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: Vali HeistGeneral Goal Setting healthy living Holidays Organizing Productivity Spiritual and Holistic

Get Back to Basics this Year

GO month get organized napo logo

January is National Get Organized Month and it’s also the time for making resolutions and promising to follow through on all the advice in the self-help books on your bookshelves. Being the author of a self-help book, I can’t say I don’t recommend them, but striving to constantly improve your life and your home may not be the best advice.

According to Lindsay Myers on, self-improvement represents a $10 billion per year industry in the U.S. alone. (In addition to high revenues, self-help has a high recidivism rate, which means that those same people already purchased another self-help book in the last 18 months.) Whether we want to lose weight, eat healthy, have a better marriage, or advance in our career, many of us rely on self-help books to improve our lives.

What’s more, home improvement is an almost $300 billion industry, which some say started with Bob Vila on This Old House and cable channels taking over from there with HGTV and DIY Network. I must admit that we bought our old farm house over 30 years ago and we’ve been improving and upgrading ever since.

Stop Improving Yourself and Start Living by Robert Jean Bryant is a classic self-help book that challenges us to end the perpetual quest for improvement and instead upgrade the quality of our daily lives. We are constantly bombarded by commercials and retailers who try to convince us to buy the latest and greatest stuff so we can “improve” our lives. But all that buying means more clutter, distracts us from the real issues and the real people in our lives, and takes us away from living in the moment. Bryant also says that when you get off the treadmill of constant improvement you help yourself to the freedom of creativity, joy and well-being.

I suggest that we start 2016 by getting back to the basics. Let’s break it down:

  • Kick the bully out of your head. Be kind to yourself and don’t let others convince you that you are “less than.” Strive for the joy of being well, not being a certain size.
  • Embrace your space. Do you have a patio you never sit on? Or is your two-car garage sans car? In many ways, our homes are “good enough”; we just need to take the time to find out.
  • Trust your own judgment. Focus on your own goals; use expert advice sparingly and move forward. Follow the guidance you need and discard the rest.
  • Streamline your home. Identify your CRAP (Clutter that Robs Anyone of Pleasure) and let it go! The less there is to take care of, the more time you have to be creative.
  • Take stock…of your blessings. If you live in the United States of America, you are blessed.

Finally, answer the question “I wish I had more time to…” and make it happen. As the saying goes, life is not a dress rehearsal.

Clutter Quote: “Know many, trust few, learn to paddle your own canoe.” Anonymous

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:


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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


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?