• 03/25/2013 8:57 AM | Anonymous

    by Terry Cooch of TLC Home, LLC

    Green is the new annoying…. I just got recycling down!

    Not only are we expected to care for our families, be loving spouses, work or volunteer, eat healthfully, exercise regularly, discover our spiritual path, attend girls night out and be knowledgeable in wine and food parings, we are to do all this while saving the planet. Something’s gotta give…we’re not superheroes.

    As an organizer, I’ve witnessed the negative effects of we-expect-too-much-of -ourselves syndrome. Being unrealistic about what we can accomplish can leave us in a state of inertia, where very little gets done, or anything done well. The consequences of which can be very unfriendly to the earth. Heightened concern over hurting the earth can have the opposite of its intended effect.  Unsure of how to dispose of items, some do nothing.

    Reality Green: The first step toward green living is to decide your role. Where does this fit in all of your other responsibilities and personal expectations? Do you have the time, space, resources to include every tip you’ve read into your schedule? Perhaps start simply.

    Green equals efficiency: The greenest you can be is to be as organized as you can be. There is no way around that.  An efficient household creates less waste. No last minute purchases needed. No duplications to add to the landfill one day. Organization will also give you the time to incorporate best practices into your schedule.

    Green Housing: Create homes for all things green. Think green systems. "Donate - Deliver", is a systems category. Just as you have a designated place for your trash and recycling, have an established home for the regular removal of giveaways. A tote bag in the hall closet works well.

    Granny was green: Make do, when possible. A lot of time can be spent discovering green products. Let the first question be: Can I do without? Living simply is the greenest of all. Learn to use a good sharp knife and you’ll need few other gadgets in your kitchen.

    Green Routine: Once a simplified, organized household is established, create a home maintenance routine which includes green education. While planning your week, add fifteen minutes of research time to discover best locations for deliverables and green stores or products. Green tip: save fuel by scheduling errands together and creating an efficient route.

    Google Green: Remember the store of information at your fingertips. The internet can provide you with information from where to donate your old VHS tapes to green projects to get involved in. Or check out Green Drinks Annapolis, and immerse yourself in a green lifestyle.

     “It’s not easy being green.” Kermit the Frog.

    Though Kermit’s woes came from his frog-ness, not his role in saving the planet, it’s a line worth stealing. Be mindful that green is another to-do you’ve added to your plate. Incorporating new living practices at a measured pace will produce long term results of both healthy earth and healthy self and family.

    © 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.

  • 03/21/2013 5:08 PM | Anonymous

    by Nadine Sachs of Organized2Succeed 

    Shopping for clothes should be an enjoyable experience. Rather than getting frustrated, I find myself avoiding stores that have their merchandise tightly crammed on their hanging racks, making it virtually impossible to move the hangers aside and see the item you may want to try on.

    Your closet should provide the same experience as entering a well-organized store. Clothing and accessories must be visible, accessible, and categorized by type and color. By taking an honest look at your clothes, and keeping only those items that you love, and that currently fit well, walking in to your closet will be a delight, and getting dressed in the morning will become something to look forward to!

    To create order in your closets, follow these simple steps:

    Suggested Supplies:

    • Pop Up Hamper lined with a sturdy trash bag for donations.
    • Portable Garment Rack to hold clothes as you sort through them.
    • Reroute Bin for items that need to leave your closet and find a home elsewhere.
    • Bins, Post It Notes and Markers to label and store items elsewhere.

    Step 1: Remove all Items from the Closet

    If you would like to do some spring-cleaning as you organize, you need to remove everything from the closet. Wipe down all of the shelves, poles and drawers, and vacuum the floor.

    Step 2: Purge

    As you remove the items from your closet, ask yourself these questions:

    • What have I not worn at all this past season?
    • What needs repair or does not fit well?
    • Am I going to wear items that are stained or are no longer in style?
    • Am I holding onto something purely for sentimental reasons?

    Use the portable garment rack and your bed to temporarily hold the clothes you are keeping in your closet. Fill the trash bags with donations. Items to be kept but stored elsewhere, should either be stored in another closet, in a bin under your bed, or possibly in the basement or attic. Be sure they are well labeled!

    If your keeping clothing items for sentimental reasons, remove them from your closet space. Take a photo of the sweater that your grandma lovingly made for you, and either let it go, or create space for it with your memorabilia.

