Archives for February 2008

Order Before Beauty

Order Before Beauty
Order Before Beauty

I’ve invited my friend, Brandie “The Home Office Organizer” to give us some tips where to get started on living a beautiful life. It all begins with getting organized. It is very difficult to see, appreciate or focus on beauty every day when your home or office is in disarray. Disorder affects our creativity, productivity and our sense of peace about life. It brings about frustration rather than contentment. Creating order and systems for our belongings is a way of finding beauty that we can appreciate in our day to day activities.

Welcome, Brandie!

Have you ever felt overwhelmed and not known why? Take a look around your room right now. Are you able to find everything you need, when you need it? Do you know where your keys are? What about your last bank statement? Your child’s last school picture? If you don’t know where these things are, how does it make you feel?

I wasn’t “born organized”, but I love helping people create order and beauty in their homes and home offices. Home offices are dear to my heart, as it is where my life changed (and my career as a Professional Organizer began) several years ago. I took control of my home and home office and created a place where my family can make memories and my creativity can flow. You can do the same thing. Here are some tips and resources to get you moving in the right direction.

Order Before Beauty

Order Before Beauty

Three Things You Need To Know

About Getting Organized

1. “Organized” simply means you can find what you need in 5 minutes or less.

Isn’t that wonderful? Every person has a different personality, way of learning, living and working. No one organization system will solve everyone’s problems (no matter what their marketing or commercials say). There are so many products out there, and you are bound to find the perfect one for you! Also, don’t be afraid to let you creativity out to play!
If you like electronics, use a PDA or Outlook for your calendar.
If you like more attractive and personalized things, consider a russell+hazel product.

You can even make your organization tools and storage containers! Try these:

Lid Rack as a mail sorter

Clothespin Labels

Stationery box

Using things from around the house

Organizing kids’ activities

Book Recommendation: “Organizing For Your Brain Type” by Lanna Nakone

2. Order clears your mind and frees you up to become the person you are meant to be.

There’s a lot to be said for simplifying your life. Having a little empty space in your life frees up corners for other things to come in. It doesn’t mean you have to give up everything you love. It means you look at your life and your space and “edit” out what you don’t love or use, leaving you with your most prized possessions. Your home and home office should reflect you and your family.

In her book, “Time Alive”, Alexandra Stoddard’s chapter, “Order Precedes Beauty” says:

“Without order there is no beauty. Living can be a messy business. The more engaged we are in living fully and well, the more stuff we seem to accumulate. We live in an orderly universe. Our homes and offices need to be kept orderly so we can spend our time in beautiful spaces that answer all our needs, arranged so that everything is both practical and uplifting.”

The act of simplifying and organizing means we value the beauty in our life, and allow it to show through in a place of honor. Living our life consciously in this way illuminates the path of our life and inspires us to move forward.

Book Recommendation: “Time Alive” by Alexandra Stoddard

3. Organization is a process of establishing habits, not an event.

I picked up the phone, and the woman on the other end had questions about my services and how I could help her. When I got to the part about how long the project would actually take in hours, there was stunned silence on the other line. I couldn’t blame her – it does take a while! In our microwave, drive-thru, instant gratification world, we sometimes forget things worth doing take time. It also doesn’t help when your three year old is throwing a fit over not eating her peas, the laundry is slowly spilling over into the hallway and about 30 minutes before bed, you learn your son’s science project is due in the morning. It can be too much some times!

So, here’s the good news – you don’t have to do it all today or even this weekend. The average American woman spends 55.2 minutes a day looking for things they need (according to a Real Simple study in 2003). What if you spent 10 minutes everyday working on one corner of your home office? Sort thru that corner and decide what goes, and what stays. How soon could you get that 55.2 minutes of your life back?

Bonus Girlfriends Tip: If you’re feeling extra motivated: invite a friend over, put the tea kettle on the stove, plug in a movie and get going. Rotate homes and repeat. What if you did this every month for a year? How different would your home look by this time next year? Imagine the possibilities!

Book recommendation: “Real Simple: The Organized Home”

One of the worst things about disorganization is the small pieces of joy which are taken from you. Life gets busy, and things can pile up. It’s all part of life, and it’s messy sometimes. Take time out every once in a while to re-evaluate and get things back into order – whatever that means for you.

If you’re a visual person, use pretty file folders for keeping your action paper in check (To Do, Bills To Pay, To Read, etc.).

If you like things to be a little easier, just label a box “Important Papers” and toss in statements, insurance information and other records (use a new one for each year).

Organization is a tool, and should be used to make your life better, not to make it more stressful. As long as you can find what you need in 5 minutes or less, use what works for you. I know you can do it!

About the author
Brandie Kajino, The Home Office Organizer, is a dynamic speaker, author and professional organizer. Brandie organizes home offices for home-based professionals. Her website offers resources, articles, services and a blog to help home office professionals get organized and simplify life.

Visit her web site at or her blog at

top photo: Russell + Hazel

Grace Notes: Alexandra Stoddard

Grace Notes: Alexandra Stoddard


“We’ve paid for our speeded-up lives with a loss in the quality of our time. Our chronic lack of time has robbed us of the ability to understand that the truth of living is found in the experience of being, and that life cannot be put on hold while we’re trying to produce more.”

