Quick Organizing Tips to Help You Feel Great!

This is not an episode about COVID–19. Not really.

But it is about what has happened to us all at home because of our contexts right now. And one of the things we know is that putting into place some basic organizing tools can help you spruce up your home or workspace, get your co-habitants working together, and make you feel great. So this week on the show we’re going back to basics as Nikki Kinzer reminds us all to do what we know, treat ourselves well, and give ourselves permission to be great no matter how the house looks!


Episode Transcript

Brought to you by The ADHD Podcast Community on Patreon

Pete Wright:
Hello, everybody. Welcome to Taking Control, The ADHD Podcast on Rash Pixel FM. I’m Pete Wright. Right over there is the very well organized Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki Kinzer:
I don’t know if I’d go that far right now in my life, but I sure like to talk about it, so we’ll start there. Baby steps.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. Baby steps, baby steps to the organizing tasks. We are going to be talking about quick organizing tasks, and no, we’re not going to be diving deeply into COVID organizing. That’s not what this is about, but if you are feeling a little bit overwhelmed, we have some quick organizing tasks that can help you feel more in control of your life and your space as a result of it. I can’t wait to talk about this. Been a long time since we’ve dipped our toes into the organizing stuff.

Pete Wright:
Before we do that, head over to takecontroladhd.com. You can get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show right there on the website or subscribe to our mailing list, and we will send you an email each time a new episode is released. Connect with us on Twitter or Facebook at Take Control ADHD.

Pete Wright:
If this show has ever touched you or helped you make a change in your life for the better, if you found that you understand your relationship with ADHD in some sort of new way, we invite you to consider supporting the show directly through Patreon. Patreon is listener-supported podcasting. With a few dollars a month, you can help guarantee that we continue to grow the show, add new features, invest more heavily in our community. Did you catch up on the brain playground this weekend?

Nikki Kinzer:
I loved it. Oh, my gosh. I’m going to have my daughter look at it because there were so many fidgets and reviews and thoughts and links. Ellie, you did a wonderful job. Absolutely loved it.

Pete Wright:
That was a full brain playground mic drop with fidget reviews. It had a table of contents. It was amazing.

Nikki Kinzer:
She’s amazing.

Pete Wright:
It was just fantastic. Yes. Thank you, Ellie, for continuing to be a part of the army of people who are making this just such a fun community and a well-informed community of ADHD peeps. You guys are the best. Please check it out. If you’ve ever thought about supporting the show, come hang out with us. Patreon.com/theadhdpodcast to learn more. All right, Nikki.

Nikki Kinzer:
All right, Pete.

Pete Wright:
Let’s get organized.

Nikki Kinzer:
Let’s … let’s try. This is the thing.

Pete Wright:
What is the thing?

Nikki Kinzer:
This is the thing. I love that you said this is not about COVID, right? I had somebody talk to me the other day. Actually, it was sometime last week and they were talking about podcasts, and they were saying that they sort of stopped listening to some of the normal podcasts because all people were talking about is COVID, and they’re tired of talking about COVID. I thought, “You know, I’m tired of talking about it too.” I thought that, and that’s why I’m so glad you framed this, and I’m going to frame it again too.

Nikki Kinzer:
This is not about getting organized in quarantine. I think that there’s some pressure that was put on people at the beginning. “Oh, well, you’re home, and so, here, get all this stuff done,” but not really taking into account that you’re stressed because you just lost your job, and maybe the last thing you want to do is organize a closet, right? It’s not about that.

Nikki Kinzer:
What I want to encourage people to do is that there are quick organizing tasks that you can do that won’t require a whole day of work or hours of your time, but will still make you feel really good about what you did and somewhat productive, under whatever circumstance it is.

Pete Wright:
Somewhat productive. Honestly, that is the bar for me, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Somewhat productive.

Pete Wright:
If I can just reach somewhat productive, I’m feeling good.

