Blog

Author: Vali HeistGeneral Goal Setting Holidays Organizing Procrastination Seasonal Time Management

Happy New Year…Time to GO!

"Happy New Year" decorated slogan

Let me be the first to wish you Happy National Get Organized Month! I saw a sign hanging in Lowe’s that said “Resolve to Declutter” and it was surrounded by a colorful array of storage containers. It’s that time of year when many of us look around our homes and ask “Where did all this stuff come from?” Taking the first step and staying organized can be daunting, but if you think you are alone, you are not. Here are ten barriers that keep my clients from starting and staying organized. Let’s break it down:

  1. Don’t have the time. Time won’t magically appear when you want to achieve something. Use a day planner or your smart phone to schedule the time to organize, have fun, or accomplish something great. When you do, there is suddenly time to be spontaneous!
  2. Allowing others to dictate your schedule. I’m not talking about going out and having fun, but I am talking about setting boundaries so others don’t infringe upon your personal time to get your own life in order.
  3. You aren’t good at organizing. Some people need more practice than others and developing a habit takes at least 30 days to make it stick. Use books and websites to help.
  4. Staying focused. Our brains aren’t wired to stay on task so use cues, rewards, or a stop watch. Use whatever you deem necessary to stay focused on the project at hand.
  5. Perfectionism. If it can’t be perfect why start at all? If that sounds familiar, start small and celebrate small accomplishments. Practice saying the words “good enough.”
  6. Too much clutter or CRAP: Clutter that Robs Anyone of Pleasure. If your things do not bring you joy, pleasure, usefulness, or life to your home, it should leave your home.
  7. Once and done should do it. All homes need maintenance to remain organized week after week, but if you have a home for everything, cleanup will be a breeze.
  8. The voices around you. Don’t allow others to make you feel bad about not being able to get organized yourself. Ignore the naysayers and enlist a friend or call a professional.
  9. House isn’t big enough. The size or layout of a home isn’t always the issue. Organization methods, storage tools, and less clutter will usually do the trick.
  10. Health issues. Even if you have the desire, you may not have the ability or the energy to do what is needed to get organized. Enlist help.

If you or someone you love needs help moving forward in the New Year, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a professional: a cleaning service, a senior care agency, financial planner, insurance broker, senior move management company, or a professional organizer. Professionals are trained to listen and narrow in on your specific needs. They can give you a jump start or much needed tools to help you or someone you love live their best life.

Clutter Quote: “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” Henry David Thoreau

Author: Liz O'NeillFamily Holidays Home Seasonal

SOS – Seasonal Organizing Simplified

Gift WrapAs we wind down the year, ’tis the season for celebrations. Unfortunately, feeling overwhelmed may be an unwelcome tradition for many of us. Last minute shopping, traffic back-ups, and the rush to decorate can make this time anything but joyous.

There’s a lot to do and think about. But help (SOS) is on its way! By incorporating organizing and productivity solutions, you can focus on what really matters – the joy and merriment of the holidays.

Streamlining and Sourcing-Out are two ways to increase productivity and manage responsibilities, including holiday traditions. Write down the tasks you need and/or want to accomplish and think about ways in which you can make things more efficient and still effective. Consider these potential tasks:

DECORATING

  • Streamline: Snap a picture of how you have arranged your holiday decor so you can recreate the decorating next year. Keep the picture stored digitally (Evernote is ideal for organizing notes and pictures into folders) or tape it on the box in which you store the decorations.
  • Source-Out: Invite friends over for a decorating party. Including those who may not celebrate the same holiday you do is a wonderful way to share customs and traditions. Turn a chore into a fun party by enticing Santa’s helpers with some hot cocoa, libations, and cookies.

HOSTING

  • Streamline: Was your Grandma’s famous latkes recipe or the chocolate dessert you baked last year a hit? Make them again and, while you’re at it, keep a folder labeled “holiday recipes” for those tried-and-true dishes. Of course, not everything has to be made from scratch.
  • Source-Out: Consider a pot-luck or delegate some of the hosting responsibilities by asking guests to bring a favorite side dish or dessert. Perhaps it’s worth it to you to hire someone to help with the clean up.

GIFT SHOPPING

  • Streamline: Give variations of the same gift– a blue-checkered shirt to your brother, and the same red-checkered shirt to your husband. Consider a gift exchange for groups or large families – each person picks a name and only has to buy one gift.
  • Source-Out: Online shopping is just a click away! Look for coupon codes or try ebates to save money while you save time.

