Wednesday, November 05, 2008

my moving book

This week I've been starting to plan where I will put furniture in my new apartment, and I was suddenly inspired to make notes in one of my art journals. Normally I fill the journals with thoughts, and then make images over top of the writing; I often prep several pages ahead of time with scraps of colourful paper for inspiration, as well. Flipping through the pages of this particular journal, I saw blank spots where I could sketch floor plans and make lists, and my moving book was born. Above is the first spread, where I'm trying to map out my moving day and the personnel who will help me at each end. The numbered circles indicate where everyone will be "stationed."

The next spread already had these random Post-Its pasted in, so I'm using it to make lists of supplies I need. (I'm also keeping all my lists in my BlackBerry, which goes with me everywhere, but it's great to see everything collected in the book as well.)

Then I've inserted the page I filled out for my apartment when I was conducting my apartment search. The flip side of the page (below) has the living room measurements I took the last time I was there, signing the lease.

Also included in the above spread is my one-and-only to-scale floor plan, of the living room. I wanted to know how my desk and shelves would fit in the room, and I can't wait to see the final result.

Next is my bedroom, which will be very spare, with only my bed, a small metal locker, and a couple of small dressers that I'm getting from a friend. A wooden chair, for dressing, will probably round out the furniture in that room.

On this bright orange page I've mapped out my kitchen, which is also going to be very spare; there's enough room for an eat-in table and chairs, but I think I'm going to put one of my shelving units and a wicker armchair in the empty space instead. On the right side I've planned where I will put everything on the shelves.

This is my spare room, which will be a combination library and yoga/meditation room. My bookshelves will line half the walls, and one armchair will give me a spot to read, while leaving lots of space to do yoga.

The living room is my favorite area so far. It's going to be a combination home office and studio, and my current "kitchen" table will again serve double-duty as a work table and an eating surface. (I use only non-toxic materials in my art.)

Finally, I'm in the process of mapping out where I will put things on the shelves in my living room. I'm playing the shelves and their contents here in my old apartment, so that I can try out different arrangements before my actual move. Even with all this activity going on, when someone came in to view my apartment recently, their first comment was, "You have everything very well organized."

No kidding.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

michelle is moving

I'm moving back to my hometown of London, Ontario in approximately two months. I'm sad to be leaving behind the life that I have enjoyed here in Toronto, but I'm excited by the thought of the new things that will happen to me soon.

And the professional organizer in me is chomping at the bit to get started on plans for moving. Who am I kidding? I love it all: the purging, the organizing, the packing, the moving, the unpacking, the sorting - a move is a professional organizer's heaven. Even if it's my own move. Especially if it's my own move.

I'm already excited to see if I can improve on how things went the last time I moved. In my favour is the fact that I have significantly less stuff than before - which means I have less to pack, and less to organize in my new home. It's also going to be easier for me to edit my things before packing, because nearly everything I own is currently being used in my apartment. (Last time, many of my things were stored away in boxes, so I couldn't access them easily to do a really good pre-move purge.)

My mind is already buzzing with plans, and you can be sure I'm going to hone the techniques I've learned through my work with clients and my own previous moves. (See my earlier posts on moving, here and here, for additional tips on packing and organizing.)

Expect more to come, as my moving day draws closer!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

my blackberry

(This post was originally published on my personal blog, here.)

I love my BlackBerry. If you'd told me six months ago that I would get a BlackBerry (and that I would come to feel that I couldn't live without it), I would have told you you were crazy.

I thought I knew myself well. I thought I knew what helped keep me organized, and what would drive me crazy. Turns out I was wrong.

I'm a very visual person, and I like to see everything laid out in front of me. (In an organized fasion, of course.) Don't give me directions; give me a map. Don't tell me something; write it down for me. Don't hide my schedule in binary code; give me some paper and a pencil, already.

But my BlackBerry has become one of my very favorite tools. Yes, it's addictive. (And yes, I'm kind of ambivalent about that part of it.) But it helps simplify my life so much that I'm seriously figuring out how I can afford to keep it, should I ever leave the job it came with. (BlackBerry plans are a little more expensive than those of your average mobile phone. Go figure.)

Why do I love my BlackBerry so much? It does so much - all in one tiny little package.

It's a mobile phone.

It can receive e-mails. (IT CAN RECEIVE E-MAILS!!!) That feature alone blew me away the first day I had it. No more having to log on to my computer when I want to check and see what's going on. (And a lot is going on - mostly business. Which is why I got the thing in the first place - it made sense to the organization.)

