December 30, 2013

Get Clear on What You Want

Jack Canfield, the guy behind the wildly successful Chicken Soup for the Soul empire, has some great planning advice for 2014. I read a similar article at the end of 2011 and set goals based on his ideas below. It took me two years, but I accomplished 90% of the goals I had set for myself and turned the other 10% into longer term goals. Why not give it a try and turn your dreams and aspirations into reality? Thanks for your words of wisdom, Jack!

Are you ready to make 2014 your best year yet?

It’s easy to start the new year full of enthusiasm and optimism. But to maintain your momentum through the year, you need to set powerful, crystal-clear goals.

The first step to getting what you want out of life is to decide exactly what you want.

What do you want to accomplish? 

What do you want to experience? 

What do you want to acquire?

Who do you want to be?

One of primary reasons most people don’t get what they want is that they aren’t clear about what they want. Others will recognize what they’d like to have, but when they can’t see how it’s possible to get what they want, and they dismiss their desires as foolish and unattainable.

Don’t sabotage yourself this way!

After decades of research into how the human brain works, scientists now know that for our brains to figure out how to get what we want, we must first decide what we want. Once we lock-in our desires, our mind and the universe can step in to help make our dreams a reality.

Dream Big
We start the process by getting clear about what we want. So, what do you want? To create a balanced and successful life, write down a minimum of 3 goals in each of the following 7 areas:

Financial Goals

Career/Business Goals

Free Time/Family Time

Health/Appearance Goals 

Relationship Goals

Personal Growth 

Making a Difference

If you have more goals than this, don’t limit yourself – write them down! On the other hand, if writing down 21 goals seems like a lot, remember that we can have a mix of long- and short-term goals. For example, in the financial area, you may have a short-term goal of paying off a $5,000 credit card balance, as well as a long-term goal of amassing a net worth of $5 million dollars. You want to keep both goals present in your mind, even though you’ll be working more actively on the short-term goal first.

Stretch Yourself
When setting our goals, it’s important to include a few that will make us stretch and grow to achieve them. These might be learning a new skill or trying something that is uncomfortable and maybe a little frightening, such as public speaking. It also helps to set a breakthrough goal that would represent a quantum leap. Examples of breakthrough goals include publishing a book, starting a business, getting on Oprah, winning a gold medal at the Olympics, or getting elected president of your industry association.

Material goals are important, but the ultimate goal is to become a master at life. In the long run, the greatest benefit we receive from pursuing our dreams is not the outer trappings of fulfilling the dream, but who we become in the process.

The outer symbols of success can all be easily lost. Houses burn down, companies go bankrupt, relationships end, cars get old, bodies age and fame wanes, but who you are, what you have learned, and the new skills you have developed never go away. These are the true prizes of success. Motivational philosopher Jim Rohn advises that “You should set a goal big enough that in the process of achieving it, you become someone worth becoming.”

Turn Your Dreams Into Goals and Objectives
Once you are clear about what you want, write them down and turn each item into a measurable objective. Measurable means measurable in space and time – how much and by when.

For instance, if you were to tell me that you wanted more money, I might pull out a dollar and give it to you. You would probably protest, saying “No, I meant a lot more money, like $20,000!” But there is no way I’d know how you’d define “more money” unless you tell me, right?

Similarly, your boss, your friends, your spouse, your brain, God, and the Universe can’t figure out what you want unless you tell them specifically what it is. What exactly do you want and when do you want it by?

Your Goals Impact Others
As soon as you commit to a big dream and really go after it, your subconscious creative mind will come up with big ideas to make it happen. You’ll start attracting the people, resources, and opportunities you need into your life to make your dream come true. Big dreams not only inspire you, they compel others to want to play big, too.

You’ll also discover that when your dreams include service to others – that is, accomplishing something that contributes to others – it accelerates the accomplishment of that goal. People want to be part of something that contributes and makes a difference.

Work on Your Goals Daily
To keep your subconscious mind focused on what you want, read your list of goals everyday. For an even more powerful approach, close your eyes and focus on each goal and ask yourself, "What is one thing I could do today to move toward the achievement of this goal?" Write down your answers and take those actions.

As the old joke goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Steady progress in bite-sized chunks puts even the most audacious goals into reach.

Jack Canfield, America's #1 Success Coach, is founder of the billion-dollar book brand Chicken Soup for the Soul® and a leading authority on Peak Performance and Life Success. If you're ready to jump-start your life, make more money, and have more fun and joy in all that you do, get FREE success tips from Jack Canfield now at:

December 23, 2013

A Collection of Organizing 'Funnies'

It's the holiday season. We know that it doesn't take much to make his time of year feel stressful. Everyone is talking about how to get and stay organized for the holidays. And, yes--it's important to be organized, but it's also important (and necessary) to sit down for a while, rest your weary "I've been cooking, shopping, doing-for-others-all-day" bones and LAUGH.

