Category Archives: get organized

11 Tips for How to Be Productive Right Now

keepcalmgsd

You may be mindlessly searching the internet, looking for ways to be productive, asking yourself, “what is something productive i can do right now?” You might have a huge list of things that need to be taken care of but you are overwhelmed, stressed, frustrated, and annoyed at your insane level of procrastination  But that will get you nowhere. You can read all the blogs on the internet about productivity and you won’t learn about how to be productive right now without actually GSD.

The hardest part of being productive is getting started. I love the acronym GSD because it’s a quick reminder to “Get Shit Done.” This is based off the popular and less vulgar term GTD which stands for “Getting Things Done”, a term from time management guru David Allen (and from the book of the same name).

The battle for focus is fierce, but you can GSD right now.

  1. GSD right in the morning. Wake up, get dressed and all that, and then go straight to work. Work first, play later.
  2. Do your worst, most dreaded task first. Get it done first, and it will feel like pushing a huge boulder down a mountain.
  3. Unless your work requires it, disable your internet connection and work offline.
  4. Or move entirely away from the computer.
  5. Blast your favorite music (epic movie soundtracks work great for monumental tasks) and GSD.
  6. Work for 5 minutes. Just five fucking minutes, dude. If you want, take a break after. But most likely you will have gotten the hardest part over with (starting) and will continue easily.
  7. I swear by Evernote — if you are distracted by a link, thought, image, video, etc. just copy and paste in an Evernote page and it saves instantly. Go back to it later.
  8. I make to-do lists on Evernote, too.
  9. Promise yourself something to look forward to (like watching that funny video) after you finish say an hour of that project. It’s good to take breaks. Just get back to work right after.
  10. Sometimes it’s easier to just work for the 2-3 hours full speed, no breaks. Then reward yourself with a sweet lunch or a smoke, whatever tips your hat. Think of this tip as “college finals” mode and you’ll get it.
  11. If you have a huge project ahead of you and you are distracting yourself from starting it because it’s so damn hard to start, spend time just chunking it down: take the boulder and turn it into rocks, and then pebbles. Then take that first step, that first pebble and start it.

What productive things did you just do, or are about to do after reading this article? Share any of your GSD tips!

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Study Tips for College Students

So, I’m seriously procrastinating on a test I have tomorrow. I decided since I’m worrying about it, I might as well write a post about it.

After the day is done, I look back and re-read my notes. If I have written them sloppy, the OCD in me forces me to re-write the pages. If I have written something I wanted to look up online or in the book, I go ahead and do that.

But when it comes time say, a week before a test, I don’t really do anything different. Mostly because I don’t know what else I should do. How do we make sure we have learned the material we already should have learned from that day’s lecture?

My #1 go-to method is flash cards. They are pretty awesome, portable, and there are now smartphone apps you can use (I like free, like studyblue) so you don’t even need index cards. But I use my time creating the cards as more study time; by the time I make the cards I should know at least 1/2 of the content from these methods:

  • First things first, is find a quiet place to study and shut off all interruptions. Gather all materials, and a drink and maybe a snack so you don’t waste time getting up. If you can study with it, bring headphones so you can listen to music.
  • Re-read all lecture notes. Highlight important things.
  • Go back to those highlighted things and write them down on a separate piece of paper, but re-write them in your own words and condense the information so it’s easy to learn. Use small words/phrases that are easily memorized.
  • Go to the book and write down more important stuff that wasn’t in lecture in your own words, condensed for easy remembering. If you already took book notes (which is easier than re-reading book text), go read that instead.
  • Now take a look at your paper and read over the phrases you wrote. These will become your flashcards. Write them down on index cards or use your app to make the flashcards.
  • Go through the cards until you get all of them right, and then go through it again. Use the flashcards multiple times per day until right before the test. Use breaks, waiting time, before bed time, etc. to study.

Reduce Test Anxiety

  • The night before, set many alarms and a back up alarm in case your first alarm fails so you don’t oversleep! 
  • Wake up early and eat a good breakfast. Take a vitamin.Make sure you have everything including a pen or #2 pencils and erasers.
  • Go to your class early and review your flashcards or notes. Go to the bathroom before the class starts so you don’t have to worry about that.
  • Read every question slowly and remember not to rush. 
  • If you have just crammed your dates, names, formulas or quick phrases (like PEMDAS), write them down in the corner of your test sheet or your scrap paper so you don’t waste brain energy recalling it repeatedly or end up forgetting them before you need the information.
  • Just try your best, and use the test results, no matter the outcome, to learn from for the next test. See your learning center or teacher for help if you get a bad grade.
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15 Ways to Have a Better Semester

stacks of binders with papers

Organize All the Things!

“There’s a word for students who go to class: Graduates.”

I’m a horrible student. I barely go to class, I drop and withdraw, I judge teachers by going on ratemyprofessors.com, and sometimes I never open the books, let alone read and take notes.

But I love learning. I love education. And when I go, I am the best student. I love notebooks. I love the excitement of the first day, and seeing how the class will unfold. When I apply myself.

But I don’t particularly like college. At least the way it’s currently set up. Memorization, the tiny percentage of great teachers, required classes, forced minors, lousy advisors, unorganized registrar, and the senseless work — all these things are not what education make.

With that said, getting a degree is an important, sometimes critical step, to getting a better job. Most degrees lead to higher-pay, better conditions, and a meaningful career. If anything, the process of receiving the degree should leave you to look differently at the world.

So I’m determined, despite all odds that shoot up against me every semester, to have a better semester. To be a better, more proactive student. To increase my GPA. To actually begin summer feeling like I’ve learned something. I was a great student in high school not TOO long ago, and I want to make my family proud — and myself. I CAN do this.

So here’s my list of ways that I’m going to try in order to have a better semester. Past students and current, feel free to add your ideas as well. Hopefully we’ll all learn something.

