Transition Paper to Digital Organization – Step 1

IMG_0877_webAfter months of consideration and planning, my Fujitsu Scansnap ix500 arrived early Friday afternoon. I actually paid overnight shipping on Thursday when I heard the B word for Saturday’s weather forecast. Yep, B as in Blizzard. My husband follows National Weather Service website for the weather disucssion. Usually the weather professionals and models are similar.  This time we could have 2″ or 20″ of snow, the models didn’t agree.

I am planning to scan – bring on the snow. Reality kicked in, even with all my study and research, I still had more details to consider before I was ready to pile the papers into my scanner. Scanning those papers isn’t the first step. I knew that. I thought I was ready.

Let’s start at the beginning…

Step 1: Planning – Needs Assessment
Answering the following questions can help you determine your needs.

  • Why do I want to convert to digital?
  • What do I store in paper files that I want to convert to digital?
  • How will this make my life easier?
  • What do I store in paper files that I don’t ever look at and don’t need to keep? Honesty Moment!

What scanner do I buy?

  • How much paper will I be scanning in a week?
  • Do I need wireless capabilities on my scanner?
  • Do I want to get the fancy scanner because I love fancy things?

How will I store digital files and where?

  • What will my file structure look like? Can I mimic my paper structure easily? Is my paper file system easy for me to use?
  • Will I be storing financial and sensitive documents?
  • Do I need software that organizes my files or do I want to use folders on my computer?
  • What software will I want to purchase

What is my back-up and security requirements and plan? Because hard-drives and computers fail, natural disasters happen and many things are outside our control.

  • What is my comfort level with storing files in the cloud as an off-site backup?
  • What security measures are in place for various cloud-based companies? How do I select one?

Three-tier backup plan

  1. On-site backup to external drive
  2. Off-site backup to the cloud
  3. Clone back-up of the system – in case of hard drive failure

I spent my snowy Saturday on my file structure. Now my file structure is ready to go – with only a loose thread here or there. Here an important philosophy comes into play. I live by the 80/20 rule. Because that last 20% can take up so much time and energy that we forget to live. I may end up with 20% of my world on paper. Time will tell. Now that my structure and plan are sound, I can scan away. By the way, scanning is step 4. As I progress, there will be workflows to address and details to manage. I will continue to refine the process as I find ways to automate the process.

A big recommendation and thank you to Brooks Duncan at DocumentSnap. He provides so much great information, tips and tricks.

The Organizing Process

  1. Needs Assessment – Set Vision and Goals
  2. Sorting the papers and files Refining the Plan
  3. Flushing Out Details and Purchases
  4. Implement The Plan and Structure
  5. Refine the Process

Ok, I need a better acronym than NSFIR for this process. Scanning falls into Step 4, did I mention that? In Organizing hopscotch, we still start at #1.  Look for future posts on my progress.

Are you trying to get a handle on organizing your digital information? I would love to hear your thoughts and your progress.

Cheerio, – Charee


Routines: The Key to Getting Organized for Back to School

Backpack Station

Sample Mudroom closet for backpacks, shoes, sports equipment, coats and whatever else comes in the door.

A life full of juggling many details requires routines. Ideally, begin planning your routines before school starts. Refine your routines as you find out what works and what doesn’t. Practice flexibility and notice which parts of the routine are critical – so often we can put the plan in place, but life doesn’t always go exactly according to our plan.

Back to school routines include

  • Morning – getting ready, eating and getting out the door – sanity intact with all needed materials
  • Returning home – have a place for backpacks, lunch boxes, papers that need an action, sports equipment and anything else that comes in the door
  • Homework – Plan a time and place for homework. Help you child learn time management by helping him or her estimate how long homework will take. Beyond a couple of quick assignments, help them make a list and use their planners.
  • Evening – Before bedtime, put everything in it’s place to go out the door in the morning. Make sure homework, signed papers and supplies are inside backpacks or school bags.

Create places to put things

  • Backpack Station – Hooks on the wall, shelves in a closet or a full system planned around what comes in the door. Check out this example at The Container Store. There are so many solutions – get creative!
  • Papers – My general mantra for papers: Act / File / Toss (recycle / shred)
    • Action: Sign / Respond / Return – Have a place for kids to put these papers. Use a file pocket on the wall of the entry way, put a file folder on the fridge or inside a closet door. Check out these ideas at The Container Store.
    • Action: Classwork that needs to be kept for the duration of the class, but doesn’t need to be carried back and forth to school. If papers aren’t bound into a notebook, create a file, tray or bin for these papers to live. After the course is completed, review with your child what needs to be saved.
    • Action: Basic information for review. Add calendar items to the calendar. For general info, review and decide if it needs to be kept and for how long. Consider a classroom information file for each child.
    • Action: Review and toss.


