Blog

  • 09/25/2016 7:38 PM | Nettie Owens

    In just a moment, I am going to ask you to close your eyes.  During the time, I would like you to imagine that you could be anywhere.  Any place you would like, you could be there. Imagine everything about that place.  What does it look like, feel like, smell like sound like? How do you feel in that place? Go ahead now and close your eyes and imagine.   When you have a full picture, open them back up and keep reading.


    Your space is critical to mental health and learning.  There are organizing systems that you can put into place that are ‘brain friendly’ that will support mental health and learning.  You can put supports in place to create an environment of success.

    While you were imagining just moments ago, what came to mind?  How is that space different or similar to the place where you currently are?  Which environment feels better?  In which do you think you would be more successful or learn more readily?


    What we know is that a cluttered space is not conducive to well being.  Although, clutter and creativity have been linked anecdotally, the reality is that chaos does not leave room for creativity.  The truth is that organization and the space that it provides does allow you to be more creative even if you need help creating this space for yourself.


    In almost every class I have taught for the last twelve years I have asked this question, “How does clutter make you feel?” and I have received variations on the same handful of words every single time.  Those feelings are: stressed, late, overwhelmed, guilty, inadequate, depressed, distracted, forgetful, lonely, worried, and isolated.  Clutter also creates conflicts within relationships and causes people to feel like they cannot have anyone over.  None of these feelings are positive and none lead to learning or success.


    You are beginning to see why your space is critical to mental health and learning.  When facing mental health challenges there are three ways you can affect change and these are typically used in combination.  They are: medication, therapy and adapting your environment.   As an organizer, my focus is on adapting the environment.


    From the time a person is born until about twenty-five years old, the brain progresses and develops.  In a typically developing brain the pre-frontal cortex, which controls executive functions (organization, time management, goal setting, working memory, future planning, etc), builds and adds to these functions over the course of those twenty-five years.  If there are any brain challenges that development can be extended to thirty-years.  Many conditions can affect this development and the executive functions including:  ADHD, age/developmental age, depression, diet, sleep, exercise, traumatic brain injury, time of day and stress/overuse. Problems with executive functioning are not problems with skill but with implementing that skill at the right time.


    When adapting an environment for better mental health and learning, what I am really looking at is making changes that will support your brain’s executive functions.  Remember executive functions are the part of the brain that controls: inhibition, time management, organization, problem solving, motivation, goal setting, working memory and emotional regulation.   What environment will support the use of executive functions? What works is an environment that is:

    • Simple
    • Quiet and non-distracting
    • Has natural elements
    • Allows for movement
    • Limits decision making and
    • Provides for outsourced executive functions

    In addition, you can further help to create this environment and add structure by using these supports:

    • Positive attitude
    • Focusing on your strengths
    • Creating habits
    • Using timers, lists and other tools
    • Making accommodations for sensitivities and areas of weakness
    • Using sleep, diet and exercise to raise the bar of health and brain function

    Albert Einstein said both, “ The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.” And, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”  I don’t think these quotes are in contradiction.  It is the distraction and clutter in all forms that prevents a healthy environment.  You are not to seek emptiness, but instead simplicity, quiet and open space that will allow your brain to flow.


    Your environment is critical to mental well-being and learning and could be the block that is preventing health.  You can create an environment that is brain friendly by simplifying and removing the clutter.  There are supports you can put into place that will help you implement your organized environment.


  • 06/01/2016 9:06 AM | Mary Cate Claudias, CPO® (Administrator)


    Perhaps the most widely accepted and most effective time management philosophy is that of Stephen Covey (author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People & co-author of First Things First). It’s definitely not a ‘quick fix’; but as they say, ‘Anything worth having, is worth working for’.


    The basic outline of the Covey approach takes 6 steps.

    1.      Identify what gives you purpose in life. Consider which basic principles (e.g. integrity, honesty, modesty, etc.) are most important to your values & goals.

    2.      Ask yourself, ‘Who do I interact with?’ All of us wear many hats within the 3 general areas of personal, communal & work roles. For example, in the personal area there is self; family roles - parent/ spouse/ sibling/ child, & friendships we may have.

