Thursday, December 16, 2010

Domestic Archaeology

I am a domestic archaeologist.  Everyday when I go to work two things usually happen.
One- we find something that was lost.
Two- we find something of monetary value.
It might not be the lost city of Atlantis, but somewhere in the piles of clutter are treasures that are priceless to my clients

Sometimes I ask clients, "Is there anything that is missing that we could be on the lookout for as we organize?" The list of lost items includes pearl earrings, certificates- birth, marriage, and death, books, ipods, keys, wedding bands, and photos. Birth certificates are often misplaced after getting a passport or enrolling in kindergarten and are typically found in a plastic grocery bag. My theory is that it is part of the "it-was-on-the-table-and-we-put-in-a-bag-to-clear-the-table-for-company" scenario. Other items just get buried or fall behind furniture.  I suspect lots of money is spent each year on replacing lost things as part of the high cost of being disorganized.

The second category of treasure hunting is the monetary.  We could probably make a dent in the National Debt with the amount of loose change in drawers, jars, milk jugs, purses, brief cases, and laundry rooms. Organizers stress having a specific location for each item in your home and coins are no different. Use a piggy bank or re-purposing a loved vase or mug at the location when coins are found.  I have a small bank on the shelf over the washer for "money laundering".  If you know the joy of finding a $20 bill in a coat pocket, you can imagine the joy on the face of someone finding a envelope of  six $100 bills. Other things of monetary value that I have found includes gift certificates, uncashed checks (often inside greeting cards), stock certificates, and once a large bar of silver. The silver was found on a basement floor under piles of post Christmas sale purchases.  It was an example of what everyone was to inherit on the death of a dear uncle, but was brought downstairs to clear the table for Christmas dinner.

I will push the archaeology analogy a little further if I may.  People often save baby teeth (really this isn't too weird) that we find in little white jewelry boxes, BUT other human pieces-parts like desiccated umbilical cords, preserved tonsils, toenails, and the cremated remains of ex-husbands found in attics and file drawers I could live without.
I love my job.  I love the warm fuzzy of helping someone improve the quality of their life.  I love finding money and valuables, but the real goal is helping my clients learn how to keep these things from being lost.

What have you lost?  Or found?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Making Little Bits of Time Count

When our daughters were little, we were able to motivate them to do a task by saying "Alright, put your toys away and I'll time you. We'll see how fast you can get it done."  Bless their hearts they fell for it every time. Now they just give me the eye roll, accept the task (or not) and then prioritize it into their day.  Come to think of it so do I.  I need to remind myself that it will only take me a few seconds more to put things in the drawer rather than to plop the laundry on top of the dresser. I can not leave it to do another day. If I can't do it now, what makes me think I will have time later?

The bigger tasks are harder. Some things we need or want to get done, but there are so many urgent daily things that the projects never happen.  You would love to have you photos organized, your recipes available, or your files purged, loose twenty pounds, and so on.  In our minds, the scope of the task is overwhelming and we become too paralyzed to even begin.  In the spirit of the adage "Every journey begins with a single step," we are best served by just choosing to begin. We can find a little pockets of time to break down the task.  I like to put puzzles together from time to time. There it is-- a thousand pieces. But I find if I find a place and lay it out, and do a little when I can one piece at a time. Eventually...and there are no time constraints on gets done.

Take the recipe project for example. By breaking it down into single steps we can begin to tackle the whole. Each step begins with a verb. Remember verbs mean action!
Gather the big stack of newspaper and magazine recipe clippings, print-outs from the computer, recipe cards, and scrap papers with jotted  notes in one place. 
Toss the ones you can never really picture yourself making. It looked good at the time but now...maybe not.  Get a  3" notebook binder and fill it with clear page protectors and some tabbed dividers for sections like appetizers, entrĂ©es, desserts, etc. 
Add the recipes back to back for full magazine pages and computer prints, tape/glue smaller recipes to a pieces of printer paper and slide them in the clear sleeves. Eventually you have a working recipe book if you do a few recipes a day.
My Recipe Book

