From Both Sides Now: I Became The Client

Over the past 3 years, I’ve called three different NAPO colleagues to help me with my own organizing projects.  Each time it was a fantastic experience.  Not only did I get stuff done, I really got an appreciation for what it feels like to be the client AND as a result, I am a better Productivity and Organizing Consultant!  

I hired professional organizers (or PO’s) to help me:

  1. clear out my deceased mother’s apartment in Florida (I live in South Jersey)
  2. with technical issues on my computer
  3. purge my clothing and create new outfits

Here are some key takeaways from these sessions:

  • the PO who helped me in FL was from the area; she knew which charities would come and get all that “brown furniture” and the location of other key resources.  HUGE TIME SAVER! She had also gone through cleaning out after the death of a loved one; her compassion helped me through many emotionally-difficult moments.
  • All three organizers that I hired were supportive and upbeat; it reminded me of this critical element of being a great PO.
  • I needed to talk a bit before plunging into a session; I toe the line between letting a client talk, but needing to gently guide them back to the organizing task at hand. All three organizers understood and implemented this.
  • It is OK that clients want to offer you a refreshment; when I was the client I wanted to feed my PO’s.  I was thrilled when they said yes!  Although I like to decline such offers when I am the PO, I now understand that it is a nice thing to say yes, as long as the session does not turn into an unproductive (as defined by the client) gab session.
  • Things really DO take longer to organize than one might think.   I had unrealistic expectations of what I could get done in one session!  Even as a veteran organizer!
  • I DID tidy up my computer desktop and my closet before each of the PO’s dealing with them arrived, even though I ask my clients to leave things “as is” so I can get a sense of the natural state of affairs before any organizing systems are developed.

tech-organizing

  • During the tech-organizing session, the PO and I discussed my overall business goals.  She encouraged me to join a …join one of NAPO’s Special Interest Groups (SIGs), which I did.  INVALUABLE!
  • I did need that extra “push” from the wardrobe PO.  Example: I knew deep down that many of my clothes did not fit, but SO did not want to deal with that. The PO gently guided me to that conclusion and, one trip to the GAP later, I purchased 3 pairs of pants that fit like a glove. I now have presentable outfits!  She also had me TRY ON new outfits we created, AND I was able to give away items that I knew I needed to but previously had trouble parting with.  Having someone else encouraging these actions was the dealmaker!  We also established some rules for going forward, e.g.  that I must only buy PETITE-sized clothing!

I was thrilled by what I got done:  cleaned out an overwhelming amount of stuff so I could close down my mother’s apartment, became very tech-comfortable, and am feeling stylish and well-dressed like never before.  The gratitude I feel towards these organizers is immense.

I close by urging all PO’s who have never hired another Professional Organizer to do so.  Everyone can improve their productivity and up their level of being organized.  And you’ll have much greater understanding and empathy for your clients!

 

Posted in Clothing, Electronic Organizing, Estates, Organizing, Wardrobe Management | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stuck In Bed

Organizing & Self Care

As I lay in bed for a week from an illness this summer, I took the time to write this article for the NAPO-GPC blog. Even getting ill didn’t stop me from getting things done. I knew the deadline was quickly approaching so I decided to write about getting ill! Here are a few tips for how to organize yourself or help out a friend when stuck in bed.

  1. I used a large circular cake pan for my essentials. It was smaller than a kitchen serving tray and deeper. My serving trays tend to be too large for sitting on my bed and they are shallow. My cake pan is smaller than a tray, round and about three inches deep. I placed my medicines, vitamins & minerals in the pan along with a drink. Adding a pen & paper allowed me to jot down when & what medicines I was about to take, along with the time I took them, on a chart.
  2. My medicine chart’s first column was the date and time. Each time I took out a pill I would check off the column and place the pill in a ramekin. This way I was certain that I didn’t forget and miss taking a medication that I needed. The chart showed me what I was taking and when I took it. This is a great way to stay on track with your pain medicines, for which timing is everything. Once I recorded all my medicines and placed them in a ramekin, I took them all at the same time. You would be surprised how easily confused you can get when you are sick and you can’t think straight.
  3. Luckily before getting sick, I had cut up a large watermelon and a tomato salad and cucumber salad were already in the refrigerator. When the pain pills kicked in I was able to walk to the kitchen and just scoop some food into a bowl. When my sister got sick I did the same for her. Some needed to be microwaved and some could be eaten cold. You don’t realize, until you get sick, how physically draining it is to get something to eat.
  4. Before going to work each morning, my husband placed drinks all over Organized Self-Carethe house for me so I could stay hydrated. Chamomile tea in the den. Peppermint tea in the kitchen,  drinks in my bedroom and water in my bathroom. I do not mind room temperature drinks but if you need yours cold/hot there are some wonderful thermal drinking vessels out there.
  5. I had a few friends who wanted to come and help me but I was too embarrassed to let them, plus I really didn’t know what I needed. Looking back I should have welcomed them. They could have refilled my drinks for me and made sure I was eating properly. I’m sure they would not have minded helping me straighten up my bedroom either. Of course the company would have been nice too.
  6. I also have a phone charger on every floor so wherever I wobbled to, I could plug my phone in and keep it near me.  I didn’t worry about my phone dying and, when I started to feel better, I was able to get on it and stay current with the news.