    3.      Ask yourself, ‘What can I do to increase the impact of my interactions?’ Weigh the roles that you play in your heart & mind to assess which roles are most important to you. Then think of something you can do to improve your effectiveness within that role. Tip: number your roles in order of the importance you feel for it.

    4.      Schedule time in your week for Step 3 actions. Make sure to balance your personal, communal & work roles in determining what actions to take. Allow the roles that can most improve your quality of life to have first pick of available times.

    5.      Be flexible. When urgent things come up, reschedule.

    6.      Evaluate - pat yourself on the back. Look back on your week & acknowledge what goals you achieved. Think about what challenges you encountered that made it difficult (or impossible!) to keep to your goals. Imagine how you can factor them in for the next week. Most importantly, when something came up, did you make decisions that were in line with your principles & values?


    One of the most important things to remember in this process is that it doesn’t pay to do it superficially. Without accessing the true desires of our minds & hearts, we’ll just be running after superficially satisfying things, which won’t sustain us in the long run.


    In First Things First Covey & Merrill explain that we first need to acknowledge that the 4 basic capacities of man: Physical, Social, Mental & Purpose are interrelated & that each needs ‘nourishment’. Then we need to use our 4 basic endowments: Self-awareness, Conscience, Independent Will & Imagination to fuel our capacities.


    We need to be able to examine ourselves. Set goals in harmony with basic principles. Will ourselves to act accordingly and consistently, & use our imagination to creatively work around / through our challenges. Working on this system will be challenging & slow, but Covey guarantees that you will see encouraging payoffs quickly.


    If you like the taste of this method that I’ve presented here, make sure to check out the full, original version in the aforementioned books. You can always ask family, friends or professionals for support.


    Submitted by NAPO Member and professional organizer,

    Shmuel Edelman

    http://www.organizeyourtreasures.com/


  • 05/06/2016 5:46 AM | Deleted user

    We’ve all seen the stories in the news of tragic and sudden accidents that halt the life of a mother or father in their prime. No-one hopes to go this way, but knowing that loved ones left behind aren’t scrambling to figure out where your important documents are, while going through the grieving process, can give you peace of mind.

     

     

    Even if your papers are organized and makes sense to you, if something were to happen to you, would your loved ones be able to easily find your insurance policy, will, financial information and pertinent passwords?

     

    Organizing your important papers now will help family members find the information they need to handle your affairs, while going through the grieving process.  At the very least, have a list of all of your important household information, including a note of where your important documents are located.  

     

    In any event, keeping an updated list of your personal and household information is a good habit to have in the event of an emergency or natural disaster.

     

    Are you ready to get started, but not sure where to start?  The best case scenario would be to have a spreadsheet with a list of all important information, including where to find certain documents, e.g. file, safe, safety deposit box. This spreadsheet would be printed and given to a trusted family member and/or lawyer, with a copy at home in a safe place. If your list includes personal details, SSNs, bank account info, it’s recommended that the list is stored in a fire and waterproof safe, ideally with a copy on a flash drive and/or secure online back-up service.

     

    To get you started, here’s a checklist of common important documents and information:

    •        Will and Power of Attorney
    •        Final arrangement wishes
    •        Life insurance
    •        Advance Directive
    •        Monthly bills and contact info.
    •        Bank and savings accounts
    •        Retirement accounts
    •        Loans, including mortgage information and deeds
    •        Passwords and logins
    •        Location of vital records, e.g. birth and marriage certificates, etc.
    •        Valuables
    •        Other policies, e.g. car, home.
    •        Off-site storage unit info, if applicable
    •        Medical information; including doctors, medications, allergies, etc.
    •        Safety deposit box contents and location

    This list is not conclusive. Everyone’s situation will be different, so take the time to think about what other information you could include and schedule some time to get started.

     

  • 01/09/2016 10:49 AM | Laura Abell

    It’s the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” and we all love Christmas! But when it’s time to take down the decorations, it can all become a bit overwhelming and challenging.  Here are a few tips and tricks to help you get your Christmas & Holiday gear organized and tucked away until next year!

    A FEW KEY SUPPLIES: 

    If you don’t have these already, invest in these supplies that will make organizing and storing your decorations much easier. 

