted to do for a long time, but have put off because I always thought I didn't have enough time...I experimented with watercolor!  

I'm not finished yet, but I can definitely say that even just brushing the watercolor onto the paper has already helped me to wind down a little and prepare for a weekend of calm.

My watercolor experiment.

So, I'm challenging you to do something for yourself, to de-stress and relax this weekend.  Breathe out a little bit, and remember that it's just not that serious.

My Favorite Blogs: Part I

Now that I'm officially obsessed with perusing Bloglovin for the cutest blogs out there, I've discovered a few new ones that I just had to add to my reading list and I want to share some of them with you!  

Because there are some wonderful local bloggers and friends I'd like to link to, I plan to have another post with some of those a little bit later, but for now, here are my top 4 favorite blogs to read at the moment:

Chalk White Arrow

Chalk White Arrow

1.  Chalk White Arrow is probably at the top of my favorite blog list right now, even though I've only been following for a few weeks now.  I just fell in love with this post in particular, because first of all, I'm a sucker for beautiful, simple, colorful photography, and second, pictures of food, comfy homes and flowers are my own personal faves and Sara included all of them in one post.  How could I not fall in love?  Oh yeah, and then there was her bathroom makeover, which is so adorable that I realize how much I've neglected my own little bathroom over the years...project inspiration!

My favorite thing about Sara's blog is that just like life, she includes a little bit of everything.  She shares some of her favorite clothing moments, we get to fall in love with her dog Kramer, and she's not afraid to post real images of her home life that aren't staged or forced in any way.  There's always something down-to-earth, organic and natural, yet full of personality about everything she posts, which is why I look forward to seeing her updates.

Paris in Four Months

Paris in Four Months

2.  Paris in Four Months is Carin's blog about her love affair with the city of Paris, complete with endless, vivid, color photographs of the city and her adventures there as she lives them.  As a fellow Paris lover and someone who has frequent fantasies of picking up, moving there and never looking back, it's an irresistible read for me.

My first trip to Paris was in 2007 and I haven't been the same since!  I have pictures that I took in the city hanging over my bed, and I'm anxiously awaiting my next trip to the city I fell in love with 6 years ago.  Carin's blog only makes me miss it more, but I don't mind because reading it reminds me of all the things I loved so much about it.

Who knows, maybe someday soon I'll be blogging from Paris!  Anything is possible rigiht?  ;)

Breanna Rose

Breanna Rose

3.  Breanna Rose always makes me feel inspired to create something new, and her blog and posts are all so visually appealing, that I never skip over them.  Breanna is such a talented graphic designer and I love that she not only shares parts of her life with her readers, but she always gives us a sneak peek into her creative process and finished designs.  My recent favorite was this post where she shares a moodboard for a recent project.  She apparently doesn't see this color palette a lot in her work, and I'm obviously partial to it because blue + green are my all-time favorites, and my current site design was ocean and watercolor inspired.

Along with design elements, Breanna also shares her favorite things (Wantlist - my personal favorite was "crazy floral"), talks about her collaborations, and gives away some design freebies (like this desktop wallpaper or this one)!  Her blog is never boring, and she always keeps it short, which is refreshing when your reading list keeps getting longer and longer like mine does.

The Fresh Exchange

The Fresh Exchange

4.  Megan over at the Fresh Exchange Blog began writing to keep a catalog of her design ideas (like Breanna she is also a graphic designer gone blogger).  I love the Fresh Exchange because in addition to seeing Megan's newest design ideas, she's also sharing more about her life, career, travels and collaborations with her husband Mike as well as with other bloggers and entrepreneurs.

A recent favorite was this post about how to stay sane when you're working for yourself and life gets busy enough to test your limits - something I can relate to!  Of course I could also really appreciate this post and collaboration with Anna Carl at the Yellow Table for Anna's series on March wellness.  Obviously we're into April now, but it's still a good read, as Megan addresses how she and her husband have tried to create a healthy work from home routine.  This is definitely something I need to do some more work on...

The thing I most enjoy about Megan's posts is her honesty and ability to be candid.  She doesn't sugarcoat things, and she gives you her version of reality, even if that means sometimes admitting that things aren't always sunny and perfect.  I find her attitude refreshing and realistic, and I also appreciate the earthy quality she brings to her photographs and design aesthetic.  Earthy is my favorite.

Well, that's it!  Hope you all decide to head on over to Bloglovin to follow some or all of these lovely ladies, and I'd love to hear what your favorite blogs are.  Rest assured I will be posting again with more blogs to dive into, because I discover new ones every day!

Who are some bloggers that you just can't wait to see updates from?  What is your favorite blog of the moment, and why?

Are We There Yet? The Myth of Arriving.

If you're anything like me, or most of the planet, you have some future, life-goal that you're striving for.  Am I right?

