Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Announcing Arlington's Messiest Place Contest!

Functional Places is on the hunt for Arlington's Messiest Place! Enter your "messy place" in our contest for a chance to win a 3-hour session with a professional organizer and a $250 gift certificate to The Container Store to help take it from messy to functional!

The winner will be chosen by the public at the Functional Places booth at Town Day on September 26th. Everyone who votes will be entered into a free drawing for some organizing goodies of your very own! So even if you don't think you have the Messiest Place, come by and vote and help us choose a winner.

To enter the Arlington's Messiest Place contest:
Email or mail a photo of your messy space to Functional Places (contact info at the end of this post). Include a description of your space, the challenges you are facing with getting it organized, and a paragraph about why you think you should be the contest winner. Also include your contact information so that we can contact you if you are voted the winner. And then tell your friends to come by our booth at Town Day and vote!

The details:
- All photos will become the property of Functional Places and may be used in marketing materials, on the Functional Places website, or through the blog/social media sites.
- Submissions may be made by residents of Arlington, MA or Arlington-based businesses/offices.
- All submissions must be received by Friday, September 18th, 5:00 pm EST to be considered.
- Functional Places will select up to 12 finalists from all submissions based on individual's need, level of organizing support needed, and personal story/submission. Winner will be selected based on votes received by the public at the Functional Places booth at Arlington Town Day, September 26, 2009.
- No individuals' or businesses' names will be used publicly except for the winner. Winner agrees to provide permission for use of their name and before/after photography for publicity purposes. Functional Places respects your privacy and adheres to NAPO's code of ethics.
- Winner of the voters' drawing at Arlington Town Day will be selected at random from all ballots received at the end of the day. Winner does not need to be present to win. One vote/entry per person.
- Current or past clients of Functional Places are eligible to win.
- Winner of the Messiest Space Contest will be contacted by Functional Places during the week of September 28th. Winner will have up to one year to redeem gift certificate for organizing services.

Please contact us with any questions and act fast to get your Messiest Place entry in!

Functional Places
13 Medford St
Arlington, MA 02474

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Packing is Underway...

I got started on the packing effort for our move yesterday. Here are some tips for making packing manageable:

1) Start with the infrequently used items. I began by packing up serveware and my "nicer" set of dishes that we use for entertaining. Since I know we won't be having guests between now and the move, it's easy to pack that stuff up without impacting our daily lives. My next "sweep" will be holiday decorations, knick-knacks, out of season clothing and artwork. Then on to books and CDs, and I'll be saving our everyday dishes, clothing and our office supplies for the final week before our move.

2) Label the boxes! I can't stress enough how important this is. First of all, I bought brightly colored neon labels on which I'm writing the destination room so that the movers will know where to put the boxes in our new house. Then, I'm using a larger white label to jot down an inventory of what's inside, so I know where to find things when we arrive.

3) Take this opportunity to purge. More likely than not, there are items that you simply don't use or need anymore. I have started a pile for Goodwill and will be making a run there later this week. Better to give items away to people that can really use them than to pay to move stuff you don't need.

4) Consider your new space/storage options. As I am packing boxes, I am thinking about where the items will go in our new home. For example, our new kitchen is much smaller than our current kitchen, and we have about half of the cabinet space available. However, we will have much more storage in the basement. So, I am packing up rarely used serveware and kitchen items to be stored on a shelf in the basement. So they are going into a "basement" box rather than a "kitchen" box.

5) Don't pack things too heavy. Even though we've hired some burly movers, it's easier for them to move smaller, lighter boxes than ones that are super heavy.

6) Pace yourself. I'm going to try and pack up just a few boxes each day so that I don't get overwhelmed or fatigued. Oh, and stretch and bend at the knees when lifting those heavy boxes!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

How a Professional Organizer Plans Her Move

The Book Baron and I have decided to move, and the big day is September 1st. In the Boston area, 9/1 is a big moving day as students return for the fall and many leases change over. So we have our work cut out for us - and just a month to pull things together.

