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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A change of habit

As we face the coming new year, many of us begin thinking of the things we want to change - once and for all I'm going to stop doing xyz or this is the year I am going to finally do xyz. Change is definitely doable, you just need to be organized and have a plan...

Leo Babauta, author of, has written a terrific article on the subject. Here's the short version, I've picked out my favorite can read the long version by pasting this in your browser:

Keep it simple
Habit change is not that complicated. While the tips below will seem overwhelming, there’s really only a few things you need to know. Everything else is just helping these to become reality.

The simple steps of habit change:

1. Write down your plan.

2. Identify your triggers and replacement habits.

3. Focus on doing the replacement habits every single time the triggers happen, for about 30 days.

That’s it. We’ll talk more about each of these steps, and much more, in the cheatsheet below.

The Habit Change Cheatsheet
The following is a compilation of tips to help you change a habit. Don’t be overwhelmed — always remember the simple steps above. The rest are different ways to help you become more successful in your habit change.

1. Do just one habit at a time. Extremely important. Habit change is difficult, even with just one habit. If you do more than one habit at a time, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Keep it simple, allow yourself to focus, and give yourself the best chance for success. Btw, this is why New Year’s resolutions often fail — people try to tackle more than one change at a time.

2. Start small. The smaller the better, because habit change is difficult, and trying to take on too much is a recipe for disaster. Want to exercise? Start with just 5-10 minutes. Want to wake up earlier? Try just 10 minutes earlier for now. Or consider half habits.

3. Do a 30-day Challenge. In my experience, it takes about 30 days to change a habit, if you’re focused and consistent.

4. Write it down. Just saying you’re going to change the habit is not enough of a commitment. You need to actually write it down, on paper. Write what habit you’re going to change.

5. Make a plan. While you’re writing, also write down a plan. This will ensure you’re really prepared. The plan should include your reasons (motivations) for changing, obstacles, triggers, support buddies, and other ways you’re going to make this a success. More on each of these below.

9. Identify your triggers. What situations trigger your current habit? For the smoking habit, for example, triggers might include waking in the morning, having coffee, drinking alcohol, stressful meetings, going out with friends, driving, etc. Most habits have multiple triggers. Identify all of them and write them in your plan.

10. For every single trigger, identify a positive habit you’re going to do instead. When you first wake in the morning, instead of smoking, what will you do? What about when you get stressed? When you go out with friends? Some positive habits could include: exercise, meditation, deep breathing, organizing, decluttering, and more.

13. Become aware of self-talk. You talk to yourself, in your head, all the time — but often we’re not aware of these thoughts. Start listening. These thoughts can derail any habit change, any goal. Often they’re negative: “I can’t do this. This is too difficult. Why am I putting myself through this? How bad is this for me anyway? I’m not strong enough. I don’t have enough discipline. I suck.” It’s important to know you’re doing this.

14. Stay positive. You will have negative thoughts — the important thing is to realize when you’re having them, and push them out of your head. Squash them like a bug! Then replace them with a positive thought. “I can do this! If Leo can do it, so can I!” :)

15. Have strategies to defeat the urge. Urges are going to come — they’re inevitable, and they’re strong. But they’re also temporary, and beatable. Urges usually last about a minute or two, and they come in waves of varying strength. You just need to ride out the wave, and the urge will go away. Some strategies for making it through the urge: deep breathing, self-massage, eat some frozen grapes, take a walk, exercise, drink a glass of water, call a support buddy, post on a support forum.

20. Have rewards. Regular ones. You might see these as bribes, but actually they’re just positive feedback. Put these into your plan, along with the milestones at which you’ll receive them.

21. Take it one urge at a time. Often we’re told to take it one day at a time — which is good advice — but really it’s one urge at a time. Just make it through this urge.

Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones. - Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What goes with what

In a couple of days many of us will be knee deep in new electronics. All those shiny new toys will have a heap of cords, cables, accessories and manuals (if you're lucky).

Don't just toss those extras into a drawer and think that you'll remember what goes with what. Instead, put all the pieces from one, or maybe two, of those gadgets into a sealable plastic bag and write on on the bag what electronics they go to.

Don't forget that batteries are ewaste. Check the Resources page on my website for disposal sites near you.

Friday, December 18, 2009

But I got it as a gift

Today I was unpacking and organizing a kitchen for a client. When we got everything out of the moving boxes and I started asking her about certain items, she repeated a phrase I hear all the time... "I don't like it, but I got it as a gift".

As we enter the biggest gift giving season, we will all be faced with this - the gift from a friend, relative or coworker that we just don't have a use for, or that we just flat out don't like.

I am constantly amazed at how much stuff people keep that they don't use or like because someone gave it to them. They drag this stuff from house to house, paying for us to pack it, and the movers to move it and us to unpack it.

So, I am giving you permission to accept the gift, acknowledge the thoughtfulness and then pass the gift on - whether to someone you know who could use it or to donate it to a worthy cause. You do not have to keep things you don't use, have room for or like. And that's the end of that!

Friday, December 11, 2009

More organizing gifts

By popular demand, here are some more of my favorite organizing tools that you can give as gifts and use as stocking stuffers...

My new favorite thing - by Copco, To Go Cup - perfect for the car, BPA free- - $7.99

Any P-Touch labeler - Office Depot - prices vary by style

I love these clips for sealing snack bags, from Ikea - Bevara - $2.99 per bag

OXO Good Grip storage containers - from Bed Bath and Beyond - prices vary.

Keep Boxes - with airtight snap lids - The Container Store - $8.99 and up depending on size of box.

Last, but not least, how about the gift of organizing - give me! Call me for a gift certificate and happy holidays!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holiday chaos, controlled

This time of year our lives are jammed packed with activities and events, which are all suppose to be fun. However, it’s not fun when our organizational systems are stretched beyond the breaking point and we can’t wait for the season to be over. If you’re heading toward overload, here are some tips to help calm the holiday chaos:

Junk mail, especially catalogues, should be tossed immediately. If they are not from stores you usually shop at or from anyone you actually know, there’s no sense letting these things pile up and become a trip hazard on the floor.

Use up all the wrapping paper, ribbons and left over holiday cards before you buy new. Don’t buy anything that is oversized for the container or drawer you store it in. The bag with 1,000 bows is no bargain when half of them have to be tossed because they got crushed on the bottom of the closet floor.

Keep a gift wrap supply box containing pens, scissors, tape, tissue paper and other small items. The box gets stored with the ribbons and paper so you always have fast access to it.

Sending out holiday cards should not be an obligation and you do not have to send out cards to everyone you have ever met. It should be a pleasure to send a card to only those people you choose and who you do not see on a regular basis.

Say, “let me check my calendar and get back to you”, when you are invited to an event you don’t think you can make or aren’t really interested in. This saves you from the automatic “we’d love to” that you regret later.

Prepare a designated space in the pantry or garage before you go shopping to store the party goods. Keep paper plates and party supplies in large plastic bins with tight lids so that they do not get dirty or crushed in between events. Be sure to label the bins so you know what’s inside.
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