My other advice would be, don’t get sick in the summer! What a bummer! I totally missed a huge rain storm. While everyone else was panicking, I was sound asleep. I missed some beautiful sunny days and God knows what was going on in my garden. I hope you stay well, but if you do feel terrible try these tips to help you stay on track.

Posted in healthy living, Medical, Organizing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Simple Living Isn’t Easy

Life in the 21st century is anything but simple. Our world feeds us countless messages defining what we need in order to be happy, successful, and fulfilled. We’ve all heard these messages, either directly or indirectly, and we’ve all bought into at least some of the hopeful promises that our lives can improve…if only we [you fill in the blank].

But the true result of our modern life, trying to keep up with our packed schedules, overflowing to-do lists, and material abundance is sadly, not satisfaction and peace. Rather, we have stress, anxiety, broken relationships, and a LOT of stuff.

So, in the complexity of our technological age, what does it mean to simplify? What does a simpler life look like for an ordinary family keeping up with work, school, and countless demands? Regardless of the season of life—a young couple, family with children, or empty nesters—how  can any of us find a greater level of simplicity in our noisy, chaotic, energetic world?

The beautiful truth is that the concept of “living simply” looks different for each person and every family. What I deem a simpler, less complicated life for my family will undoubtedly look different from your ideal. The challenge is that it takes effort to figure out how to step out of a cluttered and demanding lifestyle to pursue a more balanced and satisfying experience of daily life.

I want to highlight the two qualities that define a simpler life, according to Deborah DeFord in her book, The Simpler Life (The Readers Digest Association, Inc, 1998). These are integrity and intentionality.

Integrity is defined as a state of being whole and undivided. This ideal means I need to look at what is important to me, and then live according to those goals and values. If I believe physical fitness is important but never make time in my week to get up and move, then I am not living an integrated life. Rather, to live according to what I value, I will commit to walking 3 times each week and schedule it on my calendar. It’s as simple as that: Live in accordance with what is important to you.

Intentionality means we act with purpose. We consciously decide the choices we make throughout our day.  Thus, to be intentional requires a certain mindfulness. If we are always “going with the flow,” we may feel spontaneous, but we are not in control of our day. We are reacting rather than being proactive. I must admit that I sometimes fell prey to impulse purchases, buying things because they were on sale, even though they were not items on my list. The result was I spent money I hadn’t planned to spend, brought home things I might not actually use, and then had to find a place to store my latest bargains. Learning to live with intention means pausing to evaluate my true needs.

How will pursuing integrity and intentionality help you lead a simpler life?

Only you can decide what is most important to you. Only you can be in control of the way you spend your time, the things you buy, and the relationships you pursue. When you proactively make decisions on what you need in your life and shut out the noise of what others are proclaiming, you will have the ability to pursue only those people, activities and things that give meaning to your life. Saying “no” to the unnecessary is saying “yes” to what is most valuable—which leads to true satisfaction, contentment, and peace.

Posted in General, Goal Setting, healthy living, Procrastination, Productivity, Time Management | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

September is well under way which means the kids are back to school and its time to get ready for fall.  Part of being a NAPO Organizer is helping our clients be prepared for the crazy predicaments life throws our way. I have compiled this comprehensive list to give you a jump start on fall home maintenance so that you and your family have more time for apple picking and pumpkin carving!

1. Wash exterior windows.

2. Clean gutters and down spouts.

  • HACK: Try using a plastic spatula; it fits perfectly, won’t scratch gutters and is easy to clean.
  • While your up there look for loose shingles and debris. HACK: binoculars help magnify loose shingles.

3. Sweep off front porch and put away summer décor: Don’t forget cushions, outdoor furniture, kid’s sprinklers and kiddie pools.

4. Create or reorganize space in the garage for summer tools & toys.

5. Put out new fall mat and add fall décor.

6. Clean, cover and store grill.

7. Water your lawn. You may think it’s time to put the sprinklers away but watering your lawn in the fall is actually a great way to help it recover from the stress of the summer sun and strengthen it for winter.

  • If you fertilize your lawn in the fall it will need the H2O to help it soak up the nutrients.
  • In a few weeks you can drain garden hoses and shut off water supply to spigots.
  • Additionally, fall is the perfect time to aerate soil.
    • It relieves compaction and allows air, water and nutrients to penetrate your lawn.

8. Order firewood or get choppin!

9. Get your chimney cleaned and inspected.

10. Winterize air conditioning unit or remove and store window units. Bring out the space heaters.

  • To properly store your window units you will need to clean it first. After its been cleaned, remove the filter and with a soft brush clean it with warm, soapy water then rinse and allow it to air dry. Do a visual inspection of the filter and if the cleaning didn’t do the trick, then you should replace it. Once it’s dry, place the clean filter back in the air conditioner. Place the unit in its original box or a plastic storage tote.
  • Store in a warm, dry place.