Enjoy some extra family time instead of looking around for lost papers, homework, lunch supplies and sports equipment. Breathe easier in the morning knowing you are ready for your day. Live a life that feels more spacious, whatever the pace.

What routine do you use that makes school days flow more smoothly?

Clarifying The Term: Chronically Disorganized

I will begin with an observation that on TV the organizing shows have shifted focus from the ordinary family who needs a Professional Organizer to help. Now we watch a sensational and voyeuristic approach of extreme disorganization – “hoarders.” The Professional help team includes both an Organizer and a Therapist, plus at least a couple of unseen haulers. And yet, by the end of the hour, we see a home that is all straitened out and ready for the owner to resume “normal” life. I could google for statistics, but chances are each of us know’s someone with this affliction. As I learn more about it, I am finding it more and more common.

My nature is to ask “why?” Why doesn’t solve it. But I have learned that there are so many reasons. After reading Stuff by Gail Stekeete and Randy Frost, I am awed at how our society encourages the psychology of this behavior. Here is what I learned:

Themes of hoarding
  • Fear of waste (but I could use it someday)
  • Allure of opportunity (whether purchasing or free) (QVC, daily deals, and on and on…)
  • Comfort and safety of objects, (in fact these are the objects that can link us to other people, we just don’t know how to prioritize and edit – ironically they start to distance us from others and take over our lives)

Character traits a Hoarder might have (might I add, that if any individual, if asked, would say I would love to have these traits)

  • Highly intelligent
  • Extraordinary sensory ability
  • Physical world is rich and more expansive than for an ordinary person
  • Perfectionism

Some terminology to clear up
Situational Disorganization – When a life changing event happens – and life gets an added element of chaos and clutter. Usually the clutter can be addressed as the chaos of life and emotion passes, either on your own or with help from a friend or Professional Organizer.

Chronic Disorganization – Different because when life transitions happen to you, instead of “recovering” and “restoring order” after a few months or so, the disorganization does not improve and may even continue to worsen over time. The clutter continues to accumulate. At a certain point, daily life becomes overwhelmingly stressful. The clutter itself starts affecting your emotional state so strongly, you may find yourself so drained and maybe even depressed that you no longer have the heart or the energy to dig out alone.

In fact, while researching how exactly to present this information, I found it so well presented I will suggest you visit Ariane Benefit’s blog post on the subject. In fact, her website was so full of information, I highly recommend it.

Shame is not Chronic Disorganization. But I suspect most people who are Chronically Disorganized have shame. I have a client that would consider herself Chronically Disorganized – if I asked her that question. She had difficulty finding papers and figuring out where to put things. She easily got rid of things she didn’t need or could find easily online. In fact when we were done organizing, she only had 3 file drawers worth of papers – small business and personal. Her approach always came from shame that she should know what to do with this large basket of papers. It blocked her ability to consider a structure for these papers. After we put a structure in place, she immediately could tell where the papers were to go and where to find them. Her problem was one of structure.

Actually when people call me they tend to say, my problem is so bad. So I ask a lot of questions to find out how bad. Because most people are not that bad. Their shame is that bad.

Here is a tool from the Institute for Challenging Disorganization to help you assess if your clutter has moved into serious territory. You will also find on their website a list of FAQ’s and links. I am not an expert in this area, but I can refer you to Professional Organizers in the Denver area who are.

Is it called Hoarding or Chronically Disorganized? They seem interchangeable. But somehow also easily misunderstood.

Desk Before and After

Working with Alchemy of Order, we organized the whole office. This office has 3 desks, one for mom and one of each of two kids. As school started it was time to re-evaluate the room that was ignored and dumped on during the summer. Priorities changed. This room needed to be an easy place to finish homework. This room also serves as a craft area for Mom and her adorable 10-year old daughter.

I love team organizing. This job took 2 organizers 4 hours, working with Mom and the adorable and talented 10-year old daughter.

Organizing (v.): A Change Agent In Your Life

How do I define organization?

What you need is where you need it, when you need it. Everything that doesn’t meet that goal gets in the way, sucks up your time and energy every single day. Do I make you get rid of stuff?  You make every decision while I ask a lot of questions. I break out smaller projects that you can do between appointments.

Think of me more like a coach. It isn’t always easy tackling years of accumulation or assessing the flow of our own activities.
Lighten Your Load
  • Reclaim a room.
  • Restore order to a closet or garage.
  • Add flow to your home or home office.
  • In this modern consumer driven age, I can help you renegotiate your relationship with stuff.

Reasons to call me

  • I don’t know where to start
  • I am embarrassed that it has gotten this bad (no judgement, you can begin making changes right now)
  • * I don’t have the time