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  • 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.

          • December 15, 2023 6:48 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

            Janet Schiesl

            Basic Organization

            “Keep a lost & found basket in a central location where family members can stash things they find lying around the house and look for things they have lost.”                                                                                          

            – Harold Taylor

            I subsequently do this and it works!

            I use it a lot. Much more than the rest of the family. It makes me crazy when things are lying around, and out of place, since I like everything neat and organized more than everyone else.

            “Everything in its place” is my motto.

            When the space is organized through the use of baskets, bins, or boxes, wayward items will seem more organized and there will be a central location for all family members to look for items that are “lost”.

            It’s certainly quick and easy. Throughout the day, you may choose to walk the circuit in your home to collect items, or you may grab them as you go.

            For more information contact Janet Schiesl.

          • December 12, 2023 1:13 PM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

            Elaine Weiss

            Declutter For Good

            As a life-long reader and lover of books, I totally get it.

            If books are central to who you are, you have been collecting them since you were little (and, possibly, since your kids were little). Each aspect of your life – high school, college, jobs, parenting, hobbies, book clubs, travel – has provided an opportunity to accumulate different ones. They all have sentimental value. You can’t part with them.

            But they can also present a problem. They are all over your home: on the bookshelves, tables, chairs, and now, even the floor. You have a feeling you aren’t actually going to read most of them again (or even once). But even if you might be able to part with some of them, you don’t know where to start. Or how to ensure they don’t end up in the dump.

            A few years ago, I was in your situation. I had at least six book shelves in various rooms throughout the house, with both books I loved and ones I didn’t. Books I had promised myself to shelve “right away” were settling into semi-permanent homes on the table, buffet, and chairs. When I went looking for one to read or reference, I could never find it. And as someone who had never parted peacefully with my books, I had dreaded even the thought of tackling this task. As it turned out, it was actually among my most enjoyable activities. Not only did I create space for many non-book items, I can consistently find the book I want. And even better, having a collection of only truly loved books has reinvigorated the book-lover in me.

            If you’ve been thinking that dealing with your books should be part of your home organization, now is definitely the time. Why now?

            The holidays are coming. Tackling this one part of your clutter can create a more inviting space for holiday hosting, clear your head to make planning, cooking, and shopping more efficient and enjoyable, and set you up for further, bigger organizing wins in 2024. Add this to your pre-New Years’ resolution list.

            Books make wonderful gifts. As you sort through the many you no longer want to keep, you will come across several that are perfect for a particular family member or friend. And inscribing a book you have loved with a note (and maybe adding a cute bookmark) can make for a more personal, special present. (I’m also a fan of crafting with old books! Sparkly jewelry boxes, cute pen holders, and unique lamp bases, are among the virtually endless options.)

            ‘Tis the season of giving. Good book drives are everywhere. One that is meaningful to me is the GO month drive by the National Association of Professional Organizers (of which I am a proud member). It is a month-long campaign to raise awareness about the many benefits of organizing and decluttering. So, this December and January, consider putting your pre-loved books to great use. 

            Ready to get started? Feel free to reach out to me for a list of great local charities that can ensure your books find loving new homes.

            Cleaner closet. Clearer head. Cuter me!

            I don’t know about you, but I tend to spend a lot of time in the morning looking at my closet and not being able to figure out what to wear. And not infrequently, even after I have managed to choose, I take off the skirt or top I selected and swap it for another that feels like a slight improvement. Picking the day’s outfit has definitely gotten harder over the years, and I’ve been attributing it lately to a combination of aging and insufficient early-morning caffeine. I just turned 50, though, and I’m the kind of person who is naturally awake – and immediately chatty – when I get out of bed, so I knew at some level that it couldn’t be only those factors.

            For the past five months, since my full-closet declutter, it has never taken more than a few seconds. I can see every option, and while they all look good, it is very easy to determine which I want. Several factors seem to be at play here.

            First, of course, is the fact that there are so many fewer options. Six months ago, I was trying to decide between fifteen or more pairs of shorts. Now I’m down to nine (if all of my laundry is clean, which is almost never the case). Given that, even if I stay home all week and wear shorts every day, that feels like a more-than-enough set of options. And having picked one or the other of my remaining pairs of jeans shorts twice, I can see that I had too many “lounge” shorts I wasn’t wearing, but could use one more pair of good jeans shorts. I.e., not only do I know what I want to wear, I know what to buy (and what not to!)

            Second, I am not getting bogged down by all the unconscious negative thoughts I didn’t realize I was experiencing. I’m not having my eyes catching on t-shirts that I don’t like, that no longer fit me, or that were never really my thing but that I couldn’t admit to, having just paid for them. Those all went to other people’s closets where they will be appreciated and worn, which also makes me feel lighter and less guilty (leaving me mental space to enjoy the tops that fit great, match my remaining shorts, and fit perfectly into a single drawer).

            Third, my husband’s side of the closet, which, despite being a bit smaller than mine, has consistently, since we’ve moved into this house, been neater and better organized than mine, now looks to me like a disorganized mess. His shirts, which had seemed so accessible relative to my three-on-a-hanger skirts, are clearly not so easy to get to. When I scan his shelves, I spot multiple shirts that he hasn’t worn in years and that are just making it hard to see, and pull out, the few that he consistently puts on. (But, I promise myself, I will not take that on until I finish decluttering my stuff, which remains far and away the biggest clutter issue facing our household.)

            Finally, my friends are jealous. I have been gleefully sharing pictures of my newly organized, lovely, accessible, attractive closet, and I suspect that I’ll soon be receiving requests to help them do the same with theirs.

            Helpful "storage unit'? Or endless black hole?

            If you’re like me, you have encountered a pile of old (sub your favorite “clothing” “books” “papers” “80s mementos”) and had the epiphany that the big grey bin you found at Home Depot would be the perfect solution to this disorder. All it needs is a label. Yay, mission accomplished!

            Fast forward five, seven, ten, eighteen years. Big grey bin is beneath two boxes, has gathered a few cobwebs, the label is faded, and even if you can read it, you can’t remember what it is in there. And the thought of pulling it out from beneath those boxes, opening it, and sorting through the dozens of things inside that you know you don’t want is just too daunting. So you pretend it didn’t happen.

            Now multiple that big grey bin situation by a lot. What do you have? A storage unit. I.e., a seemingly helpful tool for organizing and making space that, in reality, is a predatory force preying on us when we are most vulnerable.

            That might be an exaggeration, but only a very slight one. Why are storage units four-letter words in my mind? 

            They get you when you’re down. Who rents storage units, and why? People who have accumulated more things than they can reasonably store in their homes, whether because they were talked into buying things they didn’t need, inherited things they don’t want or can’t use, and/or went through a major life event that made dealing with things too difficult. I.e., you were persuaded that the new couch was necessary and perfect, only to realize that you couldn’t quite afford it and now have no space for the furniture that was already there. When your parents died, you were in no shape to sort through their drawers, cabinets, closets, and boxes, so it went, mostly intact, right into this space. Your husband’s sister had to move in with her baby, pushing old kids’ clothes you had been meaning to sort and boxes of books you read in college into the storage unit. This might sound like help when you need it, until you consider that…

            They enable you to avoid healthy grieving and processing. Of course, you wouldn’t “grieve” the bad decision to buy the couch you didn’t really want, but by shoving the old one out of sight, you allow yourself to not confront the pattern and nip this forming habit in the bud. And while it’s natural not to be able to cope with sorting your parents’ clothing, needlepoints, sentimental but not-your-thing serving platters, and old love letters in the weeks and months after they passed, the storage unit has turned those into years in which you never fully processed and missed out on valuable opportunities to use and cherish the few items that do keep them alive for you (and that you really do want to pass on to your own kids). And you are building up resentment towards your sister-in-law because the monthly rent for that storage unit has gone up a ton, but you can’t tell her that. Leading to…

            They stealthily rack up bills that, cumulatively, would have enabled you to do so many other, better things. I read in another organizer’s blog post recently that her clients’ twenty-plus year storage unit, which was housing basically her parents’ entire apartment since they died, had cost them more over those two decades than they needed for a solid downpayment on a second vacation home. This is likely on the extreme end, but the practice storage units employ of giving you the first few months cheap, or even free, and then raising the rates over time, is no accident. Most of us would balk initially at the rate we pay a few years later without even noticing. And the convenient monthly or semi-annual automatic payments guarantee that we’ll overlook the bills we’re accruing and make them feel much smaller.

            This is not to say that there’s no situation in which a storage unit is a good, or at least necessary, tool. But my strong advice to my clients is to treat it as such.

            Know, going in, that it is a temporary resource. Lean on it in tough times – when you can’t and shouldn’t deal with sorting and processing – but don’t let that set of crutches become a cane or a wheelchair you don’t need. Your initial criteria for choosing a unit can help ensure these wiser, more cost-effective choices. Proximity is huge – if you can’t easily get to your unit, you’re a lot less likely to actually start the sorting process at the three-month mark you set for yourself. Take advantage of those initial first months’ for free offer. If you play this right, those are all you need. Then, when you have cleared that baby out (with my help, if needed) within the six-month trial period, take yourself out for a drink on the money you earned, and toast your stellar ability to make these rules work for you.

            Who knew that cleaning a cabinet could turn into laughter, tears, and great memories.

            We all have a space in our home – a closet, cabinet, drawer, or box – that started out with a clear plan for what would go there, but over time has evolved into a somewhat random catch-all. As such, it’s one of those places that, as we go through our de-cluttering process, we avoid. It’s going to be too messy.

            Our buffet is one of those places in our house. Now, to be clear, the buffet itself is fantastic in every way. Michael inherited it from a great-uncle in Los Angeles who had both money and great taste. It’s got a 1930s-1940s post-Art Deco feel, with warm honey-stained wood and funky etched round handles, and it’s solid as a rock. (As the poor guys who moved our stuff from our one-bedroom downtown delivered it, they realized how underpaid they were!) It fits perfectly in our small dining room, yet it holds a surprising amount of stuff. The latter, however, has become as much of a curse as a blessing over the nearly two decades we’ve been here.

            It was initially the storage space for our “nice” dishes – a subtle white-grey-beige Villeroy and Boch leaf pattern that we fell in love with at someone’s dinner party – and our tablecloths and napkins. It made sense, then, that when my sister gave us a raclette grill for our wedding, the accessories would go in there, too. And once the kiddush cups and candlesticks and the lovely glass seder plate were stashed in the bottom drawer, it became a repository for any and all other things Jewish-holiday themed: the cute havdallah set and several candles, small silver tschotchkes that Michael’s great-aunt in Geneva sent home with him from winter visits there, and of course the requisite, and always-growing, pile of kippot (which really got out of hand when our daughters’ friends started to become bar and bat mitzvahs).

            You probably recognize this pattern and are wincing a bit thinking of your own “buffet.” But I’m writing to tell you not to. Over the past two days, once I got past the reluctance to tackle this cluttered monster, I’ve experienced multiple pleasures.

            First, of course, now that I’m becoming a pro at knowing what I will use and want to keep and what I won’t, I enjoy the feeling of sorting the plate, placemat, bowl, and cup “nos” into neat piles and then into a big box, where they can support families who are moving into their own homes for the first time. This also means that there’s now proper, non-cluttered space for the keepers. Second, and much more joyous, many of these items – both keepers and non-keepers – brought back wonderful memories.

            One of the now five tablecloths was a wedding gift from my parents’ close friends, and we still comment every time we sit down to eat about the lovely, colorful Hungarian embroidery. It recently has company from a second hand-embroidered tablecloth that my mother-in-law and I discovered while cleaning out her linen closet, and that brings its own story to the buffet. The apron that Michael’s grandmother embroidered for him with all our names – including both dogs – needs Atticus’ name added to it, which I can do. The way-too-ornate-for-my-taste tea set that I inherited from my maternal grandmother – the ultimate “if it’s got gold on it I love it” grandma – has evolved into our Mothers’ Day tradition of serving fancy tea after a brunch of tea sandwiches, scones, and cookies. Without the set, I suspect the tradition, which has become a huge favorite, including among the dads, would not have happened. And as Michael and I sort through the various tschochkes we have accrued, we can consider which few of them we really love and want to hold on to, and find a place for them that isn’t the bottom drawer of the buffet, but a lovely spot where we can display and enjoy them every day.

            For more information, contact Elaine Weiss.

          • November 14, 2023 9:09 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

            Janet Schiesl

            Basic Organization

            You can achieve a more organized life in 5-minute increments.

            Good time management is accomplished in small bits of time. The exercise of mapping out a daily/weekly/monthly plan is important to stay on track.

            Successful people plan their time by writing everything down. But it’s hard for some to understand. I get it. Time is such an abstract idea. It’s hard to do. How long will each task take? How about the commute? What can you do while you are waiting for the meeting to begin? I tell my clients that a successful calendar is “full” of notes.

            Whether you use a paper calendar or an electronic version practice noting everything you want to accomplish in your calendar. It is very important to schedule how long each task will take. By sitting down in the morning (or the night before) and mapping out your day with a list, you are less likely to be surprised with extra to-dos and you will also accomplish a lot more. It’s like making several appointments with yourself in one day.

            As you get comfortable with this exercise, you’ll find that it will only take 5 minutes. Plan your day, then follow the plan.

            In conclusion, try it – Prioritize Organizing-Time in 5 minutes.

            For more information, contact Janet Schiesl.

          • October 26, 2023 3:39 PM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

            Jill Katz

            One to Zen Organizing

            Are you thinking of renovating your kitchen, moving, or switching jobs, but you aren't sure if you are ready for a change? Well, as a professional organizer, I have become a bit of an expert when it comes to life transitions because professional organizers are most popular in times of change. I receive many calls in September when the leaves are falling and the air starts turning crisp, or right around January 1st when people are reevaluating their goals. Not to mention times when change is unplanned (i.e. a job loss, empty nesting, or learning you have ADHD.

            But not everyone is ready to make a transition. Please understand; There is no judgment here. Choosing to make a change may not be the best decision for you, no matter the season. But how do you determine if the time is not now?

            The "Why Now" Question

            A large gold question mark

            In order to determine your readiness, my number one question during a discovery call with a potential client is “WHY NOW? “

            Here are some of your responses to the “Why Now” question that suggest that you are ready for change:

            • We are planning on moving soon and I would like to downsize so I don’t move items I don’t need/want/use into our new home (awareness, motivation)

            • I’ve reached my pain point and I can’t deal with the kitchen clutter anymore (motivation)

            • I just found out I have ADHD, I have been working with a therapist, and I want to get organized (awareness, mental readiness, support)

            Here are some other responses to the “Why Now” question that suggest you are not ready for change:

            • My Significant Other is taking over the house with his hobby - please help (no Support)

            • I want you to come and declutter my home (vague, probe more to see if awareness)

            • I want my 10 years worth of clutter gone by the end of the month and I can only meet on Tuesday evenings (lack of time)

            The 4 Signs of Readiness For Change

            A woman wearing a hat with a thoughtful look on her face walking up stairs outide with nature in the background

            So how can you tell if you are ready for change - organizing or otherwise? Here are some guidelines I came up with based on my experience:

            1. You Have An Awareness Of Underlying Issues

            Awareness is integral to readiness for change. A great example- I once had a client with a shopping addiction who didn’t mention her addiction to me on our initial call or during our sessions. This lack of awareness suggested that she was not ready to change. Once this addiction was clear to me, I felt ethically obligated to point it out so we could openly discuss goals that would support her challenges. She could then decide if she wanted to continue working with me. Conversely, I have had many clients with underlying issues who have been forthcoming about it and successful in creating change.

            2. You have a Willingness to Form & Practice New Habits & Routines

            More often than not, my organizing sessions go beyond straightforward decluttering and containerizing. If so, I can organize and suggest new systems and supporting routines but it’s up to the client to practice these new habits. In this case, a client needs to be willing to make those changes in order for our sessions together to be a success. If a client is hoping for a quick fix, that client is not ready for change.

            This willingness depends on 2 areas:


            If you have hit enough of a pain point to seek help then you have motivation. If this motivation is strong then it will carry you through the effort of practicing new habits. If you have ADHD then holding motivation is a challenge so you need to come up with ideas (I can help!) to create sustained motivation.

            Mental Readiness:

            Changing routines can be scary. It takes flexibility and it can feel like a risk to start something new. Jumping into this new space can cause anxiety and not everyone has the bandwidth to enter that space. You might have too much going on right now or you might be a high anxiety person who doesn’t feel that the cost-benefit is worth it. But if you are prepared mentally for this change then you are ready!

            3. You Have The Necessary Support

            A woman putting her arm around a loved one to show support as seen from the back

            This one is super easy to identify. If you are coming to me about someone else or if your space is a shared space then the true question is: “Are all the involved parties ready for change?” If we are organizing a playroom then are all the adults involved ready to create rules for the kids and/or make decisions about what to do when the grandparents give a wagon-load of gifts over the holidays? And if you want to organize a shared space do you have the support of those sharing that space? Lastly, if you grapple with mental health issues, chronic health issues or are chronically disorganized, do you have a support system in place for you to help you with your challenges? If the answer is yes then you are ready for change.

            4. You Have The Resources

            You may have the awareness, motivation, and support, but if you don't have the budget, energy, or time then change might not be available to you. I have worked with people who have chronic health issues and often, those with flagging health, need to reserve their energy for more basic functions (see my post about The Spoon Theory). If you are throwing a wedding for a loved one, it might not be the time to spend money hiring a professional organizer. On the other hand, if you are a teacher that has time off for the summer, that would be a perfect time to work with an professional organizer.

            In Conclusion

            So if you find yourself on the phone with me and we have already discussed the details of my process. and you have asked your questions. and you are still hesitating, consider this - maybe you are simply not ready to take the next step. And that is OK. In that case, you might hear me pause, and then respond: “Why don’t you think about it? I will be here when you are ready.”

            Have you recently made a change? How did you know you were ready? Feel free to leave your story in the comments.

            For more information, contact Jill Katz.

          • October 26, 2023 7:38 AM | Janet Schiesl, CPO® (Administrator)

            Cris Sgott

            Organizing Maniacs

            How to Use Containers to Declutter and Organize Every Room of Your House

            Finding ways to declutter and organize your home can be a constant struggle. But what if there was a simple solution? Enter containers – the unsung heroes of home organization! As you may know, here at Organizing Maniacs, we LOVE containers and use them in every room - and let’s face it, most of us want to keep our stuff. We just need less chaos.

            With their ability to neatly store and categorize belongings, containers are the key to achieving a clutter-free environment. We will show you how to maximize the use of containers to create a well-organized and serene living space by containerizing chaos.

            Whether you're dealing with a chaotic kitchen, a messy bathroom, or an overflowing closet, containers can provide the structure and order you need. We will guide you through the process of selecting the right containers for each space, organizing your belongings efficiently, and incorporating container systems into your daily routine.

            Get ready to transform your home with the power of containers. Say goodbye to mess and welcome a sense of calm and order into your life. Let's dive in and discover the secrets of containerizing chaos.

            Benefits of Using Containers for Decluttering and Organizing

            Before we jump into the specifics of containerizing chaos in each room in your house, let's first explore the numerous benefits of using containers for organization.

            Maximize Space

            Containers are a great way to make the most of your available space. By utilizing vertical space and neatly stacking containers, you can create additional storage areas without cluttering your living space.

            Efficient Organization

            Containers allow you to categorize and organize your belongings in a systematic way. With clear labeling and proper placement, you'll always know where to find what you need, saving you time and energy searching for misplaced items.

            Visual Appeal

            Not only do containers provide functional organization, but they also add visual appeal to your living space. With a variety of colors, styles, and materials available, you can find containers that complement your home decor and enhance the overall aesthetic.

            Understanding the benefits of using containers for organization sets the foundation for achieving an organized and clutter-free home. Now, let's dive into the different types of containers available and how to choose the right ones for each room.

            Understanding Different Types of Containers

            When it comes to containers, there are various options to choose from. Here are some common types of containers that can help you in your quest for an organized home:

            Plastic Bins with Lids

            These are versatile containers that come in different sizes and are suitable for storing a wide range of items. With their stackable design and clear lids, plastic bins provide easy access and visibility to your belongings.

            Baskets and Woven Bins

            If you're looking for a more decorative option, baskets and woven bins are a great choice. They add a touch of warmth and texture to your living space while providing storage for smaller items like toys, accessories, or bathroom essentials.