  1. GO TO CLASS. Yes, studies have shown that those who attend class get better grades. Who would have thought? Sometimes, life gives us curve balls, and it’s hard to get everything done. My tip is to pretend like you’re waking up for your job — you wouldn’t just not go to work, so bring that attitude to attending every class.
  2. Organize your assignments for the semester during the first week of school. The first week of school is really just time to get the syllabi from your teachers, and plenty of students add/drop. Most let you out earlier than the scheduled time. So take this extra time to write in your planner (YOU HAVE ONE, RIGHT?) all of the assignments on their due dates that appear on each class syllabus. Write, in a different color (like red), if you have it, your important exams, paper due dates, and presentations. Also write it on the day a week before it’s due, to remind yourself that you should start that assignment so you don’t forget.
  3. Track what you do each day to the 1/2 hour or hour, and block out: time worked, class times, and time sleeping. See how you spend your time and make a conscious effort to block time for studying. I strongly encourage you spend your breaks wisely. For example, I have a 2 hour break this semester, so I know that is plenty of time to get homework done.
  4. Go to a quiet place on campus like the library (we have a quiet floor) to study and read/take notes/do your assignments so you don’t have to go home and risk being distracted.
  5. Write realistic goals for what grades you want to achieve, and calculate your ideal semester GPA. If you don’t know how, I will show you down below.
  6. Utilize the campus writing center, learning center/tutors, and counseling centers, seriously! They are free and valuable resources to help you write papers, edit, learn useful studying tips, and have a safe place to vent.
  7. Look at the university calendar and also write down those important dates like last day to drop, advising/registration for next semester, etc. so you’re well aware.
  8. Print out a degree evaluation so you know what classes you need to take still. Most advisors in my experience do little to help you, so make sure you are taking the right classes so you graduate sooner rather than later.
  9. Seriously invest in eating better and exercising. Spend 30 minutes walking around campus briskly, or use the gym – most are free on campus — and use your meal plan to eat the salads and sandwiches at the cafeteria instead of the grill area. Don’t drink monster or soda — but on those days you need caffeine, try the Monster Absolute Zero (I swear by this stuff), Diet Coke or Coke Zero, or switch to Vitamin Water/plain water. A cheap way rather than relying on those vending machines is to carry around a refillable water bottle — it’s also eco-conscious! Bring snacks so you don’t have to turn for the candy machine: try easily portable ones like trail mix, protein bars, pretzels, or a banana.
  10. On exam days, eat brain food like blueberries, salmon, and a good breakfast so you’re alert, not hungry, and don’t forget to study.
  11. After class, immediately review your notes when you have free time (like when you’re waiting for the teacher in your next class). Quickly highlight or underline important pieces while re-reading them. Do this after every lecture.
  12. Every week, I like to re-write my notes. I do this for many reasons. First, I often doodle a lot and write messy, and my papers become a mess and sometimes unreadable. Second, because writing (and re-writing) helps you to remember things better. You also get the chance to reword sentences that you may have copied verbatim from listening to your professor, to a language you may understand. Also, it is another way of studying – you obviously have to read the words in order to write them over, so you are reading the material again and helping it to stick.
  13. I don’t like the weird ways some people claim help them take notes better, like splitting the page down in half, or whatever, but this is what I do: I write important words, phrases/formulas to remember, and anything I want to study further or need to research to clarify, in the margins and on top of the page. This is the same concept. For some courses, I like to write a summary of what I learned on the bottom of the last page in my own words. It helps when studying for a test.
  14. If you actually open the book, you’ll find a lot of great tools to help you study. Most have questions and vocab at the end of each chapter, and a chapter summary! This is gold. Read the chapter summary before a lecture where you know the professor will give you a quiz/make you discuss, and you’ll be more prepared, even if you didn’t read the entire chapter.
  15. Don’t be afraid to drop a class or reduce your work load. College is HARD. I can attest to that 🙂 Sometimes you cannot do it all. Sure, there are people with 4 kids and no husband around to help and they go to school full-time and have 2 jobs, and have a 3.5 GPA, but I’m not her. So don’t compare yourself to other people and feel like crap because you need to realize your personal limit and say, I can’t do all of this. I need to cut down. Because if you don’t, your grades WILL suffer. And your sleep will definitely suffer. And your sanity, well…that’s already gone.

Bonus: Calculate your Goal Semester GPA

It is important to set goals. So a good way of focusing on being a better student is to set a realistic, yet challenging and specific GPA goal for the semester.

  • Make a table with 5 columns.
  • In column 1, list your current courses.
  • In column 2, list a realistic yet challenging goal letter grade.
  • In column 3, list the credit hours (most are 3, but some can be 4 and intensive classes can be 6)
  • In column 4, for each class list the points equivalent to your letter grade goal.
    A=4.0      A-=3.7       B+=3.3      B = 3.0      B-=2.7
    C+=2.3       C=2.0       C-=1.7       D+=1.3      D=1.0      D-=0.7        F=0
  • In column 5, multiply the number of credit hours by the points for each class. These are the quality points. Here’s an example:
    Biology |   B-    |   3 cr hrs |  2.7 pts  |  8.1 quality points
  • Underneath this table, add the number of credit hours.
  • Add the number of quality points.
  • Divide the total quality points by the total credit hours — that’s your projected GPA.
    example: credit hours: 15. quality points: 38.1.  38.1/15 = 2.54
    The projected GPA is 2.54

This formula works for calculating a close estimate of your end of semester GPA if you are good at tracking assignments and you have a good idea of the grade you think you’re going to get for each class. You can talk to your professor to ask how you’re doing and to ask for a grade estimate.

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Brainstorm Your 2013 Goals Before the Ball Drops

ResolutionsSo, the end of the year holidays are upon us, and I am left laying in bed or day-dreaming in my commute to work about next year. The year 2013, where we will all gain another year under our belt and hopefully work on our goals. Have you given any thought about the new year? If not, it’s time to start, before you’re left in January 1, 2013 wondering how to make your life not suck.

  • Start small. Most people fail at new year’s resolutions because they dream too big, and have unrealistic expectations of what can be accomplished in a year. Yes, you must challenge yourself out of the status quo — but do not start out too big or you will just stare out the window, too overwhelmed to begin. Think of your overall goal and pick one aspect, that is workable in your life for one year, and start there.
  • Write in the present. A great trick to shifting your attitude that YES, you CAN do this, is to write your goal as if you are already doing that thing. For example, don’t say, “I want to lose weight next year.” Instead, say, “I am 50 pounds thinner and I feel healthy and more able to do things I love with my children.” Reading the first sentence feels scary, because not only is it an undefined goal (how much weight? what is the deadline? why do you want to do this?, etc), but it doesn’t feel attainable at the moment. When you read the second sentence, you actually feel happy imagining your life through that sentence and can begin shifting your attitude to realizing that very goal. More important, the second sentence tells you non-physical reasons to lose that weight, to be healthier and to play with your children. You feel that motivation stirring you because you have identified WHY you want this goal.
  • Once you figure out the WHAT and the WHY, you can begin chunking your goal into smaller and smaller pieces. These will become action steps for you to work on in regular intervals from monthly tasks, to weekly tasks — as small as what you can do TOMORROW for your goal.
  • Don’t make resolutions. No one sticks to those past Valentine’s Day. Consider these contracts or promises to yourself that you must keep.
  • Find someone to keep you accountable. It can be anyone, even an online buddy from a forum. I love subreddits to find great support and to find lots of information about basically anything.
  • Reflect and re-evaluate every week. Not so good this week? Figure out now what you need to to and change, even if it’s just one thing you focus on each week. Soon, you will see yourself gradually making progress.
  • Accept that you’re going to slip up, fall off the wagon, or lose track altogether. The important part is when you realize it and get yourself back on track. That’s why you re-evaluate, weekly.
  • Be thankful for what you have, everyday. Being thankful for things changes your attitude from negative to positive, and makes you take a look at all the luxuries you possess. I’ll take a wild guess and assume you have: a place to live, a bed to sleep on, heat and/or ac or fan, food and a fridge, a stove to cook food, shoes, a coat, maybe a job, maybe a family, a cell phone, internet connection and computer, money to buy things you like, a car. You’d be amazed at how many people in this world do not even have clean water, let alone any of this stuff.
  • Spend time each week reading something that is somehow related to your goals or inspirational in some way. You do not have to purchase books, support your local library.
  • There’s an app for that. If you have a smartphone, I bet there is an app that can help you keep track of your goals. Try Mint for money-tracking, and My Fitness Pal app for calorie/meal and exercise tracking.

Here is a brief, work-in-progress list of my goals for 2013. Maybe we share the same goals?

  • Lose 50 pounds by June 4, my birthday, which is a teeny bit over 2 pounds per week: I will be 50 pounds lighter and will have established a healthy eating and exercise routine for lasting health. Figure out by January 5 my method of exercise (gym or home? walk around block etc). I will reward myself by buying a new outfit (jeans, shirt, shoes).
  • Promote self as freelance writer on Fiverr and Freelancer and find long-term work to provide me with enough money for rent each month: I will earn enough money for rent each month with my freelance writing.
  • Save at least 10% of all paychecks in savings account not to be touched.
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Focus: 5 Things to Do Right Now For a More Productive Life

Focus on SightThere’s a lot of keys to success, and tons of different life paths, but you must have this in order to reach the door.

F O C U S.

What is a life without focus? It’s staring at the bottom of a bottle every night in a dive bar. It’s avoiding the mirror when you wake up so you don’t see the fat accumulating on your belly. It’s a pile of unpaid bills, half of them notices from the college you earned the degree from — the one collecting dust in a bent folder somewhere in your bookcase. It’s like driving without watching where you are going, kind of like texting and driving. Sure, you peek up here and there, just to make sure you’re still on the road. But someday, you’re going to crash. Hard.

Does it feel like a dream? Where does the time go? You have no idea, because you’re not keeping track. You’re not caring.