    Step 3: Organize

    Categorize: Get as detailed as you want. For example, main categories could include: Evening Clothes, Work Clothes and Casual Clothes. Evening clothes, that are worn less often, should be stored further back on the clothing rack, in a less accessible area, and evening shoes should be stored higher up on shelves.

    Sub-Categorize: For example, shirts can be further categorized into sleeveless, short sleeve and long sleeve. Organize them even further by color. In the back corners, where the light may not be as good, hang lighter colors and keep the darker colors closer in view.

    Shelves vs. Drawers: Use shelves for t-shirts, sweatshirts, work out clothes and sweaters and use drawers to contain socks, underwear and lingerie. Bulky items tend to fill up a drawer very quickly and store much better on a shelf. Avoid high piles and use shelf dividers to prevent items from falling over. Expandable shelf dividers can be used in drawers to separate work out socks from dress socks. Store shoes on shelves, in over the door hanging shoe bags, or perhaps in an under the bed shoe storage container.

    Accessories: Belts, ties and scarves can be hung on hooks, or on one of the many products available, such as this scarf hanger. 

    Image courtesy of Clever Container

    Image courtesy of


    Step 4: Maintain

    Remember, that although there are many wonderful closet-organizing products on the market, they alone, will not create order in your closets. You have to work through all of the above steps to attain and maintain a closet that you love to spend time in! 

    © 2013 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 Secretary of NAPO-Baltimore and enjoys helping her clients achieve and maintain a less stressful and simpler lifestyle. 

  • 03/04/2013 4:55 PM | Anonymous

    by Anne Powell of Charm City Organizers, LLC

    Baskets and Bins: Are they helping or hurting?

    I can’t help asking myself that question as I work in client homes. Many of us have the idea that if we couldjust buy the right kind of container, we would be organized. The good news is that organization doesn’t need to cost anything. The bad news is that it can’t just be picked up at the store.

    Part of the trouble is the sheer lure of baskets and bins - they come in so many cute and irresistible varieties! (And of course, if used correctly, they can be quite useful, as one part of a larger organizational system, and maintenance schedule).

    So what’s going on here? Why do so many homes have bins over-flowing with clutter?

    It’s all about placement:

    Right placement with specific purpose = success. 

    Meaning: if you use a bin to corral necessary items in their rightful place, the bin will serve you well.

    Example: a paperclip holder or pen cup on a desk

    Hectic placement with vague purpose = baskets full of clutter.

    Meaning: if you place bins around your home with the hope they will somehow, magically make you more organized, you’re in for some disappointment. They will become a catch-all for items that are not in their proper place.

    The classic example: A mom is frustrated that shoes keep getting left at the base of the stairs instead of being taken upstairs to her kids’ rooms. So, she buys baskets for these few pairs of misplaced shoes, thinking “at least now those few will be contained before they’re actually taken upstairs where they belong.” The next time she turns around, instead of just a few pairs of shoes lingering at the base of the steps, there are tons! The cute little bins are over-flowing! “What happened?” she asks her kids, who at this point get defensive because, from their point of view, they’re just putting shoes in bins.

    Does this sound familiar??

    Here’s what went wrong:

    A bin was created for shoes in a place where shoes do not belong. It became an undefined space without clear expectations. Was the basket a holding area for just one or two pairs? Or, is this storage for all of my shoes? A guideline needs to be set and a maintenance schedule put in place to make sure it’s upheld. The task of emptying the shoe bin each week, and putting them away in each room, could be added to the weekly chore list. 

    OR, you can go to the cause of the problem and look at why there’s a pile-up at all. Is there a way to store everyone’s shoes in a more convenient place that will get used correctly?

    This deeper question - getting to the root of clutter - is something a professional organizer is great for: we help you think about how you’re actually using your space and can design a system to match your needs.

    © 2013 Annie Powell. All Rights Reserved.

    Annie Powell is a sub-contractor and blogger for Charm City Organizers, LLC. She works with clients to clear clutter and create new organizational systems in their homes and work spaces; she specializes in small space problem-solving. "Saving you time, money, and sanity... one drawer at a time."

  • 02/18/2013 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    by Jacquie Ross of CastAway the Clutter!