Nikki Kinzer:
I know. I think that, gosh, you bring up a really good point right off the bat. Expectations are always so high when it comes to to-do lists and tasks and projects and everything. Everything is so high. That’s why, yeah, it’s somewhat productive. You can just go to bed and feel good about getting some sorting done, and I’m talking about 15 minutes of sorting. We’re not talking about hours in the garage. I mean, this is very different. I like it. It’s a nice way to get things done that, yeah, is somewhat productive. There you go.

Pete Wright:
Somewhat productive. That’s exactly right. All right, so where would you like to start?

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, I have a few reminders that I want to share with people. First of all, this already tags from what we were already talking about. Give yourself permission to be okay with not wanting to organize your space, ever. I mean, you’re really probably never going to wake up and just say, “Oh, I’m going to organize today.” It doesn’t really happen. It’s one of those executive functions that every ADHDer has trouble with, and it’s really hard to do.

Nikki Kinzer:
Give yourself permission to know that it’s okay, that you’re not going to necessarily want to do it, but it’s also giving yourself permission that, if you do want to get some organizing done, good enough is good enough. We’re never looking for perfection. It’s always a work in progress. Giving your permission to start small. You do not need to do a whole room, and you certainly do not need to have the expectation of getting your whole house or apartment or condo or whatever you live in organized as well.

Nikki Kinzer:
I was talking to a new client last week. One of the things that we’re going to start with in her coaching journey is about organizing. When we talked about this theory of just starting small, this is what she said. She said, “I guess I just needed to hear somebody give me the permission that it was okay to do just a drawer.”

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
I’m like, “Well, you’ve got it. You’ve got the permission,” right, because you do. Again, those expectations become so big that you think that you’ve got to do the whole dresser, you’ve got to do everything else, and so really starting small. I’m also going to say give yourself permission to not feel bad about unfinished projects. Wow. That’s kind of weird, right?

Pete Wright:
Yeah, considering I broke a toilet this weekend, and I think I would have felt bad about that had I not fixed it. I get it.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, that’s kind of like when the dishwasher starts flooding. You need to fix that.

Pete Wright:
I was trying to do something and I made it worse, and then I had to make it better.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right, right, right. When it does come to starting projects, these little organizing things, I think it really is important to give yourself permission that doing it halfway really is good enough. Any progress is something to celebrate. Again, we don’t have to do everything at once. If you start and you don’t finish it, that’s okay. You got a little bit done. Maybe the next time you go into that area, you will be able to find what you need. That’s the success there.

Pete Wright:
I feel like we’ve talked about this before, and I cannot for the life of me remember the source. I think I mentioned it. Couldn’t remember it before, and you actually came up with the source. It was my wife had read this blog post and was like, “We’re going to try a thing, which is every night we’re going to dry our sink out and make sure that it’s polished.”

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, yeah, FlyLady.

Pete Wright:
FlyLady. That was it. We’ve had this exact conversation before, and that has been stunning, right? It’s the smallest part that we could possibly do, right? Drying out the sink takes 10 seconds, but when you come down in the morning, it becomes a halo. It’s a thing that we want to effect other things.

Pete Wright:
As I’m looking at this and thinking about being okay with doing the smallest thing, we’ve got to be excited and put ourselves in a position of being provoked by the halo effect. If you do the smallest thing, there’s a very good chance you’re going to get excited about doing the next smallest thing. That’s motivation in and of itself.

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely. Well, and another example on top of that is just even making your bed every day. If you can just get to the point where you’re making your bed every day and that’s the only thing you’re doing, at least you have some kind of order.

Pete Wright:
Well, when I make my bed every day, I want to pick up the dirty clothes on the floor.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, right.

Pete Wright:
When I pick up the dirty clothes on the floor, I want to line up my slippers or hang my robe up or something like that. Those little things that only take a few seconds more, I’m more inclined to do it if the bed is made.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes, absolutely. Yeah, so true.

Pete Wright:
Halo.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yep. Some things to do to set yourself up for some fun, because again, I know organizing isn’t necessarily fun, but you can make it a lot more entertaining. I put a lot of value on music here. I think it makes a big difference when you put on your favorite music, especially if it’s uplifting and makes you happy and you just want to dance, right? That’s just going to uplift your mood. It’s going to uplift your mood while you’re doing this task.

Nikki Kinzer:
I also listen to podcasts when I’m doing organizing or cleaning. I think it just makes the time go by faster. Then one of my favorite things to do, which won’t surprise you, especially when it comes to chores and organizing, is I love to work in sprints. I do as much as I can in a 10-, 15-minute period of time, and I just make it a game. Take a 10-minute break, come back for 15 minutes. I don’t necessarily do the 25–5 Pomodoro, but as we’ve learned, there is real no science behind that anyway.

Pete Wright:
We can do whatever we want.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. I always get more done just knowing that I’m trying to beat the clock. There’s something about that.

Pete Wright:
I’ve got to tell you what I miss most … again, not a COVID podcast … but I deeply miss having guests, for this reason, because having somebody come over is the instant impetus for a sprint that will get my house clean.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s so funny you said that, because last Saturday, because it was such a beautiful day in Oregon, my best friend and my daughter’s best friend are mother and daughter too, so we said, “Hey, we want you guys to come over in our backyard and we’ll have a family picnic, six feet apart. You bring your own food and drinks, we’ll have our own food,” but I knew that they might need to use the bathroom.

Pete Wright:
So there’s a path?

Nikki Kinzer:
I basically made sure I disinfected and cleaned the bathroom really well so everybody was safe, everybody felt safe about using the bathroom. Really honestly, we’re probably one of the safest houses to be in right now because we don’t go anywhere. Yeah, I had to clean everything that they could see and pick everything up, so you’re right. There’s this path from the back door to the downstairs bathroom.

Pete Wright:
That’s perfect. That is perfect. That’s exactly how our house is now.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s a great motivator.

Pete Wright:
It is.

Nikki Kinzer:
Even if you can have people outside and go that path, that might help.

Pete Wright:
Well, and little things like vacuuming, right? We sometimes are not so great about vacuuming the house. We find if one of us gets out the vacuum and vacuums the living room, it is so easy to vacuum the rest of the house. You just have to start, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. Those are one of those things that is annoying not to finish, at least for me.

Pete Wright:
Oh, totally.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s one of those kinds of annoying tolerations. It’s like, “I need to finish all of that.”

Pete Wright:
Because you can see where you stopped. There’s are lines.

Nikki Kinzer:
You can see it. Yeah, for sure.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. I don’t care for that.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. No. What can you do in a few minutes that’s going to make you feel good? What I want to do is really focus in on step two of the organizing process. Last year we did a series about the different steps. In my online course on my website, we go into much more detail about these steps. If you’re looking to get into more detail and work on some bigger projects, please go check out the online courses.

Nikki Kinzer:
Just to give you a quick review of what I mean by step two, and then we’re going to go straight into a little bit more in depth in step two, the first step of organizing is planning. It’s basically just deciding what you’re going to be working on, getting an idea of how you want that space to function, what needs to be there, what doesn’t. You can skip this step right now, right? We don’t need to plan.

Nikki Kinzer:
We’re just going to be looking for little things to do in step two. Step two is the sorting and the purging. This is where we want to focus, because this is a going to be taking the inventory. It’s going to be probably making a bigger impact, but we’ll get back to that in just a minute.

