Sunday, February 28, 2010

Getting Organized with Edwina Cowgill

Good Day to you! It's me, Christy LaShea, the Queen of Procrastination, blogging with you today.

Well, last week I confessed I'm not the most organized person in the world and requested help. Fellow writer, Edwina Cowgill has answered my call...

C.L. : Edwina, Welcome to F.A.I.T.H. Tell us a little about yourself…

Edwina: Hi Christy. Thanks for having me today. I am a Southern Belle - Georgia born and bred! I am married to my soul mate, Dave and we've been married a little over five years. I have two adult children, Kim and Kyle, and a teenage grandson.

I have a heart for women and it's my desire to teach them through my writing and speaking/teaching how God truly sees us as women. I believe that once women fully grasp that, it will set them free. John tells us in the eight chapter, "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." Ooops...didn't mean to start preaching! As you can see, it is a subject near and dear to my heart! OK - moving on...


C.L. : I’m hoping you can give me a hand in getting organized. The only other alternative is coming to my house, but that would take a process of several months and I
doubt either one of us has the time or wants to put in the commitment, LOL!

Edwina:
I'm game if your are!!


C.L. : How long would you say that you’ve been organized or an organized person? Was this something you learned or does this come instinctively?

Edwina:
Christy, I think I've been organized all my life! One thing my parents taught my sister and me very early on was that we were responsible for picking up our toys. "There was a place for everything and everything was in it's place." I believe that started me on the path of being an organized person. Organization can and does come instinctively. As I said, both my sister and I were taught to pick up our toys, but ultimately, I ended up with the organizational skills and she ended up with the domesticated skills. (I can't bake, I don't like to sew and I hate housework!) And I was daddy's little girl so I watched him work in his home office and occasionally at his office. My dad is very organized and I'm sure I picked up some skills from him. However, I absolutely believe that organizational skills can be learned. Once a skill (any skill, not just organization) is mastered, a person has to be disciplined to continue using that skill, but organizational skills are just as easy to learn as driving a car.

C.L. : Does becoming organized require time each day to minimize the “stuff” in your life? Or, one day a week perhaps? In your experience, concerning tasks of getting your household organized, what works best for you and what doesn’t work for you?

Edwina:
Becoming organized will require an investment in time. (And, speaking of time, becoming organized will greatly improve your time management skills. The two go hand-in-hand.) Once you are organized, it should only take a small amount of your time each day to stay organized.

I have moved several times and have also set up several offices over the years. The first thing I do in terms of what works best for me, is to sit down with pad and pencil and decide what my goal(s) is for that location. Once that is decided, I list what I need for each room in the house or the office and I tackle one room at a time. I have tried organizing a room or an office with no specific plan and that's what doesn't work for me. I find that I go from one room to another, to another and back to the first and haven't accomplished anything. And that rule of organization applies to everything a person does: Finish the task you are doing first, before moving on to another task.

C.L. : Here are some of my issues…

Issue #1… Piles of Stuff.
I find I have piles of stuff sitting around. The piles consist of bills waiting to be paid; magazines I’ve received in the mail and plan to read whenever I’m bored (which isn’t much); Clothes - piles of clothes in every room… Some need to be folded, others need to be put up, others may need to be washed, others possibly donated or trashed. Do you have any advice on how to reduce this habit?

Edwina:
WOW - are you sure you don't want me to come to your house? LOL!

1. I'm going to assume that you have a home office or at least a specific place where you pay bills and where paid bills are kept. The easiest way to deal with bills to be paid is to purchase a desk file sorter that has dividers for 1-31 and January - December. These can be purchased at any office supply store. Take the pile of bills that are waiting to be paid and file them 7 days before the due date. On the day of the week when you pay bills, pull out your desk file sorter, pull the bills that are due to be paid in the next seven days and you are ready to write those checks. Do the same with the invoices if you pay bills online, just file them 3-4 days out instead of 7. Once the bill is paid, mark it as such and file it right then. If you don't have a 2-drawer filing cabinet, purchase another desk sorter that has alphabetical tabs and file the paid invoice behind the letter of the company's name, or by category, whichever works best for you. For example, you could file your gas bill behind "A" for Atlanta Gas or behind "G.'

2. Magazines you plan to read: I love baskets and use them all over my house for a variety of different things. I have several that I put magazines in and read them when I have time. Once I've read them, I will save them in an inconspicuous place and when I have, oh, 8-10 saved, I will take them to my dad and mom for them to read. Obviously, you can always store the magazines on the bottom shelf of an end table, or even in a closet.

