January 26, 2023

132: Planning and Organizing

On today’s episode of The Adventures in Arting Podcast, Mom and I are discussing Planning and Organizing.  They are two separate things, in case you’re wondering.  During the podcast Mom and I go into detail with our tips for planning and organizing as well as our own struggles in those areas.  I hope you enjoy the conversation.  As always, you can listen to the podcast on this page, subscribe to it on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, or watch the video version on YouTube.

Here is the podcast transcript:

Julie 

Hello and welcome to the Adventures in Arting podcast. My name is Julie Fei-Fan Balzer and I’m a working artist and mother. On this podcast – together with my super special co-host and my mom, Eileen Hsu-Balzer — we discuss all aspects of the artful, thoughtful life. Hi, mom. 

Eileen 

Hello Julie. 

Julie 

How are you? 

Eileen 

I’m good. 

Julie 

Well, I learned something important because I have been for the last few podcasts. I’ve done transcripts because sometimes I think people like to read through the podcast and it’s easier to sort of look for a quote or idea that you’re missing. So I use a free service. And it’s auto generated and then I have to go in and correct it by hand, which is a very long process because it’s very messy. And also I say several verbal ticks which turn out not to be the word interesting. But instead I say “you know what I mean,” “like,” “you know” constantly. So my goal for this podcast is not to say that anymore. 

Eileen 

Julie 

But what we’re actually discussing is not my verbal tics, but rather we’re going to be discussing planning and organizing. You know it’s the beginning of the year. If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking about like how to make 2023 a good year. Maybe some projects you want to get done and so Mom and I are going to offer some tips on planning and organizing.  

I do want to mention some upcoming classes before we get started. I do have Design Boot Camp coming up — that is an online class, but it’s live so it’s conducted over Zoom. It’s a five-week class. You meet twice a week. And it’s an intensive class where you’re really getting into understanding the building blocks of making art. This is a class for beginners or advanced students. I’ve had people in it who are at the beginning of their art journey. I’ve had people in it who have MFAs, so it’s really more about getting into the nitty gritty of you & your style. What the art building blocks are and how to make better art. So you can find all the information about that at juliebalzer.com. Then I have 3 classes that I’m hosting here in my home studio. You are going to come here. I live just outside of Boston and the classes are Color Camp — in which we’re getting into the nitty gritty of how colors work, how value changes everything, how colors are relative, how to mix the colors you want, how to harness the power of color, how to create a personal palette, all that kind of stuff. Then Printmakers Party where we are going to be making stamps, stencils, screens, layering them, talking about how to design them, actually making them all in the studio and you’re going to go home with a pile of stamps, stencils and screens that you have made to use in your artwork. And then finally Mixed Media Collage Intensive, which is a class for intermediate and advanced students, and this class is really about you. Come to the studio for a week Monday through Friday and we’re going to be working hard. You’re going to be working on a series. During this class, it’s about taking your work beyond the copying stage and really into creating independent, unique work with your voice in mixed media collage. So I’m super excited. I’d love to see you at any of these classes. And now I guess we can kind of get started.  

And Mom, the first question is what do you think the difference is between planning and organizing? 

Eileen 

Well, it’s huge because I can plan, but I don’t necessarily find I’m able to organize. Planning is obviously you’re doing it without doing it. You’re doing, you’re saying what you’d like to achieve. It’s like goals. Actually, organizing involves something that I’ve zeroed in on as my major shortcoming. I know it’s amazing that I would even have one, but here it is. I hate to throw things out. I put off decision making about it, so even when you do that thing where you have like keep, throw, donate. And maybe. I can never get to the throw phase, especially if there’s nothing wrong with the item. I I used to think it was because ohh, I paid some real money for this and I don’t want to throw it out, but I’ve realized that’s really not it. Because if I’m not using it, I might as well not have it anyway. It’s like if you get wedding china and you keep it in your cabinet and never use it. You don’t really have it. 

Julie 

Right, the good soap and all that stuff. And art supplies are that way. People keep the good art supplies for later, but it’s like what’s the point then? What’s the point? 

Eileen 

Well and also art supplies degrade, they do. Still sits there, but I just remember….revealing something here, uh, reading an answer in an Anne Landers advice column — some may not know who Anne Landers was, but she was one of these…. 

Julie 

And Dear Abby was her sister. 

Eileen 

Right, it’s an advice column and it turned out there was someone who wrote in because her mother first covered the couch with a sheet. Then covered the sheet with plastic covers and the final blow was she was now covering the plastic covers covering the sheet with another sheet. 

