Now What? Are you forgetful?

September 30, 2015
Retiree and senior care assistant talking together

Retiree and senior care assistant talking together

Are you forgetful? Do you forget where you have left your keys, your wallet or your handbag? Do you walk into a room and forget why you went into that room? Do you remember a person’s face, know that you have met them but don’t know their name? These are memory lapses that happen to all of us from time to time. If they happen regularly then you might start thinking about being tested.  Have you ever wondered what it would feel like if you were diagnosed with either Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? I have. My memory is something that I pride myself on. These diseases scare me. Do they scare you? Do you know someone with one or the other of these diagnoses?

I had the privilege of attending the Institute for Challenging Disorganization conference in Cleveland, Ohio earlier in September. One of the speakers, Margit Novack, gave a presentation titled: Still Someone: Working with People Who Have Memory Loss. It was a terrific talk and gave countless tips on the ways to help who are no longer as in control and adept as used to be.

Here are a few of Margit’s handy tips:

  1. Make lists – keep them short
  2. Post frequently called numbers by the phone
  3. Create detailed schedules to let the individual know exactly what’s going on during the day
  4. Include the individual in the conversation
  5. Don’t talk about them as if they aren’t there
  6. As much as possible allow them to make the decisions
  7. Speak loudly, clearly and slowly but not condescendingly
  8. If the person is telling a story don’t interrupt and don’t correct them – even if a few of the details are wrong!

Margit also told us that it’s so important for the seniors in our care (whether you are a professional organizer, a home healthcare worker, a therapist or a family member) to give the person as much control as possible. This helps to build their confidence and self-esteem. We can take a few extra minutes and make another list or explain something again or even listen to the same story again. After all, we may be there ourselves one day and will want someone helping us to be kind and respectful.

Now What? Compassion Fatigue

September 24, 2015
Senior Woman Being Served Meal By Carer

Senior Woman Being Served Meal By Carer

Last week I attended the Institute for Challenging Disorganization’s Annual Conference. It was a terrific conference! Many of my professional organizer friends from all over the world attend. It’s so great to be able to connect with them in person. The location of the conference varies from year to year. This year it was in Cleveland, Ohio. I, of course, went to the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame (that is a must see) and kayaking on the Cuyahoga River with 4 other conference attendees and a guide.

This conference is always jam packed with awesome speakers. I came home with my head spinning from all that I learned. I thought I’d take the next couple of weeks to share with you some of the golden nuggets of information that will definitely influence my professional organizing services.

Patricia Smith spoke to the group about how to recognize compassion fatigue and what to do about it. So, what is compassion fatigue? Patricia provided us with examples letting us know that someone suffering from compassion fatigue shows symptoms of physical, emotional or spiritual emptiness. This is not a disease but symptoms which are most often present in people who care for those who are in emotional or physical distress.

This is so interesting to me because as a professional organizer I work with people who are sometimes challenged by the enormity of their disorganization. I become deeply involved in helping my clients create solutions to overcome this challenge. Thus making me susceptible to compassion fatigue.

The many people who work as caretakers and constantly give of themselves are also susceptible to compassion fatigue. Caregivers give their time – often putting the needs of others before their own needs. Think about the parents you know. How many hats do they wear? What about nurses and home healthcare workers? The time and energy these marvelous caregivers give to their patients is enormous – perhaps beyond measure.

Patricia Smith taught us that to alleviate the symptoms of compassion fatigue we need to know ourselves. What makes us smile? What fills us up? We, as caregivers, must take care of our own needs in order to care as well as we want to for those for whom we give care. We should put in place a good support system – people we can talk to who will listen to us and our concerns and who will give us constructive advice.

For me, I have three hobbies in which I actively engage and which bring me joy. They fill me up, help to relieve any stress I may feel as a result of my work. These hobbies are gardening, needlepoint, and competitive ballroom dancing. The one I indulge in most often is dancing. I love the music, the physical and metal challenge involved in perfecting the steps I already know and in learning new steps.

Think about yourself. How well do you know yourself? Do you have someone to talk to – a good support system? Do you engage in activities which give you joy, replenish your soul?

