Thumbs-down Facebook

emojis FB

This week Facebook rolled out new emoji icons for mobile users, adding six alternative responses to the classic “Like,” thumbs-up. My initial response was the opposite of “Like,” though I couldn’t at first put my finger (or thumb) on why I was having such a strong negative response to a small change that most users seemed to have been wanting for some time. 

It was only after I looked at Facebook from the perspective of my business (as a professional organizer) that I realized why I dislike the new emojis so much: these seemingly innocuous new options are just a further disruption/impediment to the order and calm I try to instill each day in my own life and the lives of my clients.

Let me tell you why.

  1. Clutter.  Many of us only consider the clutter we experience in our physical surroundings but, increasingly, it is our virtual environments that threaten to overwhelm us. We are bombarded each day with an excess of media, images and words, an assault which our brains struggle to continuously process. From a design perspective, I appreciate that Facebook has thus far kept its digital presence clean and streamlined. The logo is simple, the color scheme soothing (blue, grey, white, black) and the user interface restricted for the benefit of uniformity. The addition of additional instant responses opens the door to future modification and personalized configurations, and the possibility of losing that streamlined tidiness that keeps virtual clutter at bay.
  2. Choices.  Mark Zuckerberg himself said:  “I do think it’s important to give people more options than just ‘like’.”  Well, now we have six new options. Will this be it, or will Facebook add another six in a few months’ time? Will we continue to request more and more elaborate emojis to use as shortcuts, so that eventually modern language is reduced to merely a string of symbols? Facebook is a platform for connectivity to other people, albeit virtual, and within that framework we should strive to communicate meaningfully with each other. The choice to use emojis rather than express ourselves with words abruptly shortcuts much of the conversation we may have with each other in order to explain and support those simple “Likes”.
  3. Decisions.  Now instead of just a simple “Like” we will have to take more time to decide if our response warrants a more emotional icon and, if so, which emoji represents that best. It feels like there are just too many options. Before the new emojis, the decision was simple:  “Like” it if it sparked something in you, ignore and move to the next post if nothing resonated. Now you have the option to decide to respond to everything with love, extreme joy, sadness, anger. That feels like an emotional rollercoaster I will decide not to jump on.

We can continue to ask our social media outlets for more customization, more personalization, and more options. But ask yourself:  is more always better? Or is the “more” sometimes actually offering me less?



It is rarely quiet in my household. Even when the children are at school my phone pings and buzzes with alerts, the dryer sends out a loud BUZZZZZZ  to alert me that its work is done, and often a delivery guy leans on the doorbell (a hybrid bell/buzzer I’m convinced was designed by someone on crystal meth) usually with a package for a neighbor. These interruptions wear me down, disrupt my flow and leave me continuously asking myself, “Now what was I just doing?”. Some days I get so jittery and unfocused it even feels like I’m suffering from the side-effects of electric shock therapy. Must every machine we humans create constantly clamor for our attention? These electronic demands can feel relentless, like a house full of toddlers all crying for something from you simultaneously, or a police interrogation with questions you can’t answer fast enough flying at you from all directions.

I’ve suffered from these onslaughts for years, knowing the source of what was wearing me down, but never giving them enough of my attention to just say STOP:  ”I’ll get to you when I can, everything in due time, but hold your horses, buddy!”

And then one day…

  • I turned off the vibrate/alert function to my phone.
  • I disconnected the power to the doorbell.
  • I de-programmed the buzzer function on the dryer.

And then, in the words of Bjork,
It’s. Oh. So quiet
It’s. Oh. So still
You’re all alone
And so peaceful until…

Peaceful? Alone? Well, that’s all relative with young children, but I was certainly more relaxed, I wasn’t constantly being jolted out of my work flow, or interrupted when spending time with my children, or distracted while cooking, tidying, or doing any of the other things I do all day.

I certainly don’t miss the constant notifications and more importantly, I’m not actually missing anything! The alerts and mails keep on arriving on my phone, I eventually remember the laundry should be done, and some of the other neighbors are taking their turns collecting packages for the block. Miraculously, I’m also beginning to focus more, be more effective in my work hours, and spend more quality time with my children. The emails get answered when I can sit down, the dryer is emptied when I manage to get upstairs, and the doorbell, well, some days it stays plugged in and some days I keep it disconnected.

Are you also longing for the need to stay focused, productive, alert and energized? Take it from me:  it’s time to KILL YOUR BUZZ!


Our Love Affair with Bags

We all love bags but, here at the dawn of 2016, I think it’s safe to say most of us love them a little too much. How did all these bags get into our lives? Well, there are two main ways: either because we bought them for something, or we bought something that we put in them. The first category of bags, well, those are our silent workhorses. We need them to tote our laptops to work, to cart our rain gear and gym clothes, or to haul bottles, diapers and snacks for our offspring. If you have a school-aged child, she needs a knapsack too, and, eventually, a gym bag. Oh, and does your child do any extra-curricular sports? Then you will need a swim bag, ballet bag, judo bag, or fill-in-the-blank bag to contain all that equipment and keep it ready-to-go. Active lifestyles need bags, and that’s okay. But so often we fail to get rid of bags that have outlived their use and so our collection grows, and one day you open a closet to find bags spilling out, many of which you may not have used in years. Believe me, it is now time to donate or throw away that over-used handbag, or that backpack covered in characters your kid stopped liking long ago. Go ahead, you have my permission–just do it!

Culling your “purpose bag” collection will certainly feel great and free up some space, but there’s a far sneakier category of bag invader on the loose. Walk into any home and you will find shopping bags stuffed in closets, hidden in drawers, hanging on coat racks and nestled on chairs. We have plastic bags that hold more plastic bags. We use bags to sort out our possessions, often with the intention to recycle, donate or complete as a future project. Broken bits to fix/glue? You put it in a bag. Leftover assembly parts? You put it in a bag. Loose cables and cords? You put it in a bag. Screws, nails, tacks, tape? You put it in a bag. Don’t know where it should go, but I “need” to hold on to it? You put it in a bag.

How many of these bags do you think you own? Take a guess. I am going to bet that number is actually double, perhaps even triple what you might think. How do I know? Well, as a professional organizer, I get to peek into how people live, and nearly every client I have met has more bags than he thought, and certainly many more than he needs! In 2010 there were 98.6 billion plastic carrier bags placed on the EU market; nearly 90% were for single-use. That means that every EU citizen was in possession of around 198 plastic carrier bags in 2010 (source: IamExpat), and most of us can’t help hanging on to them. We are so good at stuffing them out of sight that soon they are out of mind and so our collection grows.  But now is the perfect time to break free of our “bag habit.” Dutch legislation that went into effect on 1 January 2016 means businesses will no longer offer these bags free of charge to consumers, presenting us all with an opportunity to be more mindful about letting these bags into our homes.
So what to do about all those bags?
  • Just say no to plastic carrier bags and don’t pay for them. What a waste environmentally and an unnecessary drain on your finances. Instead, reuse all the bags you currently own, decreasing rather than increasing your collection. Put one or more in your work bag, your handbag, your bike bag and your car. Have them available in places where you are going to need them for essential purchases. If you’re really drowning in plastic bags then use them as trash liners for your small bathroom wastebaskets until you run out. Above all, when a plastic bag can’t be used again . . . recycle it!
  • Carry along a tote or fold-able bag for personal purchases. Lucky enough to have a day out shopping for a new outfit? Will that new blouse or jeans, that bottle of perfume or lipstick fit in your hand bag? Say no thank you to the cashier, and take your new purchase as is, using a tote or fold-able bag brought from home, or try to combine multiple purchases into one shopping bag.  If you like to bring your purchases home and ‘unwrap’ them”, ask yourself why you are experiencing that feeling. Was the ‘gift to yourself’ more important than the purchase? Are you purchasing to fulfill another need?
  • Use large shopping bags or carriers for donations and/or recycle them. Sometimes we make a large purchase such as new pillows or boots that simply won’t fit into a tote. The store offers us a large, sturdy paper bag with rope or fabric handles which we gladly accept to make the transport from store to home easier. Don’t become attached to the bag!  Either recycle it immediately, collect your recyclables in it, or de-clutter a closet and fill it with your donations.  Then drop it off and walk away.
  • Don’t go tote-ally crazy. How many of us have been to a conference, workshop or other event where you have been given a canvas “goody bag”? Canvas bags and totes are a popular and practical souvenir for any event; they offer great advertising for the provider and are convenient for carrying around event swag. Next time you hit an event, though, bring your own tote, and if another bag is offered, ask yourself if you like it enough to re-use it after the event? If a new tote makes it home with you, either start using it right away (and think about getting rid of an older one) or donate it.
Now-back to all those loose bits and pieces and unfinished projects:  I give you permission to throw them away! If you really needed it you would have fixed it by now. Say good-bye to all that excess baggage in 2016 and start fresh!