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Perfectly Imperfect

For the first few years of my business, I operated in a bubble of my own making. I served my clients, I learned from them, and I deepened and refined my own ideas about organizing. I did this rather intentionally: I wanted to develop my own voice, rather than glom on to someone else’s ideas.

This is an organized closet. The client can find and use everything. It’s just not a picture perfect closet, and that’s ok!

This is an organized closet. The client can find and use everything. It’s just not a picture perfect closet, and that’s ok!

And then I gained some confidence in my skills, got on Instagram and started following other organizer accounts and… hoooooo boy. The extreme precision and decoration on a lot of organizing layouts, sometimes seemingly to the detriment of actual usage of the system, really threw me for a loop. (Want to know what I’m talking about? Search #organizinginspo on Instagram.)

I’m glad I spent that time in my bubble, because it didn’t cause me to question my own work or become jealous of others’ success. Instead, I was able to approach this very powerful (and very pretty, it must be admitted) organizing trend from an inquisitive place. Why did I have such a visceral reaction to some of these pictures? Why did I instantly know on a gut level that this was not the kind of work I wanted to do?

It comes down to the whole reason I started my business in the first place: I fundamentally believe that the point of organizing is to make life easier. And organizing doesn’t have to mean custom labels ordered off Etsy, rainbow order everything, or matching baskets for days. Organizing means a system of dealing with stuff that works and lasts.

I was explaining this with no small degree of passion and hand waving to my business coach last week, and he looked and said, “besides, if something looks too perfect, you don’t want to use it and mess it up.”

This is also an organized closet. Using boxes for the sweaters on the shelf would actually have discouraged this client from using them!

This is also an organized closet. Using boxes for the sweaters on the shelf would actually have discouraged this client from using them!

I mean, he really hit the nail on the head there. Imagine setting up this big, beautiful organizing system in your closet… and then you wake up the next morning and need to get dressed. What do you do? Are you comfortable with taking down baskets to get out a pair of underwear, flipping through hangers, unfolding knits? Or are you so bummed in advance about the idea of this system getting messed up that you just grab what’s closest to the front and leave everything perfectly in place? I have to tell you, I don’t rainbow order my clothes, because I know I’m not going to maintain it. And I have a lot of practice with using and maintaining organizing systems!

It’s kinda like what I talked about last year regarding using things up and wearing things out. Of course, we shouldn’t treat our belongings carelessly, but we should also actively use them if we love them so much! As much of a bummer as it is to totally thrash a pair of shoes, all the joy taken in wearing them is irreplaceable, and the vision of them sitting perfectly untouched in the closet couldn’t ever come close.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that organizing is for real life. And real life is imperfect! That’s why I focus so much on the actual function of the systems I set up for my clients, and when I do consider the aesthetic of a setup, ensure that it blends seamlessly with the client’s existing home and style.

Later this week… what happens when you put the aesthetic first, rather than the system? Hint: it’s not actually organizing!

LMW

What. The. BLEEP.

I follow a lot of other professional organizers on Instagram - it’s fun to see what people are working on and get inspiration from their projects! But something I saw the other day really shocked me on a visceral level.

Below a picture of a spare pantry shelf featuring neatly categorized snacks in open wire baskets was a caption with a “pro tip”. The organizer suggested that to give your pantry a desirable, high end look, you should purchase attractive snacks and fancy water (SmartPop and Fiji were mentioned by name), store them in pretty rows and wire baskets, and then… Never. Eat. Them.

WHAT?? Guys. Wait. No. Seriously??

The first pantry I ever organized - nicely labeled and containerized, but still very functional!

The first pantry I ever organized - nicely labeled and containerized, but still very functional!

Let’s unpack this for a second. I’ve been processing this for a few days now, and I’m still just staggered that this organizer is suggesting you devote storage space to things that you do not need and will not consume in order to create a certain look. In a room in your house that NO ONE EVER GOES IN.

First of all, we’ve got the straight up waste. I don’t know about you, but food waste really bothers me. It’s not just a waste of money, but also of the resources used to grow, manufacture, and package the food. Food waste is also a huge environmental problem, taking up space in sewers and landfills. And there are hungry people in this country for goodness’ sake - it’s just extraordinarily poor taste to flaunt never-to-be-touched food in a public forum.