Perfectionist take a breath.  Done is better than perfect.  You can always tweak the completed project by adding embellishments, labeling, scrap-booking, and  alphabetizing. My binder has a front pocket where I can store new recipes till I try them and a clear front that allowed me to add a cover title page. I don't alphabetize the recipes because there are only 20-30 recipes per section and I like looking at them to remember occasions when I made them. Most of all, I love the book more than the pile of papers. My project took more than a month. 
When you complete the project, there is an inertia that you will carry you as you take on another project and the pride of job well done!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Stockpiling Gifts (Just In Case)

Me: So what is this?

"It's a gift."

Me: "For whom?"

"I don't know. BUT...:"

Me: ( in my head) Oh, no, here it comes...

"...just in case I need a gift, I can come to this closet and  get something quick.  I found it on sale."

If you have a gift closet (or shelves, cupboards or boxes) where you store unintended future gifts, let's talk.  It's time. The gift giving season will soon be upon us, so let's review that closet.  Pull everything out and really take a look.  If you have tons of storage space in your home, you may go back to whatever you were doing (or skip down to the next blog entry). The rest of you -grab your post-its, your gift list, a pen and come with me.

  • If it has been in this closet for more than one year -Donate it. A whole year of gift giving opportunities has come and gone, and it was passed over or forgotten.
  • If it is a food item and it is more than one year old -Toss It. If it is for someone specific, label and give it soon. Wine is an exception, but keep it in a cool place.
  • If it is a bath, toiletry item, or a candle, decide now who loves this fragrance and designate it now with your post-it.  If you got it as a gift and really thought it was stinky -Toss it.  If you think it stinks why would you give it to someone else.
  • If the time has come and gone for giving a gift (age appropriateness), for example, small toys when the kids on your list are now in their teens- Donate it.
  • If it is for a teacher, let's give this some thought.  My teacher clients have advised me that they much prefer gift cards or consumables for the classroom than candles, coffee mugs and apple shaped things.
  • Repeat with other items deciding who would actually be a candidate for such a gift.  If you are giving gifts that are re-gifts, that is fine, BUT only if you know for sure who gave it to you in the first place.  You know why.

When you are done you should have post-its on most everything that you sincerely intend to give to someone.  Try to give generously until this closet, shelf, or box is empty. If you really must buy ahead, have someone specific in mind before you head to the checkout counter.  You really need the space for other things. Random gifts are not especially thoughtful, so try to avoid buying things that you do not need on sale under the guise that it is a gift.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Other Side of Organized

I welcome my guest blogger, 
Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®.  
Her new book entitled
takes a look at organizing from finding your motivation  to "editing" your possessions.  She weaves personal experiences with inspiration, and leads you to a balance "between perfection and chaos."  There were so many times as I read that I was thinking-
Yes, that's it exactly!

Dream Away
     Organizing isn’t just about sorting papers, editing closets, and rearranging the junk drawer. It’s also about having the level of order that’s comfortable for you. Getting organized will reduce the stress of life’s details, enable you to accomplish some larger goals and give you more time to embrace your passions. It’s essential to let dreaming be part of the organizing process. Be the director of your story and think about what you want to incorporate in your life. There are several ways to start the dream juices flowing.

            Dream small. If you had an extra 30 minutes free each day, how would you use that time? Would you read a book, take a walk or have coffee with a friend? If 30 more minutes a day seems like a tremendous gift, begin here. Once you’ve managed to secure your 30 minutes, think about moving on to bigger goals.

            Dream moderately. If there are 52 weekends per year and you reserved just four of them to complete a short-term project, what would it be? Sometimes we think about “projects” we’d like to do and never schedule the time to get them done. With a little advance-planning and commitment, it is possible to accomplish some of these dreams.