    • Start with some large plastic tote boxes. These are great for holding all sizes and kinds of decorations. If some of your decorations already have smaller boxes, store these together in larger labeled boxes that are waterproof and can be easily stacked.
    • Purchase a few wreath boxes - these are great for storing both indoor and outdoor wreaths and garlands. As long as the lights are working there is no need to remove the light strands on your garlands - just store them with the lights on them.
    • Ornament boxes are the best way to store most of your ornaments. I like this kind (instead of those that are just one large box with several levels) because they are clear and you can access each level separately, which is handy.
    • Don’t forget to have bubble wrap and tissue paper on hand for wrapping and protecting your fragile decorations.

    NOW THAT YOU'VE GOT YOUR SUPPLIES, IT'S TIME TO GET STARTED!

    1. ENLIST HELP: Unless you live alone, everyone in your home enjoyed your holiday decorations, so invite everyone to help take them down and put them away. If you have children, don't miss this opportunity to teach them a great life lesson - the joy of making a home for things so that you can put them away and find them again when you need them.  Check out my blog on Kids and Chores to learn more about age-appropriate ways to give your children responsibilities around the house! 

    2. TAKE A FEW PICTURES: Before you take anything down, if you were happy with the way things looked this year take a few photos so that next year decorating will be easier and you won’t need to try and remember exactly how and where you set everything up. If you are feeling super organized you can print the photos and put them in the storage containers, all ready for next Christmas - or save them in a “Christmas Decorations” folder in your digital photo program and make a mental note that they are there for next year. 

    3. KEEP LIGHTS UNTANGLED: These reels are awesome for storing your lights, or these cord wind-ups are handy to wrap your lights around if you want to use your large tubs instead. Make sure to throw away or fix any light strands that aren’t working before you store them away for next year. 

    4. WORK ROOM BY ROOM: As you take your decorations down store each area or room in a separate container (i.e. put decorations from the mantle in their own storage container and label it, everything in the dining room, etc.). This makes it easier next year when you are decorating because you can put each box in the appropriate room to unload it. 

    5. TOSS SMALL BOXES: Many small Christmas ornaments and decorations come in special boxes. Even though it is tempting to want to keep these for storage, sometimes it takes lots of time and energy to find each specific box. Try just wrapping the item in bubble wrap for protection and toss the box. If the item is larger and has a special box, sometimes it is worth using, but put these smaller items in larger tubs for easy storage and retrieval. 

    6. LABEL ALL STORAGE CONTAINERS: As you fill each tub, label each as Christmas, what room it belongs in, and the contents. This will make decorating next year much faster and easier!

    Clearly label your containers with contents and room where the decoration belongs.

    7. CLEAN CHRISTMAS LINENS: If you have Christmas linens, potholders, or dish towels, make sure to wash them before packing them up.

    8. RELEASE: As you put your decorations away, make sure to have a “DONATE” box nearby so that you can give away any decorations that you don’t love or use. Trash anything that is broken or is missing pieces. If you are packing up boxes that you used last year and you see that there are some decorations that you didn’t choose to use and are still in your storage boxes, consider simplifying and giving these away. You probably don't prefer them if you didn't choose to use them this year. Even if the item is sentimental, if you don't love it or use it, let it go. To read more about releasing sentimental things, check out this blog!

    9. CREATE A "CHRISTMAS DECORATION" STORAGE ZONE: Once you have cleaned out and packed away all of your decorations, store them all together in a closet, basement, attic, or storage room. Next year when Christmas rolls around, you will be all ready for stress-free decorating!

    10. BONUS TIP: As you put your decorations up next year, store your everyday home decor in the Christmas tub that corresponds to the room you are decorating (i.e. put whatever you normally have on your mantle in the “Christmas: Mantle” box when you take your holiday decorations out of the box.) They can stay in there during Christmas, and then when you are ready to put your decorations away you can put them back! 


  • 11/12/2015 8:18 PM | Deb Clark

    My mom says Thanksgiving dinner is the easiest meal of the year to prepare - she's done it so many times!  However, not all of us feel the same. If you are not jumping for joy at the thought of making the big meal, here are a few tips for getting things under control so you can enjoy the day.  Organization is the name of the game...

