• 05/14/2014 12:53 PM | Terry L. Cooch

    Is your home bursting at the seams? Are you dreaming about your dream kitchen? Do you wish your house had a master suite? Renovating your home can be a satisfying way to improve your quality of life. The key to success is good planning.

    Know What You Want. Create a list of what you want and need to achieve.

    ·         Collect ideas: Keep a camera and tape measure with you at all times. Photograph show rooms and model homes. Look in magazines and brochures. Record anything to help communicate your ideas to a designer or contractor.

    ·         Make note of your physical wants: “I want more closet space” “I want more natural light.”

    ·         List your emotional wants: “I want the space to feel cheerful.” “I want to inspire creativity.” “I want to encourage togetherness.”

    ·         Identify any non-negotiable items.  “I need a walk-in shower due to mobility issues.”

    Determine A Realistic Budget.The temptation to do more than you planned is immense. Know yourself and what you can afford. What can you stretch your budget to and what will cause financial problems? Projects typically exceed budgets by at least 20%.  Factor in some potential overage.

    If your desires exceed your budget, talk to your contractor about ways to reduce costs. Can you give up recessed lighting for hardwood floors? Is there a cheaper look-a-like? Consider DIY options. Beware when buying online: you may pay less for the item but more for the contractors.  Time lost while you ship back a damaged product and wait for a replacement can throw the entire project off schedule and budget.

    Include in your budget the cost of extra meals out and a little pampering. You’ll deserve both.

    If You Pay Peanuts, You May Get Monkeys.  Shop diligently for contractors or designers. The cheapest price is tempting, but it’s not worth the savings if the project is done poorly or left unfinished.

    Do your homework. Ask neighbors, friends and family for referrals. Look at local directories, or search online. However you find someone, be sure to interview both the contractor and a few past customers.

    Make sure that whomever you hire is insured and licensed by the state of Maryland for the type of work they will do for you! To check on a contractor’s license, visit

    Understand The Process. Know what to expect before construction begins. Ask your contractor for a written or emailed explanation of starting time, daily and weekly goals, a thorough timetable of subcontractors (first week carpenter, then two days for electrician, followed by a week for the plumber, etc.). How will set-backs be handled?

    Learn how to communicate with your contractor. Calls, texts, email? Avoid frustration by knowing a typical time frame for replies.

    Schedule The Project Accordingly.  Once you have an understanding of what to expect, plan the timing of the construction work.

    ·         Are there times when a contractor might give a discount?

    ·         What time of the year can you most easily handle interruptions and added responsibilities? If you have children, will the disruption be less during the school year or during the summer holiday?

    ·         Factor in: school, work and volunteer calendars; after-school activities; camps.

    Get Ready, Get Set… Get Organized Before You Hit Go.  Prepare your home for disruptions. Your household can still run smoothly, if you plan ahead.

    ·         Set up staging areas where needed.

    ·         Do you need a new enter/exit zone of your home with needed purses, backpacks, coats and shoes?

    ·         Do you need a temporary small food station to replace a kitchen?

    ·         Do you need a portable leisure or work station that can be set up on the dining table and quickly removed at mealtime?

    Prepare Yourself. Acknowledge that, despite your efforts, construction will be challenging.

    ·         Allow more time to do daily tasks and to get out the door in the morning.

    ·         Every evening, make sure all temporary systems are in place for the next day.

    ·         Reduce your commitments, if possible.

    ·         Be ready for more noise, phone calls, and unexpected construction surprises.

    ·         If possible, double your patience level with your spouse and children; remember that everything is harder for them too.


    © 2014 Terry Cooch, TLC Home LLC. All Rights Reserved.

  • 05/05/2014 11:00 PM | Jill Prevatt
    This past January, NAPO-Baltimore launched its first "B'more Organized Photo Contest." January is National Get Organized (GO) Month, a nationwide public awareness campaign that promotes the benefits of getting organized.

    The NAPO-Baltimore Chapter, comprised of more than 30 professional organizers and productivity experts, recognized GO Month by hosting a photo contest for the Greater Baltimore area. Throughout the month, we received almost 50 entries from hopeful individuals submitting photos of their most cluttered and disorganized spaces in need of some major organizing TLC.

    The judging panel, whose experience in the organizing industry totals 67 years, took the job quite seriously, reviewing each entry with careful and discerning eyes!

    We are pleased to introduce to you the 2014 Grand Prizewinners: J. Skolnik of Catonsville in "Putting the Family Back in Family Room"; J. Brinkley of Baltimore in "A Crafty Conversion"; and C. Smith of Edgewood in "Hello Garage. My name is Car."

