The need for brain extensions


The brain is an amazing thing. It can also be very demanding. Most people are aware of the ‘fun facts’ of how many thoughts the human brain has during a day, estimated as fifty to seventy thousand.

Increased awareness of this has resulted in more studies and the development of an array of techniques to help us manage our thoughts. Such tools can help us in deciding which thoughts to follow and act upon and can assist us in living in the present.

I view being organised as a valuable condition to be in so as to keep on top of the wave of thoughts. In today’s fast paced world, being organised is a survival skill. When you think of the number of choices we are presented with, how much time is spent online, checking news and social media, plus doing our everyday work, the effort to stay present and on top of life admin and all that it takes to be human has never been as challenging as it is now. With so much constantly coming at us, it is vital to have ways of capturing our most important thoughts. Our brain simply can’t hold onto everything we need to remember. Assisting it by utilizing a variety of brain “extensions” (like Calendaring, Evernote or Keep programs) really helps a person to make the most of this life and hopefully enjoy it to its fullest potential.

The more you get the important minutiae (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms) out of your brain and into a trusted system (or “extension”), the more clear, focused and present your mind can be. I find using Google calendar, Evernote and Keep every day as electronic mind dumps for what I’m feeling, thinking, and needing to accomplish aids me tremendously in this area.

Google calendar is my place for appointments and “to dos” with specific time frames. Evernote is a place where I capture ideas and information that I want to hold on to. And Keep is for shopping lists, general lists and “to dos” that don’t yet have a time frame. It may seem a stretch to have three such apps, but by blending their use I feel that I cover all bases.

I’d recommend using one or more of these tools, if you aren’t doing so already, as a way to clear the clutter from your busy mind. With your brain generating thousands of thoughts per day it’s nice to know that you have help capturing the essentials.




Worried about someone coming over? You haven’t reached your level of organised yet!


Everyone’s level of organised is different. Some people’s level looks like a magazine shoot, other people’s resemble a lived in pair of jeans. I strive to help clients achieve a perception change to ensure that they find, and are happy with, their level of organised. Often times there’s some unpacking to do around being okay with not keeping up with the Jones’ and being comfortable with their level being different to what they think it should be.

A good way to determine whether you’ve reached your level or not is to take note of how you next feel when it dawns on you that someone will be coming over. You could have initiated the event or maybe it’s a service call that has to be done. Start to notice what comes up – maybe nothing, maybe a small worry, maybe your mind might dart to the clutter on the kitchen bench or maybe it’s a huge worry and you want to cancel the whole thing. Whatever your reaction, you’ve learnt something valuable about yourself. You’ve learnt whether your home is reflecting the life you want.

This self-knowledge is empowering and gives you some insight as to your desired organising level. It will also help you create guidelines for your next steps to take to reach that goal. If for example, your mind did dart to the kitchen bench then maybe that’s where your energy is best spent getting started. Clear it, sort it, and implement a system to keep the clutter from reappearing. After having a win there see what else pops up for you and continue until you’d be perfectly happy to have anyone come to your house at any time of the day or night (well, within reason…)!

So give this exploration a go and see what comes up for you. Let me know what you’ve found out about yourself – I always find it interesting!



How to get your spice and herb collection under control


Is your collection of spices and herbs out of control? Do you always reach for the same thing again and again? Are you having trouble remembering what’s hidden at the very back of the shelf?

If so, it may be time to do a Spice and Herb reality check!

Step 1) Take stock

Pull everything out and sort like with like. You may be surprised as to how many duplicates you have.

Step 2) How old is the stuff?

Over time, spices will lose their potency and not flavour your food as you hope. Check the expiry date listed but a general guideline is: whole spices will stay fresh for about 4 years, ground spices for about 3 to 4 years and dried leafy herbs for 1 to 3 years. Get rid of anything out of date!

3) Looking at a product, do you know what it is? If it’s not recognisable – ditch it!

Now, what to do with those items that you will keep?

Think about the best way to make the items accessible. It could be using jars, a rack or a tier shelf to stagger the labels. Make sure that the option you choose works for you and is functional over aesthetically pleasing (that’s the cherry on top!).

Organising heart, head, and home



Use vertical space to maximize your storage

Last week I was working with a client who’d pulled me in to look at a space that was causing her a storage dilemma. With my fresh eyes it became clear that to squeeze more storage space out of the small area that we were going to have to go vertical!

