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  • February 03, 2021 11:10 AM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Anna Novak

    Home Transition Pros

    February 3, 2021

    As a professional organizer, I know that emotions are tied to many types of personal belongings.  The most challenging items, though, are typically those with true sentimental value.  When organizing sentimental items or heirlooms with my clients, I always try to save them for last. With my eagle eye, I can spot the box of photos, letters or memorabilia from across the room. I quickly make a beeline for those bins and move them out of the way so my client won’t see it. Why do I do this? Because sentimental items can halt the flow of decluttering and downsizing. It can trip up even the most decisive person.

    Ultimately, we do reach those bottom bins. That is when I utilize these organizing tips to help my client pare down their sentimental items:

    1. Be Realistic.
    When we label all things as “special” then nothing is special. That is why I have my clients rate sentimentals on a sliding scale from one to five. Ultimately, we keep the 4s and 5s, donate or toss the 1s and 2s. The 3s are put in a “maybe pile” and revisited later. The goal is to organize your sentimental items by reducing them to a realistic amount that you can admire, showcase, and treasure.

    2. Take photos and create a photo book.
    Do you have a piece of furniture in your home that doesn’t fit into your decor or isn’t your style? You can’t use it but you keep it because it belonged to your father and it was his favorite chair. Take a photo of it. In fact, create a photo book filled with pictures of sentimental pieces with a description of the stories behind them. The memory of the object is preserved while decluttering your space.

    3. Create a t-shirt quilt.
    Most people have a pile of T-shirts in a drawer or closet that they don’t wear anymore but that they can’t bear to give away. Those camp t-shirts, Vacation T-shirts, or College T-shirts can be made into a quilt that is both functional and memorable. Arlington T-Shirt Quilts & AcrossCountryQuilts are two resources to use.

    4. Give it one last spin.
    Do you have a fancy set of china that you inherited from a loved one but that isn’t really your style? Or maybe it was yours but you are downsizing and don’t need tableware for 16 anymore. Throw one last party and use the china or dinnerware. Take photos of everyone using the item. Keep the photos and give away the china. This can apply to many items besides china such as music, clothing, or holiday decorations.

    5. Donate or sell functional items.
    A major motivator to downsize or organize sentimental items is to give them to someone who can use them. If you have objects that are sitting around gathering dust, consider those in need that would benefit from those items. Or if those items have held their value, consider selling the object and donating the proceeds to a charity you or your loved one cares about.

    7. Think about your legacy.
    This is a big mental challenge but an important one. Who are you and what makes up your identity? Are you a Writer, A Parent or Grandparent? The items you keep should remind you of who you are and what you might want to pass down. For example, a box of recipes might be an important representation of your role as a nurturer to your family. Or a newspaper article that describes an important contribution you made to your community could be a great reminder of your identity. If you worked for 30 years as a lawyer and your company gave you a memento when you retired, that gift could be a keepsake you would like to display.

    I hope these techniques help you on your downsizing journey and into the next step of your life. Remember- sometimes you need to clear the clutter in order to create the mental and physical space to treasure the items that are truly important to you.

    Jill Katz is a mindful Professional Organizer and the Owner of One to Zen Organizing. She specializes in clearing the mental and physical clutter for those with anxiety, ADHD or Chronic Disorganization brought on by major life transitions.

    For more information, contact Anna Novak at

  • December 30, 2020 4:02 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Anna Novak

    Home Transition Pros

    December 30, 2020

    As you prepare to review, assess and sort all of the belongings you’ve acquired over the past 30 or 40 years, one thing becomes clear:  You’ll need a way to manage all of the information. A home inventory of your belongings is a critical tool for a successful home transition.

    Whether you’re a pen-and-paper type of person, or if you’re ready to try an all-digital version of a traditional inventory, a written or photographic list of your belongings will make downsizing, moving, and unpacking much easier for everyone involved.

    system for keeping track of your belongings is a must-have!  Your home inventory of your belongings will help you:

    • Keep track of all of your belongings and where they need to go.
    • Determine the types of help you’ll need to process everything.
    • Remember the reasons you made the decisions you’ve made.
    • Provide a written record of your intentions that you can share with others.

    We recommend that you think ahead about the way you will organize the information you’ll need to gather and set out an inventory management strategy before you really get going on anything else.  Then, stick with your system throughout the process.

    Start Making Your Own Lists

    Are you a list person?  If you are, you’ve probably already started thinking about your lists and how you will keep yourself organized during the downsizing process.  Whatever works for you is great!  If making lists doesn’t come naturally to you, there are options for already-made workbooks or printable inventory sheets that will get you going.  The Home Transition Pros Planning Guide for Downsizers includes handy tools that we invite you to print off.

    Lean on the Pros

    Whether you are managing a planned downsizing move,  a short-notice move, or an estate closeout, the moving company you choose should have its own foolproof way of keeping track of your items (if they don’t, then don’t choose them!).  Be sure to ask about their system and how much detail will be provided.  Also, ask for help determining what items you’ll be responsible for tracking yourself.  These general guidelines will help you start the conversation.

    Embrace New Technology Tools for Home Inventories

    For some, a trusty yellow pad or pre-made workbook will do the trick.  While pen and paper may be a comfortable method for you, we’d like you to consider these benefits of an online system:

    • You can see, sort, and distribute all of your belongings, all from your computer or tablet.
    • You can go back and add more details or notes as you go along, and find them easily.
    • Your measurements and notes can be easily shared with people who are helping you downsize your belongings.
    • Move managers, packers, and movers can quickly determine where each of your items should go (your next home, a family member, charity, etc.)
    • Your inventory becomes a permanent record of valuable items, including where they are stored or where they were sent.

    Online home inventory and move management tools are a development that will greatly increase the efficiency and accuracy of your note-taking.  Get in touch today to learn more about our preferred online systems and recommendations for qualified help in your area.

    For more information, contact: 

    Anna Novak, Home Transition Pros


  • December 30, 2020 3:02 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Jill Katz

    One to Zen Organizing

    December 30, 2020

    Why does the Holiday Season bring smiles to our faces? For many it’s the lights decorating the houses or the familiar sight of our children’s holiday decorations. For others it’s the sound of holiday tunes. Some folks sigh contentedly at the smell of gingerbread cookies or latkes sizzling in a frying pan. And let’s not forget the crinkle of gift-wrap beneath our fingers. What do these have in common? They are all pleasant sensory experiences.

    Sensory experiences have the power to “make or break” us in our daily lives. Clients overwhelmed by visual clutter from piles of papers or a kitchen mess is what keeps me -- a Professional Organizer -- in business. When I reduce the visual clutter and tame it into an organized system, my clients feel calm in their space. But what most people don’t consider is the power of our other senses to also create clutter or calm in our lives.


    We don’t often think about it, but smell has a big impact on our mood. Have you ever entered a space with an offending odor? It’s impossible to focus on anything but that smell. The problem is that as time goes on, the smell fades to the background even as it’s still affecting our health and productivity. So be sure to regularly go through your living and working spaces to take stock of any negative scents. Once the negative scents are remediated, consider what uplifting scents you might want to add to your space. For example, I love the fresh smell of lavender! I work with a diffuser in the background that I fill with natural oils; I can choose different ones to clear my sinuses, destress me, or energize me. On the other hand, a friend of mine gets headaches from any scents and prefers a neutral-scent environment.


    The sounds that enter our space can also cause us to feel chaos or focus. For those of us who need complete quiet in order to reach peak productivity, noise-cancelling headphones might be helpful. Others, particularly those with ADHD, need a steady flow of background noise or music to get work done. In her latest book, “How to Do It Now Because It’s Not Going Away,” Leslie Josel recommends that students make a “Homework Playlist” that will both “drown out distracting sounds around you” and “get your adrenaline going to get motivated.” I know that my environment feels less overwhelming when I have Carole King on in the background.


    Touch is omnipresent. Our body is bombarded by so many tactile sensations that we tend to block out most of them. That doesn’t mean they are not affecting us. A 2013 article in Psychology Today cites several studies that reveal how textures and tactile experiences affect our emotions and judgements. According to interior decorator Samara Goodman of Samara Interiors, “touch is an important sense to consider when decorating, and thoughtfully layering the textures in home décor can induce calm. Using a variety of complementary textures will add balance to a room. Consider the contrast between a smooth (yet soft) sofa, plush velvet pillows, faux fur blanket, and an open-weave metal coffee table.”

    Proprioception: The Sixth Sense

    Proprioception, often referred to as the “sixth sense,” refers to body awareness and is closely related to position, pressure, and balance. Too much input and we are overstimulated; too little input and we lose touch with our environment and lose focus. I became aware of this “sixth sense” when one of my daughters was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder and ultimately ADHD. When she was little, we would roll her up in a blanket like a burrito to give her more stimulation. We would set up a little tent in the basement where she could retreat when she was overstimulated. Now she uses hand fidgets or chews gum for more stimulation. If you feel like you are fading away or losing focus, you can stimulate your proprioceptive sense by applying pressure to your body. The same deep pressure can also recalibrate your input level, thereby creating a sense of calm with your environment.

    Personal Preferences

    We each have our own relationships with sensory clutter. Creative types often require more sensory stimuli -- this helps their neurons fire and gives them the “juice to produce.” Others get jittery if they have even one item out on the counter; they need less sensory input to feel calm. Most organizers have to balance the needs of different people when organizing a shared space. We need to be respectful of other people’s preferences. My husband enjoys surrounding himself with his reading material. He has piles of books, articles and newspapers next to his bed.  And I leave them there because it is his space. When I see "book creep" in other areas, however,r I mention it to him and he respectfully removes what to me is "visual clutter."

    In Sensory Conclusion

    When people think of decluttering, they often resort to removing only negative visual stimuli. Don’t fall into that trap. Be sure to take stock of other sensory clutter when conducting a walk-through of your space. What you decide to add or remove could be the difference between clutter and calm.

    Jill Katz

    For more information, contact:

  • December 17, 2020 10:22 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Janet Schiesl, Basic Organization

    December 16, 2020

    Can you make decluttering your home into a party? Why yes, of course.

    So many of my clients will say to me, “I could do this myself, but I don’t. I’ll do it when you are here though.” For most people, decluttering and organizing are social activities. They like having someone around to talk through their thoughts as they go.

    Why is this?

    I think it has a lot to do with the emotional attachment that people have with their items. They need to replace that attachment with the items with an attachment (all though temporary) to a human being. I think it makes the “declutterer” strong enough at the moment to move forward.

    If you have tried to get organized, but have failed, maybe it’s because you didn’t have the support you needed while doing the work. This is one way a professional organizer supports clients through their projects.

    For most people, decluttering and organizing are social activities. 

    Make it a little bit fun.

    Making light of things, joking around, playing music and just generally chatting can make the process seem so much easier. I worked with a client who turned the music up loud and sang to her favorite tunes while working. (She had a great voice by the way.) Once she got started, she worked like gang-busters while the music was playing. It was great!

    This can get out of hand.

    A professional organizer will make sure that you stay focused on the task at hand, by discussing the goals for the day and making sure that the work moves along so you meet those goals.

    For more information, contact:

    Janet Schiesl, Basic Organization

  • December 07, 2020 4:56 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Anna Novak Home Transition Pros

    December 1, 2020

    2 Tips for Downsizing over the Holidays

    Are you an empty nester, senior, or retiree who is  thinking about downsizing?  Preparing for the holidays presents a perfect opportunity to identify the items you love the most, share your abundance with others, and clear a path to a fresh start in January. Here are 12 Downsizing tips that can help you get started on your downsizing over the holidays:

    1) Reduce Holiday Decorations

    Decorate indoors and outdoors with your favorite decorations, using the items you love the most with time and energy you have.  Donate the remainders early in the season, when your unneeded decorations will be happily used by others.

    2) Re-Gift

    Many schools, churches and charities sponsor Holiday Markets that make use of gently-used housewares, costume jewelry, coats and other donated items.  Take full advantage of these opportunities to put your unneeded items into the hands of people who can use them right away.

    3) Spruce Up

    Addressing loose door or cabinet knobs, burned-out lightbulbs, and other minor maintenance repairs will help get your home in shape for the holidays and beyond.  Downsizing tip: Be sure to use the supplies you have on hand before you make a trip to the hardware store.

    4) Use Your Gift Wrap

    Set a goal to use all of the wrapping paper, ribbon and tags you have accumulated over the years.  If you have supplies you haven’t used in many seasons, you probably just don’t like them enough to use them on a gift.

    5) Freshen Up Your Food

    Remove all outdated or unwanted foods from the pantry, freezer and refrigerator in preparation for holiday gatherings.  Resist the urge to “stock up” on pantry items during seasonal sales.

    6) Let the Liquor Go

    They say liquor never goes bad, but if you have spirits you haven’t served or enjoyed for several years, it may be time to move it out.  Can’t bring yourself to toss perfectly good liquor?  Look for cocktail recipes that use the spirits in question.  Here’s a handy website that offers a “Top 100 Classic Cocktail Recipes” with helpful search features.

    7) Trim Down Tableware

    Set your nicest holiday table or buffet, and identify the service pieces you chose not to use this year or no longer need.  There will probably be more than you think!   Really make the effort to set aside the ones that don’t make the cut.

    8) Lighten Up On Linens and Towels

    Get rid of frayed towels, unappealing blankets, and any quantities of linens beyond what you would need for a house full of guests.

    9) Scale Down the Gadgets

    Some of the year’s most elaborate meals are prepared around the holidays.  Take note of duplicate or unneeded items in the kitchen, and set them aside for donation.

    10) Pitch the Plastic

    How do these mountains of plastic food containers accumulate?  Use them to send holiday treats or care packages, and then keep only what you would typically use for 3 days of leftovers.

    11) Pass Things Down

    Offer relevant belongings to visiting family members or friends (but don’t take it personally if you don’t get any takers! Allow that to be your permission to donate those items instead).

    12) Enjoy What Really Matters

    The best part of downsizing:  the freedom to enjoy activities and spend time with loved ones with fewer responsibilities and less stuff weighing you down.

    For more information, contact:

    Anna Novak, Home Transition Pros

  • December 07, 2020 4:39 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Jill Katz, One to Zen Organizing

    December 1, 2020

    Decisions and Adulthood

    When I was a kid I couldn’t wait to become an adult. I would have dessert for breakfast and stay up until midnight and watch all the TV shows I wanted. I had it all planned out. Oh, and of course I figured I would know all the answers to all the important questions because adults know everything. Of course!

    OK, so being an adult was not exactly how I thought it would be. But the most startling revelation was the sheer number of decisions I needed to make every day. What should I cook for dinner? Should I say “Yes” to this thing or that thing? Which type of cell phone should I purchase? Can we afford X? The decisions were endless. Why did they never mention this in school?

    As an organizer, I see the results of decision fatigue--Clutter. Yes, let’s repeat that: Clutter is the result of unmade decisions.

    Clutter is the result of unmade decisions.

    Tips for Making Decisions

    Here are my first four tips to help you stave off decision fatigue so you can get control of your physical and mental clutter:

    1. Decision making is maintenance

    We make daily decisions to keep up with our clutter. Michelle Vig, a fellow Professional Organizer, and owner of Neat Little Nest, identifies three types of clutter in her book,"The Holistic Guide to Decluttering: Organize and Transform Your Space, Time and Mind. Space clutter is physical clutter such as clothes on the floor. Time clutter is the result of stuffing too many appointments in a day. Mind clutter is an overabundance of thoughts rushing through our brain, many of them negative. These 3 types of clutter will build up if we do not make daily decisions about what we store in our space, time, and mind. Allowing all items into your home, saying “Yes” to every invitation, and holding on to every thought will lead to an onslaught of clutter. It’s up to you to make decisions that reduce this clutter before you become buried in it.

    2. Making a decision is the equivalent of working a muscle

    You don’t start your exercise routine by picking up 20 lb weights. You start with a warm-up, some light weights and then ease your way into the heavier ones. Use the same technique for making decisions. Start with a decision that is easy for you and work your way up to the more difficult ones. For me, an easy decision is choosing what to wear for the day or settling on a menu for dinner. A more difficult decision might be what color to paint my bedroom. Your notions of “easy” or “difficult” might differ from mine.

    3. Routines

    Setting routines is the ultimate strategy for preventing decision fatigue. For example, if I wake up every morning at the same time, carry out the same workout routine, and eat the same breakfast every day then I save myself from making 3 decisions every day. Think about what positive routines you can build into your day or week and practice them until they become a habit.

    4. Mantras

    Mantras are a great way to throw out mind clutter (negative or unhelpful thoughts) so you can apply your renewed energy toward making good decisions. I love mantras so much that I wrote a wholeblog post about them! The next time you feel anxious about attacking any sort of clutter, think of a good mantra (“I can do this,” “I am strong,” “I am safe”), sit down for a few minutes, close your eyes and say the mantra over and over while practicing slow, deep breathing. When you open your eyes, you will be ready to face your clutter with a feeling of clarity and calm. It really works!

    To Be Continued...

    Stay tuned for my next blog post featuring  5 more tips for making decisions and preventing clutter.

    For more information contact:

    Jill Katz One to Zen Organizing

  • November 10, 2020 2:15 PM | Anonymous

    Jeanne Fox Alston Your Space Made To Order

    November 10, 2020

    Thinking about moving in the next year or so? If so, don't wait to declutter the two areas that most homeowners ignore until the end, namely basements and garages. 

    The pictures shown here are typical of what I often see. This basement storage room was in the house of someone whose job required him to move a number of times and my first impression was, "Whoa! Where to start??" In fact, just about everything in that room had been there since he moved in 10 years ago and a closer look revealed that many boxes had been moved - unopened - more than once! 

    Look, I know that  basements and garages hold everything that we don't want to deal with. And it's tedious to even THINK about going through all that stuff, let alone actually getting started. But professional organizers, like me, can help keep you on point and get the job done. We'll even get rid of anything you don't want anymore! In this case, once my client and I dove it, it was clear that the vast majority of what was stored could be donated, recycled, shredded or trashed. So the room was cleared relatively quickly. The irony was that we tackled the basement only because he was preparing to move again and this time he was paying for it, instead of an employer.

