A Present for My Kids

A Present for My Kids

By, Devora Farrell Of ThisOrganized., LLC Okay, here’s a quiz question (not a joke, at least not this time) — What gives you great pleasure from your children?  If you’re like me, it’s when they’re behaving lovingly toward each other.  Whether it’s sharing a treat, or comforting a sibling for their skinned knee, or engaging in deep conversation as young adults, my eyes fill with happy tears when I witness them being there for each other. Time really does go so quickly.  One night, I’m tucking them in, the next, they’re turning out the lights downstairs before heading up to bed.  Sunrise, sunset…did you grow up with Fiddler on the Roof, too? So, what does this have to do with organizing? I have had the misfortune of watching siblings’ relationships dissolve into anger and wounded feelings.  From what?  From having to deal with their parents’ belongings after they’ve downsized or passed away.  Lots of old (not antique – antique is defined as more than 75 years old and not mass-produced, and also, only if there’s a demand for it) furniture, endless tchotchkes (yes, that little chip can make it valueless), used china, clothes (even with the tags still on, clothes purchased more than two years ago are rarely worth anything), unlabeled photos (some blurry, multiples taken at the same occasion), non-first edition books, boxes taped closed from previous relocations, even if there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with “it,” just that “it’s” not your taste.  Rarely do I see the adult children fight over things they want to have – although it certainly does happen.  More often, I...
Organizing the Blues

Organizing the Blues

By, Mrs. Devora Farrell   It happens to the best of us, some more than others.  Those days when it’s just a bit harder to get out of bed, the day’s activities punctuated by a sigh, food just doesn’t have much flavor.  If it can be tied to a specific circumstance, if it’s temporary, we are relieved.  Maybe we indulge for a few days and then move on. What if we can’t? What if it’s relentless, or lasts longer than we anticipate?  I’m not a Rabbi, but I’m a big fan of spiritual guidance.  I’m not a therapist, but I’m a big fan of therapy.  I’m not a doctor, but I’m a big fan of appropriate medication dispensed appropriately. What is your part? As is a common refrain in my columns, there is no “one size fits all,” when it comes to organizing, or to most other things.  As is another common refrain in my columns, many rough edges of life can be smoothed by a plan.  It is much harder to cobble one together during difficult days than it is in anticipation of them.  What’s the worst case scenario?  The plan does not work adequately, or perfectly, or at all.  How is that worse than not having a plan to begin with? If you’re like me, and tend toward down days (or weeks or months), there are things that I can do that help me get through them, and hopefully, shorten their duration (and sometimes, prevent them from starting).  Here’s the list I’ve come up with over the years.  The numbering is just for ease of organization, not...
Summer Simplicity

Summer Simplicity

By, Mrs. Devora Farrell Ask the Organizer   I love summer!  The longer days give me hope that I will really have time for everything I want to do, every hill I want to climb, every goal I want to achieve…and no homework.  This gap of time feels so malleable and filled with potential.  Here are some de-cluttering tips for getting the most out of this time of year. This is not the time to attack the attic or garage, unless your air conditioning extends that far Amazon is your friend. For those people who have children, take care of ordering bathing suits (I recommend 2 per child to allow for adequate air-drying time between wearings – putting them in the drier can decrease the elasticity of the fabric), swimming towels (you may be able to get away with one per family member because probably not everyone will need them simultaneously), and Croc-style pool shoes If possible, buy multiples of the same swimming towel, or at least all in the same color family so that they can all be washed/dried in the same load or two Rinse or wash bathing suits between wearings, especially if the pool is chlorinated so that the colors will be more likely to remain vibrant Keep a gallon-sized zippered plastic bag for wet bathing suits and a plastic grocery bag for wet towels in each child’s camp bag to keep other camp items from getting damp Have snacks/supper ready for the children in advance of their return home; this way, they will be more likely to eat healthfully when they return from camp famished...
To Do List…

To Do List…

Ask the Organizer By, Mrs. Devora Farrell I learned my lesson.  After too many years of To Do Lists whose lengths rivaled The Oxford English Dictionary, my daily To Do List rarely contains more than three items.  I have other ongoing lists:  Bucket List; Waiting List (see last issue’s column); Spiritual Growth List; Books to Read; Projects; Packing; and lists corresponding to particular holidays or celebrations with pragmatic tasks that I want to take care of the next time.  Those “back-up” lists are kept in a folder, to be retrieved when needed, but hidden the rest of the time. When my daily To Do List ran several pages, I constantly felt that I was falling behind, stressed (desserts spelled backwards), and not accomplishing much.  I admit that it also made me feel important, that I was needed and that I was so very busy.  Not true.  Self-worth is not determined by the amount of effort expended in a day.  Nor does such an endless list lend itself to an enjoyable day, which added together, creates an entire life. When reading a book with children, I don’t want to have my brain focused on something else.  I want to notice their changes of expression, furrowed brow, questions bubbling up to the surface.  I want to see the pages through their eyes.  When baking challah, I want to feel the sticky dough on my fingers, begging for more flour.  When folding laundry, I want to notice the clean smell of the clothing and their neat stacks.  When on a phone call, I want to truly listen to what the other person...
The Shoemaker’s Children…

