When I was little, I used to play library. I know, geek alert. I loved the organization of what was, at that time, the library process. It’s all very different now, what with the electronic age, but back when I was school- aged, we checked out books by giving the card inside the book to the librarian and she’d stamp it with the date, and slide the card back into its little slot in the front of the book. It was all very organized and regimented. So, when I was home one day, I went out and bought a date stamp, made little envelopes for all my books and would go through the process of “checking them out.” I found it to be a perfectly wonderful way to organize my books.
I also loved to re-arrange my room. After a few months of the room being one way, I’d spend an entire weekend throwing everything into the middle of the room and I’d re-sort, re-stack, re-arrange and toss that which I didn’t need. I wasn’t practicing yoga at the time, but I think on some level I needed to shift my energy and re-focus and though I get that now from my practice, I frequently do a little re-arranging in my current home. It’s a lot harder when you have more than one room but I’m a firm believer in de-cluttering.
I thought I would focus my third installment in the Bare Bones Yoga “How to” series on this topic; the idea of being organized. What does being organized have to do with a yoga practice, you might ask? Well, I believe the two are intrinsically linked. A yoga practice is a way to show care for oneself and being organized does the same thing. Organization gives us the time to focus on the important things, while always rushing around and looking for your lost keys, for instance, wastes precious time (and creates stress) that one could otherwise be spending on the things that matter. Yoga practice is a practice of discipline; as is being organized.
Now, these tips are things that have worked for me over the years. They have become ingrained in my way of being. As with any new habit, you’ll need to work them into your life and I encourage you, of course, to add your own things and toss what of my tips doesn’t resonate with you. I’ve split my tips into a few topics, focusing on the different segments of my life, in the hopes that you’ll share some of the same areas. Also, let me just say, I’m not a professional organizer (if that’s a job) so I don’t consider myself an authority on the subject. But I like to write about things that are near and dear to my heart, and organization is one of them! So, here goes.
There is nothing that will create more stress in your life than having a cluttered home. Having a clean and uncluttered living space isn’t really connected to how much money you have or how big (or small) your living space is. There are lots of small apartments that, with some creativity, can be functional as well as neat. Here are some of my favorite tips for keeping your house in good working order:
Do a deep cleaning on your house, if it needs it, in order to create a clean slate.
Stock each room with a box of Clorox cleaning wipes (especially the kitchen and bathroom). Use them on the spot for cleaning up spills but more importantly, for doing a once-over every few days. Stock the living room and bedroom with a handy lint free cloth and just do a wipe over the front of the TV and the tops of your tables and dressers. You can do this while watching TV, or before you leave for work or go to bed. It’s amazing what a little wipe down will do and having the supplies handy will encourage you to maintain your clean space once you do the deep clean.
Buy a bucket and fill it with everything you need to clean your house. Paper towels, cleaning supplies, rubber gloves, sponges, brushes and a few lint free cloths. Once a week, grab the bucket and start at the front of the house and work your way through. It’s so much easier when you have everything on hand. After your deep clean, depending on the size of your home, you can probably do it in less than an hour.
Open your closet and grab a few big trash bags. Go through it and toss in the bags any of the clothes you have not worn in one year or more. Then call your local charity and have them pick them up for a donation. Nothing will make you feel better to than to give to charity and also to open up your closet and be able to clearly see what choices you have from a clothing perspective.
Have a wicker basket or some kind of desk organizer by your front door. Use it to drop your keys and sunglasses when you come into the house. If you have a dog, like me, have a hanging entryway caddy (Pottery Barn makes good ones) and hang your dog’s leash on it, along with a few jackets and an umbrella. This way, you’ll never lose your keys and you’ll have a spot for all the things you’ll need before you leave the house.
