Organized Charm

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Guest Post: The Art of Decluttering Your Home

Emily is back for another great guest post! 
Today, she's talking about one of my all-time favorite things: DECLUTTERING! 

Depending on your lot in life, ownership of property can be blessing or a curse. 

Being a homeowner and adding to that home's value through improvements and new furnishings can be a boost to your confidence and self-worth. 

Unfortunately, your children and grandchildren may see your prized home furnishings as nothing but a bother to unload. While previous generations invested in accoutrements that added value, the perceived value of things like fine china or an oak dining room set has declined. 

It is not a hard guess that this trend will continue in the future. George Carlin used to joke that a house is nothing more than a giant box you use to "store all of your stuff." In that routine, Carlin imagines staying at another person's residence overnight and noticing one room whose contents and possessions have not changed in the eleven years since its resident passed away. 

Buddhism takes a negative stance on the accumulation of, and attachment to, material possessions. It is important to clarify that Buddhist philosophy does not see material possessions as inherently evil, so much as it sees them as impediments and distractions on the way to reaching enlightenment. While moving beyond concerns of the material world is an admirable goal, Buddhists also understand that not everyone is interested in reaching enlightenment.

Carlin's mention about the unchanged room is an excellent example of how someone who holds onto everything can transition into a hoarder whom is unable to let go of even the smallest, most insignificant of things. Indeed, a good number of hoarders started out wanting to hold onto one or two things that may have little-to-no inherent value but have a great deal of sentimental value.

Maybe you know someone who held onto a trinket gifted to them by a close friend, like a collectible glass or an out-of-state license plate. Then some event causes the close friend to go away, such as death or moving out of the country; the close friend, his spouse or some of his family members wisely decide to gift her unwanted and unneeded possessions to friends and family, possibly in honor of the friend's last will and testament. 

After his friends and family are properly honored, the friend may hold a yard sale or an auction to simultaneous earn money and jettisoning himself of everything else that was not gifted off. The hoarder-to-be sees this as her chance to preserve as much of her friend's legacy as possible and will go to great lengths acquire his things. 

Because her covetous actions are guided more by the impulse of emotion than well-reasoned logistics, the hoarder has fallen into one of the most common ways for a person's house to become excessively clustered with stuff-owning more things than the home can allow.

A hoarder's house is not so much a residence as it is an amorphous shrine to materialism and misplaced value; the possessions within the house become the number one concern over livability, ease of movement or, in some cases, even sanitation. While the speed with which the hoarder adds to her collection is somewhat dependent upon her particular fascinations, it can become an obvious problem for anyone except the hoarder, who simply adjusts their lifestyle to accommodate the increasing amounts of room her horde takes up. 

It is for situations like this that the concerned friends and family members of a hoarder should strongly look into contracting a professional cleaning service to either purge the horde or at least reduce it to a manageable size. You might also considering getting a counselor for the hoarder in order to understand the reasoning behind her unhealthy compulsions.

When you inherit things, ask yourself:
  • How often will I use this? 
  • Is this something I'll just put in storage?
  • Do I already have several things like this? Why do I need more?
Engage in seasonal purges and liquidation. Everyone has a few items they set aside for a rainy day that never comes (a shame, since the water would wash away the dust collecting on such things). 

Anything that remains untouched for years should be put up for a yard sale or donated!

When "saving" things for family, ask yourself:
  • Would that person actually USE it?
  • Does that person have ROOM for it?
  • Would that person VALUE as much or more than you do?

What are some of your favorite things to remember about acquiring more "stuff"? What tips do you have for decluttering (and doing it ruthlessly)?! 

Emily Kil is a professional blogger that writes about small business, family, and digital marketing.  She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son and two dogs.    

Saturday, August 12, 2017

8 Steps to Prepare for Certification Exams

A normal test can be one thing, but a state certification exam can be quite another. 

When I was working on my teaching certification, I had to sign up for and take five different Praxis Exams.

It’s really intimidating to work so hard in school (or grad school) and then to feel like one test could make or break you.  

First of all, congratulations on finishing (or almost finishing) school! 

I remember how daunting those certification exams were! 

Here are some of the strategies I used for studying for certifications exams:

Study Guide: 
I could find some sort of study guide for most of my tests on Amazon... even the most obscure-sounding ones. If you're having a hard time finding one, check the company's website who gives the test. Most likely, they've put out a resource or can recommend one!

