KNOW THYSELF book review

“Know Thyself”: Because One-Size Organizing Doesn’t Fit All

Finally, an organizing book for the rest of us: the ones who look organized on the outside … until you open doors or drawers, and the ones whose stuff is all over the place. In Know Thyself: The Imperfectionist’s Guide to Sorting Your Stuff, Lisa Lawmaster Hess has created a do-able guide to embracing your unique combination of personal and organizing styles and working with them instead of against them.

know thyself-a

I’ve followed Lisa’s writing on organizing for years. Through it, I’ve learned that my personal style is “I need to see it.” We’ve talked together about my wish for an array of clipboards on my office wall, and last summer that wish became a reality. These clipboards, with a fluid arrangement that changes as the contents of the clipboards are switched out, help me keep on top of deadlines for my freelance work — and go a long way toward keeping piles of papers off my desktop.

Barb Szyszkiewicz clipboard wall organizing
My office “wall of clipboards.” Copyright 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Parents: Don’t miss the chapter on helping kids get organized for school. Lisa is a retired elementary-school counselor turned college psychology instructor, so she has plenty of experience with students of all ages. And I know that her advice works: When I was a long-term substitute teacher for second grade in 2014, one of my students just could not keep track of his pencils and eraser. He’d leave them on top of his desk, and they’d roll off. Or he’d put them inside the desk, where that little indentation was supposed to keep them handy, but they didn’t stay inside his desk either. The pencil case he’d been required to purchase? That was shoved into the back of the desk, because finding it, opening it, inserting or removing items, and putting it back were way too many steps.

Lisa’s suggestions to think about how we work led me to the dollar store, where a 2-pack of drawer organizers was easy to find. One morning I brought the little bins to school and quietly offered one to my student, telling him that this was a special place where he could keep his pencils and eraser, so they wouldn’t fall on the floor. It didn’t work perfectly, but it was much better, and he could spend more time doing his classwork and less time looking for his runaway supplies. It’s a small thing, but small things matter, and I’m glad I was able to help my student without embarrassing him.

Lisa’s positive “you CAN!” attitude toward organizing contrasts with prescriptive “you MUST do it THIS way” methods. In Know Thyself, you’ll find tools to help you think about how you use and store your stuff — so you can make a conclusion about what will work best for you. That’s the only way to make sustainable change; someone else’s method is never as good for you as it is for someone else.

KNOW THYSELF book review
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Copyright 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Time to Foster Some Self-Discipline

Because I do not intend to spend this school year fighting with my eighth-grader every morning, I want to work with TheKid to get some strategies in place so that he gets up and out the door and onto the school bus.

I feel like I have been letting him do a lot of sliding in areas where I challenged the older kids to be more self-disciplined and self-starting at the same age. Part of that is because he’s the youngest, and I’m old. And tired.

And part of it is because of diabetes. He’s been extraordinarily self-disciplined when it comes to that. He’s gotten very independent with many aspects of his care. I’m proud of him for that. But there are all those other things that we’ve been doing FOR him, things that he is more than old enough and capable enough to do for himself.

It’s not good for him that we’re letting him slide. He has to learn how to do all the things, not just all the diabetes things. He has to learn how to figure out what time to wake up in the morning so that he won’t miss the bus. He has to set his alarm and make sure it’s on AM, not PM, and actually get up when the alarm goes off.

If we do all the other things for him, we’re really doing that out of pity, and pity is the last thing this kid (or any kid) needs.

So as he begins his eighth-grade year, I’m resolving to begin again too–to begin to foster some life skills that everyone needs to learn.

teens and time managementTo get myself motivated, I purchased this little book from Amazon: What’s the Deal with Teens and Time Management: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Your Teen Succeed. I’m not expecting any all-at-once miracles, but there are a few strategies I intend to start using right off the bat.

It’s a matter of setting priorities. It may even have the side effect of making everyone’s lives a little more pleasant around here.

Note: my link to this book is an Amazon affiliate link. If you purchase through this link, it’s like you’re leaving me a little virtual tip! So, thanks!

Small Success: Getting Things Done Edition

Small-Success-Thursday-400pxThursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!


I’ve been inspired by my friend Lisa Lawmaster Hess and working on getting things a LITTLE more organized around here. It’s a slow process. I did figure out that the set of small rocking chairs behind my desk, while cute, were too much of a temptation for me. They’re toddler rockers–one for each of my kids–and 2 are so small that no one but a small child can sit in them. So…they became tables for my Desk Overflow.

too much stuff on couch

I took All The Stuff out of those chairs (and out from behind those chairs) and it pretty much covered the whole sofa.

So I moved an upholstered chair into the space where the rockers had been, because I know I won’t pile stuff onto that chair. Then I put away All The Stuff.

And my living room looks a lot nicer now.


It’s time to get ready for Lent, and I’ve been working hard over at Cook and Count to load up all the meatless recipes I can find. You can find all of them right here:  Meatless Recipes at Cook and Count.

Grilled Veggie Burrito:  recipe coming soon to Cook and Count!
Grilled Veggie Burrito: recipe coming soon to Cook and Count!

There are more to come, and as I post them, you can access them through this same link.

(AND I learned how to add a copyright line to my photos!)


If you’re reading this through a link at, that’s because I successfully installed the link tool in the CatholicMom post. I’m in training right now to be the Substitute Blogmother during Sarah Reinhard’s upcoming maternity leave. (And she is super patient while she gets me up to speed on All The Things.) This was my very first linky-thing, and it worked! It worked!


In other related news (AKA more shameless self-promotion), I have two posts about Lent that you might want to visit. Click on over!

Book review of 40 Days, 40 Ways

Tech Talk:  Lenten Inspiration from CRS Rice Bowl

Share your Small Successes at by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

© 2015 Barb Szyszkiewicz

Hoarders, the Digital Edition

I’m a digital packrat of the most incurable kind.  That whole “I might need this someday” thing rears its ugly head; I still have 5 1/4″ floppy disks with my college senior thesis on them.  Not that I have any software that can access the files, and it’s been at least 5 years since there was a computer in this house that accommodated ANY floppy disks, but I’ve got those disks…

I use gmail for most of my email, but I have it forwarded through some complicated electronic system or other so I can read it in Outlook on my computer.  Therefore, I never go to gmail’s site unless I need to check the spam folder for something that was misfiled.

I had 67,000 messages in my gmail inbox yesterday.  Years and years and years of messages.  And I deleted them all.

And it didn’t kill me or cause bad things to happen to my family. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

But I’m still not ready to dump those floppy disks.

The Disorganized Student

I was very happy to see that the fourth-graders were required to have “trapper” binders, loose leaf paper, and pocket folders this year. Little Brother has a good handle on academics but not on organization.  In his school, the fourth- and fifth-graders share two teachers for the major subjects, so there is some traveling between classrooms and getting used to two different sets of expectations.  It’s a good way to ease the kids into the middle-school mode.

I figured that since his teachers asked for a particular type of binder, they’d be devoting some time, early in the school year, to good use of this organizational tool.

And week after week, I’d see him come home with all kinds of loose papers stuffed into one of the pockets inside his binder, which also contained his homework planner, pencil case, 200 sheets of looseleaf, 5 dividers, and 3 pocket folders.  The looseleaf?  Unused.  Dividers?  Divided nothing.  Pocket folders?  Empty, except for one which had a paper from Spanish class inside it.  Other Spanish papers were stuffed into that same pocket that held Scholastic book order forms, tests I’d signed, and a homework project due September 27–completed, but never handed in.

One month into the school year, it wasn’t looking like his teachers were doing anything to make sure the students were using the supplies they’d been required to have.

So this morning, since there was no school, I had Little Brother empty out that binder.  He recycled all the papers he no longer needed (most of them).  He put all the Spanish papers into the Spanish folder.  He’s already sort of in the habit of keeping Spanish stuff together, as that teacher encourages that habit in class.  And we labeled one pocket folder “Take Home” and “Hand In.”  He will put anything to come home in the “Take Home” side.  When it’s finished (homework complete, tests signed, forms filled in) it will go to the “Hand In” side.  We’ll see if this works, and I can reinforce this system at home.

We labeled the dividers too, though there’s nothing to divide at the moment.

I hope this helps him.  Next step:  dealing with the “flash cards” that are floating around his backpack.  I like that the teachers encourage the kids to make flash cards when they need to remember important terms or lists.  But they do no good when they wind up in the bottom of the backpack, in a jumble of subjects and topics!  Does anyone have ideas for how he can organize and carry these index cards around?  It’s not like he can put a 3X5 file box in his backpack.

I really think he’d be better off with an accordion file, but I still think that teachers require things for a reason.  There will be conferences with the teachers in mid-November, so I’ll give this another month and see how we roll.  If it’s not working out, I’ll talk with the teachers about it then.

Ideas for organizing a smart but scatterbrained 9-year-old will definitely be appreciated!

Slowly but Surely…Spring Cleaning

I’m using the 3-bag method to clean up in here today.

  • 1 paper grocery bag for recyclable paper
  • 1 tote bag for stuff that belongs in another room
  • 1 trash bag

So far so good!  I’ve discovered that I do, indeed, have a desktop.  It is brown.  It is not dusty, because there was no room for any dust to land on there!

I found a couple of things I didn’t know were missing, and my bag of stuff to relocate is by far the fullest of the 3 bags.

The rest of the house still needs work–lots of work.  But my little corner of the world is well on its way to neatness.