    Do you have boxes and bags of old photos that never found their way into albums? Photographs are one of the best ways to preserve memories, but they can also become another pile of clutter if there is no organizational plan for storing and organizing them.

    Image courtesy Stacks and Stacks (

    Here are a few tips to get started:

    Organizing Digital Photos

    Today, most of us have moved to digital photos, but this has not necessarily ended the chaos. Disorganization on the computer or phone can be just as frustrating as disorganization in our physical space, because at the end of the day, you want to be able to find your photos when you need them. With that said, it is a little easier to organize digital photos. You just have to make the time to do so, and have a plan.

    Decide on a system that works for you. You can create digital folders on your computer, by year, person or occasion and move each photo to the appropriate folder.

    One drawback of storing photos on your computer is that they take up a lot of hard drive space, so you may wish to use a portable hard drive just for your photos. If you prefer not to keep any on your hard drive, or dont want to bother backing them up on a portable hard drive, there are many online storage options available. 

    Organizing Hard Copy Photos

    1. Get your tools together. When you’re ready to begin sorting through the backlog of your old photographs, you’ll want to have a few tools handy, including, but not limited to:

    • Containers, bins or large envelopes for sorting and categorizing
    • A trash can to discard duplicate copies
    • Photo albums, photo boxes or scrapbooks with acid-free pages and/or inserts
    • Scrapbooking supplies, if applicable.

    2. Schedule some time to do a quick sort. If you have many years of photos, you might want to start by sorting and organizing by year. If it’s only a year or two, you will more likely be able to remember each photo and can sort by occasion or person, e.g. birthday parties by child, vacations, events, etc. Pick what is most intuitive to you.

    3. Keep only the best of the best. It’s OK not to keep every single photo. If you have several shots of one person at the same event, pick the very best and get rid of the rest. It may feel a bit weird to throw away “good” photos, but it can be boring to look through a bunch of similar poses of the same person, so just pick the best.

    4. Keep them organized during the process. For organizing projects that will take a while, consider storing them temporarily in envelopes and label each clearly with a marker, so that you know where you are when you have time to do a bit more sorting. Containers take up a lot more space, so it also depends on where you will be storing your photos when you’re not working on them.

    Image courtesy Exposures (

    5. Display a few. Plan to set aside a few of your favorites for display purposes. You can display in a traditional photo frame for the wall or table top. Plus, there are many other unique ways to display photos. Decorating magazines can help you come up with some other ideas.

    6. Get Extra Copies of Irreplacable Photos. For photos that would be devastating for you to lose in a flood or fire (or anyhow!), get extra copies made now, and store the back-up copies in a fireproof safe, a safety deposit box, or both.

    © 2012-2013 by Jacquie Ross, CastAway the Clutter! All Rights Reserved.

    Jacquie Ross is a professional organizer, certified life and family coach and award winning owner of CastAway the Clutter!, Jacquie works with busy professionals and families to clear their clutter, manage their time and run their households more effectively.

  • 02/08/2013 10:26 AM | Anonymous

    by Emily Herwig of Tidy Life, LLC 


    Welcome to February, the month of blizzards, cupids, and tax forms in your mailbox! The deadline to postmark W-2 and 1099 forms was January 31, so by now you should have received most of the paperwork you need to file your annual returns. Your potential reward is a nice tax refund, so what are you waiting for?

    If you haven’t kept your receipts for tax-deductible expenses organized throughout the year, now is the time to get them in order so you’re not scrambling in April. If you’re a technophobe or satisfied with hard copies, you can organize your receipts using an accordion file. Otherwise, digitizing your tax documentation is highly recommended because it:

    • Preserves the information from thermal paper receipts, which fade over time, often in less than the 7 years you may be required by law to keep them
    • Creates a duplicate of your paper records, which can be further backed up in the cloud, on external hard drives, or on flash drives or CDs
    • Provides an easy way to share supporting documentation with your accountant or tax professional while allowing you to keep the originals
    • Gives you the ability to search for receipts by keyword instead of sifting through a sea of little papers
    • Takes up less space than paper!

    Many people think that by going paperless, they can avoid organizing their documents. Untrue! It’s not about the paper, it’s about the information. Here are a few different approaches for tackling this project; your choice will depend on how much time and money you wish to commit.

    Outsource Your Scanning

    The easiest approach is to let someone else do the scanning for you. For a monthly fee, services like Shoeboxed will scan and digitally organize your paper records, give you secure access to them in the cloud, and enable you to export the data to various other software programs. (If you’re willing to do the scanning yourself but want to use Shoeboxed’s software, there’s a free plan available.)

    The Scannerless Option

    Mobile apps such as TurboScan (for iOS), JotNot (for iOS) and CamScanner (for Android) use your phone’s camera to digitize documents and receipts. You have the option to email the files as PDF or JPEG or open them in another app on your mobile device.

    Scan to Folders

    For the novice techie, a simple approach is to use a home office scanner to create PDF or JPEG files of your receipts and save them to your computer in a folder structure that maps to your expense categories (advertising, insurance, travel, etc). Digitizing your receipts this way is a start, but it doesn’t allow you to quickly and visually scan their contents or sum up expenses.

    Snazzy Scanners

    Two of the most popular brands of scanners are Fujitsu ScanSnap and Neat, both of which are sheet-fed (they accept a stack of papers) and can scan both sides of a paper at once. These “smart scanners” automatically perform minor corrections such as cropping white space and straightening out crooked images, and perform OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to make documents searchable. They come with their own digital filing system software, mobile apps (to access your scanned documents from anywhere), and link to many cloud software services.


    Uploading scanned receipts into Evernote, a digital notebook, is another great option. Because Evernote’s search function is so powerful, you can search your receipts by vendor (example: “Staples”), date, dollar amount, name of item purchased, etc. For those folks who DO want to go digital but DON’T want to spend a lot of time organizing documents once they’re scanned, Evernote is a winner.

    With all these tricks up your sleeve, and 2+ months standing between you and tax day, what do you have to lose? Give it a shot and enjoy a paperless tax season!

    © 2013 Emily Herwig, Tidy Life LLC.  All Rights Reserved.

    Emily Herwig is the owner of Tidy Life, LLC based in Baltimore. She helps individuals and businesses maximize their limited time and space through organization, productivity, time management, and technology. Emily is currently serving as the Director of Communications & Technology for the NAPO Baltimore Chapter.

  • 01/22/2013 9:28 AM | Anonymous

    by Nettie Owens of Sappari Solutions


    The holidays are past, the last of the gift wrapping paper just went out with the recycling this morning and you are feeling the effects of too much egg nog, fruit cake and Uncle Jim’s stuffing.  Today is the day you resolve to make a change in your life.  It’s a new year. What better time to reflect on the past and move forward with a plan? 

    According to a survey conducted by ISI Translation Services in November 2010, 66% of the people polled do not make New Year’s Resolutions[1].  However, goal setting has been proven to increase your ability to succeed at whatever you set out to do, dramatically.  Goal setting is so important that books, studies, and degrees have been dedicated to the study of setting goals.  Setting good goals is great, but even just setting goals is important.  “One study tracked the success of resolvers and nonresolvers, and found that the people who set New Year’s resolutions had a 46 percent success rate with their goals after six months, while those who set no goals had only a 4 percent success rate!” [2] That is a profound difference.

    What is a goal?  A goal is the end toward which effort is directed. [3]  Goals have many qualities. They can be short term, long term, overarching, financial, personal, physical, or spiritual.  Follow the steps below to create three goals to guide your life this year.

    Your goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Sensitive.  Take this example of a SMART goal: read Oprah Winfrey’s book club book by the end of the month.  It is specific: you are to read Oprah’s book club book. It is measurable: you can track your progress of reading the book as you go along.  It is attainable: if you have 30 days, this is probably an attainable goal, but being attainable is an individual value.  It is realistic: again this is an individual value; however your goals should be challenging and motivational.  Setting low goals decreases the value in achieving those goals.  Lastly it is time sensitive: you have one month to read the book.

    Beware of setting goals such as: Lose weight or earn more money.  These goals lack specificity, measurability, or timeliness. Better examples would be: lose five pounds in 30 days or increase income by 10% this year.  You may then take your goals and break down the steps needed to complete them.

    Lastly, write down your goals and share them with others.  Each of these steps will motivate you and increase your success rate.  Make 2013 the year you not only set New Year’s Resolutions, but also achieve them. 


    [1] Greenberg, Ken.  Yahoo! Finance.  “The Mind Matters – Americans Who Make New Year’s Resolutions Choose Academic Pursuits over Adventure and Arts, According to New Survey from ISI Translation Services“ December 9, 2010. (accessed 12/10/2010)

    [2] Miller, Caroline Adams and Dr. Michael B. Frisch.  Creating Your Best Life. New York: Sterling, 2009.  50.

    [3] Merriam Webster. “Goal”.  (accessed 12/10/10)


    © 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.

  • 01/07/2013 11:23 PM | Anonymous

    by Cheryl Osterhouse of In Order for Life, LLC


    A New Year, a new you and a new organized life. Does that sound like something you have been yearning for?  If so, you are not alone. Getting organized is consistently one of the top 5 New Year’s Resolutions of Americans.

    Why is that? Why do so many Americans feel out of order and unorganized? I believe the answer is two-fold. First, most of us live at such a fast pace that we are simply overwhelmed. We plan too much, try to accomplish too much, shop too much, and generally run ourselves ragged. Secondly, many of us simply haven’t learned basic organization skills. Or, we have gotten out of the habit of practicing those skills that we may have learned and practiced in the past. Life is constantly changing, and so must our organizational habits, if we are going to keep ourselves, and our lives, in order.

    Come along with us in 2013 as we offer some exciting, new, fun, learning opportunities for all who feel out of order. Come discover how to, slowly, but surely, clear the clutter, conquer the chaos, and learn simple organizing tips, tricks, habits, and strategies to get your home, your family, your business, and your life in order. Getting organized is a lifelong learning process that will simplify your time, and ultimately your life. It is a skill and a way of life that needs to be learned and re-learned, practiced and tweaked. So, come along with us, and take advantage of both local and national resources that are available to you, as you seek to Get Organized in 2013.

    January is “Go Month” (National Get Organized Month), and NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) members are qualified, equipped, and eager to assist you in your goals of organizing your time, homes, and offices. Visit the NAPO Baltimore website for a list of NAPO Baltimore members. You will have the ability to search the directory for a Professional Organizer by specialty, services, or geographic area. It's up to you to identify the best Professional Organizer for your needs. Our local Baltimore NAPO chapter was founded in 2008 as the premier resources in the greater Baltimore area for organizing and productivity professionals.

    Take advantage of the collective skill, wisdom, and resources of the NAPO Baltimore members. Check out our blog where you will find articles written by our Professional Organizers and Associate Members. Associate Members serve residential and corporate clients with services or products that are related to the organizing industry. Stay connected with us on Twitter (@NAPOBaltimore),Facebook, and LinkedIn. We will keep you up to date on the latest trends, products, news and events in the organizing community.

    All NAPO Baltimore members are also members of NAPO National. NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) is a not-for-profit association founded in 1985. NAPO is dedicated to serving its members through education, networking and industry resources. Their mission is to develop, lead, and promote Professional Organizers and the organizing industry. NAPO members have access to a vast array of educational opportunities and must adhere to a Code of Ethics ensuring professional conduct with clients, colleagues and the community.

    During GO Month, NAPO professional organizers and productivity specialists throughout the country are on hand to help individuals, businesses and schools bring time management, organization, storage solutions and productivity into their lives. Community events are held across the country by our members to help you start your year with the systems and solutions that will bring you long-term success.

    Let’s make 2013 our “Get Organized Year!” Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog, connect on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, where you will learn very simple and practical habits and strategies to GO (Get Organized)! Remember, getting organized is a skill and a way of life that needs to be learned and re-learned, practiced and tweaked. So, come along with us in 2013!

    Happy (and Organized) days!

    © 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.

  • 12/17/2012 5:07 PM | Anonymous

    by Mary Landen of The Home Coach 

    Whenever I meet people who learn what I do for a living, they ask me, “How do you keep your home organized?” So I decided to capture my real-life tips here in hopes that they will help you, your family and your home get and stay on track – at holiday time or any time of the year. 

    Remove all items from shopping bags.

    When I return home from shopping, I empty all bags. Then I sort and store items based on where they belong BEFORE moving onto another activity. I apply this rule to all shopping trips, including groceries (and in my home, storing food on the kitchen counter, other than fruit in a bowl, is NOT considered an appropriate storage location!).