Julie 

What’s the point in having the couch? 

Eileen 

Well, yes, I. I think the real issue for me is once I throw something out, it’s not that I sit around mourning it all the time. I forget about it. It sounds like a relief. But to just get to that point. Sometimes donate works for me because then at least I feel somebody’s getting it. Who can use it? I do feel that’s my weak spot. 

Julie 

You’re going to be dragging all your worldly possessions behind you and being judged for it. 

Eileen 

How about a giant funeral pyre? Maybe a ship that’s floating me out to sea. Sort of Viking style and also the stuff is loaded in. 

Julie 

Well, I like that because I think here’s the thing: I read a little bit about planning and organizing and the conclusion that I’ve come to is that planning is theoretical and organizing is practical. And so one of the things that happens is — and they’re so intertwined, right? Because if you try to do the practical part without the theoretical part, it just takes you much longer. There are a lot of mess ups. You somehow have to go back and fix things if you…. 

Eileen 

Make mistakes soon. 

Julie 

Or if you just do the planning but forget the practical part of putting the plan in action. The actual organizing well then it’s just dreaming and actually, hilariously — I showed you today — this great idea that I’ve been talking about all week that I wanted to do. And I grabbed a bullet journal off my desk today thinking it was my current bullet journal and it turned out to be last year’s Bullet Journal. Sitting at your kitchen counter today I realized that the idea that I had this week is actually an idea I had in November of 2021. Same idea. Similar I guess. I would say that I simply planned — for it was all there written down, but I never actually organized and did it, so that was a major failing. So now of course that we have confessed to everybody that we are….. 

Eileen 

Flawed flawed people. 

Julie 

Human human, let’s discuss some tips for planning and organizing right? What are some things that you do that have been helpful to you? So I wrote mine. 

Eileen 

Julie 

Now I left my piece of paper over there so I’ll be right back but you go ahead first. 

Eileen 

There is a tendency among some people, and I may include myself in that, thinking that a solution will offer itself if you have the right container, the right spot to put things you know. And that doesn’t always work for me. And sometimes I have the same dilemma once I have the container. What goes in the container? And what does not and where does the container go once the stuff is in it so? I find that I cannot rely on finding the right container to make things work. 

Julie 

Yeah, but that is a little bit about almost having the planning not actually lead to organizing — you think that if you go to the container store and shop for it then it will magically change your personality and you will put everything away. So that actually gets to….Let’s work backwards because here are my organizing tips….. 

Eileen 

Organizing tips I will just say right up front you are much better at organizing than I am. I hate organizing. 

Julie 

Why thank you. Maybe I watched you and was like wow. My mom is such a bad organizer. I better be better than her at it. 

Eileen 

Or else I would just say this. I organize up to a point — like my spices are sort of alphabetical but not really. But you know that the the A’s are all at one end, and then the C’s, and then the D’s, but within those alphabetic letters, it could be a mess. 

Julie 

But I would say you’re a super planner, and I think that’s part of the reason that you’re not necessarily an organizer. Like when it comes to a trip or a meal or an anything, you’ve got a plan. I’ve seen the post its for the meal where you figured out you know what’s going in when. I know the index cards from when you would have dinner parties and you would know what you had served people, so you wouldn’t serve it again. You know, that’s a kind of planning. And I kind of thinking about things for trips when we were growing up and you would have to pack you and me and Matthew, you know. And sometimes dad too. It’s that is planning whether you know the organizing is there or not. I think sometimes if you’re a really good planner, you can get away with winging the organizing part of it because you have such a strong plan, you know? 

Eileen 

I also have organized things like a concert series for the town or which I used to do, or meetings various meetings for different boards. I mean, I can organize those things cause I don’t have to throw things out. I mean I really am giving this topic some thought before we came on here. 

Julie 

That’s it. 

Eileen 

That’s really the crux of my issue. 

Julie 

Well, I think that there’s the plan, so organizing community. Two things really right organizing can mean the arrangement of items, right? That’s sometimes what we’re talking about when we’re saying that donate throw away you know what size container drawer, but there’s also the organizing which is taking a plan and implementing it for people. Or for your…. 

Eileen 

That I can do. 

Julie 

…trip or something like that, and I think those are two different things, so I think. That is important clarity. So I know I said we were to start organizing, but now I’m backtracking. Based on our conversation. So let’s talk about planning because that is I know, a strong suit and we talked a little bit about. I hinted at some of the things I know that you do for planning that are so good and I have three things for planning that I think work, whether you’re planning to reorganize your craft room, make a meal, go on a trip, start a video series — and the first is to write it down. 

