Thursday, July 26, 2012

Back to School: Setting Up a Study Zone

Before school starts, set up a study zone with your student. Let him handle his new materials. Let him enjoy and help decide on his space. Make it a positive experience.

Determine where the zone will be located. Some children study well in a quiet area away from distraction. Others do better when other people are nearby. Some can work well by themselves but need background noise. Find an area that works best for your child. Be consistent on this study area.

Determine what will go into the zone to make studying as easy as possible. You don't want your child to finally get started on his studies only to find he needs to stop and locate something he needs. Standard items like pencils/pens, sharpener, paper, stapler/staples, paper clips, tape, glue, bookmark, timer/clock, reference books and computer should be at hand. If the study area is a shared area - i.e. dining table, den, your office - containerize the supplies into a basket or bin that can be put away in a nearby designated area once the study is complete. It is important that wherever his place of study, he should not be interrupted during his designated study time.

A calendar should be available to visually track long term assignments and non-school events that will cut into study time. Some projects have several deadlines to track. Some subjects like math or spelling might need work every school night but other subjects may only need work once or twice a week. Put on the calendar the weekly study schedule. Your child might have some nights that he reads and studies alone. Other nights he might need drill from a parent. He might also need times that he studies with a study partner. The calendar can help the student plan what to study, when to study, with whom to study, and how long to study.

Organization and consistency should cut down on homework hassles.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Books: How many is too many?

After : bookcase

Before: Bookcase
I have long prided myself that I only kept as many books as I had spaces to store them. My bookcases were my containers and if they got full, I got rid of less favored books.

Then it was pointed out to  me that it really wasn't that great to have my bookcases so crowded. Spaces that are completely full block the flow of "chi" (vital energy). Full bookcases block the flow of new information and knowledge. You can believe in Feng Shui or not but I will tell you that decluttering my bookcase helped me to have breathing room in my office and lightened up the atmosphere in the office.

I started thinking about why I have kept my books for so long. I came up with the following list:
  1. I haven't read the book yet.
  2. It was given to me be a friend or relative.
  3. It was signed by the author.
  4. It was a book that I referred back to for information or ideas.
  5. It was a book I wanted to have on hand for guests to read.
  6. I had fond memories attached to the book.
  7. I might want to read it to a grandchild.
  8. It was expensive. 
Then I came up with reasons I could let the books go or reasons why I really want to hang on to the books.
  1. If I haven't read the book after several years, I'm not likely to want to read it now.
  2. My books are not equated to liking friends and relatives. My friends and relatives won't care if I give the book away.
  3. If the book was inscribed to me and I was fond of the author, I would keep it. If it just had the signature  - so what? - let it go.
  4. If it's a book I refer back to often, I'll keep it.
  5. I will chose 5 books of various genres for guests to read.
  6. If a book has fond memories associated with it, I'll keep it. There aren't that many.
  7. I don't have grandchildren and this is not likely to change.
  8. It was expensive but so is the prime real estate that it is taking up. The book can go.
 Do you crowd your bookcases? Do you even have books stacked on top and on the floor? Are you really caring for and honoring those books? Think about it and share a comment.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Focus Tool - Your Timer

All of us have difficulty focusing on a task or project at some time or another. Some have difficulty holding that focus most of the time.

One trick I have learned while working with my clients is to use a timer.

Project Completion Challenge:
  • Decide what project you want to accomplish. If it is a large project, break it down into smaller components.
  • Set your timer. Some people set it for 10 minutes or even less. Others set it for 15 - 20 minutes. Let your attention span be your guide.
  • Start your first task.
  • When the timer rings, stop.
  • Ask yourself, "What am I doing right at this moment? Is it moving me forward on my task?"
  • If what you were doing was moving you forward, give yourself an "Atta, boy."
  • If what you were doing was not moving you forward, refocus yourself now.
  • Reset your timer and repeat until the task is complete or your allotted time to work on this project is up.
Some people post the task they are currently tackling on an index card or a piece of paper. That way they can glance up at it any time.

The next time you find your focus wandering, give this focus tool a try.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Thursday, July 5, 2012

10 Steps to an Organized Home

10 Steps to an Organized Home:

1. Divide your home into zones. Chose one zone to organize each month. Write the zone at the top of your monthly calendar; i.e., January-office, February-spare bedroom, March-living room.

2. Check in with your motivation for wanting to organize that area or zone. What organizational issues in that area are bothering you and why? What do you want to change?

3. Create a vision for the chosen zone. How do you want this area to look and how do you want to feel when you are in this area? Be very specific.

4. Put a date on the calendar for the completion of the project. This will become your "due" date.

5. Brainstorm all that has to happen to make the vision come true. Put down everything you can think of no matter how small or outlandish. This list will be modified later.

6. Write concrete goals for the project. You have a vision and a possible "to do" list. Developing written goals is your commitment. Write your goals so that they are positive, consistent with your vision, specific, measurable, reasonable yet challenging.

7. Revisit your brainstorm list and chose the items that you will implement to complete your vision by your due date. Pick out tasks that make sense and are doable this time around.

8. Organize the tasks on your list in a logical sequence. Put dates by each task. This is your timeline. Write  on your calendar when you plan to "do" each task.

9. Develop a maintenance plan to keep this zone organized. You have completed the project and your vision is realized. You want to keep it that way. Next year you can revisit the vision and do reorganization if necessary. In the meantime, put dates on your calendar to maintain what you have accomplished this time around.

10. Your project is complete. Celebrate!

For more details on how to organize your home, purchase my book From Vision to Victory: A Workbook For Finding a Simple Path to an Organized Home. The book is for sale on my website (

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer