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  • May 15, 2024 6:51 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    by Janet Schiesl

    Basic Organization



    Want to accomplish a challenging goal? Better focusing will help. Easier said than done, Right?

    Being able to focus on the task at hand will be the key to conquering a challenging goal.

    Not rewards, sheer willpower, self-discipline, or motivation will work. (We’ve all tried those!) Maintaining focus is the only way you will reach a challenging goal. What do you think?

    Here are a couple of suggestions on ways to make focusing on the important easier for you so that you can achieve that one big goal.

    Know your best time of day.

    When are you most productive? Early morning or late at night? It doesn’t matter. What matters is you use that time to work on moving forward on a project that will get you to a goal. When you work during your most productive time it is easier to focus or get in your zone. Time will fly, but so will the amount that you move forward to meeting your goals.

    Create a deadline for yourself.

    Remember being in school, where deadlines reign? You knew exactly when that term paper needed to be turned in and you knew the consequences if you didn’t complete it on time. In your work or personal life, there aren’t always deadlines. So how do you use a deadline to create focus? Why you can make one up! It can be short-term – I need to finish this before I stop for lunch or I’m going to deliver this report before the end of the week. All of a sudden you’ll be more able to focus on the task at hand.

    Prep before you start.

    I’m a big fan of prepping for tomorrow. Just spending a little time clearing things up at the end of the day and planning for tomorrow can help you jump into work the next day. Always looking forward will help you get a jump-start in the morning so you don’t waste any precious time when you sit down at your desk.

    Focus on your goals today!


    For more information, contact Janet Schiesl.


  • May 07, 2024 8:15 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    C. Lee Cawley

    C. Lee Cawley



    My mom, Helen k. Cawley was born in 1917 and lived through a time of immense historical change.  She came of age during the Great Depression, navigated single motherhood with my older sisters in the midst of World War II, and emerged a pillar of strength and practicality.  Her life experiences instilled in me valuable lessons that continue to guide me today.  Here are four nuggets of wisdom I learned from her:

    1: The Power of Lists: 

    My mom was a master list-maker.  Grocery lists, to-do lists, budget lists – you name it, she had a list for it.  These weren't just random scribbles on a piece of paper; they were meticulously crafted roadmaps to efficiency.  From her, I learned the power of planning and organization.  Lists help me stay focused, prioritize tasks, and avoid the chaos of a scattered mind.  So next time you're feeling overwhelmed, grab a pen and channel your inner Mom – make a list!

    2: Invest in Quality Staples: 

    Helen wasn't one for fleeting trends.  She believed in buying quality pieces that would last.  Her philosophy?  Invest in well-made shoes, bags, and coats.  These essential items formed the foundation of her daily wardrobe, and she took good care of them, ensuring they served her for years.  This lesson translates beautifully to life beyond fashion.  Investing in quality tools, cookware, or even a comfortable mattress can enhance your life for years to come.

    3: Waste Not, Want Not: 

    Food waste was a foreign concept in our household.  Mom practiced a simple yet brilliant strategy:  the "leftover shelf."  Dedicated space in the refrigerator ensured perfectly good leftovers didn't get lost in the back and forgotten.  This system not only saved money but also encouraged creative recipe reinvention.  Leftover chicken became a delicious stir-fry, and leftover vegetables found new life in a hearty soup.  Helen's "leftover shelf" wasn't just about food; it was a reminder to appreciate and utilize what you already have.

    4: Rotate Your Backstock: 

    Helen lived through a time of scarcity and understood the importance of resourcefulness.  One of her clever practices was "backstock rotation."  This meant regularly revisiting the hidden corners of her pantry and cupboards. Everything was boldly marked with it’s expiration date so that it could be used in a timely fashion. Older items were brought to the front to be consumed first, ensuring nothing lingered forgotten and expired.  This system not only prevented food waste but also helped us discover forgotten treasures and avoid unnecessary duplicate purchases.

    These are just a few of the countless lessons my Mom gifted me.  Her experiences during a challenging era shaped her into a resourceful, organized, and wise woman.  Her legacy lives on in the way I approach life, and I'm forever grateful for the timeless wisdom she instilled in me!

    Do you have any life lessons learned from your parents or grandparents? Share them in my Free FB Group HERE.

    For more information, contact C. Lee Cawley.

  • April 19, 2024 3:21 PM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    by Jill Katz

    One to Zen Organizing


    Pink background filled with images of cleaning supplies, flowers, and passover symbols including matzah, a cup of red wine, happy passover and the seder plate

    The Story

    Every year during March & April, my social media feed is filled with fellow organizers talking about spring cleaning. And I ignore every post. Why? Because as an observant Jew, I deal annually with the phenomenon of Passover cleaning, a monumental undertaking that makes typical spring cleaning pale in comparison.

    To give some context, Passover is a religious holiday most well known to the masses for its dinner or Seder and for special food called Matzah. But for those that observe the laws of Passover in totality, here is what Passover means:

    A woman standing in kitchen wearing kitchen gloves holding a cleaner and wiping moving a rag across her forehead

    • Ridding your home of any crumbs, even those hiding in kids backpacks, your car, under couch cushions

    • Ridding your home of all regular food since they might have a tiny bit of “Chametz” or unleavened bread which isn’t allowed on Passover

    • Replacing your entire pantry of food with Kosher for Passover food including spices and oils

    • Scrubbing your kitchen, including stovetop, oven, and refrigerator so it looks brand new

    • Moving out your old dishes, utensils and pots/pans  (and you have 2 sets for milk & meat) and moving in your Passover sets

    • Cooking for an average of 12-20 people for the Seders (observant Jews have 2 nights of Seder) with special recipes that have no bread, flour, rice and beans in them.

    • Cooking for the other days of Passover since your usual go-to foods are gone

    • Readying your home for guests

    • Switching everything back in a week when Passover is over

    • Throwing in other “spring cleaning” errands if you can like carpet/rug cleaning, lawn/garden spring cleanups, window cleaning, pillow cover cleaning, etc.

    The Strategy: Mastering Passover Prep & Spring Cleaning

    Over the years, I have learned some tricks that help me organize my Passover Spring Cleaning. You can apply these strategies for any event in your life that needs special attention including spring cleaning, a move, a wedding, a Graduation, etc.:

    Woman smiling and standing behind a full shopping cart in front of Costco

    Start Early

    My preparations for Passover start 4 weeks before the actual holiday. Those first 2 weeks allow me to do things that aren’t as necessary such as a general spring cleaning of my home, outdoor landscaping, inviting guests, seder themes and general passover purchases. I also choose the date on which I plan to switch my kitchen from regular to Passover (a huge project in itself). The last two weeks are much more intense, focusing on setting the menu, shopping, and necessary cleaning. 


    Spreadsheet the hell out of it,( yes, spreadsheet can be used as a verb)

    I use spreadsheets for everything and Passover planning is no different. Every year, the first thing I do when it’s 4 weeks before Passover, is to pull up my spreadsheet and make a copy that I rename with the current year.  Then I open up my spreadsheet and change the dates and make the tweaks for this years holiday.

     I have 3 tabs for my Passover Planning:

    • Tab 1: Dates & Weekly Planning

    • Tab 2: Shopping

    • Tab 3: Menu & Cooking Schedule

    Tab 1 is the master list with all the important dates and a timeline. The top of the page has the date that Passover begins and when it ends (Passover is 8 days). I also list the all important date when I change over my kitchen from "Chametz," aka my year-round kitchen to "Passover,"when I can only eat and prepare special Passover foods. This master list also tells me when I should be shopping (Tab 2) and when I should be refering to my Cooking Tab for details (Tab 3)

    Put a gate around it

    I block entire days off for cleaning, shopping, cooking, hosting (if I have family/friends staying in my home), and enjoying the holiday. It seems obvious to do this and yet it took me many years of running around crazily before I gave myself this grace. Is there a week in your life where you can give yourself this gift? - Perhaps a week when your kids are out of school or there is a big holiday or even a date where you need extra time to grieve a death. When you have something that happens annually that needs your attention, it's best to cut yourself some slack that entire week.

    Use your Calendar for Recurring dates

    We have birthdays and holidays in our calendar, why not put use this strategy for seasonal tasks like, "Clean the Gutters" or "Start Mowing Lawn?" I put as many annual or seasonal tasks as possible on my google calendar as a recurring annual task so I don't have to rely on my own memory.

    In Conclusion

    As I navigate the intricacies of Passover preparation each year, I can't help but wonder: What strategies could others adapt from this intensive process to streamline their own spring cleaning? Let me know if find any of these strategies helpful for your spring cleaning or Holiday prep? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

    For more information, contact Jill Katz.

  • April 17, 2024 6:38 PM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    by Diane Greenhalgh

    Tiny to the Max



    Moving into an assisted living community can be stressful. There’s so much to do, and so much is changing. On top of that, the move is probably not by choice, and the loss of some of your independence can be scary. There’s certainly many things to look forward to as well. Getting help also means you don’t have to do some of those chores you’ve always dreaded, like cleaning the bathroom. And you’ll be much more connected with the community. Live-in chess partners or craft circles are part of the perks.

    But one thing I can’t sugar coat is you’ll need to downsize… a lot. You’ve got a lifetime of accumulated stuff to go through. It needs to get done at some point anyway so might as well be now. You don’t want to burden your family with it down the road, do you? But where to start? I suggest first focusing on the 9 things below that you don’t need anymore. Eliminate these items, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a curated collection of treasured belongings that make you feel at home in your new place.

    Dining and entertaining

    No more hosting family dinners. But you’ve served your time, so let someone else take it on. Donate your dining table, entertaining supplies, and even extra sets of silverware. It’s just you, and your partner if you have one. You only need enough for yourself/yourselves and maybe a friend or two to come over. A small dining nook would do the trick. If you don’t have room or the mobility for that, you can use tray tables or trays affixed to your furniture.

    Bulky furniture

    This one should be obvious. There’s no space for bulky furniture anymore. Bring or purchase smaller furniture that fits in the space.

    Anything already provided for you

    Depending on the services the facility provides, there are a number of things you won’t need anymore. Certainly you won’t need household maintenance and lawn care items and most of your tools. If you have a meal plan you can do without most of your food and cooking supplies. Other services might include an exercise room, music room, crafting space, game room with puzzles, or party room for entertaining. Also, there may be items provided in the apartment, such as window treatments and certain furniture, like a hospital bed. Check out the amenities and decide what you need from there.

    Rugs and other safety concerns

    Anything that can be a tripping hazard should be left behind. Even if you don’t have mobility issues yet, if you’re moving into assisted living it’s a safe bet friends from the community you invite over will have some trouble getting around. Avoid rugs and anything stored on the floor and leave plenty of space to maneuver. Also, plan for the future — get rid of any flimsy stepstools (or stepstools altogether) and furniture that requires you to climb or kneel down to use.

    Forbidden items

    Just as dorms do, assisted living communities have rules about certain things you can’t have for either safety or aesthetic reasons. Think candles, small appliances, window signs, or draperies in vibrant colors. Read the rules and leave those things behind. You don’t want to get written up, or worse, thrown out.

    Unsentimental décor

    You have such a small space, choose only the things you love that give you a feeling of home. And limit what you bring. Too much will just seem cluttered, and clutter has been shown to cause anxiety. You don’t want that for your new home.

    Holiday decorations

    I’m not saying you need to get rid of all of it, but you’ll want to pare it down significantly. The community is bound to have decorations for every season so all you need are a few for around your little apartment and something for your door. Look on the bright side, no more detangling lights.

    Other people’s things

    It’s time to have a chat with your kids, or anyone else storing things with you, that it’s time for them to take responsibility for their belongings. You no longer have the space. Give them a reasonable deadline and let them know that you’ll be donating whatever is left after that date. Keep in mind, they may not want them anymore. Even those sentimental childhood mementos you’ve been holding onto for them. If you still decide to keep them, they are now yours and your responsibility to find somewhere to put them. You can always save space by taking a photo and letting the physical item go.

    Important papers


    If at all possible, store important papers and valuable belongings with a trusted family member or in a safety deposit box. Community staff will be in and out of your apartment, so best to secure those items. If you decide on a safety deposit box, make sure the executor of your estate or power of attorney is aware so the fee is consistently paid, so you don’t lose the contents.

    Try to Avoid Storage Units

    If assisted living is going to be a long-term, permanent living change, don’t just throw your excess items in a storage unit with the intention that you’ll go through it later. The truth of the matter is, you probably won’t. You’ll be wasting money and pawning the responsibility of figuring out what to do with it onto your grieving family.

    There are two caveats I have for this. 1) If the turnaround to move into assisted living is really quick, you may need to use a storage unit temporarily. Set a schedule in your calendar to go through it to make sure it gets done. 2) If you have seasonal items that you regularly switch out, you can use a storage unit to expand your storage space. But if you haven’t visited your storage unit in the past year, it’s time to let go.

    Letting Go Without Letting Go

    There are lots of other ways you can save space but without having to let go. You can go digital with your bills, rent books from the library or purchase audio or e-books, rent special occasion wear from Rent the Runway, and stream music and movies. For the holidays, ask for consumable or experiential gifts.

    Whatever you decide, remember to focus on what is important to you for helping you lead your new life and what makes you feel at home.

    For more information. contact Diane Greenhalgh.

  • April 16, 2024 8:52 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    by Janet Schiesl

    Basic Organization



    This is a great story . . . . (about time management) . . .

    When things in your life seem almost too much to handle,
    When 24 hours in a day is not enough; remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee.

    A wise professor stood before his philosophy class and had several items scattered before him. He picked up a one-gallon mayonnaise jar and filled it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

    The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf ball.  He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

    The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous  ‘yes.’

    The professor then produced two cups of coffee and poured them both into the jar. The students laughed.  It’s full now!

    ‘Now,’ said the professor, as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. ‘

    The Golf Balls

    The golf balls are the important things – God, family, children, health, friends, and favorite passions. Things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

    The Pebbles

    The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car.

    The Sand

    The sand is everything else — The small stuff.

    ‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.’

    If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

    So…

    • Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
    • Take time with your children.
    • Take time to get medical checkups.
    • Take your partner out to dinner.

    There will always be time to clean the house and make repairs.

    One of the students raised their hand and inquired, what the coffee represented.

    The professor smiled.

    “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem,
    there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee and time with a friend.”

    For more information contact Janet Schiesl.

  • March 19, 2024 11:06 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    by Jill Katz

    One to Zen Organizing


    A person's hand sticking out of a sea of storage containers

    The Story of Hidden Clutter

    When I first became a professional organizer, I expected to see a high level of clutter when entering most homes. What I didn’t predict was the large amount of empty storage containers and organizers. Bins, baskets and Amazon boxes. Functional, chic, cute, cracked, banged up, or seen better days storage. All shapes and sizes. And all these darn storage solutions were creating clutter! 

    Is this you (awareness is the first step, after all)?  Or maybe you have a “friend” like this? Or perhaps you are a fellow organizer that knows what I mean? In either of these cases, please do read on to understand my take about storage clutter.

    Why Do We Have So Many Storage Containers???

    Your storage boxes are taking up too much space. Oh, the irony!

    Here are some possibilities on how you got here:

    An array of wicker baskets hanging on a rack for purchase

    Riding on the Fumes of Motivation

    You start noticing the clutter around you and the frustration is mounting. You need to do something about this NOW! So you stop by the Container Store, Target, or head online to purchase some storage bins and organizers on Amazon. The storage bins arrive but the urgency to declutter resides as the next urgent need enters your life and you move on. Sadly, the bins/storage boxes do not.

    Overbuying

    Buying is fun for some of us (not for me). Decluttering is not fun for most of us (Well it is for me, but probably not for you). If you are an overbuyer, the first step for you is to purchase something to solve this clutter problem you are having. And you procrastinate the part where you go through your things and think about how to organize items and how to use those bins you purchased. To learn more about how to streamline your shopping habits to stay organized read my previous blog post here.

    You Used Them & Now You Don’t Need Them

    Many of us have systems that involve boxes, bins, and organizers. We use bins for storing the next level of baby clothes as it is passed from one sibling to another. We use them for Christmas decorations or Passover dishes. We receive boxes that carry our Amazon items. We use makeup organizers and crafting organizers. At some point or another, we outgrow that system. Our life transitions and we no longer have babies or baby clothes. Or we downsize to a smaller space and donate our Christmas decorations and Passover dishes - we will let our children host us for the holidays! Our focus changes and our hobbies and interests change. Those empty bins and organizers accumulate. 

    The Solutions for Drowning In Storage Containers

    Half the problem of drowning in storage is that we are unaware of the sheer amount of clutter it is causing. So now that you are aware of the problem, you are on your way to solving it. Here are some solutions to get you to the finish line.

    Woman in her unfinished storage room holding a filled storage bin and looking at the other clutter in the room

    Declutter first:

    This is an organizing mantra. Always declutter first, then organize what you are keeping, and only after doing those first steps do you purchase organizing solutions if necessary. What you will find is that you often have all the bins and boxes you need. So start with what you have, then tweak and upgrade. This will prevent the storage problem from recurring.

    Put Like with Like:

    As with any other category, put all your storage bins and organizers together to see what you have. Divide them into categories: Put all your clear bins together (stack if possible), corral your baskets into another pile, and finally, pile your other miscellaneous organizers into a 3rd pile. Now you can see them all and strategize. If you are staring at a monstrous pile, then it’s time to cull. How many extra bins does it make sense to keep based on potential need and storage space?

    Create Rules and Strategies to Support Letting Go:

    I find that storage organizers are similar to nice reusable grocery bags and cute gift bags. We collect them, accumulate far too many, then find it hard to part with them. When there is a category that clients find challenging, I suggest creating rules. For example, you could establish a rule that you will only keep baskets that fit on this closet shelf (space-related) or you will only keep X number of storage bins. Or you can create a rule that you will use baskets and bins for an upcoming project or event and then donate the rest. Having a source for passing on these items can also be helpful. Posting storage in your local “Buy Nothing” group is a  “feel good” way to pass things on to other people who you know will use the items with gratitude.  

    And please, please, please get rid of those extra Amazon boxes. I love this Holderness Family Video that pokes fun at our love of boxes.

    In Conclusion

    By taking these steps, you'll not only reclaim your space but also ensure that your storage containers serve their purpose without becoming additional sources of chaos. So, let the journey begin, armed with awareness and the commitment to a clutter-free future.

    Are you drowning in storage containers? Feel free to share your story in the comments. I would love to hear it!

    For more information, contact Jill Katz.


  • March 19, 2024 11:01 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    by Janet Schiesl

    Basic Organization


    I am giving a presentation today on Downsizing for Seniors. The dreaded D-word!

    But what does that mean, Downsizing? Instead of thinking of eliminating things from your life and closing doors on your past, Don’t make it negative. Make it a positive experience. Call it Rightsizing! Make your life, your space, and your schedule, work for your life now and in the future.

    Your home is not the same as it was years ago, before children. Neither is your time or the demands on your schedule. It probably isn’t even the same as when you had the kids at home. At least it’s quieter now, I bet. Look at this time of your life as your chance to make your life all about you. Focus on quality, not quantity. Treat yourself like you are the most important person in the picture. Bet that’s hard, but try.

    Start looking at your home and your life focusing on the future. How do you want to live the next 5 to 10 years? Are you tired of cooking and want to dine out more? Are you tired of climbing the stairs? Maybe rearranging rooms in your home would make sense. One day of chaos in your home and paying some movers is worth years of no stair climbing. I think so! Maybe it’s time to focus on a hobby you never had time for. Get started. Eliminate what you don’t need so you have space for what you want. Get started Rightsizing your life!

    For more information, contact Janet Schiesl.


  • March 15, 2024 7:50 PM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    by Jenny Albertini

    Decluttered



    THESE BOOKS MAY CHANGE YOUR LIFE TOO

    In my first round of attempting the KonMari MethodTM while decluttering my own things, I got stuck on books. As a lifelong, voracious reader, I had been taught that books are sacred and you should hold onto them – so much so that I had dragged many of my college and grad school textbooks back and forth across the Atlantic ocean with me each time I moved.  

    But in 2016, settled into my apartment in Washington DC but unsettled in life, I felt so detached from these books I used to love. I was in the midst of a major career transition and my reading habits had changed too.  I began to experience reading differently, as my brain searched for connections between the experiences I witnessed with  my clients and the larger public health systems – and issues – that informed my prior career.   

    I’ve since decluttered my books to make room for the evergreen books that I love. And now I am sharing some of the best nonfiction books that I read in 2023, with you. They are all different, and they each informed my approach to decluttering, my discussions with clients, and the writing of my own book.

    3 BOOKS THAT INFORM HOW TO “DECLUTTER FOR HEALTH”

    My work overlaps between health and decluttering, so it’s no wonder that some of my favorite books do too.  I’m just as likely to recommend a book that touches on an underlying issue challenging them, as I am to suggest an appropriately sized container for their winter boots.

    Here are three of the books that really stood out to me and ignited my thinking around health issues that can manifest as challenges with clutter.

    1. Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto by Tricia Hersey – The benefits of rest are profound; mentally, physically and spiritually.  This book tucks you into a dream state that will unwind the tight grip many of us have on our time and schedules.
    2. Real Self-Care: A Transformative Program for Redefining Wellness (Crystals, Cleanses, and Bubble Baths Not Included) by Pooja Lakshmin – Lakshmin offers expansive ways of thinking about how to care for ourselves and others, taking into consideration how the structural conditions of our world either enable or threaten our ultimate well-being.
    3. The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness by Meghan O’Rourke – When diagnoses and ailments overlap, our health suffers and clarity feels unreachable.  This memoir helps people searching for truth and treatment feel less alone and more empowered amidst their piles of doctor notes.

    3 BOOKS THAT CHANGED HOW I “DECLUTTER FOR HOME”

    The dynamics of sharing space with others is a fraught topic for many of my clients.  Whether processing residual trauma experiences from childhood, negotiating complicated care tasks, or even navigating shattered ideals around what “home” means, people often struggle with decluttering their homes. 

    These books are a way to feel less alone in these shared and all-too-common struggles that manifest for so many people. If you want to restructure shared spaces and meet your decluttered goals, these books might be the extra insight you need. 

    1. Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House: A Memoir by Meghan Daum – At times I laughed, and at times I cringed – reading this memoir on idealized versions of what home can mean reflected my journey through different spaces, albeit perhaps a more dramatic trajectory by this author.
    2. I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy – So much of our experiences at home are shaped by our parents, and this excellent memoir brings all of that to the big screen as we see how hoarding behavior and trauma can cause a lasting impact.
    3. How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee – Perhaps not what you expected to see from here as a recommendation of books on home from a decluttering expert! But this essay collection is exactly the type of work that pushes me to think broadly about meanings of home and self and situating ourselves in experiences and spaces that do – or do not – support our desires.

    3 BOOKS THAT GUIDE ME TO “DECLUTTER FOR BEYOND”

    What is the balance between productivity and creativity? It is often shifting – and rarely balanced. I often think about what it means to care for ourselves gently while navigating our goals and desires in these spaces. 

    Reading can offer new visions of how to bring our whole selves to work, to our art, and to our communities.  Here are some books that showed me more expansive ways to consider the benefits of decluttering parts of my life to feel better as I show up for and as myself wherever I am.

    1. Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines by Anh Nguyen Phillips and Jen Fisher – Too many workplace books focus on tips and tricks to optimize performance, neglecting the role that our connections and self-worth play in how we show up in professional lives. Not this book. Its focus on mindful steps that are easy to implement and yield high impact, which is my favorite way to think about work.
    2. A Renaissance of Our Own: A Memoir & Manifesto on Reimagining by Rachel Cargle – This memoir about transitions that blossomed into transformations offers expansive prompts and reflections. Cargle shows us that we can reimagine our own futures while also working to change the larger world at the same time.
    3. Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World by Eve Rodsky – This book pushes us to prioritize our dreams and desires and does so by sharing research behind the importance of adding joy into our lives and decluttering out the other stuff. Rodsky also offers practical tips to help us with increasing overall energy, fun and play.

    BUY A BOOK AND SEE WHAT MAGIC HAPPENS NEXT

    Hopefully some of these books will resonate with you, or maybe some already have if you’ve read them already. And if they are new for you, which book will you pick up first? Let me know how it sparks anything for you in relation to your experiences with clutter, health, and relationships.

    Buy the books that changed how I declutter.


    For more information, contact Jenny Albertini.
  • March 15, 2024 7:38 PM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    by Jill Katz

    One to Zen Organizing


    Messy desk completely covered with boxe and papers

    The Story

    Have you ever had this experience? Your sister and her husband are coming over to stay for a week and your guest room is a mess. So the day before their arrival you run around the guest room throwing all the piles into boxes and bags which you stack in the closet or in the corner of the room.

    Or how about this? You get home from dinner at a restaurant with the kids and you throw the restaurant tote filled with coloring books and other activities in the corner of the mudroom and then forget about it. 

    Perhaps this happens to you? You go to a 3-day conference where you talk with colleagues and attend insightful presentations. You collect binders, handouts, business cards and swag. When you get home, you put the conference bag in the corner of your office where you proceed to look at it from time to time anxiously over the next few months.

    As an organizer, I see these boxes and bags in many client’s homes in Home Offices, Guest rooms, Bedrooms, you name it. And this past year, I finally had a client give name to it: She referred to these bags as “Doom Bags” or "Doom Boxes."

    Definition

    When I got home I looked up the word “doom bag” which led me to its more common term, “doom box” which is defined as a:

    “Box of various stuff, often gathered over time. Doom boxes originate from cleaning sprees under time pressure. Usually it is the intention of a doom box creator to postpone organizing the stuff in a doom box.” 

    The term is even used an acronym  for "Didn't Organize, Only Moved". 

    Why do doom boxes happen?

    In order to make these doom boxes and bags go away, we need to first uncover why this phenomenon is happening. I have distilled it down to 3 reasons:

    Closeup of woman with her hands over her ears, eyes closed, trying to keep out the sensory overwhelm

    • Overwhelm: Individuals with neurodiverse traits may struggle with executive functioning, making it challenging to plan and initiate tasks, such as decluttering. Difficulty making decisions is another reality for the neurodiverse brain. The thought of tackling a cluttered space can be overwhelming, leading to avoidance and the creation of Doom Boxes.

    • Hyperfocus: On the flip side, some neurodiverse individuals may hyperfocus on particular tasks or interests, making it difficult to shift attention to tidying up and decluttering. This intense focus can lead to the neglect of the physical environment.

    • Sensory Sensitivities: Some neurodiverse individuals are highly sensitive to their environments. The clutter in the home can create visual and tactile distractions that lead to discomfort, making it tempting to hide items away in boxes to reduce sensory overload.

    So while doom bags can be created by all, we are more likely to see them in homes with neurodivergent people.

    10 Tips To Help Banish Those Doom Boxes

    OK, so now you know what doom boxes are and why they are accumulating in your home. So what’s the next step? Here are some tips to help you deal with or at least, make peace, with your doom boxes:

    African American Woman hugging herself in an act of self love with a happy expression, smile & eyes closed

    1. Embrace your neurodiversity

    Doom Boxes showcase the way your mind works. You need to get items out of the way quickly to make space. This is not a moral failing!

    2. Create Awareness

    Awareness is the first step to decluttering. Make a list of areas where you want to eliminate piles of doom.

    3. Chunking 

    Attack those doom bags by breaking the work into smaller steps by setting a timer. Use the Pomodoro technique to maintain focus.

    4. Use Sensory friendly containers/tools

    Use gloves to handle annoying tactile messes, Take items out of their space one small pile at a time when decluttering so visual clutter doesn’t stop you from putting things away.

    5. Rewards

    Give yourself a treat for working through those doom bags: read a good book, eat a piece of chocolate, talk a walk in nature, whatever works as a healthy reward.

    6. Accountability 

    Work through the doom clutter with a friend, family member or professional organizer. Use an accountability app such as focusmate.

    7. Create zones for special interests

    If these items have a home, they are less likely to accumulate in doom bags and boxes.

    8. Take photos of sentimental items

    Take photos of sentimental items so you don’t feel you need to keep every single thing.

    9. Create rules around categories that get you stuck

    For example, showcase your birthday cards for the week or month of your birthday and then either discard or put in a special box dedicated to sentimental cards.

    10. Experiment, by building on your other successes

    Look at the most functional area of your home and think about how you made that area work for you and try to replicate the strategy. Don't beat yourself up about techniques that work for others but not for you. Remember to have a neurodiversity-focused approach which means it’s customized to fit your brain.

    IN CONCLUSION

    Remember, the goal is not just to eliminate Doom Boxes but to make peace with them. By acknowledging and working with the intricacies of your neurodiverse brain, you can create an organized and functional space that respects your unique self. So, next time you encounter a Doom Bag, approach it not with dread but with the understanding that it's a part of your journey towards a more harmonious living environment.

    Do you have doom boxes in your home? Please share your story or tips with me in the comments section. I would love to hear about it!

    For more information, contact Jill Katz.


  • March 02, 2024 8:12 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    Jenny Albertini

    Decluttered



    After unpacking some of the underlying reasons around why decluttering may make sense for you, let’s make a plan about what to do with all with the stuff leaving your home.

    Here are some tips I often offer to my in-person clients for what to do with the items you have decided to let go of–and how to earn some money or help a charity along the way.

    1. IDENTIFY WHICH PIECES OFFER THE HIGHEST RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI) 

    Focus your efforts on selling the highest-quality items you have. If you have any furniture for example, or luxury goods (like clothing, jewelry, or watches), prioritize selling those items first. You may need to contact a few resale options to find buyers but overall because you will earn a higher amount of money potentially for selling those items this will make better use of your time than focusing on selling lower-cost items. 

    Be realistic too: selling items is often time-consuming. People often overestimate how much items can fetch in the resale market. That said, if you have a good amount of high-quality items or you have time to spend finding buyers, then you may want to consider selling. 

    For clothing, there are many resale options for secondhand clothing through websites like The Real Real and Poshmark. Consignment stores looking for vintage pieces may also be interested in what you have to offer depending on the season of the year and the season of clothing you wish to sell.

    2. DONATE ITEMS THAT ARE IN GREAT CONDITION 

    When deciding whether or not to donate something, consider first the condition the item is in.  Dropping off broken or unsanitary items at donation centers just creates more work for the staff members there to sort and throw those items out. Most donation centers have guidelines – follow them! For example, some places do not want old kitchenware, so don’t drop those items off there. If you want to get your donate pile out of your house but don’t have an easy way to bring your donations to a local center, order up a Dolly service (like Uber for your things) to collect and drop off the items for you.  

    Remember that many charity groups who offer pick-up services for furniture donations are inundated around the New Year transition months (November–January) so wait times can be long. Last year, in December, the wait time was two months for a donation pick-up for one of my clients who was letting go of many pieces of furniture. In Washington DC, there are local shelters and support organizations that I recommend contacting to see what their current donation process is like, including So Others Might EatA Wider CircleHomes Not Borders, and the Oasis Alliance

    3. GET RID OF STUFF THAT “NEEDS TO GO” WITH SERVICES LIKE FREECYCLE OR OFFERUP

    Consider services like Freecycle or OfferUp for no or low-cost ways to get items out of your home. I use OfferUp now with my clients instead of Facebook Marketplace because it doesn’t seem to need as many fussy pictures or lengthy descriptions. Plus, Facebook Marketplace can involve a lot of back and forth. Just take and post a photo and then arrange for local pick up of your items. I always set pick-up locations near but not at my house or my clients’ homes, for safety reasons. 

    Those three options should answer a lot of your questions around what to do with ‘the things’ after you have decluttered. Sign up for my newsletter for more tips and tricks for people with luxury goods, entire homes full of belongings to sort, and entire closets to unpack. 

    For more information, contact Jenny Albertini. 


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