            Drawer Organizers

            For organizing smaller items like utensils, office supplies, or jewelry, drawer organizers are essential. These segmented containers fit neatly inside drawers, keeping items separated and easily accessible.

            Shoe Racks and Shoe Boxes

            Keep your shoes organized and prevent them from cluttering your entryway or closet with shoe racks and shoe boxes. These containers help maintain the shape of your shoes while keeping them neatly stored and easily visible.

            Choosing the right type of containers depends on the specific needs of each room. Now, let's explore how to containerize chaos in different areas of your house.

            Containerizing Chaos in the Kitchen

            The kitchen is often the heart of the home but can quickly become a hotspot for clutter. Containerizing the kitchen is essential for efficient meal preparation and maintaining a clean and organized space. We suggest waiting to purchase containers until you’ve sorted through what you have. And always feel free to get creative about using what you have in your home as a container. Here are some tips to get you started:

            Clear Out and Assess

            Begin by clearing out your kitchen cabinets and drawers. Assess each item and decide what to keep, donate, or discard. This will help you determine the number and size of containers you'll need. Read more about where to start when organizing your kitchen.

            Categorize and Label

            Group similar items together, such as baking supplies, spices, or utensils. Use clear plastic containers or labeled bins to store these items, making it easy to find what you need when cooking or baking.

            Utilize Vertical Space

            Maximize your cabinet space by using stackable containers or adding shelf dividers. This allows you to make the most of your vertical space and prevents items from getting lost at the back of the cabinet.

            Containerizing your kitchen not only streamlines your meal preparation process but also creates a visually appealing and clutter-free cooking environment.

            Our Favorite Containers for the Kitchen

            Some of our favorite containers for the kitchen include Tupperware and Rubbermaid food storage containers. They come in a variety of sizes and can store nearly anything, from your assorted teas to cereals. We also love baskets for storing things that don’t easily stay on the shelf, like sugar packets or small condiments.

            Containerizing Chaos in the Bathroom

            The bathroom is another area prone to clutter due to its limited space and the numerous products we use daily. Small bathrooms, especially, can be challenging. Containerizing your bathroom will help create a spa-like oasis and keep your essentials easily accessible. Here's how you can achieve a well-organized bathroom:

            Declutter and Sort

            Begin by decluttering your bathroom cabinets and drawers. Dispose of expired products and items you no longer use. Sort similar items, such as skincare products, hair accessories, or toiletries.

            Utilize Drawer Organizers

            Place drawer organizers in your vanity drawers to keep items like makeup, brushes, or dental care essentials neatly separated. This makes it easier to find what you need and prevents items from rolling around.

            Utilize Wall Space

            Install wall-mounted containers or shelves to store frequently used items like hand towels, cotton pads, or small toiletries. This frees up valuable counter space and adds a decorative touch to your bathroom.

            By containerizing your bathroom, you can transform it into a peaceful retreat and maintain a clutter-free environment.

            Our Favorite Containers for the Bathroom

            The bathroom lends itself to some create solutions when it comes to selecting containers. From using wine glasses to hold makeup brushes to cookie canisters for cotton balls and Q-tips, it’s easy to get creative. Over-the-toilet shelving and over-the-door hooks can free up a lot of space.

            Containerizing Chaos in the Bedroom

            The bedroom should be a sanctuary for rest and relaxation, but a cluttered space can disrupt your sleep. Containerizing your bedroom will help create a serene environment and keep your personal belongings organized. Here's how to achieve a clutter-free bedroom:

            Declutter Your Closet

            Start by decluttering your closet and donating or discarding clothes you no longer wear. This will create space for containers and make it easier to organize your remaining items.

            Utilize Under-Bed Storage

            Invest in under-bed storage containers to maximize space and store out-of-season clothing, extra bedding, or shoes. These containers are easily accessible and provide hidden storage.

            Jewelry Organizers

            Use small jewelry organizers or trays to keep your accessories tangle-free and easily visible. This prevents necklaces from getting tangled and makes it easier to find the perfect piece for your outfit.

            Containerizing your bedroom will not only create a clutter-free space but also contribute to a better night's sleep and a more peaceful environment.

