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  • February 23, 2024 9:39 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    Jill Katz

    One to Zen Organizing

    Woman in glasses, from the side looking at a brain she is holding in her hand and thinking

    I initially became an organizer because I  enjoyed problem solving for clients with brain-differences. As a research loving Mom to a neurodivergent child, it just made sense. However, my life took a sharp turn which led me to reevaluate the “Why”. I will explain.

    The History

    When you read the “About Me” summary from a professional organizing website, you will often see something like this:

    “My name is Charlotte Organized and since the age of 3, I have had a passion for all things organizing.” 

    My history is the complete opposite. Since the age of 3, I have struggled with disorganization. I was a messy child, a teenager that struggled to focus on her homework, and a young adult who developed anxiety about showing up late to just about anything. 

    In high school, my Mom helped me create a detailed schedule to study for the 9 finals in my dual curriculum Hebrew Prep School. In College, I drew a visual color coded schedule of my college classes and internships so I could see the blank spaces of my free time and make plans. As a young adult, I created routines for myself, slowly experimenting throughout the years to see what worked and what didn’t. I earned a degree in Marketing and got a job that I loved. I got married and then I became a Mom of a child with learning differences.

    “Momhood” And A Path To Organizing

    Adult hands cupping tiny baby feet

    What’s it like to become the mother to a neurodivergent child? It’s humbling, it’s challenging, it breaks you down and you rebuild. I read up on all the literature and learned words like “Executive Functioning”, “Comorbidity” and “Sensory Processing”.

    I left my job and became a SAHM (stay at home mom) using my new acronym in special needs support groups (Hi, I am a SAHM of a daughter with these issues…). Every day a new Early Intervention specialist came - a physical therapist, an occupational therapist or a speech therapist and I had a binder to keep track of all their notes and suggestions. Slowly, many of the Moms from the playgroup cohort disappeared. They couldn’t relate to my experience and I couldn’t bear to hear how they reached yet another milestone with their neurotypical child. It all felt very isolating.

    Time passed and I had another child. I enjoyed being a Mom of two but I itched to get back to work. A friend of mine became an organizer and she hired me to assist her for various jobs. And I noticed the neurodivergent clients. When you have a kid with differences and have read so much literature surrounding the subject, you end up with a knack for noticing others with differences. And I wondered about them. I mean, I helped to support my child with her schoolwork and other responsibilities, but who helped neurodivergent adults with their own children and other vast responsibilities?

    Thus, Oe to Zen Organizing was born and I started to focus on clients who needed and deserved compassionate out-of-the-box organizing support.

    But the story doesn’t end there…

    Full Circle: The Journey of Self Discovery & Neurodiversity

    Person walking in a labyrinth made of sand on the beach

    When I started my organizing business, my goal was to help adult clients by expanding on what I had learned with my neurodivergent daughter. What I didn’t expect was to discover that I was neurodivergent. There wasn’t any one moment of discovery. The realization happened slowly over time as it dawned on me that I had experienced many of my client’s struggles. It’s amazing to me that it took so long to reach this understanding! 

    The discovery cast a new light on how I viewed my life. I tried to explain to my confused family what I was experiencing even though they didn’t view me as any different than I was the day before. I worked through the shame I had endured knowing deep down of my differences. I worked through understanding the masking I exhibited to try to fit in. I considered when being hard on myself was helpful and when I should be doling out more self compassion. Overall, I started to notice my differences in real time and worked at accepting them. In summary, it was a rollercoaster of emotions and I am still processing what this means for me.

    In Conclusion

    How do I explain that this new discovery changes everything? I can practice self compassion and mindfully apply the same executive functioning strategies that I teach to others on myself. I can relate to my clients on a new level and truly understand the frustration of not being able to apply traditional organizing strategies. I can revel in looking back at my successes in overcoming many of my challenges with creativity and perseverance. And I can confidently encourage my clients to abandon perfection and let them know “You can do this.”

    For those of you who have had a journey of self-discovery, what did you learn? How did it change your life? I would love to hear about it in the comments.

    For more information, contact Jill Katz.

  • February 16, 2024 8:58 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    Janet Schiesl

    Basic Organization

    Creating a habit that will truly last.

    I’m working on creating new habits all the time.

    However, I work on one new habit at a time.  I’ll master it before moving on to the next.

    This is how I learn best – Focusing on changing one habit at a time.

    Taking small steps to engrain a habit is how you will be most successful.

    Perhaps you want to create a habit to become more organized.  Start small.  Why not bring the mail in each day and sort it right then and there? Or if you have a more health-related habit in mind then start by taking a short walk every day or drinking more water.

    My suggestion for you is to try each new habit for at least 30 days. Taking one small step at a time will enable you to see the difference it’s making.  You may start to feel a little more organized and then less stressed – or refreshed from your daily walk and water.

    How do you create a habit? One at a time.

    What new habit have you created lately?

    For more information contact Janet Schiesl.

  • February 16, 2024 8:35 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    Diane Greenhalgh

    Tiny to the Max

    *We've evaluated all the recommended products here and make no financial gain if you purchase something. We don’t care about making money from this list, we just want to help you love (and organize) your space. 

