5 Things My Mom Taught Me About Organizing and Productivity

Depositphotos_25892317_l-2015 thanksmomHappy Mother’s Day to all of you wonderfully inspiring moms!

You remember those sayings, demands, chores, urgings and advisories from mom?! You know those things that it took you almost a lifetime to realize where actually life lessons and values intended to make you the best person ever. I’ve lived a little and thought it would be fun idea for this holiday to reflect on what my mom taught me.  When thinking about specifics to include for this article I texted my mom and asked “what did you try to teach us that connects to this topic”?  Her responses are the first 2 🙂

1. Have a place for stuff and put it there…

Yes this one often received an “uh Mooooom” or blank stare but it is absolutely true. Defining where things belong helps you find them and return them much easier and faster.   This is especially applicable with multi-user spaces.

2. Finish what you start; Keep the commitment you signed up for. If you don’t like it you don’t have to do it again but get through the process.

Okay. I have become much more of a big picture person that in the past but realizing that the planning and follow through required after making a decision were so important to my learning and sense of achievement.

A productivity point that also comes to mind is doing the hard things first. If we can get past the activities that seem so big, we gain a huge boost of confidence.  Then what comes after is much easier to complete.

3. Clean your room.

In organizing this is one of the most common challenges people face- maintaining the order that is established. Did it seem like you heard this every day too?  It’s interesting that this now makes me think about organizing space styles.  My definition of clean was not necessarily the same as hers.  Now we have tools like the Time and Space Style Inventory (link to page) to find out what makes sense for the user of the space.  With that knowledge we can help the systems and the maintenance routine match the person.

And yes I do make my bed every day now.

4. Be happy with what you have.

You couldn’t control what anyone else had- As a kid not even what you had. But you could control how you looked at it. Gratitude  and perspective are much more openly discussed today than they were in the past.  We also practice more consumption and comparison today.  We want the latest and greatest that our friend has without much regard for what we really need. If we can take a step back to a simpler definition of life and happiness, it will have an impact on the volume of unused things we have around us.

5. Come back before the street lights come on.

As a military kid there was a layer of protection around the community that afforded us some freedom of movement. So at times I could stay out later but she always had to know where I was.  The street lights just served as a boundary on my behavior and strategy to plan her time.  She clearly stated the expectation and there were consequences when I overstepped.  This boundary allowed her to continue managing the household without overextending wondering where I was or when I’d be back.  What boundaries do you set for yourself and others? Are you able to balance time for play, self care, and readiness for the upcoming day? Do you instill confidence and trust through your behavior? When a situation arises that is beyond your boundary how do you recover?

These may seem like very simple examples yet in each there is a lesson that I didn’t realize I was getting at the time. As I look at the person I have become and the work that I do,  it’s so easy to identify the organizing and productivity tips mom shared all throughout my life. 

What did you learn from your mom? How is it showing up in your life today? Share with a comment below.

Happy Organizing!



Uh- It Costs How Much?!

confused man Do you know the price of your distractions and mental clutter?

Less than 5 minutes of multitasking last week cost me $44.99 plus tax.   That’s $9 per minute and $540 per hour!  When I thought back to how this happened it was all due to a crazy hectic week and trying to do/ think about too many things at once, you know– multitasking.  I went on autopilot for a very short series of tasks I perform each month while my mind churned away at what was next and I half-way listened to someone on the phone.  Little did I know I’d set myself up to spend an hour trying to find something, which I knew had to be somewhere, only to end up back at the store making a repeat purchase.   I could have prevented this with a few simple steps.

1. Slow down and breathe 

Most tasks are not a timed race.  Slowing down just a bit can help you feel more focused and snap you back into the present. 

2. Get it out 

Grab your notepad and do a brain dump of everything you think you have to do right now.  Then prioritize the list taking into account the true importance of the task along with your time and energy constraints.

3. Single- task

You may have a lot to do but that doesn’t mean you need to do it all at the same time.  Focus on one thing at a time: Do it right, knock it off the list, go on to the next one.

4. Set boundaries for distractions  

In my case I could have let the phone go to voicemail while I finished what I’d already started.  Today work, play, friends, family, communication, devices, etc all mixes together to create ongoing overwhelm and a false sense of urgency.    

Often times we rely on habit to complete the routine things that we do.  We assume that we can still do them even while something else is activity occupying our attention.  We also maintain the expectation that because we’ve had a lot on our minds before and still got things done we can do so now.  Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.  To be most successful, we have to give ourselves a chance to get it right most of the time.  By taking on more than we have to we are often working against our best interest and could end up paying a higher price than we expected.

Do you have an example to share on the cost of your mental clutter?