I thought I would share tips, ideas, and real-life experiences as we go along. As a professional organizer, I have helped many clients prepare, pack, coordinate, and settle in from their own moves. And I personally have moved 14 times - and this will make Move #15. So I've seen it all. But this might be the tightest turnaround time I have experienced, so we are going to have to be organized to keep our sanity. We have just 30 days (and a mini-vacation squished in there) to get it all done.

We signed our lease over the weekend and are hosting a Book Rack Employee BBQ today, so packing won't begin until later this week. But, I accomplished the following things last week:

1) Booked a mover. Since 9/1 is such a popular moving date, I needed to move fast to get a quality mover scheduled for that day. A tip for those moving: Always take the morning appointment. Many movers overbook themselves or underestimate the time required for a job, so if you are the 2nd or 3rd move of the day, you may be left waiting on the curb with your stuff. (Been there.) I also walked through each room of the house to put together a detailed inventory so that I could get an accurate estimate from the movers. It's easy to forget about the air conditioners in the basement or folding chairs that can make a difference in the time and space required for your move.

2) Bought some gently used moving boxes and bubble wrap on Craigslist. Often, you can check sites like Craigslist and Freecycle and get a supply for free. Purchasing moving boxes can get expensive, so why not re-use and recycle? I also picked up some packing tape and labels, so that I can inventory what goes into each box and mark the appropriate room destination to make things easier on moving day. Benezra Boxes in Arlington sells used supplies and offers free delivery and pick-up service for orders over $50 in their service area.

3) Scheduled installation of our satellite TV at the new house. Installation appointments can be hard to come by, so the earlier you can notify your cable, internet, and phone service providers the better. I'll be wrapping up the other calls tomorrow to try and minimize our "downtime."

More to come!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Surviving Chaotic June

Ahhhh, June. The month of graduation parties, family gatherings, weddings, showers, Father's Day and the end of the school year. It seems that for many people, the month of June brings a chaotic schedule and jam-packed social calendar that can be overwhelming. After a particularly busy few weeks, I am taking a quiet moment to reflect and take a proverbial "deep breath" and thought I would share some ideas and tips to help folks survive the mayhem of the season:

1) Clear the clutter on your calendar. If you're feeling overwhelmed by family commitments and party invitations, consider what is most important and where you get the most return for your time investment. Are there things looming on the books that can wait? Reschedule routine appointments - your teeth can wait another month for cleaning, and you can skip a book club meeting if you're feeling tapped out. Plan regular social engagements like lunch with the girls for later in the summer. It's OK to decline invitations or take a rain check if you can't fit something in.

2) Delegate, delegate, delegate. Are errands and a long "to do" list keeping you up at night? You probably don't need to be the one to do it all. Can another parent handle driving to soccer practice, and you do the next week? Maybe your spouse can pick up a few extra errands or your neighbor would be willing to grab your dry cleaning when they go to get theirs. You can return the favor or do something else in return when things calm down.

3) Make lists. Even if you are not usually reliant on lists, the act of writing things down can empty your head of little nagging items, and you'll be less likely to forget that graduation greeting card or cashews for Dad when you are out and about.

4) Take advantage of waiting times. Keep a folder in the car with things to read or notes to send and use downtime at the car service shop or salon to knock a few things off of your list.

5) Let go of the need for perfection. If you're throwing a party, remember that it's more important that you have the energy and time to spend with guest than if the fence is freshly painted. Don't go too crazy trying to make everything perfect. Chances are, your guests will remember more about their interactions with you than the minor details.

6) Communicate with the family. Make sure everyone is clear on schedules, commitments, and plans so that there are no (or at least fewer) surprises.

7) Schedule downtime for yourself - and stick to it. Build in time for relaxing activities so that you have the energy you need to get through the month.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Moms need their space, too!

All too often I find that busy moms don't have a dedicated work space to call their own. As busy as that job is - I think it's critical that whenever possible, a mother identifies a home office space where she can set up shop and efficiently manage the family's activities. I think people tend to forget that a busy family sometimes needs to run like a business; scheduling appointments, managing schedules and activities, coordinating health care and education, planning vacations, supervising homework, arranging for household repairs, paying the bills, and keeping the pantry stocked are tasks that only scratch the surface of the full responsibilities. And that doesn't even take into account a mother's own business/work responsibilities, volunteer activities, and her own hobbies and interests. It's easy to underestimate the space that is required for managing all of this.