Practice Test: 
Once you get your study guide, don't study it! Flip straight to the practice test (there should be about three). Take the first one "cold" so you can see your strongest and weakest areas. That's what you're going to use to build your study plan!

Strengths & Weaknesses: 
Obviously, you'll want to spend the most time studying areas that you scored the lowest in. You may need to teach/reteach yourself the content. Use your favorite study strategies to learn as much as you can here! Skim through your strength areas review-style. 

Top Priority: 
Make studying for this exam your top priority! Since it's more intimidating than other tests you've taken in the past, it can be easy to procrastinate. Stay conscious of the fact that you might be scared and take the opposite stance! Spend 1-2 hours a everyday studying for it!

Retake the Test: 
Set checkpoints (like one week before the test, and a halfway point between here and there) to retake the practice tests. This will show you which areas you've made improvement in, and which areas you still need to focus on. 

Make sure that all of the logistics of your test day are taken care of well in advance. Actual exam days can be stressful and can negatively impact your performance on the test. Make sure you know exactly what you need, where to park, which building it's in, etc. 

Night Before:
Take care of any logistical details. You’ll probably have to show an ID. Have that and anything else you need read to go. Map out the route you’ll take to the testing center. Lay out all of your clothes/materials the night before. Relax and go to bed early! 

Stay Relaxed: 
On test day, wake up and actively stay calm! No decisions! Eat a breakfast that's high in protein. Stay in the zone! No phone calls, emails, etc. Leave early! Listen to zen or classical music on your way to the testing location and stay positive!! 

If you'd like to see this in a timeline format, here it is: Standardized Test Study Timeline

I know you'll do great, so don't stress (too much)! :) 

What tips do you have for taking certification exams?

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Tips for Balancing Grad School and Real Life

“I’m Managing a full time job, full time grad school, and a social life…help!”

Sound familiar? 

Grad school is a pretty tough time in life because you typically have more responsibility than you did in undergrad. 

Maybe you’re paying your own tuition for the first time. Or your own rent. Or you now have a mortgage (or a marriage) or a baby. 

Maybe all of the above! And don’t forget about that full time job you worked so hard to get straight out of college. 

Going back to school with the responsibility of adult life can be super challenging! Whatever the reason, the blend of college life and adult life can be a struggle for all of us. 

Here are some ways that I learned to deal with it:

Manage your time:
First of all, you are the manager of your time. Your boss probably won’t care about you being behind in schoolwork, and your professor probably won’t care that you’re overloaded at work. It’s up to you to find the balance of your responsibilities. Set limits and stick to them!

Start by prioritizing your time between the two... Yes, they may both be important, but which one is more important to your long term plan? Most likely, you’re in grad school to help further your career. If that’s the case, school is your top priority. 

Don’t be afraid to let your employer know which days you need to leave early for class. But also, don’t try to do schoolwork during work hours! Have the mindset that work time is for work and school time is for school. Don’t forget to leave time for working out and socializing! 

A good planner can really help in this area! Here are a few of my favorites!

Use effective studying skills:
Since you have a limited amount of time to study, you want to make sure your studying techniques are as effective as they can possibly be! Write down what you will work on ahead of time. This way, when you sit down to work, you can start working right away!

The Studying page of this website is full of my favorite study techniques I’ve collected over the years! Here is my overall study routine: Have a prioritized and detailed list before you ever sit down. 

-Set a timer for a certain amount of time. 
-Say NO to any and every distraction that comes your way during that time. 
-When your timer goes off, write down a detailed list of the next steps you need to take on this assignment. 
-That will be your prioritized and detailed list for the beginning of your next study session! 

Continue this cycle religiously, even using the same time and location! Consistency is key to creating new routines!

Find a great home organization system:
The final piece to balancing full time work/school and normal life is to find a quick and efficient home organization system. I like FlyLady’s system because she just says to do a little bit every day. 

She has a free app that works as a recurring checklist you can use on your phone! Plus, you can edit it to fit whatever daily chores/routines you need in your own life (“feed the dog”, “file papers”, etc.). 

Also, this simple technique is my Holy Grail of home (and life) organization!

The key to balancing several different areas of life is to make sure you’re maximizing your productivity and not procrastinating

By having these three things consistently in place, you’ll have more time to spend with friends and family (or secretly binging your favorite series on Netflix)! :) 

What tips do you have for balancing full time work and school? Share them below! 

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