How Habits Make Life Easier

It’s extraordinary how much of our lives are run by our habits. It’s our choice which actions we allow to become habits, although many habits are formed unconsciously. The trick to make life easier is to run supportive habits, rather than bad habits. Charles Duhigg’s book, “The Power of Habit” has an excellent and easy to understand model of how habits are formed and operate. Stephen Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” talks about general strategies to live by in order to be effective. These books are all very good in theory, but how can we apply the theories to every day living?
Here are a few ideas in different areas of the house that have made my life easier over the years.
In the kitchen: I admit, the kitchen is not my favorite place to be. I go there because I have to eat and I have to feed my family. I don’t love pouring over recipes finding the next cool taste explosion. I don’t have a million little gadgets for shredding this and that or spiraling those, or whatever else they all do. I prefer to get to know a recipe well and then make it by approximation from memory, because when I do a new recipe, it takes me ages to read and do, read and do. I also hate cleaning up in the kitchen. My worst nightmare is when all the pots and pans have been used, they’re spread all around the kitchen, a dozen chopping boards are out, miscellaneous forks, spoons, knives that were used in the cooking process are sprinkled around. In short, it’s a disaster. It seems so overwhelming to have to clean up at the end of the day.

5 Tips for Getting Things Done

We’ve all been there. Task A should be done today, yet when we get to the end of the day, it’s not done, again. Yet there are people who seem to be always getting things done. A common phrase of advice is “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” Why is that? What do people who get things done have in common? And how can you learn from them in order to be as productive? 
So you have a task that needs doing, but it doesn’t get done. Sometimes we experience negative self talk about it.
negative self talk
Or we make excuses about it.
But what would it be like if, instead of focusing on the failure, you focused on what you could do about it? 


10 Tips for When Letting Go is Hard

Picture this. It’s 25,000 years ago. You pick up the sharpened stone you use for skinning animals and add it to the pouch you sling over your shoulder. It also has some animal sinew in it that you use for fire starter sticks. You roll up the hides you slept under last night and strap them to your back. You have a basket handy so you can collect berries on the way. It’s time to move to winter quarters. Your extended family moves with you.caveman


Life was simple. Hard, but simple. There were no greeting cards, pictures, extra clothes nor shoes. No accumulated memories of a life time.  No households of stuff when relatives passed away. There weren’t any books nor piles of paper, no projects – completed or not. There were no electronics nor thousands of accompanying accessories. There was no myriad of sporting paraphernalia. Nothing to declutter.


There was what you needed to survive. That’s it. Maybe you carried a small carving as a token or good luck charm. But mostly what you loved were your family and the experiences you shared. You carried virtually nothing to your grave.

Fast forward to today. According to research done in 2000, the average US household has tens of thousands of items in it. 

I’m not suggesting that we go back to cave man days. Life is much more comfortable now, and more complicated. We spend a lot more time organizing our stuff – and getting overwhelmed by it.


So what do you do if you’re overwhelmed by your stuff but you really want to declutter? The number one priority is to reduce the amount of stuff you have. So how do we let go?

5 Keys to Productivity in the Workplace

Workplace productivity. We all want it. There are days when you’re on: you get so much done, you fly through your to do list, life feels good. And then there are days when you’re not: your day seems like one big interruption, you take one step forwards to go three back, nothing seems to go right.


This is about having more days when you’re on, and fewer off days. More days when your productivity is through the roof, not out the window.Work Choices


People who are consistently productive have mastery in these five key areas:

  1. Priorities
  2. Planning
  3. Focus
  4. Action
  5. Accountability
Mastering these 5 keys will increase your productivity each day and have it be more consistent. Let’s dive to each one individually. 


6 Tips to Organize your Closet

Having an organized closet means it’s much easier to get dressed for the day or a special event. No rummaging for that top that goes especially well with those pants. No double (or triple) buying of the same type of outfit. No taking 30 minutes to put the perfect outfit together (unless you can’t make up your mind about what to wear!)

The six keys to an organized closet are simple.


Key 1. Decide your style
Keep your style simple so you can mix and match items in your closet. Wear clothing that suits your body type, your profession, and your hobbies/ personal activities. If you are not attracting the right clients/significant other/friends and you think your wardrobe could be to blame, consider hire an image consultant (we know a great one!). 


Key 2. Purge 
Donate or sell clothes you don’t wear, no longer fit into, or are worn out. Rule of thumb for everyday clothes is if you haven’t worn them during the season they are appropriate for, then it’s time to let them go. At the end of a season is the perfect time to purge clothes you haven’t worn that season. If you haven’t worn them this year, you’re even less likely to wear them next year. You have a few options for selling clothes, but it’s usually only worthwhile for designer clothes that are lightly worn. Search for your nearest consignment store, or donate items to Goodwill, or other charities. (We use Clothes the Deal to donate no longer needed business clothes to those in need). 


7 Tips for Paper File Management

Effective filing systems, whether they are paper or digital, are critical to a business’ success. Proper records facilitate business transactions and track the success or failure of the business.


Easy access to documents ensures employees can spend their time working on the projects at hand rather than looking for a piece of paper. Estimates of the time that the average employee spends looking for documents range between 2 and 8 hours per week (statistics gathered by the National Association of Professional Organizers) or 100 to 400 hours per year. 

Color coded paper filing drawer


We all know time = $, let’s look at the breakdown. According to Gartner Group, Coopers and Lybrabd, Ernst & Young, the average time to retrieve and refile a paper document is 10 minutes. An average of 3% of documents are lost or misfiled, and have to be recovered at a cost of $120 per document. This equates to a cost of $2,160 to $8,640 per year.

An effective paper filing system will reduce the amount of time people have to look for documents and reduce the number of documents that are lost or misfiled, therefore reducing cost. It’s a win-win-win.


