Author: Denise MacMurtrieDocument Management General Holidays Meal planning Organizing Paper Productivity Seasonal Time Management

Making a List, Checking it Twice—Not just for Santa

The holidays are upon us! There’s so much to keep track of and so many things to do! How can this wonderfully busy time of year feel less stressful? Make a list! Or several!

I love lists! Just the act of writing a list helps me to feel like I have a clearer direction. A checklist is a concrete tool to help you empty your brain of all the things you need to remember…and then to prioritize them.

There are even more things to do and to remember than usual. I use different lists for each facet of the holidays.

If you like writing lists out on paper, keep one folder or notebook as a central location to record your plans. If you prefer going paperless, keeping documents stored on a computer or in a note-keeping system like Evernote is a convenient way to keep an ongoing record over the years.

The following are types of lists to help you stay better ordered as the activities and tasks fill your schedule:

Menus: Write out a list of the entire meal from appetizers through desserts, including those items being provided by other guests. That way, you have a comprehensive overview of the full meal and can fill in the gaps if there are any. Don’t forget to include drinks, paper products, flowers and table centerpieces.

Shopping list: Go through all the recipes you will be preparing and write out every ingredient into a grocery list. The key here is to write the food items according to sections in the grocery store. It helps dramatically when your list is ordered so you don’t have to revisit different sections of the crowded store.

Tasks: Write out all individual tasks required to prepare for the holidays so you can clearly see the extra demands on your time such as: cleaning the house, decorating, shopping for gifts, wrapping, and mailing gifts (by a designated date).

Holiday cards: Keep a master address list that you can update each year. Many people keep it in a format on their computer to print address labels. I like to sort names according to groups:  family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.

Gifts: Keep a list of all gifts you plan to purchase according to each person. In the margin, record the store or online vendor and price. You can plan your shopping route according to the stores listed.

Accessory shopping: While shopping for gifts, there are often other details easily overlooked. Designate a master list for details. For example, as you decorate your house or plan your holiday party, keep one list for all those particulars such as a replacement string of lights, a new set of holiday placemats, etc.

A Final Step
Your Calendar: Look through your lists regularly and write tasks into dates on your calendar in order to keep track of what is being accomplished. Write in your planner in pencil to make easy alterations or use an online calendar to easily move tasks around.

Remember:  this is a busy time of year. Everything takes longer than expected. In the end, we may need to let go of a few tasks.

The ultimate goal is not to feel harried by the time the actual day arrives so you can enjoy the celebration with those you love!

Author: Kelly GalfandChallenging Disorganization Closet Clothing Clutter General Home Organizing Wardrobe Management

Becoming Organized: The Case of the Missing Slippers

If being organized is not how you were raised but you’ve started to become more orderly, you may already know: it takes time getting used to “being organized.”

I learned this with a new client: Kim (not her real name) has struggled all her life to maintain a neat space. Her efforts go in waves and she has managed to live a really rich and creative life — but it hasn’t been easy. She’s lost a few things along the way. Paid her share of late fees for bills and penalties for misplaced parking tickets. And wasted time rewashing clothes after the dirty commingled with the clean.

When she was ready to stop this chaos…she called in a professional organizer.

She had 3 areas to organize:
• her wardrobe and bedroom
• her living room – including a desk area
• her hallway which had become an over-crowded storage space

We started in her bedroom because the mess was affecting her sleep. After 3 working sessions we had sorted through all of her clothes, cleared every surface (including the floor) of anything that didn’t belong, rearranged her dresser drawers and closet with zones for each type of clothing she needed in her life.

Moving on to the living room, Kim sheepishly told me a “funny” story about her missing slippers. The one constant in Kim’s life had been lots of weekends away to cabins with friends. In preparing to pack for one such weekend, she described how she had scoured her apartment looking for her slippers. 

She checked ALL of her usual spots: under the coffee table, in the bathroom, kicked under the hallway table, in a pile behind the couch, tucked under her bed, tossed into a corner by her cat…she couldn’t find them anywhere. 

She left for her weekend sans slippers in a bummed mood.

As soon as she got on the road to the cabin, it hit her. She couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Her slippers were right where we had left them — in their new home. They were in the bottom “bay” of the hanging shoe organizer we had installed in her closet.

It was a funny lesson to us both, that getting organized takes some getting used to! The motto of Kim’s story is: It’s easy to find what you need when you need it…when it is right where you left it.

Author: NAPOGeneral

The Rabbi and the Lobster

LobsterOne of my favorite pieces on growth and development is a YouTube video I came across about a year ago. The interview was given by Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski on “how a lobster grows.”  You may be asking, what’s the punchline? It almost sounds like a joke: “So there’s this rabbi and a lobster”… however, this short lecture is one that I have sent to colleagues and friends. I have shared it with family…I have even shared it repeatedly with my daughters who, as young women entering their teenage years, are starting to experience many types of growth.  Unfortunately, growth often causes discomfort.

Dr. Twerski talks about the lobster being a soft, squishy animal that lives inside a hard shell. It is protected, but stunted. The hard shell – its current state… its “normal” – actually prohibits its growth and development. As the animal grows inside the shell, it becomes squeezed, uncomfortable and stunted and finds itself under a tremendous amount of stress.

Personally and professionally, when we begin to feel stress, it is largely due to an uncomfortable situation in which we find ourselves. What causes that discomfort or stress?  Many times individuals or organizations believe stress is a result of external forces exerting pressure, when really the discomfort is a result of the individual’s, or organization’s growth that is being stunted. So how does an individual or organization alleviate discomfort? Does it stop growing? Become static? Being static leads to certain death. Lack of growth means that the rest of the world is changing while the individual or organization is not. Does it mask the stress? Masking stress only compounds it and makes it worse – procrastination is the enemy of growth and productivity.

Therefore, the lobster is forced to break out of its shell and expose its vulnerability to the world… and ultimately grow. Once the lobster is exposed and opens itself up to the newness around it, it is able to develop, become stronger and more resilient and grow a new, tougher outer shell. Similarly, individuals and organizations alike experience some stress during a period of growth. It forces an analysis of current situations and change.

The lobster analogy for growth and development is universal. It is applicable to individuals and organizations alike. Whether it is big or small, change can be difficult. However, the inevitable reward for embracing change is incomparable. As the NAPO blog investigates the topics within this theme of “growth” it is a great opportunity to take a step back to identify areas of potential growth. Opportunities to develop and areas for improvement help the individual, the organization or even the nation, illuminate pathways to success.

Courtesy of Kahra Buss, Membership Communication Manager, NAPO

Author: NAPOGeneral Organizing

Airline Travel – A.K.A. Fitting 10 Pounds into a 5 Pound Bag

Airline CabinYou thought you had trouble keeping your home organized; now you have to shrink your available space down to a mere 100th of that? With the airlines’ restrictions and charges on baggage, making efficient use of a 28”x 21”x 12” space (or smaller) will really exercise your organizing muscles! There are things you can do to make packing – whether for family vacation or summer camp – work better for you than it has in the past. Here’s how you can make the most of the little space you have (with partial thanks to AAA).


  1. Before you start, make sure you know the limits for size and weight of baggage for your airline, as well as how extra weight is charged. Is what you want to take essential? Can you buy it there?
  2. Start with shoes. Of course, take as few as possible. (If you can, wear the bulkiest shoes while you’re traveling.) Put shoes in the bottom of your case, on top of any books or papers you’re bringing. Stuff them with small or crushable items like socks or spray cans.
  3. Fold your clothes into the case; don’t fold them beforehand. Put them into the length of the case – start from the bottom of trousers, and from the top of shirts (fold from the top of trousers, and bottom of shirts); crisscross long-sleeves. Anything that you’re worried about getting wrinkled should be folded then rolled, and put down the sides of the case(not top or bottom where they could get crushed).
  4. Leave space on top for your toiletries bag. Allow half the length of the case and a good six inches deep.
  5. Underwear, hair brushes, hair dryer, chargers, lotions (in Ziploc bags) can be stuffed into the gaps on all four sides – you’ll be surprised how much you can get into these spaces.
  6. Use the inside lid mesh for thin or squash-able items like gloves, caps, bathing suits, etc. Include a plastic bag for dirty laundry.

And once you’re up, up and away…


  1. Unless you’ve made special arrangements with your carrier, keep your phone in airplane mode while out of the country so you don’t incur roaming charges. Use What’sApp to send pictures and video instead of texting, which incurs data charges.
  2. Did you know that there are apps for where to find restrooms? (Here at home it’s toilets.usa)
  3. Load Google Translate on your phone before you go; remember that it needs WiFi to operate.

Health and comfort:

  1.  Wear 15-20 mmHg compression socks on the plane to keep the circulation going in your legs (merino wool are best); they’re also good for walking and hiking.
  2.  To avoid jet lag, take a remedy – “No Jet Lag” (homeopathic) has had some great reviews.
  3.  If you have a cold or are generally bothered by reduced cabin pressure, take earplugs or “EarPlanes”.
  4.  Acupressure wrist bands are helpful for many who experience motion (and morning) sickness – the PSI brand has had good reviews on
  5.  Bring alternatives to bulky bottles of insect repellent, e.g. mosquito wrist and ankle bands.
  6.  Take a microfiber towel if you’ll be washing by hand a lot – roll the clothes in the towel and they’ll dry faster.
  7.  Keep coins handy for restrooms.

