Since we’re in the midst of prime gift-giving season (aka December), I thought I would do a couple of additional gift suggestions posts, all centered around the idea of keeping your life organized, decluttered and simplified.  This is the focus of my new organizing business: Well Ordered DC.  (Tell all your friends!)

In my last post, I shared some great time/life planner products with you.  Today, I share some gift ideas for the reader in your life.

 

Kindle

You probably know about the Kindle, but I am a huge fan of it, so I wanted to mention it here straight off the bat.  The Kindle is Amazon’s e-reader.  I recommend either the basic Kindle or the Kindle Paperwhite (These are their two dedicated e-readers.  They allow you to read books electronically. That’s it).  I have the basic Kindle and I love it for a bunch of reasons:

  1. It’s small and lightweight. I used to avoid carrying around certain books I was reading because they were too big.  This is not a problem with the Kindle.  It fits in even my smallest purse.
  2. It’s easy on the eyes.  I work on the computer ALL day.  The last thing I want to do at night or on the weekend is stare at another glaring screen.  The Kindle screen is designed to look like a piece of paper – no bright light staring back at you.  The Paperwhite has a new type of screen which is also designed to be easy on the eyes, but comes with a special kind of built in light. I have not tried this version myself, only watched the videos on the Amazon site.  I’d love to hear what you think of the new screen in the comments!
  3. It stores a ton of books. No matter how many books you own, its still the same size – unlike your home library! You can obtain more books with no additional clutter.  This might be my favorite feature of the Kindle.  There is also a new service/product called kindle matchbook.  If you bought a paper version of the book in the past (from amazon) you can buy the kindle version of the book for a discounted price.  Another way to clear off those shelves!
  4. It’s a reasonable price.  Tablets are expensive. Period.  The Kindle starts at under $100.  For a little extra, you can buy a version without ads.

 

Subscription to Audible.com

If the book lover in your life is also an audiobook lover, maybe they would like a subscription to Audible.com.  Audible.com has a ton of audiobooks available via a subscription service, much like Netflix’s DVD program.  For a monthly fee you get X number of audiobooks per month.  Non-members can also purchase books for a higher price. You can listen to the audiobook on your computer, your phone, or your tablet – they have tons of compatible devices.

What I like about this gift idea is that it might be something the recipient would love but wouldn’t consider buying for themselves – my favorite type of gift to give and receive!

*Also, I don’t mean to only promote Amazon on this post.  Audible used to be its own company, but was bought by Amazon last year*

 

Library Site Lesson

My final gift suggestion is an experience gift – something new I’m trying out this year.  Did you know that your library probably has e-books and audiobooks (and maybe even e-magazines) available for borrowing?  I pretty much guarantee that the process to actually obtain these books is complicated and a bit convoluted.

So as your gift to the book lover in your life, offer a lesson in how to use their library’s e-collection service.  Start to Finish.  You’ll first need to figure out how to do this yourself – so plan accordingly!  Once you’ve got the system down, sit down with the gift recipient and walk them through the process, step by step.  Make hot cocoa, turn on some relaxing music (Jazz Holiday Radio station on Pandora, anyone?), and spend some computer time together.  Be patient and go at their speed – not yours. :)

 

Any other gift ideas for the reader in your life?  Please share in the comments!

It is officially December, which means a busy month of holiday parties and celebrating.  We’re also nearing the end of the year, which always makes me look forward to starting a new year and thinking about what improvements I want to make to my daily routine.  This year, I’m focusing on finding a new paper-based productivity product.

Whether you’re looking for a new system for yourself or need a good gift to give, here are a few products that I recommend.  These products all can double as planners for the year and as places to store your ideas and various to do lists.

Moleskin Weekly Planner+Notes

This little notebook I used all through college and grad school.  It’s small (3.5″ x 5.5″) and has a soft cover.  On the left hand side of the page is each day of a given week.  The right hand side is a lined page for notes.  There’s a ribbon bookmark and an elastic band to wrap around the book itself – keeping everything nice and tidy.  Moleskin has lots of other calendars as well; there are daily versions, full size planners, and hard covers too, if that’s more your style.

Passion Planner

I just ran across this planner today.  Currently there is a Kickstarter to get it into production, and there are a lot of features I like in this planner.  It’s similar to the Moleskin planner in basic appearance; it has a soft black leather cover with a ribbon bookmark and an elastic band.  This planner is full-sized and contains lots and lots of  room for notes and big picture planning, in addition to calendar planning.  You can also download and print your own two page weekly layout for free.  Print out a copy or two to try it out in your own life.

