How To Organize Your Kitchen: 4 Simple Steps

Posted December 18th, 2014 by Kelly Jayne McCann and filed in Home and Family, Organizing and Decluttering

Whether you cook every day or only occasionally, the kitchen is the hub of most households. When your kitchen is well organized, the entire house functions more efficiently. Streamlining your kitchen is a time investment that will yield an excellent return. Here is a simple four step process to declutter and organize any kitchen.

Step 1: Clean out your cabinets, pantry and drawers.
You don’t have to do this in one fell swoop, you can break this step into smaller ones. Begin by creating as much open surface area as possible, you will use this space for sorting.

As you create the open surface area remove anything that clearly does not belong in the kitchen. Perhaps there are toys, tools, or books. The kitchen is often the landing place for items that belong elsewhere. It’s positively uncanny how this room seems to attract all kinds of non-kitchen stuff (some of my clients wonder if there isn’t a magnetic force field in play).

To keep counter clutter in check, you can put designate a container to collect all the miscellaneous items that tend to land on counters. Then schedule five minutes once a week to re-home those items. This will help eliminate all that visual clutter. I use a basket that coordinates with my kitchen decor, so it looks like it belongs.

Now you are ready to remove everything from your cabinets, drawers and pantry. As you remove things, start sorting the items into categories, grouping like items together.

Step 2: Cull, and purge the excess.
As you group things together you will be able to see exactly what you have. Let go of the things that you have not used in the last six months and don’t have a concrete plan for using in the next six.

Typical unused items in a kitchen might be bread-making machines, specialty baking pans, rotisseries or deep fryers. If one of these items was a gift and you thanked the giver, you have no further obligation to the item, let it go. If you bought the item yourself and haven’t used it, don’t berate yourself up for a bad purchase. Absorb the lesson, realize good intentions sometimes don’t go as planned and let the item go.

If you have multiples, and people so often do, choose the best of the bunch and let the others go. There is no point in owning six vegetable peelers. Multiples take up valuable space and make finding just what you need more difficult. If you have to sort through a crowded drawer to find the one peeler you wanted, you will waste time, become frustrated and possibly injure yourself (I have seen it happen). Two of an item is generally the maximum any household needs. You should be able to look in a drawer or cabinet and not be overwhelmed with visual stimuli, you should be able to clearly see each item. Keep only the items you need and use.

Step 3: Rethink where things should go.
How To Organize Your KitchenMake ease of access the driving criteria. Think about how you use your kitchen. Store frequently used objects in easy-to-reach locations (e.g., keep coffee mugs above the coffee pot). Items used less frequently, such as roasting pans, should be stored on a high shelf or in the back of a cabinet. Items that are used less than once or twice a year can be stored outside the kitchen and should be if space is an issue. Overcrowding your cabinets and drawers is a sure fire method for attracting frustration.

Take advantage of the kitchen triangle. It’s the triangular area you can create from your sink to your refrigerator, and from your refrigerator to your stove. It is the most valuable space in your kitchen. Think of it as prime culinary real estate. Within this triangle you should keep the items you use on a daily basis for food preparation and cooking.

Take your family’s special needs into account. If you make sandwiches regularly, consider putting a small tote bin in the refrigerator to hold all the condiments you normally use, instead of storing them in the door as is common. You will be able to grab the bin in one quick move, sparing yourself the where’s the mustard question.

Step 4: Adopt the ETE habit.
ETE stand for Eliminate the Evidence. It’s a habit worth embracing. ETE simply means you pick up and/or put away as you go. Don’t wait until later. If you make a sandwich – put away the fixings and wipe down the counter. Then eat your sandwich, put you plate in the dishwasher, and no one will know you were even in the kitchen.

ETE can help you keep the rest of the house under control too. If you just pick up an put away as you go, you will never have to endure a marathon cleaning session again.

Like all new habits it will take some effort to integrate into daily life, but when you see the results you will wonder why you didn’t do this sooner.