Going vertical really does increase the storage capacity available. And there’s usually a vertical option available in every room and space you can think of (pantries, wardrobes, garages).

For my client, adding more shelving fixed the problem. By working out what it was that needed to be stored, we designed shelving options that would be installed at the right height to accommodate everything.

Other ways of taking advantage of vertical spaces include:

Storage solutions that use that behind the door space.

This over the door option gave this bathroom an additional towel rack.

These shower buckets could also be used in pantries and in wardrobes.

Clever wall accessories get these tools out of the cabinets freeing up space.img_20170927_160158374482972.jpg

Using vertical space is often an overlooked and underutilized option. So when you’ve considered that all options have been explored, take another look at those vertical options and see if extra space doesn’t just open right up!

Organising heart, head, and home


How to organise your desk to be the most productive you can be


If your work, lifestyle or hobbies entail being at a desk for long periods, it’s worth giving that space some attention to maximize its functionality so that you feel your best in the area.

Seven Steps to work space happiness:

  1. Take stock of the existing arrangement, what’s going on at the moment? Is there a lot of clutter? Is it all paperwork? Can you find your phone? What items do you use the most and what do you rarely use?
  2. If you haven’t had or given yourself a Work Station Assessment I suggest taking the time and checking out this useful document.
  3. Sort everything (drawers included) and get the desk cleared. Use some space behind you to create piles of “like” items.
  4. Detox the space. Bin, recycle or rehome things that don’t belong. Rethink your collection of knick-knacks, are they really bringing value or just adding distractions?
  5. Clean the surface of the desk. And get into the drawers.
  6. Using your computer as the prime real estate location (as that is most people’s prime focus), take the piles you’ve made from step 3 and begin to position the things you most use as close as possible to the keyboard. Phone, notepaper and pens are usually the most used items so they should be within easy reach. Continuing further out, place items further away as they rank less and less in importance.
  7. Developing a new routine in order to maintain your newly organized desk space may be something to think about in order to keep the desk operating smoothly. When packing up for the day, sparing five to ten minutes to place things back in their “homes” ensures that a ready and supportive desk is there to greet you each morning.

Paperwork weeding

In initially organizing the space, one of the piles that you collected will most likely be made up of paperwork.  So lets look at that now. The aim being to keep as few papers on the desk as possible.

Looking at the paperwork pile, create three sub piles divided into three types of documents:

  1. Documents which need to be actioned
  2. Documents which are important but which require no immediate action
  3. Junk – shred or recyle it!

Once the original pile has been sorted into these three categories, turn your focus to the first group. What we’re looking to implement is a system that doesn’t allow for stacking ’till later’. A wire vertical file organiser is what I recommend as the tiered design lets you easily identify folders. Divide the papers into categories that makes sense to you and use terms that you regularly use – using different coloured folders will further cement the system.

Looking at a couple of different desk set ups, we’re going to work through some tips and processes that can make your situation greatly improved.

In an office

Divide your workstation into zones, using various sections of the desk to reflect and contain your various activities. This may mean that you have a zone where you take phone calls (note paper, pen and contact details), another for filing (in trays, files and folders), and a zone for research/reading.

Hot Desking

If your office environment utilizes the ‘hot desking’ system where every day requires setting up at a different desk, creating personal routines become of paramount importance. First, allow at least 20 minutes to find and get settled at your new post. Make a basket or box (one that you like) your hold-all and resist dumping everything in it at the end of the day. By having an end of day routine to keep the things in your box orderly – the next day is made easier and your brain gets into the habit of relaxing for the evening to come. Such a box will also help streamline the start of the next day for when you go to your locker, as it’ll be simply a matter of retrieving one item and getting on with finding your work space. Before starting work, take a moment to wipe down the desk and equipment to assist in maintaining your health and also adjust the height of the chair and monitor so your body is comfortable.

Small Business

If you’re running a small business from home and don’t have the luxury of having a dedicated room for it, being able to section off your work is the second best solution. This could be through the use of screens for example. By having a certain area set up for your business with everything you need to conduct your work, it helps trigger work ready habits and to help keep work separate from the rest of your life.