What do you think about this topic of compassion fatigue? Do you know someone who may be exhibiting symptoms of compassion fatigue? Is that someone you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. There is more information about compassion fatigue on Patricia Smith’s website:

Now What? Goal Setting

September 16, 2015
Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Timely  - SMART Concept. Conceptual image with yellow paint line on the road over asphalt stone background.

Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Timely – SMART Concept. Conceptual image with yellow paint line on the road over asphalt stone background.

Last night I attended the National Association of Professional Organizers – Georgia Chapter meeting. I admit I was late and missed the first few minutes of the speaker’s presentation. I hate to be late to anything and will typically plan to be wherever I need to be early. So, being late throws me off a little. When this happens it takes me a little while to settle in. I like to look around, get my bearings, and see who’s sitting near me.

Before I even walked in the room I knew that a great presentation was going on from the laughter that was coming from behind the closed doors. The speaker, Michael Lukaszewski, had everyone’s attention. The topic was Setting Goals that Really Matter.

As professional organizers this topic resonated with us on two levels: personal and professional. I will often guide my clients in planning, prioritizing and setting goals. We work together to create the steps to achieve these goals.

Michael put a slightly different spin on this topic. He suggested that we no longer set annual goals but that we break the year into quarters to set quarterly goals. Then, once we know what the quarterly goals are we can break that down into small manageable weekly goals.

Michael had much more to say and in a manner that was thoughtful and engaging. If you ever have the chance to hear him speak I highly recommend that you do. If you’d like to learn a little more about him you can find his information at

How do you go about setting your goals? Do you make a New Year’s Resolution? If you do, do you keep it?

Let me know!

Now What? The Decatur Book Festival

September 10, 2015

This past weekend I along with two of my colleagues, Jonda Beattie and Judith Kolberg, participated as vendors at the Decatur Book Festival. The three of us have run a booth every year for the past several years. It’s called the “Get Organized” booth. We were very lucky this year – there was no rain. So, we had lots of people in and out of the booth.

Some people were there to browse, others were there to look at our books, and still others wanted to talk to us to see if we could give them a little organizing inspiration. I know, because my voice is still a little hoarse, that we listened and gave as much inspiration as we could under the circumstances. It’s a little hard sometimes to concentrate on one person when there are others also wanting your attention. We did our best.

If you’re reading this and were one of the wonderful people who stopped by our booth – Thanks for stopping in. I loved meeting everyone!

Some people stopped in to ask us questions about organizing in general. They questions were very interesting so I thought I’d put some of them here along with the answers.

    1. How do you go about helping a neighbor, friend, relative who I think is a packrat or hoarder?
    2. First of all, how thoughtful of you to think of helping this person! We, as professional organizers, do not ever just appear at someone’s house to help them get organized. You, as the friend, neighbor or relative can ask this person if they would like to meet with a professional organizer to get some objective help and advice. Then you can search for a professional organizer in your area who is qualified (experienced and trained) to work with someone challenged by over-collecting. Go to or to find qualified professional organizers.
    3. I’m really organized but my spouse is not. Please will you come over and figure out how to get my spouse to be more organized?
    4. Sure! If your spouse is open to meeting with us. In fact, organizing services for a spouse can be a great gift – if they are ready to get organized. You can purchase a gift certificate for organizing services for the holidays!
  • What do you do – how do you go about get someone organized?
  1. I can only answer for myself. I work closely with my clients first to find out what the challenge is – what in the home is causing you to feel disorganized? Then, I present a few different organizing strategies and solutions to my client. Together we tweak the solution until it truly resonates with my client. He/she is the one who will be following this strategy so he needs to be willing to practice it until it becomes a habit.

I hope you found these questions and answers helpful.

Now What? Are you Prepared for Disaster?

September 2, 2015
Natural disasters design concept set with hurricane and flood sketch isolated vector illustration

Natural disasters design concept set with hurricane and flood sketch isolated vector illustration

September is National Disaster Preparedness month. We often talk about being prepared. In fact, our children have fire drills at school. There are so many things we can do to help ourselves and our families be prepared if and when a disaster should strike. But, how many of us actually follow through and create plans which we then share with the other members of our family?

Let’s think about some possible scenarios and then look at the things anyone can do to be more prepared.

Sometimes we have warnings that a natural disaster could hit our area. Think about fire warnings, hurricane and flood warnings. However; there is often very little time between the time a tornado warning is issued and the tornado strikes. So, what should we do?

We can stock our homes with some basic survival supplies like flashlights, a battery operated radio and batteries for the flashlight as well as the radio, canned goods (keep in mind that canned goods do have an expiration date – so use them before they expire and then replace them!) bottled water, granola bars, extra blankets, hand sanitizer. You can make a list that is appropriate for your family and area of the country. Please don’t forget current medications! Have a place in your home where you keep these items and can easily put them together should the need arise.

Have an evacuation plan and practice it. Teach your children what to do, how they can get out of the house if there should be a house fire or flood.

Which room is the best room or area of the house to stay in if a hurricane or tornado is predicted? Is there enough room for everyone or do you need to find a couple of safe places?

If you’re looking for a good book with excellent suggestions and strategies of how to prepare for a disaster check out Judith Kolberg’s book: Organize for Disaster

Another way to prepare ourselves is to have a complete home inventory. Why do you want this? Well, if your home is damaged or destroyed as a result of one of these natural disasters you will need proof of what the house contained. You will also need access to account numbers and insurance policy information.

The best way to keep this information is in the cloud. That way you can access the information from any computer at any time. The program I highly recommend is HomeZada ( This program allows you store your inventory complete with pictures and other useful information that will help you with the upkeep and maintenance of your home. Check it out!

I hope you find these tips useful and will implement some of them!

Now What? Packing and repacking

August 26, 2015

Are you planning to take a vacation soon? The end of August – Labor Day weekend – is a popular time for many people to get away. We often talk about packing your suitcase. You begin with:

1. Thinking about where you’re going

2. Checking the weather forecast

3. Thinking about the kinds of activities you’ll probably engage in while you’re away so that you bring appropriate clothes

4. Making a list

Well, what about when you pack up to come home? I just came home from a week away. Thankfully I remembered to check and double check everywhere I had stashed my belongings. I was flying home and the flight was due to leave around noon which was good because it gave me time to pack my suitcase and thoroughly check my room before I left. I think it can be a little easier if you’re driving. Then you can have a laundry bag in which to deposit the dirty clothes. Just tuck that bag into the car and you’re all set. It can go from the car to the washing machine! You can also have a tote bag or two to hold any trip souvenirs.

What about if you, like me, are flying home? Is there a way to pack your suitcase to separate the clean and still wearable clothes from those which need to be washed?

What do you do with the things you’ve accumulated during your vacation?

How do you make sure not to leave anything behind?

I start with an empty suitcase. I think some people sort of live out of their suitcase in the hotel room. I tend to unpack everything. I hang up those items which can be hung up and stash in a drawer my other clothes. Toiletries go in the bathroom. Desk items, like my computer, planner, and a notepad go on the desk.

Before I begin my packing I decide what I’m going to wear as I travel home. I lay those clothes aside, so they aren’t accidentally packed. Then I start my packing with my shoes on the bottom of the suitcase. I open the closet door and empty the drawers onto the bed.   I add in the clothes which can be worn again or which I haven’t used during my vacation. In the interest of full disclosure, I tend to pack too many clothes!  I tuck in the empty spaces any small items – things I may have purchased during my stay. I separate the clean clothes from the laundry by layering a dry cleaning bag on top of the clean clothes. I keep one or two dry cleaning bags in my suitcase just for this purpose.  Any laundry goes into my suitcase next to last. This way it’s among the first to come out of my suitcase and straight into the laundry.

The last place I empty of my belongings is the bathroom. I double check the counters and any shelves to make sure I bring everything home with me. My laptop, charging cord, phone charging cord, planner, and notepad go into my laptop bag.

Before I actually leave my hotel room I give the drawers, the closet, the bathroom and the desk area a second look. I definitely don’t want to leave anything behind. If you’re traveling with children who have their own room follow the same procedure with them. Do you have a system for making sure you’ve packed everything as you travel home from vacation? I’d love to know about it!