*Photo credit: Kyle Smith

How To Say No Gracefully & Without Feeling Guilty

One of the biggest causes of overwhelm is having too much to do. Now I know that’s not a brilliant revelation, but did you know you have the power reduce your overwhelm with just one little sentence? Indeed, you do. That sentence is NO. It’s short, simple and to the point.

But just because something is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy to implement.

So the big question then is why is it so challenging to say no? Most likely because we are not practiced at it – yes, is far too often our default answer. It’s especially true for women. Most of us are hard wired to please others – we hate to disappoint (how lucky are we!?). But it isn’t wise, and it’s definitely not healthy, to say yes to every request. Saying yes when you want to say no will send you to the land of resentment on the express train.

So, what can we do to regain some balance. We can learn how to say no graciously. And we can let go of the associated guilt. FYI – there is no reason to feel guilty for not being able to accommodate every ask – when you protect your time and resources, you are actually modeling behavior that will empower others to the same. So really, you are being rather noble.

Here are four tips to help you learn how to say no effectively – gracefully, graciously and without guilt!

Simplify Your Life By Choosing Quality Over Quantity

One of the most challenging aspects of getting organized is controlling clutter.  One obvious way to control clutter is to stop it before it enters our lives. In theory, that should be easy. After all, if we don’t need something why would we let it into our lives to begin with?

There are many reasons, but one of the biggies is that we live in a culture that emphasizes quantity. Super sizes, multi-packs, buy one get one deals – there’s a ton of focus on having more. It’s hard to resist saying yes to more, even when or perhaps despite that fact that we don’t need more of whatever it is.

Simplify Your Life - Stop Clutter

However, that doesn’t mean we should just give up.  Listen in as I share my super simple technique for saying no to what I don’t really need. And then let me know what you think.

 

Be More Organized – 4 Super Simple Organizing Projects

Posted December 2nd, 2014 by Kelly Jayne McCann and filed in Home and Family, Organizing and Decluttering

Do you wish you could be more organized? Do you feel like it takes too much time to get organized? If you answered yes, you have loads of company. It’s a universal issue – people want to get organized, but don’t really think they can unless they spend hours doing it. I don’t want to sound like a know-it-all, but if you think the same way you’re misguided. You can get organized quickly, and you can do it right now. Seriously, you can. Here are four ways to be get organized fast. (Prefer to watch instead of read? You can find the video version here on YouTube).

Be More Organized - 4 Simple Organizing Projects

Create A Launching Pad
This means choosing a single location to hold the things you need to grab when you leave the house. Maybe it’s just your keys. Maybe it’s more. For me it’s my purse, cell phone, keys and sunglasses. When I come into the house, I place those four items in a basket by the door. I don’t even have to think about it because it’s now a habit. What’s better, I never have to search out those items and that is a huge time saver. If I know I need to take something more with me, I place it in the basket as soon as I think of it. Sometimes it’s an item that needs to be returned, sometimes it’s a coupon I want to use. You know that nagging feeling that you are forgetting something when you leave the house? Having a launching pad stops that cold.

Contain Your Paper 
Choose a single collection point for all incoming paper – do this and you’ll never have to spend time looking for stray papers. All paper, no matter the source, should land here. Choose a location that is convenient and feels natural. Work with any habit you already have in place. For example, if papers normally land on your kitchen counter, you should choose to dedicate a section of the counter to paper. Once you’ve chosen the location, add a container – this is crucial because containerizing is what stops paper from overtaking surfaces and getting lost in the shuffle.

Eliminate The Evidence
This another way of saying clean and clear as you go. If you take something out, put it away as soon as you are done with it. This applies to all the ‘things’ in your life. Clothes, food, crafts, books – whatever it is put it back where it belongs as soon as you are done using it. It’s simple and straight forward. And it saves loads of time in the long run. Imagine how much more orderly your home would stay if everyone in your household practiced just this one principle. Don’t worry about your current condition, you can start this process right now and it will make a huge difference.