    If you're anything like us, you love tiny living. But maybe, right now, you're feeling like tiny living means there's not enough space for the stuff you need. But who says you need a ton of space to live large? 

    We're here to tell you it's all about maximizing the space you've got, so we've compiled a list of the best organizing products for small spaces. These must-haves will help you maximize your small space and bring simplicity (and maybe even a smile!) to your daily life. From sleek over the door organizers to versatile lap desks, we've curated a list of the best organizing products that promise to create more room, improve efficiency, and make your home happier. Let's dive in! 

    1. Over the door shoe organizer with pockets 

    Over the door shoe organizers with pockets are a dream come true! Whether you go with the Gorilla Grip Shoe Holder Rack, the MISSLO Large Over the Door Organizer, or the Container Store's 24-Pocket Mesh Over the Door Shoe Bag, they can all hold a surprising amount of weight and offer a fantastic solution for keeping all kinds of things in order without taking up precious floor space. 

    Don't let the word "shoe" in this organizer's title fool you because they are best used for everything but shoes unless you have tiny feet, like with kids, or use them for flip-flops.  

    You can store almost anything in your home—accessories, toiletries, and even pantry items. Remember, in a tiny space, every inch counts. Our favorites are the ones with multiple mesh pockets, so it's easy to see and access what you've stored. 

    2. Behind cabinet door organizers 

    This next one offers a clever solution for holding items that can otherwise clutter your space, such as bags, cleaning supplies, paper towels, and even hair dryers. Their design utilizes the often-overlooked and typically unusable space behind cabinet doors, making them an ideal choice for those looking to maximize every inch of their home. 

    With various designs and materials, you'll find the perfect match for your needs and style. Some are simple, with a tray or two to store items. And some even feature specific compartments for items like paper towels or hair dryers

    One of the significant advantages of these organizers is accessibility. They're always within reach, saving you from rummaging around in cluttered cabinets or drawers. Plus, their position behind the cabinet door keeps them out of sight for a clean and uncluttered look. 

    You can find them on Amazon, Target, and Wayfair to start maximizing that valuable space behind your cabinet doors. 

    3. Adjustable closet rod 

    This nifty simple closet tool is a game-changer for your wardrobe organization. This innovative product, like the ClosetMaid Double Hang Closet Rod, can be easily clipped onto your existing closet rod, instantly doubling your hanging space. Its adjustability ensures it fits seamlessly, no matter your closet size. 

    Constructed of durable, powder-coated steel, it provides reliable support for your garments. With its deep nickel finish, it not only maximizes your storage but also adds a touch of class to your closet. Moreover, this versatile rod is not limited to clothes. You can use it to hang accessories, bags, or hats, making it an all-around closet organizer. 

    It's an ideal organizing solution for people who want flexibility in a small closet and for increasing accessibility for shorter individuals, people in wheelchairs, and children who may struggle with reaching higher rods.  

    The ClosetMaid rod is our top pick, and you can grab it at retailers like Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Walmart. There are other types, like this one pictured above from Umbra, available at The Container Store®

    4. Space-saving hangers 

    Living small means making every inch count, especially in your wardrobe. So space-saving hangers are a stylish fix for a cramped closet. 

    Skinny velvet or felt hangers are the best for this. They're slimmer than old-school hangers and keep your clothes from slipping off (and having to hang them up again!). Plus, getting them with the sturdy bar at the bottom means no stretching or poking your favorite sweater while you're hanging it. 

    Want an even cleaner-looking closet? Try color-coordinating your hangers. Cohesive hanger colors can reduce visual noise and make your closet feel more spacious. 

    There are so many options for colors and brands of space-saving hangers. You can even get kid and petite sizes. The best deal is from Costco, but you can also grab some from Amazon, Walmart, Target, or The Container Store®

    5. Over the door mirror 

    If you're a frequent mover or renting your space, an Over Door Mirror is your new best friend. It's the smart answer to the pesky problem of mounting and unmounting mirrors or struggling with mirror clips and ending up with a warped reflection. 

    The Beauty4U Over the Door Adjustable Hanging Mirror has our vote as the best choice. It gives you a full-length view minus the floor clutter and is a breeze to install. But what sets it apart is its adjustability. You can position it at just the right height, making it perfect for individuals of varying heights, including children or people who use wheelchairs. 

    Some other over-the-door mirror models even have hidden storage for your jewelry or accessories. And some are just plain dreamy with modern details and finishes like this super long one from Bed Bath & Beyond. Whatever model you get, it's not just a mirror; it's a space-saving, style-enhancing accessory for your home. 

    6. Slim rolling cart 

    With its smooth-gliding wheels, this nifty little helper is designed to seamlessly navigate through your home, fitting snugly into even the smallest corners. It's sleek, it's functional, and it's ready to revamp your storage strategy. 

    We love that it's a versatile storage solution that shines in any setting: 

    • In the kitchen, it becomes a mobile pantry for cans, spices, or utensils. 

    • In the laundry room, it serves as a convenient holder for laundry essentials, easily sliding into narrow spaces. 

    • For crafty folks, this cart transforms into an organized craft station with easy access to supplies.

    • In the bathroom, it becomes extra storage you can slip in a small space that’s flexible because you can move it around.

    • In a bedroom, it can be a unique nightstand alternative

    Regardless of the room, a slim rolling cart blends style and functionality, making it an invaluable addition to any home. 

    7. Portable lap desk with storage 

    Compact and foldable, this Portable Lap Desk with Storage is designed to make the most of your space, even if that space is your lap. Whether you're a work-from-home pro or a student cramming for exams, the desk offers a stable spot for your laptop or tablet. 

    Ideal for small homes in need of flexibility, people who need a change of scenery, or kids who love being around their parents, it moves easily from room to room or even outdoors. When you're done, just fold it and tuck it away to save space. 

    Speaking of space... Despite its size, it doesn't skimp on storage! There's plenty of room for your essentials, like stationery and notebooks. 

    Other portable desk options can be found at Target, Wayfair, and Walmart

    8. Corner dish shelf 

    mDesign's Corner Shelf is a great option for those looking to maximize their kitchen storage. We like to use it to stack plates so you don’t have to lift a pile to get to the size you want.  

    Another option is this Bamboo 3 Tier Plate Rack, made from natural bamboo it can easily organize your dishes. The three-tiered design takes even more advantage of vertical space if you can’t adjust your shelves, which is a critical factor in compact areas. So instead of sprawling across your counters, these shelves grow upwards - keeping your countertops clutter-free while ensuring your dishes are always within arm's reach. 

    9. Turntable 

    With its 360-degree rotation, the turntable (sometimes called a Lazy Susan) is a game-changer, ending those frustrating moments spent rummaging at the back of cabinets. With just a quick spin, everything you need is within reach. 

    What makes a turntable so special is its straightforward (and round!) design. Whether nestled in your pantry, fridge, or bathroom cabinet, this organizer ensures every item has a designated spot within easy reach.  

    And it really shines in the kitchen. A two-tiered Lazy Susan is perfect for housing spices. Round spice jars on a round turntable? It's a match made in heaven! With this addition to your kitchen, it's so easy to find the paprika without knocking over the pepper. 

    But it's also a dream for storing canned goods in your pantry or even cleaning supplies. For those items, we recommend grabbing a turntable model with a lip to keep everything in place (instead of toppling off if you spin it too hard). Some turntables are open with a lip around the edge, and some are divided into sections. The Container Store® has oodles of turntable options, so check them out. 

     10. Corner shower caddy 

    When organizing small bathrooms, a corner shower caddy is your best friend. It offers ample storage without taking up significant space. Whether you have a tub or a standalone shower, this versatile organizer fits seamlessly into any layout. 

    The Kadolina Corner Shower Caddy brings organization and style into your space, along with four tiers! That's perfect for stashing your shampoos, conditioners, body washes, and even a rubber ducky.  

    Similarly, the Rebrilliant Eisenman Tension Pole promises plenty of storage space, rust resistance, and sturdiness, translating to years of squeaky-clean service. We love the unique soap dish and hooks! 

    And another great option is the Zenna Home Chrome 4-Shelf Tension Pole. It has the tiers and the tension rod to make it fit in any space, but it also features a built-in towel bar because who doesn't love a multi-tasking product? With this caddy, you finally have a spot in the shower to hang your washcloth where you can actually reach it! 

    How to choose the best organizers for small spaces 


    When you're on the hunt for the best organizing products, think about their functionality first and foremost. You want items that solve specific storage struggles you're facing, are adaptable, and can be used in various ways.  

    A great example is the over the door shoe organizer we shared above. It isn't just a kid's shoe rack in a closet; the same organizer could be a home for your accessories or a pantry space expansion.  


    Every square inch counts when you're working with a small space. Opt for compact, space-saving organizers that seamlessly blend with your aesthetic. Don't overlook vertical space—wall-mounted shelves or racks can transform your area. And be sure to measure the space before you make your purchase. 


    While you're shopping, look for durable materials like steel, bamboo, or heavy-duty plastics. Steel has a modern flair and resilience, while bamboo offers a warm, eco-friendly vibe. Heavy-duty plastics are lightweight, budget-friendly, and come in various colors to match your decor. 

    Maintenance matters, too, when you're thinking about what materials you want. Choose materials that won't give you a headache when cleaning time comes around. If you're eyeing fabric organizers, make sure they're either washable or armed with a protective shield against stains and spills. Or if you're shopping for spaces like bathrooms or kitchens that often have higher humidity, rust-proof or moisture-resistant organizers should be at the top of your list. They'll stand up to the elements and keep looking great. 

    Transform your space, transform your life 

    Living tiny doesn't mean you have to sacrifice comfort or functionality. With the right organizing products, every inch of your small space can be optimized to its fullest potential, making it not only visually pleasing but also a joy to live in. We've already shared some great stores to shop for the best organizing products. But there's more - so much more! Snag our freebie, 35 Stores for Small Space Solutions, for a list of stores to shop for organizing tools and small space furniture for any budget and location. 

    In the end, it's not about the size of the space you have. It's about what you do with it. And we're here to help! At Tiny to the Max, we're not just about creating organized spaces. We want to help you make room for what truly matters. 


    For more information contact Diane Greenhalgh.

  • January 15, 2024 7:44 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    Janet Schiesl

    Basic Organization

    Are empty boxes the newest indication of over-consumption?

    Recently my team member, Denene mentioned that she’s been observing a new trend happening with our clients.

    I’m noticing more and more that everyone seems to be collecting boxes!! Spaces are being overrun by empty boxes. Not only are people keeping shipping boxes of various shapes and sizes (just in case), but they are also collecting all sorts of used, pretty boxes (too pretty to throw away).

    A bunch of the clients already have (or we worked on setting up) a small space for their box “collection” (mostly the pretty gift-type boxes) to make it easy for them to find what they need.

    The key is to not go beyond the small space and to use them! I have to say I’m guilty of collecting boxes too, so this has been a good reminder to me.

    I think we all have a stash of odd boxes lying around, but I have to agree with Denene, it’s becoming something else that needs organizing. How did we get to the point where we need to sort, declutter, organize, and maintain empty boxes? Below are the types of boxes I see most and what I think you should be doing with them instead of keeping them.

    The Amazon Box

    Of course, the proliferation of online shopping has made cardboard clutter something most people deal with these days. Maybe some of us save a unique box or two (but probably never use them). If you shop online then you’ll probably agree with me that if you get rid of your stash more will be delivered soon.

    Here’s a way to use those shipping boxes.

    I have a challenge for you! One of the reasons that clutter collects is that we bring more into our homes than we take out. One of the organizing strategies we live by is the One In-One Out rule. So take some of those empty boxes and create donation stations throughout your house and fill them with items that will equal the volume of what was delivered. Donation stations can be located in clothes closets, kitchens, laundry rooms, linen closets, and garages. You can even use a box to collect papers destined for shredding. You’ll reuse the box while also creating a donation system to keep your home organized.

    There’s even a program that makes it easy for you to donate. Have you heard of Give Back Box? It’s a new method of donation because, in addition to creating a secondary use for your cardboard boxes and guaranteeing that they will be recycled, it helps clear closets, create jobs, and offer more companies and their customers an opportunity to recycle. All you have to do is pack items you no longer need into your empty boxes and then download shipping labels from their website and deliver your donations to UPS, USPS, or FedEx. They distribute your donations to their partner organizations.

    The Gift Boxes

    If you are a gift-giving person you probably have a collection of shirt boxes, jewelry boxes, and gift bags somewhere in your home. A few can come in handy at the spur of the moment, but how many do you actually need? They are not a dime a dozen, but pretty close! These days most of us live around the corner from a Dollar Tree or Dollar General where gift boxes can be purchased in packs of 2, 3 or 4 for $1.25. Adopt the mindset that you’ll let these stores store your gift boxes until you need them.

    Let go of the gift boxes.

    This is what I do. I use most gift boxes when wrapping holiday gifts, so I go purchase what I think I’ll need at the beginning of the season. Then once the holidays are over, I’ll offer any leftovers for free on my Buy Nothing group.

    The Specific Boxes

    I’ve observed clients saving boxes for specific items. Boxes for TVs, stereos, small kitchen appliances, and toys are the bulk of what I’ve seen. The biggest reason for keeping them is that they might need the boxes the next time they move and the second reason is that they’ll need the box if they sell the item.

    Use the right product for the job.

    We do a lot of packing for moves, so when our clients want to use these boxes to move I advise them to think again. Usually, these boxes are oddly shaped, therefore they won’t stack well in the moving truck. They’ll also be harder for the movers to balance/carry them onto the truck. The last thing we want is for their items to get damaged after all their box-saving efforts.

    Did you know there is a difference between packing a box to move and packing a box for shipping?

    Yes, there is a difference. So our clients who are saving a specific box for stereo pieces or small kitchen appliances are saving the box that was used to ship that item. An item can be packed for a move much more efficiently with packing paper and without all that odd-shaped Styrofoam that’s impossible to figure out how to reuse for packing.

    The Moving Boxes

    I’ve even encountered people who save moving boxes (in bulk) for their next move. Now, I’m all for reusing these boxes. But I always advise our clients that they are not worth the cost of the square footage in their home. It’s best to offer used boxes to family and friends (or try to Buy Nothing or Facebook Marketplace) for free. Let the good karma sent out with the boxes come back if you decide to reuse boxes at you next move.

    Moving is expensive, but boxes are not.

    These days, the cost of moving is not for the faint of heart. It’s expensive! So the thought of saving a lot of money on your move by reusing boxes is not realistic. Yes, you’ll save some. But is it enough that it will be worth giving up the square footage in your home now to save some later? My last word on this subject is that if you absolutely need to save your moving boxes, at least break them down so they take up less space. Re-taping is cheap people!

    So I hope I’ve inspired you to let go of a couple (or many) of the empty boxes around your house. Take a minute to find a few, break them down, and put them in your recycling (if they are recyclable). Then start enjoying that little extra space that you created in your garage, basement or closet.

    For more information contact Janet Schiesl.

  • January 02, 2024 8:03 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    Debbie Smith

    Keep Your Stuff Simple

    Do you have boxes and envelopes with decades of photos that you haven’t gone through in years? Photo albums stuffed into closets that never get looked at?

    During the hot dog days of summer, it’s the perfect time to take on an indoor project while you stay cool. Organizing your photos to scan and digitize them provide you a simple way to document and share them, preserve them from a disaster, and eliminate clutter.
    Take a trip down memory lane, organize the photos chronologically for digitizing and pull photos you may want to send to family members or old friends with a nice note – 

    something we all enjoy getting when most communication these days is digital!

    You won’t need to scan every photo, that’s where the downsizing is; there will be plenty of duplicates, fuzzy photos, or old pictures of people and scenery you no longer want.

    Once you have your photos digitized it is easy to make special digital photo albums of vacations or a DVD for a special birthday or celebration – beautiful and simple ways to remember and view the special moments of your life.

    You can even scan special papers; documents, medical records, anything you want to be able to put your hands on without going through massive files and piles of paperwork.

    Debbie and KYSS can help you get this project started!

    For more information contact, Debbie Smith.

  • December 20, 2023 8:46 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    Anne Lyons

    Step One Organizing

    We recently sold the house my parents had lived in for over 30 years. Make no mistake, it was no small clean-out project. We were fortunate to have lots of time for the process. Which allowed my mom, my siblings and me to take our time deciding about what to do with things. Mom downsized to apartment living and we took just enough of just the right things there to make it feel like home for her. Friends and family were invited over to grab what they wanted, and many did. My city-dwelling sister took a pass identifying favorites to put in storage for the future country cottage of her dreams. My brother took small treasures he loved, but as he has very different style sensibilities than my parents, it wasn’t much. We’re proud Army brats, accustomed to moving with frequency. Every move involved a purge, so you just didn’t get too attached to stuff.

    As the professional organizer in the family, I was at the forefront of this process and my approach was intense and somewhat merciless. I made frequent passes through the house to make decisions about things. I defaulted to letting go more than keeping, though I waffled often. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to toss hundreds of photos into many trash cans. I tore apart picture frames and plaques. I took knitting supplies to senior centers. I gave a future fashion design student two very expensive sewing machines. I sent pictures of funny items and notes to friends and then let them go.

    The hauler needed five small trucks to take the rest away.

    Also as a professional organizer for over ten years, I know all to well what it’s like to take too much of your parents' stuff. I can’t count the number of clients whose initial call with me includes the phrase “...oh and I’ve got a bunch of things in my basement that came from my parents’ house that I need to figure out what to do with…”  That was a burden that I did not want for myself. I was very deliberate about what I chose to keep take home with me.

    I made myself picture any item’s future location in my own home before taking it. Furthermore, when I did take items to my home they either went straight to that new location, or into my dining room until it was piled high - giving me a constant visual reminder to deal with the items. I also gave myself a ‘clear the dining room' deadline. It didn’t happen overnight, but the dining room is clear and everything has a home. Later, I called a hauler myself for the items I changed my mind about, and also the things of my own I started to realize no longer served me. Clearing your parents’ home has a unique effect of making you look at your own things differently too.

    Six months later, I wish I’d kept the Craftmatic adjustable bed. Me and the spousal unit are starting to appreciate a little elevation or padding under the knees for sleeping. A few times I wished I had the very high quality clothes steamer we let go. I definitely wish I’d asked my mom one last time about that winter coat. 

    Oh well. 

    Oh well. Could have had a free Craftmatic.

    Oh well, could have gotten those fancy tablecloths I did keep nice and crisp with the steamer.

    Wouldn’t have to find mom a new coat. 

    Oh well. 

    Do I need to elaborate the point here? The highest emotional regret I can come up with is "Oh well.” I have a small number of treasures from my parent’s home. I took some furniture that was practical to put in my newly finished basement. I replaced a cheap-ish console table of my own with a beautiful antique my mother loved. I put art of theirs up on my own walls. I wove special bits of their home into the fabric of my own - and now they are my treasures. They enhanced my house, did not overwhelm it. Not a single item is stored in a box in the basement. In my office is one box of photos that will take me some time to scan and store and learn about.

    The process isn’t easy, even for a professional organizer, but it’s so important to remember — THINGS are not your memories, your memories are your memories. A few items can go a long way for sentimentality. Saving ‘just in case’ is quite often not the best course of action. If you do find you’ll need something, you may have some regret, but it won’t probably won’t be a huge deal. Letting go is liberating in so many more ways. 

    Also, the Craftmatic was over 15 years old. Who knows how much life it had left in it? The steamer probably was too and is huge.

    I really should’ve checked with mom one more time about that coat. 

    Oh well.

    For more information, contact Anne Lyons.

  • December 20, 2023 8:34 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    Jill Katz

    One To Zen Organizing

    The Story

    I would like to think of myself as a good person. I genuinely care about people. I buy Girl Scout cookies, give to the local food pantry and write checks throughout the year to multiple organizations. But there are so many causes out there. I often overthink the where, the how much and the why of my donations so that by March, I am emotionally spent. But this year I decided to get organized with my charitable giving and I decided to bring you along for the ride.

    I researched this topic and culled what I thought were the 7 best tips for organizing charitable giving. So let’s get started.

    The Tips

    Tip #1: Pick a number

    Pick a number, magic, card trick, donation

    Is this a magic trick?

