Now What? The Perfect Time?

November 18, 2015
if not now,when?

if not now when concept on blackboard

Is there such a thing as “the perfect time”? Sometimes we look for the perfect time to do .. you can fill in the blank with whatever project is looming on your horizon. Often we think something like this project will take a long time. Then we go on to say to ourselves ‘there’s no point in starting it now because I don’t have enough time’.
I tell clients to take just five minutes to get that project underway. My clients are always amazed by how much they can get done in the five to ten minutes that they have available. This jump starts the project and gets it off the ground.
I was looking for ‘the perfect time’ to make a phone call to a friend. For several months (that’s right, I said months!) I put on my calendar that I wanted to call my friend Jeanne. It never happened – there was never the perfect time to make that call. I should have picked up the phone even if just to say ‘I’m thinking about you’
Last week, sadly, I lost her to cancer. Jeanne and I became friends from the moment we met. We met at the pool at our apartment complex in Singapore. She was there with her 2 children and I was there with mine. I remember it was an overcast day and we were the only two families out by the pool. So, naturally, we started talking. Jeanne and her children had only arrived in Singapore a few weeks earlier. I had been there a few months so I could share some tips about the American School. It turned out that her son, Matt, and my son, Alex, shared the exact same birthday! They were not going to be in the same class but they would see each other at school. Jeanne’s daughter, Meghan, and my other son, Andy, would be in the same class. Another coincidence was that Jeanne and Andy shared the same birthday. Needless to say, she and I were inseparable. We played tennis, went exploring, and participated in volunteer activities together.
Since we moved back from Singapore we were in sporadic touch. Jeanne lived in the Midwest and I was in the Northeast and then in Atlanta. I didn’t plan visits to see my friend. We phoned and then were in touch on Facebook. I loved seeing her ‘likes’ on my DNQ Solutions Facebook page.
I knew Jeanne had been diagnosed with cancer but she made light of it. This was typical of Jeanne – always looking at the positive and talking of things other than herself. As I said before,I made a note to call her in my planner once a week for several months. Sadly, that phone call never happened. I thought to myself that I wanted to be able to sit down and have one of our long heart-to-heart talks for at least 30 minutes. I never set aside that time. I was looking for that ‘perfect time’.
I have learned a painful lesson. I recall the saying ‘there’s no time like the present’. I will now reach out to my friends even if only to leave a message saying I’m thinking about you when the spirit moves me. I want my friends to know that I value their friendship.
If you have a friend that you haven’t been in touch with for a while take a few minutes and reach out to them with a text, a phone call, or a letter – even if it’s not ‘the perfect time’!

Now What? What do you do to take care of yourself?

November 4, 2015

Close-up of female hands holding teacup in front of opened book

Did you have a good and fun Halloween? I hope so! When my children were young we had the best time on Halloween. A friend of mine invited us all – my family and 3 other families – to come to their home, have dinner, and then go trick-or-treating. It was a blast! The children dressed up and went as a group knocking on doors, shouting “TRICK-OR-TREAT”, collecting candy and going on to the next door. We moms loved watching our young ones, making sure they all stayed together and took care of each other, and sharing our thoughts as we went walking down the sidewalk behind our children. We did this for many years. I have great memories of those times with my friends.

This Halloween tradition signaled the beginning of the Holiday season for me. Starting in November my calendar would always begin to get a little more jammed up with parties and responsibilities. I would begin to plan how I was going to get all the baking, shopping, decorating, and wrapping done well in advance of Christmas.

As the years went on I began to realize that I was taking care of everyone else and forgetting about myself. I started to plan little things just for me into my calendar. Are you wondering what sorts of things I plan for myself? They are little things: a half hour of peace and quiet reading a book, taking a bath, or doing some needlepoint. These are things I like to do that don’t cost anything, that help me relax, and that give me a feeling of well-being.

Think about it. What can you do to relieve the stress of the season? What sorts of activities let you relax, feel happy and centered?

