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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Guest-blogger Regina Leeds on 5 + 1 Resources to Make a Writer Happy in an Organized Space

Writes organizer Regina Leeds:

"There is all too often a major disconnect between what we say we want and what we are actually doing on a daily basis. The task at hand is to bring everything we do into alignment with what we say we want."
There are writers who can work amidst piles of clutter, but I am not one of them. And while we may occasionally see a photo of some impishly grinning genius amidst his swirls of chaos, I would bet bucks that the overwhelming majority of would-be writers are defeated by their clutter before they have a chance to sit down. (Who would even want to sit down in a cluttered room?) Ever since I devoured her The Zen of Organizing: Creating Order and Peace in Your Home, Career, and Life, I've been a big fan of Regina Leeds. For my writing workshops, which have included "Break the Block" and "Staying Focused: Researching and Writing the Longer Book Project," I always and warmly recommend her tips. Leeds is also the author of the New York Times best-seller One Year to an Organized Life; One Year to an Organized Work Life; Creating a Place Without Losing Your Space: a Couples Guide to Blending Homes, Lives and Clutter, among others. Her latest is One Year to an Organized Financial Life, which she wrote with financial advisor Russell Wild. How (in blazes) does she get so much writing done? Herewith, Regina Leeds' links for you:

5 + 1 Resources to Make a Writer Happy in an Organized Space

My style of organizing, called ‘Zen Organizing,’ is devoted to help you create physical environments that literally nurture and support you. You’ll be fighting an uphill battle with your creative impulses if your work area looks as if Katrina just blew through. I’ve decided for this guest blog to share some of the diverse items that make me a happy writer in an organized space. I hope they help you as well.

1. Need an organizing tool? Head to The Container Store. There are two things that make this store my ‘go to’ choice for all things organizing: the quality of the products and the consistency in the stock. What could be more demoralizing for a newbie organizer than to find a product you love and in a few weeks or months not be able to add to your stash. I also appreciate the level of training the staff receives. Everyone knows the stock, how to use it and where it’s located. This knowledge can save you time when you go in to shop.

2. I couldn’t live without my Brother P-Touch label maker. When I open a file drawer and see easy to read labels, it calms me. And, since my hand writing leaves everything to be desired, if an assistant needs to look in my drawers (so to speak) it’s an easy quest for him or her as well. Label makers are available in many styles and range in price form $30 to about $100. All the big box stores like Staples, Office Max or Office Depot carry them. You can purchase the low end machine for as little as $15 during a sale!

3. In all of my books I advocate a holistic approach to getting organized. A big project can be daunting to someone who doesn’t have a natural proclivity for creating order. Stack the deck in your favor with a supply of fresh fruit and cheese in lieu of candy bars or other sweet treats. Drink water as an alternative to caffeinated beverages and sodas that are loaded with sugar. My favorite sources for such items is walking distance from my home. I bet there’s one near you:

4. Sound or silence? Which works best for you? The vast majority of my clients prefer sound. Treat yourself to a quality system (i Pod, anyone?), if that’s how you roll. I prefer silence myself. I go deep into my thoughts and the outside word vanishes. From time to time, however, I do want some ‘white noise’ in the background. I listen to Reiki healing music. My favorite incorporates the call of whales, a haunting sound to be sure. My personal favorite is a recording from AJAD called ‘Reiki Music vol. 3.” My CD was a gift but I found it on line at You’ll find an unexpected by-product is that children and pets are calmed by the sounds as well. Maybe even a cranky partner?

5. Are you in the hot seat? If you use a chair that is less than an ergonomic dream, write at the kitchen table, have inadequate lighting or place your keyboard at an angle guaranteed to give you karpal tunnel, stop the madness! The more comfortable you are, the easier it will be to think clearly. Type in ‘ergonomically correct furniture” in your favorite search box and go from there. I’ve tried various types of chairs over the years. Right now I’m using a large exercise ball from Body Sport. Check out the ones available at They are super comfortable, keep your back straight and are really inexpensive.

6. Perhaps the most shocking discovery for me when I began writing professionally was how exhausting it is. As they say in my old neighborhood in Brooklyn: ‘Who knew?’ Taking meditation breaks helps me recharge my nervous system and calm my mind. Not all meditation teachers and systems are created equal. You can, however, trust the information you find at: and Writers come in all sizes and shapes. We have different lifestyles, interests and skills. It is my fondest hope that at least one of the above tips resonates with you and brings renewed joy to your writing life.

- Regina Leeds

---> For the archive of Madam Mayo guest-blog posts, click here.

P.S. For my ten tips for organizing a novel-in-progress, click here.