    Preparing to move often takes months. My advice? Don't make the process more difficult  by doing the hardest job last. 

    For more information contact: 

    Jeanne Fox Alston Your Space Made To Order


  • November 10, 2020 2:05 PM | Anonymous

    Janet Schiesl, Basic Organization

    November 10, 2020

    A paperless life is a myth. But you can achieve a “less paper” life by making a few simple changes. Follow these suggestions to leave those paper piles behind and closer to a paperless life.

    Do one To-Do each month, for the next 6 months.

    1. Sign up for online bill paying. You can go through your bank or through each service (like utility companies) to pay each month. If you finances are secure, consider setting up automatic payments.
    2. Sign up to receive your bills and statements by email.  This task will take some time, since you will have to go to each organizations website to sign up. You will receive email notices that your bills are due and your statements are available, so it’s easy to stay current.
    3. Set up folders on your computer for your statements. This will eliminate having to store paper in a file cabinet.
    4. Back up regularly or automatically – Now that you are keeping electronic copies you need to make sure that you are backing up your computer or using a cloud service to save your documents.
    5. Scan old documents. Now that you have gone electronic with your current paperwork, move to scanning your important, older documents and move more closely to a paperless life
    6. Slow incoming paper. Register to stop receiving junk mail and catalogs and get into the habit of recycling any junk that slips through the cracks by not even bringing it into your home.

    A paperless life is a myth. But you can achieve a “less paper” life by making a few simple changes. 

    Check out these additional posts on reducing paper:

    Conquer Your Paper Piles

    5 Steps to Super Simple Paper Management

    Organizing Paperwork in the Kitchen

    How to Live With Less Paper by JotForm

    More information: 

    Janet Schiesl, Basic Organization

  • November 10, 2020 1:55 PM | Anonymous

    Jeanne Fox Alston, Your Space Made to Order LLC

    November 10, 2020

    What energizes me as an organizer is being of service to my clients AND the recipients of the items they donate. One of my clients is a knitter. and she’s been setting aside yarn to donate while organizing all of her knitting supplies and books. When I asked fellow organizers for suggestions on where to donate the yarn, one pointed me to a local chapter of “Chase the Chill."

    The Facebook page for one chapter reads: “Our mission is to celebrate the art and beauty of hand knitting and crocheting, building community…and sharing with others. Chase the Chill is an annual event that distributes handmade scarves in public places so that those in need—regardless of income and without any qualifiers—can help themselves."

    The yarn we donated went to the Mount Vernon, VA, chapter. They usually do their “scarf storming” in December. They hang the scarves from trees and on bus stops in areas where low income and homeless people may congregate.

    They have a Facebook page, as does the Chase the Chill DC chapter, should you want to donate yarn or knit or crochet scarves. There are also Facebook pages for other chapters scattered around the country, from Easton, PA to Redwood City, CA to Winnipeg, Canada.

    For more information contact: Jeanne Fox Alston 



  • September 25, 2020 11:16 AM | Anonymous

    Janet Schiesl, Basic Organization

    September 25, 2020

    Students have been back to school for a while. How are you managing?

    One of the keys to successful study habits is the ability to concentrate with all of the distractions around you.  Here are some time management principles that apply to schoolwork.

    Have a purpose when studying.

    Know the objective of each class and each chapter in the textbook.  This allows your student to use active listening and focused read actively.  If  they know the purpose of the class to start with, it is easier to recognize the information and get it into their notes.

    Study in chunks.

    Whether a student’s attention span is two hours or forty-five minutes, don’t push them further than their limit. Take a brief five or ten-minute break and resume refreshed.

    Take advantage of prime time.

    What ever period of the day that is your student is at peak mentally is their best study hour.  Concentration is easier and energy is higher during this time.  Schedule their more difficult tasks to coincide with their peak performance time.

    Plan students study time.

    By structuring students study time, it will be easier for then to concentrate on the task at hand. Without a plan, distractions come easy.

    Develop the power of concentration.

    Success depends on a lot of hard work and self-discipline makes it easier. Even the smartest student, with no discipline will fail.

    Get your students organized.

    Keeping your study space organized is important to helping students concentrate, think clearly and finish tasks quickly.

    One of the keys to successful study habits is the ability to concentrate with all of the distractions around you. 


    For more information contact:Basic Organization

    Janet Schiesl, Basic Organization

    Tel.: 571-265-1303  Email:

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