Less to think about and do means more time staying in the present. And staying in the present is the best gift you can give yourself.

Author: Kelly GalfandElectronic Organizing Family General Holidays Seasonal Shopping Storage

Ask “Where” and “Why” Before You Buy

My personal list of pre-shopping questions is taped to my computer screen.

As the holidays approach, ASK before you make a single purchase:

Where will it “live”? This is probably the last question people ask… but it should be first! If you don’t want to invite clutter, make sure you know where something will be stored when not in use; otherwise, it will sit out, collect dust, and get in your way.

Why do I need this? If you’re purchasing a gift… do they really need it? Would they appreciate tickets to an event more than an object to clutter their home? Recent studies have shown that experiences give us longer-lasting JOY than material items.

Can I afford it right now? This is not just a monetary question… electronic purchases require an investment in time to set up; new phones beg for back-ups before you transfer over to a new device and don’t forget about learning curves!

What would happen if I waited? Shopping can be fun. I am the first to admit that it’s neat to re-envision your table set for the holidays, or a seasonal lift to your bedroom (I am a sucker for linens!), but your brain doesn’t know the difference between the fantasy of seeing your table set and the reality of seeing your bed made with cozy soft colorful sheets that say autumn. Go ahead and put it in your cart (be it physical or electronic)… just don’t hit “confirm purchase.” Resist placing that order. Do NOT hand over your credit card.

If you KNOW you need it, and you can afford it, but you really haven’t a clue where to put it, hire a professional organizer to help! We’re terrific at thinking outside the box, or cabinet, or fridge, or pantry, or laundry room, or bedside table or linen closet… Our list goes on for fabulous solutions to your everyday challenges.

As the holidays approach, try keeping a list of these shopping questions in your wallet or taped to your computer screen to help avoid unnecessary purchases. List the where’s and why’s in an order that makes sense to you and your purchasing patterns. This year, go into the holidays feeling in control of your spending, your space, and your holiday experiences. Your budget and your loved ones will thank you!

Author: Nina BowdlerFamily General Holidays Organizing Seasonal Time Management

MY THANKSGIVING CHECKLIST

Thanksgiving cornucopiaSome years ago, in our new home, I hosted Thanksgiving for my husband’s family. To say that I was somewhat intimidated by cooking for 26 people is a slight understatement. You may be thinking, you’re a professional organizer… why would you be intimidated? Well, being nervous is normal especially when you are doing something that you love to do and for the people whom you love. Nevertheless, my nerves got the best of me right up to the moment when I made my Thanksgiving Checklist.

That’s right, I made a list of what I needed to do right up until I opened my front door and welcomed my guests. You name it, and it was on the list… cleaning the house, ironing the tablecloth, polishing my silver, running my stemware through the dishwasher, taking my grandmother’s china out of my china cabinet, setting the table, planning the menu, food shopping (yes, a separate list for ingredients), delegating certain recipes to family members, setting the table, and choosing which serving platters to use for each recipe I was making. All this may sound overwhelming, but trust me, if you make a list, and then transfer each “to do” to your calendar, you will not only get things done, but you will be relaxed in the process. Did you “catch on” to when I mentioned delegating? Delegating is essential when taking on something as overwhelming as hosting a holiday. Quite frankly, I am a firm believer in delegating on a daily basis. One of my favorite quotes to my family is, “I never said I was Superwoman.” We all need help and should feel comfortable doing so… now, with Thanksgiving right around the corner. Why not start a new habit and start delegating?

Back to my holiday undertaking, lucky for me, I had bought a cooking magazine that had many recipes that appealed to me, and each recipe gave a time line of what could be cooked beforehand. Some recipes could be cooked days in advance and reheated Thanksgiving day. Some recipes had sauces that could be made in advance, frozen, then defrosted that day. And don’t stress about cooking the bird since most magazines give cooking directions based on weight. Also, keep in mind that a simple menu goes a long way, especially when this holiday is about bringing family together. Each day up until the holiday, I was able to check things off my list.

Being organized not only helped alleviate stress, but it allowed me to enjoy myself and my family on Thanksgiving. Why not give it a try and make your Thanksgiving Checklist?