Nikki Kinzer:
Step three is organizing. This is after you’ve done your purging. You’re going to actually assign homes for items that you have now. Skip it. The maintenance piece right now, putting things away, I want to say skip it because you’re not going to worry about that right now, but I will tell you, maintaining makes the other steps a lot easier if you do have some kind of maintenance involved, but we can talk about that another time.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right now we’re going to focus on step two. This is, again, where you take an inventory of whatever it is that you’re going through. You’re looking at the item and you’re deciding whether you’re going to keep it, donate it or trash it, so basically three answers, keep it, donate or trash. Grab a trash bag, box, whatever you want to do to collect the items that you have decided are going to be gone, that are going to be let go of.

Nikki Kinzer:
To make this even easier for you, I would just create some standbys. Whenever you get that feeling of organizing, grab that trash bag and just start sorting and putting things in it. We want to make this really simple and easy. It’s not something hard to do.

Nikki Kinzer:
The other thing that we want to do in this stage right now to keep it easy is we want to make all of the easy decisions. This is not the time for you to make hard decisions, or even anything that are the maybes. Does that make sense?

Pete Wright:
Yeah, totally.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. If you can see it and you know you don’t want it, then just put it away, keep moving on. If you’re not sure, keep it, keep moving on.

Pete Wright:
Right. One of the little rules that we had put together in that course that I think I’m reflecting on right now is that if you’re stuck on what maybe should be an easy decision to get rid of something, but you think, “Oh, maybe, maybe, maybe I should keep it around,” definitely think through how hard it would be to replace it, because it might be a thing that you could, under normal circumstances, borrow very easily from a neighbor, or run down to Home Depot and get.

Pete Wright:
Right now, you might want to be thinking about, “How hard would it be for me to replace this, because I can’t just go to Home Depot in 15 minutes and pick it up, or I can’t, because of social distancing or cleaning, whatever, it’s going to be harder to replace this thing.” That may impact your decision.

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely.

Pete Wright:
That is one that I’m constantly weighing. Should I just throw this in the garage because I know I might need it in six weeks and then purge it, or have a little post-staging place?

Nikki Kinzer:
Area that you can come back to? That might be a good way to actually split the project. Those things that you’re more on the verge of getting rid of but you’re not quite sure, you could always put to the side. Then the next time, you can come back and check them out again. Absolutely.

Pete Wright:
Right. Right. To your point, getting them out of the house, putting them in that staging place like under a shelf in the garage or something, just get it out of the house, goes so far to relieving that pressure.

Nikki Kinzer:
It really does. It’s amazing. Yeah. Here’s some just quick, easy tasks that you can do that I think can really help make a difference. Again, I’m going to emphasize this. I just think it’s so important. Use that timer and make a game out of it. It’s the way to engage in this. It’s just like, Pete, when you guys did the 31-day challenge in January and each day you had to have like one thing you decluttered, and then the second day, two things.

Pete Wright:
That’s right, yeah. We decluttered the amount of things for whatever day of the month it was in January, and it was additive. By the end, we had to find 31 days’ worth of things, so 31 things to declutter out of our house, and add all those up. It was extraordinary. It was extraordinary.

Nikki Kinzer:
It is extraordinary, and that’s a game. That’s putting a game to it. It’s making it a lot more engaging. Junk drawers can be something that you can take care of. What I mean by this, because I know what my junk drawer looks like. I wouldn’t necessarily want to organize it, but I would be okay with getting the junk out of it and then just being done.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s what I mean by skipping the organizing step, is that you don’t necessarily have to go back and organize it. Just get the stuff out that you know is trash or whatever, because we all have that, right? We all throw stuff in there that we think we’re going to need and then we figure out that we don’t, and then be done.

Nikki Kinzer:
Another really quick and easy thing to do in your closets or your dressers is just go through your clothes and just donate the easy decisions. Anything that you know that you haven’t worn in a long time, you don’t like, all you’re doing is you’re just spending some time and some focus on this one area. Again, you’re not having to take everything out and try stuff on and redo it. We’re not saying that. Just easily, quickly, go through your clothes and donate whatever you don’t want.

Pete Wright:
Can I just say one thing?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah.

