Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Clean Closets. Good Cause. Green City.

Finally, I received a genuinely exciting piece of snail mail. At first sight, I had my doubts. It was generically addressed to “Resident” (aka dreaded junk mail), but I gave it a second look and couldn’t be happier.  My former employer, the City of New York has launched re-fashioNYC through a partnership with Housing Works

Like the mail piece said:  Do you want to clean your closets for a good cause and a green city from the convenience of your own building?  Ummm, yes please!

Basically, the partnership will make donating clothes, plus towels, blankets, curtains, shoes, handbags, belts, and other textiles and apparel as easy as possible through a convenient in-building drop-off service. So, this means no more holding on to those acid wash jeans! Wait, are acid wash jeans back in style?  I can’t keep up.

If you live in a building with more than 10 units, your building owner or manager can fill out an application for a bin to be placed in your building.  Not a building manager? Don't worry! Click here to have an invitation letter from re-fashioNYC sent to your building manager to encourage them to sign-up.

And even better, the program is at no cost to the buildings or taxpayers.  It’s self-funded through the sale of what’s donated.  Love it.

If you can’t wait the estimated three months it might take to get your bin placement, visit this site to find locations where you can donate goods.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Four Steps to an Organized Trip


Memorial Day weekend is almost here, which means the summer travel season is upon us. Between my day job organizing New Yorkers and my weekends at the beach, weddings, a trip home to Texas, and hopefully a girls getaway in August, this is shaping up to be a busy summer. 

Sometimes it can feel like you’re living out of a suitcase. But no worries, because I have some tips to organize your travel this summer. This week, I’m giving you a step-by-step guide to create an organized trip file. No more last minute scrambling to find your flight confirmation number!

Step One
As soon as a trip is booked, label a file folder with the name and dates of your upcoming travel. As you book flights, rental cars, and hotels, print the confirmations and drop them in the file.  You’ll also want to include:
  • Trip insurance confirmation
  • Ground transportation confirmation (trains, car service, etc.)
  • Restaurants to hit
  • Sites to see
  • Maps
  • Interesting articles about your destination
  • Travel books
  • Contact information for friends you’ll visit

Step Two
Schedule time on your calendar, about one week before your trip, to organize your trip file and take care of last minute planning. Depending on the length of your trip, block out about an hour of time. 

Step Three
During your organizing session, create additional file folders for:  Air Travel, Ground Transportation, Lodging, Restaurants, Sites, and Vital Documents.  Keep in mind you can reuse these folders. 

Next, file the documents you’ve assembled (see above) into their respective folders.  Then, insert all your file folders into a must-have travel product, the Barcelona Document Bag.  All your travel documents will be in one place and labeled by topic for easy access.  Plus, the bag lays flat in your suitcase and comes in bright colors so you can easily find it. 

Before you conclude your fun-filled organizing session, you’ll want to be sure to:
  • Copy your family’s passports or visas, drivers’ licenses, car insurance (road trip!), and credit card information. File the information in the Vital Documents folder. Or scan the information and send it to your web-based email account so you can access it anywhere.
  • Email your itinerary and contact information to a friend or family member so someone knows where you are at all times.
  • Print out any driving directions you might need.
  • Copy pages from travel books with interesting information. Don’t carry the whole book. They take up too much space and are way too heavy.
  • Include a pen and notepad for planning daily itineraries or other notes you might want to take along the way.

Step Four
Have a wonderful trip!  Safe travels.

Where are you heading for Memorial Day weekend?  I’d love to know!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Top Five Time Sucks


For four days down in the islands last weekend, I did something completely crazy.  I didn’t wear a watch, follow a schedule, or even check email, Facebook, or Twitter.  And it was fantastic.  My most critical decision each day was whether to hit the pool or the beach.

Of course, I realize this isn’t actually possible in everyday life, but for a few days, I cleared my mind and truly relaxed.  It also got me thinking about how hard managing your time is when your organizational skills are lacking.   

So this week, I wanted to share with you the top five time sucks and how to avoid them.

1. Working without a To Do list.  You spend more time figuring out what to do or completing nonessential tasks than doing real work.  Keep a long-term “master” To Do list, a weekly To Do list, and each evening, quickly jot down the tasks you want to complete the next day.  You’ll arrive at the office each morning focused and knowing what you need to get done.

2. Not scheduling your tasks.  Once you have your daily To Do list, schedule those tasks into your calendar.  If you haven’t planned time to get something done, it’s not going to happen.

