Monday, October 19, 2009

Time Flies

It's been waay too long since I've made an entry here and for that I am sorry. Hard to believe that it is October (almost November) already. Now is the time, if you haven't already done so, to begin preparing for tax season. Yes, that's right, it is almost upon us. There are an unprecedented number of new items to deal with this year, thanks to TAARP. A number of these are tax write-offs and incentives. Given the opportunity, it might not be a bad idea to get familiar with what is available until the end of the year to see if you can take advantage of it.

Here are the basic ground rules I use in approaching what to keep and what not to keep. If it has a tax impact, keep it, if not, toss it (unless there is some other reason, such as a dispute or legal matter that merits the item being kept). If you don't know what has a tax impact, it is a really good idea to become educated about such matters. You are welcome to ask questions of me, or consult your financial advisor or accountant.

The more organized your records are, the less money you will end up spending on having tax professionals organize your records. Basic organization consists of: Tax Forms (mostly these deal with income and interest deductions such as 1099's, W-2's, 1098's etc.); Schedule A items (these would be medical expenses, taxes paid like vehicle taxes and other itemized deductions); Schedule C items (which I won't go into now....too much explanation needed); Schedule D items (backup for any stock sales and the like that are captured on a 1099). If you set up files for these and routinely file bills and receipts in the files, preparing for taxes can be quite simple. And the additional benefit is that once taxes are done, you can file away the backup and you are already set up for the next year. If you want further detail on setting up your filing for taxes, please write me and let me know.

In the meantime, for those of you experiencing it, enjoy the fall weather.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Last week I was watching a show on A & E that focuses on hoarders. It was fascinating. I am acquainted with one of the organizers who worked with one of the hoarders.

It reminds me of how difficult this issue is to address. Hoarders, for the most part, are unable to distinguish between what is and what is not valuable. Letting go of items is an extremely anxiety ridden proposition. Many times hoarding is a result of needing to exert control over an environment. To alter the environment and mind set of the hoarder is often a long term project. Frequently, a team approach is helpful and patience and being non-judgmental are critical.

One of the things I found really fascinating is the level of detail the hoarders were able to report about the most minute items (even food that had completely rotted!).

All of this made me ask myself, where am I a hoarder in my life? We all have things that we have a hard time letting go of. Even things we know have little to no value. This is different from collecting of course. For me, silly as it sounds, I find it hard to throw away plastic grocery bags. I suspect this is both from an environmental standpoint and a utilitarian one. I end up using them for trash can liners, but somehow the volume of bags always outstrips the amount of uses I have for them.

So, what do you have trouble letting go of? And why, do you think, that is? It will be interesting to see who has what to say.

Have a good weekend, all.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

On Blogging

Ok, I admit it. I still don't quite get this whole blogging and twittering thing. Maybe it's because I am a professional organizer and I don't want to clutter up the internet with my every thought (that's an attempt at humor of course). I don't think anyone (sometimes including me) is that interested in my every thought. I would prefer to write when I have something to say. It would be even more fun if anyone would pose a question or start a dialogue. It is difficult to think of new things to write about on a regular basis. I mean I could write about just about anything, but who would want to read that?

For example, I was quoted in the local paper on August 2nd in an article about helping children keep their rooms tidy.

I have also been accepted as a local "expert" on organizing on (Tucson) and will be publishing my first article in the next few days.

I guess what I would like to know is: what would YOU like to know?

Jump right in and ask. I promise to respond.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What the Heck IS a Professional Organizer?

I am often asked by people who have never heard of my profession, what exactly is a professional organizer.

First of all, Professional Organizers, much like lawyers and doctors are often specialists. Some work only with physical space organization, some only with paper, some only residential, and so on. There is an enormous range of services being offered. For the most part, we all work with systems and processes. I consider myself to be a general practitioner, as I offer a pretty broad array of services. Some examples of services I have performed include (in no particular order): entire house organizing or re-organizing; room or area specific organizing; home office set-up and organizing; work-flow process development; estate inventorying, moving prep. (packing/unpacking), and coordination, yard sales, tax preparation, downsizing, filing systems, software training, public speaking, business systems, policies & procedures, and so on.