Suddenly, you wake up and you’re 25, or 30, or 40, and you must pull off that pile of regrets like you pull off your comforter in the morning, and get going with your life.

So how does one find focus in a blurry life? Start doing these things, and you’ll start seeing a more productive life.

1. Wake up 20 minutes earlier. It is true, the early bird gets the worm. But you don’t need to wake up at 5am to reap the benefits of a more productive, relaxed morning. Start at just 20 minutes earlier — enough time to read the newspaper, get a quick at-home workout in (just walk around the block!), eat an actual (balanced) breakfast, or ponder your life’s current path.

2. Write one page a day. It can be a Word document on your computer, an Evernote page, or an actual page in a notebook — just start your day by writing about anything that comes to mind. What is on your mind? What bothers you, upsets you? What are you thinking of doing today – this week – this month? End the page by writing down at least 2 productive things you will do today that is in line with your goals. Don’t have goals? We’ll fix that.

3. Determine your goals. Take a good chunk of time to really think about your life for a minute. Dig deeper until you find an aspect of your life that really depresses you or makes you angry. Is it your weight? Your lack of a job? Not having insurance or a reliable car? Horrible debt lingering over your head? Having poor friends or no one to talk to — or being single? Once you find something that sparks emotion, determine what would change that reaction to happiness and content about your life.

Do this: I would feel happier if I __________…

4. Stop doing something. Everyone has a bad habit, most of us have more than one vice. One way to have better focus is to stop poisoning your body with them. Is is smoking? Vodka? Or something else? Make the decision to quit, and you’ll feel a lot better — maybe not immediately (quitting drugs is difficult and can result in feeling withdrawal symptoms, even physical discomfort or sickness), but overall you will live longer and have something to strive for daily: not using/drinking.

Note: it does not have to be a drug/alcohol addiction. It can be anything big or small that you wish you would stop doing because it harms your body, bank account, friends/family, or life in some way. Do you have a horrible habit of reckless thrift shopping? Collecting new purses? Ignoring friend’s phone calls? Taking anger out on your wife/husband?

5. Remind yourself daily. A habit that is not watched quickly dies, so find ways to remind yourself of your new goals. Tell your significant other to wake up earlier with you, and make breakfast together. Call a friend and go for a morning gym session. Make an appointment to see a doctor about ways to quit smoking. Set your alarm clock across the room so you have to get up. Post photos of whatever inspires you on your mirror, on your fridge, in your car. Find resources online to help you. Check back weekly, and then monthly, to see your progress.

“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” -Henry Ford

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How To Fail a College Class

College is a great time for exploring all the options that life has to give. About 28% of Americans graduate with Bachelor’s degrees, and only a smidgen hold a Doctorate — about 3%.  It is becoming increasingly tougher to even complete a BA in the standard 4 years without summer or winter classes. But getting that degree means you have to go to class — and get good grades. When balancing a host of other life stuff — work, kids, boyfriend/girlfriend problems, friend drama, bills, etc. — it gets pretty hard.

Sometimes it is better to give advice for doing the opposite of what you’d like to do. Or what I would like to call, “very expensive mistakes learned the hard way.” Some of these bad decisions were made personally by me, and others were from observing others in my classes/friends. Considering the cost of tuition rises exponentially every year (at least it feels like it, even if the rise is only 10%), it is important not to waste time on failing any classes. In other words, don’t do these things, if you want a degree.

  • Stop attending classes after mid-terms.
  • Skip the final examinations.
  • Plan to withdraw from a class, and then never officially withdraw through the registrar. Oops.
  • Don’t do a paper that is 25-30% of the final grade.
  • Work more than 35 hours AND try to go to school full-time (with 6 classes, no less).
  • Buy the books and never open them.
  • Go to class, but get distracted by your cell phone or laptop.
  • Go to class, but leave halfway through. (Hint- the teachers notice, and will mark you absent).
  • Go to class, but don’t take notes.
  • Drink excessively Thursday-Sunday.
  • Drink excessively Thursday-Thursday.
  • Take note of the maximum number of absences allowed in a class, and then exceed that in multiples of three or four.
  • Sign up for an early morning class, especially if you are not a morning person.
  • Have your work schedule clash consistently with your class hours. Guess which one you choose?
  • Schedule 4-5 classes in a row without breaks. You will end up skipping just to eat a damn sandwich.
  • Go to a concert (or any event) during a time you are well aware that you have class.
So remember, if you want to fail a class, this is definitely the way to do it. Just choosing a couple of these options will yield an F on your transcript in no time.

