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How a Simple Bag Became a Magic Organizational Tool

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How a Simple Bag Became a Magic Organizational Tool

    Have you ever showed up at a meeting and realized you forgot to bring the right paperwork? Or nipped out to the library only to realize one of your overdue books is still sitting at home?

    There is a simple way to end this confusion: Tote Bag Organizing.

    It’s a fancy name I made up to describe how I keep papers for separate activities together so that I always have what I need by grabbing the appropriate box or bag.

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    How It Started

    A few years ago, all the charities I subscribe to started sending me tote bags. While some of them were converted into reusable shopping bags, I had a few that weren’t suitable. I threw the papers for a Girl Scout meeting into one and forgot to unpack it…and realized how handy it was to have everything together.

    I was no longer scrambling before the meeting to make sure I had everything; and when I needed paperwork that was handed out at the last meeting I knew exactly where to look.

    Does It Have To Be A Tote Bag?

    No, you can use whatever container or other organizational tool best suits your contents. In some cases it might be better to have a smaller or larger container.

    For example, I have started assuming the primary leader role for our Girl Scout troop in preparation for next fall. This means I have to lug supplies back and forth; so a banker’s box takes care of that. Inside will be a plastic folder for our paperwork that I can remove and take as a single unit when we go on a field trip.

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    For a meeting I attend monthly where I need a notebook and pen and a place to keep papers that need to be returned, I use a poly envelope with a closure.

    I also routinely use poly binder dividers with pockets to keep papers together for short-term projects. These live in a container on my desk and get put into the activity bag as needed. An example: the reservation sheets, requirements and meeting information for the Bridging ceremony that will take my troop from Brownies to Juniors.

    How Do You Put This Together?

    It is easy to put these modules together.

    1. Gather everything you would need for the activity.
    2. Put it in a designated container.
    3. Add a writing tool and a notebook or paper.
    4. Subdivide as necessary. (see below)

    How To Make It Work

    After you set up the tote bag, take it to your activity. When you come home again, remove anything that has to be dealt with. Take care of these items and put things back in the bag that will be needed for the next time.

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    If something should come up during the week, make a note and slip it into the bag. If you receive mail that is relevant, put it in the bag.

    Before your next venture to your activity, add what you need, such as books or paperwork.

    Sub-divide as necessary. For activities where you may not need everything all the time, have a way to quickly remove those items. For example, my Girl Scout paperwork, which is required whenever we take an off-site trip, is in a separate pouch so that I can take just that when we go on a field trip.

    If you need to do something with that activity at home, work out of the tote bag, and keep everything together.

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    Various Uses of Tote Bag Activity Modules

    • For my treasurer gig with a local non-profit, I keep a folder for papers, the checkbook and spare supplies in a sturdy bag and add the books we talk about at our weekly meeting.
    • For my Girl Scout papers, I have an old briefcase to keep all the papers in order, along with a package of crayons, extra paper and spare pencils.
    • For my Girl Scout Leader meeting papers, I have a binder pencil pouch that has a notebook inside, a pen, and our tracking slips.
    • For the library, I keep a bag with books and batteries to be recycled (our library accepts these). When a book is not being read, it lives in the bag.
    • For choir we have a small bag with our folders, extra pencils and facial tissues.
    • For the class I am taking, I have my notebook, and the text book stays inside of the bag, but may be removed before class if I know I won’t have to use it.

    Using these tote bags has kept me on track. I always have what I need right at my fingertips, and I haven’t forgotten to return a library book for months.

    Do you have a great way to organize activity items? Share below.

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    Last Updated on November 22, 2021

    Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

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    Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

    Thanksgiving, a day of pure gluttony, football, and possible uncomfortable situations with family members that you may or may not like. Oh, yeah, and the whole “know and reflect on what it is to be thankful and grateful.”

    During the holiday season many people forget what this time of year is bout and are too worried about getting the “early-bird” deals on Black Friday and making sure that they have the perfect gifts for their loved ones. I am sort of a “Grinch” when it comes to the holiday season, mostly because of that mentality by many of the poeple around me.

    But instead of being grinch-like this holiday season, I decided to simplify things and get back to what this time of year is actually is about; being thankful for what I have and what I can give.

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    Simplify

    I’m not a “minimalist” in any real sense, but in the last few months the talks of Patrick Rhone and others have got me to rethink my stance. Can you really have too much stuff?

    Absolutely.

    And with all that stuff comes the burden and the weight of it on your back.

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    If you feel that the things around you are out of control, maybe it’s time to simplify and be thankful and grateful for what you have and use. Here are a few things that you can do to simplify:

    • You know those gadgets in the drawer that you said you were going to sell? Well, time to get the listing on eBay and sell them. Or, send them to a place like Gazelle. Even if they are old and won’t get money, you can at least recycle them.
    • Get rid of things you don’t need. Like old books, clothes, tools, etc. Have something that’s been laying around forever with no use? Donate it to a charity or church. If you aren’t using it, someone else could be.
    • Find your productivity tools and stick with them. Use tools and gadgets that serve multiple purposes so you can simplify your tool set.

    Be Mindful

    You don’t have to be a master Buddhist or meditator to be mindful (although, it can definitely help). Being mindful comes down to being cognizant of the present and not keeping yourself in the past or future. It’s about living in the moment and being aware of yourself and everything around you. It’s just being.

    Without getting too “California” on you, it is super important to be mindful during the holiday rush. Rather than worrying about the things that you forgot at your house on the way to relatives or thinking about the next stop in your endless holiday travels, just breath and think about what you are currently doing.

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    Spend the time with your family and friends and don’t crush the moment. Try not to concentrate so hard on getting the perfect photo of the “awesome moment” of the day and actually miss the awesome moment.

    Being mindful over the holidays will help you be with your families, friends, and yourself allowing you to enjoy your time.

    Reflect

    As the year is coming to a close (yes, it really is that close!) it’s a great time to start reflecting on what you have accomplished and what you haven’t. Within the next few weeks we will have a more throrough reflection article here at Lifehack.org, but reflecting every now and then over your holiday break is a great way to see where you have been doing well in your life and where you need to improve.

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    Reflection shouldn’t be used to “get down” on yourself. Reflection should be used to take an honset inventory of what you have accomplished, how you handeled situations, and what you can do better. If you journal everyday (a daily form of reflection) it may be a good time to start going over some of the things that you have written and start to put together a year’s end journal entry. I mean, how else will you write your autobiography?

    But, seriously, reflecting on yourself makes you aware of your successes and faults and helps you plan and make goals for the coming year. It makes you a better person.

    So, while you are stuffing your face with bird, stuffing, and mashed taters’, remember that the holidays are much more than the superficial things. Use this holiday to become a better person.

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    Featured photo credit: Libby Penner via unsplash.com

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