Archive for September, 2015

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!