Stage Your Tomorrow
Get your family in the habit of laying out their clothes for next day the night before. This means having shoes and outerwear are all set, as well as the actual outfit. This will save frantic searches for a missing articles, like shoes and mittens. Also, have everyone gather the stuff that needs to leave the house with them. This means backpacks get packed and sports paraphernalia gets gathered. Cell phones, briefcases, purses and keys are ready to launch too – you set up a launching pad, right? This practice of thinking about what the next holds means you can prepare in a deliberate way and you’ll go off to bed with peace of mind.

None of these suggestions require big blocks of time and you don’t have to do anything before you can start implementing them. Even if you choose just one to follow you will be more organized. Here’s a warning – if you use all four you might just find yourself with some unexpected free time!

If clutter has you down, consider checking out The Clutter Challenge – a free program to help you get clutter under control in just 10 minutes a week (really).

How To Make New Year’s Resolutions Stick

The New Year is almost here and resolutions will be made. Change is on the horizon. We’re on the cusp of a new reality – woo! hoo! Sounds exciting and rewarding, right? Wrong. At least it will be wrong for most people. Only about eight percent of resolutions made will ever be realized. While that’s sad, it’s not unexpected. Most people put more thought into deciding what kind of pizza to order than they do in setting resolutions. So, if you are serious about creating change this year, here’s what you need to know…..

How to make resolutions stick - 3 tipsThree critical elements for are needed for making resolutions that stick. The first is true desire – you must have an authentic, obstacles-be-damned, lusting ambition to make your resolution a reality. It cannot be something you think you ‘should’ do. And it can’t be something someone else wants you do – it must be something you truly want. Yes – you! Not your husband, not your wife, and definitely not your mother. Resolutions made to please other people mean you’re in for a big ‘ole heaping portion of resentment! With a side of failure to boot. This is no time for people pleasing – resolutions are for you. They might benefit those around you, but they’ve got to be yours to start.

Once you’ve figured out what you want, you need to define why you want to make it happen – again this must why YOU want it to happen, not why you think you ‘should’ want it happen ( I loathe ‘shoulds’ – they just suck the joy out of life). There is a fine but very important distinction here. You need to be crystal clear on what your motivation really is.

Let me explain this a bit – let’s suppose you are one of the many people who have decided you’ll resolve to workout more often. Why do you want to do that? Lots of people are going to say it’s for health reasons. And for some of them that may be true. But for a lot of people being healthy is just not going to cut it as a primary motivating factor. For a lot of people, looking good is what they really want. They want to feel sexy, fit into skinny jeans, or rock a a little black dress at their college reunion. Despite the fact that we are a looks obsessed society (ugh), most people aren’t going to fess up to wanting to look good, because they feel it would too vain to admit that’s why they’re going hit the gym. And that means they never get in touch with their real motivation, which is a huge mistake. Be honest with yourself about why you want to make your resolution a reality and you’ll exponentially increase your chance of success.

If you are going to be one of the eight percent who are successful in achieving your resolutions you must get crystal clear on your why. Because when the going gets tough, it’s your why that will motivate you. If your why isn’t absolutely compelling you’ll be out of luck, so dig down and get clear on why you want you want you want. This is no time for bs-ing yourself (truth: there is never a time for that).

FYI – The easiest way to gain clarity is by creating a vision statement – it’s easy to do, it’s fun and you wind up with an incredibly powerful tool. If you need help with this feel free to be in touch. I’ll send you a how-to.

I said there were three critical elements – we’ve covered two – the what and the why. The third critical element is the plan. Yup – you need a plan. Without a plan you’re going nowhere fast. A plan is your map – it will guide you to success. After all, you’re going to place a you’ve never been, so directions are going to a big deal. Without them the journey is going to be a toughie. Here’s a quick guide to get you in a planning mindset:   Five Steps To Reach Your Goals.

Let’s make 2015 one to remember! And if you feel like you might want a little more guidance – check out the Less Stress, More Joy – Create a Life You Love Workshop - it’s an expert guided online workshop that will help you clarify your goals and reach them quicker than you ever imagined, plus you’ll learn how to clear the clutter  and create room for what truly matters.