It can SEND e-mails. (IT CAN *SEND* E-MAILS!!!) How ridiculous is that? Someone needs a two-word reply on the fly? No problem! I have (dare I say this) responded to e-mails from just about anywhere: the grocery store, the health food store, restaurants, my car (no, I wasn't driving at the time, officer), my bed in the middle of the night, and the while using the toilet.

It has a web browser. I know cell phones have been able to browse for years, but this is the first time I've had a mobile plan with browsing. Brainerd and I were at a choral management conference a couple of weekends ago, and during a session on strategic planning we were able to view, right there and then, the vision and mission statements posted on the Chorale's website, and discuss some changes we needed to make to them.

It's a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant). One of my favorite features (oh, who am I kidding - they're all favorite features) is the address book, because - get this - you can click on someone's name and have the choice of phoning them (at any of their million locations), texting them, messaging them (Blackberry has its own messenger service between users) or e-mailing them. And like all PDAs, it also has a calendar/datebook and assorted sundry functions (calculator, etc.).

It's a camera. (Okay, I don't really use the camera all that much. I have a much better digital camera that I take with me almost everywhere, too. But if I WANTED to use my BlackBerry as a camera, I could. I even used it this morning, to take a photo of a sidewalk I saw during my morning walk, apparently created during Canada's centennial year.)

(1867 - 1967: Yay, Canada!)

It's a clock - and an alarm clock. My watch stopped working a couple of months ago. I haven't noticed. The BlackBerry is with me everywhere, so I always know what time it is. I only wish that it also had a timer. I mean, the alarm is kind of like a timer, except it's not. You have to set a clock time, as opposed to an elapsed time. Here's my advice to the BlackBerry people: BlackBerry people, make a BlackBerry with a proper timer. I love the ring I've set for the alarm, though - it's called ChiGong: a gentle, Tibetan bowl sound. And my ringtone for incoming calls is equally soothing - it sounds like a single chord played on a harpsichord.

It's a GPS (Global Positioning System). Took me a while to figure out how to navigate the map functions, but I still get a kick out of the device telling me exactly where I am at any given moment. Brainerd and I took a research trip to Cape Croker, ON (near Wiarton) last spring, and when we got lost on the winding country roads in the Native reserve, it could tell us exactly where we were. Sweet. The GPS can't give you directions to brand new addresses, however - which I discovered to my dismay when trying to find a friend's house in a brand new subdivision north of Toronto. Might not have helped me much, anyhow: the houses were so new they didn't even have street numbers on them, yet.

It's an mp3 player. (I haven't used that function yet, but I'm sure it's awesome. Awesome.)

My number one favorite reason I love my BlackBerry, however, is that I can create lists on it. Like shopping lists, and to do lists, and lists of my favorite inspirational quotes. I currently have 29 lists on my BlackBerry, and I add more every week. No more paper lists that I can never keep track of! I always have my BlackBerry with me, so I always have all my lists. I consult them constantly throughout the day, and especially when I'm shopping or packing for trips. My CrackBerry definitely feeds my list addiction.

Number of times I have left my BlackBerry behind in a store or business: 3

(I have a constant mantra now whenever I'm leaving a store: Do I have my BlackBerry? Where's my Blackberry?)

That's about it. I highly recommend the BlackBerry. Mine is a Curve. I've heard iPhones are pretty cool, though. May have to check those out, someday...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

the niggly stuff

I have recently been faced with a problem that I often see with my clients - the inability to get rid of the tiny, niggly little stuff that has no immediate use.

The above shot is a photo of the inside of the medicine cabinet in my bathroom. I don't own much make-up, so the three shelves are filled with essential oils, dental floss, toothpaste, bath salts and the massage oil that I add to my daily baths. I keep the oil in a beautiful glass bottle, and until recently the bottle cork was topped by a lovely wooden ball.

The wooden ball has come off.

Now, I love wood. You'll find wooden objects throughout my apartment. It pleased me to no end that my oil bottle had a wood-topped cork.

But that wooden ball is now non-functional. It's so impregnated with oil that I could never glue it back onto the cork again. (Which is probably how it came unglued in the first place.) I have no other use for it.

But could I get rid of it? Not for several weeks.

First I tried shoving it back onto the cork, hoping they would stay stuck together. Then I got irritated every time I tried to uncork the bottle and the wooden ball came off in my hand.

It's just so beautiful. How could I throw it out? Indecisive, I kept it on my medicine cabinet shelf.

I see this with organizing clients all the time. They can't make a decision, so they don't make a decision - not realizing that they have just, by default, made a decision. To keep it.