If space is really quite tight, using a box or basket that you can unpack and pack up your work items (laptop, papers, other equipment) in helps create a routine and triggers the mental preparation for work to come (see Hot Desking above).

At home

The home ‘office’, if you will, is often fulfilling several functions – sometimes as a hobby room, often times as a home admin center or a place for quiet study. Decide what purpose/s your desk at home is serving and ensure that it isn’t taken over by unassociated clutter. It can be tempting to use a study room and its desk surface as storage, but by working at maintaining the prime purpose of the space it helps to establish zoning for the rest of your house.

Study, hobby, office or small business – the desk is the heart of it all. Get this “tool” on side and watch as other parts are enable run more smoothly!




How to never forget your work pass again


With most work places these days having some sort of security measure in place to ensure only their employees gain access to work sites, a security pass has become something that you just can’t leave home without. If you’ve ever left that item at home on a work day then you’ll know just how disruptive this can be to the morning routine and the general flow of the day.

From observation the most common reasons for forgetting passes are:

  • swapping bags;
  • just returned from holidays;
  • wearing a different jacket or belt to the day before; and
  • leaving it somewhere… the bench? desk? in the hands of a small child?

Observing such patterns in yourself is really useful. By making note of what the common factors are around such oversights you can apply that knowledge towards the creation of a new daily habit.

A habit that is generally successful for many, and that is also one of the simplest ways to avoid forgetting that pass – is to ensure that it has a home. This is a basic yet invaluable mechanical organising principle. With this in effect, your pass can only be in one of two places – on you or in its home.

Developing this strategy depends on what works for you, however.

First, to find the perfect home for your pass you need to take your living arrangements into account.  Do you live alone or in a share house? Then observe where you gravitate to when you first walk into your home or room. Whether it’s a table, a bookcase or a couch, could that area or somewhere near it work as a home for your pass?

Having found the ‘neighbourhood’, try re-purposing a splendid bowl or platter and place it within reach of your arrival area. If you can only really leave things in your own room, a bowl or platter will still help as it triggers your mind towards identifying a certain spot as a “destination”. Making the deliberate choice to place your keys, sunglasses, change or travel cards there will eventually make the habit part of your routine. If you are an intensely visual person, taking a mental snapshot of where this home is and what surrounds it might be a good way of cementing the solution in place.

This may also be a good spot for other things to live that frequently go with you into the outside world: purse or wallet, money and/or cards, ID, keys, watch and maybe even your mobile. Many of these items are must haves for daily tasks so the likelihood of forgetting your work pass is drastically reduced by having such items together.

Getting your body involved is another way of supporting such a strategy. The inclusion of the body can be extremely useful for tactile minded people as a way of making such forward planning more tangible. When about to head out the door, starting from the top of the body make your way down – touch your head and check off glasses or sunnies, touch your right hand for keys, your mid section for wallet/cards and your pass.

When at work, use accessories like a lanyard or bracelet or retractable clip holder to keep your pass on your person. And think creatively as to where to attach the clip if nothing obvious seems available, like the neck or under arm of a dress. Keeping your pass with items like your phone may also be what works for you – a phone cover with card slots is a handy way of keeping all your essentials together.

As security passes become more and more a work place necessity – exploring these ideas to find what works for you sets you up for an effective and stress free morning routine. A fine start to the day!





How to simplify your space by remembering and letting go of ‘props’


Letting go of something that didn’t quite work, that perhaps shouts “MISTAKE!”, or brings to mind a significant amount of money spent (for little gained) every time you see it, is a hurdle that many of my clients face when detoxing their environment. Such things are often ‘props’ that assisted at certain times in a person’s life to help them explore a part of themselves or deal with a particular situation.

Everyone has many roles and personas that come together to make their identity and their life. Possesions can reflect this. For example, I was a university student, I had dreams of taking up the violin again, I was an avid thimble collector, I used to think that tartan high heels were cool. If I hadn’t donated or sold things related to these past roles and interests, but had held onto them in the hope to return one day to these hobbies and stages, there would be a lot of unnecessaryand complicating clutter in my home. That’s not to say that I don’t keep some sentimental items but those kept are very special and support the evolving history of who I am now and who I am becoming.

The question is often how do you work out the difference between something that is just contributing to the clutter in your life and a possession that adds to your present life? One aspect to notice, and something I focus on when working with clients, is to observe and draw attention to language choices.