How To Make The Holidays More Enjoyable

Posted November 29th, 2014 by Kelly Jayne McCann and filed in Home and Family, Stress Reduction and Happiness

The holidays are upon us – Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve – they are just about here. But it’s not too late to take action and make this year the best holiday season yet. Here are four things you can do right now to reduce stress and create family harmony.

5 Tips To Manage Holiday Stress

Posted November 29th, 2014 by Kelly Jayne McCann and filed in Home and Family, Stress Reduction and Happiness

The holidays, especially Christmas, can bring on stress. So here are five super simple things you can do to reduce stress and be more relaxed this season. Nothing fancy, just good common sense reminders, because it’s so easy to forget to practice these ideas these when the normal hustle and bustle turns to frenzy.

How To Get Things Done When You Feel Overwhelmed (even if you are stuck in the muck!)

Do you wonder why you never seem to get anything substantial done, even though you feel like you are go-go-going all the time? Do you often wonder how you will ever get through your to-do list? Do you feel frustrated?  Maybe even stuck?

If this sounds familiar, chances are you are suffering from a case of overwhelm. I have written frequently about overwhelm and how to work through it. I suppose I have written so frequently about it because it continues to be a huge issue for people

As a professional organizer and productivity consultant, I am predisposed to seeing people in a state of overwhelm, often accompanied by a level of paralysis. My clients usually have so much to do that they just flat out get stuck in a place of go nowhere busyness. Sounds a little contradictory, doesn’t it? How can you go nowhere if you are busy?

It’s actually quite easy – being busy doesn’t mean you’re being productive. Overwhelmed people may be busy, but their efforts won’t be rewarded because they aren’t producing results.

They often jump from task to task, never actually taking action, just pondering all they have to do. They may pick up the same piece of paper several times, never really processing what action is needed, just looking at it glazed eyed and weary.

They usually come to me saying something like this: ‘I just don’t have enough time to do all I need to. If only I had more time, then I could get it done for sure.’I love it when they say that, because I get to deliver the good news: It’s not time that’s lacking, it’s the prudent use of available time that’s missing.

Truth be told, my clients don’t see this as good news. Some actually get annoyed. It’s hard for them to understand that they are contributing to the overwhelm and blocking their own productivity. But once I explain that by using one simple trick they can actually get more done in less time, they become interested in hearing what I have to say.

Here’s the simple trick – work in fifteen minute blocks. That’s it. How simple is that? Sound too easy to work? It’s not, it produces real and immediate results.

Here’s all you have to do:

How to get stuff done when you are overwhelmed.1. Choose a project. (What’s burning up your to-do list?)
2. Choose a task related to the project.
(What’s the very first step you need to take?)
3. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.
(Anyone can do anything for fifteen minutes.)
4. Work on the task.
(For real. You can totally do it!)

When the timer goes off you have two choices. Continue working on the same task or switch to a new task. Then just reset the timer and go at it again.

What I really like about this time block process is that I can see improvement after just one fifteen minute period. I use this method all the time. Knowing I am only committed to fifteen minutes makes focusing on the task at hand easy.

Plus I know that soon I will get a mini break, even it’s only to rest the clock. But what really works well for me is this – I work for three fifteen minute blocks, then when I set the timer for the fourth block I take a real break.

I can check email, grab a snack, stretch or whatever feels good. When break time is up, I am almost always ready to get back to work and start the cycle again. Why? Because I am seeing progress and getting stuff done – and that’s plenty motivating. I feel like I am kicking ass and I like that!

This time blocking method can take you from overwhelmed to in control in just fifteen minutes.

If you are struggling so much so that you don’t even have a clue what task to start on, check out this post on how to reach your goals. It outlines a technique that will help you narrow your focus; end result you will know where to put your effort. Plus there is a fun goal setting worksheet (yes, it really is a fun!). It will help you break a large goal into bite sized pieces.