What often prompts that first call is that someone has reached a point of frustration or overwhelm that has pushed them over the edge. Or, they just recognize a need for assistance in dealing with a situation. When this happens, a professional organizer can be an enormous help. Because we are not inside your chaos, we can bring calm, objective counsel as well as action to what may appear to be an insurmountable problem.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Why do so many of us have a love affair with books that tends to take over our space?  

When I was a child, we moved about every three years.  This, I suspect, led, as least in part, to my relationship with books.  Unlike friends I made along the way, they came with me everywhere and, to some extent, became the friends I could count on being there.

Most of my clients have substantial and unwieldy book collections that take up huge amounts of space in their environments.  So, I though perhaps we should look at that today.

As I have gotten older, I have gotten better about keeping books.  Ask yourself, truthfully, are you going to read a particular book again?  Really?  If so, then keep it.  How many books are in your collection that you have NEVER read?  That should tell you something, too.

If you are concerned that you will forget what you have read, maybe you could keep a list (say on a spreadsheet).   This is especially useful when we are working our way through an author's entire collection.  Such as Tony Hillerman, Janet Evanovich, Anne McCaffrey.  When authors are prolific it is easy to forget which books we have read, and which we've not yet.

Think of it as going green.  Once you have read a book, pass it on, trade it in for credit at a used book store, sell it.  Just don't let them take over the house or office!!!

Have a mindful day.

Friday, June 19, 2009


As Michael Douglas's character in the movie Wall Street said (even though I disagree with HIS statement), laziness is GOOD!  

I believe that one of the best benefits of getting and staying organized is that it is for lazy people (like me!).  I personally do not want to spend one more minute than I have to doing things I don't want or like to do.  The best way I know of to reduce the amount of time we spend tending to the tedium of everyday life is to be organized.  The set up will be a bit time consuming, but maintenance is a breeze.  Ideally, we want to set up our environments so that the tools we need to complete the task at hand are all within easy reach.  For example, when working with paper, a shredder, recycle box, trash can, and appropriate files should all be in reach of where you are sitting.  That way you deal with the paper pretty much only one time.  If you have a small set of files on your work surface for organizing the papers for action, that will also help reduce the amount of time you spend with them.  Examples might be such things as: Bills to Pay; Things to Schedule; Calls to Make and so on.

Have a lazy weekend, and feel to write me with any questions you may have.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Even organizers need time off from their work!  Even though weekends can be busy for us.  It is important for all of us to take a break, clear our heads (and hearts), acknowledge our blessings (i.e. gratitude), and take a deep long slow breath.

The process of getting organized is for the long haul, as far as I am concerned.  So, remember to take some time off and recognize how far you have come.  Honor the progress and continue the journey with a clear head and heart.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Why Do We Keep "Stuff"

There are many reasons that people keep things.  
1.  Many of us have a difficult time parting with things that still have functionality, because we see it as wasteful to discard it.
2.  Another often heard reason is that we spent money on it and it would be like throwing away our money.  How about this one?
3. Someone gave it to us and we don't want to hurt their feelings.  
4.  If I get rid of it I'll end up needing it later and won't have it.  
5.  We inherited it.  
6.  It represents something to us on some emotional or psychological level.  

All of these may indeed be valid reasons to keep things, but let's look a bit closer.  
1.  If something still has functionality, but YOU are not putting it to work, the only thing it is doing is taking up space that could be better used.  Donate it, or give it someone who actually does have a use for it.  Or, start putting together a yard sale.

2.  The money that you spent is gone so you could say that you already wasted it.  Use it or lose it.

3.  People do not give gifts as a punishment.  Re-gift, donate or sell things that you will never use.  And come clean with the gift giver.  I would bet that they would rather give you a gift you really wanted, but don't know what you like.

4.  Someday may or may not arrive, and I would tend to believe that if and when that day ever comes, you won't be able to find the darn thing anyway.  So....why let it take up space?

5.  We are not required to like things just because they were passed down.  If it has meaning for you (and you have the room for it), by all means keep it.  If not, find a home for it that honors the meaning it has for you.

6.  Consider whether it still has meaning for you, or if it just a place holder for a memory.  No one can take away your memories and there are ways to honor those memories without surrounding ourselves with clutter.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Getting truly organized does not happen overnight.  It is a process and one that usually takes some time.  It may help to remember that:
1.  It didn't get this way overnight; it won't be fixed overnight.
2.  It is likely to get worse before it gets better (this is just the nature of things).
3.  It will take longer than you thought.
4.  You will discover things along the way that you had not anticipated.

Getting started and continuing to chip away at the backlog (even 15 minutes a day) will keep things moving along.  If you find you are overwhelmed or discouraged, call in support whether it be friends (who know what they are doing) or a pro.  The professional organizer can provide a range of services, from consulting and advising on how you are doing, to working hands-on with you.

While organizing is not rocket science, it can be quite daunting nonetheless.  You are in the process of cleaning out your life.  You are confronting that which has been pushed aside, forgotten or ignored.  So, take heart.  It is a journey.  Try to have fun and laugh as often as you can.  It is worth the effort.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Getting Started

Clients frequently want to "clean things up" before my first visit with them.  This reminds me of how my mom used to make us clean the house before the house cleaner would come.  It didn't make sense then and it still doesn't today.  Anyone who has been doing professional organizing for any period of time has seen pretty much everything.  Perhaps the worst scenario I have encountered was with an elderly gentleman who suffered from dementia and emphysema and was living in deplorable conditions.  Not only was it virtually impossible to make my way through the house because of the piles of newspapers and everything else, this poor man was living in a completely unsanitary environment. (Think rodents)

As organizers, we would prefer that you NOT do anything in preparation for our first meeting except think about what you would like to accomplish.  Part of an initial meeting includes an assessment of how you really live, not how you want others to think you live.  It is actually important to us to see reality so that we can devise an effective strategy for rectifying the situation.  The "mess" helps us to learn more about you and how you relate to and live in the environment that you want to change.  As we look through, well, everything, and talk together, we begin to discover how things got this way, and this helps us understand your learning style, strengths and weaknesses.

These are just some of the factors that we take into account in developing a strategy that fits your situation and needs.  So, don't clean it up before we come (there will be plenty of time for that once we start!)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Organizers and Stuff

I am often asked if I am going to make a client "get rid of things". My response to that question is this: It is not my job to make you get rid of anything; it is my job to assist you in making decisions that are consistent with your goals.

The reality is we have a limited amount of space, not just physical space, but emotional and mental space as well. You can keep anything you want as long as you are willing to pay the price for keeping it. We often have emotional attachments to objects that usually have nothing to do with the objects themselves, but what they represent. As part of the process of organizing, it is not unusual to revisit these connections and determine what is currently relevant, and what has been moved past. In working with clients, we will frequently come up with ways of preserving and honoring the meaning of the things without necessarily keeping the things themselves.

For example, I kept many of my favorite children's books so that I could pass them on to my niece and nephew. It took me a while to recognize, and recover from the disappointment that, they were never going to relate to them the same way I did, and that they would never resonate with them the same way. The world had become a different place since my childhood and what had/has meaning for me, may or may not for them.

That was a hard pill to swallow, but it did provide me with more useful options for what to do with these things. Some of them did end up going to my niece and nephew (a few), but most were sent to places where they could be appreciated as I had appreciated them. Some I even kept just to remind myself of who I was way back then.

What do you think?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Why Get Organized

Welcome to my very first blog.  I want this to be a place where people can ask about or learn about organizing and daily money management.  Since I am quite new to the whole "blogging" thing, I hope you will be gentle with me as I learn and grow.  Your input is welcome.  Initially, I think I will start with an idea a day or a question a day.  Once things get rolling this may change.

So, who am I anyway?  

I have been a professional organizer for over twenty years and have worked and lived in many places.  I love what I do and am passionate about it.  Organizing is not so much about stuff as it is about relationships (at least in my opinion).  I do the work I do because it is transformative and, when truly successful, makes a difference in people's quality of life.  Whether in a residential or work environment, a nurturing and sustaining place reduces stress and increases productivity.  I mean, really, who wants to be yelled at by their homes when they walk in the door or into the office?

So, welcome aboard, and please feel free to participate.

Today's thought:  Needing a professional to help you get and stay organized is not a personal or moral failure on your part.
No one thinks they are somehow lacking when they hire a plumber or attorney, but many of us think we should be able to handle getting and staying organized on our own.  In actuality, having an "outsider" come in and assess your environment offers the opportunity for you to get a fresh perspective on what may or may not be working for you.