    If we are truly going to get organized, we need to estimate how much we plan to spend annually on our charitable donations.

    According to Luke Freeman, Manager of Giving What We Can, there is no one size fits all answer to picking a number but there are 3 general approaches:

    The “Give What You Won’t miss” approach (aka Greasing the wheels):

    Do you just need a starting point? Then you might begin by giving about 1% of your yearly earnings to charity. This approach allows you to incorporate the process of giving into your lifestyle without impacting your wallet too much. You can always increase the amount next year.

    The “Give the Average” approach (the average tactic):

    Most people give between 2-6% of their earnings to charity. If you want to make sure that you are doing your part, then choose the path that most Americans take. T

    The “Give Generously” approach: (above average for those who are able)

    Jews & Christians refer to this approach, giving 10%, as a tithe but even if you are not religious there are some benefits to using the 10% approach. It is low enough that it's accessible to those who have means but it is high enough that it really feels meaningful to most people. It also has the benefit of being a round number that is easy to calculate!

    Whatever approach we choose, we need to remember it’s just a starting point so let’s not agonize over it. We will pick one and move on!

    Tip #2: Time to Divvy it up

    Money, savings, piggy bank, dividing money, saving money

    Open up your piggy bank

    This is the tricky part. This is where I personally get lost in the weeds. So I called my esteemed colleague, Samara Goodman, ASID, Owner of Samara Interiors, LLC to help me out. Samara is always volunteering for one cause or another so I knew she probably had her act together when it came to charities and she did not disappoint.

    Samara told me that she first learned to organize her charitable giving about twenty years ago when she worked for the Federal government. The government has a program called the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) that allows you to use pretax dollars deducted from your paycheck toward your chosen charity. In order to take advantage of this perk, Samara learned to think ahead. Thank you US Government!

    Samara’s approach is to choose 1 or 2 primary charities that she cares about and go deeper by giving more to and getting involved in those 2 charities. Her advice: “Don’t pick too many places, start with one or two … Two doesn’t mean you are doing less, it just simplifies the giving process.” Over the years those 2 core charities have changed. Right now Samara’s focus is going local and donating to charities in her Arlington, VA area that serve those in need, as well as those one-time donations when a friend makes a request on behalf of their charity.

    “Don’t pick too many places, start with one or two … Two doesn’t mean you are doing less, it just simplifies the giving process.”

    After speaking with Samara, I felt much calmer. I love her simple approach of choosing just1 or 2 charities versus my overthinking process which leaves me with too many charities in which to keep track. Two charities or even three charities - I can do that! The only problem: I still have a bunch of pamphlets from charities and my heart is hurting. Should I just throw those away? This is too hard. Which brings me to the next tip….

    Tip #3: Leave Room for Smaller Donations

    So now we have our total amount of 1 to 3 main charities. But what about your friend’s request to donate to her top cause on Facebook for her birthday? And what about sending money to those in place X who are recovering from an Earthquake? And what about those pamphlets I receive throughout the year about 10 other amazing causes? Do I just ignore all of those donations?

    No! The trick is to allocate the majority of your total contributions to your main causes and then set aside funds for smaller donations and spontaneous giving.So, for example, if you are giving $100 total to charity for the year (just picking a nice round number), then $90 would go to your main charities, leaving 10% for your spontaneous giving. The same holds true for any expected seasonal requests. If you always give to your local church or synagogue during Holiday time, remember to subtract that amount from your total giving.

    Tip #4: Consider a recurring giving schedule (ex. Monthly)

    Giving monthly rather than giving in one lump sum provides more impact on the organization. A charity with recurring payments can plan for the year based on your monthly donation. Monthly donations also allow you to become more invested in the cause because you are reminded of your donation every month. Staying connected to the cause is a core aim of charitable giving. So next time you give, check off the recurring donations form and divide your total into 12 monthly payments.

    Tip # 5: Consider Giving Publicly

    Megaphone, Announcement,

    I'm letting everybody know

    I was surprised by this research. I always thought that anonymous giving was the preferred method because it seemed more authentic - you are giving to help others and not for recognition. But then I came across a proven phenomenon called social proof coined by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book "Influence." According to Cialdini, when we see others doing something, we are influenced to follow their lead. So if people see you donating to a charity, they might be persuaded to donate as well. Other examples of social proof are celebrity endorsements and website reviews. So we shouldn’t shy away from allowing ourselves to be listed in the “Golden Circle.”

    Tip # 6: The Apps & Websites

    These days, there are apps and websites for anything. My personal strategy is to visit these technologies after I set up my initial systems of organization. I love information so giving me these new tools to play with is a recipe for disaster. The research would never end! Here are some interesting technologies I found - just don’t fall into the information trap!

    Tip # 7: Giving ourselves some Grace

    We organizers have a saying: “Perfection is the enemy of the good.” Our goal right now is to lay the foundation for charitable giving. We can always revisit our system and tweak it over time. In fact, we are likely to adopt new causes as our experiences change and as we enter new life stages. The takeaway - we care enough to think proactively about charitable giving and we get a gold star for that!

    In Conclusion

    These 7 tips have helped me to set up a system and I hope they guide you with your charitable giving.