            Our Favorite Containers for the Bedroom

            Our very favorite containers for the bedroom are clear shoe boxes. They let you stack and store your shoes on shelves or even on the closet floor in a very organized way while still ensuring you can see all of them to make quick style picks.

            Containerizing Chaos in the Living Room

            The living room is where we relax, entertain guests, and spend quality time with loved ones. Containerizing your living room will help maintain a clean and inviting space. Here's how to achieve an organized living room:

            Media Storage

            Invest in media storage containers or shelves to neatly store DVDs, CDs, or gaming consoles. This prevents them from cluttering your entertainment center or coffee table.

            Toy Storage

            If you have children, containerize their toys with labeled bins or baskets. This makes it easy for them to find and put away their toys, teaching them the importance of organization from an early age.

            Magazine Holders

            Use magazine holders to store and organize your favorite magazines or books. This keeps them within reach while preventing them from piling up and creating clutter.

            By containerizing your living room, you can create a welcoming and organized space for relaxation and entertainment.

            Our Favorite Containers for the Living Room

            When it comes to quick and easy storage in your living room, nothing can beat an ottoman with storage. Reduce clutter by keeping everything from blankets to extra board games tucked away. Baskets and shelving can also make a big difference.

            Containerizing Chaos in Your Home Office

            Whether you work from home or use your home office for personal tasks, containerizing this space is crucial for productivity and efficiency. Here's how to achieve an organized home office:

            Cable Management

            Cable clips or sleeves can keep your cords and cables organized, prevent them from tangling, and create a clean and clutter-free workspace.

            Desk Organizers

            Invest in desk organizers or small containers to store office supplies like pens, paper clips, or sticky notes. This keeps your essentials within reach and prevents them from getting buried under paperwork.

            File Storage

            Utilize file storage containers or labeled file boxes to keep important documents organized and easily accessible. This prevents them from getting lost or damaged and streamlines your workflow.

            By containerizing your home office, you'll create a productive and organized space that boosts your focus and efficiency.

            Our Favorite Containers for the Home Office

            For paper organizing, we love color-coded filing systems. To really reduce your clutter, digitize every important record that you’re able to. Our favorite container for the home office is a fire proof safe where you can store all of your important papers.

            Containerizing Chaos in the Garage

            The garage or storage area is often a neglected space that quickly becomes a dumping ground for miscellaneous items. Containerizing this space is essential for efficient storage and easy access to your belongings. Here's how to containerize your garage or storage area:

            Purge and Sort

            Start by purging and sorting through your items. Dispose of broken or unused items and categorize the rest. This will help you determine the size and number of containers you'll need.

            Use Stackable Containers

            Invest in durable, stackable containers for storing items like holiday decorations, tools, or sports equipment. This maximizes your vertical space and keeps your belongings protected from dust or damage.

            Labeling and Shelving

            Label each container with its contents and consider installing shelves or racks to store the containers. This makes it easy to find what you need without rummaging through piles of boxes.

            Containerizing your garage or storage area not only creates a clutter-free space but also makes it easier to find and access your belongings when needed.

            Our Favorite Containers or the Garage

            The best way to maximize your space in the garage is with overhead storage. It can make all the difference.

            Final Tips for Maintaining an Organized Home

            The art of containerizing chaos can help you to declutter and organize every room of your house. By incorporating containers into your daily routine, you can maintain an organized and serene living space.

            Final Tips for Maintaining an Organized Home

            Containerizing chaos is an ongoing process. As your needs change and your belongings evolve, adapt your container systems accordingly.

            Regular Decluttering

            Set aside time every few months to declutter and reassess your belongings. This prevents clutter from accumulating and ensures your containers are utilized efficiently.

            Consistent Labeling

            Labeling your containers is crucial for easy identification and maintaining organization. Regularly review and update labels to reflect any changes in your storage system. Apply this same practice to your digital filing and storage, too!

            Establish Routines

            Incorporate container systems into your daily routines. Encourage family members to return items to their designated containers after use, creating a shared responsibility for maintaining an organized home.

            As always, if you need help with decluttering, organizing, and choosing the right containers, just get in touch!

            For more information, contact Cris Sgott.

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