Emergent Task Planner

This is another downloadable I found recently.  This planner is designed around the notion that you should set 3 main tasks to complete each day.  On each sheet is room to block off time for each task (and includes mandatory break times!) as well as space to make additional notes on other tasks or ideas that come up during the day.  Various sizes of the forms are available from the designer’s Amazon shop.

Circa Notebooks

For the person who wants their planner fully customizable (myself included!) – there is the Circa notebook system.  There’s a couple of key ideas that make these notebooks unique:

  • You can combine any type of paper you like in a single notebook.  Pads are sold pre-punched from the store – including plain lined pages, to do lists, and calendars (monthly, weekly, and daily).  They also sell hole punches, which allows you to use any paper you’d like – including either of the free printables I’ve mentioned above.
  • You can move papers around within the notebook.  I love this feature.  I often find myself tearing pages out of notebooks that I no longer need or wanting to move various lists or project plans from one section of a notebook to another.  These notebooks allow me to do both of these things without making a mess of my notes or notebook.

Levenger.com offers a sampling kit for $40, which includes basic supplies for 3 different size notebooks and get this – a $40 gift certificate to the store.  Shipping is additional, but the deal is pretty close to free!

 

 

The internet (and my calendar I suppose) tell me that the holidays are coming up.  Really, the internet tells me that the holidays are coming up and that means people are about to freak out!  Today I won’t go into any long drawn out list of reasons the holidays are not a time to freak out, instead I will share a list of things I to do to try and calm myself down.

I may not get worked up about the holidays (or at least I haven’t yet), but I am the type of person who can worry about anything and then stress themselves out about any number of things.  Lately I’ve been keeping really busy trying to get my own business up and running.  Besides getting nervous about putting myself out there, there is a ton of things for me to learn about business in general – both of which are stressful!  So, in the spirit of always trying to better myself, I’ve been employing a few techniques to help manage my stress level.

 

Walk It Out.

Change your scenery and take a walk.  The crisp fall air has been great for snapping myself out of a worrying funk.  If my arms and legs are moving, my mind can get moving in the right direction.  I move away from any negative thoughts and work on productive, positive brainstorming.

Get a Coffee.

Or a beer. Or whatever.  Put away your phone/compute/tablet and give yourself a bit of time to sit with your thoughts (and your coffee).  If the walk got your mind moving too much, use this time to refocus your attention on what matters most to you and to your goals.

Make a List.

Of course I recommend making a list! I always feel better after I make a list.  However, if my mind has been racing around on a single topic, I make sure my list includes only concrete next action steps.  I want to end with a plan in hand on how to achieve a goal or solve a particular problem.

Picture your Successful Self.

Ok, bear with me here for a minute.  I recently heard a talk about ways to assess and achieve a goal.  One point that I had never considered before was the power that visualizing yourself having already achieved a goal can have.  You can do this in words or simply in your mind.  The key is focusing on what your life will be like once your goal is achieved.  This is a great push for me – I picture my future, successful self and I’m able to stop worrying and just get things done!

 

Oh and please note that I’ve marked this as a BO-pinion post.  As I noted above, this is just something I’ve been working on myself!  I’m happy for more suggestions in the comments!

CupletSuccessI am an imperfect baker.

 

I don’t know what it is about the kitchen, but whenever I step in there to bake or cook, I lose some of my typical behaviors.  Organized? Nope.  Detail-oriented? Nope.  Perfectionist?  No way.

It’s not like I’m lazy about making food in general.  I love food and making food from scratch, at home.  I am constantly dreaming up complicated plans of things to create in the kitchen.  When I’m cooking, my laid-back style is (usually) not a problem.  Soups can handle a little extra spice here and there.  Any dish can handle a few more vegetables than is called for.

Baking though…being a science of its own right, requires some planning and rule following.  If you want a successful outcome at least.

You know what makes a good baker?  Someone who plans ahead.  Someone who ensures they have all the ingredients they need for a recipe.  Someone who carefully measures out the correct amount for each ingredient.  Someone who reads the darn recipe to start with.

So even though I love making food and dream big when it comes to baking, I am not a natural baker.  I’m working on it!  I now (almost always) read the recipe 2 or 3 times before I get started.  (No, reading it once wasn’t enough…you’d be surprised!).  I check my cupboards for all of the ingredients before I start mixing.  I pull out the kitchen scale and the right measuring devices each time. I do not concern myself with how many dishes I am dirtying to follow each step of the recipe as written.