Author: Danielle OBrienFamily Holidays Organizing Project Management Seasonal Storage

The Key to a Simple Halloween Party

Picture Orange leaping flames from a crackling fire

Everyone can agree life can get a little hectic, especially around the holidays. Who has time to read Martha Stewart magazine, shop for the ingredients, put out an amazing buffet, craft fantastic decorations, and then be the “hostess with the mostest” at the time of the party? However, nobody wants to wants to miss out on having fun and seeing friends either. So I’ve come up with an easier way, a simplified way, to celebrate Halloween.

Here’s how to host a simple Halloween party:

• On October 1st my two Halloween bins come out of storage. One contains decorations, the same ones I use every year because they are full of memories. And the other of costumes, which we like to try on throughout the month just for laughs.

• Around the second week of October I place a flyer in every mailbox on my street, email the neighbors I know personally, and start spreading the word whenever I see anyone out and about.
My invite reads:
Halloween Party at Danielle’s house
Dress warm, bring a chair & snack to share
BYOB

• On the third week of October I purchase my candy, beverages, and paper products. During this time, I also make sure I have enough fire wood and clean up my fire pit.

• Finally Halloween arrives! I start off the day with a short trip to the Conshohocken Bakery where I buy tomato pies, cakes, granola bars, and cookies for later that evening. We set up a buffet table and our fire pit in the driveway and not long after that, the neighbors arrive with chairs and snacks to share.

Sitting under the stars outside with my neighbors, enjoying the warmth and beauty of the fire, and watching the children make their rounds from house to house is a great way to spend Halloween. It’s relaxing, fun and you don’t even have to clean your house! Try it, you’ll love it.

Author: Margit NovakFamily General Holidays Seasonal Seniors & Aging

Passing the Passover Plate

this hand decorated table cloth has become a family traditionIt happens in every family — a rite of passage that marks a new life stage — when you give up, or take over, hosting family holiday dinners. As I take out our Seder plate and Passover dishes, I think back to when I assumed this function for our family, and wonder when my children will assume it for me.

If you’re lucky, these role changes occur over time. You offer to make the chicken soup or brisket, you arrive early to help set up or stay late to clean up. And then one day — you are hosting the holiday meal — and your parents and children are helping you. These are happy transitions, that you make of your own will and where you control the timing. But sometimes, change is thrust upon you, because someone passes away or is ill. These changes are no less natural, but metaphorically and physically, there is an empty place at the table.

There seems to be no set age when you “become the grown up.” Some people host holiday meals well into their eighties; others shift the responsibility in their fifties, sixties or seventies. I’m not sure how families decide when to change their routine and custom.

Passover is unique, perhaps, because you can host the holiday meal while a parent can lead the Seder. You can assume the physical work, and an older family member can still have the role of patriarch or matriarch. Perhaps every religion has holidays and rituals that pass this same way from one generation to another.

My husband and I are hosting Passover this year, but already my kids have started the Passover passage. My daughter is arriving the night before to help set up and prepare her famous matzo-spinach lasagna. My older son is helping his dad make chicken soup, and my younger son will help arrange our furniture to accommodate a crowd of 20. We plan to hold Seder at our house for many years to come, but we are grateful for the help, and thankful that our kids are interested in preserving the tradition.

As with all holiday traditions, initiating change is hard. When we once suggested moving away from brisket, there was widespread family rebellion. Every departure from a favorite dish, it seems, is suspect or outright vetoed in advance.  Dishes served year after year become comfort foods that define the holiday. And in part, I like this. For decades, a friend’s mother prepared a broccoli-corn casserole for Thanksgiving. Although her mom died five years ago, my friend and her dad still prepare the same broccoli-corn casserole together every year. In doing so, they honor her mother’s memory, and more important in my mind, they celebrate the relationship she has with her dad.

I heard today about a new custom, a lovely one, and although I am not sure it is right for us, it may be for others. Each year, everyone who attends this Seder signs their name on the tablecloth. My friend then embroiders the names, and the next year, the same tablecloth is used and that year’s names are added. They are starting their third year of this tradition, and already her children have said that this tablecloth is one of the things they most want when they “grow up.”

Personally, I like incorporating new traditions in with the old. It makes holidays into living things that evolve and change over time. Passing the baton to the next generation on Passover is like that too. It is as if, through change, we keep things the same.