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How can I organize​ my books?

Some people keep a big collection of books, are you one of them? Chances are a few are from your university days. Part are reference books gather through your professional life. Some others are a reflection of your interests or hobbies, or those of your family. Do you know how to avoid clutter? How can you keep them organized?

Let’s start by taking a look at all the books you have. If you have books in different locations, go and find all and put them in one place. You want to take a look at them in the same place. Why? Because you need to visualize what you have to sort what you need or want to keep.

Before you start, think about how you want to organize the books. There are different ways to set up the library. You can organize to be functional by subject, author or alphabetically. If you want a clean look and don’t care about function, you can organize by color, size, or cover type (hardcover/paperback).

Sort the books grouping them following your selection. While sorting remove those that you don’t need anymore. In everyday words, you are going to declutter. I understand how attached we can be with our books. Books are sources of knowledge, friends in moments of solitude, and a way to travel in our imagination. Don’t feel bad, let them go, maybe somebody needs them more than you do. Giving books away to the local school library or a friend is a gift of love. Also, remember that you need to make room for the new. Here are some reasons to remove books from your collection.

  • Outdated reference books – encyclopedia, old programming language
  • Not relevant anymore – you don’t like zombies stories anymore
  • Condition – water damage, broken
  • Not going to read it again – it was ok, but not great.
  • Duplicates – different editions of the same book, bought a new one because you could not find where the old was.

After sorting, it is time to find a home for your collection. The perfect location is the one that works for you. If you have space and want to do it, you can keep all the books in a home library. If you don’t have space to keep all together, have small spaces throughout the house. It is always a good idea to keep things close to where you use them, for example, cookbooks in the kitchen, gardening books in the garden shack, and your favorite bedtime readings in the bedroom.

Dust the shelves and all the books before putting them in place. Use labels or marks to indicate location. For example, if you decided to organize your books by genre, you can label the area for each to make sure that all the family sees where each they go. Think about those marks on the libraries aisles.

Make a habit of checking from time to time if everything is in order. If something is not, communicate your findings to the family. Cleaning and organizing is a family activity. Also, schedule to sort through your books at least once a year. This way, you will avoid clutter.

With all your books organized, the entire family can see what they have available. The hassle of looking for the specific book needed to complete a project or a school assignment is gone.

Electronic / Virtual

Do you need to declutter your desktop?

Do you have a personal computer? Chances are you do. In 2016, 89.3% of all households in the United States had a computer at home. In a country where 43% of the population categorized themselves as disorganized, it is safe to assume that their computers are cluttered.

A cluttered desktop slows your computer and you down. Like physical clutter, it negatively affects productivity. Electronic clutter contributes to stress, which affects your quality of life.

The desktop is not for file storage, it must help to navigate your computer easier and get the information you need faster. Declutter your desktop is easy, the following are ways to do it.

  • Clean up folders and pictures from your desktop. That massive quantity of files and pictures on your desktop are in the incorrect place.
  • Create folders to keep the documents organized by subject.
  • Take advantage of cloud services to keep your pictures. Organize them in a way that is efficient for you: by date, event or place.
  • Do not clutter your desktop with shortcuts, use them for those applications that you use more often only.

Stop wasting time searching for documents or shortcuts on your desktop. Cut the searching time and avoid distractions to improve productivity.

Home

How can you organize your garage?

Is your garage a mess? If the answer to that question is yes, you are not alone. Around 50% of homeowners rate the garage as the most disorganized place in the house. It is where garden equipment and tools, sports gear, and holiday decorations end up. Do you think there is not enough space in the house for all the stuff you have? The fact is that 80% of the clutter in most homes is a result of disorganization, not lack of space.

My recommendation is to 5S your garage. You know already that 5S is an excellent tool for organization and it works everywhere. Let’s use it for the garage!

Remove everything and place it on the driveway in like by like categories. Have an area for items that are either broke, don’t need, or you are not interested in keeping. As you removed things, ask these two questions: Do I need it? Do I need to keep it here? For example, the garage is not the best place to store your insurance and mortgage documents. Do you have a shack or closet outside where you can keep garden tools? Have an area for those items and set aside as well. Use a sign to indicate the future location or not needed status.

With the empty garage, you can see how much space you have available. Check the keep in the garage categories to have a sense of how much space you need. Think about the best way to store them and the best location. There are lots of garage organizing solutions on the market. Design the storage areas for the garage. What do you want to do? Do you want to park your car? Do you need a work area?

The following are examples of organizing ideas:

  • Go vertical! Space is a high-end commodity, utilize it wisely. 
  • Create overhead storage for kayaks or bicycles, or to hang bins.
  • Hang heavy items from the wall using gear tracks and hooks. There are hooks of different sizes and styles for light or heavy stuff. Use them for power tools, ladders, hoses, and others.
  • Check on organizers for specific uses like a broom holder and garden tools organizer or a sports gear organizer.
  • Create a shadow board for the most used tools.
  • Use open shelving whenever you can.

Although, you assign a place for everything first and then shine, this time it is a good idea to clean the garage first. It is easier to clean before you start hanging organizers and placing shelves. Pressure wash the garage, starting with the ceiling, walls and finally the floor. If you don’t have a pressure washer, you can rent one or just use a regular hose. After cleaning is done, you can paint the garage if you want. Avoid bringing back dirt and dust by cleaning shelves and toolboxes before moving them into place.

Put organizers and shelves in place and then move back in all the stuff you will keep. Start with what goes overhead and then move to the walls. While you put everything in its place, think again if you want or need to keep it. As a rule of thumb, anything that has not been used in the past year should be removed. Hopefully, by the end of this step, you can park your car inside the garage again.

For the standardization piece, you can create labels to indicate what goes where. I like shadow boards because they don’t need an explanation. They are easy to understand and use. If you plan to do some work in the garage, place a trash can to ensure all trash goes to the right place.

Decide what to do with those items on the not-needed pile. Options are: give it away, garage sale, donation, recycle or trash. Do not move them back to the garage! Keep yourself a deadline to dispose of them. Put in place those items that you decided to locate somewhere else.

To keep the housekeeping and organization, put in the calendar a periodic inspection and cleaning of the area. Make this a family activity engaging everybody in the garage cleaning. That way, they will be more willing to cooperate in maintaining the organization and cleanliness. Now go ahead, open that door and let your neighbors see your state of the art garage. Enjoy!

Electronic / Virtual, Office

Is managing your email inbox driving you crazy?

Manage your emails effectively

Do you know that the average office worker spends 13 hours per week on emails alone? A typical business professional sends and receives 122 emails daily. With those numbers, there is no doubt why you feel like managing your inbox is all you do.

To avoid going crazy for your emails, apply housekeeping and organization to your inbox.

Like every time you want to use 5S, start sorting out the messages that you don’t need. Browse your email in the lookout for promotions and subscriptions. Sometimes you subscribe to a digital newsletter or give away your email address to obtain some information. You are not interested in keeping the subscription anymore but never unsubscribe from it. Go ahead and unsubscribe now, do not touch that email more than once! Do the same thing with promotions that you don’t want to receive anymore. Identify spam emails and put them on the spam folder immediately.

While you browse for emails, make a list of those that you receive periodically and need to keep. Think about customers, suppliers, invoices, and your team. To set in the order, you have to prioritize and categorize your messages. Create categories like my team, finances, insurance, customers, and suppliers. You do not have to go through all your emails, but make sure you include your most frequent contacts.

To shine or clean your inbox archive or delete emails as you go. Make a routine to read your emails during certain times of the day. Reading emails every five minutes is a productivity killer. I read emails first thing in the morning as part of my routine to create the agenda for the day. Check again before lunchtime, and then before going home. Make sure your key people know that if they need your attention, they should text or call you.

Now is time to standardize. Use the contact list you build to create and assign categories to your contacts. With Outlook and Gmail, you can create color-coded categories or filters based on certain criteria. Also, you can assign priorities. For example, invoices have high priority, but digital newspapers are a low priority. Change your email settings, so incoming emails go straight to the appropriate folder or have the right label.

To ensure your inbox is under control, create rules to sustain the tidy state. Daily, as you check your emails, decide what you need to do with the information received. Create tasks or events using the message and then archive or delete. Establish a frequency to revise your emails looking for contacts that need to be categorized or are not relevant anymore. 

Your inbox does not have to drive you crazy. Stop the insanity and 5S your inbox!

Productivity, Time Management

What are the benefits of getting organized?

Get organized at work, and relax!

The ultimate goal of every professional is to achieve a work-life balance. I am not an exception. When my career started to grow, I found myself with not enough time to do the things I like. I realized that organizing myself and my daily work was the only solution.

The average person wastes 4.3 hours per week, searching for information. The Wall Street Journal reported that the average executive spends six weeks per year searching for misplaced information. Six weeks is a whole lot of hours!

To answer what are the benefits of being organized here is my top five reasons:

  • Improved productivity – Being organized will help you to focus on what is important, not the clutter. Focusing on your work will make it easier to identify what you want to achieve. Organizing will also save you the time of looking for things. Knowing the place for everything, it is easier to get the information you need faster. If you don’t have to ask around where is that report, you will cut distractions.
  • Better time management – The efficient use of a calendar, along with a list of your tasks will enable you to prioritize those tasks. Set daily and weekly goals based on the tasks you want to accomplish. Prioritizing will make you more flexible because you will react better to any changes or unexpected situations.
  • Reduced stress – No clutter equals less stress. A pleasant work environment improves morale and motivation. Achieving your goals give you a great sense of accomplishment.
  • Promotes improvements – A clean and organized work area pinpoints trouble areas, making easier to identify future improvements.
  • Better work-life balance – If you do more in less time, you can use the extra time to create balance in your life. Less stress and a reduced sense of being overwhelmed will leave you with more energy at the end of the day. Now you can go to the gym, or take a walk!

Being organized have a lot of advantages. I listed a few reasons, but there are a lot more. Find your reason, and get organized today!

Productivity, Time Management

One-touch rule

My number one trick to keep myself organized is what I call the one-touch rule. Procrastinating is not something that I do. There is no point in pushing back the completion of something that you will have to do anyway. Dealing with emails or regular mail is one of those things.

I know people that have thousands of emails on their accounts. Most of them are spam or promotions. The problem is that they either ignore or go over them many times. I use the one-touch to manage my emails.

Get used to open each email only once. You read it and decide what to do, archive it or delete it. Sometimes you need to take action with the information delivered. If that is the case, you can set that email as a task or appointment. Do not forget to include a due day for all your tasks.

With the regular mail is the same concept. Every day or whenever you go to the post office, you sort your letters. You categorize the mail into pay, archive, read, or trash. Prepare an area with a couple of bins as needed. I have the shredding machine in the same area, so promotions or any document with personal information goes immediately into it. Create the habit to take at least 30 minutes every week to go over those things in the pay and read category. Unless it is a magazine, you should be able to read or pay and either archive or trash within that time.

Think about it, this is common-sense. It is just a simple way to keep yourself organized.

Home

How can I keep my pets stuff organized?

If you love your pets as I do with mine, then your house is full of their stuff. We have toys, different kinds of treats, health supplements, and flea and tick care. Also, we have grooming supplies, cleaning supplies, travel gear, and many others. How do you keep all that organized?

The best way to organize and keep it that way is by using 5S. 5S stands for the first letter of the methodology steps. The steps are Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. It is a method used in all types of industries to build a nice work environment. Like many other continuous improvement tools, it is useful at home as well. The result is a clean, uncluttered, safe, and well-organized space.

The first step is Sort, which means that you need to sort all the items between what you need and what you don’t need. Start by taking out all the pets stuff you have around the house. By looking at everything in one place, you will be more effective in your sorting exercise. Check for things like:

  • expired items – medicines, health supplements
  • broken things – brushes, feeders, or scratchers beyond their useful life
  • duplicates – four carriers for one cat is too much, maybe you need only one nail clipper
  • stuff that you don’t use – like a cat carrier where your cat doesn’t fit anymore, or toys that your pet never uses

While sorting things follow this rule when in doubt, take it out. Do not store back anything you haven’t use in one year or more. There are a couple of options for those things, recycling, a donation to a local shelter or a friend, yard sale, or the trash bin.

The second step is Set in order, everything in a place and a place for everything. Find a house for every kind of item. Have toys, medicines, grooming supplies, travel items, and others with the like. Have the items close to where you use them. Check these ideas:

  • You can have by the door the items needed for a walk like a leash, poop bags and a collapsible water bowl.
  • Place a basket with bath supplies on the area where your pets get bathed. Shampoo, conditioner, brush, and towels go there.
  • Have a small cabinet in the same area the litter box is with litter bags and cleaning supplies. It can have a hook on one side to hang the scoop.
  • Keep a basket with toys in the area where they play the most.
  • Depending on how much you have, dedicate one cabinet or closet for the pets stuff.
  • Use bins or baskets to keep items like medicines, treats, health supplements, and grooming supplies separated.
  • Use clear bins so you can see through, no need to open to check what is inside.
  • Separate the items for pet type also. Color-coded lids are the best, let’s say, blue for dogs and red for cats.
  • Use a hanging wall organizer to keep the pet records in one place. 

The next step is shine or clean. Get those carriers, pet towels, and other items clean before storing them again.

In the fourth step Standardization, is about creating procedures and visuals. This step is absolutely necessary for the office or business. It is about creating written procedures that define who is responsible for what, when, and how. If you decided to use labels or color-coded bins, this is when you create your system. If you want to make sure everybody cleans the litter box the same way, this is the time to decide who, when, how and what cleaning supplies.

The last step is to Sustain, find ways to keep things cleaned and organized. You need to make a routine to keep everything in its place. Until you and your family have the habit of keeping stuff on their homes you can hang some signs to remember the procedure. Once a week, while sweeping the house check for compliance. Communicate with the family if something was out of place, keep working on creating the routine.

Your life will be easier following these steps, no more wasted time looking for items. Of course, you can do this exercise with toys, sports items, books, office or school supplies and many others. 5S is an excellent way to keep everything organized.

CI Tools

What is 5S?

5S is the five steps program for housekeeping and workplace organization. Standard work, waste elimination, and 5S are the foundation of the common-sense improvements approach. 5S stands for five words that together make this cleaning and organization methodology. The steps are Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. Together, they promote stability and improvements in the business processes.

In the first step, Sort you go through all the materials, tools, and equipment on the area sorting between necessary and unnecessary items. You will keep only those items that you need to do your job. Also, you keep only the amount you need. During this step, red tags are used to unneeded items to identify them. This is part of the Red Tag Campaign. The rule of thumb is When in doubt, move it out.

During the Set in Order step, you will assign a location for the needed items. Have closer to you those things that you use very often. Think about what I need? Where I need it? How many? Consider to create a central location for shareable items, this will reduce excess inventory. The motto for this step is A place for everything and everything in its place!

Shine is to clean everything inside and out. Inspect for broken pieces, wear and tear, and leaks while cleaning. Make sure that your findings are corrected as soon as possible. Think about ways to minimize reoccurrence. Ask yourself: What to clean? How to clean it? Who is responsible? Set the cleaning standard, how clean is clean. Develop temporary checklists, cleaning responsibilities, and schedules. 5S is not spring cleaning, Make inspect and clean part of your daily routine.

Standardize the preceding three steps. Set clear expectations to make 5S the everyday standard for your workplace. This is the time to revise the temporary signs, maximum number, checklists, schedules, and others. Do you need to change anything? Make sure that the standard is correct before making it official. To avoid falling back to the initial state, Follow the standards daily, success is a habit, not an act.

Sustain is a never-ending step. You want to make sure that all four previous steps are followed every day. Develop a 5S mentality by promoting 5S daily, recognizing success, and correcting out of the standard situations. Create and enforce a 5S training for new team members. The motto for 5S is Cleaning and organizing is a practice, not a project. Make 5S part of your daily routine.

Some of the benefits of 5S are obtaining a clean, sanitary, and pleasant work environment, remove safety hazards and improving employee morale and motivation. 5S also creates a great first impression for customers and visitors. Start using 5S as part of your improvement program today!

CI 101

How can you create changes in your business?

Often business owners see something that tells them that something different needs to be done. Perhaps it is a recurring problem or realizes that the business is not reaching financial goals. What is the solution? You need to identify what areas need change and prioritize. How can you create changes? There are two major ways to create change: innovation and continuous improvement.

More often than not, innovation is a high-cost solution. While it is necessary to keep yourself ahead of the game, I like to start somewhere else. My first stop in creating improvements is to use common sense, low-cost solutions.

What are common-sense solutions? It is to approach a problem using good judgment. For example, let’s use one of my favorite low-cost tools: housekeeping and organization. Will you agree that keeping a clean and organized workplace is common-sense? Why do you think it is? Perhaps because you know some of the following facts:

  • Clutter and disorganization are against productivity, reduces the ability to concentrate.
  • A messy workplace causes anxiety, stress, and has the potential to foster a negative state of mind, like feeling overwhelmed.

Your good judgment tells you that an efficient workplace is cleaned and organized. A lack of cleaning and organization is a visual indicator of inefficiency. You know that this condition has to change.

To improve housekeeping, you can buy a fancy computerized program or use a simple low-cost solution. Your new high-cost application will help you to create checklists, assign responsibilities and follow up on the cleaning activities. But it will not help you to ensure the workplace is clean and organized.

An alternative is to use 5S, a housekeeping and organization program. This program along with waste elimination and standardization are the basics of practicing continuous improvement. CI is about creating small changes using common-sense solutions that are easy to implement and follow. When you add up all those changes you will see a huge improvement in the overall performance of your business.