            Dream big. If time, money or circumstance weren’t challenges, what would you want to accomplish? Let your mind dream without criticism or judgment. Often we tend to discourage ourselves before even taking our first steps forward. Try to suspend all negativity; there is no harm in dreaming and wishing. Identifying what you’d like comes before any action can occur.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Clutter Road -Hoarder or Not?

Photo by Frank O'Hare
     Tell someone you are a Professional Organizer and they will tell you they need you or someone they know does. They will tell you they have seen the shows-Hoarders, Hoarders-Buried Alive, and the Oprah episodes featuring people with mountains of clutter, and living conditions that are not safe or sanitary. They will ask if I heard the story of hoarder who died and were not found for days because of the clutter.  What is good about all this awareness is that people who need and want help can more easily find resources to get it.

I get emails and calls from people who are worried that they have clutter and might be a hoarder.  They have watched an episode and worry that they might be going down that road. Hoarding is one of those things that runs a spectrum from mild to very severe. In mild cases, the clutter has grown because organizing systems have not been put into place or those in place have not been maintained. They may have been organized, but now the clutter has grown, things have not been put away, and they are simply too overwhelmed to know where to begin. Perhaps they have been ill or taking care of someone who was, or been too busy to take on a project. They know something is wrong and are emotionally ready for change. The prognosis for these people is often good.

More serious situations may result from an accumulation of possessions way beyond what is normal- where rooms cease to function for their intended purpose, other people may be prevented from entering and repairs can't be done. The person may lack the ability to discern categories or even what is trash and what is not, they may have a profound sense responsibility to not be wasteful, or compulsive urges to acquire things. Some other reasons we see for hoarding are OCD,  depression, ADHD, perfectionism, grief, compulsive shopping,  mental illness, or a cognitive disorders.  Researchers believe that there may also be a genetic component. Often the choice to declutter is not the hoarder's idea. They may have run out of options. Collaborative therapy- using professional organizers, community resources, cleaning specialists and mental health professionals working in accord can be helpful in improving the safety and quality of life for these people.  The NSGCD  has established the Clutter Hoarding Scale to help professionals have a common language with which to describe what is being seen. The primary focus in helping hoarders is to improve the safety of the home.

I am happy to have worked on a team helping a Central Ohio gentleman for an episode of A&E's Hoarders.  I saw the whole story unfold.  Not all the little successes during the 16 plus hours filming nor the hours of aftercare that the show provides can make it to the one hour finished result.  Thanks to those who film and produce the episodes and all the brave people who have put themselves out there.  You have helped countless others--hoarders and not.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Campaign for Real Closets

I love the Dove advertising campaign- the beauty products company, not the chocolate maker. The ads show the beauty found in real women of all shapes, sizes, and complexions. We have known that all along, we just need reminding every once in a while. After all, we have been exposed to airbrushed, eighteen year old willowy waifs selling us wrinkle cream.

The bad news is that closet organizing companies are doing too. Before I go further, I have to clarify that I love and lust over those ads of closets with clothes just one inch apart. I think we look at them and think less of our own closets. We look at them and we intuitively see that they are organized, but we can't put our finger on the what it is that make them looked more organized than we are. We use our closets at least twice a day and often emerge feeling contempt for them. Time to expose what it is about those organized closets that makes some of us feel inferior.

All their clothes are two or three colors. We wear a larger range of colors. We can group color families together within categories like all khaki/beige pants together in a section of pants.

All of their hangers match. This is the easiest thing to fix and makes a huge difference. Even removing empty hangers or defaulting them to one end will help.

There are no dry cleaning bags over a few items. If you need dust protection move the item to the edge of the closet and/or use garment bags.

The bins and totes that store accessories, and memorabilia are of the same style/color/size. A repeating a pattern is calming. Most of our bins were purchased one at a time to solve a particular storage need. The end result is that we know our sweaters are in the bin and our ski gear is in the clear tote with the green lid (so we are organized), but the overall effect is not the same.

Their purses all stand at attention; ours flop over. Using a clear bin to stand them up is helpful as are dividers that attach to wooden shelves. Many of the wire shelf companies make dividers that hold our piles of sweaters and purses upright.