The Number One Tip to Job Search Effectively

Job-hunting is difficult. I’ve spent hours upon hours filling out those dreaded questions online, hoping that I can eventually reach through to a real person who can read my resume and feel the desire to call me immediately, requesting for an interview. It’s frustrating to say the least, and downright depressing after a while. I feel like the online applications never end up in the hiring manager’s email account; rather, they float in the negative space between the digital world and my reality. Which is, that I’m broke.

And then, when I least expect it, I’ll hear my cell phone ring. The conversation is only a couple minutes long, but damn, I swear I feel the wind just change direction. Boom. Interview.

How did I get to this point? It’s not easy to get a call-back. But once you get one, your job is only halfway over. Did I say “your job”? Yes, I did.

The number one tip to job search effectively is to treat job-hunting as your job.

When the time comes for me to job-hunt, I buckle down. I mean business. I wake up early (well, earlier), grab a cup of coffee, throw make up on my face, slip a snuggie blanket on, and sit  in front of the computer.

The hunt is on.

Most of job-hunting is online nowadays. But you have to be careful which job-hunting sites you choose. My favorites are Snagajob.com and Craigslist.org (and no, I didn’t get paid to say that). Those are the only two websites that I’ve tried that I have actually gotten jobs from,so I know the applications actually get seen. If you know of others, please let me know in the comments!

My method is this:

Know what job you want.
Figure out what kind of jobs I would be interested in, and which companies I would like to work for, and how far I would drive for the right job. Just recently I was looking for cashier-type jobs anywhere within 30 minutes of my place. So those are my specifics.

Set your search terms to those specifics.
On Snagajob, I’ll set the miles to within 0-25 miles of my house, and apply to literally every job that meets my specifics (mostly, cashier jobs. If something else keeps my eye, I will definitely apply). You can also go directly to the websites of the companies you are interested in working for and find the “careers” page or similar.

Don’t apply blindly — read each application and only apply to jobs that you have previous experience for and feel that you would make a good match.
Also, only apply to locations where I wouldn’t mind driving. I would rather take a job that paid a bit less but was 3 miles from my house than one that was $10/hr but 45 minutes away. Do the math with how much gas is nowadays, and see if it’s worth it.

Keep tabs on where you apply and get info on how to get in touch.
I write down every job I’ve applied for, along with the date, location, and position. Later, I look up the addresses (if not given) and the phone numbers to contact. I wait 1-2 weeks to see if they contact me first. If they don’t, I’ll call and request the manager to speak about the position and to try to get an interview. This step isn’t required, and I only did it for jobs that I really wanted. Usually, I’ve gotten callbacks from jobs that wanted me first.

Repeat with other job sites and then get dressed and go to jobs to fill out apps but prepared to interview.
After I’m done on the job sites, I will take a look at positions posted on Craigslist. If a posting intrigues me, I’ll follow the instructions — either email the person (using my excellent cover letter and attaching a resume), call the number, or physically go to the address.

After doing everything online, I will sometimes go to areas where there’s large blocks of stores and physically ask for applications and fill them out right there. I always ask for the name and phone number of the manager in charge of hiring. Also, dress professionally and be nice to everyone. If the manager is there, immediately shake hands and ask if there are any positions available for (whatever you’re interested in). Sometimes they will tell you to apply online. If so, get the website and thank them. Rarely, they will interview you on the spot, but be prepared just in case — and bring a resume.

That’s my method to getting call-backs. I will spend at least 3 hours everyday doing the same thing, applying to new postings, going to new areas near my house, and calling places.