Maybe you're an aspiring pâtissier (French for pastry chef) but you're finding yourself stuck working as a CPA, and you're not sure when, if ever, you gave up on your dream of owning your city's most adorable macaroon stop ever.  Or, it could be that your goal is just to make more income next year than you did in the previous year.  Perhaps you're just trying to make it through the workday to get home to a nice dinner and some time alone.  It could be that your jeans don't fit, and you're counting down the minutes until you can put on some sweatpants...I've been there, I'm not afraid to admit it.

However you slice it, you're waiting for something to arrive that hasn't come yet.  Wishing for your dream job or thinking about your to-do list for tomorrow are both symptoms of the same issue:  you've lost your presence.

What I'm talking about is the ego-created idea that there is some point in the future (be it in 2 hours or a few years) in which you will be better off, happier, more satisfied, ready to do this or that, etc.  You get the idea.  There is a desired point of arrival, and you're waiting to get there.  Here's the problem...the future hasn't arrived yet, and once it does, it's now the present moment.  Then, just like that, it's gone and you're presented with a new moment once again.

So, why is it exactly that we all spend so much time living in the future (or for some of you maybe the past is more of a focus, but the principle works either way)?  Living in some imagined or repeated scenario that isn't occurring right now not only removes you from the moment, which makes it difficult for you to do whatever it is you need to do, it robs you of your own peace.  Who would voluntarily do that to themselves?  We all do it, but because we've lost presence, we've forgotten what we're doing to ourselves.

Of course Eckhart Tolle reminds of the three most important ways you can deal with the present moment if you find yourself resisting it or wishing you were anywhere else.

“Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally” - Eckhart Tolle 

{click here to read a longer version of this excerpt from The Power of Now}

The fastest way to make the journey to your destination a living hell is to continue to tell yourself that you should be somewhere else other than where you are.  Not only is that the definition of insanity, there is also no good reason to continue listening to the thoughts that are creating your unhappiness; you might as well take control and get some new ones.

So, the next time you find yourself asking "are we there yet?" see if you can shake yourself out of it, come back to present, and apply Eckhart's rules to end your own self-imposted torture.  Arriving is myth, because the only moment you can arrive at is already here, so enjoy it while you can!

What are you waiting to do? Is there something you're looking forward to in the future that you really could begin right now?

*This blog post is cross-posted to ZYKR blog.  If you're interested in spirituality, head on over there and follow!  Sterlin is also contributing, so I promise there's fresh content that isn't repeated.

Source: http://www.behance.net/gallery/Are-we-ther...

Perfectionism & Working Against Yourself

I'll admit it, I am a perfectionist.  I can also tell you with complete honesty that almost every single one of my clients is a perfectionist as well (yes, even the ones who are up to their ears in junk, paperwork, and old garage sale finds).

It sounds so nice and frilly doesn't it?  Some people even think you're bragging when you say that, but the truth is, being a perfectionist means you're working against yourself 99% of the time.

Think about it...if you have impossibly high standards for most things that you do, an über critical voice in your head that berates you at every "wrong" turn, and a bunch of abstract rules that you picked up in life about what things should be like, or look like, etc. things get overwhelming pretty fast.  Talk about tension.

One day you're a child who is just trying to impress everyone in the class with your immaculate paper mache hamster, which is kind of charming, and the next thing you know, you're a grown adult and you're spending 45 minutes writing an email that's about a paragraph long and having meltdowns over cupcakes that "don't look like the picture."

It's a wonder that perfectionists get anything done, because we're so focused on doing it the right way, that sometimes the burden gets too heavy and we just give up.  That's the epitome of working against yourself.

Next time you find yourself in that self-critical, and self-sabotaging perfection mode, ask yourself what's really important.  Does it really have to be right?  What exactly does right even mean, who defines that, and why does this matter to me so much?  There's always an alternative, and it usually involves a more efficient, perfectly acceptable and sometimes an even better solution than your internal rules would allow.

It's good to give out quality work and to have standards, but there comes a point where you've gotten in your own way and you have to back up, calm down, and realize that making progress is what matters.  After all, you don't want to miss the beauty of the whole forest over the fact that you're obsessing over one of the trees.

Calling all you other perfectionists out there, I'd love to hear how you've learned to tame your own impossible standards.  How do you keep from working against yourself?

Source: http://nerdfit.tumblr.com/

Junk Drawer Domination.

In this post I'm going to show you how you dominate any junk drawer and take it from OOC (out of control) to something that's functional, even if it is full of junk.

To demonstrate  I'm going to share my own personal junk drawer.  Let me preface by saying, yes, even professional organizers have to declutter their homes from time to time, because I don't live in HGTV magazine either!  I am also a firm believer that everyone needs a junk drawer - something you may never hear another organizer say.

Step 1:  The first thing you want to do is take everything out of the junk drawer.  Yes, every single thing.  Stay with me, things will get always get messier before they get neater, remember this.

Everything that was in my kitchen junk drawer.  Notice the light switch cover & nutcracker...what?!?

Step 2:  Now you'll want to look through everything that was in your drawer, categorize items, and make piles of things that you'll want to keep in the drawer, things that will be put away in other places, and then decide what items will stay in the drawer.  