The Shoemaker’s Children…

Ask the Organizer By Mrs. Devora Farrell So guess what I’ve been doing these past few weeks? No, the laundry’s already done. No, the lottery did not skew in my direction. Bzzzzz. Time’s up. I invited a Professional Organizer to help me with my office. Besides me. As much as I did not want to admit it, my office had gotten out of control. It wasn’t that I lacked the training to address it. My brain just felt like it was in a blender anytime I spent more than five minutes digging through the paper. The categories began to swirl together, with new categories announcing themselves and then disappearing once again into the maelstrom. No label maker was up to the task. My hundred or so books on organizing offered plenty of workable solutions, but I couldn’t move forward. Why not? Each person’s “stuff” goes way beyond its parameters as inanimate objects. Wha??? What made my papers insurmountable for me was the fact that they were mine. In the same way that that vase on the table is not merely a vase (“Aunt Tilly received this cut crystal bud vase as a gift from her mother-in-law for her 3rd anniversary”), my papers each had their own story (“This handwritten testimonial from a delighted client should really be posted on my website”). The challenge is that I couldn’t turn the volume down on the cacophony of stories to figure out how I wanted to sort the papers to be found later. In other words, the reason I couldn’t organize my own office successfully was because it was my own office. I needed a kind but dispassionate viewer to help me sort: someone with enough objective distance to quiet...
Open Those Windows!

Open Those Windows!

Buds are bursting, sun is dappling through new, shiny leaves, and lawns are springing to life once more. Time to vacuum cobwebs from overlooked corners, reduce-reuse-recycle unread books and unappreciated decorative items, and switch out the flannels, velour, and chenille for cotton, canvas, and silk. Inhale the fresh, lung-filling air and exhale the stale, thick, leaden detritus of seasons past. This exercise does not have to involve purchasing or acquiring. It can involve possibility and hope and change. Look around your home. What do you see that you’ve finished enjoying? What do you not wish to see again? Can your eyes rest anywhere, or is there too much visual clutter? Clear it off and start anew. Maybe now, you’re ready to see space and not feel compelled to fill it. Maybe now, you’re ready to not remove a thing, but can look at it differently, constructively, creatively. What will it be? Maybe the mess feels insurmountable, impossible, depressing. That’s okay…you haven’t yet begun. Just do one thing to make it better, or spend 15 minutes making choices, whichever is quickest. There, now you’ve started. You can do more later, or tomorrow, or next Wednesday. Forward movement, baby steps – that’s what counts. Which space to choose? Start right to left, or up to down, or the space that bothers you the most, or the one that bothers you the least. As long as you begin somewhere –somewhere you can feel the potential for success. Your spouse, your roommates, your kids – with their permission, they need the opportunities offered by “new or different” as well. It can make for great conversations. As we slide through spring towards summer, are their rooms different from last year at this time? Do...
Waiting….

Waiting….

What does waiting have to do with organizing? 1.      If you plan your waiting time well, it won’t be so frustrating. 2.      Nobody plans to wait, most people wait to plan (pithy aphorism, no?). 3.      The surprise of being forced to wait is part of what is so irritating about it. 4.      Waiting can’t be altogether eliminated; we all get stuck sometimes. When you find yourself in a waiting situation, how can you survive calmly and without resentment? 1.      Acknowledge the reality, “Oh, we get to practice waiting.” 2.      Concentrate on keeping your voice quiet, well-modulated, and with a pleasant expression on your face 3.      If children are with you, play any number of equipment-free games (e.g. “I Spy,” “I’m Going on a Picnic and Bringing…” with each person adding one item and repeating all the items said before, mental math appropriate to the age, fingerplays) 4.      Say Tehillim 5.      Write postcards to friends and family just because, or as a friend of mine does, write postcards to unknown children in an orphanage in Israel 6.      Have a small handful of mail with you to sort or respond to 7.      Take turns listing things for which you are grateful 8.      Make a grocery list 9.      Plan for the next event, holiday, or meal 10.  Build flexibility into your schedule so that you won’t be unduly stressed while waiting 11.  Keep a ziplock bag of Cheerios in your purse just in case 12.  Use hand lotion 13.  Clean the contents of your purse 14.  Write a thank you note (keep blank ones in your purse just for this occasion) – did anyone do a favor for you? Give you a nice smile? Compliment you? 15.  Quiz each child on family facts...
A Conversation with a Teenager: Not a Contradiction in Terms

A Conversation with a Teenager: Not a Contradiction in Terms

So many black garbage bags filled with assorted belongings lined my bedroom floor, that, at 16, I had to run down the hallway, take a flying leap over the doorjamb, just to land safely on my bed. Every so often, my father would enter my room, at his own risk, and gather up whatever detritus laid between his feet and the floor, stand the bags up like soldiers, and make his retreat. So, no, I wasn’t always this organized. I know I was not alone in this experience. Fortunately, it’s not genetic (or it skips a generation – my father’s desk never held fewer or more than three freshly sharpened pencils, a fountain pen, and an ink blotter). A certain young lady of my acquaintance agreed to be interviewed for her tips on keeping organized while attending high school. Let’s begin… Her room is always organized, but not always clean (most days, it is). Her desk has a shelf designated for homework supplies (textbooks, literature, pens, pencils, calculator, white-out, looseleaf paper). Her dresser divides her clothing by type and whether it’s designated for weekday or Shabbos: weekday tops, folded with a plastic folder so that everything is uniform and vertically stacked, every item easily seen. Each stack contains either long sleeve shirts or shorter sleeve shirts, with a separate pile for sweaters and a bin for shells folded into smaller squares. The closet contains uniform skirts and Shabbos clothes, divided, along with sweatshirts, jackets, vests, and dresses. Motzei Shabbos is chosen to make the week’s To Do List with tasks broken down into small increments to be able to check off items easily. Her forthcoming week...