If you treat job-hunting as your job, you should be able to find a job quickly. I have never been unemployed for more than 2 weeks because of my diligent efforts. Don’t give up! And don’t be afraid to apply to the same job after a month. When people keep seeing your name, you’ll be remembered and get a callback.

One of my past co-workers got a job at the Subway we worked for because he literally put in an application every week until he got hired. 

Do you have a method you’d like to share?

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Don’t Wait Until Spring! Clear Clutter Now

Spring Cleaning

Don't leave it in your trunk either -- make the trip to Goodwill and donate your old things.

I never really understood the logic behind spring cleaning. What makes spring so significant for clearing out clutter? Are we supposed to hide in our houses all winter and hoard old Christmas presents and years of accumulating material possessions and then magically gain the motivation to clean it all out once the last of the snow melts away?

I say, why wait? Let’s clean our clutter now, in the middle of January. Commit to a lifestyle of living with L E S S, of living more simply and you will feel that your life feels less cluttered as well.

Set aside a day or two where you have no other commitments (or very few) so that you will have large blocks of time to get it done. That way you can take an entire day and have it clean by tomorrow, rather than spending a whole week and seeing your closet ripped apart and on the floor in piles. take a couple garbage bags and start in the messiest place in the house. For most, that might be the closet.

the general rule of discarding is this: if it’s broken and can’t be fixed (or not worth fixing) then throw it out. If it can be fixed and you probably will never get to it, throw it out. If it can be fixed and you want to fix it, you should probably keep it (but put that on your to-do list or you will be seeing this item again later). If it’s out of style, too small or too big, donate it. If it’s extremely worn, thinned out or ripped, you should probably throw it out. If you have sentimental value but the item is worthless or taking up space or broken, you should probably throw it out. If you haven’t worn something in over 6 months to a year or more, throw it out — you won’t miss it. If you have 5 similar grey shirts, keep one and donate the rest. If you have 25 mugs, keep your favorite few enough for the members of your family and enough for 1-2 guests (say, 4 or 6), and donate the rest — unless they are broken or cracked.

Keep three general piles: KEEP, DISCARD, and DONATE. The DISCARD pile should be thrown out immediately. The DONATE pile should be donated to your nearest Goodwill, Savers, or similar within a week, or you should throw it out. Keep it in the car, but remember it’s there or you’ll risk cluttering your car. the KEEP pile should be a small fraction of what you started with and put back neatly and with care.

Start with the messiest area of your house, and you will feel a lot better knowing that the hardest part is done. If you feel like the messiest area of your house is too big to tackle, say, the basement, then you should start with the messiest part of the room that you use most often or that people will see, like a kid’s room.

If you’re having a hard time reducing the number of items you own, then you need to try to be strict. Only keep what you use daily. Donating other items will make you feel good.

If you want to sell items that may still have value, then go ahead and keep a pile for those, too. When you’re done, have a tag sale or post everything on Craigslist or Ebay. You may be surprised at what you can make money on.

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7 Things I Learned about Packing for a Move

MovingMy boyfriend and I finally scored our first apartment. Being together for over 5 years, this has been a long time coming. I lived at my parent’s house with my family for 20 years and then moved in with my boyfriend for the previous two (out of force…but that’s a personal story). Ever since then it’s been hard to truly feel like I’ve been living independently, since I still technically lived with “parents,” even though they’re not mine. I never thought I would ever be excited to pay rent and utilities! So I am ecstatic to move into my first “real” on-my-own type deal, but I certainly learned a few things — the hard way!

1. Apartment Hunting is HARD
Apartments are expensive, and the ones that aren’t expensive are in well…questionable areas. It takes a while to find a winner. Keep a mental list of your standards, and keep an eye on the budget range you (or you and your roommates) will be able to afford. Look everywhere — newspapers, Craigslist, etc.