Once you have your piles, you've gotten through the hard part!  Now you just have to decide how you're going to keep the items in the drawer so that they stay organized and looking neat, because obviously the whole point of this is to be able to find things when you need them.

This is where we come to the key component.

Junk drawer organizer by Made Smart.

Junk drawer organizer by Made Smart.

Critical step:  A drawer organizer is a must-have in this kind of situation.  It's the only way you can really even justify having the junk drawer in the first place.  Luckily, you can shop around and order one that strikes your fancy from Amazon, or pick one up at Walmart for almost nothing.

The one I use is is by a company called Made Smart, and I chose it because it comes with compartment stickers.  These are especially handy when you aren't the only person in the house putting things away, and you want to make sure everyone knows where items should be going.

However, you can also be creative and use things you have around the house to create separate areas within the drawer.  Any kind of tray will work, and depending on what you have in your drawer, several smaller dishes may work to hold items like paper clips or thumb tacks.  Be inventive and find what works for you!

Step 4:  Put items back into the drawer, neatly and in a way that makes sense for the drawer's content and for your lifestyle.  Ready to see the finished product?  Here's my no-longer-junky drawer, ready to function!

Finished junk drawer - here's top compartment, where I keep all of my little condiments.  If they get full, it's time to throw out!

Here's the bottom compartment - please click to take a closer look inside!

There you have it folks - my finished junk drawer, with both the bottom and top compartments organized and ready to be efficient.

It's been about 6 months since I did this, and it still looks pretty decent in there!  I probably owe it mostly to the stickers, and a little bit to the discipline it takes to force myself not throw in every random item I find in the house.

So, take about 30 minutes and turn your junk drawer into something functional too.  Feel free to share pictures when you're done!

Happy organizing!!

Making It Happen: Don't Let Fear Stop You!

Happen Print by vaporqualquer on Etsy.

Happen Print by vaporqualquer on Etsy.

Too often we let the little things in life get in the way of our happiness, and we stop pursuing our true passions as we tend to the things we think we "need" to do.

I remember being a little kid, and being told ad nauseum that I could "do or be anything" that I could imagine.  Well of course I took that so seriously that I very rarely gave it much thought, decided I'd figure it out someday when I was a grownup, and then went outside to find my bicycle.  Of course that anything dream included me being my boss, but working out the details of that was way too much for a 4th grader.  Back to picnics and waterguns.

Now that I actually am a grownup, I realized I allowed myself to catch the "need" disease...at least that's what I'm calling it.  What I mean by this is, I've let my imagine die a little bit, and with it I've kind of lost my zest for far out schemes and the crazy dream life scenarios I used to love so much.  Where did they go?  They got squashed under the weight of the voice in my head, and the pressures of the real world that always tell me I need to tend to this or that first...that if I do what I need to do, then someday I can do what I want to do.

Let's be realistic though...when will someday be here?  It's here now, and here we all are still not doing anything about it.  So, you know what that means...it's the moment of critical choice.  The choice between continuing to concentrate on shoulds (I'm sure you've heard the lovely phrase 'stop shoulding yourself') and putting it off for another day that will never arrive, or taking control and deciding to make it happen.

A very wise man by the name of Eckhart Tolle (someone I will refer to many times in the future of this blog) so wisely said:

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.” - Eckhart Tolle

What if we all just started to make NOW the primary focus of our lives, and we stopped worrying about all those shoulds so much?  What's the worst thing that could happen?

What we wanted might actually find its way into reality, but it's not just going to appear once you get everything on your to-do list taken care of; you have to make it happen!

Source: http://www.etsy.com/listing/84053428/happe...

This (New) Blog.

Welcome to my new blog!

I'm so excited to begin this new blogging journey, and I look forward to sharing it with all of you potential readers out there.

The name:  I decided to call my blog Oh, how lovely! for two reasons:

1.)  I've been using ohhowlovely as a username on Twitter, Instagram, and in various other places for a few years now, and it has only grown on me.  Why spend countless hours pushing my brain to think of new names, when I have a fabulous name right under my nose that can be used in even bigger and better ways?

2.)  Along those lines, I also plan to share organizing tips, tricks, and pictures (some will be my own, some will be inspiration I've gathered from Pinterest of course), as well as discussing a variety of different topics that relate back to personal well-being, self-help and happiness.

I'm now at place in my life where I'm even more focused than ever on finding what creates peace for me, and learning to draw boundaries and say no to what is no longer working or serving my best interest.  I'm hoping that even just a little bit of what inspires me to do that, will also be inspiring to some of you.  Now what isn't lovely about that?

Together I hope to form something that creates a larger picture about what it means to look at your life honestly, and to try to get things organized, both inside and out.

This blog is as much of an exploration for me as it is for those of you who decide to keep up with it, so as I grow, evolve and learn as a person, I hope that what I come to share will get better and better.  I also hope that all of you will contribute, share, participate and make it more of a conversation so that we can all gain something even more from it than we would without hearing from one another.

I can't wait to see what this little blog will eventually turn into!  Thanks for reading!!