Their closet is the size of Rhode Island. Many of us don't have this luxury. We have about four to six feet and have to make the most of what we have using the floor, and door backs for more storage. Some of my clients live in Victorian homes that were originally lined with hooks for the few garments that the average person possessed during the era when the home was built. This results in our clothes being crammed together and not at all like the one inch apart ads. Lots of folks are getting some improvement with the thinner hangers, but many are unsuccessful with hangers that hold multiple slacks. I think it's because they are just to hard to use when replacing the pants or to see what you have when you are dressing.

Just as the Dove ad reminds us to love what we have, to take care of it, and make the most of it, we should do what we can to make the most of the closet and storage we have. Little fixes can help us love our closets so we can emerge from them daily with confidence.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Shoes! As my daughters say, "I ain't gonna lie"- I love them. I have mentioned this love affair previously in this blog and now I am ready to come clean.
Maybe it's the way they can change the mood of any outfit. A sun dress can be paired with flip flops and be great for casual occasions, or paired with strappy sandals, add a few pieces of jewelry and go to a fine restaurant. They can make me feel comfortable or elegant.

Maybe it's that they love me unconditionally and no matter what I eat. My pants will give me up on a weekend after pizza and beer. Not my shoes, they will still fit fine come Monday morning or after vacation. You gotta love the loyalty.

Or maybe it's how easy they are to shop for. You can just slip off your old ones and try them on right out in the open- quick and easy- not like a pair of pants or a bathing suit.

So I "get" shoes. It's my thing and I have a lot. Ok, this is the part where I come clean. My last census including snow boots, hiking boots, scuba shoes, mules, heels, clogs, flip flops, sandals, athletic shoes and loafers was 86 pairs.

As an Professional Organizer, when it comes to shoes, I am an enabler. I will try to make them all fit because Organizing isn't that you have to toss out everything. It's finding things when you need them. It's honoring your possessions with a place in your home. It know when to discard things when they aren't working, or as with shoes -worn out, broken, smelly, shabby or giving you blisters. So if you love them, honor them. Store them so they can be found, matched with their partner, not in a heap on the closet floor.

There are lots of great options for organizing shoes. Here are a few of my favorites.
Clear shoe boxes. The original boxes will work, though they lack visibility and the many different boxes can look cluttery.
Separating out-of-season shoes to an under the bed tote. Could be the Shoes Under or any 6 inch tote.
Wall or door mounted shoe racks with metal U-shaped holders as seen pictured above left in my closet.
Shelves, book cases, small shoe shelves, stacking shoe racks can work depending on the number of shoes and the space available.
Over the door shoe pockets for the back of bedroom, or closet doors.

So...what's your thing?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Survivor: Kitchen Island

I was helping a client move from a very large gourmet kitchen to a small condo kitchen and we were having trouble trying to decide what could go to the new place. She had acquired much in her young life and realized that she really wanted to simplify her life. Judith Kohlberg, professional organizer and author, uses games to help clients re-frame their thinking and ease the decision making process. One of her games is "Friends, Acquaintances, and Strangers" and helps people make decisions based on how often one uses the items in question. It is brilliant and I love using this game, but sometimes it is lost on younger people who have 673 Facebook friends.

Light the tiki torches, tie on your bandanna, and cue the jungle sounds--my version of the game takes place on the Kitchen Island. This client was a fan of reality shows and my version of the "Friends..." game borrows from the reality show "Survivor". I challenged her to figure out what kitchen gadgets were her allies by what they could value they could add to "her kitchen team" in the new home. We opened the drawer and pulled out the gadgets out on to the island. She opted right away to eliminate the garlic press, egg slicer, and pizza cutter as a good knife could do the job of all three making it a much better ally. Tea cups (kept only because they came with the set of dishes) were tossed in favor of the coffee mugs that she used everyday. Gone were the panini press, quesadilla maker, bread maker, and a very elaborate juicer. She realized that these items were not adding value to her life each week and would require lots of space in her new kitchen. Inspired by her favorite show she ruthlessly and confidently voted appliances and gadgets off the kitchen island.
This game playing made the downsizing process fun and gave her a feeling of control over her possessions. We used other reality shows like "The Biggest Loser" in other rooms. I am glad to see these reality show games of elimination have a redeeming value!