    I would love to hear if these tips have helped you or if you have any other tips. Scroll down to the comments section at the bottom of the page to share.

    For more information, contact Jill Katz.

  • December 18, 2023 1:34 PM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    Debbie Smith

    Keep Your Stuff Simple

    One man’s junk may be another man’s treasures, but more and more, your treasures are becoming your children’s junk.

    Many folks hold onto ‘stuff’, memories tied tightly around it, saving it for the kids. Be assured, they don’t want it. You may have closets, attics, and garages full of family memories you’re sure your kids will want some day. The china sets? The silver? Various memorabilia? Nope, they do not want it.

    One of the best gifts you can give your kids while you’re alive is downsizing your stuff before they have to. They have their own stuff; they’re working, raising kids, and not only do they do not want your stuff, they don’t have time to go through it.

    Take the time today to downsize and simplify your possessions; go through these things together with your kids and cherish the memories. Give with warm hands the jewelry, photos, or special items the kids may want. For the rest of it, hold onto the memories, but give away, recycle, repurpose or donate ‘stuff’ now. You will enjoy the walk down memory lane as you do this, and your kids will thank you!

    For more information contact Debbie Smith.

  • December 18, 2023 1:27 PM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

    Heather Nickerson


    If you’ve ever needed a better reason to stick to or create a resolution to declutter your home, this one might do it: It’s good for your brain. And we’ve seen it firsthand.  

    In today’s piece for ARTIcles by Artifcts, we talk openly about facing a loved one’s dementia diagnosis, and how, maybe to your surprise, decluttering can help. We are grateful to include specialist insights throughout from Cathy Rice, certified senior move manager and life-long educator.  


    Dementia is heartbreaking, terrifying, and, so far, irreversible. Even if a loved one is in many ways themself, we know the disease is slowly changing them and shortening their life. I know. I have a loved one who is among the more than 50 million people worldwide with dementia now and already lost a loved one to dementia as well.  

    Some of us react to this sort of diagnosis with a desire to do something, anything, to help, to make our loved one’s life in any way better, to take the tiniest measure of control over the disease. We dive into a multi-prong tactical to-do list that we must continuously update as together we progress from diagnosis, to sharing that diagnosis with others, to learning how to manage the disease and being as prepared as possible across legal, medical, financial, and insurance fronts.  

    As I sought out my own ways to help, I expected I’d find information about diet, exercise, and social activities, both for my loved one with dementia and their primary, day-to-day care provider. And I did. What I was surprised to find recently while browsing HFC, Shining a Light on Alzheimer's: 5 Brain Health Habits was the hot mainstream topic of decluttering.  

    Benefits of Decluttering for Those With Dementia 

    You know decluttering well from TV shows like The Joy of Swedish Death Cleaning and The Home Edit, books including Marie Kondo’s famous The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and bins and more from shops like The Container Store. Decluttering to support someone with dementia in some ways is like decluttering for people with normal brain health. Too much stuff can literally be dangerous if we cannot safely navigate our homes. Some of us are also more sensitive to feeling drained by too much stuff lying about around us.  

    Of course, when you have dementia, decluttering has other benefits, too. 

    • Reduce stress. Stress reduction is imperative when you have mild cognitive impairment or dementia. And decluttering can mean clearing away some of the to-dos that come to mind when people see stuff to tidy, dust, or keep safe. Have you experienced a loved one with dementia hiding things to keep the item safe? I am sure you have because it's an incredibly common behavior. 
      • Improve sleep. Quality sleep is critical for the brain’s nightly reset. Busy surroundings can lead to busy brains and may even sow confusion in bedtime routines.  
        • Safety, safety, safety. We know, decluttering is about aging well in place for all of us as we age, but it’s especially true for people with health conditions, like dementia, that can make them more vulnerable to confusing and distracting surroundings.
          • Avoiding anything close to hoarding. Keep in mind, hoarding disorder is its own condition, but managing even the clutter of daily life is more difficult when you have dementia because of increased challenges in making decisions.  
            • Purpose. We know finding purpose at any age is important. Here we are talking about giving the decluttering process a purpose to help your loved one part with more items than they might otherwise be willing to do. Purpose might be supporting a local shelter, resupplying charitable builders with tools, or reconnecting with loved ones when you pass down items. You get the idea. 
            Decluttering for Dementia
            We’ve prepared these tips from our own practical experience helping our loved ones with dementia as we try to help make sense of it all, including one’s surroundings.* In some cases our loved ones were also decluttering to downsize and move. In others, it was more of a practical decluttering, for safety and mental health.  

            * We are not medical professionals. If you are considering radical changes to your loved one’s home enviornment, you should consult first with a specialist licensed in dementia care.

            LIGHTS ...

            Before you start your declutter, check the lighting throughout the home. Living like a cave troll generally does no one very good. But dementia is not only about memory. If you can see well what’s around you, it’s easier to make sense of your surroundings (and of course it’s safer). Make it easy to see the light switches, too. Understanding and interpreting surroundings, like a white switch on a white wall, can become an impediment for someone with dementia. 