    We have our work cut out for us, but are certainly looking forward to helping our winners reclaim their spaces and reintroduce function, calm, and efficiency into their lives.

    We will bring you a series of in-progress photos and updates as our talented organizing teams dive in, so check out the "BEFORE" and stay tuned for the "AFTER"!

  • 11/08/2013 9:06 PM | Nettie Owens

    Image courtesy of ScottChan / FreeDigitalPhotos.netImage courtesy of ScottChan / FreeDigitalPhotos.netThe season is upon us when we are encouraged to buy, buy, buy.  Yet the more we have, the more we have to get organized to keep it all.  Ironically, Christmas is one of my favorite holidays.  I love the traditions; the process of picking gifts for friends and family; and the joy of giving gifts to others.  But, by the time the New Year rolls around on January 1, I am often overwhelmed by consumerism and glad not to have to deal with major gift giving for another 11 months.

    Even though the economy is in a slump, I still see the buying trend continuing with my clients, friends and family.  We look for the perfect gift or make purchases simply  to have something to give.  Our closets are full and our wallets are empty.  This year, I would encourage you to think differently about your gift giving habits. 

    1.  Make a list of all those folks that you intend to give gifts to. 
    2. Think about your budget, set a number and commit to keeping your budget.  This one can be tricky especially as you come closer to the holiday at hand and find there are people you have forgotten. 
    3. Think now about the gifts you would like to make or buy.  If you are overwhelmed by giving and receiving gifts then others are, too.  Keep your  gifts simple and think outside the box. Consumable items are less likely to be clutter. The items you make are often much less expensive. 
    4. Here are a few ideas:  homemade applesauce, cookies and pies; a gift certificate to babysit for a family with children while the parents enjoy a night out; a picture you enlarged or painted; registration for a class for the recipient to attend.

    The effect of thoughtful gifts is several-fold: there is less waste going into yours and your recipient’s homes and the environment; you feel great about the gifts you are giving and good about your finances, too; your gifts will truly be enjoyed.

    There is a wonderful buy local movement out called the ‘3/50 Project’ that encourages consumers to spend $50 a month with 3 locally owned businesses.  If you think that $50 is a lot, look at your last grocery bill or receipt from Target.  What business could you transfer to a local farm; gift shop on Main Street or bakery.  Now you have gift that gives back and supports the community you live in.  You can find out more at

    The best gift you can give is that of time. It is the least expensive, most precious and environmentally friendly and fills the heart with joy.  So, if you are truly at a loss for that special someone in your life give a clutter-free gift and make a date to spend time together.

    © 2013 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!

    Gift image courtesy of ScottChan /

  • 08/19/2013 9:47 AM | Mary Cate Claudias, CPO® (Administrator)

    ‘Done is better than perfect’.  Not sure who said it originally but it sure has been a great reminder for me lately.  Little story to start us off…. I bought a $25 water bottle at Target about a year ago.  It has a flip top so when I’m on the job it’s clean and convenient.  I’ve come to realize that the relationship between my water bottle and me runs on a very interesting level.  Try as I might, I can’t seem to lose it.  I have left that thing at so many different clients’ homes and offices and somehow, I still get it back each time!  And of course the beautiful irony in this situation is that I’M THE PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZER leaving her things behind in a wake and tide of having just restored some order to chaos and put belongings in their rightful place so they don’t get misplaced!

    So while the lost water bottle saga continues with at least 2 out of every 5 clients…. It continues to be a great conversation piece, ice breaker, and laughing matter at my expense…. which is actually quite nice.

    It reminds everyone present that no one is perfect or organized all of the time.  And it’s important to remember that.  There are a lot of us in this industry who tend to thrive from a system and do a silent happy dance when the plan comes to fruition.  But it’s good to keep in check the amount of time and energy that’s going into maintaining those systems.

    Yes, of course maintenance is the key to any good sense of order – but having run a business for three years, run a family, a home, events, and juggling those curve balls that pop up once in a while, I’ve learned that SOMETHING’s gotta give.  There’s an awful lot of talk out there about life balance, etc. etc.  It’s overused but it’s still true.

    Fellow organizers and our fabulous clients both… repeat after me:

    • When I’m sick, I am allowed to be sick and not do anything else.
    • When I need a break, I should do that without guilt or feeling as if I’m being unproductive.
    • And when I want to go have fun, I will! 