Second of all, this is an epic case of Keeping Up With The Jones’ (or Kardashians, if you’ve seen the pics of their cookie jars that no one eats from). It’s another example of mindless consumption at its least constructive. If you actually eat SmartPop and drink Fiji water, and have large enough pantry in which to store them in pretty wire baskets with lots of white space, awesome! But if you don’t, create your own custom version of a well organized food storage area and live your truth. I find it extremely ethically suspect to recommend that people put on a facade of a lifestyle they do not live. It can only lead to feeling more empty behind that false front.

Another straightforward pantry I organized for a busy young family.

Another straightforward pantry I organized for a busy young family.

And third, we’ve got the total perversion of the entire point of organizing a home. The reason to get organized is to make your life easier. Full stop. Organized living means you spend less time and energy dealing with your stuff, and instead devote those resources to the relationships and activities that truly matter to you. A pantry full of pretty uneaten food contributes to an easier life in exactly zero ways.

I’m just… I’m agog. It’s all well and good to create an aesthetically pleasing home. But to go to this degree in a PANTRY? Where no one goes except the people who live in that house? Just so you can post pictures on social media? Of measuring up to somebody else’s idea of what “high end” is and why that is desirable? I am so squicked out by the whole idea.

I’ve now been helping people organize their homes for over five years. And I can tell you conclusively that happiness does not come from more stuff, or fancier stuff. It comes from feeling love, connection, and contribution. A fake “high end” pantry will not make anyone any happier.

LMW

Bullet Journaling: Helpful or Hype?

Our culture is currently obsessed with productivity and saving time. This makes sense: as a whole, we’re wealthier than we’ve ever been and we can buy almost everything we need… except time.

This explains the popularity of the bullet journal: a custom made planner that you design specifically for your needs. Some people use it as a calendar, some as a to-do list, some as a goal setting tool, and many people use it for multiple purposes. There’s serious power there in being able to plan things that are important to you so that you minimize the time it takes to deal with them.

And yet, the focus of bullet journaling seems to have shifted away from pure productivity and toward making the journal itself as Instagrammable as possible. Just look at Pinterest: there are so many photos of beautiful bullet journal layouts that must have taken hours. To me, this is kind of like the “pretty box and label” problem - the intention is great, but many people get caught up in the aesthetic details and waste more time than they save.

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

This is why I initially rejected the bullet journal. Of course, it’s great to have a creative outlet, and if you personally derive a lot of intrinsic value from the process of beautifying your bullet journal, that’s great. However, there is a lot of hand wringing online by potential bullet journalers who don’t take it up because they feel that their artistic skills are inadequate. Talk about missing the point! A bullet journal is intended to help you be productive in whatever way works for you, and literally no other human ever has to see it.

I also can’t help but notice that beautiful bullet journals are pushed towards a female audience. All the gorgeous layouts you’ll see online have lovely looping handwriting, pretty patterns and colors, and other hallmarks of feminine stereotypes. And that just frustrates me, because the last thing we need in this world is one more image-based activity for women to worry about and waste time on!

Still, I have both work and personal goals that I always think about but never quite do. So, I gave the bullet journal strategy a shot.  Here’s how I do it.

Notebook from Kate Spade New York

Notebook from Kate Spade New York

I use my bullet journal to to two things: track habits I want to acquire, and create mini to-do lists and time planning for each work day. I use a notebook a dear friend got me as a gift and one color of ink. I do no decorations and I use my normal handwriting. I simply lay out the habit chart for each week, and then write the next day’s activities each evening on the following page. it takes maybe two minutes.

Yes, my hand is strategically placed, why do you ask?

Yes, my hand is strategically placed, why do you ask?

And you know what blows my mind? That grid of tiny little check marks adding up as the week progresses WORKS. I get so much innate satisfaction out of checking everything off that I think ahead throughout my day about when I’m going to fit in my desired activities. On the flip side, the things I habitually forget to do or avoid really bug me, so much so that I am motivated to change my schedule for the coming days.

The grid also helps me work towards a larger achievement of permanent habit change. I’ve decided that if I do something every day for two weeks straight, I can consider that habit acquired and move it off my checklist. So far, nothing has quite made the cut - but I’m getting closer, and that’s extremely motivating!

So, as with many things in the organizing and productivity space, I wholeheartedly agree with the strategy while remaining frustrated at the inordinate focus people place on the aesthetic.

Have you tried bullet journaling? How did it go?

LMW

Shift Your Productivity

When I’m working, I have a lot of tabs open. There’s personal email and calendar, work email and calendar, all my work resources like accounting, blogging, CRM, and social media, and then whatever else I’m clicking around on doing research or finding product links. It gets really overwhelming and cumbersome to manage all that within one browser!

In a stroke of perfect timing, a blogger I follow wrote a post recommending an innovative solution to the multi-tab disaster: Shift. He raved about the ease of use and how it streamlined his workflows.

However, I was hesitant, because the tier of service you really need to run a business costs $99 per year, and as a small business owner I’m trying to make sure that every nickel and dime I spend makes an impact.

Finally, after another day spent clicking back and forth between tabs, I’d had enough. I looked over the options one more time and downloaded Shift, the Advanced version.

Not my inbox - image courtesy of tryshift.com

Not my inbox - image courtesy of tryshift.com

You guys, I totally love it. I have three Gmail accounts, and Shift makes toggling between the mail, calendar, and drive windows a total breeze. My personal favorite touch is that when you open a document in your Google Drive account, Shift pops it out into another window automatically. So helpful to be able to tile Google Docs and Sheets across a computer screen - it really makes the Google Drive experience feel a lot more like traditional word processing.

Image courtesy of tryshift.com

Image courtesy of tryshift.com

I’m really glad I chose the Advanced version, too, because I’m using the crap out of those features. Shift accommodates super helpful Chrome extensions including Boomerang (which is actually changing my life, scheduling emails ahead of time is my new favorite thing) and Lastpass (which I’ve raved about before and makes life so much easier). It also tiles some of my favorite services right inside the app, like Xero, my accounting software; Hootsuite, where I manage social media posting when I’m really feeling on top of my life; and even iCloud which makes grabbing all my iPhone photos for blogging a breeze.

Shift is a new product, so there are certainly some downsides that come with the growing pains of any new technology. For starters, it's definitely a Google and Cloud driven software solution. They do offer support for a limited group of other email account types like Outlook, but my lame old Yahoo email address that I use for junk mail is still out in the cold. Actually… maybe that’s not such a bad thing…

The other thing is that there are still plenty of really useful apps that don't work with Shift. I would be over the moon if they could provide seamless integration with blogging software and my CRM program, for example. However, the good news is that they’re adding linked apps and services all the time, so the functionality is only going to get better over time.

Bottom line: Shift is well worth the investment if you live your digital life in the Cloud, appreciate high quality design, and want to level up your productivity.

What other great digital productivity solutions have you found?

LMW

***This post contains referral links, which may earn me cash back or service credit on the linked sites.  All opinions are my own.**

My Instagram Captions, Decoded

Some of my followers have picked up on a small detail: in each caption of an outfit I post on Instagram, I mention how long I’ve owned each piece. In fact, If you go back to the very bottom of my feed, you’ll see that I’ve been doing this since I first started posting my terrible outfit selfies on my old iPhone 5. It was an intentional decision, for several reasons.

First, I believe that in order to use core values to influence others, we must not only talk the talk but walk the walk, and show others that we’re doing so. I write all the time about carefully curating a wardrobe, choosing quality over quantity, being mindful of consumption and waste, and prioritizing relationships and experiences over stuff. That wouldn’t ring true if I were constantly posting pictures of myself in brand new clothes!

Second, let’s get real: I’m not going to build an audience by being just like everybody else. Instagram and blogs are full of fashion influencers who are given or paid to promote brand new stuff. I don’t disapprove of them, conceptually speaking - we all need sources of fashion inspiration and I definitely keep track of what’s new and trending, especially from my favorite brands. That said, there are SO many of them. That niche is full. Instead, I’m trying to create my own!

This decision also serves as a gut check for me. If I’m buying too much stuff, I find myself having to reveal that in my outfit posts, which feels quite frankly icky. That in turn reminds me that I’m styling myself not only as an expression of my personal values but also an example to the outside world (just over 1,000 strong so far!) of how a focus on quality over quantity and style over newness can be 100% compatible with a stylish life.

Plus, as my readers know by now, constant consumption is just not the way I live or want to live my life. I personally feel better, more inspired, more focused, and more connected when I’m consuming less and experiencing more. Over the past few years I have largely freed myself from what I call the Want Monster - a silly name for that constant gnawing inside that feels like it can be filled with beautiful, expensive things. My hope is that my dorky, poorly lit photos of the things I actually wear every day can help a few other people slay the Want Monster and experience the same freedom!

By the way, let me be clear: I’m fully aware that I’m very lucky to have the relative wealth and privilege to be able to afford a select collection of beautiful things, and that most people are not as fortunate. I want you to know that this is something I think about often, and I welcome feedback on ways to make my readers and followers feel like my ideas are accessible rather than off-putting!

So yes, I do tell my Instagram followers how old my stuff is for a reason! By doing so, I hope to show how a real life of style is carefully curated and built over time, rather than bought brand new for each occasion. Sometimes I may miss the mark (whether it’s an outfit that doesn’t work or a regrettable purchase), but I’m still going to take you all along for the ride because it’s important to me that you see my reality.

LMW

What I'm Reading

Photo courtesy of npr.org (Martin Grimes/Getty Images for Grey Goose)

Photo courtesy of npr.org (Martin Grimes/Getty Images for Grey Goose)

Louise Linton Said She "Sacrifices" More Than Other Taxpayers.  It's Not That Simple.

We could all use a refresher on the economics and political principles that underlay the latest scandal-of-the-week.  And if you, like me, post about fashion on Instagram, I hope you can join me in taking a renewed look at our content and remembering that the ability to wear a wide variety of things just for fun is an incredible privilege.

Photo courtesy of racked.com (Greg Finck for Sarah Haywood)

Photo courtesy of racked.com (Greg Finck for Sarah Haywood)

Weddings of the 0.01 Percent

Even though It's been over seven years since I planned my own wedding, I still love reading and talking about weddings - especially when there's as much juicy insider detail as there is in this article!  But as with so many things, I finished it remembering the sociological research which tells us that, past a certain point, money doesn't actually buy any additional happiness.

Photo courtesy of the guardian.com (Alexandra Iokovleva/Getty)

Photo courtesy of the guardian.com (Alexandra Iokovleva/Getty)

Why We Fell For Clean Eating

I completely cut out sugar and processed grains for a solid three months about five years ago, and continue to minimize both of those things as much as my inherent tendency to being a sugar monster allows.  I've never really thought of this strategy as a health panacea though - it's really a weight maintenance tool for me.  I generally avoid extremes, and this article reassures me that that's a wise strategy.

Photo courtesy of racked.com (Claire Zulkey)

Photo courtesy of racked.com (Claire Zulkey)

Shopping For Boys Cloths Is So Boring

This article also brings up an excellent point to me: why does "gender-neutral" skew so masculine?  My sister and her wife dress my niece in all kinds of things, from frilly dresses to onesies that are clearly from the boys' department, and that just seems like a progressive strategy.  But I wonder if they or anyone else would put boys in pink and glitter sometimes in the name of gender neutrality.  I wish they would!

What I'm Organizing

When I started my Instagram account, I committed to authenticity.  The social media world is saturated with picture perfect influencers, and I don't need to compete with them.  Why? Organizing for real lives isn't about a Pinterest-perfect set of chalk labeled baskets, it's about streamlining daily tasks and storage so that you can spend your time and energy on the things that really matter to you.  

So I prefer to show my real life on social media - while of course maintaining some semblance of personal privacy! To that end, I have not and will not retouch my photos, create events only for Insta, or force other people to take my pictures for me.  No #instagramhusband here!

So, as you'll have seen if you follow me on Instagram, my first few months of activity are filled with pretty terrible selfies.  There's only one full length mirror in my house right now, on the inside door of my husband's closet, so that was the only place I could grab pics.  I quickly got fed up with that and decided to get a cell phone tripod with remote so that I could at least move my selfie game to a more well lighted location!

I decided on the iKlip Grip smart phone stand.  While you can get tripods for half the price, I always go for something of higher quality that will last longer without falling apart.  This one was the only tripod listed on the Apple Store, which I took as a good sign!  It was incredibly easy to set up and works perfectly.  The parts screwed together easily and tightly and the remote was a breeze to pair with my phone via Bluetooth.  I probably went from closed box to taking pictures in about five minutes.