3. The clothing issue: Do invest in 3-4 sturdy laundry baskets. I prefer baskets over those bags or cloth hampers. For the laundry you currently have "in every room," start with the pile that needs to be put away and work on that pile until all the clothes are put away. Second, hit the pile that needs to be folded. Fold those and put them away before moving to the third pile. The third pile should be the pile that needs to be washed. Wash them, dry them and when you take them out of the dryer, fold them right there and put them in a laundry basket and go and put that load away. Finally, the clothes that need to be donated, put in bags and put them in your car. The next time you are running errands, drop them off at the local Good Will donation center. The ones that need to be discarded, put in trash bags and put those bags in your garbage.

This reminds me of that Wal-Green's commercial "if we lived in a perfect world..." because I know you are a busy mom of two and I'm sure many others reading this blog are also busy moms. Who these days is not busy? Recognize that some things I suggest might not work at all for you or might work with a little tweaking. Also, give yourself permission to be flexible. If you don't get a load of clothes put away today, don't beat yourself up over it. I remember when my children were young and I had to work around nap schedules and feeding schedules and play schedules. Those times were and still are, far more important than the dust on the coffee table. :)

C.L. : Issue #2… When to keep, when to throw away…
I’m talking paperwork… bills that have been paid, paperwork showing explanation of medical benefits, etc… How long do you keep items like this? How do you store them? Have you read any good how-to books on becoming organized?

Edwina:
The IRS guidelines are specific about how long to keep paid bills, insurance paperwork, tax returns, etc. Yet, when you go to their site, you need a CPA and lawyer to interpret. So here's Edwina's Guidelines: Keep everything that pertains to your taxes for seven years. That's a long time but there is an easy way to do this. Your local office supply store should have expanding files with a flap that will close the file. If you can, find the files with no dividers. My husband and I were just looking for these at a national office supply chain - no names mentioned - but the initials are O. D. - and we did find the files without the dividers but it was a challenge! Buy clear files and put each year's tax returns and backup paperwork in the file. On the outside, write the year and file away. If you still receive cancelled checks with your bank statement, there are expandable clear files made just for cancelled checks.

Unfortunately, I have not read any books on organization, but I'm sure if you go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble, there are plenty of books out there!

C.L. : Any concluding thoughts on becoming organized??

Edwina:
Organizational skills can be learned. Don't be too hard on yourself - allow yourself flexibility. Remember, what works for me may not work for you, so develop skills that will suit your lifestyle!


C.L.: Edwina, thank you for being on the F.A.I.T.H. blog today!

Edwina:
Thank you, Christy for having me! It's been a blast!!

9 comments:

  1. Thanks again, Edwina, for taking part in my fun interview!

    I plan to put this advice to use. Already, I'm looking at certain rooms that need an overhaul and trying to figure out the best way to de-junk and get organized!

    But the laundry is in a pile and I do need to tackle it... some time today... ;)

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  2. Very helpful post Edwina.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Thanks again for having me, Christy! And if you need help de-junking, just call!

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  4. Christy and Edwina, thanks so much for the great info! I'm sorry I'm late reading it and commenting. I was working on tax stuff all weekend! :) After spending a day sorting and totaling all my writing business receipts, I realize how desperately I need to get organized so I can do that monthly (if not weekly!).

    Thanks for joining us, Edwina, and for sharing your expertise.

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  5. And hello to fellow Steeple Hill author, Tina!!

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  6. The place was dark and dusty and half-lost
    In tangles of old alleys near the quays,
    Reeking of strange thing brought in from the seas,
    And with queer curls of fog that west winds tossed,
    Small lozenge panes obscured by smoke and frost,
    Just showed the books, in piles like twisted trees,
    Rotting from floor to roof-congeries
    Of crumbling elder lore at little cost.

    I entered, charmed, and from a cobwebbed heap
    Took up the nearest tome and thumbed it through,
    Trembling at curious words that seemed to keep
    Some secret, monstrous if only one knew
    Then, looking for some seller old in craft,
    I could find nothing but a voice that laughed.

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  7. Thanks for stopping by Tina!

    Missy, sounds like this may have been a timely post for you and your tax organizing (yuck!).

    ***

    Hmm... And well said, Maria-Reus

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  8. And me, sigh, I have such a tight schedule that dust bunnies procreate in miraculous numbers. But I promised myself and my husband that I would devote a little time each day to spring cleaning. My house isn't bad, it's just not what I would prefer with this busy schedule.

    But! I think Edwina has inspired me to just do one simple thing called FOLLOW THROUGH! ;-) Instead of picking up and putting down, I'll pick up and finish. I'm using breaks to exercise and now do a little more organizing.

    It's going to be so much easier to find things.
    Thanks so much for guesting with us,
    Angie

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  9. Uh Edwina, since Christy won't take you up on your offer, you can come to my house. I have the "want-to" to get and remain organized, but I lack in skills and execution department. Ugh!
    So when should I expect you? :-)

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