2. Finding roommates is even more difficult
Luckily, I had a friend going to the same college me and my boyfriend were, so we decided to look for places together. We found a three bedroom apartment, and needed to find one last person to fill in the last room (since me and my boyfriend were obviously sharing a room). Easy, right? Wrong. July ended up being a stressful chaos that nearly consumed me and threatened me to opt out altogether. Luckily, our landlord helped us to find the last person, but without that help, we would have been “shit outta luck.” Make sure you are looking for an apartment that just houses what you’ll need (2 br for 2 people) and no extras, because finding a stranger to live with you is very difficult and could be time-consuming.

3. Packing takes up far more time (and boxes) than you’ll originally think
When the time came to start packing, I brought home a couple good-sized boxes from my job, assuming that we didn’t have a lot of stuff. We have only been living in one tiny room, I thought. WRONG. I was so dead wrong. Always bring home at least 3 times the amount of boxes you’ll think you need (and try not to buy boxes — there’s plenty of stores who throw out plenty of good sized ones that will be glad to give them to you — just ask!). And set aside a good couple of hours each day (and a couple of days) to pack. If you’re living in a 2-br or house, plan to pack at least for a week — and bring some helpers.

4. Pack heavy things in smaller boxes, and bulkier items in larger ones
Think it’s a good idea to use one large box to store all of your books? Think again — all that weight will be impossible to lift. Keep heavy things in smaller boxes, like books. Keep fragile things cushioned with paper or bubble wrap. Pack heavier things on the bottom, and lighter things on the top to prevent damage.

5. Label all your boxes!
You don’t want to end up with an empty place full of unlabeled boxes. What a mess! Always remember what you’re putting into each box and label or number each one as you go, right after taping the top shut.  Keep like things together (books with books, kitchen utensils with others, shirts with shirts, etc).

6. Plan ahead of time how you’re going to move your stuff from Point A to Point B
You can prevent a lot of last-minute headaches by planning ahead of time — call a truck-owning friend, or rent a uhaul truck. Always try to do it for free or cheap, first, and then use the companies as a back up, since moving costs (and apartment costs) will already destroy your budget. Also, if you do end up needing to rent, make sure you reserve your truck/van a week or two ahead of time, especially since move-in days tend to be on the first of the month and other people will be competing for that same truck.

7.  Wake up early on your big move-in day!
My move-in day is Monday, August 1, and I plan to wake up very early to move in all day. This is important, because I hate waking up early. But I know it’s completely necessary. Think about how far your new place is, plus the estimated time to take moving all the boxes from your place into the trucks, cars, and vans, and then going there only to unload the cars/trucks/vans and then UNpack everythng into the house. Don’t forget moving hefty furniture, and figuring out where to put everything. This will easily take all day, so you want a giant jump-start. The night before, make sure you go to sleep early, and have everything packed. Keep the most essential items on you only — change of clothes, deodorant, make up for girls, phone, wallet, keys. It may also be helpful to write a to-do list before bed so all those details about the move won’t be keeping you up all night.

Stay tuned for a post on my experience with new roommates, and how to save money while on a strict budget.

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Learn to Type Faster and Stand Out to Employers

One of the best ways to appear useful to employers is to increase your typing skills, so here are some fun resources online to learn touch typing (typing without looking at the keyboard to find the keys) and to increase your speed.

Go to this site (sense-lang.org) and take their typing test. This is your starting point. Write down your words per minute (wpm) and note your percentage of accuracy. I have a fairly quick typing speed (around 70-80%) and a nearly perfect accuracy (95-100%). this means I type fast and with little mistakes, making my typing very efficient for writing and desk jobs. If you want to get to my level, then you have to first find out what your starting point is – so take that test. Also, you’ll want to define what your goals are — do you want to be extremely fast? Do you want always 100% accuracy? Or a good mix of both? I don’t mind having lower accuracy for the speed because I back up my mistakes as fast as I can type them – so it doesn’t really slow me down.

Next, begin practicing as much as you can. Try doing it everyday for 10-30 minutes. It is better to do it everyday for 10 minute than once a week for an hour, because it is daily habits that work best for increasing a certain skill. Try these websites for fun games and lessons:

Do this for at least a month, then retake the test. See how much you improved!
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