Now What? Clothes and Closet Maintenance

August 12, 2015
white wardrobe with clothes hanging at home

white wardrobe with clothes hanging at home

Once you’ve organized your closet you’re all set – ready to move on and forget about your closet right? Think again. To keep your closet and your clothes in tip top shape you need to have maintenance habits in place.

Let’s think about this. In the morning, you select your clothes and get dressed. In the evening you come home from work or school or play and put on your ‘around the house’ lounging kind of clothes. I don’t know about yours but mine are comfy clothes – sweat pants and top.

What did you do with the clothes you took off?

Did you put them in the laundry basket to be washed?

Did they go into a bag for the dry cleaners?

Can you wear them again? If so, did you hang them back up or fold them and put them away?

Or did you leave them laying on the floor?

As Sheila McCurdy says “The floor is not an option”. You have many other options but if you leave them laying on the floor they will become wrinkled, stepped upon, and unwearable until they are cleaned.

Consider this, you’ve paid good money for these clothes and you want to have them last and stay looking good for as long as possible.

The best way to do this is to examine your clothes when you take them off.

Is there a stain from lunch today? Quickly treat it and put it in the laundry basket or schedule your next trip to the dry cleaners.

Can you wear this outfit again before cleaning it? Great! Hang it up. This way many of the wrinkles will hang out and it will be in your closet ready for the next time you decide to wear it.

If it’s not stained and not wearable again either put it in the laundry basket or schedule a regular trip to the dry cleaners.

When you take care of your clothes in this way your closet stays tidy and you stay in control of your inventory of clothes. You take the time to put your clothes away where they belong so you will know where to look for those items. You know if something needs cleaning or mending. You have scheduled time to take those clothes to be fixed or you have scheduled time in your calendar to fix them yourself.

What if it’s beyond repair? Or if you don’t want to spend the money to repair it?

Either toss the item or donate it. Perhaps someone else will be able to repair it.
Maintenance is a key component. When you do a little daily maintenance you don’t find yourself in chaos.
Write me back and let me know how you maintain your closet.

Now What? Too Many School Supplies

July 29, 2015

Can you ever have too many school supplies? I think you can. When your child begins his school career in nursery or preschool you are given a list of supplies to get for your child. Some school supplies are taken to the school for the teacher to have in her classroom. Other supplies are important, or necessary, to have at home so that your child can complete his homework without you dashing off to the store to get markers, crayons, colored pencils, notecards, poster board, tape, the list goes on and on. When you do this year after year without culling the past year’s supply your in home supply multiplies dramatically.

Before you run out to get the necessary supplies this year take some time to go through the ones you have. You may be able to shop from your own store at home to supply your child with most of what he needs for the coming school year. You may also be able to give some of your supplies to a friend or a local charity if your child has aged out of some of the supplies you have around your house.

As your child gets older some items on your school supply list get dropped off. It may no longer be necessary to keep a stash of crayons or markers at home. What about all those binders and subject dividers or half used notebooks? What do you do with them?

Consider going through the supplies and determining what is really usable. This is something you may consider having your child help you with before school starts up again.

Get out the crayons. Put the broken ones in a pile or perhaps a large plastic bag. You may be able to use those in a rainy day craft project. Put the whole crayons – the ones that are still nice – in another large plastic bag or a basket to keep. If at the end of the school year your child has not used the crayons – either the broken ones or the whole ones consider tossing the broken ones and donating the whole crayons.

Next get out the markers and some paper. Test all the markers. Put the ones that still work in a basket or a plastic bag and toss the ones that don’t work. Also, toss the ones that don’t have a cap!

Move on to the colored pencils. Sort them into usable and not usable piles. Keep the ones that can still be used and toss the remainder.

Do you have piles of colored craft paper? Go through those piles and recycle the bits of paper that are not large enough to be used for much of anything. Then sort the paper according to color and keep it in a container or on a shelf near where your child does homework or craft projects.

What about those binders and half-used notebooks? First try cleaning up the binders. If they clean up nicely then have your child use them again. Are they completely falling apart? If they’re falling apart or don’t clean up well – toss them. As for the half- used notebooks either use them for grocery or ‘to-do’ lists, recycle, or donate them.

As you begin to think about school starting think also about gathering all these school supplies from around your home first. Go through them with your child. Determine what can be used this school year and then go to the store to purchase the rest!