What is your favorite reality show?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Too many options!

According to a old rock song by Rush "if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." This song was stuck in my head recently when I read an article about an interview with Sheena Iyengar, Columbia professor and the author of "The Art of Choosing". Her field of specialty is social psychology and decision making. Some of her work includes research with three year olds half of whom were given a toy to play with and the other half had several choices of toys. She predicted that those with the most choices would be having the most fun. She was surprised to see that the opposite was true. Those who had been given a particular toy played happily while those with options were listless and not engaged. Other examples she gives include selecting 401K plans from nearly thousands of mutual funds, or selecting a paint color from a four foot wide display of paint colors. Maybe it's stressful because there are so many wrong answers.
How do we feel when we are shopping and there are so many permutations of sodas, cereals, and other products? We simplify. For the most part we keep getting the same things every time.We add a new product every so often to try it, but often go back to what we know and trust. We take the the "think" out of it.
As an organizer, I see first hand how overwhelmed people are by decisions-- so much so that they often choose to not decide. These delayed decisions grow and pile and undermine their quality of life. But, a little guidance, some narrowing down, a few poignant questions, lots of practice and decision making skills can improve. People begin to feel more confident about the choices they are making and realize that many choices are repetitive. Solutions that Dr. Iynegar endorses include categorizing your options to narrow your choices. Making up rules to take the "think" out of it like deciding to recycle all marketing postcards. Go for collective wisdom, bouncing the decisions around with someone else. I would add that you generally make decisions based on the best information you have at the time. Give yourself credit for that.

An interesting side note: Dr. Iyengar is blind.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Breathing Easier

I eat a lot of dust. It's an occupational hazard. People often greet me at the door and ask me if I am allergic to pets or dust. I have to laugh, because I can't envision lasting very long as an organizer if I was.

When people have clutter, lots of clutter, it becomes nearly impossible to dust flat surfaces or vacuum floors and corners. It can really build up. Regular home maintenance like cleaning dryer venting or changing furnace filters doesn't happen. And it isn't just dust and pet hair and dander. It can be mold, mildew and in some cases, rodent droppings. Sometimes safety equipment can be necessary. The whole thing can make you sick.

Some families struggling with clutter may have lots of issues with breathing, asthma and allergies. I see the telltale signs like inhalers, eye drops and antihistamines. Clutter can affect the health of the entire family. The good news is that after decluttering and a good cleaning that people report that really feel better. Not just feeling calmer and less stressed, they can finally breath easier.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Born Organized?

My grandmother was one of those people. The kind who can pick up any instrument, play a few notes and then begin playing any song they have ever heard. She was born with the musical gift and I loved that about her. I have also know people who were students of music. They studied their craft for years and became proficient. (For the record, I am nearly tone deaf but am cursed with knowing all the words to obscure songs.)

Some people think I was born organized. Maybe I can channel a blend of Martha Stewart, MacGyver, and Dr. Phil to help my clients improve their quality of life. But I believe like music, organizing is a skill that can be taught and transferred. Professional Organizers help their clients by teaching decision making and simplifying their lives. They can make an overwhelming situation seem doable.

Sometimes clients tell me that they find themselves repeating phrases I use when they are organizing by themselves. That is music to my ears!

What gift do you wish you were born with?

Yes, that is really my grandmother Audrey St. Amand pictured above.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Organizing Shuffle

My guest blogger is Angie Weid of I Organize You in Toledo.
Angie's take on a process technically know as "churning" is both light-hearted fun and tough-love serious.

The Organizing Shuffle

You split the cards into two piles,
turn them toward each other,
Lift up the inside edges,
apply a little pressure,
and ... Viola! 2 stacks shuffle into one.