    10 days prior

    • Plan a menu and determine what can be make ahead of time.  Also, plan to delegate some of the menu and beverage items to guest.
    • Make sure you have a firm commitment from those who are attending and keep track of what they are bringing.
    • Make your shopping list – don’t forget to include film, batteries, beverages, and nonperishables.
    • Take an inventory of all items needed for your table. If you need more chairs or place settings, arrange this now.
    • Make sure you will have space in your refrigerator and freezer for the turkey.
    • Make a to-do list. This is a good time to delegate roles to family members or a hired professional.  Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect!
    • Look at your to-do list and schedule these items on your calendar.  It helps to plan what time you will start preparing dishes made the day of.

    One Week Before

    • If you will have young children visiting, make sure the breakable items are put away.
    • Shop for perishable items.
    • If you don’t have an ice maker, start making ice and fill a freezer bag with the cubes.

    Two Days Before

    • Fill your salt & pepper shakers, butter dishes, sugar bowls, etc.
    • Defrost in the refrigerator any frozen foods.
    • Make sure your home is clean.

    Day Before

    • Prepare the dishes you could not freeze.
    • Chill your beverages.
    • Buy flowers for the table.
    • Set the table now. To keep your dishes and glasses dust free, place them upside down.

    Thanksgiving Day

    • You should have time to finish last minute menu items – turkey and mashed potatoes (of course).
    • Most of all: enjoy yourself! Let someone else do the dishes and give thanks for all you have.
    • Happy Thanksgiving from Go To Girl!


  • 11/04/2014 1:44 PM | Jill Prevatt

    Hey, Baltimore!

    Get your clutter and your cameras ready. NAPO-Baltimore is once again giving you the opportunity to reclaim your space and sanity with the 2015 B'more Organized Photo Contest. The entry period opens December 1st, so be sure to follow NAPO-Baltimore on Facebook for complete details. 


    Until then, we invite you to take a look at the transformations from last year's winners. Our brave and well-deserving winners bared all when they let NAPO-Baltimore into their homes. To our winners, we thank you for the tremendous effort you put into helping us create functional and orderly spaces for you and your families. An enormous thanks to our talented group of professional organizers and Associate Members who made organized living a reality for these winners!


    "A Crafty Conversion" in Baltimore City



    "Hello Garage, My Name is Car" in Edgewood, MD



    A special thanks to our NAPO-Baltimore Members & Associate Members:

     Abell Organizing  Simplify Organizing, LLC
     Dakota Downsizing  H.O.M.E. Home Organizing Made Easy
     Erin Hodge  Sappari Solutions, LLC
     Organized2Succeed  BumbleJunk, LLC 
     MyWay Mobile Storage  The Shred Mill


  • 08/11/2014 4:28 PM | Nadine Sachs

    Imagine you must leave your home, fearing for your life, and are thrust into living in a 10’ x10’ room shared with three other people.  How would you manage your space and possessions? Nettie Owens, a fellow member of the National Association of Professional Organizers, recently asked me to consider lending my expertise in closet design to improve the closet system at a women’s shelter.  Since the summer is a busy time for my business, I was hesitant at first. But I could not refuse this request, and it turned out to be a worthy cause.

     

    I met with two employees of SARC, a shelter providing services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence and stalking. They described in detail what I was to expect when entering the rooms to measure the closets.  Although it is preferable that clients keep their rooms tidy, it was not something that the shelter enforced. Many of the women come from controlling, stressful environments, and shelter workers want to provide relief from this. Most of the rooms were in good shape, though one room in particular was disorganized and cluttered, making it difficult to get to the closet to take precise measurements. I entered each room, and quickly and quietly took the necessary measurements for my design.

     

    The closets themselves were rather small and may be shared by up to four women or children. I came up with the most functional design possible, giving each occupant her own hanging space and cubbies for folded clothes and accessories. To make the project affordable, I donated my portion of the fee to the shelter and asked Mark Loewner, owner of Closet Innovations, to consider giving a further discount. Thanks to our combined discounts and with the help of some funding, the shelter was able to afford the closets. 

