How to be organized

I think most organized people have a secret:

Being unorganized drives them nuts. 

They are either anal-retentive or hyper or very inflexible, but being unorganized or surrounded by clutter makes them antsy.  Not being able to find something makes them angry.  Looking at a messy room drives them to action immediately.  They can’t not do something.  They put things away immediately.  If they have a few free minutes, they spend it straightening up, putting away things, doing dishes, … They don’t clean out their car by dumping everything on the garage floor because they just can’t do that. 

I think the best way to get organized and stay organized is to have that mind set.  Get to the point where you can’t sit still if your house is the slightest bit messy. 

Once you have the mindset, then you can apply all the tools and techniques people have developed to help people be organized.  But beware, none of those techniques will work in the long term if clutter doesn’t make you itch or make you feel sick and drive you to action!

Once you have the mindset, here are some articles and techniques:

Book review: Organizing From the Inside Out

One of the most important points in Organizing from the Inside Out is that being organized is not the same thing as being neat.  If you want your house to look neat, you can shove everything under the bed and in the closets.  Being organized means knowing where everything is and having it conveniently located to where you need it.  Julie Morgenstern divides the process of getting organized into a few important steps:

  1. Sort.  Before you start throwing things away, figure out what all ended up in that drawer or closet.  Put it in piles and put labels on the piles. This will help you figure out how to make a home for everything and/or how to make sure it doesn’t end up there again.  If you just throw all the trash away, that closet will most likely collect trash again.
  2. Purge.  Now you can throw away all that junk.
  3. Attack.  This is the figure out where it’s all going to go.  Think where it will be most helpful and easiest to keep organized.  If all your books end up by the sofa, don’t put them away in the office upstairs.  Put a basket or a bookshelf next to the sofa.
  4. Containerize.  Measure everything, figure out what kind of containers would work best and then go buy them.  Not before!  Put nice labels on everything so the whole family knows what goes where.
  5. Equalize.  Spend five minutes every day putting things back in their place.

She makes a good point that people that like to organize usually end up in one of two categories:

  • Those that like to purge.  (This would be me.  Learned from my mom.)
  • Those that like to containerize.  I know lots of these – they like to buy containers and shelves and things.  More gadgets to hold the junk says the purger.

Skip the chapter on technology.   She is obviously not a heavy computer or gadget user.

What American accent do you have?

I took the quiz, and it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows where I grew up (everywhere) that I have the "default, lowest-common-denominator American accent." Here’s what they said:

What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)


("Midland" is not necessarily the same thing as "Midwest") The default, lowest-common-denominator American accent that newscasters try to imitate.  Since it’s a neutral accent, just because you have a Midland accent doesn’t mean you’re from the Midland.

Personality Test Results

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Which accent do you have?  You can take the quiz.

Owies are good for kids

The Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents had decided that taking risks, playing with friends and some bumps and bruises are good for kids.  That’s good to hear because Caleb has almost permanent lumps on both sides of his head from taking face dives onto hard floors.  He’s getting better at catching himself though – he must have abs and back muscles of steel!

The US has a hefty salary: just compare the individual states to other countries!

The US is wealthy – this map just gives you an idea.  For each state, it lists a country with a similar GDP.  California produces as much as France and Texas produces as much as Canada!  Basically the states produce as much as 50 countries combined!

It would be interesting to somehow include population in the comparison too.  How does the population of California (36 million) compare to the population of France (61 million)?  So actually, the citizens of California produce twice as much per person as the country of France.

I am not saying that producing more is better!  I’m just saying that the US is a wealthy nation.  And on second thought, wealth is not the same as income.  (You can make $100K/year and be in $200K debt or you can make $50K a year and have a million to your name.)  So the US makes a lot of money would probably be a more accurate way of putting it.  We spend a lot too.

Bill Gates’ thoughts on why we don’t give more to charity: we don’t know what to do

Bill Gates’ graduation speech at Harvard is well worth reading.  He uses it as a call to arms.  As his mother said, "From those to whom much is given, much is expected."  We all need to work on the world’s inequalities.  In his opinion the biggest obstacle to giving is complexity, "To turn caring into action, we need to see a problem, see a solution, and see the impact" and we can’t see the solution and when we do we don’t measure the impact.  It’s not that we don’t want to help the dying children of the world – we just don’t know how to save them.

Market forces aren’t going to solve the world’s inequalities – we have to do it.

So we began our work in the same way anyone here would begin it.   We asked:  "How could the world let these children die?"

The answer is simple, and harsh. The market did not
reward saving the lives of these children, and governments did not
subsidize it. So the children died because their mothers and their
fathers had no power in the market and no voice in the system.

His advice is to spend a few hours every week learning about a problem, meeting others who want to fix it and working on solutions.  So – go save the world! 

Why don’t people give more to charities? Part II: Values

Yesterday I wrote about how one of the reasons people don’t give more to charities is because they don’t know the people personally.  I think another very real reason is that it’s hard to give aid to people whose values don’t match yours.  I know people that could very much use some help – or at least help with the things I value – but I wouldn’t help them because I think they are spending what they have on things that aren’t important.  For example, here are some stories from individuals I know personally:

  • Can’t afford insurance but bought a $225 chihuahua puppy,
  • Can’t afford to send their kids to preschool but pays twice the market rate in rent to live in a really nice place,
  • Complains about not having enough money for baby formula but owns a big screen TV,
  • Talks about how they can’t afford a car while holding a Starbucks cup.

(And don’t tell me they deserve all the nice things!  I’m sure they do but when you have to make trade-offs because you don’t have enough money, do you choose a TV or food for your baby?)  I want to give them financial education but who’s to say that my values are better than theirs?

P.S.  I should also note that none of the above people asked me for any money!  So this is all a theoretical debate.

Why don’t people give more to charities?

This quote from Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, really hit home for me.

The obstacle is that poverty is often not personal. If your next-door neighbor’s child was dying and you
could save her for $100, you wouldn’t think twice. But a child 10,000 miles
away whom you have never met, that’s just different.
About 29,000 kids die every day of preventable causes–29,000! These kids
have names and faces, hopes and dreams. Their parents love them as much as
we love our kids. We’ve got to make poverty personal.

"It’s not personal" is the reason people don’t give more and it’s probably the reason they are racist or demeaning to minorities as well.  I know that having friends from many walks of life has really helped me understand the world better.

The Changing American Dream: Generations and Values

I’ve always been fascinated by the difference in generations. Generations at Work held so true to me that I recommended it to many friends.  This blog article talks about how the American Dream varies over the generations.  According to the article, Generation X and Generation Y value time, family and personal development way above money.  It rang really true to me! 

The article is about how those changes in values are changing the work place.  People are getting new jobs every two years, dropping lucrative careers to spend time with the family and much less willing to work 60 hour work weeks.  All of this is helping family and personal development:

We are
spending more time with our kids, and we are keeping our marriages
together more than twice as effectively
as our parents did. And Generation Y is doing better than their
parents, too: They refuse to waste their time on meaningless entry
level work because they value their time and their ability to grow more
than that.

Generation X values family more than money (and distrusts large corporations to take care of them) – Generation Y has taken it one step further and they are developing themselves.  Building a personal brand.  Every Generation Y’er I’ve ever interviewed has impressed me to
no end about all the things they’ve done – on their own.   And the rest of us are learning from them – just check out all those blogs!