I've been seeing a lot of those 'your e cards' from on Pinterest. They always give me a good chuckle so I thought I'd share and put a bunch of my favorites here. I could give you organizing tips, but I thought I'd give you a good belly laugh instead...


Gotta love Maxine's sense of humor...

This reminds me of the children's book, Swimmy by Leo Lionni...

A little scientific organizing humor...

Even animals can benefit from getting organized!

And this one's for the ladies...

Hope I made you smile. Happy holidays!

December 11, 2013

Organizing MY Home: A Two-Foot Wide Mudroom

The last week of November was a busy time in my household. It was Thanksgiving. It was Hanukkah. And it was also my birthday. Lots of food and festivities. Not a lot of downtime.

But, my hubby and I carved out a small amount of time that weekend to make our home more organized. The colder weather was upon us and we had to create a solution to a recent organization problem.

We have a front door and a closet next to that door. Coats, shoes, umbrellas and accessories are kept in that closet.

Problem: My children and I enter and exit our home most days through the garage. No closet next to that door. Instead, we have a tiny laundry room with an even tinier broom closet that we converted to a storage closet years ago. We installed a row of hooks across the top and at the bottom of the closet we store shopping and recycle bags of varying sizes.

On this closet door, we installed a 4-pocket organizer from Babies R' Us which has proved to be an extraordinarily helpful organizing product. Each of us has a pocket to store accessories and one is for infrequently used items like snow gloves.

This worked well for a while. My children were young and had little coats and my jacket fit just fine next to theirs. Now, my kids are bigger and so are their coats. They have more hats and mittens, too. With all three of our winter coats in there, the closet door no longer stayed closed. And the hooks were so high, I was the person in charge of hanging everyone's coats.

What to do?

I had suggested a hall tree for the room adjacent to the garage which just so happens to be my home office. It wouldn't thrill me to have coats and backpacks hanging in my work space but it was better than having them spill out of the storage closet--especially when I was doing the laundry.

My husband did not like the hall tree idea for two reasons:
1) He thought a hall tree would have looked messy. (I agree)
2) The hall tree would have to stand in the space currently occupied by his grandmother's table which he loves and it would not fit in our attic.

So, for a while we thought about it, spent the summer leaving camp bags in the garage but then Autumn came and the problem was back. Backpacks and diaper bags were dropped as we entered the house and coats were dumped on a couch that sits opposite my desk in this room. (No picture is available--too embarrassing for this Professional Organizer to admit!)

Besides the fact that it looked terrible, it didn't exactly instill the importance of being organized to our two young children.

Once again we asked ourselves, "What to do?"

Solution: One day, my husband looked at me and said, "What if we move the ironing board and vacuum cleaner out of the laundry room and use that space as a mudroom? I measured the space. It was 24" wide. I was skeptical but I grew up in a 5'x12' bedroom. I knew I could make this work.

Challenge accepted!

I'll give my husband credit for thinking of utilizing this space. I probably never considered it because my husband likes to iron despite the fact he doesn't do it much anymore (Yes--he does laundry, too. I'm a lucky lady...). We had not hung an iron in the iron holder since our first child started crawling six years ago. It was a great iron/ironing board organizer from Rubbermaid but it's time was up. We relocated the real vacuum to the garage with the ironing board and the toy vacuum went to the basement playroom.

I thought to myself, "Where am I going to find what I need to fit into a two-foot wide space?"

I looked in Home Goods and online and didn't see much that would fit my tight secifications. Then one day, I was in Target and went to check out their Closetmaid collection. I've used their products in the past for organizing my kid's toys and got to check out their new products at the NAPO Conference last year.

I walked down the aisle and not only did I see what would work for me, it was on sale!

The Closetmaid 24" Horizontal Stackable Organizer
Twenty four inches wide, too! What luck! My plan was to have the boys keep their backpacks on the top shelf, store their sneakers on the middle and bottom shelves and since their feet aren't too big, maybe there would be room for a basket to hold accessories.

Now, I needed to figure out the second half of the mudroom--a place to hang coats. There are so many hook choices out there from the simple to the whimsical. We just needed simple. And, we needed more than one set of hooks. One was to be placed at the top of the space for my coat/handbag/hat and the other was to be placed so my kids could hang and retrieve their own outerwear.

Before Thanksgiving, I attended the holiday party for the local organizer group I belong to--NAPO-NNJ. Besides a lovely dinner, we had a Yankee Swap. The table was filled with gifts and I had pulled the last number for picking. By the time it was my turn to pick, there was one gift left on the table. You'll never believe what it was?