... Well, have you ever organized your area by grouping smaller piles into bigger piles?

Hate to say it, but you're doing the Organizing Shuffle.
(for some reason right now I hear the "Do the Hustle" softly in the background)

OK, the Organizing Shuffle also includes:
-Moving items from one room to another, to sort later.
-Clearing off an area, only to place everything back.
-Picking up the same item more than twice, setting it back down because you don't know what to do with it. (likely to only be picked up again very soon)

How do you combat the choregraphed movement of your stuff?


You've decided you want to get organized, Right?

The hard truth:
You are going to have to part with some stuff.
I'm not saying this is an easy task. Though I've seen the benefits in people's lives by letting go of a few items.

Remember, 80% of the clutter in most homes is a result of disorganization, not lack of space.

Start with a small project. Maybe you can only let go of 1-2 items the first time. That's better than nothing, right? Next project consider letting go of 4-6 items ... heck, maybe a whole box of stuff.

You'll begin to feel lighter, air will breathe easier into your lungs and looking around you'll be proud of your organizing project. Maybe ready to tackle another room.

What disco tune is shaking your booty?

-Angie Weid

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

But I paid for it...

When the most important reason you can muster for keeping something is "but it's mine." We gotta talk.

Some people face difficulty when parting with things they no longer love, use or need. My job is helping come to terms with that.
I have heard a million reasons.

"I don't want to feel that I have wasted my money." (It is difficult to justify a faux fur journal.)
"I think it can be repaired." (I haven't seen a Fix it Shop since Sesame St.)
"I might use it again." ( When will the suitcase without wheels be your best option?)
"It was a gift." (We never gift people to burden them.)
"I am going to lose weight and then these will fit." (How much? How soon? Won't you want something new?)
"I want to scrapbook all these photos." (Good mothers scrapbook, and I am a good mother, ergo: I scrapbook?)
"I want to donate it. Isn't there a place to send used..." (It is too hard to take each item to a specific charity.)
"Isn't vintage style in?" (Only if it is your style, or you are young, otherwise it just looks sad- like maybe you just can't move on.)
"But I paid for it." (Think of it in terms of a movie experience. You buy the ticket, see the show and do not take anything home.)
"But I paid a lot for it." (Will you really resell it on ebay, a consignment shop or yard sale?)
"It's a collectible." (Groan- if Beanie Babies ever make a comeback, I know fifty homes with stockpiles set to make a mint.)

The bottom line- To really move forward in organizing a space, donation is often the best and quickest option. You get the warm fuzzy from donating, you get more space, and someone else gets something they can use. As they say- It's all good.

What are you hanging on to just because?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Love me, Love my stuff?

Valentine's day and love are warm and fuzzy, but lets get to the reality of relationships. While we might love someone, their stuff might just drive you crazy. It happens to lots of people even organizers. Don't ask me about my husband's stuff. He is a wonderful man and I am crazy about him. It's just, well...he has a different organizing system than I do. That's about as euphemistic as I can get. But we have been together for many, many years and I can pick my battles. We have agreed that he will maintain order and keep clutter under control in the common areas of the house like the kitchen (which he does a great job of cleaning) and I will bite my lips about the areas he can call his own. His clutter cannot cause the room to lose it's function, like dumping piles of paper on the kitchen table so we can't eat have dinner.

It really boils down to this: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Make respect a cornerstone from the beginning.
When I helped a young newly married couple merge their households. When they set about sorting, I reminded them that the bottom line is that they loved each other. She did not appreciate his collection of action figures (Star Wars), but to her credit, she offered him a small area to display a couple which she lovingly dusted and cleaned. The rest we boxed and made a spot in the garage for shelves to store them on.

Don't lose respect for each other or for their stuff.
A client wanted to toss a large tote full of her husband's baseball caps in the donate bag. Whoa, Hold it!  Yellow flag... personal foul!  I advised against it. Even if he wasn't using them, the hats were his and he should decide. I gave him high marks for storing them all together in one container. She shook her head and  tossed them.  This doesn't bode well for a relationship.