You’re all set!

Click here to learn more about the author, Ellia Ryan.

Author: Yasmin GoodmanGeneral Organizing Productivity

Calming the Chaos: 8 Easy Suggestions

Eight IdeasAs a Productivity and Organizing Professional, I am preoccupied with effective ways to calm the chaos in people’s lives. When I saw this short 3 minute video, I thought it was a great demonstration of how disorganization and chaos unfold without notice while everything falls into disarray and nothing gets done. If you can relate, then here are 8 easy suggestions to help calm the chaos in your life.

  1. Stay Connected

In the video, the chaos began when the actor put her keys down on the table to pick up the mail. In that moment, she lost her connection to her keys and shifted her attention to the mail. She no longer had a cognitive or tactile association with the keys. Her connection transferred to the mail instead. That loss of connection was played out over and over in the video as the chaos unfolded. She lost her awareness of her checkbook, the remote, her glasses and, ultimately, her ability to complete a task with ease.
If you must pick up the mail before putting your keys in their designated spot (create one if you don’t already have one), hold onto the keys. That is, stay connected to the keys while you are sorting the mail. Then, when your attention turns away from the mail, your keys will be in your hand as a tactile reminder that the task of putting your keys away is not complete.

  1. Complete a Task

If the actor had held onto her keys while she sorted the mail, or her checkbook while she walked to her desk and then to the kitchen with her warm Coke, both her keys and checkbook would have signaled to her that the task wasn’t done, and ultimately reduced the number of incomplete tasks left in her wake.

  1. Count to 8 Slowly

The video shows how random the actor moved from one task to another. What caught her attention became the next priority without thought or question. If this feels familiar, try counting to 8 slowly before you move from one task to another. This allows time to slow down and contemplate which task is more important and should be done first.

  1. Choose Which Task Should be Done First

If the actor took time to stop and count to 8 before shifting from one task to another, she could have made conscious choices to either stop what she was doing and move to another task or not. Having time to choose lends itself to better outcomes and less chaos.

  1. Be Consistent: Consistency Strengthens New Habits

Taking on and practicing one or more of these suggestions, over time, will strengthen your ability to calm the chaos and be more effective, efficient and productive.

  1. Get Creative: Have Fun and Play

In oftentimes challenging situations loaded with minefields and judgments, have fun trying different ways to “stay connected” to a task. So I can’t forget things while I’m working, I wear a “task pouch” around my waist with pockets like a carpenter’s tool belt. In it is everything I need at my fingertips: phone, markers, scissors, and a pad and a pen to capture tasks to do and things to remember. This is my way of keeping worry and brain chaos at bay.

  1. Have Compassion    

Be compassionate with yourself when taking on new practices. Misses and backsliding are common during any learning process.

  1. Call an Organizer

If you find you need support, new ideas, a coach or a cheerleader as you take on new practices, give one of us a call. We would love to assist you in calming the chaos in your life!



Author: Barb BermanGeneral Organizing Productivity

Office Organizing: Gearing up for 2018

Cat in a file folderWhether your office is in your home or away from home, now is the perfect time to start getting organized for 2018. The holidays have not officially started, even though you wouldn’t know it by the decorations in some stores already. In addition, tax time will be here before you know it.

Think how you would feel if you did not use your floor for a filing cabinet. C’mon now, I know you do!

Here are 5 tips to help you get your office in order:

  1. Go through your filing cabinet and recycle or shred that which you don’t need anymore. Make sure your files and their names are still working for you. If things have changed, change the file name to make it more meaningful. (Do the same with your virtual files. They can mimic how you set up your paper files.)
  2. Clean out your desk drawers. Keep what you use, putting like with like. If something is broken, throw it out (or recycle it responsibly if it’s an electronic piece of equipment or anything else with a cord) or donate it if no longer used.
  3. Clear off the top of your desk. If there is a lot of paper, shred, recycle, or make up new files for that which you are keeping.
  4. Clean out your supply area. Make sure the materials that you have are current – if not, or if you don’t need some or all of it, shred, recycle, or trash it.
  5. Rearrange your furniture. Now might be the time for you to look at the window instead of staring at a wall.

Productivity and efficiency will greatly improve if your office space is organized. You won’t spend an inordinate amount of time looking for things, you won’t spend additional money on items you already have, and you’ll be able to use the freed-up time doing those things that are important to you.

P.S. Now, de-clutter and organize your floor. You have just created extra space in your file cabinets and drawers in which to put those items.