Eileen 

Yes, and the older I get, the more I need to write it down, that’s for sure. 

Julie 

Well, the only thing is to remember that your plan may not come together in one brilliant flash of genius moment and you may need to build it over time and I find — back to the bullet journal. That writing it down means that I can refer back to it — that I can go back to it — that I can keep adding to it. That time can be a player — that I don’t need 12 hours to figure out the plan. I can have a burst of thought, a burst of thought. I think it works, yeah. A burst of thought. So I think that writing it down is really a key. And also sometimes — this is why I think we’ve discussed this before — but the reason talk therapy works is not because the therapist is a magician. But it’s partially because in trying to explain yourself or your situation to a stranger. It forces you to go into some thoughtful sort of detail about the process or why you’re there, or how this person is or. Any of that kind of stuff? So you kind of come to your own realizations in that process of trying to explain it, and I believe that writing is the same way. For instance, when I try to write a tutorial, I immediately — within the written instructions — realize the amount of specificity required. You know which layer to do first. You need to use your left hand to hold it while your right hand does something else because you have to really think when you write and so I think the fact of keeping a record…go ahead. 

Eileen 

You have to think about what the other person doesn’t know, yeah. 

Julie 

Yeah, when I first started writing my blog, you always said to me think about me. 

Eileen 

Meaning you the ignorant non artistic person. 

Julie 

And so that was the audience that I wrote for. I thought, well, my mom doesn’t know what this supply is? I better go all the way into what that means or she would be lost, but now you know too many things so you’re not useful to me anymore, see. 

Eileen 

I can go off into the woods.  

Julie 

So then sort of related to me, to writing a list, is my second tip, which is making a checklist and the reason that I think writing it down and making a checklist are two different things and I will use the example from today that’s a real world example: I made a list of 52 videos that I want to make in 2023. But it’s not in a format that is the order I want to do them in, or a format that is sort of like a very like. What are the steps that I need to make each of the videos. So a checklist is kind of once you’ve got your big brain dump out, it’s boiling it down into the steps that you need to take, right? That’s the planning. 

Eileen 

Well, part of the issue with that project is that you don’t know that people are going to be watching them in the order that you make them. Yes, and you so you are not setting up a class where they have to go through them in order to get to the point so each video has to stand on its own and people will pick and choose. 

Julie 

Right and yet there are topics where it’s kind of like a tree, so it’s easier if I do a video about collage to say if you want to learn more about gel medium, watch my video about gel medium as opposed to having to explain in the collage video also about gel medium. Or if you want to learn more about making your own collage papers in this collage video, watch my mark making video. So then thinking what skills might somebody want to have before they watch this video, even if they don’t watch it in this order. Being able to then refer people back, so it’s a whole. It’s a tree, right? Complicated tree. 

Eileen 

Well, let’s go back to your theater background. When you’re directing a play, you have to assume that the audience comes and they don’t know anything about the story or the characters or the time, and you want to and unroll things in a certain way. 

Julie 

Well, see we always used to joke that the worst plays start with exposition. “Oh, Cynthia was it’s not six weeks ago that we were sitting here chatting with Alfred and his wife, and now they’re both dead in the most tragic way.” And you’re like, OK, I understand. So Alfred and his wife died tragically. Let’s go. 

Eileen 

I think what’s interesting, you know, this movie that just came out, Glass Onion, which is a mystery, kind of and without giving a spoiler — halfway through, the time stops and you’re suddenly back in the previous time and so then you see things in a different way. When you do that, you’re conscious that that’s supposed to catch the audience unaware. To surprise them. You don’t just do that casually, and I think the point is, the point is to make a point that things are not what they thought. Otherwise you would never do that. I think one of the things that you learn if you watch Someone Like You directing a play. Or your brother who writes screenplays and has directed films, is that after they’ve finished, after you’ve finished, you actually look at what you’ve got before the audience sees it, and you figure out where are the holes? Where are the awkward places where it’s assumed that people understand something, but they don’t? What needs further explanation? You know what I mean? To make it make sense? So that’s a form of organizing thinking. 

Julie 

It is. I think organizing your thinking is what planning is, which is kind of a weird thing, since we’re saying that organizing is implementing planning. But planning is mental organization and part of that is just because these words get very overused right? So in fact somebody — I wrote this down — Somebody said that perhaps organizing should be called coordinating. 

Eileen 

Could be. 

Julie 

And that goes again back to the thing you were saying about you can coordinate like a trip or a big plan or an event or a party, but you don’t like to organize. Let’s say your junk drawer…. 