My advice? Just get rid of it. Find a good home for it if you can (reduce, reuse, recycle), but if after several days (or weeks) you find yourself paralysed by not knowing what to do with it, just get rid of it.

My wooden ball went into the garbage this morning.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

a new day

For the last several months a substantial shift has been going on in my life, and I've finally decided to let my blogs reflect it. Just over six months ago, I accepted the position of full-time Artistic Administrator for The Nathaniel Dett Chorale - a professional choir dedicated to the performance of Afrocentric music of all genres. To say my life has been turned upside-down is an understatement; this new job has taken hold of me with the passion of a calling, and yet at the same time I have been continually challenged to learn and grow as a human being, and it's not always been easy.

I'm still passionate about professional organizing - the original subject of this blog - as well as my other professional interests, for which I also created blogs: eco-friendly cleaning and consulting, freelance writing, visual art and design. Realistically, I just haven't had time to attend to everything in the months that I've been with the Chorale.

In the interests of simplifying my life (see, the professional organizing is always lurking there somewhere beneath the surface!), I'm consolidating most of my professional blogs into this one, and channelling my non-professional interests into one personal blog,

The process may take several weeks, but from now on you can expect that this blog will deal with professional organizing, eco-friendly cleaning, and other wholistic living subjects.

The drawing at the beginning of this post was created with a mug full of Crayola Twistables crayons at a pub in North Toronto this past last week. I hadn't coloured in weeks, and was inspired to create something that symbolized a new happiness unfolding in my life.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

me on tv

On Thursday and Friday of this week (March 21 and 22, 2008) I was featured in two news segments on Toronto's City TV. My colleague April Poppe and I organized and redecorated a child's bedroom in a viewer's home. Video clips can be found on the links below.

Part 1: "Before"
Part 2: "After"

My "big" interview, featuring tips on how to stay organized, is shown during the second segment. I hope to share more information on the behind-the-scenes experience soon.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

i'm going to be on city tv!

So here's the full scoop: I was approached by City TV reporter Jee-Yun Lee to be the professional organizer for a contest that City was holding. Viewers had been invited to send in photos of a room they wanted organized, and we selected a winner this past Monday, then spent all day yesterday shooting the "before" footage, including a shopping spree at (I hope I can say this before the segment airs) IKEA.

Today we're filming the work session and the "after" shots. I invited fellow Toronto professional organizer April Poppe to help me with the entire project, and we're both having a blast.

The story will air in two segments on the City TV 6 o'clock news this Thursday and Friday March 21 and 22. The ironic thing is that I don't even own a television...

p.s. The photo was taken yesterday morning in my apartment: The tools of my trade...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

the real secret to getting (and staying) organized


(Sad, but true.)

I am living it right this moment. And you know there's something wrong with your life when you look forward to being awake in the middle of the night because at least then you'll be able to get some more stuff done.

I am going to be filmed by City TV later today, and my life is suddenly insane. I am already incredibly busy with my day job as Artistic Administrator for the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, and to top it off yesterday I had a migraine. There's nothing more crazy-making than driving around with a pounding head and a queasy stomach at 7 p.m. on a Monday night trying to find a lululemon store that's open so you can buy some new yoga pants for your upcoming television appearance.

I got home and promised myself that if I went to bed at a decent hour (rather than staying up extra late to get things done), I could work in the middle of the night when my chronic insomnia woke me up. (Which it has. And I am. Working in the middle of the night, that is.)

Since 4 a.m. I have been folding and putting away dry laundry, putting away dry dishes, making my bed (I may nap on top of it later this morning, but let's face it - I am not getting back in that puppy again tonight), working on an operating budget for the Chorale and (wait for it) pressing wrinkled photocopies of a recent Chorale newspaper article that somebody gave me (and getting photocopy toner all over my iron in the process).

This is how I stay organized, folks. I'm ashamed to admit it, but these days I depend on my sleep deficit to take care of all the dirty work.

And I feel really bad about my previous blog entry (on getting things done by giving them to a busy person). Because there's such a thing as being too busy.

I just replaced all the ink cartridges in my printer/copier/fax machine (it had been out of ink for about three weeks) because I only just bought the replacement ink last night. During my lululemon search. The re-inked printer did its rumbly cleaning routine, and then spit out a single sheet of paper. I'm assuming it's the last print job I tried to do before I ran out of ink; four tiny words on a sea of white space admonish me.

The Music We Are

(Which reminds me, I need to go over my Easter choral music before the end of the week.)

To be continued...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

how to get things done

There's an old adage: If you want to get something done, ask a busy person to do it.