Respect yourself and your goals.
I worked with a gentleman last year who worked hard to clear lots of accumulated clutter.  He called me recently to say how much he appreciated what we had done. He was proud to bring someone to his home and even prouder to tell me that clearing the clutter had made room in his life for someone. He wanted me to meet her.

People come with stuff into relationships.  If we expect and want someone to respect our stuff, we have to respect theirs. I have to remember if I say anything about my husband's stuff, he will gently remind me that I have a few too many shoes.

What possessions do you and your loved ones struggle with?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Two clients in the last few weeks have been struggling with disc problems - CD'S, DVD's, software, and photos layered throughout paperwork on shelves and desks. It is had to tell by glancing what is on the disc especially if it is not LABELED. I worked with these clients to herd all the shiny circles into a pile to be sorted and LABELED. Some will have to be loaded on a computer to see what, if anything, is on them and then LABELED.

CD's can be loaded to your computer's music library and then passed on to friends, or stored in an CD album for retrieval later. The same for DVD's, but in a separate album so the movies are all together.

The software is either still useful or outdated. The useful ones fall into to two categories, ones that need to be loaded for each use like my Scrabble game and ones that are loaded once and only needed for reloading as a system backup like my Quicken. Those loaded each time are on the shelf or in a drawer near the computer and the others are stored with other backup discs. Outdated, no longer age appropriate (like Reader Rabbit), and no longer compatible discs need to go.

Finally, the photos can be loaded to a picture file, or sorting software like Picasa ( ) for viewing and sharing. Store the discs with other backup discs.

Did I mention that these all these discs should be LABELED???

P.S. We recently backed our music and photos on an external hard drive to rebuild our collection in the event we lost or damaged our computers. There are also online services that will allow you to store your collection in cyberspace.
While we are talking media, make sure any outdated media is transferred to the most current technology. There are several services that will take VCR tapes and convert them to DVD's for you. You don't want to lose movies of weddings and babies to obsolescence.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It's the season-for Organizing

It started the day after Christmas. The ads in my paper were pushing shelves, bins, totes, and organizers of every shape and color. The message is clear- You got stuff. You need stuff to store your stuff. The time is now, when you are stuck inside with your stuff. There was National Clean off Your Desk Day this week, "GO" (Get Organized) Month from the National Association of Professional Organizers, Oprah has Peter Walsh organizing again, and A&E will spotlight another Hoarder so we see how bad it can get. There is no doubt about it-Organized is better. Organized students get better grades. Organized bill payers have better credit ratings. Organized workers get better jobs. Do we need to be reminded that we have so much that we can't find what we need? Apparently so.

There has never been a time in history when a society has had so many possessions. We could not have learned from the past how to deal with too much. I watch old westerns (my guilty pleasure) and think how hard it would be to narrow down my possessions to fit in a covered wagon or to carry my possessions like a refugee on the news. This is, of course, extreme but many of us have developed unhealthy and fearful relationships with our stuff. I have heard clients say that a teddy bear would feel lonely or rejected if we tossed it. People feel they're stuck for eternity with a cheese plate because "It was a gift". They worry that tossing something owned by one's parents is disrespectful to the past even if it costs them the use of a garage or basement. They hang on to checks written in the last century in fear that the government will come beating on their door requesting proof of a "Save the Children" donation. The good news is that with the help of a professional organizer, asking the right questions, they were able to re-frame their thinking. The gift was not meant to weigh them down, the IRS has rules about what you need to keep and for how long, and their parents would rather they stayed warm in their garage.

We need reminders and support as we learn to deal with the stuff in our life. We need reminders to bless others when we have more than we need. We need guides to help us make rules for ourselves about what to keep, for how long, or what to do when we inherit a household. Remember- no product will completely make you organized. You have to first re-frame your thinking. The goal for each year is just to get better.