Scheduling a few little things just for me is a wonderful way to make sure that I am able to take care of all that I have on my plate as well as myself during this very busy time of year. After all, I realize that I am much better at taking care of my family when I have taken time to take care of myself.

I’d love to know if you feel the same way and what you can do to take care of yourself!

Now What? How Flexible is Your Plan?

October 21, 2015

Young girl doing gymnastic exercises on the pier (ancient version)

How do you define flexibility? The dictionary has several different definitions. They are: 1. to be able to bend without breaking; not stiff or rigid; easily bent; pliant 2. Easily persuaded or influenced; tractable 3. Adjustable to change; capable of modification.

If you are physically flexible that will serve you well as you age. How do you maintain that flexibility? Easy – exercise regularly and focus on being able to move easily. I do competitive ballroom dancing as a hobby. Last weekend I participated in a dance competition in Atlanta. There was a woman 94 years young dancing tango, foxtrot, waltz, Viennese waltz and quickstep – wow! I imagine she practices regularly; since ballroom dancing requires you be physically fit and flexible as well as mentally alert and flexible.

At this time of year it’s easy to feel swamped or overwhelmed by all the activities and events. If you have children in school there are parties to volunteer for and field trips not to mention the school recitals and performances. If you are part of a volunteer group many celebrate and honor their volunteers in November right around Thanksgiving. I have a large family and keeping track of who is doing what, when and where can sometimes sound like a comedy routine.

This is where the third definition of flexibility comes into play. If you can adjust or modify your plan for the day you are brilliant! How can you do this? You start by being organized, by keeping your calendar up to date, and by having a plan for each day. When you know what you are doing, when and where then you also know what things can be shifted – modified – to accommodate a slight change in plan.

strategy photo

Chaos happens when you don’t start with a plan. When you let the day happen without having an idea of how you are going to get the things done that you want to do the day can float on by. You can be pulled in many different directions, never quite finishing any task. Letting the day float on by is a wonderful thing to do when you’re on vacation!

Try and create a plan for your day with your calendar in hand. Take note of your appointments, how long it will take you to travel there and back, how long the appointment will probably last. Then see where you can fit in errands or other tasks that you’d like to accomplish. Then take note of any remaining or free time. If something unexpected pops up you’ll be able to shift those errands and other tasks around to accommodate the unexpected event. You’ll also know what can be put off for another day.

This will help with that swamped and overwhelmed feeling that can creep up on us as we’re preparing for all the fall festivities!

Now What? Backwards Planning

October 7, 2015
Many Hands Holding the Word Events, Isolated

Many Hands Holding the Word Events, Isolated

Backwards planning? Why plan backwards? Why not just plan ahead? Well, backwards planning is really planning ahead – it’s called backwards planning because you start with the end result in mind. More details to come.

I have four siblings, many nieces and nephews, and two sons (one is married). This time of year brings lots of birthdays mixed in with all the holidays. Every time I look at the calendar I’m noticing that one of these relatives has a birthday coming up. So, I use backwards planning to stay on top of all these events.

First, I plot all the birthdays into my calendar. I love my phone for this because it automatically shows the birthday in the calendar function and I only enter them once. I admit, though, that I am very much a paper and pencil person. At the beginning of every year I get out my paper calendar and write in all the birthdays and then I count backwards and note in my calendar when I need to mail the birthday card. I also make a note a few days before the mailing date that I have to go and purchase a card! That is backwards planning!

At this time of year with the holidays approaching (I saw on Instagram yesterday that someone had counted the number of weekends left before Christmas!) backwards planning is a handy strategy to employ. You can use it to help in planning a party, with decorating for the holiday, meal planning or any big project you may have.

Here are the steps to take when using backwards planning:

Tools: paper, pen or pencil, a calendar


  1. Start with an end date in mind
  2. On a piece of paper, list all the steps to take in order to complete your task
  3. Plot each step into your calendar – schedule enough time to complete each small step

The beauty of using this strategy is that backwards planning allows you to get things done in a timely fashion so that you’re not over scheduled and can actually enjoy the process.

Tell me, how will you use backwards planning as we approach this busy time of the year?

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!




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