     

    I walked away with the utmost admiration for both the staff that provides a safe environment free from abuse and fear and the women who seek shelter. Their attempt to leave abusive relationships and thus provide a better life for themselves and their families is commendable. It feels good to know that the closets I have designed will improve the lives of these women, if only in a small way.  In general, the work we do as professional organizers helps many of our clients take control of their lives, one drawer, one shelf, one closet, one room, one step at a time.

     

    © 2014 by Nadine Sachs, Organized2Succeed. All Rights Reserved. 


    Nadine Sachs
    , owner of Organized2Succeed is a Professional Organizer and Custom Closet Designer. She is currently serving as the Co-Programs Director of NAPO-Baltimore and enjoys helping her clients achieve and maintain a less stressful and simpler lifestyle
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  • 08/01/2014 12:57 PM | Nettie Owens

     

    Clearing a closet?  Moving? Important documents to get in order? Read on to learn what happened when over five hundred professional organizers descended upon Scottsdale, AZ in May 2014. NAPO Conference Panel

     

    Annually, the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) convenes to network, share ideas, learn new strategies and explore new products in organizing.  You may wonder how this relates to your specific needs as a homeowner, small business owner or corporation.  It should come as no surprise that education is paramount in the organizing industry and this one annual event spurs innovation for years to come.

     

    Here are a few of the latest ideas and products I took away from NAPO Conference 2014.  The first three are packages you can use to organize on your own terms.  I love the ‘out of the box’ nature of these.  Check them out!

     

    WJ_Logo_1.14My Wardrobe Genie – This closet organizing and decluttering product by Susan Terkanian has all the tools you need to go from cluttered to clear in your closet.  For only $29.95 you just can’t go wrong!  http://www.allsetsolutions.com/product/my-wardrobe-genie/

     

    MoveNOrderMove N Order – Save time, money and stress with Move-N-Order’s kit to label and organize your boxes as you pack and prepare to move.  On move in day, you will know just where to put each box and moving in will be a snap.  Also included are expert packing tips, detailed directions and a staging video.  The cost is $74.99 for a two bedroom home kit and $84.99 for a four bedroom home kit. http://moveinorder.com/

     

    LifeinCase – I receive questions about important documents all the time.  This product guides you in finding and organizing all of your important documents into one place.  It was designed by Mark Gibson and Diane Hoyle-Moran after the passing of Diane’s father.  Everyone should have their documents in order for ‘just in case.’  For only $34.99 you can check this item off your to-do list!  I especially love that there is a version specifically for military.  http://lifeincase.com/index.htm  

     

    There were also a few books that I will be adding to my ‘to read’ list:

     

    SuccessUnderStressSuccess Under Stress by Sharon Melnick, Ph.D.

    http://www.successunderstressbook.com/?  What entrepreneur or professional isn’t stressed these days?  I am looking forward to digging into Ms. Melnick’s book for tips to share (and use on myself!)

     

    http://organizedassistant.com/  So, this one is not a ‘book’ but Janet Barclay has a great blog and I can’t wait to dig deeper into it.  Ms. Barclay is a professional blogger with lots of great tips and information on organizing, blogging and more!

     

    Although that wasn’t ALL that came out of the NAPO National Conference in Arizona this May, the above items are a few of my favorite new ideas and thoughts to follow up on.  I know you will find them useful, too!

     

     

    © 2014 Nettie Owens, Sappari Solutions. All Rights Reserved.


    Nettie Owens is a professional organizer, productivity coach and owner of Sappari Solutions. Since 2004 she has been helping overwhelmed professionals to streamline their lives so they may live!

  • 07/16/2014 9:55 AM | Eileen Golian

    Need to Sell Furniture?  You have options!


    The Bottom Line.  Most household furniture is considered "second-hand" - usable, but not of high value.   Keep in mind that what you paid for an item is only the starting point of what drives the price.  The memories you have of your favorite piece provide no benefit to the buyer.  Other factors affecting the value include condition, manufacturer, and size.

    What is often overlooked is time involved, moving costs and supply and demand.  Because a large number of seniors are now downsizing, the market is being flooded with antiques and basic furniture. 

    Whom to call - plus two DIY options.  The list below addresses the pros and cons of each with respect to selling price, time, and costs. 

    Specialty Dealers. $$$           Start by sending a picture and receive a timely response. No moving costs, quick sale.  i.e. Mid-century modern styles are in high demand; dealers abound.


    Auction Houses. $$$+/-        Great option for high-end or antiques; not interested in basic furniture.  Start by sending pictures.  Auctions can insure sale but NOT price. Commission is 25-30% plus moving costs.  May take 45 days to receive a check.


    Craigslist. $$ /-                      You set the price and need to write an effective ad - free listing. Time consuming dealing with emails and no-shows. Safety concerns. Upholstered and pressed wood furniture is hardest to sell; this is your best option for these items.


    Consignment Shops. $$ /-     Automatic price drops over three months.  Commission is 50%.  Receive check one month after sale.  Moving costs. If item does not sell - find another option.


    Pickers. $                              Buy in quantity, minimum wait time, quick sale.  No moving costs.  Buy fair condition items to repurpose; so do not trash a damaged antique!  


    Yard Sale. $                          Very time consuming, weather dependent and expect to negotiate. Does not sell - find another option.


    Donate.  ($)                         Tax deduction only.  Only a few charitable organizations are allowed to enter your home to retrieve furniture. Good condition only.  Need at least one-week lead-time, may have to wait hours for pickup.


    Note:  Estate sale companies are an option if you have thousands of dollars worth of quality furniture and small items to sell. 


    Copyright 2014.  Eileen Golian, Dakota Downsizing.  All rights reserved.


    Eileen Golian is a Professional Organizer and Owner of Dakota Downsizing in Columbia, MD. 

    Dakota Downsizing has a team of professional organizers who assist families as they part with decades of possessions.  They coordinate

    all the details of distribution - one room or an entire household.

  • 06/24/2014 2:38 PM | Nettie Owens

    It is June but the desire to make the most of summer is upon us.  School, cool weather and a hectic pace are just around the corner. Take time now to plan and enjoy your vacation.   Before you head out of town by car, plane or train, put a little planning effort in and you will reap the rewards of a fun and relaxed trip.


    Before you go, pack and plan.  Utilize a packing list like the ones you can find on ListPlanIt.com rather than starting from scratch.  If you are making your list from scratch, keep it on your computer or phone.  You can double check while away and be sure that you still have everything when you re-pack.  Additionally, your list will be ready for the next time you travel.  Use the weeks ahead of your trip to plan.


    Four weeks ahead of your trip or more, research where will you be staying.  Decide how will you be getting there.  Use a website like kayak.com to compare prices on flights or Google Maps to map out your drive.   You can save the trip planning information to your phone and have it with you even if you do not have a network connection.


    Two weeks before you leave put in an order to hold the mail.  Make arrangements for your pets.  Consider using a local teen who can watch your house and care for your pets.  If you are flying, be sure to make a plan for getting to and from the airport. 


    A few days ahead pack and prepare your home. Mow the lawns and secure outside items in case of inclement weather.  Take your pets to be boarded.  If you are making several stops on your trip, pack for each stop so that you do not have to unpack everything at each leg.  If you are flying, use gallon zip lock bags to organize your items in your suitcase. 


    The day of your trip take out the trash, be sure all food items are put away and check that nothing is going to spoil in the fridge while you are gone.  

    While you are away, keep your things in order.  Use specific bags for each type of item packed so items are easy to retrieve and put away.  Have a separate bag for dirty laundry and if you get the chance, do a load of laundry or two while you are away.  If you are traveling by car and you find a fantastic way to pack your vehicle, take a photo with your cell phone then you will have a guide to repack the car as you stop along the way.


    When you return, do not let the unpacked bags sit for days.  Take the dirty clothes bag to the laundry first.  Unpack as soon as possible while you still have momentum.  It is helpful to take a day off of work to re-group after any trip. 

    Most importantly, enjoy your trip.  Too often, we do not relax and enjoy the experiences in the present.  Plan, organize and enjoy. 


    © 2014 Nettie Owens, Sappari Solutions. All Rights Reserved.


    Nettie Owens is a professional organizer, productivity coach and owner of Sappari Solutions. Since 2004 she has been helping overwhelmed professionals to streamline their lives so they may live!


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