Keys to effective paper filing systems:

  1. Label files clearly
  2. Have some order to the filing. You may use different types of systems for docent categories of files.
    1. Alphabetical – useful for client files
    2. Categorical – can separate different categories such as vendor files, client files, financial files, etc.
    3. Chronological – useful for financial files
    4. Frequency of use – can keep documents that are referred to frequently at the front of a file cabinet.
    5. Priority based – particularly useful for active projects.
  3. Create rules for where each type of document should be filled.
  4. Only have one home for each type of document.
  5. Create naming conventions for files that everyone uses.
  6. Have a system for quickly identifying where a document or file folder should be returned to if it is removed from the filing system. 
  7. Keep active files separate from files that need archiving.
Organize to Excel has been working with client files since 2007. We have experience setting up files for a range of small businesses as well as home based businesses and personal files. If you are a busy mom with more kid papers and family bills than you know what to do with, or a real estate agent with closing documents, licenses, and brochures piling up your office, we can help.

Garage Organizing- Step 2- Categorize & Purge

Once you have decided what you want to use your garage for, you may find there are items that need to be removed from the garage. If you are keeping them, find a new home for them that makes sense. If you are not keeping them, remember to reuse and recycle.

If you are not going to reuse the items, allow other people to reuse by selling items or giving them away. Options for selling items include:

  • Yard Sale
  • Craigslist
  • eBay – advice from a local eBay seller, Amy Weintraub of Shop It LA , suggests only selling something on eBay if it is worth over $100 – otherwise you spend a lot of time posting on line, packaging and posting the items for not much return.
  • Wertz Brothers– buy high end furniture (located in Santa Monica)


Consider donating directly to charities in your area, but give them a call first to find out if they need them. Some great places to donate to in the Los Angeles area are:

  • Baby2Baby, collects and redistributes gently used baby and young children’s items
  • Beyond Shelter, accepts all manner of in kind donations to assit the homeless in transitioning to homes.
  • LA Shares, redistributes working electronic goods to schools and other non-profit agencies in the area.
  • PATH, People Assisting The Homeless
  • Soles4Souls, reusing your shoes that you don’t wear any more.


Garage Organizing- Step 1: Identify Uses

The first thing to do when organizing your garage, or any space for that matter, is to decide what you want to use the space for. This might depend on how large the space is. If you have room for 3 cars, but only have 2 cars, of course you will want to use that extra space for something. 

The garage used to be the place to park your car, but more and more frequently, the car is being parked in the driveway and the garage has just essentially become another room of the house.  They are turned into playrooms, entertainment rooms, exercise rooms, or just a place for storage.  Some people use their garage for a hybrid of uses – parking their car, storage and a kids craft area for instance.

However you use your garage, you do want it to be functional and not just a catch-all area for stuff you can’t decide what to do with or will never actually use. All too often, it becomes a mess of old furniture, boxes of who know’s what, children’s toys, and extra supplies. The trouble with that is, if it is such a mess, or has so much stuff in it, the useful things get overshadowed and forgotten. 

neat garage storage


Typical uses:

  • Parking your car
  • Storing seasonal decorations
  • Storing gardening supplies
  • Storing household repair items and tools
  • Archiving files

 Items to avoid storing outside:

  • Vinyl records
  • Video cassette tapes
  • Other electronic media
  • Photos
  • Clothes
  • Bedding
  • Wine

Anything that will be affected by damp or large temperature changes really should be stored in the house.


Get outdoors- and get the most out of your garage!

Summer time is a great time to spend outdoors. There’s the beach, sports, walks in the mountains, or gardening in your back yard. And probably most of the gear you need for your summer outdoor activities is stored in the garage. Why not make it easy to access so you spend as little time there as possible and more time out doing the activities you want to do?
Monkey Bars Garage Shelves

Photo Credit: Monkey Bars 

Here are 6 tips to help organize your belongings in the garage.
  1. Keep all the things you use for one activity together
      • It’s much faster to get out the door when all your gear for an activity is together. Let’s take going camping. It used to take us a couple of hours to get everything together from various places around the house and garage. Now we can have our car packed with all our camping gear for a weekend in about 20 minutes. We all have “camping clothes” that we can quickly throw in a bag. We have a separate box that we keep all our camping cutlery, dishes and kitchen supplies in that stays in the garage ready to go. All our camping gear is in one section of shelving within the garage, so we literally just have to back up our car and load everything straight in.
  2. Use the vertical space in your garage effectively
      • Use cabinets, shelving and overhead racks if you have the vertical space.
  3. Tackle a big garage organizing project in stages
      • If your garage has been a dumping ground for some time, you may need to approach the garage in stages. Perhaps tackle one wall first, perhaps one corner, or perhaps the gear for one activity that you do. Organize the items that you use most often first. That way, you’ll be able to spend more time doing your favorite activities, rather than organizing (which I know is one of OUR favorite activities, but probably not yours!)

Top 7 Tips for Energy Management

People always ask me how I do so much.  There are many reasons for this, and the one I’m going to focus on today is energy management. I get the most out of my day when I effectively manage my energy.
Effective energy management is a life style. It’s a choice about how I live my life. I choose what and when to eat, whether or not to exercise, what time I go to bed and the quality of my sleep. And in my experience, the effects compound. So it’s not that I only make choices today that support high energy, I make choices that support high energy on an ongoing basis.
I find it be very helpful to have an accountability partner. This person can be a friend, a family member, a coach, or a group that you report to. This person or people will help you stay on track and encourage you to make smart choices.
The key to maintaining those high energy choices is to not keep making them; the real key is to embed them so they become habits. When they become habits, you need to use your willpower to keep making those choices.