There’s still been some hits and some misses lately.  Pumpkin muffins = success.  (I followed this recipe.  I don’t have a doughnut pan, so I made muffins instead).

My mom’s Cocoa Pink Cuplets = less successful.  The first round turned out super flat and full on tiny holes on the surface.  They tasted fine, so I covered up the visual issues with some butter cream frosting.  I added some additional flour before baking the second round of cupcakes, which fixed the rising problem.

CupletLessThanSuccess

I plan to continue working on my baking skills this fall.  I’ll just keep some frosting on hand to cover those imperfections that arise from time to time.

FallLeavesNow that’s its mid-October, the weather seams to be seriously thinking about turning to fall here in DC-land, which got me thinking about changing up my wardrobe.  Not buying up the new trends, but revisiting my closet and doing a targeted review of what’s in there.

Along the vein of thinking about less, my main goal for this seasonal closet review was to reduce the amount of clothes in my closet.  To achieve this goal, I kept two ideas in mind while sorting through everything:

  1. I will keep only the clothes I need for fall in my closet.  My clothes for other seasons I’ll place into a storage bin that lives in a different closet.
  2. I will only own clothes that I love, that fit me well, and that I actually wear.  If I don’t feel great about myself in an article of clothing, it gets donated or tossed.

My approach to my closet review was inspired not just by the changing season, but also by Project 333.  In Project 333 you choose 33 articles of clothing and wear only those for 3 months.  The rest of your clothing goes into storage.  After 3 months you switch up your wardrobe for the new season.

What I like about Project 333 is that the creator is not pushing the number 33 or even the number 3.  She’s really just asking you to be more mindful about how many clothes you need in your closet to dress well.  It’s this second point that drew me in.

Many people (myself included!) like shopping and finding new clothes to wear.  Sometimes we buy things for the wrong reasons though.  Maybe they don’t fit exactly right – but oh so close to being right.  Maybe the style isn’t quite me, but it’s a version of me I want to be. Maybe I just feel like I need to buy something.  Buying for these reasons is not being mindful about your wardrobe.
Everything in your closet should be something that you love and that fits you well.  You deserve to feel great about yourself in your  clothing.  All of your clothing.  Any clothes that give you a negative feeling are not worth holding onto.

The Process

As I mentioned before, this was a targeted review of my closet, so I did not take everything out and reorganize my closet and dresser completely.  For more details on doing a full review of your wardrobe, see my tips on getting started here.

Here’s how I approached my closet refresher:

Summer clothes

  1. From your closet, pull out all items that don’t fit the fall weather: summer dresses and skirts, bathing suits, light weight tanks and shirts, summer workout clothes and pajamas.  If you wore these items this past summer, they go into storage.  If you didn’t wear them, put them in a donate pile or the trash if they’re worn out or stained.
  2. From your closet, pull out any articles you’re unsure of – anything you don’t love anymore, are not sure how it fits, or have negative feelings about.  None of us have the time to feel bad about something hanging in our closets.  If you’re unsure how something fits, try it on and decide whether or not it’s worth keeping.  If you are still hesitant about any item in this pile, put aside in a box for 1 month or more.  If after that time you haven’t looked for it or thought of it, let it go for real.
  3. From storage, take out any items you’ll wear in the next couple of months.  I took out some sweaters and heavier workout clothes as well as some light scarves and hats I knitted. Most of my other fall clothes were already in my (pretty full) closet.  I’ll do another closet review in mid-December when (maybe) winter has arrived.  Then I’ll take out any additional sweaters or winter gear I need for the new season.

The End Result

This was a good first effort on my part to clear some space in my closet.  I did a large, full scale review of all of my clothes this past spring where I gave up a lot of items I had been holding onto for years for some unknown reason.  In this closet review, although it was more targeted, I still found a number of items that I was keeping for the wrong reasons.

My Fall Closet - improved, but not yet complete.

My Fall Closet – improved, but not yet complete.

This time around I was able to let those items go and place them in my donate pile.  My closet is still pretty full and although I wasn’t aiming to hit anywhere near the 33 item limit like in Project 333, I still see a lot of room for improvement in the number of items I keep in my wardrobe rotation.  I’m doing very well on the “love everything in your closet” guideline but I’m doing less well in the seasonal items only area.  Hopefully once fall fully settles in I’ll be ready to pack away a few more of those summer and spring tops and share an update of my even emptier closet with you!