Alexandra Stoddard, Gracious Living in a New World
Making Choices

Thank you all so much for being excited along with me (see my previous post) about my opportunity to spend some time with Alexandra Stoddard! Speaking to Alexandra was an amazing experience I know will impact me the rest of my life! While I have always felt a kinship with her ideas and was inspired by her encouragement to find beauty and happiness in life, what really struck me after speaking to her on the phone was something more. Alexandra is able to affect others around her in a profound way because of the choices she makes for herself.

In all our rushing around meeting everyone else’s expectations, we miss many of the small details and grace notes that Alexandra is clearly in tune with. She understands the power of living at a slower more deliberate pace. Ordinary moments become more vivid because she gives them her fullest attention. This was what impressed me the most: she jealously guards her personal time and then is able to be fully engaged in giving to others. She lives what she teaches. And clearly it works for her, she is such a dear woman!

Fully Engaged in the Moment

In a day where multi-tasking is the norm, Alexandra holds fast to the benefits of what I perceive to be focused living. It is in that focused living that she is able to fully appreciate beauty and find real happiness in each task. I’m so honored that she took the time to share her insights with me personally. She understands the art of beautiful living like few women I’ve met.

Grace Notes: Alexandra Stoddard

The Dilemma of Connection

The first thing we talked about was the fact that she does not use computers or email. It was an interesting discussion because I feel a certain tension in myself about blogging and email. Reality is many of us are torn between both the blessings and the curses of computers. While I have felt a great sense of connection and friendship to so many through blogging, and it has brought me opportunities I never would’ve had otherwise, it has also brought about a dilemma in life.

How do I keep up with the pace? How much time should I devote to communication, and how often should I make myself available? Blogging and emailing can speed up communication and expectations to a breakneck pace. So is that pace of life and level of connection a good thing or not? And are all good things good for us? I approached the subject with Alexandra as I was curious to find out her perspective.

Choosing A Different Pace

“My life was rich and full long before computers. I don’t want to be so connected. I think computers are a mixed blessing, but mostly it is not good to be so connected,” Alexandra confided. She said that people all around her are always trying to get her to use email or computers for efficiency and speed, but she remains steadfast in her belief that faster and more communication is not necessarily better. “Too much connection is not good,” she said.

Alexandra says she “doesn’t like the idea of people having access to her 24 hours a day.” Needing to check emails many times a day, be accessible at all times via a cell phone and messages throughout the day feels like “a frantic pace of life” to her. And frantic is not the kind of life she wants. “I don’t want communication to become a burden or a responsibility,” Alexandra said. She makes the choice to live differently.

While she enjoys receiving letters from people, she wants to handle them on her own terms so that it is always a pleasurable experience. “With email, people expect instant responses. They ask more of you than they would in person or in a hand-written letter.” The demands become overwhelming and she doesn’t want to communicate all day. Alexandra doesn’t even check the messages from her website on a frequent basis. Her assistant prints them out just once a month and gives them to her in a big stack to read when she is ready.

Grace Notes: Alexandra Stoddard

Making Living An Art Form

Alexandra creates a time to communicate and devotes herself fully to the enjoyment of it. She often reads letters while riding the train. While others around her are speaking too loudly on cell phones and frantically handling incoming and outgoing emails as quickly as they can, she is quietly enjoying the notes and responding to some of them with a hand-written response. She enjoys the experience, the “beauty of the paper, the stamps, the colored ink.” She always uses fountain pens (except in banking or legal documents) and even writes all of her books longhand with pen and ink. The pace is slow and concentrated, but the benefits are great. She believes that “living life is really an art form. Enhancing beauty makes living more pleasurable.”

Grace Notes: Alexandra Stoddard

Know Thyself

She is true to herself, she knows what makes her the most effective in life. She doesn’t waiver from living the life she knows is best for her, in spite of the outside pressures to do things differently. “I cannot do what others expect of me, I just cannot do that,” Alexandra explained. It was clear to me that her focus in life is what makes her so inspiring. She lives fully in each moment, both in times of solitude and times of giving. Her effectiveness and pleasure in life supersede the lure of doing more. Yet, she has accomplished so much! I find that very intriguing and definitely something to think about!

Beauty Is A Gift

I really enjoyed my conversation with Alexandra and am deeply moved by her willingness to speak with me. Hearing her confident but calm voice reaffirmed to me that beauty is a gift that elevates each day to something more than a series of frantic activities. She reminds me that we need to make a choice in how we are going to live, how we are going to respond to pressure and how we are going to protect ourselves from a diluted existence that robs us from the real joy in living. We need to decide what is truly good for us and have the confidence to know when to say NO to even some of life’s good opportunities. Clearly her choices not only create a beautiful life for herself, but influence the world around her in profound ways. That is truly a gift.

Coming Up

I have more Grace Notes to share from my conversation with Alexandra during the week, including her thoughts on love, happiness and daily rituals! Stay tuned for inspiration from women bloggers who will give you a peek into their life and how they find beauty every day! There will be two or even three posts each day to fit everything in!

lily pad photo copyright Heather Doornink, used by permission

journal and ink from Levenger

pen from Lamy USA

related topics: The Best Things

Alexandra Stoddard’s Website