Now What? Too Many School Papers, Projects and School Supplies?

July 22, 2015

I’ve been talking to you about having too much and learning how to cull collections of your belongings. Well, if you have children you know that there is something else that floods our homes. That is school supplies, papers and projects.

Let’s talk about school projects and papers first. The influx starts when your child begins school. He comes home with lots of art work and projects. Now, in my house, we decorated the refrigerator with these beautiful art creations. When we ran out of room on the refrigerator we started taping these projects to the kitchen cupboards. From there we went to the walls of his bedroom. I think you’re probably getting the idea. Pretty soon my house was really, really full of kid art. I knew that if I didn’t come up with a method of culling this art work there would be no room in my house for anything else. And, I also knew this was just the beginning as he was in pre-school! I didn’t want to think about the amount of papers and projects we would accumulate over 14 years if we already had an abundance in pre-school!!

Between us, my son and I decided that each art project would stay up on the cupboards in the kitchen for all to enjoy for one week. We marked on a calendar the day the project would be recycled or saved. If it was ultra – special and wonderful it would go into the memory box. Admittedly, this took a bit of scheduling and following through on my part but it also gave my son a time frame. He knew that in time each project would come down from the cupboards and that we would decide if it was a keeper. This all took place for me back in the days before digital photography.

I now recommend that my clients with young children take a picture of their child with their art project and have the child tell them something about the project. This allows my clients to keep the art project in such a way that doesn’t add to the collection of items in their home. They display the project in their home for a short period of time and in one small designated spot – like a bulletin board and keep only the very special ones in the memory box. They recycle the bulk of the art work as soon as it comes down from the bulletin board. They always have the photograph along with a description of what the art project relates to in school and the date.

At the end of the school year some of my clients have put this collection of digital photographs in a printed album for their child.

I’m mentioning this now because here in the South the school year is just weeks away from beginning. It’s a good idea to have a plan of what to do when the art work starts coming in. This strategy can be applied to older children also. The projects may not be as numerous but they are sometimes very large. Taking a picture of the project keeps it around. Have your child add a written description to remind him what the project related to – science, english, social studies – and the teacher’s name.

I’d love to know if you’re inundated with school art work, papers, and projects. If you are, is this a strategy you might consider using? Write me back and let me know!

Now What? Too Many Toys?

July 8, 2015

These past few weeks I’ve been talking with you about knowing when you have enough of something based on the container. I talked about clothes and closets and books and bookshelves. Today I’m beginning the topic of our children’s toys.

Wow! What a topic! I know that when my children were little toys just seemed to multiply overnight. My mother would give toys on random occasions. Birthday parties with goodie bags contained small toys. Then there were birthdays and holidays and all of a sudden the toy chest, closet, and shelves were full to overflowing!

Then the toys appear in the family room. I’m not sure there was ever a space (maybe the dining room) that didn’t have some sort of collection of toys. So, do I think there were too many? Absolutely I do.  However, we moved overseas when my children were young. Because of this move we were only allowed to bring a certain amount of things with us. Naturally, this meant we had to cull our collection of toys – making some tough decisions.

So, how do you go about this process with your children?

First, think about what is age appropriate. Are there any toys they have aged out of – baby toys, toddler toys? I understand they may love these toys and may even play with them occasionally. Help wean your child away from these toys by removing these toys slowly. Be sure to do this when they are not around. You can selectively donate out (to a friend, relative or charity) a few toys at a time. If you want to keep them for another sibling then simply put them out of sight. Perhaps the top shelf of a closet.

Next, are there any toys that are missing pieces or broken? Those should be easy to discard. Please don’t donate toys that are not in ‘gently used’ condition. Your child can help you with this process. It’s a valuable life lesson for children to learn to go through their belongings and weed them out. This will help them understand that they do not have to keep everything they own always.

Finally, are there any toys of which there are duplicates or even triplicates? Please reduce the number by eliminating the extras! Your child can help identify the extras. You can even go together to give the extras to a local daycare center.

I’d love to hear from you on this topic. Do your children have too many toys? Is the amount of toys overwhelming? How do you handle this?


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