What do you notice about these two phrases?

“I used to love this dress!”

compared to

“I can’t wait to wear this again when the weather gets warmer!”

Yep! One is past tense and the other is future tense. To me this shows that someone is still going to use an item and enjoys doing so!

Being alert to such language helps in two areas: it lets you think expansively about releasing ideas you hold about yourself. And it creates more spaces to honour who you are now and all the amazing things you are doing at the moment that are leading to your future.

It’s empowering to replace guilt or the label of “MISTAKE!” with the possibility of being, as Amanda Brooks says, ‘inspired by your own past triumphs and amused by your mistakes’.

As for the most sentimental objects or those favourite old clothes and shoes you may be having difficulty letting go of, thank them for the joy they once brought you and the points of departure they provided.

Another empowering and leveraging technique is to take photos of sentimental items, such as awards, trophies and old t-shirts. Such photos can be the bridging tools to deal with a fear of completely forgetting something and yet still moving it along so you can also “move along”.

With those thoughts in mind, looking around now, do you see things that represent the you that lives in the present? Are they part of the thread taking you towards the future or the anchor holding you back?

Organising heart, head, and home


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How to remember what you stored in that out of sight storage option


Recently I worked with a client who throws a lot of parties. She’s very good at it and so as well as hosting her own, many people come to her for help or to borrow her equipment. By the time we started working together her party equipment was being stored across many spots ranging from the garage, to the pantry, to the multi purpose study room.

My client complained that she was often buying duplicates of things because she’d forget what she already had as her collection wasn’t centrally located. Another problem that emerged from this complaint was that my client would often think about her garage storage at inopportune times (when it was too dark to venture out or when there wasn’t enough time to rummage).

With this information at hand we developed an action plan. Firstly, we collected all the party things together and went through it to make sure that only what was relevant was left to store.

Secondly, we categorised and got the items stored in a manageable and accessible way.

Using the garage proved to be the best home for the party equipment but what changed my client’s relationship to the garage and her way of handling the party equipment, was photographing her party equipment collection.

By taking photographs of the party gear and saving these in Evernote – my client can refer to them easily and quickly whether inside her house or speaking with friends and family about an upcoming party.

If you’re unable to photograph your out of sight storage space then sketching a note on a phone app or taking a photo of a doodle is a useful method. I do this to keep track of what I’m storing under my bed. I have several plastic roller containers that I use for off season clothing and for other irregularly used items. Rather than dragging out what I think might be the correct container, I check my sketch and get it right every time! Saves time and muscle energy!

What out of sight storage have you under utilized of late? Will photographing or sketching it help you efficiently retrieve it later?





Organising things based on your natural inclination


Every item in your home needs its own home. But what if sometimes an item could make sense in a few different places?

Take scissors or sports underwear for example.

Scissors could be kept with other like tools and sports underwear could be separated out into general underwear categories. But another way of determining where to store an item is to think about where you most use it. Where do you naturally end up using that item?

Do you use the scissors the most in the kitchen? In the bathroom? Near the wardrobe so you can attend to loose threads when getting dressed? Any of these spots are perfectly fine.

Personally, moving my sports bras away from the other bras, and keeping them in the same drawer as my workout clothes, streamlined my gym preparation. Opening one draw when getting dressed for a workout not only speeds up the process but helps derail any lazy thoughts of skipping it!

So this week, observe if something is not being housed in a spot where you most seem to need it. Try moving it there and see if your tasks become more streamlined as a result.






Organising Gems from my Dad


With Father’s Day having just rolled past for another year, I began thinking about the top gems that I’ve garnered from my Dad that effect my organised life style:

  • Always make your bed (which I wrote about in depth here).
  • Keep your shoes polished and you’ll feel prepared for anything.
  • Always ask if that’s the best rate a company can offer and don’t sit still with a provider for too long – loyalty rewards no one it seems.
  • Mark where you want to hang something with a pencil before committing hammering a nail into the wall. Or better yet – use Commander 3m damage free hooks.
  • Computer maintenance is key to a healthy laptop and saves you much money. You can’t blame a computer for being slow if you don’t treat it to some defragging once in a while… it’s like saying that your car won’t move but not giving it petrol.

What organising gems have you gained from your Father?

Organising heart, head, and home