Mail can be the one of the easiest ways to build clutter. Each day when you get your mail, go right to your garbage pail. Hopefully, you have a shredder (if not, please buy one!) Stand over the shredder and immediately open your mail. Shred what you don’t need. Put your bills in your bill drawer (if you don’t have one, create one. A bill box or inbox will do). Any mail that you get which is documents you need to keep (insurance statements, financial statements, etc) either file right away, or put in a ‘to be filed’ box. Whenever you have free time, you can file the stuff in the box. But don’t get into the trick of piling up mail and waiting for when you have a minute to go through it. Deal with it once and immediately. Also, contact your bank or any other institution that offers paperless billing. Pay on-line as much as you can. This also eliminates a lot of the paper you get in the mail.
Laundry, especially if you have kids, can be an ongoing chore. Every room with a human living it in should have a laundry basket. If you have someone that tends to generate laundry in their car (you know who they are!) put a laundry basket in their car. Make a commitment to doing a load at least once a week or more, if volume warrants it. If you don’t think you have the time, research local laundromats that do laundry. The one in my neighborhood does it by the pound and they do such a great job and fold everything so neatly, I can put it away directly from the bag. Spending a little money on things like this can free you up to do what you really want to do so it can be worth it.
Make your bed every day. If you have kids, encourage them to do so, also (I don’t have kids, but I can imagine this is a tough one!) Having a bed that is made up is one of the first things that can create a sense of sanity and also restfulness when it comes time to go to sleep. There is nothing more inviting than crawling into a bed that you have to turn down the covers on, instead of a bed that looks like you just crawled out of it.
Go through your kitchen cabinets and toss whatever is old and you will not eat. Make a commitment to stock only healthy foods that you enjoy and keep just those in your cupboards. There is nothing more stressful than opening up a kitchen cabinet and seeing tons of things but needing to sort through to find what’s edible and desirable.
Spend a weekend going through your basement, your office, your living room and den. Collect books you haven’t read, items you won’t use anymore. Organize them into piles that you can donate or sell. This may take more than a weekend but it can bring you to a whole new baseline where you’re living with just the things you need from day-to-day. There’s no sense hanging on to those albums or books if you won’t listen to them or read them. Or holding onto posters, pictures, magazines, old notebooks just for sentimental value. Be critical and judicious with what you keep and toss. Think, “ What if I had 48 hours to pack up and move? Could I do it or would I need to spend a whole week going through my stuff to sort it into what I need and what I don’t?” Try to get yourself to the point where you’re living with just what you need from day to day. It will be one of the biggest weights off your chest.
Buy a fireproof box. Store in it your credit cards (don’t carry them on you unless absolutely necessary), important documents, your passport. Lock it and store the key somewhere safe or carry it on your key chain. This is so important in the case of a fire. You need to know that if your whole house burns down, you have identification and a means to replace items and get you through the first few weeks of transition. I did this after there were a few fires in my neighborhood and my awareness around what I’d do if my building burned down was heightened. ( on a related note, if you live with pets, please buy “Pet save” stickers and put them in your windows so just in case of a fire, the fire department knows to get inside to save your pets!)
This is really a topic all its own. Again, you might wonder what the heck is a yoga teacher doing writing about finances? Well, being financially sound (note, I didn’t say wealthy) is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Again, this is a topic all unto its own but here I’ll focus on the process, not necessarily the content. These are just things that I have found work for me and even though I might have ups and downs financially, I have a process that I stick to and that helps on some level.
Have a place to store your bills as they come in. Believe it or not, I still pay bills by writing out checks (it harkens back to my “playing library days”). So, I can’t give you much support when it comes to paying online but the basic concept is the same. Have a place where you can store anything as it comes in that requires payment. Set a reminder in your calendar for when you need to pay rent or mortgage. Set the date out with enough time for the check to get there, if you are mailing it and synch it up with when you get paid. I set reminders on my phone to both remind me when I’m getting paid and when I need to pay my mortgage.
If you get paid on a regular day, set a reminder to pay your bills. Stick to it. If you don’t get paid on a regular basis and you work more on a contract basis, pick a day every two weeks to sit down and review what needs to be paid.
Make a budget. Again, this is another topic unto itself, but at a minimum, create an excel spreadsheet that identifies what you pull in each month and what you give out.
Subtract revenue from expenses and put the rest in a savings account. You can set up an automatic deduction from your checking account. If you are not able to do this, at least go through the exercise. Living from check to check creates tremendous stress but what can be worse is having no idea where your money goes each month. Commit to doing the exercise and it will help you identify where you might need to both cut back and add on. When I recently did this exercise, I identified a few things that I was paying for that I was willing to live without. One was a storage unit that cost $60 a month and held a lot of old stuff from an old residence I had. I gave away some things, including a bike to a friend’s son and now save over $700 a year!
Health insurance is a huge topic these days, so let me start out by acknowledging that you may not have health insurance or a means to get regular check ups. But if you do, make a list of the things that need to be checked each year (eyes, teeth, body) and make those appointments in January for the year. Don’t move them for that dinner appointment or even your regular yoga class. Maintain your health because it’s the only body you’ve got.
Exercise is another huge topic but let me say this. Find what you like to do and create organization around it. If you work out after work, stock a gym bag with your supplies and keep it in your car. If you practice yoga regularly at a favorite studio, make an appointment in your calendar and stick to it. (this includes making the appointment in your work Outlook calendar too!). Clean out your workout drawer so that when it’s time to work out, you have a clean selection of items to wear. Buy fresh sneakers, hang your yoga mat where you can easily get to it, put all the supplies you need in one spot. I have a box under my bed from my 2008 marathon training days. It has all I need for running: Watches, bandages, ipod arm wrap carrier, athletic tape, Power Bars, sunscreen. It’s right next to my sneaker box so when I put on my running shoes, I sort through the box and pull out what I need from there as well. No more forgetting to put on sunscreen or wondering where your watch is!
Cars, like health insurance, have become almost a luxury these days. Expensive to have, especially if you live in a city, expensive to maintain but for most of us, they are completely necessary. I would love to live without a car but every time I think of it, I languish over the idea. Needless to say, companies like ZipCar have really got the concept of not owning a car down pat, and they provide a really wonderful alternative to car ownership. But, for the rest of us, we pay for the insurance, the gas and the upkeep. So having said that, here are a few tips to keep your car in good working order and healthy.
Keep a file, either in your car or home, of every receipt of a car check up.
If you can bring your car to the same place every time for any fix, oil change or upgrade, do it. They, as well as you, will then have a running record of what’s been done. Furthermore, repeat customers are in a much better position to negotiate. I recently had an expensive repair and was able to negotiate a $200 discount as well as a free state inspection.
Don’t use your car as a traveling storage unit. Along with creating a sense of clutter in your car, cars with lots of items in full view are at risk for break-ins. If you work on the road and need to store supplies in your car, visit Target, buy a bunch of bins or storage containers. Put them in the trunk or under the back cover of your hatch and store your supplies in there.
We all live wanting to make changes, grow in different directions, travel, read, make new friends, lose weight, find a new job, move to a new city. Whatever your goals are, create a way to not only write them down, but track your progress towards those goals. My favorite thing over the past few years is just to carry a simple spiral notebook with me wherever I go. I use it to write down ideas, contacts, follow up items. When you work for yourself, you’re always looking for new ways to grow your business. Buy one in January and use it to not only identify what you want to do, but track progress. Whenever I’m feeling frustrated, I look back in the book and see the little check marks. It gives me a sense of accomplishment.
These areas are just some overall, general areas that will start you on your path or, if you’ve got things in great shape already, hopefully you found some new ideas here that will be useful for you. Taking the time to create a sense of order in your life, while it takes effort and commitment, can be one of the best ways to create health s well. Please feel free to share your ideas with me as well. What has worked for you maybe a great thing for someone else! Namaste.
Karen Fabian, M.S., Certified Baptiste Yoga Teacher, ERYT 200 HR, is the founder and owner of Bare Bones Yoga. The mission of Bare Bones Yoga is to bring yoga to adults and children in creative ways. Karen’s website is www.barebonesyoga.com and she can be found on Facebook under Bare Bones Yoga as well as Twitter. Karen writes regularly on her blog, www.kfabian.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.