Sometime last fall I walked into my church choir rehearsal and the conductor (and my now-employer, Brainerd Blyden-Taylor) asked me how I did it.

Did what?

My writing... where did I find time for it all? (I guess he'd been taking a look my blogs - all six of them.)

I don't know, was my reply. I guess the real answer was that I loved doing it, and it was easy to find the time to do the things I loved.

Thinking back on it now, though, I realize that there's something to be said for momentum. It's the getting started that hampers most people - the inability to overcome the inertia of inactivity in certain areas of their lives.

I am looking forward to an insane couple of weeks. I am very busy at work with upcoming grant application deadlines, and I got a phone call late Friday afternoon from City TV wondering if I would be the professional organizer for a spring-cleaning contest they're holding right now for their viewers. If that goes ahead as planned (although knowing TV-land, there's a good chance that it might not), I am going to need a few 30-hour days just to keep pace with everything I need to get done.

The great thing about being busy, though (at least for finite periods of time - I wouldn't want this to go on indefinitely!) is that I'm already moving. As long as I can take care of the basics - getting enough sleep, nourishing food and some built-in downtime - everything else will (hopefully) fall into place.

The answer to this post's title, I guess? Give it to me... LOL

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

how to buy really green

How do you know if what you're buying is really green or not? My favorite eco-friendly consumer advocate, Debra Lynn Dadd, has written a new book that answers exactly that question. Really Green covers easy green principles that anyone can learn, to help each of us understand the kinds of things that really DO help health and the environment.

It contains all the information you need to be able to tell the difference between products with real environmental and health benefits and those with misleading green hype. In this book, you will learn:

* What "green" really means
* The true foundation for defining green products
* The life cycle of green products
* The eighteen basic principles that define what's green
* The five basic types of green products
* All about green packaging
* Various shades of green products
* The cost of green goods
* How to spot misleading "greenwashing"
* How to change your buying habits to be green

Click on this link to find out more and buy the book today!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

the story of stuff

I gave a talk last night on the subject of green organizing to the North GTA chapter of Professional Organizers in Canada. Today's post was going to be an overview of the points I covered in my talk, but then another organizing colleague of mine sent me a link that takes precedence - and actually explains - even better than I could - some of the ideas I was trying to share last night.

Check out the twenty-minute animated video on this website called The Story of Stuff. It's entertaining and extremely informative. I'll add my own two cents in a day or two...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

i have a new job

This entry was posted simultaneously on three of my blogs: an organized existence, the greener cleaner and the rest of my life.

I just found out today that I have a new full-time job: Artistic Administrator for The Nathaniel Dett Chorale, Canada's first professional choir dedicated to performing Afrocentric music of all genres. But through the mysteries of cyber-space management (and the fact that I always save several empty "draft" blog posts in each of my blogs every month), I am not actually writing this post until more than two months later - Sunday, March 16, to be exact.

I didn't write about my new job until now (March) because for most of my first two months on the job I was secretly terrified that I might be fired at any moment. It's not that I was doing a bad job... it's just that I wasn't sure I was doing a really good job. And I wasn't sure if my employer, the Chorale's Artistic Director, Brainerd Blyden-Taylor, thought I was doing a good job, either.

Can I say that I LOVE my new job, though? It's been both challenging and rewarding, and is pushing me to grow professionally and personally in so many ways. At the end of every day I am ecstatic that I get to serve the amazing musicians who can do this:

I am inspired and lifted up by this group of people. This is a very special organization that touches so many lives in a very important way.

Brainerd and I were chatting with an arts colleague recently, and this person mentioned that her own organization had gone for several months without hiring someone for a vacant administrative position because they decided they were going to wait for just the right fit. Eventually someone walked through the door with that special aura about them that told our colleague she'd found "the one."

Later that day I asked Brainerd if he had felt the same way when he hired me - expecting him to answer in the negative (which he did). (Can I say that one of the other things I love about my new job is that I feel I can talk freely to Brainerd about almost anything?) The thing is, it wasn't obvious when I was hired that I possessed all the skills and experience needed to do this job well. Brainerd had made a list several months earlier, though - a list of all the qualities that he wanted in his future administrative head. And the longer I'm at this job, the more he is realizing that I have most of those qualities.

How many jobs have you had where you've felt you were the answer to someone's prayer? It's pretty sweet...

I'm still doing organizing and eco-friendly consulting on the side, but I'm pretty selective with the clients I take on now. Feel free to contact me about a project you'd like help with, and if I can't do it myself, I will refer you to someone I can.

(And don't be afraid to hold out for "the one" while you're at it...)