I'm still getting used to posing in front of a camera rather than being able to see myself on screen as I take the picture, and I'm still figuring out where to take pictures for better lighting.  However, it's much easier to just grab the tripod and start clicking than it is to open up my husband's closet and move various things out of the way before attempting selfies!  

Check out my Instagram account and let me know what you think.  I'd love to share the kind of content you want to see, and of course follow you back!

LMW

 

Weekly Peek

Friends pictured - the family was too busy exploring!

A Family Affair

This year, I served again on the event committee for the March of Dimes Signature Chefs gala, and as a dutiful committee member, I purchased a table of ten.  But who to invite to share the night of food and wine tastings?  We decided to make it a family affair!  My husband's mom flew in from the east coast, my sister in law and brother in law came into town from the Peninsula, and a few other friends were able to join us for a great night.  As usual, my husband made me promise not to bid at the live auction, and as usual, we came home with something from the live auction.  Hey, it was all for the babies!

Social Media Diet

As of about 8pm on November 8, I have not visited news sites or my personal social media accounts (other than my Instagram feed, an oasis of babies, travel, and food).  I was sick of the partisan back and forth, and wanted to take some time to regroup without the endless noise of memes, comment sections, and dire predictions.  And I have to admit: I am truly ashamed about how much time that has freed up!  In place of the bright blue screen, I've been reading more actual books, getting more work done, and generally feeling less like a human waste of space.  I don't know how long it's going to last, but I hope to be able to moderate my social media consumption more effectively in the future! 

Photo courtesy of soul-cycle.com

Soul What?

My best friend came into town for a weekend to attend our friend's baby shower, and she had one request while she was here: to take a SoulCycle class.  I don't generally go in for super fad workouts, plus I was absolutely terrified that I'd keel over and die, but she's my best friend and I couldn't let her go in there alone!  And you know what, it was fine.  It was a good workout and the time passed quickly because of the great music and the enthusiastic instructor.  I'm really not a fan of the extra hot and humid room (I produce enough sweat on my own thankyouverymuch), and I could do without all that intensity... the staff were pretty unimpressed with us as newbies and we could tell.  Still, I can totally see myself going to the odd class, especially when traveling, since it's super easy to sign up online and show up.

Photo courtesy of sf.eater.com (we got one of these cool booths!)

New Openings

I have a friend who's always on the pulse of the latest restaurant openings.  If you have a friend like that in a city like San Francisco, you know how great it is!  So it was that my three best girlfriends and I found ourselves sitting down to dinner on the very second night of service at August 1 Five, a modern Indian restaurant.  There was a little comedy to do with working out the kinks - my friend accidentally got a wine menu with someone's notes on it - but everyone was friendly and the food was so delicious.  We loved everything, even ordering more after we'd cleaned our first round of plates, but it must be said that the chicken biryani was stellar.  And the cocktails are excellent, but also note that it's just a couple of blocks from Whitechapel, a truly excellent gin bar, should you want to extend your night on either end!

What I'm Organizing

Although I generally tend to talk about organizing in the context of your home, because that's the kind of work I do, it's just as important to organize your work life.  My personal strategy for my business has been to build slowly, adding in pieces as I create the capacity and ability to fit them into my schedule.  Last week, I took a major step: starting my LMW Edits Instagram account.

I won't be duplicating content across platforms, and you likely won't see many pictures from my jobs.  I value my clients' trust above all else, and their privacy is tremendously important to me.  Rather, I'm going to use my Instagram to give you a bit more of a peek into my personal everyday life, and how my own sense of style is reflected in my daily wardrobe, how I edit my closet, and how I organize my home.  I don't like to dictate, because every person's definition of organized is different.  I want to show you how I organize my life with style, and hope that some of what I do in my own life can inspire you in yours.

Regular Instagramming, just like regular blogging, takes time and effort.  I have to remember to set aside time every day to take my awkward mirror selfies, compose some sort of caption, and think of some good hashtags.  It is, as most things in my business are right now, a work in progress.  I'm looking forward to finishing my home office and finding a place with good light where I can set up a mini iPhone tripod and take slightly better pictures, for starters!

But everything worth doing is worth starting, so I've started.  And one shouldn't let perfect be the enemy of the good, so I've started imperfectly (read: my selfie skills suck).  Follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook, and let me know what you think of the content - I always appreciate feedback!

LMW