What else do you think Professional Organizers would bring to a Yankee Swap??? It was meant to be!

And, the person who bought the hooks hadn't removed the price tag entirely. They were from Bed Bath and Beyond. You can't imagine how giddy I was over a set of hooks!

The next day with my trusty 20% coupon in hand, I bought another set. I was ready for construction to begin.

We charged our electric drill, connected with our inner Bob Villa, and made Mudroom Magic. Hubby and I put together the Closetmaid shelf in less than ten minutes. We measured and hung the hooks making sure they were straight with the iHandy level on my iPhone.

Measure twice, make hole once!
My kids tried putting their backpacks on the bench--plenty of room!

Hooks were hung and so were the coats. The laundry room is tight--here'a a few pics of what it looks like now.

My kids have been using it everyday--I am so proud of them! Sometimes I find my husband staring at this space with a big grin on his face. I love it, too. No more coat clutter. It looks great. It keeps us organized. Twenty-four inches of space. Challenge accepted. Challenge met. Challenge complete!

What organizing challenges have you resolved in your home recently?

December 4, 2013

I 'Heart' Container Store Stocking Stuffers - 2013 Edition

I am one of those lucky Professional Organizers that lives less than 15 minutes from The Container Store. It's great to be able to stop in, wander the aisles and check out new products whenever the mood strikes.

Despite it's proximity to my home, I always look forward to receiving their catalogs. My favorite one arrives through my mail slot at the end of November--The Stocking Stuffers catalog. There's something about this collection of cute, helpful, gadgety things that just makes me smile.

I flipped through the catalog last week and found a few items to share with you. Are you looking to fill holiday stockings or are you in need of the 'next best thing' to keep you organized? I think you'll find a product here or on the stocking stuffers page of The Container Store's website to suit your gift giving and organizing needs.

And now, some of my favorite Container Store Stocking Stuffers of 2013...


The Bondi is known as a 'helping hand.' Use it to secure an item and hang it over a doorknob, rearview mirror, stroller or anywhere you need to hang something small.

Cuppa and Dash Measuring Cups and Spoon

Designed by Umbra, these space-saving items are perfect for the cook who is short on space and appreciates good design.

Tab and Page Markers

If you're like me, as you read you feel the need to mark off helpful or inspiring passages in books and magazines. I don't usually read without a pack of these next to me. Great for color coding and they come in their own carrying case.


Ever take a salad to work or to an event but you don't want to bring the whole bottle of dressing with you? Enter the Dressing-2-Go bottle. It's BPA free, leakproof and holds 2 oz of dressing--perfect for those watching their calories.

This last one will probably not keep you organized, but it was so cute I wanted to share it...

Shower Cap

For the ladies, this vintage-inspired shower cap is covered in rubber duckies--what could be more adorable? It also has a ruffled rim which keeps water out of your eyes. I don't want to leave any one out, but this item may be a bit too girly for a guy with long hair...

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I hear some stocking stuffers calling my name. Good thing I live close to The Container Store...

November 19, 2013

Get Organized for Thanksgivukkah!

Courtesy of
If you haven't been on Facebook lately or you're not into pop-culture, you may not have heard the news. This year, for the first time since 1861 and the last time until the year 79,811, the holidays of Thanksgiving and Hannukah land on the same day. To commemorate this special day, the phrase, 'Thanksgivukkah,' was coined (and trademarked) by two women in Boston. A Facebook and Twitter account devoted to the day was created and the idea spread like wildfire across the United States.

For many of you, this day is business as usual. Turkey, cranberry sauce, football, and family traditions will be the norm. But for those who celebrate Hannukah as well, this day just became a little more challenging.

One holiday is religious. One is secular. The foods are different. Maybe you celebrate Turkey-day and Latke-day with different people. Celebrating two holidays at once? OY!

If you haven't already started to plan, here are a few tips for getting organized for the won't-see-this-again-in-our-lifetime holiday of Thanksgivukkah:

De-clutter Your Brain
You're probably thinking, "Two holidays? What am I going to do? Where do I start?"
Start by dumping your brain onto a piece of paper or into a productivity app. Write down all the shopping, cooking, gift-giving, prepping and schlepping you'll need to do for both holidays. Prioritize and then...