How to Say No Gracefully (and without feeling guilty)

Warning! We are about to enter the high stress zone – the holidays. And there is no detour – we just have to power on through.

What’s weird is this – it’s also supposed to be the most wonderful time of year – magical and all that jazz. There should be time to relax and enjoy some downtime. At least that’s the theory. But with all the expectations this time of the year brings, finding even an inkling of balance can become way more challenging than normal. As those demands for our time and energy increase, it’s quite easy to find ourselves saying yes one minute, and seriously regretting it the next.

It’s especially true for us women. We’re are hard wired to please (how lucky are we?). We hate to disappoint (again we are  just so blessed – not!).  But it isn’t wise, and it’s definitely not healthy, to say yes to every request. Too many yeses will send you to the land of resentment. And that’s not a pretty place to visit, as a matter of fact it’s downright ugly – the ‘avert your eyes, mama’s come unhinged, and their ain’t no cure in sight’ kind of ugly.

So, what can we do to to regain some balance?

It’s simple, just start saying no. You know, that two letter sentence – the one with the N and the O. Got it?

OK, I am being more than a tad flip.

Learn How To say say No Graciously & Without Guilt

As a matter of fact, I am probably writing this as much as a reminder for myself, as I’m writing it for others.  And I know that simple  is not the same as easy –  learning how to say no takes  practice, just as mastering any skill does. But this skill is absolutely worth honing – the return on investment is huge –  you get your ticket to land of Freedom. If you’ve been there you know it’s glorious! If you haven’t, then get ready for something that will blow your mind – saying no to what you don’t want to do is positively sublime – it’s may not be better than you-know-what, but it’s about as close as you’re going to get while fully clothed ; )

Here are some tips to get you started:

Realize your time is valuable. It is just as valuable as anyone’s. Which means it’s as valuable as the person who’s making the request. If accepting that request means you have to give up something of your own, you owe it to yourself to say no. And you owe it that person. No one, at least anyone who cares about you, would want you to give up anything just so they could gain.

Evaluate the situation. Are you the only one who can take on the task? And by that I mean really, truly the only living soul – not just that you are good at it. Is it a blood pooling emergency?  If either of these are true, you’ll probably be compelled to say yes, and rightfully so. But beyond these rare exceptions, you need to take a minute (or five) and give some thought to what saying yes will mean for you. When you think about committing do you feel good? If the answer is anything short of enthusiastic Hell Yeah! Bring It On, then a no would probably best for all involved. Remember, it’s far easier to go back and say yes, than to take back a yes.

Buffer your no. No is a complete sentence, you don’t have to embellish it, but it sounds nicer when the sharp edge is taken off – just don’t take too much edge off or you may find yourself being cajoled into a yes. To buffer, preface the no with a gracious statement. ‘Thank you for thinking of of me, but I will have to say no’  is perfect. As a matter of fact you should practice this statement until it feels like you own it, especially if you want it to roll off your tongue as easily as yes. Now if you are feeling compelled to offer more in the way of an explanation, a simple ‘My schedule is just too full’ works really well.  Remember, buffering isn’t about legitimizing – don’t even go there – if you do you risk opening up loopholes that could trap you  into a yes.

Offer alternatives. But only if you’re 100% excited to do so – don’t do it out of obligation. How do I mean? Well, let’s suppose the idea of helping someone is appealing, but not in the way they have requested. For example, maybe you’ve been asked to help your niece get a job at your company – you know, the old could you grease the wheel favor.  Let’s imagine slitting your wrists sounds better than trying to make nice with the HR people.  But let’s also imagine you truly like your niece and you really want to help her. So instead you might offer to be her mentor or help her craft a kick-ass resume. Now that’s a clear win all around – right?

Get comfortable with no – embrace it, make it yours. Using it will relieve stress, free your time, and make you happier. Try it – you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. As a matter of fact I can hear the freedom bell ringing for you!