Pete Wright:
I still live by a thing, a set of closet things that you set out for me 10 years ago.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, geez.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. First of all, it was to get the fancy hangers, the felt, velveted hangers that are sticky so your clothes don’t slide off and stretch out. I got enough hangers for the clothes that I had and loved at that time. The “in one/out one” rule of hangers to clothes has been extraordinary for me.

Pete Wright:
If I get new clothes or if I get a new stitch fix or something, if I need to shake it up, it has become so easy to determine what stays and what goes, because the rule in my closet … this may seem totally arbitrary … is if I have too many clothes for the amount of hangers that I have, I must get rid of clothes, not add hangers.

Nikki Kinzer:
Not add hangers. I love that, that takeaway.

Pete Wright:
It has been transformative for me, because I don’t any more get into the closet overflow. If I get something lovely that somebody gives me as a gift and I love it, I’ll keep it, but that comes at a cost. That’s a direct cost. Something is going to go. It used to be like if the thing fit me, I would keep it forever. I can’t live like that.

Pete Wright:
I’m also trying to be much more conscientious about how long, like the shelf life of my clothes. I want to be so intentional that I’m not constantly throwing clothes out, donating clothes. That is also irresponsible. It’s just really changed the way I’ve thought about clothes. Anyhow. I love it.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s great. Love it. Well, the next tip I have here is something that you’ve already mentioned, and that’s doing your dishes. It really is amazing how cluttered a kitchen can look when there’s lots of dishes. I say this with full experience every day of my life, and how you put them away, and it really only takes … well, sometimes it takes longer, but it really is less time than what you think. It’s one of those things that you always think is going to take forever, but it really doesn’t take that long once you do it. Your kitchen is always going to look nicer when there is a clean sink. It’s true.

Pete Wright:
Just remind yourself how good it feels, not the night when you’re doing your dishes, but the morning when you come in.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, that’s what you have to be thinking.

Pete Wright:
It feels so good, yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s right. If you have a purse or a bag or a work bag, dump everything out and get rid of the trash, and then put everything back in. A quick, easy thing to do. It’s amazing how quickly you can add up gum wrappers, receipts you don’t need anymore, all this stupid stuff. Just get rid of the trash.

Nikki Kinzer:
Something else that we have a problem with. I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m assuming other people do too, but putting away our clean clothes. That’s just tough. They end up staying in the laundry room for some reason.

Pete Wright:
Oh, that’s interesting.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, or they’ll stay on the dresser. I have clothes right now on my dresser that need to be put away. I would say that for us, if I just took 15 minutes … and maybe I’ll do that today … and see how many of them I can put away.

Pete Wright:
That’s pretty handy. I would advise you to start watching a perfect laundry TV show, like Bless This Mess, for example, is my laundry TV show.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes?

Pete Wright:
We’ll put on an episode of Bless This Mess, and I have exactly 23 minutes to fold and put away the laundry. Even if I’m moving slowly, it’s okay, because I’m enjoying the show and I’m laughing and it moves the thing forward.

Nikki Kinzer:
What is Bless This Mess? How do I not know about this?

Pete Wright:
It’s so delightful. Dax Shepard and his wife. They are city folk, and they move to the country and they inherit an old farm, and it is them integrating into this life. It is so random and so hysterical, for us at least. Every episode is just worth such a random chuckle.

Nikki Kinzer:
Okay. I know what you’re talking about. At first I thought you were talking about like a cluttered show. I’m like, “What?”

Pete Wright:
No, the title is irrespective of home organizing. It’s just a funny show. I like the title because it reminds me to keep moving forward with my cleaning.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right. Absolutely. That’s great. Well, and then you can associate something good with something that’s not as much fun too, right, so you’re associating it with something positive.

Pete Wright:
Exactly. Right.

