Organized Charm: February 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

5 Rules for Simplified Style

You know that saying about not being able to see the trees for the forest? Or maybe it’s the forest for the trees? Whatever it is, that saying has a lot to do with… my closet. 

I feel like I cannot see the outfits for the clothes! Good grief. Sometimes I just stand in front of my closet and think: what are these clothes and where did they come from and why are there so many and how is it possible that there are so many and I still don't see anything I want to wear?! 

Please tell me I'm not the only one. 

I have clothes in my closet. Clothes in another closet. Clothes in bins. Clothes in the attic. And do you know what talking about all these clothes makes me want to do? Obviously, it makes me want to buy new clothes! 

I know I should be keeping up with what I’ve worn recently and what I could do without (probably all of it). I actually used to have a really nice Post-It system in place to monitor what I was/wasn’t wearing. But I switched closets recently and I just haven’t been keeping with it.

I need a better system for eliminating all of the excess!

Do you know who really has style figured out? The Italians. While the rest of the world is buying into what’s on trend for this season, they are steadily looking awesome in their classicly-Italian ensembles. I've been to Rome twice in the past 3 years and I would move there tomorrow if I could. I'm obsessed. And even through I absolutely LOVE it... I feel 100% underdressed the whole time.

Their style is just incredible.  And do you know what I find most appealing about it? 

It seems simple. 

It just seems so simple. 

So, here are 5 Italian-inspired style rules:
(and these are definitely becoming my new closet rules to keep out the excess!)

1. Don't buy into every passing trend. 
 Well, this is the first and probably the most important for keeping a decluttered closet. Do you ever feel like we’re going to look at our pictures 4 years from now and say: oh, look at my chevron shirt and my chevron rug and my chevron walls and my chevron pumpkin and my chevron dog… Must have been 2013!?

The Italians know what they like. They know what looks good. And they know what will be obsolete in 2 years. I want my closet to be more like that.

2. Choose quality over quantity. 
Which is much easier when you aren’t trying to amass a huge quantity of “trendy” clothing. It's also a lot easier to justify spending a lot on one piece of clothing knowing it will last a long time. Which is probably why I’m the only person in Italy walking down the street in a non-designer dress. Because I’m choosing 39 cheap and trendy dresses over 3 quality dresses. 

And just think of how perfectly I could organize 3 quality dresses!

3. Stick with classic cuts. 
Don’t you think it’s interesting that we still idolize Audrey Hepburn, Jackie O, and Marilyn Monroe as fashion icons? I mean, their looks were so timelessly elegant and classic that I don’t think they will ever be irrelevant. So investing in quality clothing in those same classic cuts has like a 100% chance of never going out of style. 

Which would probably also be great motivation to stay in shape so that we can keep wearing them!

4. Opt for neutrals. 
This is the thing that I am the most in love with. Nothing ensures an easier dressing process in the morning than already having all matching clothes. Can you imagine getting dressed in the morning and the decision is: “Should I wear this black shirt with these grey pants or this grey shirt with these black pants?”. I could make that decision after just one cup of coffee.


5. Accessorize with color. 
Well, of course color is an important part of life. And no one wants to walk around in just black and white and grey all the time. But saving color for accessorizing also saves a TON of money! And makes for 2,345,355 more outfit choices! And guess what? If orange is the big color this year and you’re super sick of it by next year… all you have to replace are some scarves and jewelry!

And I think that’s just awesome.

I am about to set off on my own little journey to creating a more Italian closet :)

Are you feeling overwhelmed by your closet? 
Do you have any advice for me or have any suggestions of other styles I might also like? 

{photos in this post are from Cosmo Italy}

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Standardized Test Study Plan


No matter which one you’re taking, or how seasoned you are at doing it, there is just always something so nerve-racking about taking a standardized test. Maybe it’s the fact that they determine whether or not we can get into something. Maybe it’s the fact that you feel like you’re being watched as closely as a prisoner when you’re taking one. Or maybe it’s the fact that they’re just so dang expensive. 

Because my life is awesome, I actually have 3 certification exams coming up within the next few months… each one with its own study guide and (ridiculously expensive) bill.  Naturally, I’ve been obsessing curious about how much time to devote to studying for these exams. Like, are they more important, less important, or equally as important as my actual coursework this semester?

Maybe you’re curious about this, too?

I did a little casual browsing online (just kidding; it was panic-induced Googling), and most websites suggested that spending about 3 hours a week is sufficient. Which makes sense when you think about it, because we aren’t really LEARNING the material for these tests (hopefully). It’s just a review of things that we’ve already learned.

The main purpose of studying for these tests is to prepare yourself for the format and timing of the test!

 Here is a little timeline to help you kick its butt!  

9 Weeks Ahead: 
Order the study guide online or pick it up at the bookstore. Barnes & Noble has an entire section dedicated to study guides of all kinds! Also, never disappoints!

(this is one time you definitely want to buy the book new so that it includes all cd’s and practice tests!)

8 Weeks Ahead: 
Create a study checklist and timeline (kind of like the one you’re reading right now). Schedule time into your day/week for preparing for the test. Plan to treat your study time just like you would a real class… put it in your calendar (a beginning and ending time), put your phone on silent, and WORK!

Here are some time breakdown examples:
25 minutes a day, 7 days a week
30 minutes a day, 6 days a week
36 minutes a day, 5 days a week
45 minutes a day, 4 days a week
1 hour a day, 3 days a week

7 Weeks Ahead: 
Flip through your study guide. Get familiar with the sections and the format of the questions. Go ahead and take your 1st Practice Test (yes, without studying).

6 Weeks Ahead: 
Check out how you did on your practice test. This will be the way you determine what you need to work on and what you are already awesome at doing! Highlight the problems that you missed and review those chapters in the book.

5 Weeks Ahead: 
Read the rest of the chapters in the book, skim over the material that you are 100% sure you know, and spend more time on your areas of weakness. Highlight the key terms and take notes right in the book (there’s no point in trying to sell these things back, anyway). That way, when you review, all of your information will be right there together… which is super efficient!  

4 Weeks Ahead: 
Put information that you still need to work on onto index cards and review it frequently. Review any relevant textbooks or class notes that you may have. Read through the chapters that cover your areas of weakness again (and again…). 

3 Weeks Ahead: 
Review your index cards. As you realize that you’ve learned the information on them, take them out. Create one big outline with the information that is left to learn.

2 Weeks Ahead: 
Quiz yourself using your study sheet. As you realize that you’ve learned the information on that, highlight it so that you can skip over what you already know. Hopefully, the whole thing will be highlighted by the end of the week!

1 Week Ahead: 
Take the 2nd Practice Test in conditions as close to the actual test as possible (at a desk, quiet, timed). Review the items that were missed this time. Put them on new notecards and review them like crazy until 2 days before the test!

The Day Before: 
Give your brain a break! At this point, you’ve either got it or you don’t. Eat a healthy dinner and get a good night’s sleep! 

And on that test day, you march into that building with confidence because you worked hard and you know you’re completely awesome! :) 

What test are you preparing for? 
Do you have any advice to add to this timeline?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Freebie Printable: Weekly To-Do List & Progress Tracker

Today is an exciting day in the world of Organized Charm…
 I have created my very first printable and I am oh-so-excited to introduce it to y’all!

Earlier this week, I discussed how I organize my planner. One of the very most important parts of my planner is the the repurposed Meal Planning section that is now dedicated to my weekly school assignments. 

But you know what I realized? Unless you have the exact same planner that I have, you don’t have those sheets for keeping up with your weekly assignments.

Until now :)

Here are 16 weeks (a whole semester) of Weekly Assignment Lists! 

They are nearly exactly like mine, except that I added a couple of extra little things!
(so now, I actually like them better than mine)

Here is what they include and how I would choose to organize them:

Fill in the dates of each new academic week. 

Main Goal
Look at your week and state your BIG GOAL for the week. Maybe a to start on a big upcoming project or researching a major topic…

I left this section blank so that you can start your new academic week on whatever day works out  best for you. This semester, everything I have is due on Thursdays, so I’m starting new projects and readings on Fridays and Thursdays are my day to have it all complete. If you think better doing the more traditional Sun-Sat or Mon-Sun, you can do that, too! It’s all up to you!

This is where I put each and every little task that I need to have complete by the end of the week. Sometimes, I break down my assignments into the different days I want to work on them and sometimes I just fill it in continually, depending on what I didn’t get finished on the previous day.

Kind of the most important part. Yet, somehow, this is the thing that always seems to be left off of to-do lists! WRITE DOWN YOUR PROGRESS! How much time did you give yourself and what the heck did you do with it? This section holds you accountable for how you spend your time.

Finally, I added some of my favorite little motivational phrases at the bottom. If you keep your sheets in order, these should go along pretty well with where in the semester you are! 

(And obviously, these lists can be used for anything… not just “school” related tasks).

 I am SO EXCITED to hear about how y’all use these! 


Thursday, February 6, 2014

How I Organize My Planner

Ok, so I have already talked about how I am completely obsessed with planners. Planners are like an art form to me, seriously. Even if I don’t need a new one, I still just enjoy flipping through them, seeing how they’re laid out, and I also LOVE seeing how other people organize theirs!

Last year (and for the 10 years prior to that), I have pretty much always used the same type of planner and the same system for using it. But there was something that always really frustrated me about this system: life!

Do you know what I mean? Like, I have this beautifully laid-out, organized, color-coded day where everything fits together like a puzzle (because I just can’t say no and have to use every single square inch of time in my day on something) and then, all of a sudden, something changes!

And it throws me into an absolute panic. 

Well, one of my goals this year is to become a person who is more spontaneous (stop laughing). You know, one of those people who “goes with the flow”. Well, obviously I need a plan in order to be more spontaneous, riiiight? 

And so, I got a new kind of planner and a new kind of system!

As of January 1, 2014, here is how I organize my planner:

-My Planner-
I used the OrganizeHer on-the-go Family Planner from Target ($11.99). It is traditionally a "mom" planner, but with a little modification, it could really work for anyone! I would even go as far as to say it's the best planner I've ever had!

{laminated Post-It tabs to quickly flip to this week and next week}

This planner has 4 sections: Meal Planning, Expenses, Scheduling, Organization. I used Washi tape to repurpose the ones that I needed to use for something different. 

-Color-Coding System-
I stuck with the same color-coding system that I’ve been (obsessively) using for years:

Pink —> School
Purple —> Personal
Blue —> Social
Green —> Work
Orange —> Writing
Gray —> Goals

(I just recently began putting my goals in my planner… which I now think is pretty vital to achieving them!)

-Section 1: School-
Since I don’t really “meal plan” (like, ever), I decided to use this section as my weekly to-do list for school assignments. Everything I have this semester will be due on a Thursday, so I covered the days of the week with Washi tape and started the week with Friday (since that’s when I’ll start on new assignments). 

{the left column is for things to do and the right is where I track my progress}

{and yes, I actually do write nothing when I've been completely unproductive}

-Section 2: Expenses-
Sure, I use Mint for tracking my spending but there is just something about writing it down that makes it feel a little more real. Not like the money is floating around in la-la-internet world.

-Section 3: Scheduling-
When something comes up, instead of WRITING it IN my planner, I write it ON the Washi tape instead and place it on the day it’s supposed to happen. Because, you know what? Plans change; things change. And, honestly, I’m so tired of feeling like my whole day is thrown off when I have to mark something out in my planner because of someone else. Since I started using the Washi tape, I can’t even begin to describe how much EASIER it makes it to just switch things around. 

And yes, that is totally a plan for being spontaneous.

{laminated Post-It tabs for “This Week” and “Next Week”}

{laminated Post-It tabs to easily identify different months}

{Washi tape for standing time commitments}

{color-coded pen or marker to make notes of things to remember for each time commitment} 

-Section 4: Goals-
After doing all of the reading and research that I recently did on goal setting, I decided that they DEFINITELY deserved a place in my planner! I wrote my checkpoints down on silver Washi tape and taped them on the dates that I hope to complete them.

*My Essential Planner Organization Items*

1. Post-It’s
I’m still kind of playing around with the whole Post-It system in my planner. I see SO MANY great ones on Pinterest but have had a difficult time making it actually work for me.

...Maybe you can offer me some advice?! :) 

This is another way I’m “planning for spontaneity”. If I write a to-do list directly into my planner and it doesn’t get done, it drives me nuts! I start feeling like I’m behind… and worse, I start feeling like a slave to my calendar. I SHOULD be able to throw an impromptu Margarita date with my bestie into the mix without it throwing off my whole week. 

I just hate the guilt that comes afterwards… when I look at what productive thing I had PLANNED for that time. So, these Post-Its are kind of a way to keep me focused on the things that are really important in life. I’m disciplined enough to know that I will get everything done by its due date. But my biggest fault sometimes is that I’m TOO disciplined, and my friends and family are the ones who get treated as second priority. 

2. Writing Utensils
Well, obvi. Not much getting done without these. I love these pens from The Board Dudes and they go perfectly with my color-coding system! I have been using then for a long as I can remember. However, I have recently become a big pencil-in-er over time (you know, that whole pesky life thing, again). Unless a date is absolutely set in stone (like a holiday or a wedding) I pencil it in at first then seriously add it later.

Also, I LOVE to highlight tasks as I complete them! It gives a major sense of accomplishment! I also highlight days that are over because it creates a little bit of a sense of urgency for me to get more done!

Washi Tape
Finally, this is my new fave part of my planner! I love how it's a very visual breakdown of time. Plus, I just love Washi tape because it's pretty.

Best of all? You know, it helps me plan to be spontaneous! :) 

So, what about you? How do you organize your planner? Do you had a tried and true system that you've been using for years? Do you have any advice for me? 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

How to Create a Semester Assignment Spreadsheet

So, a few months ago, I posted about my study habits in Organized Study Time. I shared all of my deepest, darkest, OCD-iest secrets (and I thought I sounded like a completely crazy person). But, as it turns out, some of y’all are just as crazy as I am because you wanted to know how to make the Semester Assignment Spreadsheet! I never even realized that I just glossed over how to make it until you asked, so THANK YOU for bringing it to my attention!

It really is one of the most important ways that I keep my schoolwork and study time organized! 

What is a Semester Assignment Spreadsheet? you might ask.
It is one single list that combines the due dates and important info from all of your classes. 

Ok, but why is that important? 
I think it is really helpful because it allows me to see which class should take top priority at anytime during the semester. I also like to put the total points available for each assignment so that I can keep up with my own grades. 

And here it is… How to Create a Semester Assignment Spreadsheet!
{It will save your life during midterms and finals, seriously.}

1. Gather the syllabi from all of your classes
Flip to the part with the due dates (you know, the only part of the syllabus that we actually read). I like to highlight the due dates just so I am 100% sure that I don’t miss any. No, seriously, I read, reread, re-reread it like 20 times to make absolutely sure I don’t skip over something.

That would be completely catastrophic. 

2. Open a Spreadsheet in Excel
Excel is my favorite. My absolute favorite! I’m pretty sure there is nothing that I couldn’t make into a spreadsheet. I have an Apple computer but I bought the Windows package just so I could have Excel. If you don’t have Excel, you could try Numbers from Apple. Also, most computers on campus have Excel (and free prints!) or try a local library or FedEx Kinko’s.

3. Create Columns
Ok, so in the top of the spreadsheet, the columns are labeled by letters. Just click on one and start typing. Make individual columns out of whatever information is most important to you. 

I made 4 columns out of the following: 

Due Date / Class / Assignment / Points Available

4. Put in every assignment due date
Now, just go through each syllabus and create a new row for each of the assignments. You can enter them in chronological order or you can enter 1 whole syllabus at a time and sort them out later. It’s really just up to you.

Be sure to fill in all of the information across the columns. When is it due? Which class is it for? What is the name of it? How many points are available?

Then, check it (23 times, if you’re me) to make sure you didn’t skip over any.

5. Sort by due date
There are two ways that you could do this: 

1. Select the Due Date column
(click the top of the column one time with your arrow… the whole column should turn light blue)
Then hit AZ Sort on the toolbar. It should sort the items by date.

2. Order the list the old fashioned way
And by the “old fashioned way”, I mean just cut and paste the dates until they are in order.

Also, I put in tuition deadlines (can’t make an A if I don’t pay) and since I am nearing graduation (yay!), I am also adding the deadlines for things that need to be submitted to my advisor, exit exam dates, and other administrative stuff that’s required.

6. Format it so that it all fits onto one page
This is just kind of your preference. I like to choose the clearest, easiest font for me to read (which is Century Gothic) then I just keep minimizing (or maximizing) it until everything fits perfectly onto one page in a nice neat fashion.

Last semester, I went back and split up the spreadsheet by month, which was actually pretty helpful… but it’s totally not necessary.

7. Print it out
And there you go! I encourage printing it out instead of leaving it as a computer document because I love crossing things out! Like, I really love it. Plus, I can put it in my planner or a folder and carry it to class with me. If I need to discuss a grade with a professor, I have my own running list of all of my grades on that handy little sheet (because, you know, sometimes they act like looking in their grade books is the biggest inconvenience anyone has ever asked of them). If a classmate asks when something is due or how many points it’s worth, I don’t have so spend time flipping through the syllabus… it’s just all right there together!

8. Track your progress
I feel like this is the way that I close out every post. But seriously, tracking progress is one of the best ways to stay motivated and productive!

Here is what I do:
On the sheet, once I start working on a project, I highlight it in yellow. When I complete it, I re-highlight it in pink. And when I receive my grade, I fill it in with a pencil/pen.

No more “We have a test today?” or “When was that due?” or bursting into tears as everyone else in the class hands in the assignment while you sit there in a stunned state because you forgot about it. 
(And yes, all of those ridiculously irresponsible examples are from my past self)

Having (and checking) this one little piece of paper frequently will make your school life feel so simplified. And all of these assignments will not seem so daunting. And the world will be filled with rainbows and butterflies. 

And who wouldn’t want that? :)

What are some ways that you keep track of your assignments? 
How to you prioritize your projects? 
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