11. Check weather stripping on doors and caulk around windows.

  • In a few more weeks it will be time to winterize.
  • Check with your township or local community center to see if they are distributing free winterizing/energy-saving kits.

12. Dust fans, light fixtures and reverse direction of ceiling fans. Running fans in the cooler months can actually save on heating costs! Fans have slightly angled blades that when turning counterclockwise move air down. Warm air naturally rises so by switching the rotation of your ceiling fan it pushes the warm air down. Most fans have a small switch to reverse the direction.

Clockwise = Winter        Counterclockwise = Summer

13. Vacuum couch cushions, collect change and lost snacks and display some cozy throws blankets.

14. Give your oven a thorough clean inside & out as well as BEHIND it to get it ready for the holiday cooking season.

15. Pack summer clothes and bedding; wash and store.

  • Consider keeping swimsuits and towels handy in case you plan a winter vacation.
  • Pull winter clothes, flannels and heated blankets from storage and air them out.

16. Check car for shovel, ice scraper, blanket and refill or create an emergency kit

 

Posted in Car organization, General, Organizing, Seasonal | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

When is Enough Stuff Enough?

I had a life-changing epiphany. It was on May 27, 1978 in the wee hours following opening day of Atlantic City’s first casino, Resorts. My then-boyfriend and I were there until the casino closed (pre-24-hour operation). We drove around Atlantic City, off the main roads. I was stunned to see truly deplorable living conditions. I felt guilty about all I had and didn’t fully appreciate.

My epiphany? I would never again complain about things I didn’t have – I had everything I needed and much of what I wanted.

I’ve kept that promise. In fact, a few years ago I stopped buying stuff I didn’t need and avoided shopping centers. Maybe it was due to organizing and downsizing other people’s stuff, sometimes massive amounts. Or because I didn’t want more stuff. Probably both, plus Pareto’s 80/20 Rule: We use 20% of our things 80% of the time.

I don’t mean to sound like a scrooge. If you’re OK with your amount of stuff, have enough space, can afford and enjoy buying new things, and your life is not negatively impacted, that’s great!

But if you feel as I do, walk around your house, take a mental inventory and ponder these questions before buying more things.

  • Will you use it and, if so, often enough to justify its purchase?
  • Can you afford it?
  • Do you have a specific place to put it?
  • Will you take proper care of it?
  • Do you/your kids need it or want it?
  • Are you comfortable with the example you’re setting for your kids?
  • Will your partner be OK with it?
  • Do you shop to pass time?
  • Are you trying to fill an emotional void?
  • Do you place too much importance on things?
  • Do your things control you and how you live?

Now when I shop for something new (who doesn’t like new things sometimes?), I focus on my goal and try to avoid aimless browsing – you know, how guys shop. I discovered it’s liberating being free from societal and marketing pressures to buy more, or the latest whatever, to be happy. You too can buck the gotta-have-more, gotta-have-it-now mentality with a change in perspective. You can do it yourself or with help from an organizing consultant.

I am truly happy with the many beautiful things I own. I have more than some and less than others. But I have more than enough. I’ll never own an Aston Martin and I’m OK with that!

Posted in Clutter, General, Organizing, Shopping | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

How Evernote Changed My Life (And How It Can Change Yours)

My Evernote conversion occurred about five years ago. Stuffed in the back of my junk drawer (yes, I also have one) for several years, lay a handwritten recipe for the best maple balsamic salad dressing obtained from a restaurant in Vermont. Frustrated with my lack of organization for something so valuable, I downloaded Evernote and my life was forever changed.

I created a notebook in the Evernote app and titled it “Recipes,” took a photo of the recipe within the Evernote app et voila! Wherever I am, on my phone, tablet or laptop I have a screenshot of the recipe. I quickly saw how transformational this would be in both my personal and professional life. When a friend recommends a great restaurant, it goes into the notebook I created titled “Recommended Restaurants”. I also do this for movies, books, wine, travel destinations, decorating ideas. All those great details we scribble on the back of napkins never to find again.

If I’m surfing the web, I can use Evernote webclipper to clip an article or page and put it into the notebook of my choice. I can also dictate notes into Evernote and draw using the Skitch app.

I also have a notebook for each of my kids. I have a screenshot of their health insurance cards, health records, photos of their artwork from Kindergarten so I could get rid of those large poster-size monstrosities, er, I mean works of art. The list goes on.

For my business, I’m able to share notebooks with my team and with our clients. We often take notes during an organizing session and share these with our clients. Evernote also eliminates the need to email documents back and forth. Instead, the whole team can collaborate and has access whether they are working remotely or in the office to notes, documents, photos, etc.

I’m barely scratching the surface of Evernote’s endless possibilities. For more information and to create your free online account check out www.evernote.com

Posted in Clutter, Document Management, Filing, General, Home Office, Medical, Move Management, Organizing, Paper, Productivity, Project Management, Receipts, Shopping, Tax Prep | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment