A Simple Season

By Patty Kreamer

Ah, the holiday season…a time for joy and celebration…or is it? Many people turn into Scrooge as October and November approach and the stores quickly change from back-to-school displays to Christmas before you can blink an eye.

It can sometimes feel like a lead blanket falling on you with all the pressure that the holidays can incur. And if one more person asks you, “Are you done with your shopping yet?”, you think you might go ballistic!

Holidays bring clutter, and not just physical clutter; they bring mental, emotional and time clutter, too. The parties, the family get-togethers, the obligatory gift buying, the pressure to out-do the gift from the year before, the running around and standing in long lines to buy things that nobody really wants, online companies that run out of stock, the baking of holiday cookies…at times it seems like it will never end!

It’s time to make the holiday season a more meaningful, pleasant experience to look forward to rather than an ulcer-inducing occasion. Check out these holiday survival skills that come in handy when if comes to getting organized and managing time more wisely.

  • Will it be missed? Before saying yes, ask yourself, “If I don’t do this, what will happen?” If you can live with the answer, then just don’t do it! For example, if you’ve always gone to your Aunt’s house for your holiday dinner but do so out of guilt, ask what would happen if you didn’t go. If you won’t be disowned, consider starting a new tradition of a quiet family dinner at your own home.
  • Plan your holiday season. Remember, there are only 24 hours in a day. Limit yourself to so many parties (hosting and attending) to avoid over commitment. As you plan, be sure to schedule only those things that will bring you joy.
  • Be super-organized with your Christmas lists. Use an app (Evernote, Inkpad, there are a million out there!) to make and keep your list each year. Revisit last year’s, set a budget, and go!
  • Put decorating on your calendar, not your to-do list! Actually schedule a time to do it and involve the whole family to make it fun.
  • Contain it. Many companies have made life much simpler by designing storage containers made especially for the holidays. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors that make identifying them easy and logical (wreath-shaped containers, tube shaped containers for rolls of wrapping paper). This makes retrieval and putting items away an effortless task rather than a time-consuming chore.
  • Ask for gifts that take up no space: Gift certificates, lottery tickets, a massage, manicure, or pedicure package, or movie passes. This reduces the clutter in your life and provides you with entertainment that you will enjoy. Also, consider giving gift certificates. This reduces your shopping time considerably.
  • Ignore the hype. December was NOT invented to drive people crazy trying to out-do each other’s gift-buying abilities. Make a conscious effort to ignore all of the commercialism and you’ll be less inclined to participate in all the hype.
  • Holiday cards – should I or shouldn’t I? If you struggle with this, be sure you feel it in your heart when you send those cards. It’s OK to forego them for a year to see if they are missed. If they are, you’ll hear about it and you can send them next year!

There you have it…your guide to surviving the holidays. Being organized, managing your time and only putting on your plate that which will bring you joy can make for a much more enjoyable and peaceful holiday season.

After all, there is no sense in running around if nobody would miss it if you didn’t!

Patty Kreamer is a Certified Professional Organizer®, Productivity Coach, speaker, Everything DiSC Workplace® Certified Facilitator and author of But I Might Need It Someday!, The Power of Simplicity, and Success Simplified with Stephen Covey. She coaches her clients to develop strategic practices to manage time, attention and life to live the most productive life they desire.

Disaster Preparedness

By Shawndra Holmberg

September was National Preparedness Month and we’ve seen two of the largest hurricanes sweep through the southern states while wildfires are burning in the West. Though these disasters may not be likely to occur here in Western Pennsylvania, we face our own emergencies and disasters. A situation doesn’t have to affect a community to be a disaster. A disaster is anything that requires more resources than you have. It can affect only your family. A house fire or a car repair could exceed your resources. You need to be prepared for emergencies. Here are three areas to begin your preparations.


Build an emergency fund. Most financial articles will tell you to have anywhere from three months to a year of expenses in savings. You can build that emergency fund by saving 10% of your paycheck. But if you’re living paycheck to paycheck then you may need to start smaller. Save your change. Pocket change adds up. When you have enough, open a separate bank account for your emergency fund. Then keep saving your change and add it to the account.

Have cash on hand. During a disaster that affects your community you may need to purchase supplies but if the power is out your credit cards and debit cards can’t be used. The ATMs may be down. Have cash on hand in small bills. Build a stash of 200 one-dollar bills. Collect your $1s one at a time.


•Get your pet microchipped and take the next and most important step — register your pet. After hurricane Katrina was over 70% of the rescued dogs were never returned to their owners. Most of them had microchips but were not registered or the contact information was not updated. For more information on microchipping and registering your pet go to 3 Easy Steps to the Safe Return of Your Pet.

•Collect emergency supplies for your pets and include the following items:









For more details and to download this list go to Prepare your Pets – Build an Emergency Supply Kit.


Designate emergencies contacts. Families don’t spend every waking moment together and a disaster can hit at any time. You’ll want to know everyone is all right, but what if you can’t get a hold of them directly? Having an established check-in contact can ease the worry of being separated in an emergency. Designate two individuals outside of your household to be your points of contact.

One contact will be local like nearby friends or grandparents who live in a neighboring town. The other contact should be out of state or at least on the other side of the state. This could be an aunt, a cousin, or family friends that moved away last year. An out-of-state contact is recommended because sometimes it can be easier to make a call across the country than across town during a disaster.

Let your emergency contacts know they’re designated. Practice checking in once or twice a year to ensure the communication plan works and everyone knows the number to call. Record the phone numbers in various ways and don’t rely on the cell phone as your single source for the number. Cell phones are lost and phone batteries can be drained.

Plan to text rather than call in a disaster. During an emergency, the bandwidth on your cell phones may be reserved for emergency personnel or just overwhelmed with calls. Text uses a smaller bandwidth and is more likely to get through when the system is flooded with calls. For more information go to Keep the lines of communication open & powered up.

What Does It Mean to be Organized?

By Lynn Dubinett


Ok.  So, you want to get organized.  You’re committed and ready to go!  You page through magazines and look on Pinterest for ideas.  After a while, confusion sets in.  You ask yourself, “How the heck am I going to make my house look like?!”  Frustrated, you close Pinterest, toss the magazines aside, and let out a sigh of disgust and defeat.  You think to yourself, “my house will never look like that, what’s the use?”

Time and again, I’ve heard clients speak of this scenario.  The comparison of their home to those found in print and online leaves many feeling embarrassed and ashamed.  My question to my clients is always the same…Have you ever asked if those pictures are an accurate representation of what your organized space should look like?  Oftentimes, we are so quick to jump into a project that we forget to define the purpose of the project.

Something to keep in mind the next time you’re scanning for ideas is this:  Magazines are in the magazine business; they are not in the organizing business.  They exist so that you will buy them.  Period.  That photograph of a perfectly, pretty, linen closet with perfectly, pretty labels and perfectly, pretty towels is in the magazine because perfectly pretty sells magazines.  But let me ask you this…suppose I sent my 14-year-old son into that perfectly linen closet to get a towel.  How long do you suppose that perfectly pretty state will last?  Probably not long.  Why?  Because real-life wins over perfectly, pretty every time.

My suggestion is to throw out those predefined concepts of organizing and take a few minutes and think about what being organized means to you.  For example, for me, being organized means being able to find what I’m looking for, having my son and husband know where things are, being able to put things away quickly, easily, and in the places where they belong.  It also means easily preparing for my, my son’s, and my husband’s next steps (whatever those may be).  For my son, that may be soccer practice, for my husband that may be a long bike ride the next day, for me that may be the gym, work, followed by errands.  Mix in notes to school, business trips, and maintenance of the home, cars and pets, and you end up with a clear understanding of how crucial organization is to my family.  Don’t get me wrong, I like sprinklings of perfectly pretty but if I try perfectly pretty with sprinklings of organization, the system will fail.  I guarantee it.

So, here’s your challenge.  Before you start looking at magazines and photos online, ask yourself, “what does being organized look like for me?”  Perhaps being organized for you will have more sprinklings of perfectly pretty than mine.  That’s ok.  The important thing is that you ask the question and think about it.  You do that, and may find yourself unstuck and moving forward with your project.  Good Luck!


1 https://challengingdisorganization.org/certification/level-iii-certified-professional-organizer-chronic-disorganization-cpo-cd%C2%AE

Lynn Dubinett of Dubinett Organizing Solutions holds specialist certificates in ADD, Chronic Disorganization, and Hoarding through the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD).  Lynn is currently working toward her CPO-CD® (Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization) and will be graduating in September.  The CPO-CD® student spends 17-20 months of intensive time studying and applying practical application with current clients.  The CPO-CD® program is specifically geared to improve the quality of service, techniques and knowledge professional organizers provide to their CD clients.1

Lynn also holds a B.A. in Marketing and Communication from Chatham College in Pittsburgh.

Get Your Home to Sell Faster!


Sandra Lane CPO

Organization Lane, LLC


Most homebuyers form an opinion about a house within the first 7-10 seconds!!

In order to take advantage of those first impressions, I suggest editing, organizing and staging every part of your house.

Some benefits that come from organizing before you move:

1 Sell your home faster

  1. There will be less to dust and maintain.
  2. Less to pack up when you move which will result in less money spent on moving.


Here are a few areas to tackle before you call your realtor.

1.)Front porch – cleared of bikes, strollers and any other unnecessary extras. Use  porch furniture with comfy pillows and potted flowers to make it look inviting.

2.)Entryway– keep it spacious and welcoming.  Items that may regularly live in this area should be removed for showings and open houses.

3.)Kitchen- Cabinets, pantry, refrigerator, and countertops should all be edited and organized neatly.  Create as much counter space as possible by removing unnecessary appliances.  Remove excess magnets, notes and photos from the refrigerator.

4.)Great Room– edit knick-knacks, personal photos, board games, dvd’s, books.  Ask yourself: Do I need it?  Do I use it? Do I want to move it?  If the answer is no, then donate it.  Take an honest look at what you own and display what you treasure the most.

5.)Bedrooms- clear off dressers and night stands.  Trim down your belongings to what you use most frequently.

6.)Closets and Clothes – Use slim line hangers to create a neat and spacious look. Create more room in your closet with some editing.  Ask yourself: Does it look good on me?  Have I worn it?  Do I love it? If you still need more space, consider moving off-season clothes into storage bins.

7.)Toys –buyers want to see the room not the toys covering the room.  In addition, to purging unused toys, consider storage options that make last minute cleanups quick and easy.  Bookshelves with bins or baskets and large toy chests could be your solution.

8.)Garage- Go Vertical!  Use walls and the ceiling for storage of items from bins to garden tools and bicycles.  Again, purge when necessary.  Create zones for each area, such as workbench, sport equipment, gardening, recycling and don’t forget your car!


Once you’ve edited your home… There are various charitable resources to donate your unwanted belongings, including Good Will, St. Vincent DePaul, church rummage sale, friends or family.   If you’re still looking to create more room in your house – you may want to temporarily rent a mobile storage unit such as MyWayStorage.com- they can store your items off-site and move them to your new home.

According to a study by HomeGain.com, the act of cleaning and de-cluttering your home offers you the highest return on investment at 872%!!!   Happy Selling!


“ Remember this, that very little is needed to make a happy life.”  – Marcus Aurelius

Decluttering Your Mind with Vision Boards

By: Courtney Southard, Owner of Mind Over Mess, LLC

There’s a reason February is the shortest month of the year. The wonder and magic of the holidays are gone, and we’re officially in the middle of winter. Our minds can often reflect the weather – dreary, cloudy, and cold.vision-board

I’m typically energized to take a deep breath on January first and start fresh. I make a list of everything I’m going to change or do in the new year and for the first couple of weeks, I do pretty well. Yet, I slowly sizzle back into old habits and the busyness of life.

This year was different for me: I was exhausted, and honestly, wouldn’t have been able to find my head if it wasn’t attached to my shoulders. You know what I mean? Brain fog. No clear vision.

So I decided to create a vision board. What’s a vision board? It’s a place where you can organize thoughts and focus on how you want to feel, in addition to things you want or want to accomplish. It helps organize your priorities and gives intentionality to how you spend your time. What we focus on overflows into everyday life and what we tell ourselves matters. By creating a vision board and looking at it frequently, you do short visualization exercises throughout the day.

Our minds are often the first place we need to start to declutter, and visualization is a powerful tool to help you do that. Visualization has been used for decades to improve performance. Psychology Today reported that “the [brain] patterns activated when a weightlifter lifted hundreds of pounds were similarly activated when they only imagined lifting.” Seasoned athletes use this tool religiously. Golfer Jack Nicklaus once said, “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head” (LeVan, 2009). The mind-body connection is strong; how we think often affects our behavior.

So how do you create a vision board? First, there’s no right or wrong way. If you love to scrapbook, grab piles of magazines, glue, and poster board. If you want something more dynamic, use cork board and push pins. If the thought of crafts makes you cringe, create a digital board and save it as your desktop background.

Here are some tips for getting started (Rider, 2015):

  • Remember the purpose of the board – to bring everything on it into fruition. Think about your goals and how you want to feel in various life areas (relationships, career, family life, finances, spirituality, etc.). Write words of affirmation, quotes, sayings, or find pictures that represent those goals and feelings.
  • Although you can include tangible things you want or want to accomplish, also include things that embody the emotions you’re seeking. For example, a photo from a family vacation may remind you of closeness you want to feel with your kids.
  • You can create a central board, encompassing a variety of life areas spanning an extended period of time, or mini boards for a specific timeframe, season, event, or area of your life (the summer months, career path, wedding day, etc.).
  • Place the board in a prominent place that you’ll see daily.
  • Adapt your board as you grow or redo a board entirely.
  • Give yourself time to do this. Set aside a couple of hours, set the mood, and have fun.

This year, give yourself the gift of an organized mind. Life’s too short to sit in brain fog or to mechanically go through the motions. Set a goal to create a vision board for how you want this year to go and feel. Test whether it provides clarity and focus. What do you have to lose?

LeVan, A., MAPP. (2009, December 3). Seeing Is Believing: The Power of Visualization. Retrieved December 19, 2016, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/flourish/200912/seeing-is-believing-the-power-visualization

Rider, E. (2015, January 12). The Reason Vision Boards Work and How to Make One. Retrieved December 19, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-rider/the-scientific-reason-why_b_6392274.html

Magda Kay. (n.d.).Vision board – a secret, yet extremely easy, shortcut to achieving your goals [online image]. Retrieved from http://psychologyformarketers.com/vision-board/

Time Saving Tips for the New Year

Winter is fast approaching, and now that your fall routines have been established (I hope), you may have had some successes and possibly, some glitches.  Here are some time-saving tips that should help create a better sense of organization (and maybe even a sense of peace) in the coming months:

Communicate and Delegate

Instead of “doing it all, all the time,” make a list of the things that only you can do, but also make a list of the things that a family member can do to help you. Older children can be a big help when it comes to running errands, shopping, and deeper cleaning around the house. Younger children can help sort clothes and toys, tidy, and prepare easy meals. This just doesn’t apply to family life. If you are on a volunteer committee, can you enlist more members to divide and conquer the work?

Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More


Time Management

Are you a list-maker? How many calendars do you have? Try to get your calendars down to one. It is hard to manage too may people, tasks and time if they are spread out between a family calendar, for example, and a personal calendar. Try to decide if you will use a computer calendar (like Google Calendar) where multiple people can add and revise their appointments (soccer games, date night plans, work commitments), or if there will be a paper calendar located in one central location in the house. When planning appointments and projects, take into consideration what else might be happening around the same time. Will it impact your plans? Also, consider distance, cost (this includes hours – not just money), and the value that that activity will bring to you and to your family. I hear, often too late, many regrets about commitments such as travel soccer AND dance lessons took a huge toll on the family’s ability to enjoy their time together. I put my daily tasks in my calendar as appointments. I never miss appointments, even with myself! Taking time to really plan – even months ahead – can save so much aggravation and stress. It can also help you align your activities with your priorities.

Carve Out Time for the Unexpected

We usually set out at the beginning of our day with great intentions. Then, the phone rings, and something needs to be handled now. A piece of mail comes and we wish we hadn’t opened it, because we have to call about it now. When our day turns upside down with new priorities, we feel washed out and truly unproductive. So many times, we don’t make room for the unexpected. Planning for 2 hours of interruptions really helps to manage our expectations better, and to leave us feeling more in control of our day.

Finish What You Start

So many of us heard this from teachers, parents, and grandparents growing up. It is the habit that kept the kitchen clean, the homework done, and got us through our chores. It is what kept us from quitting that soccer team that we didn’t like, and made us see an end in sight for the unpleasant work ahead (whatever it was). An example of this would be that if you begin to open your mail, don’t walk away from a half-processed pile of paper. Instead, treat it like a meal. Sit down, dig in, digest, and clean your dishes. So, when it’s time to “eat,” you would open your non-junk mail, read what’s inside, put the bills in your “to pay” folder, and file the reference papers in that cabinet upstairs/downstairs. Then you would recycle the paper trash, and shred the sensitive info.

Choose One New Routine That Will Make a Big Differencefile-box

Try to pick a new routine or strategy that will help you feel better about your time or your environment. My clients that choose one (and only one!) thing and make it a habit can usually make it stick for years. I have a former client that recently told me that she still sorts her mail the way I taught her. Another one told me that she blocks her time in her day so that she always has enough time to get her three planned tasks done, and the three that come up during that time.
Winter can be a great season to really make some lasting changes.  Keep it simple, and create the kind of life you want to live!
Jill Yesko, CPO, CPPO
Professional Organizer and Senior Move Manager
Discover Organizing Inc.
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On Decluttering & Organizing: Think like Forrester: “…the thinking comes later”

brucekozakBy: Bruce Kozak – President/Owner
Bin There Dump That, Pittsburgh

Let’s face it, for many of us, occasionally, we need to be “in-the-zone” to just start on chores or tasks, some of which may include de-cluttering & organizing.

According to a study from Princeton University, “physical clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress.” The marketing research firm Harris Interactive found that 23 percent of adults incur late-payment fees because they lose bills. The results of an online poll conducted by About.com suggest that more than one-third of readers “avoid going home because of the overwhelming mess and don’t know where to begin cleaning.” And, just starting on the task can seem overwhelming, as we sometimes first make “preparations” to simply get started. In the case of writing a letter, this may include arranging the chair, adjusting the lighting, and looking for the favorite pen. Aren’t we really trying to delay the main task at-hand?

Yet, there may be a simple solution for how to get started. I’ve often utilized an “uncommitted mindset” whereby I simply just start on certain tasks with the intention that I’ll commit no more than five (5) to 10 minutes on them. In essence, I simply just start on them. This approach seems to get me in the groove, without over-thinking myself out of actually executing the task.

One of my favorite movies is “Finding Forrester”. Sean Connery expertly plays William Forrester, a reclusive and brilliant writer, once awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize. Jamal Wallace is the supporting character (played by Rob Brown), a high school basketball star, who is accepted into a prestigious private high school, not only for his skills on the court, but also his academic test scores. Their passion for writing brings them together, despite their diverse backgrounds and age differences. Forrester mentors Rob’s writing, and tells him the key to writing is not first thinking about it… – but instead to simply just start to write. Forrester says “No thinking — that comes later. … The first key to writing is… to write, not to think!”

Writers can oftentimes find themselves entering an unpleasant mental block if there is too much thinking before initiating the writing phase. Remember “Throw Mama from the Train”: The night was “Thick” (“…you nincompoop!”)!!

So, the next time you are faced with the task of de-cluttering and organizing, or any other task, for that matter, and you need a little incentive to start, try simply just starting on it. Oftentimes, you’ll find that once your “in-the-groove”, you’ll find that after 10 minutes have passed, you’ll feel good for having accomplished your goal – and, you’ll quite likely continue on with it, accomplishing much more than you initially intended. You can stop anytime – But, just maybe you’ll accomplish much more than you initially had planned!

Dealing with Grief and Organization As Professional Organizers

By Vickie Dellaquila, CPO®, CPO-CD®

stuffedbunnyI bought an oversized stuffed bunny the day my mom died. I am not sure why I did, but it seemed to help me at that time. My mother died in March and, as for most people, it is a very difficult experience to go through, not only as a daughter, but as a professional organizer.

My mom and I were not real close — I was raised by my father from the age of ten and lived with him in Wisconsin. My mom lived in El Paso after their divorce. She suffered from various mental health issues and addictions, but waited to deal with them near the end of her life. She lost her left arm in a horrible trolley car accident at the age of seven, which affected her life quite a bit and may have contributed to her addictions and issues. I became very involved with my mother’s care a few years ago as her POA and executor of her will. I have three siblings; however, they are estranged from my mother, so I took on the task of making sure bills were paid and things were being taken care of for her. I live in Pittsburgh and she lived in El Paso adding geographical challenges. I usually went to El Paso every few months for the last few years to take care of things for my mom and to visit her. Luckily, I have a cousin in El Paso and a wonderful nurse’s aide who was my eyes and ears with me living so far away.

I realized as her daughter and POA, I needed to make sure issues were taken care of and organized. Having life issues addressed and organized with a loved one is very important, as I found out firsthand through this experience. I always have heard and known as a professional organizer how important it is to have a will in place, funeral arrangements taken care of, and what will happen to belongings.  With my interests focused on helping the chronically disorganized, the professional organizer in me needed to make sure these things were done.

One of my first tasks was getting her will in order and becoming her POA. I went through many months of getting bills switched over to me and setting up a bank account in Pittsburgh for her so I could take care of her bills. I had to deal with getting Social Security and an Army pension deposited into this account and it took a little while and considerable effort to do so.

My mom went into hospice eight months before she died and the hospice asked me several times about whether funeral arrangements were in place. I procrastinated, of course. Facing your parent’s mortality is difficult; however, it made sense to get these things in place. I finally did make the funeral arrangements for my mom six weeks before she died. I am so glad I took care of the arrangements prior to her death. It made an enormous difference in my life to not have to worry about what to do and make these decisions after she died.

Fortunately, I was able to get to El Paso to see my mom the day she died. I got there just after noon and she died around 11 pm on March 16. After she died, the funeral home was called. Having it already set up was a relief for me. The next morning, I needed to go to the skilled care place where my mother lived and clean out her small room. Prior to her death, each trip I would go through her belongings with her and take things back with me. My mother had me take most of her photographs, memorabilia, and more. I also had discussed with her what her last wishes were. This was not an easy conversation to have, but it allowed for her to make decisions and also prevented me from always wondering if I did as she wanted. The last trip before my mother’s death, I took her art supplies (my mother was an artist). As I loaded paint brushes and palettes in my suitcase, I realized all the things that are important to her are going with me and she probably was not going to live much longer.

After her death, it was very emotional going through her clothes– folding them for donation to the community. I didn’t think it would be that hard, since we were not that close and I had things organized ahead of time, but it was. My cousin and my husband came to help me clear out the room, too. My cousin wanted to let go of her clothing very quickly and then I realized how hard it is for our clients to do this. My cousin was helping me; however, I felt these things were not being honored.

My mother’s ashes were buried at Fort Bliss National Cemetery six weeks after her death. This decision had been made and arranged before she died.  Now I understand how being organized was so important.

Many of our CD clients procrastinate about many things, including dealing with the death of a loved one. As a professional organizer, it is so important to help our clients with these issues. For example, we must realize the importance of understanding their feelings and emotions while honoring their loved one’s things as they are letting go of them, giving them the space and time to do this.
If we are working with a client in making prearrangements, it is important to guide them in:

  • gathering paperwork so you know what is happening
  • updating the will or making a will
  • understanding the bills so when a death does come you are organized and not searching for things
  • talking to a parent about what they want done when they die
  • asking if they want to be cremated or buried
  • finding out if they want to have a service of some kind

Knowing what your loved one wants and starting the process of helping them or you taking care of the funeral arrangements before their death is very important. It was peace of mind for me knowing to have the funeral prearranged. I didn’t have to worry about what to do with my mother and run around trying to find a funeral home in the city I was born in, but not familiar with, with little time. As professional organizers, it is important to stress to our clients the importance of being organized when caring for a loved one.

As for the bunny…I went to store to buy some cookies for the staff at the skilled care place that had taken care of my mother. As I was going to the checkout, a big stuffed rainbow colored bunny was staring at me. I recalled my aunt telling me that when my mom lost her arm at seven years old, she received many stuffed animals from the people of El Paso who read about her accident in the newspaper. That may have influenced me as I picked up that giant stuffed rabbit and bought him. As professional organizers, we know how hard the stuffed animals are to find a new home for. When I got to my car with my husband and drove to my cousin’s home, I hugged that big bunny. I guess I needed it for my own grief. The bunny helped me. As a side note, my cousin has a granddaughter who is two years old and the bunny now lives with her.


Vickie Dellaquila is a CPO®, CPO-CD and the owner of Organization Rules® in Pittsburgh, PA
providing compassionate organizing for every stage of your life ®.
She can be reached at vickie@OrganizationRules.com

Take Back Your Time: 10 Tips to Becoming More Productive

By: Kristin DiBacco

Most of us are busier than ever today.  Our days are jam packed with our jobs, activities, errands to run and parties to attend, making our heads spin.  We can become overwhelmed and less productive than we’d like.  Below are 10 tips to help all of us reclaim our time and become more productive every day!

  1. Pick the Right Calendar

Paper or electronic – just pick!  There is no secret formula for picking the right calendar or planner, but choose the one that is right for you and for your family.  Personally, I love my Gmail calendar.  It allows me share my schedule and family activities with my husband, color code and set reminders.  If you have a lot of bodies in your home with different schedules, consider a large calendar kept where everyone will see it.  Each family member gets a different color and each activity is posted, such as a doctor’s appointment or soccer practice.  This will help the entire family visualize what’s happening and when!

  1. Use it Wisely

As you enter tasks and events on your calendar, think about the to-dos that come with it, such as purchasing dessert for the dinner party Friday night, and add those to your to-do list. Also, remember to take it with you.  What good will it do if you leave your calendar in the car or at home? (Another reason the Gmail calendar is so great: It’s on your phone. You never leave home without that!)

  1. Do a Brain Dump!

Whether in a planner or a notebook, be sure to write down all the things you need to remember to do later, people you need to call, or general thoughts such as picking up milk! The is one of my favorite tricks to unclutter your brain!

  1. Plan Your Week

One of my favorite productivity quotes comes from Brian Tracy, who said, “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes.” In a day where 24 hours never seem to be enough, I will take 10 minutes anywhere I can get them! Consider places you need to be, the meals you need to eat, your children’s activities and homework, and the chores you need to accomplish.  Also think about when you are the most productive.  Do you move faster if you block out a Saturday morning to get the cleaning done or do you work best cleaning the bathroom in the evening before bed? OK, maybe cleaning the bathroom is a bad example!  One area where  my family sees the benefits of planning ahead is the weekly menu.  Not only am I not staring at the refrigerator at 5pm wondering what I can make for dinner but it has also helped our budget! A little secret: if you dread creating a new menu each week, cheat! Use the same menu two weeks in a row or eat the same meal every Tuesday night! Taco Tuesday, anyone?

  1. Prioritize your Day

What is important to you? Think about the things you have to do versus the things you think you have to do.  Write all of these things down and prioritize them starting with #1. Consult your calendar first thing in the morning so you can decide how your day will flow and what activities will fit where.

  1. Start your day early!

I am a firm believer that your day will be off to a much better start if you have at least 30 minutes to yourself before the chaotic mornings begin.  Make time for a cup of coffee, a trip to the gym, devotional time or maybe even a shower before the house is bustling!

  1. Errands

Have you considered trading childcare with a friend for a day of kid-free running around? Think about how productive you could be while kid-free.  And the kids have a built-in play date.  I consider that a win-win!

  1. Delegate

Consider a chore chart for your children.  Have each child pack their own lunch the night before or have your husband throw in a load of laundry on his way out the door. Maybe your financial state allows for you to hire help with the landscaping or cleaning.  Remember, done is better than perfect!

  1. Distractions

Emails, television and social media! The dings, the reminder notifications and Netflix. We are all guilty of getting sucked into one or all of these outlets and losing track of time – precious time we will never get back! Consider limiting your time on social media to 10 minutes in the evening or only checking your email two or three times a day!

  1. It’s OK to say NO.

We often become overwhelmed because we have so much on our plates.  Have you taken the time to think about what is truly important to you?  Are you serving on several committees? Do you really need to run to Target today or meet an associate for coffee?  Consider dropping less important things from your day-to-day plans. It is OK to be picky about commitments. Those around you won’t think anything less of you.  If anything, they will understand!

Focusing on your priorities and limiting distractions can help you live a simpler, more balanced and productive life.  Take one day at a time and soon you will start taking back your time!


Kristin DiBacco is a professional organizer and owner of The Serene Space located in the Pittsburgh area.  While working 1:1 with her clients she helps them organize their space back to calm! She recently appeared as an assistant on an episode of  A&E HOARDERS.  For more information you can find The Serene Space on the web, facebook, or call 619-672-2847!

The Business of Helping People

By Craig Simon
OwnerShelfGenie of Pittsburgh

I often get asked about my story – how I ended up here.  I’ve told it in different ways, but my answer usually covers a 17-year career in technology and market research before corporate downsizing gave me the nudge I needed to seek a chance of scenery.  My story also includes the “why” in addition to the “how”.

Being laid off at the crossroads of my life and career, I wanted my next chapter to have meaning and be rewarding.  I wasn’t out to change the world…I just wanted to have a positive impact on it.

gliding-shelving-solution-720x400_1When I started ShelfGenie of Pittsburgh, I expected to bring joy to homeowners’ lives.  And we did that.  For clients who crave organization or love to cook, pull-out shelving is a luxury that brings a lot of joy to homeowners and they are proud to show off their whiz-bang kitchens.

What I didn’t expect was how many people view our products and solutions as a need.  Pittsburgh is 6th in the country for largest population percentage of 65 and over residents, and many are independent and seek to ‘age in place’.  There are folks with physical limitations that use full extension Glide-Out shelves to simply access pots and pans from the back of a cabinet while in a wheelchair, or without bending their artificial knee.  Chronic back pain, hip replacements, and arthritis are topics of conversation we have daily with our clients.  We see our clients’ excitement after we transform their inaccessible cabinets into spaces where everything is within reach, allowing them to enjoy access and functionality that many of us take for granted.

Bringing joy to all our clients is rewarding.  Getting a hug from a client who can now reach something again is the best.

Get Your Motivation On: 5 Strategies that turn your Dreams into Triumphs

We all have goals, dreams, and someday maybe projects. Maybe you’ve even had the same wish for years. Someday you’ll write that book. Next year you’ll focus on your music. You’ll make the move to start your own company when you have more time. The dreams and possibilities are endless, but you can’t seem to start. Or maybe you did start that book, that album, or that business plan, but it’s been sitting in the drawer, box, or folder for some time now.

To move that dream from your someday-maybe pile into your triumphant profile, you may need to increase your motivation. Here are five strategies I recommend to my clients’ to get their motivation on.

  1. Read The ONE Thing. The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller is a book that can help you get clear about the ONE thing that will make your life better. He does allow you to have ONE thing in several categories of your life, such as work and personal, so don’t worry that you have to focus on business to the exclusion of your relationship or your health. The book makes it clear though that you have to focus. You need to put in the time to make your ONE thing happen. He also gives you permission to let other tasks fall by the wayside.
  2. Decide what your ONE Thing will be for the next 84 days. Does 84 days seem more doable than a year? Honey Stempka with Undo Undone came to our NAPO Pittsburgh Chapter to share a paradigm shift—84 days is the new year. I’ve never been able to make a 5-year plan (or even a 3-year plan) because I know that I don’t know what opportunities lie just around the corner. I’ll admit that when I sat in the chair of Barnes & Noble in Hilo, Hawai’i with five organizing books on my lap, I had no concept that I’d be a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization ten years later. Then again, I never dreamed two years ago that I’d start to specialize in coaching and mentoring writers to become published authors. Long term planning isn’t a viable option for me, and it probably isn’t for you either. Besides our brains are tantalized by the ‘now’ while delaying gratification is hard for most people. Focus your attention and actions for shorter time periods.
  3. Build your SURVIVED List. Counter your doubts with a list of successes. Make a list of achievements and goals you’ve accomplished. That’s your success list. Now add the ideas, dreams, and plans that you started. Even if you don’t think they were successful, add them. Don’t judge your sparks of inspiration by ultimate completion. The fact that you took your idea to the next step is what defines success for this list. The fact that you tried something new, maybe even something scary and lived to tell about it is what defines success for this list. Remember those times that you ventured into unknown territory and survived. Add them to your list.
  4. Identify the Powerful 3. Once you’ve identified your ONE thing that you will be focusing on for the next 84 days, you will then have to make choices on the rest of your daily tasks and distractions. Three powerful questions that I use with clients are:
  • What three things COULD you stop doing to make room for your ONE Thing? Which one would you like to try this week?
  • What three things COULD you start doing to support your ONE Thing? Which one would you like to try this week?
  • What three things COULD you do differently to boost your ability to stay focused on the ONE Thing? Which one would you like to try this week?
  1. Find your supportive tribe of one, several or many. You’re not the only with that dream. There are others ahead of you and even more that are a few steps behind. Find a group, or even just one person, that you can bounce ideas off of, share wins and challenges with, and who will encourage you to stretch just a little bit more. Sometimes we need others to carry our motivation over the rough spots for us while we do the same for them. Let others hold your hand on the journey to your triumphs.

Shawndra Holmberg, CPO-CD®, is a personal trainer for your productivity, and a mentor for your goals. She is a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization (CPO-CD®) and a motivational force for your creativity. She coaches writers and authors to paint the world with their words. For more information, check out Dhucks.com or email her at GetOrganized@dhucks.com.

Are you ready for a change?

by Dorothy Clear

Life should be fluid, not stagnant. From birth we grow physically and our personalities develop. Then, our worlds are shaped and our characters are sharpened by our family, teachers and friends. As we mature, life experiences can change us. Some for the better like being accepted to the school of our choice, falling in love, getting married, starting a career or a business, becoming a parent.

However, other experiences may bring conflict, sadness, or bitterness to our lives.

When our lives are happy and busy we may neglect cleaning and organizing because we consider other tasks, goals or events more important. Conversely, sometimes life is hard and we may feel stuck in our emotions. When this happens some people may say “What’s the use’; “It’s not that important”; or, “I don’t have the energy.” In either circumstance, a person or family may experience situational disorganization.

When the clutter becomes overwhelming, you will consider changing. Change will come when you can no longer stand the pain of remaining the same.

Perhaps someone has mentioned the clutter in your life is a problem. Or, maybe you saw a headline on a magazine cover, a post on Pinterest, or a television story on “How the Organize Your Home”. You begin to mentally prepare yourself for change by reading the article. After this you may or may not be ready to make a decision to take action.

The following parable may help you make your decision: There are three frogs sitting on a log. One frog decides to jump off. How many frogs are still on the log? The answer is all three are still on the log. The frog who decided to jump only made a decision and didn’t follow it up with any action.

After you have decided to get organized, you may have to think about how to meet your goals. Will the article you read suffice? Should you read more articles or a book? Whose book should you read? Should you write down your plan? Where do you start? Should you ask for help from a family member, friend or professional organizer?

Now you should be ready for action! But, beware! Your motivation may ebb and flow which may affect your progress. This is normal. The key is to work at it consistently.


by Rosemary Willis

When I am organizing, it seems like cleaning is always a must.

So make sure you have the proper supplies. I recommend that my clients set up stations for their supplies. For example, in the kitchen you can buy a caddie to put all your cleaning supplies in. Keep the caddie under the sink. This way it will be accessible when you need to pull it out.

Also, it is helpful to keep a caddie under each bathroom sink or in your linen closet. By setting this up, you will have everything at your fingertips and you will not be scrambling to find supplies when you need them. It is easier to see what you need to buy when you are shopping.

When you declutter your knick knacks, household items and kitchen items sort into stuff to give away or keep. Donate the giveaway stuff and sort the stuff you are keeping in two piles. One pile that will have to be hand washed and one that can be put into the dishwasher. When I am helping someone with their kitchen, I always try to put as much stuff in the dishwasher as I can. All dishes, canisters, stove knobs and burners. Filters from under the microwave and all parts inside the microwave.

Sponges can also be put in the dishwasher. Did you know that the typical kitchen sponge may contain 10,000 bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella per square inch? If you don’t regularly clean your kitchen sponge, get rid of it now! Otherwise, put the sponge in the covered part of the utensil basket to keep it away from the heating element.

Do you keep plastic baskets in your drawers, cabinets and refrigerator? While decluttering these spaces put the dirty baskets in the dishwasher too.

The easier you make the process the faster it will go.

Rosemary Willis is the owner of Helping Hand Organizing and specializes in residential organizing.

Get Peace of Mind – Leave Clutter Behind

Growing up with a Chronically Disorganized Parent

By: Lauren Chapin

Growing up, I had a very sweet, caring father. He was incredibly intelligent, a talented photographer, and a computer expert with great sense of humor. I always understood that there was something a little bit different about him but for most of my childhood, I wasn’t sure what. It wasn’t until I started high school that I learned that my father was receiving treatment for abnormal paranoia. He was also eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder, ADD, and OCD – all conditions which severely impacted his ability to control the physical clutter in his life.

My mother referred to my father as a “pack rat.” Now I understand him to be “chronically disorganized.” The Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) defines chronic disorganization as, “having a past history of disorganization in which self-help efforts to change have failed, an undermining of current quality of life due to disorganization, and the expectation of future disorganization.”

Any part of the house that was primarily Dad’s was cluttered with papers and things. His clean clothes were never put away because his drawers were stuffed full. He had piles of paper on the edge of every stair step. His workshop was almost impassable for all of the tools and supplies he had collected for projects that he rarely completed. He and the rest of my family shared the same frustration: Dad could never find what he was looking for. This wasn’t because he didn’t have organizational systems in place — he did. He just simply had too much. He couldn’t see what he had through the clutter. When he couldn’t find what he needed, his solution was to go out and purchase one or more replacements. Not only did this pattern of behavior clutter our shared space, it also significantly impacted our family’s financial situation. It wasn’t until my parents separated and moved out of our home that we had the opportunity to clean it out, at which time my sisters and I found duplicates of everything from DVDs to weed killer. The situation overall was incredibly frustrating, emotional, and difficult for all involved.

My experiences growing up with my father help me tremendously when I encounter similar, chronically disorganized clients, primarily because I understand that these behaviors are often a direct result of psychological or neurological conditions that are not necessarily indicative of a person’s true character. I also understand the perspective of the family members, who may feel angry, frustrated or helpless in the midst of the clutter. Many times, our clients are grappling with severe shopping addictions, major depressive disorder, ADD, or other mental or physical health issues that prevent them from maintaining their space. Qualified mental health professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, etc. are absolutely critical in the process of organizing for these individuals and families, as disorganization in this instance is simply a symptom of a larger issue which will continue to manifest without proper treatment. Qualified professional organizers are also incredibly helpful, as we are equipped with an understanding of the disorders which affect many of our clients and are trained in techniques to gently and effectively help empower them to reclaim their space. If you suspect that you or a loved one might be chronically disorganized or hoarding and in need of organizing services, consider hiring an Organizer who is both a member of NAPO and ICD. ICD offers many different certifications in Chronic Disorganization and Hoarding, the highest of which is the CPO-CD® certification.

Lauren Chapin is a professional organizer with Organization Rules®, Inc. in Pittsburgh. Lauren is a CD (Chronic Disorganization) Specialist through ICD (The Institute for Challenging Disorganization) and has appeared as an assistant on A & E’s Hoarders.

Organizing 101

By: Lynn Dubinett
Some of my favorite basic organizing tips and reminders:
1. Magical solutions do not exist. Not for weight loss, building a business, becoming debt-free, and certainly not for getting organized. Hard work and perseverance is what works.

2. Write down the answer! Why do you want to get organized? Answering this question can help you to stay motivated AND help you to re-focus when you get off track.

3. Getting organized is a process. The secret is to keep moving forward.

4. Emotions will happen. De-cluttering can be hard. The spark of joy from one item may be followed by the negative emotions that are sparked by the next item. Knowing this and preparing for it is smart.

5. Avoidance makes it bigger. The hardest part is to start. Enlist an accountability partner to help you take that first step.

6. It’s ok to ask for help. You may need a professional organizer or friend to help you. That’s ok. We all need help sometimes.

7. It’s not called Best Homes and Gardens. Aim for “better”, not perfect.

8. Celebrate the little things! Did you empty a box, drop off some donations, make a difficult decision? Celebrate it! Dance, clap your hands, text a friend. I don’t care what you do…just acknowledge it in your own fabulous way.

Feel silly texting a friend about your little accomplishment?

Share it on my Facebook page! I’ll celebrate with you!

Lynn Dubinett is a professional organizer in the Pittsburgh. Lynn is a CD Specialist, ADD Specialist, and Hoarding Specialist and is currently pursuing her CPO-CD through ICD (The Institute for Challenging Disorganization).
Lynn has appeared on TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive and in 2015, she led a team of professional organizers on A & E’s Hoarders: Family Secrets.

So you want to write a book: 5 Strategies to Turn Your Dreams Into Books

I’ve noticed a few similarities between exercise and writing.  A lot of people talk about writing a book (or exercising) but most never start;  a common excuse given for not writing (or exercising) is that there’s not enough time; and a large percentage of the people who start their book (or their exercise plan) soon quit.  Since I’ve written about making the most of your gym membership (or exercise equipment) I thought I’d apply the same strategies to your writing goals.

Make your spot a destination

Whether it’s for your exercise equipment or your writing desk, make the surrounding environment welcoming, supportive and motivating.  Some paint, better lighting, and a few inspirational decorations can make your area a destination that draws you in and gets you started.  A dark and dingy corner can suck the energy out of you before you even begin, so ensure that your space is pleasant and enjoyable while you’re exercising those writing muscles.  Make your spot a destination you want to use.

Define success through smaller goals

Success isn’t just running a marathon or seeing your book in print.  Success also includes the challenges that you overcome and the strength you develop along the way.  And, just like training for a marathon, you need to break your writing down into manageable chunks.  Don’t set your expectations of what a writing session is supposed to be so high that you don’t bother to try.  Think of what you could write in that 15-minute block of time you have.  Consider shooting for another 100 words on your manuscript instead of skipping the writing altogether.  Consistently reaching for the smaller goals will get you to the publish line sooner than you think.

Schedule it first

It’s too easy for some of us to “do it later,” but later never comes.  You need to add your writing time to your calendar before other appointments fill up the days, weeks, and months ahead.  Consider writing first thing in the morning.  Mornings are the best time to write, because regardless of how your day progresses afterwards, you can still feel good that you got your writing done for the day.

The second best time to write is any time that you can do it consistently.  Don’t wait for the muse to hit before you sit down to write.  Establish a consistent writing time regardless of your mood.  Your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard (or pen in hand) is what is important.  Schedule what’s important to you first.

Grab a buddy

Having an exercise buddy can motivate you to get out the door for that walk or make it to that yoga class on time.  The same is true for a writing buddy or support group.  Having someone to support and encourage you can make the difference between giving up and writing on.  Like-minded souls who understand the journey you face can celebrate your wins and pick you up when you stumble.  If you’re looking for a supportive group, check out NaNoWriMo in November (NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month – and it’s not just for novel writers).  I also recommend the Facebook group, Authority Self-Publishing.

Plan for mobility

You should always keep a pair of walking shoes in the car just in case you get an opportunity to get some steps in and you should set up your writing for mobility as well.  I recommend using Dropbox to keep your writing files in the cloud and accessible anywhere.  Box and Google Drive are also excellent options.

Use Evernote to collect ideas, research, and more when you’re at your desk or out-and-about.  Apps are available on iOS and Android, as well as Windows and Mac.  Grab the plug-ins for your web browsers so that you can clip articles, screenshots or the full page from your internet searches.

Though Scrivener (a writer’s word processor and project management tool wrapped up in one extremely useful software package) isn’t available for iPads or iPhones yet, but they are working on it.  For now, it’s only available for your PC or Mac (or both), but with three simple clicks you can export your manuscript into a pdf, doc, epub (common ebook format), or mobi (Kindle format) file and you’re on your way. As a writer, you’ll want to plan for your mobility since you never know when inspiration will hit.

Shawndra Holmberg, CPO-CD, is a personal trainer for your productivity, and a mentor for your goals.  She is a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization (CPO-CD) and a motivational force for your creativity.  For more information, check out Dhucks.com or email her at getorganized@dhucks.com

TOP 10 Tips For a stress free holiday!

OK, here we go…again.  If you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off this holiday season, take a deep breath and take a peak below for 10 ways to make the holidays simple and meaningful again.

  1. MAKE AN EFFORT TO IGNORE HOLIDAY COMMERCIALISM. You may find yourself less inclined to participate in all the hype if you ignore it.
  1. ASK FOR GIFTS THAT TAKE UP NO SPACE. This can include items such as dinner gift certificates, lottery tickets, a massage, a manicure, concert tickets, or movie passes. This reduces the clutter in your life and provides you with entertainment that you will enjoy.
  1. GIVE GIFT CERTIFICATES AS GIFTS. You can purchase them SO easily online, thus reducing your shopping time considerably.
  1. REMEMBER THE MEANING OF YOUR HOLIDAY. December was not invented to drive everyone crazy trying to out-do each other’s gift-buying abilities.  Take time to reflect on what it means to you and only focus on that meaning.
  1. MAKE A LIST (AND CHECK IT TWICE). Rather than letting all the tasks that need to be done for the holidays swirl around in your head, write them down on paper.  Then you can get an overview of what needs to be done and avoid procrastination.
  1. PLAN YOUR HOLIDAY SEASON. Whatever holiday you celebrate, there are only 24 hours in a day.    Limit yourself to so many parties (hosting and attending) to avoid over-commitment.  As you plan, be sure to schedule only those things that will bring you joy.
  1. PLAN YOUR DECORATING TIME! Don’t just put it on your to-do list.  Actually schedule a time to decorate and involve the whole family to make it fun.
  1. CONSIDER HOLIDAY E-CARDS. If you send holiday cards to a list full of technology savvy folks, try going online instead of the usual snail mail.  If you get negative feedback, make a note to send those folks a paper card next year.
  1. USE CONTAINERS MADE ESPECIALLY FOR THE HOLIDAYS. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors that make identifying them easy and logical (color-coded for clear recognition, tube shaped containers that will easily accommodate rolls of wrapping paper, etc.).  Be sure to label all of your containers.  This makes retrieval and putting away an effortless task rather than a time consuming chore.
  1. ENJOY THE HOLIDAYS! December was NOT invented to drive people crazy trying to out-do each other’s gift-buying abilities. The trick is to make a conscious effort to ignore all of the commercialism that the holidays produce and you may find yourself less inclined to participate in all the hype.


Patty Kreamer, CPO, ACC is a Partner of Referral Institute of W. PA, LLC where she is a Productivity Coach for Financial Advisors. Patty is a Certified Professional Organizer, speaker, and author of …But I Might Need It Someday!, The Power of Simplicity, and Success Simplified, available at www.ReferralInstitutePittsburgh.com. Call Patty at 412-352-2888 or email her at patty@ReferralInstitutePittsburgh.com.

Focusing on Productivity – At Your Desk

by Jill Yesko

Keeping your desk free from clutter isn’t easy.  Mail comes (in what seems like droves) into your “In” box, and people keep dropping important papers off for you to review on your work surface, or directly on your computer keyboard “so that you’ll see it”.  Sometimes, if it’s really important, and mostly because they can’t find a clear, safe spot on your desk, someone puts it right on your chair if you are out of your office.  They are worried that if it goes on your desk, you won’t see just how very urgent it is, and it will get lost in the shuffle.

People also keep giving you stuff.  This isn’t your fault!  It might be a great mug for your birthday, a framed certificate (because you are awesome), a new set of bound office procedures, or some helpful books that they think you might like to read.  I’ve also seen everything from stuffed animals to dying plants –all placed there with good intentions by their owners.  Most of the time, my clients will tell me that they only really use a very minimal amount of things on or around their desk.  They have gotten so used to seeing them, that they don’t notice they are there until they get in the way.

A lot of you have heard the old adage, “a place for everything, and everything in its place.”  Well, it’s true, and it’s a smart idea.  We have a saying in the organizing world, and it goes like this, “don’t put it down, put it away”.  Either way, it’s important to not make an insurmountable mess for your future self to have to clean up later.  If you deal with it when it’s in your hands, you are going to keep a clutter free desk.  It sounds simple, but that’s because it really is.  Disciplining yourself with the following tips, and keeping the behaviors routine, should really make a difference in how your office space will appear on a daily basis.


Keep your most often used items and information nearby.  This is more important than most people realize.  Maintaining your most important and frequently accessed folders and objects within arm’s reach will eliminate the need to leave your seat and become potentially distracted with more incoming information (sometimes, this is cleverly disguised as a pile of paper from last week).

Keep a paper planner or electronic calendar open at all times – this is crucial to loading in appointments, making notes about your thoughts on a meeting, or planning your week’s tasks.  I always plan my tasks as appointments in my calendar.  I actually schedule time to make a call, to follow up with someone via email, or to write checks for my company’s bills.

To eliminate clutter and paper piles, file your documents in the appropriate place immediately.  If it is not something you want to lose track of and you worry about putting it away (and forgetting that it exists), use a tiered vertical file holder to see your documents and make them visible and easily accessible.

Remember, we only need to put things away so that we can retrieve them again when we need them.  If you are putting it away or filing it just to store it and not have to make a decision about it, think again.  If it is something you need, keep it close and labeled well, even if that means scanning it right away into your computer.  Having a scanner with a document feeder works well to immediately process and store your paper documents that you need to find again with the click of the mouse.


Inboxes Rock.

Do not open your mail until you are ready to fully process its contents.  This means that you are truly ready and have time to read it, delegate it, act upon it (by when? and with whom?) or discarded based upon its contents.

Do you have a clearly marked Inbox on your desk? If so, clean it out daily, even if you don’t DO the tasks associated with them right away.  Put them in your vertical file on your desk, or clipped to your planner pages if possible.  Keeping your inbox as clean as possible sends the message that you are processing the papers that people are dropping off.   You might not want them to put more work in that box, but at least they are not putting it on your chair!

Make sure you are opening your mail by a trash can, so you can discard junk mail before it can make its way into another pile.  Make sure your trash can is large enough to invite even the biggest junk mail and discarded papers you have to give it.  If you have to constantly empty your garbage, you will be less likely to fill it up.

Mobile Office Management

For those of you who travel a lot, your workspace might be a shared desk, a conference room, or the front seat of your car.  In 2015, we are keeping more and more information digitally, but for those of you who have papers that need to travel with you, a file bin tote is a great way to stay organized.  Most of them come with hanging file bars so that you can use the same system you might use in your drawer.  Regular plastic larger file boxes are great for storing important, frequently used reference and active information.  If you need to keep track of receipts, the best way to do that is to keep them in envelopes marked with the month on them.  Using NeatReceipts is another way to track expenses.  If you have a smartphone, you can snap a picture of the receipt and NeatReceipts will organize it for you -and make it accessible again in the cloud and on other devices, which it syncs to instantly.

Being less reactive and more proactive is a great way to stay in control of clutter and paper.  Assigning electronic and physical files to everything that crosses your desk is the necessary way to get and stay organized at work.  Taking care of information as it comes in, routinely, is the number one way to eliminate paper piles for good.  Happy organizing!

Written by Jill Yesko, CPO®, Principal Professional Organizer at Discover Organizing Inc


Starting your day right to achieve end of day peace.

by Kristin DiBacco

When the clock approaches 5:00 p.m., do you find yourself worrying about what to have for dinner? Do you feel intense frustration when you open your closet doors because you can’t find anything to wear? Or does stress overwhelm you as you move throughout the day because you have misplaced documents or are missing deadlines? This feeling can not only drain you mentally but physically and emotionally as well. Read on to learn some tips to help eliminate clutter in your life in order to live a healthy lifestyle!

We’ve all been there.  Dinner time approaches and there is nothing in the refrigerator or pantry to eat.  You then turn to the classic PB&J, or better yet–fast food.  Spending a few extra minutes each week meal-planning can be the answer to your problems!  Keep it simple.  Call every Tuesday “Taco Tuesday” or incorporate leftovers into your lunch planning.  Keep a chalkboard or printable with your weekly meals near the refrigerator so everyone knows whats for dinner.  Menu planning is a great way to ensure you are eating a balanced diet and aren’t overspending at the grocery store!

Another area that can cause stress is getting dressed for the day.  It can make it nearly impossible to get ready for work, let alone out the door on time.  Start by putting your hands on every piece of clothing and decide whether you love it or not.  The items that don’t make you feel like a million bucks or that have fallen behind the current trends are good pieces to let go.  Like Twice is a great resource for consigning pieces that are still current with the trends but you no longer love.  Take into consideration your space and organizing style and sort your clothes by season, color, and the type of pieces you own (i.e.,: jeans, blouses, etc.) Being able to see what you own will not only help you from re-purchasing items you can’t find but it will help you dress your best in a much faster time!  

The chaos and mess in your life and bedroom can have a negative effect on your sleep as well. According to a survey by The National Sleep Foundation people who make their beds first thing in the morning are 19% more likely to get a good night’s rest. In addition to making your bed, try keeping a to-do list.  Whether it is in a notebook or on your phone, just be sure it is all in one place.  Also, allow yourself 15-20 minutes before you leave the office or in the evening before you shut things down for the night to prepare for the next day.  Having everything lined up and ready to go will not only help you feel less stressed throughout the day but it will also help you sleep better at night!

Finding peace and serenity throughout your day may not seem attainable now but once you are able to define the vision for your space, intentionally decide what to keep based on what brings you joy and love. Choose to maintain the systems you have put in place, you will find yourself less stressed and enjoying what matters most in your life.

Kristin DiBacco is a Professional Organizer and owner of The Serene Space.  The Serene Space specializes in residential organizing.  Kristin also works with teachers, helping them organize their classrooms and with students, setting up systems that are unique to them so they can succeed in the classroom.  For more information visit www.theserenespace.comor call 619-672-2847.

September is National Preparedness Month. Are you Ready?

National Preparedness Month (September) is a good reminder that we all should be ready in the event of a catastrophic event. No one wants to think of it, however, if a disaster were to occur (man-made or natural) you may find yourself waiting days for help to arrive or you may need to evacuate your home quickly.

To help you get ready, I suggest assembling what I like to call a Grab-n- Go Tote. Authorities suggest packing necessary supplies to last 72 hours. Use a sturdy tote or two stored in a cool dry place and label your pack date. Check your supplies the first of every year to refresh any expired items.

Grab-n-Go Tote should include:
-A complete change of clothes for each family member
-Canned food and other protein packed non-perishables
-Food for pets, if needed
-Baby food, if needed
-Manual can opener
-Matches, lighter
-Mess kits for each family member
-First Aid Kit
-Flash Light and batteries
– 1 gallon of water per person/day
-Books, games, puzzles
-Cash, in case ATM’s are down
-Transistor radio and batteries
-Important documents (see below) in a waterproof bag.

Evacuation Route
In the event your family is not together and/or phone service is not available consider creating a written plan for evacuation and a place to meet. Review the plan with all family members; include maps, mark your meeting spot, necessary phone numbers, and extra cash. Pack this plan in the tote and the glove compartment for each car in the family.

Important documents if destroyed can take months to replace. I suggest using a 3-ring binder filled with sheet protectors. Make hard copies of property insurance, financial information, social security cards, birth certificates and a home inventory. Store each document in a sheet protector within the binder. Store a copy of these documents in your Grab-n-Go tote and another copy in a fireproof safe within your house or a safe deposit box.

Store your Grab-n-Go tote next to sleeping bags, and water jugs and you are ready.

Being organized and knowing what to do in an emergency is an important part of keeping your family safe and prepared for the unknown.
Sandra Lane offers organizing services for the residents and businesses in Sewickley and surrounding areas.
She can be reached at www.organizationlane.com, 412-841-7169 or Sandra@organizationlane.com

Your Guide to Clutter-Free Gift Giving

Gift giving is a tradition enjoyed by nearly everyone this time of year. I like to encourage folks to consider gifts that are thoughtful yet sensible and more importantly, do not clutter a home.

Here are a few ideas to help you be a clutter-free gift giver:

1.) A year- long subscription to the zoo, museum, aviary or science center.
2.) A good wine or a special micro-brew beer. Consider a year long sampling for a larger gift or just a bottle or 6-pack for a smaller gift .
3.) For the coffee drinker- a specialty coffee, gift card or free refill card to their favorite coffee shop.
4.) Fuel gift card or auto emergency kit for the student traveler.
5.) Classes or workshops for a point of interest- dancing, cooking, quilting, photography, etc.
6.) There are hundreds of recipes for edible and drinkable treats than can be assembled inside a jar such as cookies, soups and hot cocoa. Do a Google search for ‘recipes in a jar’ and take your pick.
7.) A visit to an indoor water park is a nice treat for the whole family especially in the dead of winter.
8.) A gift certificate for fitness – Yoga, Pilates or any fitness center.
9.) A gift card to a favorite store or restaurant; consider your local establishments when possible.
10.) Instead of a hard cover book or cd- consider an e-book gift or I-tunes gift card.
11.) Specialty spices, oils or vinegars for the avid cook.
12.) A charity or mission donation in someone’s name.
13.) A gift certificate for a therapeutic massage, hair or nail salon is a luxurious treat.
14.) Movie, symphony or theatre tickets.
15.) Tickets to a sporting event or concert.
16.) Homemade edible treats with an accompanying recipe to share.
17.) Free night of babysitting for a couple with children.
18.) Hobby gifts – golfers, cyclers, crafters, scrap bookers and knitters would love supplies or a gift card from their favorite store.
19.) For family members- a photo calendar filled with family pictures, birthdates and anniversaries.
20.) The gift of time- coupons for a family night of games and home movies is time well spent and will not cost you a penny.

Please enjoy this season knowing that the right gift is out there and it probably does not need any dusting.


My favorite Organizing Strategies

By Jodi Eisner, M.S.W., CPO®
Method to the Madness

For many professional organizers, they were always organized, even as a kid. Most organizers will tell you that they were the kid who always lined up all their toys, color coded their clothes and couldn’t leave the house unless their bed was made and everything was put away. I was NOT that kid. In fact, my mother would accuse me of being a slob. I now understand why my own daughters, ages 17 and 20… are slobs. They come by it naturally. Today… it drives me crazy! But I know that with continued education and constant nagging, they too will overcome this. In fact, my older daughter has proven that nagging works, as she currently lives on her own…and clutter free.

So now I am a Professional Organizer for the past 14 years. How did that happen? Well, I’ve developed some strategies that can work for everyone. Mostly it’s about changing the way you think, therefore, seeing your space differently and creating routines. When a task becomes overwhelming, it often gets completely neglected and so the snowball is created. The trick is to stay on top of it. So where to begin. It starts with your thinking…

Prior to taking on regular tasks, you must first decide if your home is working well for you. Ask yourself, what’s working and what’s simply not. I have a basic philosophy for organizing. I cannot take credit for this philosophy… it comes from Julie Morgenstern’s book, Organizing from the Inside Out. She talks about the Kindergarten Model of Organization. The basic premise is why a group of 5 year old children can quickly clean up a kindergarten classroom. The reason being… everything has a home. More importantly, everything is within reach, color coded, labelled and easily fits into position. So simple. Your home should function in the same way. The goal to being organized isn’t that you develop an amazing memory, that you know where everything is, but rather, things make sense and they are where they are supposed to be. Every area of your home should be zoned. What does that mean? Well… within your kitchen, you might want to create a small office zone for bills and mail. Maybe this is where your children do their homework, so a homework zone should exist. This does not mean that the kitchen table is always cluttered with mail and school papers. Actually, quite the contrary. These zones should be contained and portable.

Every home should have a zone for household paper work. Some other examples may include a craft zone. After you’ve created all your zones on paper, walk through your home and ask yourself where that zone should live. Does your craft zone need to be entire room or will a closet with bins suffice.
Now that you’ve determined how your space will work effectively, the next step is to make it come to fruition. There is NO magic here. I wish we could simply wiggle our noses and make it happen. Unfortunately, the only solution is time and effort.

So let’s create a craft zone. First you will want to clear the space that you’ve determined as craft world. Then gather all the craft supplies from all over your home. You will be surprised at the number of places that you have tucked away crafts over the years. Now you must edit, edit and edit more. Ask yourself… how much do I really need? Now comes the fun part. Containerize, label and make everything accessible. If you can’t get to easily, you will never use it. Make sure you have everything you need in that space. If you’ve decided, you need a whole room for crafts, then you should have a table in the room, so you can craft right there. If not, the system should be portable.

As with all of your belongings… you should always “shop at home first.”
Now what to do with all the other items that didn’t make it back into that space. Again… sort and purge. If you haven’t used it, worn it or love it…let it go! Decide what zone it belongs to and when you’re ready to tackle another space, it you will include that item in the zone.

It’s so simple. Once you’ve created the systems, maintaining them is easy. I promise… if my kids can do it… anyone can!!

Top 10 Benefits of Hiring a Professional Organizer

Top 10 Benefits of Hiring a Professional Organizer:

1. You will not have to put on a helmet before opening a closet door.
2. Learn to deal with clutter and save time and money when working with an expert.
3. Find your furniture under the piles of clothes in your bedroom.
4. Professional organizers focus on your unique living style to find a solution that works for you.
5. You are moving and will not have to move unpacked boxes from the last move.
6. Stops procrastinating and get maximum results in less time to get your life in order.
7. Your floor will no longer be your filing cabinet.
8. With your busy schedule, professional organizers can assist with getting your things in place.
9. We can help when you are overwhelmed.
10. Professional organizers have resources to help you sort, donate, buy organizing products, recycle and properly discard non-useable items.

by Connie Fortune
Fortunately Organized

Organizing for Back to School

By Kristin DiBacco

That time of year is here again:  Back to School! It’s hot and muggy and you’re still on your family vacation at the beach– but you don’t want to wait until the last minute to start preparing.  Getting your children and family organized for the new school year is easy with a little bit of preparation and planning.

MAKE LISTS!  Between buying school supplies and clothes and scheduling doctor appointments, there can be a lot on your mind.  Make a to-do list every day.  List the high priority items in a different color and/or at the top of your list.  COZI is a wonderful free app you can use to store your list and to share calendars among family members.

ORGANIZE AND SET UP SCHOOL ZONES.  Have bedrooms, homework areas, and the family command center all prepared for the new school year.  There are wonderful products to help with all of these areas but the key is to keep things simple.  Have a specific zone for each area.  De-clutter each space and store only items that you need for that zone.  I.e., your command center could contain the family calendar, important school dates, birthday party invitations, field trip reminders, and the weekly menu.  I always love to personalize it with photos, artwork, or your family name!

PAPER, PAPER, PAPER!  Get ready for the flow of paper that back-to-school brings:  report cards, reminders, and TONS of artwork!  Some of the paper you will need to keep; others you can take a look at and toss.  Any paper that comes home and requires an action, I recommend filling out and returning right away.  For artwork, I love the app ARTKIVE.  It allows you to take a picture, upload it to an album in the app, and then print a book!  For the paper you need to keep I tell my clients to create a “current year” file for each child and store those items accordingly.

SET UP A ‘LAUNCH AND GO’ STATION.  If you’re not a morning person and find it a struggle to get not only yourself ready but kids as well, then this zone is going to be your best friend! This can be a place near the entryway or hallway closet.  Ideally, everyone has their own hook for their backpack and coat and it’s easily labeled with their name or picture.  Adding cubbies or baskets to corral all of the shoes will be helpful as well.  Finally, teach your children to put anything here they will need when they head out the door the next morning.

WHAT TO WEAR TODAY?!  Whether you are a parent of a boy who could care less about what he wears or to a girl who tries on 47 outfits before she finds the perfect one, everyone has a battle to fight!  I love involving the kids when preparing this zone.  If your child enjoys picking out all of their clothes a week in advance you could use hanging clothes organizer and label each day of the week.  Or if they prefer, you could use a basket or install a special hook on the wall where they can hang their outfit for the next day.  Either way hopefully you prevent a battle in the morning by doing this step in the evening!

Hopefully some or all of these tips help make your transition back to school a little more enjoyable.  Enjoy the new school year!

Kristin DiBacco is a Professional Organizer and owner of The Serene Space.  The Serene Space specializes in residential organizing.  Kristin also works with teachers, helping them organize their classrooms and with students, setting up systems that are unique to them so they can succeed in the classroom.  For more information visit www.theserenespace.comor call 619-672-2847.

Hoarding and Seniors

For several years, I have worked with chronically disorganized people-those who have issues with hoarding, and seniors who have decided to downsize and move to a smaller home. The process of downsizing and moving is very difficult for many seniors. In the past few years, I have encountered more seniors who are starting the downsizing process and then discover that they have issues with hoarding. The downsizing process is difficult enough- but hoarding of course compounds the issue.

I have also noticed that I have been getting more and more calls from seniors who have issues with hoarding and are not necessarily planning on moving. Some seniors have been hoarding for decades and it has become worse as they age. Some have had a life event that has triggered some of their hoarding tendencies to start, such as empty nest syndrome, death of a loved one, or illness.

Living through the Great Depression and WWII can add problems to those who already have hoarding tendencies. Most seniors who have lived through this time period are very frugal and practical and do not want to be wasteful. There is a use for every item. It is a great way to think and recycle IF they are actually doing that. Most, I have found, are not if they have hoarding tendencies.

Tips when working with seniors who hoard:

If you have a loved one who is a senior and want to help them, talk to them about the idea of helping them to start the de-cluttering process. It would probably be best if an outside party could work with them, such as a professional organizer who specializes in working with those who hoard.

Work in small blocks of time –not only is the decision making process emotionally draining, but they may also have physical issues that can drain them.

Try to provide a place for them to sit while working so they don’t get too tired.

If they have physical illnesses, such as diabetes, they will need a break to check their blood sugar and maybe get something to eat.

Work on getting some space clearance to make the area safer for the senior, so hopefully they do not fall.

You may want to help with other resources that may be needed, such as meals on wheels, a geriatric case manager, and department of aging, transportation services, home health care, therapist, and cleaning services.

Speak slowly when talking to them-they may have trouble hearing and understanding you. Many people have a tendency to talk too fast, including myself sometimes.

If you are working with a senior who hoards, you will also need to be working with the family. Keep them abreast of the situation, but remember the senior is your client.

Working with seniors who hoard can be very challenging, but very rewarding once they start to make a positive step to reclaiming their space. ©2010-2014

Vickie Dellaquila is a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization® and owner of Organization Rules, Inc, since 2002. Organization Rules specializes in residential organizing, working with the chronically disorganized and senior downsizing and relocation services. She also works with people who hoard and has been the featured professional organizer on TLC’s Hoarding Buried Alive. She is also the author of the book, Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash-A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Seniors Downsize, Organize, and Move and the Moving Workbook. For more information, visit www.OrganizationRules.com or call 412-913-0554.