    Whether you’ve thought about bringing a professional organizer into your space or not, remember that whatever your situation is, there is no judgment in our eyes.  Perhaps your parents’ house has been sitting full of undealt-with items for years after their passing.  Perhaps your business is silently struggling because the paper and time management has gotten out of control.
    Perhaps your surroundings have gotten away from you and you’re embarrassed to invite friends or family in to your home.  Maybe you don’t ask for help well.  (I know that all too well.)

    And we get that it’s not easy to make that call…. Especially to someone who you may believe has it together ALL of the time?

    Well I’m here to be the first to tell you that we don’t.  We’re not.  And we can’t….. do it all I mean… ALL of the time!

    Done is better than perfect and we’re usually just looking for people who are ready to take that first step.  After that, ‘good enough’ is just great.

    © 2013 Mary Cate Claudias, Charm City Organizers. All Rights Reserved.

    Mary Cate Claudias is a Professional Organizer and founder/CEO of Charm City Organizers, LLC in Baltimore City, Maryland. Drawing on her experiences in teaching, coaching and non-profit management, she helps small businesses and home owners live less stressful and more productive lives. 

  • 08/13/2013 7:44 PM | Mary Cate Claudias, CPO® (Administrator)

    If you’re curious about whether or not you need a professional organizer, or perhaps just some consultation in order to start off on the right track by yourself, answer each of the following questions honestly.

    1)     This sounds like me and my surfaces:

    a.    I can’t really see too much surface area (end tables, kitchen counters, dining room table, etc.) on the main living area of my house.  Most surfaces only get a clear spot when I push stuff aside. I have containers for the stuff near or on these surfaces but they aren’t getting used.

    b.    Typically my surfaces have a lot of stuff on them but I stash it all away quickly when people come over so the containers and organizational products I bought become “miscellaneous” bins. 

    I try and get everyone in the house to pick up their stuff and put it away but there’s not enough space for everything… or maybe the right system?  So usually I’m the one who gets tired of never seeing / using my furniture and do a mad clean up once a week or so.

    I have stuff on my dining room table right now (it’s 2pm) but by tonight, it won’t be there because the mail will be processed and anything else that got dropped there will be in its proper home by dinner so we can eat.

    When I walk into the house…

    I usually step over or on a pile of shoes, work stuff, book bags, sports gear, etc. and am so frustrated by this every day. Will it ever get better?

    I’d love (and love others in the house) to hang my coat immediately, put my shoes, purse, gym bag, etc, exactly where they belong… but it’s not realistic with my schedule and lifestyle.  I’ll get to it over the weekend….maybe.

    I usually step over or on a pile of shoes, work stuff, book bags, sports gear, etc. but it’s because everyone else entering the home isn’t using the hooks, closet, bins, etc. that I created for the stuff.  I put MY stuff away.

    I usually drop my stuff (or others drop theirs) but then we come back around in the next few hours and put it where it belongs.  At least by the time we go to bed.

    3)    When a friend, family member or even service repair man comes into my home, I feel like….

    a.    I don’t let them in. I would never want them to see how I’m living.

    I’m embarrassed and I’m constantly apologizing for the state of things, but I don’t have the time to keep it up the way other people do.

    It’s messy – Some laundry in a basket ready to go upstairs; toys around the floor; my work stuff is on the dining room table from last night - but it doesn’t bother me if people see my mess.  I think this is pretty normal for hard working people.

    Well, my stuff is put away (most of the time), but it bothers me that others in my house aren’t using the systems I put together!  Why am I the only one doing it all? Because when people walk into my home, I shouldn’t have to frantically pick up after everyone else, even when there is an organizing home for everything!  I should be stress free and proud when someone comes to visit.

    The mail – and what’s going on with it.

    a.    The amount of mail I get is disturbing. So many bills, magazines, junk mail fliers…. It’s really overwhelming so it goes into a box under my desk. I get around to it when I can but if I’m totally honest, there is probably some stuff in there I haven’t opened in a few months. 

    The mail coming in is a pain but I usually tackle it once a week, maybe a bit longer in between sit-down sessions.

    It usually gets put down onto the kitchen counter or dining room table (maybe entry way) and at least every few days, we go through it.

    I pick it up daily.  I go through it and determine what needs to be done with what (shred, recycle, pay, etc.) and what needs to go to whom in the house.  All junk mail and extra envelopes, etc. go straight into the recycling bin. Bills go into a folder to get paid.

    I might (ok… I do) do this:

    a.    I buy every organizational product, bin, basket and desk organizer on the market (sometimes a few times a week) because they WILL help me get more organized!  Just that a few of them haven’t made it out of the box yet.