(If you want to really set yourself up for a more peaceful holiday season, be sure to pop on over  and grab The Less Stress, More Joy, Save Your Sanity Action Plan – it’s free!)

How To Fight Holiday Stress – Stop It Before It Starts

Halloween hasn’t even arrived. But guess what? Christmas is closing in fast. At least that’s what retailers want us to think. They’ve already got chocolate Santas and marshmallow snowmen front and center.

Don’t they know some us are still mourning the end of Summer? I’m even trying to convince Mother Nature to give us a few more bare leg days. There’s plenty of time before the reindeer come swooping down, right?

In theory, that’s spot on true. In fact, we’ve got weeks and weeks to go before Thanksgiving, rolls around. It’s my personal favorite – gobble, gobble, nomm, nomm! But then I love any holiday that’s food centric (or maybe I just love food, hmmm).

Anyway, Thanksgiving is the granddaddy of food holidays – it’s the BIG kahuna! Unfortunately, that means it’s fraught with anxiety for many cooks. I doubt this year will be any different. The magazines are already gearing up and doing all they can to remind us what’s on the line (and undermine our confidence).

But never fear, because they’re also promising to help us get through this day without trauma if we just follow their advice (aren’t they sweet). I have seen it all, but I think the best was the headline that read: Four Weeks to a Perfect Thanksgiving. Four weeks to prepare…seriously? The subtext is obvious – you should be going all out. More subtext – if you aren’t, you should try harder (but they’re just trying to motivate us, right?). There is even a Turkey hotline so we can make sure we’re doing it right. Ugh.

What does this all mean? The answer is painfully obvious. Expectations are going to be sky high for the balance of the year. The pressure is mounting to make us feel like we ‘should’ swing into full holiday mode – right flippin’ now!

Free Yourself From Holiday Stress - Stop it Before it StartsBut that’s the whole idea, and marketers will continue to up the ante over the coming weeks. They want people (and by that I mean women) to feel like they have to do and be everything….to everyone. Cook the perfect meal, buy the perfect gifts, decorate the perfect home, and generally attempt to be the ideal holiday hostess.

Trying to escape the onslaught of holiday marketing is an exercise in futility. No matter where we turn, we’ll will be a faced with a sense of urgency, and the pressure to do it all will be intense. Flack jacket, anyone?

So the big question is this: What can we do to prevent caving under all that pressure and stay true to our own ideals?

It’s a question worth answering, because the bottom line is this: unless we are ready with a plan to deflect the pressure, it will be way too easy to get caught up in the frenzy.

So here are four steps to take now that will help you reduce holiday stress:

1. Assess Your Situation

Has your life changed since last holiday season? If so, you may need to make some major adjustments. Now is the time to start thinking about what you might need to alter. A new family member, a relocation, an economic development; these are all things that could significantly impact how you celebrate. Begin planning for those changes now.

2. Reflect on the Past

Have you been happy with the way your past holidays played out? Did you enjoy your commitments? Did you feel too much stress? Maybe you felt like you spent more than was prudent. Perhaps you need to retire some traditions so you can welcome new ones. In any event, now is the time to get clear on what you want your holidays to look and feel like.

3. Hold a Family Meeting

Gather everyone around for a frank discussion about resources. Make it clear now about what you can and cannot afford. It’s so easy for expenses to get out of hand, and especially so during this time of the year. Talking about this early on will go a long way toward making sure no one is taken by surprise when you have to bring out that two letter word – No.

4. Share Your Plans with Family and Friends

If things have changed in any way, make sure you speak up and share the news. Be as open as possible about your plans. Maybe exchanging gifts with every family member has become too much of a burden. Whatever it is, big or little, share now so there are no awkward moments later. And don’t hesitate in voicing your desires, you may find you have plenty of company. Holding in feelings just leads to resentment – and that isn’t a jolly emotion.

(If you want to really set yourself up for a more peaceful season, be sure to pop on over  and grab The Less Stress, More Joy, Save Your Sanity Action Plan – it’s free!)