It's tough enough preparing for one holiday, but two? You're going to need to delegate tasks in order to cover the important rituals and traditions of both holidays. If you're a self-declared perfectionist, this is the time to lose the title. Control freak? LET IT GO. Some tasks to delegate:
• preparation of a Thanksgivukkah side dish
• creating and facilitating games to keep the kiddies occupied
• shopping for gifts
• cleaning up the kitchen
• playing 'bartender' for the day
• supplying candles and matches for the menorah/menurkey

A Menurkey--created by a ten year old boy with a Thanksgivukkah dream...
Prepare in Advance
Mise en Place is a French phrase meaning, 'to have all of your cooking tools and ingredients prepared before you start cooking.' The key to not stressing out while cooking for two different holidays at once is organization. Review every recipe and take note of what ingredients you'll need. Also take note of what size measuring cups and spoons you'll be working with. Do you have enough platters? What dishes need to cook in the oven and which on the stove top? Preparing in advance will prevent kitchen chaos and 'Harried Hostess-itis.'

Keep it Simple
Two major holidays. One day. 'Nuff said.

Ways to Keep it Simple:
• Usually, I advise people to make lists and store them in a file or electronically for the next year. You're celebrating these two holidays together for the first and last time next week. Feel free to jot down notes but I don't recommend creating a permanent file labeled 'Thanksgivukkah' unless you want to look back at it for some reason. I leave that up to you.
• Buy some pre-made food. My husband and I used to make potato latkes from scratch. Then we had two kids. No more latkes from scratch. My savior--Trader Joe's Potato Pancakes. They are delicious and I don't stay up half a night cleaning my kitchen.
• Eliminate a ton of side dishes by melding the two holidays in your recipes. Ideas: Sweet potato latkes, challah-chestnut stuffing, pumpkin pie a la mode with Manischewitz ice cream! (delegate the last item to someone with an ice cream maker and time on their hands...)

Latkes? Stuffing? Or both!
It's been a real hoot reading articles about this once-in-a-lifetime holiday. Here are some interesting and informative ideas about Thanksgivukkah that were cool to read and helped me write this post:

Much of the historical information for this post has been gleaned from articles on the web and this one from Wikipedia.

How to Celebrate Thanksgivukkah, The Best Holiday of All Time
Recipes, decorations and funny stuff

Pinterest does Thanksgivukkah
Food, gifts, decorating and great ideas

Ingeniuous 10-Year Old Creates 'Menurkey' for Thanksgivukkah
Never underestimate a child again...

Happy Organized Thanksgivukkah!

October 20, 2013

Ideas for an Organized Halloween


Hope I didn't scare you too badly...

If you couldn't tell by walking around the mall or your neighborhood, Halloween is just around the corner. I've bought my candy and scoured the Target One Spot for cool Halloween pencils. My eldest child's costume is almost complete (baseball player) while my three year old just prefers to wear an orange shirt (his favorite color) and I'm 100% fine with that.

What do you do to celebrate Halloween? Decorate your house? Cook Halloween-themed treats? Put on a costume to hand out candy?

Some people love Halloween, some celebrate it because of their kids, and some would rather shut off all the lights in their house and hide in their basement on Halloween. If you fall into the first two categories, read on.

Holidays require preparation and Halloween is no different. Ordering/making costumes, buying candy, preparing themed food, setting out decorations all take time. Then there's the purging of old costumes, candy-sorting, and the putting away of all decorations--lots to do for one day!

Mummy Hot Dogs - photo courtesy of
In order to make your Halloween a less stressful and cluttered holiday, I've gathered a few articles for you to read on the topic of organizing for Halloween.

From the people at Jurasic Junk Removal: Get Organized for Halloween

From Top 10 Tips: Organizing Tricks to Make Your Halloween a Treat

From my organizing colleague and frequent guest blogger, Cena Block of Sane Spaces: Get Organized for Halloween

I hope these articles provide you with some good ideas on how to keep your Halloween organized so you can enjoy a stress and clutter-free holiday.

Watch out for ghosts and goblins and have a fun Halloween!

October 9, 2013

Anniversary Post - It's Been Four Years!

It doesn't seem that long ago that I dropped my three year old off at preschool, came back to my office and wrote my first blog post. I had so many ideas swirling around in my head--I couldn't wait to put them in blog form.

That three year old is now in second grade and it's the fourth anniversary of my blog! The four years have flown by quickly. I can't believe I've written close to two hundred posts in that time.

In reviewing my posts, I saw that the most popular post I've written over the past four years is Best Products for Organizing Your Car. I'm thinking of writing a Part 2. Or maybe a series of posts titled, 'Best Products for Organizing Your ________.' Gotta go with what works!

I'm always thinking about what I'll write next. Sometimes it will be about something I've seen, learned or experienced. Sometimes I'll write about a product or helpful resource. What I do try to keep in mind as I write is that a blog post should do at least one of five things for their readers:

• Educate
• Entertain
• Inform
• Inspire
• Empower

I keep this list handy when I'm gathering ideas for my blog. I write for my own enjoyment and to keep up my skills as a writer but for the most part, I write for YOU--my reader. I hope over the past four years I have educated, entertained, informed, inspired and empowered you to lead a more organized life.

I also have exciting news! All being well and good, this time next year, my blog will be part of a WordPress website--no more separate blog. I am in the process of hiring a designer to merge my existing website and blog into one WordPress site. I can't wait--my website has needed a makeover for a while and there are things about my blog I'd love to change (larger writing and photo area, different fonts/colors). I'll be keeping you posted throughout the process and I look forward to celebrating my fifth anniversary with you and my new, improved WordPress site.

Another exciting development--my book. Although I've said in past anniversary posts that I would post updates about the book I was writing, I've been pretty quiet. I promise to blog about it more often in the future. I completed the manuscript at the end of 2012 and hired a book coach this summer to help me navigate the sometimes bumpy road to self-publishing. One of the many details she helped me with was a title. The working title is: The Organized Bride's Thank You Note Handbook: Let Systems and 101 Modern Sample Thank You Notes Take You From Overwhelmed to Organized. The peer review stage is almost complete and the manuscript will be reviewed by an editor by the end of the year.

With all of these exciting projects come extra work. And extra work means sometimes I don't have ample time to write a blog post (kids home on school vacations take away from writing time, too). So, I have been hosting guest bloggers to bring you new ideas and fresh perspectives when I am unable to fill that space. I hope you have learned from them--I know I've picked up a few great organizing ideas from my guest bloggers, too.

Image from
I want to thank you for taking the time to read my posts. Your support, kind comments and words of encouragement motivate me to keep writing and bringing you the best of the world of organizing. Onward to year five of blogging!

October 2, 2013

Tales of a Town-Wide Garage Sale

In 2000, my husband and I got married and merged two households. Between all the stuff we came with and the beautiful wedding gifts we had received, our home was overflowing with three of this, four of that and too much of a whole lotta stuff. So, we decided to sort through what we owned, purge out what we didn't need and have a garage sale.

I wish I had pictures to show you but our driveway and lawn were filled with our belongings. People thought we were downsizing and moving! I overheard one woman on her cell phone yelling to a friend, "You gotta come over here--there's so much great stuff!"

Two days and almost $1000 later, we had done a good job of clearing space in our home. We used the funds to buy a patio set which we still own. At the end of day two, I turned to my husband and said "I never want to have enough stuff in our home to do a garage sale again..."

It's now 2013. We've had two children and our house was feeling full. My husband swore our attic floor would soon buckle and bins of stuff would crash to the floor below. In the Spring we began, Operation 'Get It Out of the House.' Big ticket items like our crib and two exersaucers found new homes. Bags upon bags of baby clothing found their way to three different expectant mothers. My husband says he could hear the attic exhale for the first time in years.

Multiply this times three and that's how many bags of 0-12m baby clothing I gave away!
I kept purging--kiddie toys to the preschool, old pillows to the trash and then it happened...My neighbor tells me our town is having it's first town-wide garage sale.

I pass the great news on to my husband. He's as excited as I am.

I continue purging. I started to collect boxes and plastic bags, and began pricing. I even dug up the Word file for the garage sale sign I had created in 2000 (Hubby says that didn't surprise him one bit...).

My cousin Dale gave me the 'Fill a bag for $1' idea. Brilliant!

After pricing, I sorted our items by category--Baby, Kid Toys, Housewares, Books, etc. counting down the days when I could finally reclaim my garage space again.

We had about a tenth of the stuff we put out in 2000. Our friend gave us some of her things to put in the garage sale so she could purge her house, too. We had two beautiful sunny days and although foot traffic was light, enough customers made purchases to say it was successful.

My neighbors across the street set up a few tables and my nine year old neighbor decided to try his hand at selling some toys he and his brother didn't play with anymore. I advised him to lay them out on towels grouping 'like' with 'like'--dinosaurs with other dinos and all vehicles together, too. He sold a few items (including one of the bikes in the background) but at least half of them went to my son's preschool or to my own kids!

The wares of a budding entrepreneur...

A few shoppers commented on how organized my labeled pricing system was. I smiled and said, 'Thanks.' Oh, if they only knew...

Two days later, we made less than a tenth of the money we had made in the 2000 garage sale but that's OK. We weren't doing it for the money--we were getting rid of the 'old' to make room for the 'new.'

Some funny/unexpected things that happened during the garage sale:
• My neighbors bought some of my stuff!
• A shopper thought a painting marked $3.00 was actually $300. We all had a good chuckle...
• A grandma about six inches shorter than me bought and then picked up a Little Tikes picnic table and walked back to her house with it.
• I sold a NJ Devils giveaway towel to my seven year old for $ .25. I thought it would be a good math lesson...

He said, "Mommy, I can't believe you were going to sell this!"
Some great things that happened during the garage sale:
• I had fun hanging out with my neighbors and celebrating our selling successes.
• My kids acquired some cool toys and baseball mitts from our neighbors across the street.
• I got to read two magazines during selling 'downtime.' Any mom of small kids know that this is quite a feat!
• We made a little extra spending money.
• We purged our home of things we no longer needed.

At the end of the garage sale, I packed up all unsold goods and split them into three categories. Give to Preschool, Give to Thrift Shop, Bring Back in the Garage. The 'Give to Thrift Shop' bags and boxes went from my driveway to my car to a local donation center. My 'Preschool' items are enjoying a new home in my son's classroom and the one (!) bin marked 'Bring Back in the Garage' is being dealt with this week.

So, if your town is declaring a town-wide garage sale soon, or you're looking to make some room in your home and some money for your wallet, here are a few tips to make your garage sale successful:

• Use a color coded pricing system and hang your signs everywhere. I used blue painter's tape and a marker for any item over $2.
• Wear comfortable clothes with pockets and comfy footwear. You're going to be moving and standing a lot.
• A few weeks before your sale, start collecting large and small plastic shopping bags for customers to put their purchases in.
• Group like items together. If someone is looking for kids toys and they're strewn across your lawn, customers are less likely to see them and buy them.
• Smile and welcome your potential customers. Engage them in conversation and ask if you can help them find anything special.

OK--Who is ready to have a garage sale?

September 22, 2013

Organizing 'Quick Tip:' ICE: In Case of Emergency

Wildfires, hurricanes, and floods, seem to be making headlines lately. The news speaks of of lives lost, homes and communities destroyed, and families displaced. We hope to never find ourselves in such a situation.

September is National Preparedness Month--the perfect time to consider what you might need in a time of crisis.

You might be thinking--"I don't live in tornado territory." Or, "My apartment on the 18th floor and wouldn't be affected by a flood. I understand your thinking but, I implore you to put 'personal safety' on your to-do list this month.

We've all heard about creating an emergency kit for a car or stocking a three-day supply of water in our basements--all important preparations. What I'd like you to do in the next day or two is today's Organizing 'Quick Tip'...

Prepare for an emergency by programming your cell phone with I.C.E.

I.C.E. stands for In Case of Emergency

Photo courtesy of

It's very easy and could save your life in an emergency.

Programming emergency contacts on my iPhone has been on my to-do list for a while. In honor of National Preparedness Month, I took a few moments to set up those I.C.E. contacts. My husband and my parents are my contacts and I have added my home telephone number so a message could be left on our answering machine if necessary. I also listed my allergies and my blood type. Not only is my pertinent information listed, I've included the names of my children in case they are in an accident with me. I've identified each of them by their hair color and what they are allergic to.

After you've read this post, please make an appointment with yourself to program I.C.E. contacts on your phone. Here are a few how-to's articles to give you some ideas...

For iPhone:

Smartphone and iPhone with Siri in case of password protection:

Now, go get organized for an emergency!

September 3, 2013

Organizing Help for Back to School

Some of your children may have started school already. Some may still be anticipating the first day. Despite their start date, my guest blogger, Linda Samuels of Oh, So Organized! wants to make sure your child's school year is a happy and organized one. Read on for her top tips for creating simple systems for getting and staying organized throughout the school year.

It’s that time of year. Leaves are turning, classes are starting, and new school supplies are flying off store shelves. The other day I came across an old pre-printed pad, “A Note to School from Linda Samuels,” which I no longer use since our daughters are in college and beyond. Seeing the notepad made me think about all the years of excited anticipation we had preparing for school to begin. Are you and your kids ready for the transition? Take a deep breath. Getting that organizing piece working for you can make a big difference in having your days run more smoothly. Here are my top tips for an organized, joyful school year.

Cycle – Giving closure to the previous school year helps us get ready for this year. Sort through last year’s school papers (preferably with your kids.) It’s a great opportunity to review what was accomplished and what they were most proud of. It gives you a chance to create a mini time capsule representing last year. Be ruthless when you sort. Save what’s important and recycle the rest. Store the “keepers” in a large envelope. Write your kid’s name, grade and year on the outside. Store the envelope in a larger container. Add a new envelope at the end of each school year.

Capture – Establish a place to put the current school papers as they enter your home. You can use bins, binders, boxes, or any container that’s easily accessible. As artwork, graded papers, or programs come in, put them in their designated spot. You might want a separate container for each kid. When the container gets full, you can do some editing. Then the “keepers” can be stored in their year-end envelope, as described above.

Classic Stockholm Magazine Files from the Container Store are helpful for organizing papers

Land – Create a place for backpacks, coats and notes to reside. When kids come home, they will know where to put their belongings. Cubbies work well, as do hooks. Make them easily accessible both in terms of their physical placement in the home and the heights that you place things. The easier you make it, the better chance you have for creating the “place it here” habit. Consider adding a white board or other communication center in this area to leave notes, messages and important items for kids to remember. Before bed, have your kids make sure that all needed items for the next morning are reading in the “land” area.

Center – One of the essential ingredients for school success is establishing a place to do homework and have school supplies readily available. When it’s time to do that science project, it’s no fun to have to hunt for the markers. Review your current supplies to see if there are any items that need to be replaced. Create a zone for the supplies to reside. If your kids like to move around to various locations for doing their homework, then put together a portable tote or crate to hold the supplies. Whether they prefer working on a desk, their bed or the kitchen table, the supplies can “travel” with your kids.

Pottery Barn Schoolhouse Craft Desk

Assess – Fall is a natural time to review clothing needs. Organize with each kid separately. Go through their closets and drawers. Remove any items that no longer fit, they won’t wear, or need repair or cleaning. With the “do not wants or fits,” donate or save for younger kids if appropriate. Make a shopping list of items that are needed. Remember that less is easier to maintain than too much. Factor in how often laundry is done. Especially if it’s done frequently, you many not need as many clothes. Getting dressed is so much easier and less stressful when everything fits, is clean, and organized.

Resources – This is the time of year when back to school tips and suggestions are abundant. Many of my organizing colleagues have great wisdom to share. Some of my favorite tips and posts are Lorie Marrero’s video about using a binder for organizing school papers and more, Leslie Josel’s Student Organizing Pinterest board, Clare Kumar’s 5 Tips for a Better Back to School, Helena Alkhas’ school paper organizing system, and Ellen Delap’s Back to School Tips to Organize Your Home.

Perspective – With transitions come new patterns, more to dos, and extra stress. Reminding our selves to enjoy the moments can be helpful. They go so fast. A few years ago I wrote a guest post for Working Mother, Moms’ ‘To Do’ Lists, about getting things done, parenting and appreciating the various stages of our children’s lives.

What are some of your favorite ways to stay organized for the school year? Come stop by to share your best tips and resources.

Linda Samuels, CPO-CD® is a compassionate, enthusiastic professional organizer and coach, founder of Oh, So Organized! (1993), author of The Other Side of Organized, and blogger on organizing and life balance.  In July 2013, Linda joined the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) Board of Directors as President-Elect. She has been featured in The New York Times, Woman’s Day, Bottom Line Personal, Westchester Magazine, Everyday with Rachael Ray, and Connect with Linda on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, blog, or website. Sign up for a free monthly e-newsletter with bonus tips at

August 25, 2013

Organizing a Backpack

Students from preschool to college love to use backpacks. They come in a multitude of sizes, colors and price points and can hold a ton of books and supplies. My guest blogger, Amber Kostelny of Amber's Organizing knows that a backpack has the potential to be a black hole or bottomless pit so she's offering some of her best tips for organizing a backpack. Read on...

LL Bean Turbo Transit Backpack
Organizing a backpack and keeping it neat and tidy is not much different from organizing something else in your home or office. Similar principles apply. Here are my top tips! (and if you’ve got some to share- please comment! We’d love to hear them.) 

Use pouches that are colored and clear. This may sound confusing, so let me explain. Seeing through a container or pouch makes finding pencils, pens, and erasers a lot easier. If they are tinted a color, that’s even better. Over time, your child will for example associate blue for pencils and red for note cards. This makes it easier to grab a pouch out of the bag. Avoid loose crayons, highlighters and erasers. Everything should be in a pouch or small bag.

Assign each pocket in the backpack its’ own function or use. For example, maybe the front small pocket will always contain the pencil case and the first large pocket- folders and paper, where as the second large compartment or pocket will house the books. Again, over time your student will instinctively associate certain pockets with certain contents. They’ll never have to guess where something is if everything “has a home”.

Clean it out regularly. This step is the most important. I recommend each and every night, clean out and tidy up the backpack. This may not be realistic for your child but if you can get into this habit, it will really help. Otherwise, shoot for once a week. That will help keep the mess at bay.

Label everything. Cases, pouches, books, folders and just about anything else you can think of- label it! Although kids like to write the label or title out themselves, encourage them to use your label maker. It will make it easier for everyone if the labels are clearly typed out.

Color code folders, binders, and notepads. Choose one color to represent one subject. Perhaps your child’s math book has a book cover. Then stick to a blue folder or notebook to match it. All of these little changes can sometimes make a huge difference if you child identifies with colors to stay organized.

Amber has been serving the Chicago area as a professional organizer since January 2004. She is a Certified Professional Organizer® and specializes in residential and small business organizing. She especially enjoys working one on one with clients to customize the organizing solutions and systems to add efficiency to their space or business. Helping people problem solve difficult spaces and creating productive work spaces is very rewarding to her. Amber is a Golden Circle member of the National Association of Professional Organizers as well as local member of the Chicago chapter.


August 18, 2013

Cool Product - Artkive

I know it's summer, and no one likes to mention the word 'school' during the summer, but I want to prepare you for what is coming. I bring up the topic of 'school' because just like kids, parents need to start the school year with tools to make their lives easier.

I've started using an app for de-cluttering my house and I wanted to share it with you so you're ready for the day your child brings home this:

and this:

And enough three-dimesional pieces of art to fill an exhibition space at the MOMA.

The app is called Artkive...

Their tag line is: 'The clutter free way to save and enjoy your child's artwork'

I read about it in an article on apps for Moms about a year ago and decided to give it a try. I'm so glad I did--I LOVE IT!

True Confessions: Despite the fact I'm a Professional Organizer, I still have to deal with the influx of my children's artwork just like you do. What I've done in the past was display some of my son's artwork, have him sort and purge all of it with me at the end of the year, photograph him with some of it, keep his best pieces and toss the rest. We still take pics of his artwork if he no longer wants to keep it but Artkive has made the process a much easier and organized one.

Now, artwork comes home from TWO children and as it comes out of their backpacks, I 'Artkive' the work of art and place them in each child's room either for display or storage.

If you'd like to see the top of your horizontal surfaces this school year, read on--you can thank me later...

How to start...
• Download the Artkive app (for iPhone and Android).
• Set up an account with the name(s) of your child(ren) and their grade in school.
• Take a picture of your kid's artwork or upload from your camera roll.
• Tag the photo with your child's name, grade, date and title of artwork.
• Share with family and friend or turn into a book (coming soon: other products).

It's just that simple. I haven't created a book of my kids' artwork yet, but it's something I would definitely try out in the future. Currently, there are two options: 8"x8" or 8"x11." The cost is $25 for the first 20 pages--$1.00 for each additional page. Before holiday time, Artkive plans to expand to gifts like mugs, calendars and the like.

Why I love Artkive...
• It's EASY to use.
• I can quickly email artwork to my husband or parents without having to first download the pictures to my computer and emailing them from there.
• All artwork is backed up in the 'cloud.'
• It helps eliminate artwork clutter.
• It's free. Go download it and set it up before the first day of school.

You're welcome.

After you've used it for a while, come back and let me know what you think about Artkive!

August 11, 2013

Morning Routine Secret Weapon: How I Get Two Kids Out of the House on Time

"I want to watch TV!"

"I want to play with my toys!"

"I'll brush my teeth later!"

Have you heard these cries from your kids in the morning? They are direct quotes from my two children. And on occasion, I have been guilty of giving in to them. What did it get me? Some prodding, pleading and yelling, a mad dash out the door, and no one starting out their day in a good mood.

I like to start my day in a good mood--I want the same for my kids. It's important to start the day off with a smile--especially at back-to-school time.

How did I turn our morning routine around?

My secret weapon: 
The 'Business Before 'Pleasure' Method for Morning Routines

What does the 'Business Before Pleasure' Method involve? Its basic philosophy is that all morning 'business' must be taken care of before 'pleasure' (playing or watching TV). Morning business includes (in no particular order):

• Using the bathroom and washing face/brushing teeth
• Selecting clothes (if it wasn't done the night before)
• Getting dressed
• Eating breakfast
• Cleaning up after breakfast
• Putting on shoes
• Checking school bag for everything needed for the day

My kids are 7 and 3. My big guy can do most of the 'morning business' himself by now but still needs a bit of prodding. My little one can be a bit of a 'wild card.' You never know what he's going to do. For these reasons and more, it was important to create a set of 'rules' to dictate what needs to happen before they could play/watch TV and so I can get them to school on time.

What makes the 'Business Before Pleasure' Method an easier way of getting ready in the morning?
• Lunches and school bags are prepared the night before
• The weather report is checked and clothes are picked out for the next day before bedtime
• The kids know what they are responsible for accomplishing in the morning
• They are learning how to manage their time
• Their desire to have that extra 'pleasure' time in the morning motivates them and ensures me a little extra time in case of an emergency or glitch (ex. full diaper/last-minute requests/faulty coat zipper)

Thanks to the 'Business Before Pleasure' Method, our mornings are more smooth and less hectic now. And, yes--most mornings my guys get to play and watch a little TV  before leaving the house.

By the way, just saying the phrase 'Business Before Pleasure' drives my 7 year old crazy. But, better it drive him crazy for a fleeting moment than have Mommy crazy the whole morning!