    I like decorative and functional things in my home.  I buy a few things a month that will help me get more organized and mostly… when I have time to put them together, they work ‘okay’… but not great.

    There are SO many organizational products out there now – it’s way too overwhelming.  I love going into Bed, Bath & Beyond and getting stuff but then I get it home and it just doesn’t fit or work.  And I don’t have time to take it back.

    Usually, I don’t buy a product unless I know there’s a great need for it. I measure the space and map out a plan of function and user-probability before I buy something new.

    Okay, now tally your score.

    A’s = 4

    B’s = 3

    C’s = 2

    D’s = 1

    If you scored:

    5-10 = Want a job? No, seriously. Your organizing is okay, but we could help you refine it to make you even more efficient and a bit less stressed.

    10-15 = You have some core issues with organization that with some coaching, we could put aside and make every-day life a bit easier. Some ‘tweaking’ if you will.

    15-20 = Organization is probably a major frustration to you, and maybe even others you live with. We understand. We help hundreds of people each year to become better at organizing various aspects of their life.


    Whatever your score, reach out to an organizer and learn your options. Many of us offer free phone consultations and we can help you find the level of organization that you want or need to be happier and move past some of the things that rang a bell above.

    © 2013 Mary Cate Claudias, Charm City Organizers. All Rights Reserved.

    Mary Cate Claudias is a Professional Organizer and founder/CEO of Charm City Organizers, LLC in Baltimore City, Maryland. Drawing on her experiences in teaching, coaching and non-profit management, she helps small businesses and home owners live less stressful and more productive lives. 

  • 08/07/2013 11:10 AM | Jill Prevatt
    by NAPO-Baltimore Members

    NAPO-Baltimore just celebrated National Simplify Your Life Week by sharing very practical tips to live more simply. In case you missed any of them, we're happy to provide this recap plus some BONUS tips!

    Get Motivated:
    • Nettie Owens of Sappari Solutions says, "Organizing is more fun with a buddy. Grab a friend, turn on some music, and have fun!"
    • Nettie Owens of Sappari Solutions says, "Use music to get in the mood to organized. Create a short playlist and organize for just as long as the music is playing."
    Simplify Time Management & Activities:
    • Annie Powell of Charm City Organizers says, "If space allows, keep different bags pre-packed for different activities: a swim bag with goggles, towel, and sun glasses ready to go; a school bag with pencils, notebook, and textbook; an overnight bag with travel toiletries."
    • Carole McDade of Simplify Organizing says, "Trunk organizers are fine if you go in and out of your trunk a lot. Even better though - if you have small children who don't yet sit in the front seat, place an attractive box there and add things to read while waiting, library books to be returned, anything pertaining to car errands. It's convenient and serves as a reminder, too.
    • Holly Henson of Simplify Organizing says, "Simplify correspondence! In this age of digital communication and social networking, it's rare to receive a handwritten note or card in the mail, but our friends and loved-ones are so thankful whenever we manage to! While we all would like to send birthday cards on time, many of us can't. We forget, procrastinate, or don't get to the store/post office on time. Simplify this process by following 4 easy steps: STEP 1. Create a list of everyone who you wish to mail a card to throughout the year (include birth date, anniversary, etc.). STEP 2. Head to your favorite store and buy each of these cards in advance. STEP 3. Using a large shoebox, organize your year's worth of cards by month they are to be delivered (stand the cards vertically and separate with month dividers). STEP 4. Make sure your calendar is updated with all these special occasions so you are reminded when to take action."
    • Jacquie Ross of CastAway the Clutter says, "Simplify your life by turning off the noise: turn off text, email, Facebook, and Twitter notifications. Consider deleting or ignoring distracting social media apps on your phone, and instead, schedule time once or twice a day to read and reply to messages. You could free up an extra hour a day!"
    • Carole McDade of Simplify Organizing, LLC says, "If you have a paper calendar and a smallish family, assign one color to each family member and then use one of those four-colored pens to mark events and obligations. Simplifies your life - you can tell at a glance which person needs to be where. Keep these pens hanging from your family calendar and in your purse so you can add to your calendar and keep up the 'color code.' If you use Google calendar, sync the colors and give everyone access."
    • Mary Cate Claudias of Charm City Organizers says, "To feel more productive by the end of the day, make sure you have your to-do's in one place. Every few days or at least once a week, prioritize that list and coordinate with your calendar. You'll knock things off that list in no time."
    Simplify With Kids:
    • Cheryl Osterhouse of In Order for Life says, "Regardless of the age or grade of your student(s), they will come from the first day of school with forms to fill out, papers to sign, and classroom and teacher contact information for your records. Set aside time to finish these tasks. Set up a Quick Access File. Within this file, set up files for each of your children, where you file teacher information, class lists, etc."
    • Terry Cooch of TLC Home says, "Make the most of your family vacation. Bring photos, an album, and supplies for a rainy day activity. Bring the kids their own mini book to fill."
    • Cheryl Osterhouse of In Order for Life says, "Create a School Memory Box for each of your children. This can be as simple as setting up a file box or cardboard banker's box divided into 12 sections for each child. Then, keep a small box, which is easily accessible, and toss in all of your child's potential treasures... all of their sweet cards, artwork, pictures, awards, and brilliant writings. At the end of each season, or as the box fills up, sort through and save the best and most meaningful. Finally, file them away in their School Memory Box in the appropriate year. By the of high school, you'll have a wonderful handpicked history of your child's life and development."
    Simplify In Your Kitchen:
    • Amy Rehkemper of Simplify Organizing says, "Having planned dinners will mean no more stress surrounding what to eat when 5pm rolls around. Imagine, no more spoiled food, no last minute trips to the store for that missing ingredient, no longer having to resort to eating fast food because you couldn't deal with figuring out what to cook! To get started, select 20 of your favorite quick & healthy homemade meals (five for each of the four weeks in a month). The remaining two days of each week can either be for dining out, ordering in, or leftovers. Next, list every ingredient needed for each week until you have 4 different weekly shopping lists. Yes, this will take some time initially, but for years following you will thank yourself! With a Rotating Meal Schedule, you can finally take advantage of the time when your family comes together to enjoy each other's company. Plus, you can feel comforted that you are supplying yourself and your family with a wide variety of foods that are home-cooked, in-season, delicious, and nutritious!"
    Simplify In Your Closet & Pantry:
    • Annie Powell of Charm City Organizers says, "Only purchase one brand of white socks. This way there's no matching to do after laundry - any two can make a pair. This same strategy can also be applied to dress socks, and can be used for each member of the family."
    • Susan von Suhrke of Timely Transitions says, "Forget those bulky chip clips for sealing snack bags. Buy a box of good old binder clips and then think 'outside the box.' A binder clip can hold the bottom of the rolled up toothpaste tube in place, provide a handle for hanging your kids' artwork, hold a network of aluminum mini-loaf pans together as drawer organizers, or keep your Triscuits from going stale. Small enough to fit inside the outer box for your snacks, you need only roll down the top and fasten with a binder clip to keep excess air from sucking the flavor out of your crackers. And lest we forget, they work well for binding papers together, too!"
    • Jill Prevatt of Arrange Professional Organizing says, "To minimize morning chaos, plan your outfit the night before - iron if necessary, choose accessories and shoes. As thoughts turn back-to-school, get your kids in on it, too! One less thing to think about on a busy school morning."
    • Terry Cooch of TLC Home says, "When unpacking from your vacation this summer, take notice of your dirty laundry. This is what you wore while vacationing. Simplify next year's packing by writing and keeping a list of everything you wore. If you don't want to wear the same clothes, list types and quantities."
    Simplify Your Stuff:
    • Jill Prevatt of Arrange Professional Organizing says, "Familiarize yourself with the concept of 'enough' and don't go looking for something to need. Once you've embraced this concept, you'll have less clutter and less distractions in your life."
    • Mary Cate Claudias of Charm City Organizers says, "Before running out and buying a new container or organizing product, take inventory and measurements! Group like items and weigh out size, shape, and style to find the right product(s) for your project."
    • Deb Clark of Go To Girl Organizing Solutions says, "Ziploc bags are a favorite organizing tool for me. From sandwich to jumbo to XXL, I have found they are great for people who need to see the items they are sorting, but need to have those items sorted and containerized for maximum efficiency. Recently, I purchased Ziploc Space Bags and find they are more reliable than other brands - they actually work! One of the goals I set for clients is to minimize the number of 'steps' required to reach and use any item that is stored. Visibility is key - when you can see what you need, it eliminates the step of finding the storage area. With the Ziploc bag, access is easy and so is system upkeep. Ziplocs are not fancy but work in a wide variety of situations - they are a must-have in the go-to bag of tricks that I take to all consultations and organizing sessions."
    • Nadine Sachs of Organized2Succeed says, "Reduce the amount of cd's and dvd's in your home and make a few extra dollars! Go to and see how easy it is to open an account. All you have to do is enter the item's barcode to find out if MusicMagpie will accept the dvd or cd and to see how much they will pay you. You then download a pre-printed shipping label, mail the box of cd's and dvd's, and wait for your check!"
    • Nettie Owens of Sappari Solutions says, "When you have less, you have less to handle, organize, and spend time and money on. Make a commitment to reduce your things by 20%. For example, for every 8 books you choose to keep, let go of 2."
    Simplify Your Desk/Office, Mail & Paper Flow:
    • Cheryl Osterhouse of In Order for Life says, "Remove anything from your office space that doesn't serve a purpose. Less really is more. It eliminates mind clutter that allows distractions. Implement the One In/One Out rule, limiting your supplies to the storage space you have.
    • Annie Powell of Charm City Organizers says, "Get the Paperkarma app (it's free!). Using the camera feature on your smartphone, it unsubscribes you from junk mail. Woo hoo!"
    • Cindy Bernstein of Aim 4 Order says, "Open your mail each day beside a recycling container and a shredder. It's a quick easy way to prevent piles of unwanted mail."
    • Cheryl Osterhouse of In Order for Life says, "Make 'you' the center of your office. Create a circle around yourself using an L-shaped desk. This allows everything to be at arm's length and eliminates excessive searching and getting up and down. Items to place in your circle include a printer and paper, telephone, computer, a few pens and pencils in a holder, scissors, garbage can, recycle bin, shredder, planner, etc."

    © 2013 NAPO Baltimore. All Rights Reserved.

  • 06/26/2013 4:51 PM | Anonymous

    by Terry Cooch of TLC Home, LLC


    Is your home bursting at the seams? Are you dreaming about your dream kitchen? Do you wish your house had a master suite? Renovating your home can be a satisfying way to improve your quality of life. As your renovation’s project manager, the key to success is good planning. Here’s how to make sure you’re up to the challenge.

    Know What You Want. Create a wish list. Begin by writing down everything you want to achieve with your new space.

    • Make note of your physical wants: “I want more closet space” “I want more Natural light.” “I want a reading nook.” Add to this list as ideas develop.
    • List your emotional wants: “I want the space to feel cheerful.” “I want to inspire creativity.” “I want to encourage togetherness.” “I want a calming place.”
    • Collect ideas: Start a folder of magazine pictures, sketches, samples and brochures. Keep designs that you love or would like to copy. Keep a camera and tape measure with you at all times. Walk through show rooms and model homes and takes lots of pictures. Record anything that will help you communicate your ideas to a designer or contractor.

    Determine A Realistic Budget. (aka: the Las Vegas Scenario)

    Pretend you’re going to Las Vegas. You have a dollar amount you’re planning on spending, but then there’s the “I-can’t-bear-the-temptation” amount. There’s also the OMG (“Oh my God! What have I done!?”) amount.

    Examine this scenario when planning your budget. The temptation to do more that you planned is immense. There are some beautiful and expensive things out there. Know yourself and what you can afford, and plan accordingly.

    If your wants exceed your budget, talk to your contractor about other ways to reduce costs. You may be willing to give up recessed lighting in order to have hardwood floors, or there might be a great look-a-like that satisfies. Consider Do-It-Yourself options when planning both budget and contracting.

    If You Pay Peanuts, You Get Monkeys. Shop diligently for contractors or designers. The cheapest price is tempting, but it’s not worth the savings if the project is done poorly or left unfinished.

    Do your homework. Ask friends and family for referrals and be certain they were happy with their results. Internet searches can provide plenty of business names, if necessary, but be sure to interviews potential contractors and request a list of past customers.

    Call those people and verify their satisfactions. And make sure that whatever company you hire is insured and properly licensed by the state of Maryland. To check on a contractor’s license, visit the website of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation at and go to the “License Search” page.

    Understand The Process. Know what to expect before construction begins. Ask your contractor for a complete explanation of starting time, daily and weekly goals, and how set backs are handled.

    Reduce surprises and disappointments by requesting a thorough timetable that includes subcontractor information. For instance, first to arrive is the tear out guy, then the framer, the electrician, then the plumber, etc.

    Also, learn the best way to communicate with your contractor. Is he quick to answer calls or texts, or does he prefer email at the end of the day? Avoid frustration by knowing his typical time frame for replies.

    Schedule The Project Accordingly.  Once you have an understanding of what to expect, it’s important to plan the construction work around your family’s calendar and life. When possible, select a time that will keep stress to a minimum.

    • Will it be easier to renovate during the school year or will the disruption affect the kid’s success in school and other activities?
    • Will the change in routine interfere with your ability to get your children where they need to be?
    • The less demanding months of summer could be a good time for construction if your kids have a pool, camp or friends’ houses to go to. Or will the added noise be too much for everyone?
    • Do you want to avoid having the work coincide with holidays and vacations? Consider your own work and volunteer schedule.
    • What time of the year can you most easily handle interruptions and added responsibilities?  

    Get Ready, Get Set… Get Organized Before You Hit Go.  Prepare your home for the disruptions. Your household can still run smoothly, if you make it a priority.

    • Set up staging areas where needed. If the enter/exit zone of your home will be inaccessible, create a new one. Relocate needed backpacks, coats and shoes. Keep your purse and other necessities in this new launching area.
    • If your kitchen will be unusable, salvage what you can of the old one and create a small work station in the family room.
    • If leisure or work areas will be disturbed, create a portable station that can be set up on the kitchen table and then quickly removed when it’s time to dine.

    Prepare Yourself. Acknowledge that, despite your great planning and hiring of the perfect contractor, the construction will be challenging.

    • Allow more time to do daily tasks and to get out the door in the morning.
    • Schedule a daily recovery time at the end of the day, making sure all temporary systems are in place for the next day.
    • Reduce your commitments, if possible, and eliminate all unnecessary appointments
    • Simplify meals and rely on carry-out a little more than usual.
    • Be ready for the phone to ring more and the unexpected to happen.
    • If possible, double your patience level with your spouse and children; remember that everything is harder for them too.
    • Here’s a tip: Reduce some stress by including in your budget the cost of extra meals out and a little pampering. You’ll deserve both.

    © 2013 Terry Cooch, TLC HOME LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Terry L. Cooch is a professional organizer, home stager, and owner of TLC Home LLC Professional Organizing Services.

  • 06/12/2013 12:04 PM | Anonymous

    by Cheryl Osterhouse of In Order for Life, LLC 

    Another school year is coming to a close. Another year of your child's masterpieces are piling up. Now is the time to create a very simple system to save their school work, art work, and accomplishments.

    This can be done in 5 simple steps:

    Step 1: Purchase a few simple supplies to create a School and Art Archive for each child

    • A plastic file box
    • 12-15 dividers (1 for each year of school + preschool)
    • A larger document or art box for those larger pieces of art

    Step 2: Create a simple label for each file box, using a permanent adhesive label - be creative.

    Step 3: Purchase or find a basket or bin, that you can keep in the hub of your home to gather their treasures

    • As your child brings home all of their potential treasures, their brilliant writings and artwork, their awards and accomplishments, and their sweet cards, toss them in the basket or bin.
    • Jot a quick note on the back with your child’s age and any details you may want to remember.

    Step 4: Decide What to Keep and What to let go of. At the end of the school year, or as the basket fills up, it’s time to sort through the pile, and decide what to keep and what to let go of. Save the best and the most meaningful of your child’s treasures. I know that letting go of any of your child’s treasures can be difficult. As you are making these decisions, consider the following questions for each piece of artwork, creative writing assignment, project, or greeting card.

    • Does this show my child’s personality?
    • Does this show my child’s passions?
    • Does this reflect a special relationship in my child’s life?

    Step 5: Transfer their treasures into the appropriate hanging file or art box.

    By the end of high school, you will have a handpicked, wonderful, history and reflection of your child’s life and development, to treasure and enjoy.

    Happy (and Organized!) Memories!

    © 2013 Cheryl Osterhouse, In Order For Life, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Cheryl Osterhouse is a Professional Organizer and Owner/President of In Order for Life, LLC. For 5 years, Cheryl has been bringing order and simplicity to individuals, families and home businesses, one home at a time.

  • 05/20/2013 9:09 PM | Anonymous

    by Ryan Sentz of BumbleJunk, LLC


    Spring has arrived, and it’s time to open all of those windows, let the fresh air in, and begin your spring cleaning!  I’m sure you have many things on your list for spring cleaning; cleaning the windows, de-cluttering and organizing, cleaning out the shed and garage, and the list goes on! Regardless of what is on your list, if you are like most people, one of the first things to do is to remove all of your accumulated junk.

    Instead of busting your back hauling all that junk away to the dump, consider hiring a full service junk removal company to come in and take care of all that back busting work for you! Keep in mind, that most credible companies also recycle or donate a certain percentage of the junk that they remove from client’s homes. Bumble Junk, a local junk removal company, has saved over 125,000 lbs from going to local landfills, over the past 16 months.