Nikki Kinzer:
I like that. Okay. Now actually, this next tip really helps, I think, with the maintenance piece. If you do this every day, I think you’d be really surprised how much clutter you actually get rid of in your house. That’s just going around your home for 15 minutes and pick up and put away as much as you can, or purge. Just start an area, 15 minutes, purge, whatever. I think even picking things up and putting them away can make a big difference on the maintenance piece.

Nikki Kinzer:
Get the family involved. You don’t have to do it by yourself. I tend to put the stuff that goes upstairs for the kids, I put them on the stairs so they have it. They’re either going to go … well, and this happens … they’ll either step over it to get upstairs, or sometimes my husband will put this note. We have this note saved where it says like, “Stop. Take your clothes up.” That’s a nice reminder.

Pete Wright:
The last time we talked about this, it was some years ago and we started doing that, putting on the daily cleanup song, right, loud music for five minutes, and you clean and purge and put things away as hard and fast as you can, the whole house, for as long as the song lasts, and then you’re done. Then if it didn’t get done, you put it away. You just leave it where it is for tomorrow.

Pete Wright:
Eventually the house got clean, and we stopped having to do it, right? There was this little peak where it was super fun to do every day, and then we just got better at having some new habits. I kind of miss it. At the same time, I like that people have generally improved and like to keep their stuff in their rooms.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. That’s great. That’s great. Let’s see. Couple other things. Go through a stack of mail. Again, set the timer. I know that a lot of people right now are like, “I have stacks of mail. I have mail everywhere.” Just get a small stack. Set the timer, go through as much as you want. Junk mail maybe is the only thing that you’re looking at, and you’re done. That’s definitely one of those projects that are going to be finished but not necessarily completed.

Nikki Kinzer:
Same thing with any stacks of paper that you have in your office or laying around anywhere on the counters, just going through it. Can’t emphasize the timer enough. I think it’s really important. Now, if you don’t want the timer and you want to just work, that’s great. I mean, that’s certainly a wonderful thing. I just don’t think it’s realistic.

Nikki Kinzer:
The other last thing I would say here is just work on one little cluttered spot. Maybe it’s like a dining room table, a nightstand, whatever you think might help you be a little bit more inspired to complete it. I think that nightstands are a really good thing to do. If you have a bunch of stuff on a nightstand, just taking a couple of minutes to, okay, put the medicines away if they’re not supposed to be there, whatever, can make a big difference. I know tables and things like that, little areas, just get kind of built up. Just spending a couple minutes to look at a cluttered area and do as much as you can.

Pete Wright:
The permission part is the most important, because all of these things, even the quick and easy tasks, it’s pretty easy if you’re careful not to allow them to burden you.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, absolutely.

Pete Wright:
If you start with this mindset that it’s okay, it’s okay to do as much as I am able to do right now, it’s okay that it’s unfinished, it’s okay that I come back when I have more energy or insight to do this, it’s okay to give away, it’s okay to donate, it’s okay to recycle, you can make yourself feel a lot better. This has been great, Nikki Kinzer. Thank you. Do you want to talk a little bit about next week?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes. Next week we’re going to have a special guest coming on our show for the very first time. Her name is Lisa Woodruff. I’m guessing that probably many people have heard from her. She’s from Organize 365, and she’s the creator of that website. There’s lots of different products and things like that that she does, and courses and everything.

Nikki Kinzer:
She specifically next week is going to be here to talk about the Sunday Basket, which from what I’ve heard, I know some clients have had some real great success with this idea, and it’s going to talk about mail and filing and some of the paper clutter that is probably piling up.

Pete Wright:
Excellent. Sunday Basket next week.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. I’m excited to meet her.

Pete Wright:
Absolutely. That’ll be delightful. She’s been great to exchange emails with in prep, so I’m looking forward to seeing her in real life next week. Thank you, everybody, for hanging out with us. We appreciate your time and your attention. On behalf of Nikki Kinzer, I’m Pete Wright. We’ll catch you next week right here on Taking Control, The ADHD Podcast.