This is not to say that you need to dedicate a full room to a mother's home office; but shared space on the kitchen table just doesn't cut the mustard.

One of my clients is a busy mother of two who is learning how to prioritize her own time and interests, and limit her volunteer activities (which is not an easy thing to do). We had the luxury of a spare bedroom that was being used for storage and was full of clutter. We cleaned out and set up a fantastic office just for her. And now she's getting more done in less time, and finding that she can choose to put her energy into things that really matter. We even included a family wall calendar so that the kids can support her in managing the daily schedule of activities.

Whatever your home space allows, finding a place to set up your office as Family Manager is a great first step in having everyone recognize the importance of the role and the full set of responsibilities on your plate - so that each family member can support you in their own ways.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Unemployed? Get a free planner!

On April 24th and 25th, Franklin Covey is offering free planners for those who have recently lost a job as a way to get a "leg up" on organizing your time and planning your life. Here is the email promotion that was sent:


Lost Your Job?
FranklinCovey Products Gives Those Unemployed A Boost

FREE FRANKLIN PLANNERS on April 24-25, 2009

WHO: Individuals who recently lost their jobs are invited to visit a FranklinCovey store nationwide or call the FranklinCovey Call Center at 800-654-1776 to receive a free 2009 Franklin Planner*.

WHAT: FranklinCovey Products is giving those who have recently lost their job a leg up during these recessionary times. Individuals recently unemployed can receive one 2009 Franklin Planner for free by providing the names of their last employer and supervisor, and the date they were laid off.

WHEN: Friday, April 24 (in-store and call center) and Saturday, April 25 (in-store only)

WHERE: Your local FranklinCovey store (Friday and Saturday) or the FranklinCovey Call Center at 800-654-1776 (Friday only)
Find a store
Call Center hours are Monday-Friday 7:00 am to 6:00 pm MST

WHY: Getting organized for a job search can ultimately save much time and frustration. Having one place to track all information, contacts, appointments, job leads, and interview notes can make a job search less stressful and more productive. Planning and organization are an integral component of a job search. FranklinCovey products and tools can bring focus, direction, and a sense of purpose to an individual's daily decisions and can help lessen the panic that surrounds a job loss. Capturing details and committing them to the planner will free up the job searcher's mind, reducing the stress associated with juggling lots of details. Sarah Merz, CEO of FranklinCovey Products, said this is FranklinCovey's way of helping out in a tough economy. This free FranklinCovey product event is a natural extension of the company's corporate philosophy to help people achieve everyday greatness.

ABOUT: FranklinCovey Products helps individuals and organizations achieve greater productivity, effectiveness, and success. For more information, please visit www.franklinplanner.com.


* Offer limited to supplies on-hand and specific products. Customer must pay shipping & handling if free planner is requested through the FranklinCovey Call Center. Offer not valid online.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

The "Low Energy" List

I went to a fantastic workshop yesterday put on by an organization called EnvisionAction. One of the participants was talking about the fact that she is learning to recognize her periods of high energy (best productivity times) and low energy throughout the day. And she plans accordingly. She saves certain tasks that don't require a lot of thought or physical activity to do during her "low energy" times, like emptying the dishwasher.

I think this is a great reminder for us all that it can be very useful to monitor yourself and your work habits throughout the day, and to plan around your own natural highs and lows. By saving certain tasks for your down time, you can still get things done and feel a sense of accomplishment. And similarly, by tackling that big proposal or detailed project when you're at your best, you'll actually get it done faster and better. Maybe you get a bit of food coma after lunch and can't concentrate as well as you can first thing in the morning.

Another great idea is to keep a list of things you'd love to do if you ever find the time. Then, when a meeting gets canceled or you find yourself with an unscheduled block of time, you can choose something off of this list and make the best use of your found time.