    When you are hiring a junk removal company, you will want to look for the following:

    1. You will be letting the company into your home, so you want to be sure that you hire a company that is clean and organized. They should show up on time, in a branded work truck, and wearing a company uniform.  
    2. Confirm that there are no hidden fees involved. 
    3. Work with a company that cares about you. They should be respectful of you, your home, and your property. 
    4. Make sure the company is eco-friendly. There are so many items that can be recycled and donated today that it makes no sense to toss them.  Here is a small statistic about fast-filling landfills.

    Landfill statistics show that in 1979, approximately 18,500 landfills were available to receive trash all across the United States. In 1990, just 11 years later, this number was drastically decreased by almost 60%. According to the landfill statistics given by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 1988 there were 7,924 landfills available in the US. In 2006, there were only 1,754 left. This continued decrease in available landfill space is relative to the amount of trash that has been increasing in great proportions (

    Take advantage of the many services offered by local companies to assist in accomplishing your goals of spring cleaning.  No matter what you’re looking for, whether it’s a plumber, a professional organizer, or a painter, the four things you should look for in a professional company will remain the same. Stick to them and you should have a great time getting your house in order and starting off spring on the right foot! 

    © 2013 Ryan Sentz, Bumble Junk. All Rights Reserved.

    Ryan Sentz, is a junk removal specialist with BumbleJunk LLC. BumbleJunk LLC is a residential and commercial junk removal company, boasting some of the largest trucks, cheapest prices and best service available.

  • 04/02/2013 9:01 AM | Anonymous

    by Nettie Owens of Sappari Solutions, LLC

    As an organizer, I am always encouraging my clients to streamline, purge, declutter and otherwise let go of the excess.  As Marla Cilley, The Fly Lady, says, “You cannot organize clutter.”  It is not that I am on a mission to help you get rid of your stuff; on the contrary, I want you to be surrounded by all that you love.  I want you to have time and space for that which brings you joy.

    In this process though, we get to a point where we have to let go.  It’s one thing to decide to let go and a whole different process to actually remove those items from your space.  You can get them out of your home or office and do so in an environmentally friendly way. 

    In a perfect world, corporations would be responsible for Cradle to Cradle Design.  They would have a plan to dispose of or reclaim the materials in their products such that none of it ends up in a landfill. Unfortunately, the responsibility currently falls on you, the consumer, to dispose of your unwanted items without trashing the earth.  If you know where to take things, it is possible to divert a large portion of your cast-offs away from the landfill.

    • Household goods – these should be in good or like new condition and include items like clothing, some furniture, small appliances, tools, etc.  Goodwill, Salvation Army, Purple Heart and many local charities will accept these items.
    • Scrap metal, computers, and appliances – in any condition.  These can be taken for metal recycling and you may even earn a small amount of cash back.  Try or look for ‘scrap metal recycling’ in your area.
    • Paper and cardboard – may be recycled curbside in many areas.  Look for community drop off locations, shredding days or stores like UPS that perform paper shredding on site.
    • Hearing aids, cell phones, jewelry and glasses – the Lions Club in your area may collect hearing aids, glasses  & books.  Try the library for books they will sell at fundraising events.  USPS collects cell phones as do some local charities.
    • Old linens and towels – are accepted at pet shelters and humane societies. 
    • Fluorescent bulbs & batteries may be collected at your Home Depot, Lowes and Ikea.
    • Prescription Medication – is accepted annually at National Take-Bake Day and at local pharmacies
    • TV’s – are accepted one per customer at Best Buy.

    Still not sure where to take your items?  Try to search for charitable locations that will take what you have. is another wonderful way to find new homes for what you have. also lists locations for recycling. Call your local junk hauler or professional organizer, as they will often have resources for finding where to take things.

    If you live in Harford County, Maryland, bring a carload of your unwanted items to on April 27, 11am-3pm at the Harford Community College.  You can let go of your unwanted items and support Habitat for Humanity Susquehanna for a cost of $5 per car.  Check the website for more details.

    Remember, it is not about getting rid of your stuff, but making room for what you love.  If you do part with things along the way, make sure you do so in a way that protects the environment.  Have a GREEN Earth Day!

    © 2013 Nettie Owens, Sappari Solutions. All Rights Reserved.

    Nettie Owens is a professional organizer and owner of Sappari Solutions serving Harford & Cecil Counties. Since 2004, Sappari Solutions has provided residential and small business clients organizational solutions that fit their lifestyle, budget and schedule. Sappari Solutions is highly committed to protecting the environment and to sustainable business practices.

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