Eileen 

Yeah, I don’t like to look through my closet and throw out things. 

Julie 

Right? 

Eileen 

And it turns out that some of that is working out in my favor because during this whole quarantine and pandemic thing, I’ve been shopping only in my closet. I’ve found all sorts of things that I forgot. And I like.  

Julie 

It can come back in fashion too. 

Eileen 

That makes you feel like, oh, I can’t throw things out because two years from now, I might want to wear that — which is idiotic. 

Julie 

Oh yeah, I have the artist version of that which is like I’m constantly afraid to throw things away because then I will immediately need it for some sort of art project, yeah?  

So my third tip — we have, write it down, make a checklist. My third tip for planning is to plan for error. What does that mean? So chances are you haven’t actually thought of every mistake that could happen, but. Let’s say you’re buying bins at the container store. Plan for an error. Buy an extra bin or make sure it’s something that’s not a special order that you can get easily if you need it to run back to the store for one more or six more, you know, plan for error. You know, sometimes I will say I need 6 outfits for this trip, and then I’ll throw in a 7th. Because I’m planning for an error, a problem of staying later or whatever. It’s kind of a thing about we’re heading on a family trip. And do I pack one extra outfit for my son in the carry on or do I pack two — planning for error and hopefully never use either so that there’s no throwing up, no pooping? No, you know, major problems there.  

Eileen 

Don’t worry about that, he won’t do any of that. 

Julie 

OK, so you’re saying no changing. No change of clothes for him in the carry on. No change of clothes for me and Steve in the carry on. It’ll be 100% fine. He’ll be an Angel. 

Eileen 

As long as I don’t have to sit next to you. 

Julie 

OK, so those are my three planning tips. I don’t know if you have additional planning tips before we get into the organizing. 

Eileen 

I don’t know if it’s planning for error, but to avoid errors like don’t be lazy, measure things you know. Like the other day I was in Staples. And I started to say, oh, I’m looking for a bin for the kids. Is this bin big enough? Is it deep enough? And what I should have done was measure. So I didn’t get anything, I mean. The price I’ll pay is I’ll have to physically go back, which can be done right? Wasn’t my one and only chance to get a bin but measuring is huge. 

Julie 

It is and I also think troubleshooting beforehand, so this is something that I think teaching and teaching online has also really taught me because I have to kind of anticipate what people’s questions or problems might be. So one of the reasons…. 

Eileen 

Although there’s always a surprise. 

Julie 

There’s always a surprise nonetheless. But for instance, one of the things I didn’t know that I needed to teach people, for instance about the ScanNCut, was you have to put the blade into the machine. I had just assumed that everybody knows how to put a blade into the machine, which of course is a stupid assumption. You know what they say about assuming things. So I have now learned that that has to be a part of my schtick when I go through something is putting the blade in and out. Or there are error messages that I never saw because I didn’t make those errors. But through teaching, I’ve learned what the error messages are. So now I can tell you if you get this error, it’s this. If you get this error, it’s this if you get this…and I will say all of that in a video so hopefully catching someone before they have the problem. 

Eileen 

One of the things that I learned, which is similar, was when I was running a children’s theatre and when you would have these registration forms, you have to say things more than once. And people still don’t read it. And they will ask you that question or they will make that mistake. So if it’s really important, it’s in bold and it’s more than once. 

Julie 

Yeah, 100% people don’t read and then as annoyed as I get when people don’t read and I write back with the instructions that I have already sent to them. I also am that person. So for instance, my son has been taking a dance class and I switched him from the dance class at the same dance studio to a tumbling class. 

And I got two emails saying your child is currently enrolled in…and one was for the dance class and one was for the tumbling class. So I immediately, you know, emailed back and said this is wrong. He should only be in tumbling and the woman wrote back right away and she was like. “Yeah, he is only in tumbling, this is an automated thing because his dance thing expires, you know, at the end of the year and the tumbling begins at the beginning and there’s just this weird overlap here.” And if I had really read the e-mail and like looked at the attachment, it does have the dates on it, but I just saw the words enrolled in and enrolled in and you know, sent off my e-mail saying this is wrong, so yeah, people. You don’t read and I think one of the most interesting things that I did in 2022, and I think this is a fair use of the word interesting. Is I participated in a branding mastermind and the first exercise that we did as a group, is we looked at each others’ websites & social and said this is how I see what you’re saying about your brand. And for a lot of people they were shocked. That’s not my brand. That’s not what I meant, that’s not what you should see. We don’t always realize what we’re putting out there, and as we as we talked about it more, we all realized that, Oh yeah, I have this in my about section, but it’s not on my homepage or it’s on my homepage, but it’s not in my things to know or shop policies needs to be on every single page of the website. Even a non-shopping page. There are these things, and so I mean another example I’ll give you is, I’m staying at an Airbnb. I had to sign this whole thing about it. I contacted the Airbnb person today and I said oh it has a whole thing about not being able to have visitors. I said, you know, possibly like my brother, who you know, lives in the area will come by with his family and she was like yeah yeah yeah no problem. It’s just we’ve had a bad experience. So we had to put the rule to avoid parties, but that again is about like people not reading. You know the fine print, whereas now in this case I was like very sure to read the fine print and her being like oh, you don’t need to read the fine print, so it’s always so hard to know when to do it and when not? 

Eileen 

But that’s getting back to organizing. I sort of think of this list part. In the beginning, as like making an outline, you know when you are in elementary school and they teach you to make an outline of an answer or an article you’re going to write, or whatever a paper. And that forces you to think in this logical sequential way, and I think the way that’s useful to me writing this list is to kind of. For you know these are the three major things I’m going to do, and within each section, this is how I’m going to achieve that. Or this is what I’m going to look for, or this is what I have to buy so. I think actually, people who can do that have more facility at computers because computers actually force you to think in that way too. 

Julie 

That’s interesting that you think that I’ve never thought of a computer as forcing me to think in a linear way. 

Eileen 

Oh yeah, yeah, first you click this and then you will get this message and then you have to decide you want this or that. And then I mean it, it really does. It’s a kind of thinking. 

Julie 

It’s so interesting because I often think the thing about computers that’s fun is that there are multiple ways to get the same thing done. 

Eileen 

Yeah, it’s like make your own story, but that is multiple ways is different from the way you choose and what I’m saying is it’s not it, it force it, or at least it forces me. Like filling out a form. Which I did the other day. It forces me to go in a sequential way or this signing up to get your COVID tests in the mail from the government. You have to go in a sequential way or…. 

Julie 

OK, so speaking of sequential, last night, I was editing the transcript from the last podcast we did and I was starting to get really tired and bored so I needed to trick my mind. So instead of going sequentially, I started editing backwards. From the end of the podcast, so that I would read like one sentence and then go up one sentence. So like we and it actually by going non-sequentially, it kept me more actively interested and able to do it even though I was tired. So yeah, sequential thinking versus non sequential is kind of an interesting — There’s overuse, maybe of the word again, but is a compelling difference to look at. 

Eileen 

That’s true. 

Julie 

But some of that also comes into the way that people work on art. I think there are people who like to have a system and a plan when they go into working on a piece of art. And there are other people who are all over the map. Kind of doing whatever. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong about which way works. It’s very much about how your brain works. Does it take the pleasure out of it, if you have to have a plan, a road map going in? Or vice versa, does it take the pleasure out of it, if you feel out of control and sort of don’t know what’s. Next or what to do? 

Eileen 

Well, one of the things that forces you to have somewhat of a sequential plan is knowing what their products can do and cannot do so. If you know that something can’t go on some other substance, you will know you have to do it in a particular order. 

Julie 

Yeah exactly well, now that we’ve sort of jumped into organizing. I got 3 tips for organizing too, and again I think that this kind of organizing works for any kind of physical organizing. I’m not talking about organizing like people or anything like that, so the first tip is to — it’s related to the write it down — and the first tip is to label. If you were to open my refrigerator, you would see labels. Not that my husband pays attention to them. But he’s supposed to. 

Eileen 

You know your Brother does that. He came once and organized all the shelves and put labels and wanted to strictly keep people from put….You know you can’t put the dairy thing here. It has to go here and I just thought Ohh God. 

Julie 

Well, that’s your refrigerator. He can’t tell you what to do in your refrigerator. He can do what he wants in his refrigerator. But I think I do it in my art studio, which I’m in every single day. And even though I know where everything is, it’s still labeled because there are other people than me in this space, and I do forget about some things, and I think it’s useful always to label, label, label. It also helps you to really drill down to what is in that container. Is it paint? Is it fabric paint? Is it Jaquard fabric paint? 

Eileen 

Yeah, you’re categorizing. 

Julie 

Yeah, you’re categorizing and I think that’s really important. So label label label because it makes it easy to find, easy to put away and it helps you to mentally categorize what it is that you’re doing in that organizational space. The second tip I have is making it easy to put away, which I kind of already mentioned. A lot of people make beautiful systems. Gorgeous systems things that are so lovely, but are so arduous to clean up and put away that I just will never do it. Then it will end up in a pile on my floor and I’ve absolutely found so…whether it’s my closet or my art studio or my kitchen, if it doesn’t have a place to live where it can easily be put away, it immediately becomes a barrier of junk, a pile of something that’s just there, and so you know we had a problem in our bedroom where we just kept having piles of clothes dripped over the edge of the bathtub in our bathroom. And we finally figured out it’s because we didn’t have enough storage space for stuff and we had to get another dresser in order to just not constantly have the problem of just clothes everywhere cause you just couldn’t fit anything. And I think I’ve noticed it in my art studio all the time. If I get something new, especially if it’s big, it’s a huge: “Where where does it go? I don’t know.” So it has to have a home where it’s easy to put away. 

Eileen 

Julie 

This alphabetizing space thing, as long as you can do the alphabet and put it away, generally in the right spot then. It’s easy to put away, right? But if you have to reach behind the L’s to get to the P’s Like it just doesn’t work. OK, so then my third and final tip for organizing is to use a system that works for you and in my sentence here I wrote system in capital letters because I think that there’s sort of two tips in one. The first is to. Use a system. As opposed to a random Piggly Wiggly, the system could be rainbow order. The system could be alphabetical. The system could be numerical order, the system could be your own special brain power. How you know, however, it works for you, but I think a system makes everything a little bit easier and then that works for you. This is back to: it’s your refrigerator, not Matthew’s. He can organize his refrigerator the way he wants. You can organize your refrigerator the way that you want. I like to put, for instance, in my suitcase. I like to put everything in those little zipper cubes. For my brain then I just know, oh, this is the cube that has pants. This is the cube that has shirts. This is the cube that has underwear and I don’t have to think about it. Everything goes into the suitcase and out of the suitcase super easily. Steve just shoves everything. Into a backpack. That’s his organizational system. It works for him. 

Eileen 

I feel like it might work for me. I might need to buy some cubes. 

Julie 

They’re awesome. They honestly. When I was traveling a ton a ton a ton, they saved my life all the time because I immediately could tell what was missing or I knew where something was. I could unpack into, you know, 20 seconds and repack just as quickly. It was so convenient for like sizing up sizing down on trips. So it’s great cosmetics, jewelry, whatever it is can all just go in a cube. I love it. I’m a cube salesman now. OK, so those are my 3 organizing tips. Labels. Make it easy to put away. Use a system that works for you. Do you have other organization tips? 

Eileen 

Well, I have a tip that works for me. Get someone…. 

Julie 

Someone else to do it. 

Eileen 

…Patient person now to help you because it’s what’s intimidating. Doing things alone becomes slightly less because a lot of my thing of throwing things away. Is not. Realistic or logical, it’s kind of emotional and this person a very understanding person considers you really think you’re gonna wear that again, you know what I’m saying and I used to save things, for example for that children’s theater. And I would say, oh, I don’t wear this anymore. But it would look great in a play on a stage and I I have to now stop myself from saving things for other people, so I mean. The other person is a good kind of Talisman. Reassuring person who can say it’s OK, throw it out. 

Julie 

I think that’s true, and I think like I believe in professional organizers. I think they can be really helpful. My only caveat is again with the system that works for you. Some organizers have a single system that they just slot on to everybody and tell you to use it. If it’s a system that doesn’t work the way your brain works, you will never use it and it will fall apart and this goes back to the idea of a personal trainer could give you a program. A great program that is guaranteed to make you lose weight. If it has to start at 6:00 AM and you’re not a 6:00 AM person, or if it takes an hour and a half and you only have 40 minutes every day to do it. Or if you don’t, you know what I mean. Like if it doesn’t fit your lifestyle and what you’re willing to do. You’re just not going to do it, no matter how fantastically perfect it is. It’s the same thing as I always warn people before Design Boot Camp. I say this is intensive, that’s why it’s called boot camp. It is an intense experience. If you are not ready to really have that intense experience, this is not the class for you and the reason I do that is once again because, it has to work for you. If it doesn’t matter that it is the greatest class on earth, if it doesn’t work for you. So always just being aware that you understand the system that’s going to work for you or at least have a general idea, and that’s maybe the planning. You might not need help with the planning, but you do need help with the organizing or even help with the planning. Maybe it’s thinking about the planning, but not somebody giving you the plan. 

Eileen 

Right, no being emotional support and answering your questions. And encouraging you and the good impulses and…. 

Julie 

And maybe doing the physical labor of it. 

Eileen 

Are you volunteering? 

Julie 

I did remember when Caleb and I helped you after your closet. Maybe when I was…. 

Eileen 

That was quite a while ago. 

Julie 

Long time ago, maybe 20 years ago. 

Eileen 

One of the things also is break things down, because if you go and you see this whole room full of stuff that you have to organize, you’re never going to do it, or I’m never going to do it. But if I say OK, this drawer, the junk drawer I’m going to just organize this one. It’s more doable. Last year I had a thing where I was throwing out like 1 Magazine or two magazines a day because I have a million of them. I mean, it’s not so bad that I have like tunnels to walk through, you know? 

Julie 

Not quite a hoarder house, but yes. 

Eileen 

But I but. I have a lot of magazines. And this year I’m still throwing things out. 

Julie 

I have to tell you there is an item that was, so I’ve been the auctioneer at my local quilt guilds auction for like. The last three years, and there was an item that I wanted to bid on, but I think it’s bad form to bid on an item when you’re the auctioneer and a woman had….It was a lot, like a laundry basket full of tins, as in like old cookie tins and all sorts of nice old tins and I can imagine 1000 different things that you could do with them. And I suppose I’m young enough that I just don’t have any, and they also don’t sell a lot of things in tins anymore, really. 

Eileen 

Right, right? 

Julie 

So I just don’t have any tins and I thought that would be great. And it was amazing to me how negative people were about all these tins and part of it is that I’m at least 30 years younger than 90% of the Guild, and so maybe they have accrued more of these tins and don’t and see it as just more of what they already have, but that that laundry basket of tins has been like…. 

Eileen 

It’s haunting you. 

Julie 

A white whale. It is. It’s haunting me because I often — when I’m looking for a container or storage I’m always like, I wish I had…I wish I had bought that laundry basket of tins. Which is so stupid, but it is again that person who had them obviously couldn’t throw them away. There’s nothing wrong with them. Someone would have liked them. They’re generally not the kind of thing that people will take as a donation. You know it’s a very specific kind of thing, and figuring out how to not let them go to waste? 

Eileen 

You can have some of mine. 

Julie 

Oh good. I will take you up on that then. Yay. Presents for me! OK, anything else you want to say about planning and organizing? 

Eileen 

I just feel like it’s not a wasted effort to plan, even if you never move to the organizing because it….It means you’re thinking about problem solving in your life. And maybe you don’t end up organizing, but you start to realize: Well, so I don’t save all these magazines. Because I know that eventually there’ll be a problem and I’ll have to throw them out or I just think it’s not bad to assess and every assessment of whatever it is doesn’t have to lead to immediate flamethrower on the whole thing. You know what I mean? You can take your time and then you will get to it. The other thing is, as I get older and I think about when I die, I’m going to leave this house full of stuff. It’s going to be an incredible burden on my loving children. 

Julie 

I mean, not Matthew, he’ll flame throw it, but me, yes, I’ll pick through everything. And weep over it. 

Eileen 

So it’s another thing to keep in mind, excuse me. 

Julie 

Well, so several New Years ago, many many years ago now, I guess, we went to a fancy resort spa place and we went to a lecture there that was about resolutions, which is a normal thing that people do around years end and also certainly a fancy health retreat spa thing to do as well, and something that the guy said has really, really stayed with me. He asked each of us basically to write down an intention, something we wanted to do that next year, and then he gave us envelopes and we addressed them to ourselves and then he said he would mail them in about a month or something like that so we could see whether or not we had…. 

Eileen 

Longer than that, even. 

Julie 

Was it? I don’t even remember how long it was, but yeah, so and the thing that he said to me though, that was the most powerful was, He said basically: don’t kick yourself if you don’t get it done. Because the failed attempt is actually part of the process of getting it done. 

Eileen 

And sometimes you have to take the time and think about the failed attempts at to get motivation to do it. 

Julie 

Right and each time, it’s like you inch closer in some way. It’s almost like OK so I mean what is the number one resolution that most people make: to lose weight or to get healthier or to exercise more, to eat better? Or some version of that right? And so the thing is, maybe you run into an obstacle so you stop doing it and the obstacle might be that you’re starving when you get home from work and it isn’t until six months, a year, two years later that you change jobs or you figure out how to prep meals so that you can have something healthy or that you weren’t able to identify that obstacle until you had the goal and failed. And so I always think of that, whenever I make a plan, whenever I’m thinking of something like that. Because I realize that — again, it’s not a waste of time, it’s not a wasted effort. It’s not even a true failure. It’s a learning and a preparing for a future attempt. You may also discover that that wasn’t your goal when you said you wanted to lose weight, what you actually meant is you wanted to feel better about yourself and going to therapy was a lot more helpful than fitting into a size 2 pair of jeans you know? Or whatever the issue may be.  So I happen to have here on my desk. This is my Carve December workbook. 

Eileen 

Julie 

And part of what we do is we create goals at the beginning of the book and on my page that has the goals. There’s a whole bunch of red crossing out of where my goals changed during the month of December, and that was OK. And instead of being mad at myself, I adjusted the goals that I had written down rather than cursing at myself, which of course is something you know that I think is important, yeah. To shout from the rooftops, it reminds me a lot of the time that I went shopping with my friend Nat Kalbach and I came out of the dressing room and. I was like oh, my boobs are too big for this dress. She said no. That dress is too small for you, that dress does not fit you correctly and I was putting the blame on me. And she was putting the blame on the dress and that has been a mental shift that I have forever taken gratefully as a shift. So again, it’s not that I was not hitting my goals. It’s that I had misstated what goals were realistic or achievable, or even that I was interested in? How many of us have gone down a path discovered it was not for us, and then persisted merely to save face. So stupid, right? So why do that? So yes. So cut your losses. Perhaps we can shorten that. 

Eileen 

Well, don’t feel it’s. Like written in blood that you that you have to go for this goal. Your goals can change. 

Julie 

I agree. 

Eileen 

And you can get smarter about yourself and you can know yourself better. 

Julie 

Yeah, and things change. My gosh, if one thing is constant in life, it’s change. Things change and I think it’s really — if the pandemic. I listen to a lot of business podcasts and one of the things that has been like drummed into my head now because everybody says it and I think it’s true is: What the pandemic has made everybody realize is that when you are an inflexible company, you fail. You lose money. You can’t pivot quickly enough. You can’t change when you are in an inflexible hierarchy. There’s no ability to get things done in a way that’s quick, et cetera. Et cetera. So I listened to both a marketing podcast yesterday and the Harvard Business Review Podcast yesterday and a LinkedIn podcast yesterday, and all of them were talking about the idea of this leadership that exists now is about being flexible. That is the number one word that they all kept using across — you know, many different sort of businesses and so I think while that applies to business, I think it also applies to life, right, motherhood. 

Eileen 

Parenthood teaches it, yes, and you know, during the pandemic, if you became more obvious more quickly that you needed to. What you were doing, but in fact when I listen to these podcasts about how I built how I built this thing, is that what? 

Julie 

Right? 

Eileen 

It is and people are talking about their companies or their businesses and how they built them. Almost always there’s some kind of miscalculation or disaster, you know. They successfully dealt with by shifting things that they thought were tenants of their business, and I think that’s right. It’s true in life too. Alright, you didn’t? You didn’t get into the college you wanted to go to — get into another one, you know? 

Julie 

You didn’t get that job or what are you gonna do about it? You know you didn’t? The chicken didn’t turn out right? Well, how are you gonna fix that, you know? Whatever the problem is, what is the improv? I mean OK, so we go back to Viola Spolin, who’s a famous improv teacher and one of the quotes that is lasered on to my heart which is “improvisation is the moment when planning….” There’s that word planning “…and opportunity meet.” And so it’s not that improvisation is just waving your hands wildly and running around in a circle and doing anything you want. It’s that you’ve planned for this — you’ve practiced for this. You have ideas for this. The opportunity comes and you walk through that door. It’s why do you do the lifeboat drill? The fire drill. The active shooter drill any of that kind of stuff. It’s so that the moment that it happens, you’re not….It’s not new, and so I think in a much less high stakes way. There certainly is in art. You’ve practiced, you’ve done this 1000 times. You’ve tried it in your sketchbook. You’ve done some studies so that when it comes into the moment, you can do it. Because you’ve practiced because you have a plan because you’re there and it is improvisational. But it’s not just based on nothing.  

OK, so planning. Organizing here they come 2023 I’m excited for that. Shall we wrap this up, yes? 

OK, so you can find me at juliebalzer.com or on Instagram as balzerdesigns and every Friday I send out a free weekly newsletter. So I’d love to have you sign up for that. It’s an e-mail newsletter. I don’t usually e-mail the list at all, except on Fridays. And finally, if you’d like to help the show grow, you can leave a review. Mention us on social media or tell a friend — all of those things help other people find the show. Thanks so much for listening and subscribing. We’d love to know what topics you’d like to hear us cover in 2023? If there are any guests you’d like to have us talk to? We’ll see you the next time on the adventures in Arting podcast. 

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