            Cathy’s Insight: Adding felt pads to any lighting fixture to differentiate the feel of the switch from the fixture itself or a simple icon as a visual cue helps to support the brain's understanding of the item with its function.

            … CAMERA, ACTION!

            Start from the ground, and work your way up.

            What’s on the floor? Stacks of stuff? Wandering power cords? Rugs that slip and shift? Take a fresh look. Then move your eye upward to the surfaces of counters and entry tables. If someone needed to quickly grab onto a surface to prevent a fall, would they have a secure place to grab?  Is there a clear and secured place for common objects, like house keys?

            Cathy’s Insight: People with dementia often find comfort in knowing that their stuff is close-at-hand. Create a "command center" within easy reach of their favorite chair for essentials (eyeglasses, books, pencils, fidget items, etc.).  

            And about those rugs … if you must keep them, use carpet tape to secure edges to the floor. The same applies to small storage trays, which you can secure with surface-safe tape or museum putty.

            Favor simple home furnishings.

            As we know stress takes its own toll on the brain; let’s try to minimize the stress home décor can accidentally create. One Arti Member told us, “My loved one was disturbed by a decorative lumbar pillow that had a shaggy fur cover. It looked like a small dog.” Sometimes textures and patterns can be difficult for people with dementia to interpret. Likewise distinguishing whether an object is inanimate. This is why some people with advancing dementia find comfort with life-like pets such as those from Joy For All.

            Take it down a notch.

            This is about audio clutter. Too much and/or competing noises can be incredibly distracting for anyone, particularly someone with dementia. Think about simultaneous noise from the television, washing machine, and someone on a phone call, for example.

            Cathy’s Insight: Taking this point a step further, family, friends, and caregivers should practice standing in front of, and at eye level if appropriate, people with dementia before speaking with them. Get their attention by saying their name and then speak simply and succinctly. 

            Set it aside, together. Do not remove it. 

            Don’t remove it immediately, if you do not have to, that is. Rushes to declutter in support of someone with memory loss could lead to irreversible loss of cherished mementos that also can serve as visual cues for familiarity and comfort. Is there an alternative way to display the items that the person with dementia says they care most about? Maybe try grouping like items on a shelf or table where they will see them often. For photos, you might even consider a digital photo frame, such as those from NixplayAura, or any of the many other options.  

            For items that do not make the cut, if space permits, store them in an appropriate box, and set them aside so you can pull them back out later if needed or as part of a monthly or maybe seasonal rotation. We recommend you Artifct them before they go into the box and tag them to easily recall what you've stored. This approach does not apply to duplicates, meaningless bits and bops, or trash. Consult with your loved one always as well as your own good judgement.

            Clarity of Purpose for the Win

            Our final decluttering tip is about visual chaos. If you open a drawer and see a jumble of socks, pants, and t-shirts, you could get distracted or confused. If a cabinet has five options for plates, and 10 options for cups, which should you choose? Not only should you streamline what’s inside for simpler decision making but consider visually labeling doors to indicate what’s inside. This gadget could help you get started with easy printing of images from your phone.

            Cathy’s Insight: As the disease of dementia progresses, consider only placing the clothes needed for that day in the drawer or use a shelf in a bedroom/bathroom as the place for their daily wardrobe.  

            Do you have decluttering tips for dementia? We’d love to hear them! You can contact

            Happy Artifcting!



            If you are a caregiver or supporting someone who is, you may find it helpful to browse and share these related resources.

            Alzheimer's Society, UK: 10 Ways to Make Your Home Dementia Friendly 

            US National Institute of Health: Study of Home Modifications for People with Dementia 

            Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute: Communication Strategies in Dementia Care  

            Mayo Clinic: Clearing Clutter Benefits Your Health and Well-Being

            Psychology Today: The Many Mental Benefits of Decluttering 

            AARP Michigan: Dementia Resource Guide for Families

            For more information contact Heather Nickerson.

          • December 18, 2023 12:57 PM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

            Samara Goodman

            Samara Interiors

            As many of you know, I am the Vice President of the DC Chapter of the National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals (NAPO-WDC). So clearly, I spend a lot of time learning from my knowledgable organizing and productivity colleagues. One thing I have learned is that season-specific decor often creates clutter. In this issue, we will share tips for simplifying the foundational pieces used in tablescapes and ideas for easy seasonal decor updates throughout the year. 

            NEUTRAL BASE
            What do clear glass, white pottery, silver, wood, and wicker all have in common? They are all neutral! These materials make great base vessels to hold your changing decor throughout the year. Whether it is a bowl, vase, jar, or tray, you do not need to change this base – even when the season changes or when you just get tired of the filler. No need to go out and purchase new vessels, just shop your home for them. Cake stands and glass floral-delivery vases are two of our favorites.

            EASY FILLER 
            One can find beautiful holiday and seasonal decor inspiration online and in shop windows. However, most of us do not want to store these one-month or one-season items for the rest of the year. Look to nature and everyday items for ways to customize these vessels year round. Items such as candies, fruit, leaves, and nuts are all easily accessible and affordable. We especially like to use items that are compostable after the season is over. The Samara Interiors Décor Guides provide many vase, bowl, and basket filler ideas.

            For more information contact Samara Goodman.

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