3. Poor logistical planning.  This is especially critical for people that are out of the office for meetings.  You know what I mean… somehow you have a 10am in midtown, a lunch all the way downtown, and another meeting in midtown in the afternoon.  Not a good use of your time.  Schedule your meetings based on location.  Then, the evening before your meetings, use this route planner to figure out the quickest way to get there.  The MTA isn’t always the most reliable, but their route planner somehow never fails me.

4. Constantly monitoring email and social media.  Responding to email as it comes in, especially when it’s not urgent, takes your focus away from other tasks.  Schedule time on your calendar – 10am, noon, 2pm, 4pm, and before you leave the office – to quickly review email and respond to urgent messages.  Trust me, if it’s that urgent, your boss will call you.  For all other messages, respond before you leave the office at the end of the day.  And while you’re at it, schedule time for Facebook, Twitter, and reading your favorite blogs.  Preferably during your lunch break or at the end of your day. 

5. Your office mate, Chatty Cathy.  Although she’s always ready to rehash last night’s episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County, it’s not a good use of your time.  Practice the polite exit.  Something like:  “Cathy, can we catch up around lunch? The Boss Man is hounding me about these TPS reports.” The boss is the bad guy, not you.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wedding Season Chaos

We’re heading down to the islands this week to celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary, and I couldn’t be more excited. I haven’t had a real vacation since I officially launched Urban Simplicity in January, so I’m looking forward to a much- needed break. 

As I prepped for the trip, I considered giving you tips related to stress free travel, but this week I have something else on my mind…

Our save the date

My husband is going to kill me for including this...

Another photo from the reception

It’s officially wedding season! And just last week, I had two meetings with brides-to-be. I met with a fabulous nutrition coach, Sarah Jenks with The Breathtaking Bride. As we chatted about ways we could possibly work together, I had a flashback to the chaos a wedding brings. Later that week, I reconnected with a lovely friend who is getting married next May. She is a busy and successful attorney, which got me to remembering how hard it is to organize a wedding while working full-time (plus). 

I’m not talking about picking out flowers and favors. I’m talking about the life chaos. You know, the influx of registry items and other gifts into your home, the merging of two households, the rapidly growing To Do list, and the general chaos that accompanies change. 

So this week, I want to send a big congratulations to all those brides-to-be out there.  I survived planning a destination wedding for over 70 guests (in a four month time frame, no less), so I definitely know what you’re going through.  Now with one year of marriage under my belt, I want to remind you to enjoy every minute of your engagement and wedding planning.

Tracking your wedding gifts
Check out this case study about my work with a couple engaged to be married. Scroll down to the "Life" section on the web page. I’m betting you’ll identify with their struggles!

Now, I’m headed out to enjoy one of the best perks of marriage – the anniversary trip!  Don’t worry, I’ll drink a rum punch for you.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

USA! USA! USA!

If you’re anything like me, you’re feeling a bit more patriotic than usual right about now.  I’m so in awe of the Navy SEALS and other members of the military and CIA that had a hand in bringing down Osama bin Laden. Somehow, I just didn’t feel like writing the usual post about organizing your sock drawer (only half kidding).

So this week, consider giving back to those folks that protect our freedom and keep us safe. Last fall, at a National Association of Professional Organizers, New York chapter meeting, I met Debra Menich, Donations Program Director, with the Vietnam Veterans of America. Debra gave a wonderful presentation about how the charity works.  Basically, VVA is a national service organization primarily serving the needs of Vietnam veterans. One source of funding for the organization is through the resale of donated household items, including:
  • Clothing of all types and sizes
  • Shoes
  • Baby items
  • Glassware
  • Books, toys, bikes
  • Stereos, radios, portable televisions
  • All bedding, draperies, curtains
  • Kitchenware
  • Usable small furniture and rugs
  • Small appliances
  • Tools
  • Jewelry and cosmetics
  • Basically everything!
The only things they don’t accept are large furniture and mattresses.  And I love the fact that one hundred percent of everything donated is either re-sold through qualified retailers across the country or recycled.

To find a service area near you, click here. To schedule a pick-up, call 301-585-4000 (nationally) or 212-957-8387 in the New York City area. Or you can schedule a pick-up online here.

I can’t think of a better way to clear some of the clutter in your home or office, and show your appreciation for veterans that have given so much to us.