We are excited to “introduce” to you our regular guest blogger, Gretchen MacKenzie. Gretchen is in the business of journaling. Journaling the special, funny and crazy-cool moments in life. Her “Know Me Journals” were created to help people share their life’s events ( big, small and in between) with others.

This month…How to cope with too old tapioca

People are quick to declare themselves… funny, smart, scattered, athletic, clumsy, liberal, conservative. You are what you are. Embrace and celebrate!

This is especially true, or so I’ve observed, when it comes to being organized. We are either highly organized or we proudly declare ourselves hopeless.

I am organized, but I have lots of friends who aren’t and don’t feel motivated to change. But you can. Really, you can! (Says the person who likes to organize.)

I thought about what helps me live an organized life and I came up with a few tips. First, an entirely true story to put it in context:

Every summer, we plant a small garden. It’s a perfect little patch on the side of the house that gets sun all day long. Everything thrives, especially tomatoes. We try to limit our plants to avoid an overly huge harvest. It doesn’t work. We are always overwhelmed.

A few weeks ago, I decided to use the mound, no mountain, of ripe tomatoes sitting on my countertop to make spaghetti sauce to freeze. As I embarked on several hours of continuous chopping, I already knew what would happen on the cold winter day when I thawed out my creation for a hearty pasta meal. The kids will take a single bite and beg for Francesco Rinaldi.

Still I persevered and chopped the day away. When it came time to add the spices, I realized my oregano and basil were expired. What?! Like three years beyond the “best by” date. Ugh. I stared down my spice rack, then started reading labels. Nutmeg, expired. Chili powder, expired. Gourmet Saigon cinnamon, expired. Hungarian paprika, expired. It was pretty much all expired. I confess, I don’t cook much.

And then I noticed other random items stuffed haphazardly in the cabinet including tapioca, expired, and bouillon cubes, expired, many bags of half used nuts, probably expired, and enough toothpicks to circle the earth. Toothpicks don’t expire, but for some reason, I can’t stop buying them.

The thought of restocking and reorganizing my spice cabinet is daunting, but I will go about it as I do all of my organization projects – with spunk and joy! Well, at least spunk. Here are my tips for any big job you need to tackle.

Think project by project.

If I stop to ponder all of the projects on my “to do” list, I will hyperventilate and pass out cold. But if I prioritize and focus on one at a time, I feel empowered to make positive change.

Declare it “me” time.

On the rare occasion that I’m alone in the car, I will drive the long way home. It’s a vacation from the burden of constantly providing for another. A project can give the same feeling. First, get the kids settled doing their own thing, and then dive in with boundary lines drawn. It’s not a bubble bath, or a deep tissue massage, or anything involving hot rocks, but it’s a lovely little break.

Make it fun.

I plan to watch a Real Housewives marathon while tackling the spice cabinet. Or maybe Long Island Medium. Something totally mindless. Something everyone else in the house will avoid. Do what makes you happy. Listen to music. Or a raunchy podcast with your ear buds. Download an episode of Homeland on the computer. I hear it’s very good.

Buy things.

I like new things. Even new gourmet Saigon cinnamon. (Especially new gourmet Saigon cinnamon.) Adds a little thrill to the project. Are you organizing files? Get new labels. A closet? Buy new shoes, I mean containers. They make really cool containers these days.

Be proud.

Even the haters can’t deny the awesome relief when order is restored. Bask in your glory. Take pictures. Post them to  Facebook. Await the praise. Soak it in. Ahhh. Who needs hot rocks? (Says the person who likes to organize.)