    Store all shopping bags.

    Plastic, paper or fabric market bags all have a neat home. Even dry cleaner bags. When I’ve accumulated too many, they get purged. I recycle plastic bags in the designated outdoor bin at my grocery store (yes, they will take them even if they are from another store). I put extra paper bags in my home recycle bin or use them or any extra fabric bags to collect items I’m purging around the house.

    Put paper in one of two designated areas only.

    All mail and other incoming papers are first deposited in my “inbox” on my kitchen counter where it is sorted into keep/recycle. The keep pile then goes into my office and is dealt with at a later date. This system keeps everything organized instead of scattered around the house.

    Finish what you start.

    I make a conscious decision to complete whatever I am doing. For example, suppose I need to wrap a present. If I wasn’t using a gift bag, I would go to the drawer where I have wrapping paper, gift boxes, tissue, ribbon, tape and gift cards. Then I’d grab a pair of scissors and proceed to wrap the gift. Upon completion, I put back all the supplies – where I found them. Leaving any of these items out is the beginning of clutter and disorganization.

    Have a single place for everything.

    Except for scissors, tape and an extra stapler, I only keep one of everything or one set of everything – batteries, light bulbs, office supplies, cleaning supplies, etc. – in one designated place. That way I can keep a close eye on my inventory of these items and only buy and store what I truly need.

    Plan to purge.

    I go through a particular closet, chest of drawers or area of my home about twice a year. The point being – I don’t try and tackle the entire house in one day or weekend. When it comes to purging my own stuff, I can be just as challenged as anyone. That’s why I declutter in doable “chunks” so that I don’t get overwhelmed. And, I generally pick an area of my home that’s been “getting on my nerves.” Then when my schedule opens up, I know where to go first.

    Only buy new storage bins or organizational aids AFTER purging, not BEFORE!

    I made this rule primarily based on my experiences with so many of my clients! Many of us purchase storage bins, baskets, drawer units, etc. with little idea of what will be stored in them and where they will go. Do the cleanup first, see what’s left over and then purchase the organization aids – of the type, size and color – that you actually need in a particular space.

    Happy organizing this holiday season!

    © 2012 Mary Landen, The Home Coach. All Rights Reserved.

    Long-time Baltimore resident Mary Landen is The Home Coach. She helps busy homeowners organize, refresh, maintain and stage their living spaces. For more information on "Getting your house in tip-top shape!" visit her at

  • 12/04/2012 11:03 AM | Anonymous

    by Valerie Cowan of Destination Organized

    It’s that time of year!  You feel the excitement of the holiday season as you anxiously head to the storage area to get all of your holiday items out.  Your excitement sends you soaring when you get in there and see all those holiday boxes!  You grab the fragile boxes first so you can be sure they are not at risk of being damaged.  You pile the boxes according to content; a pile for the sets of ornaments, one for the family keepsake ornaments, one for the lights, stockings, candles, etc.  Isn’t it fun and reminiscent to see all of these items again?  It really gets you in the mood to get your gift and card lists started. 

    Doesn’t that sound wonderful?  Ok, but let’s be honest, is that really how it is for you?  Or, will your excitement bottom out when you go for your holiday items because of the chaos that is your storage area?  Not to mention, which box is which?  Are the boxes labeled?  Are they labeled correctly?  If a box takes a tumble, will you know at a glance if it contains breakable items?  Will you work your way through a pile just to pull a box out that is not even holiday items?  Now add this to the yearly shuffle of furniture that comes with finding room for it all!  Sounds stressful, I know.  And year after year, you may vow that “this will be the year that I get all my holiday stuff organized before I put it all back, so it’s easily stored and identified!”

    One way or another, the holiday items can end up causing you some stress each holiday season.  It can happen before or after, because with all this on top of the regular day-to-day things to do, it’s too easy to just throw all of the empty boxes back into storage with the intent to deal with it after the holidays.  Well, before you know it, the holiday season will come to an end and by the time you are ready to take all the decorations down, you will find that you either don’t have the time to deal with it or you don’t have the interest to deal with it because you will just want to get all that stuff out of your living room and put away so things can get back to normal!  Sound familiar?  Too often a saga that repeats year after year. 

    Make this the year that you make a plan and see it through!  You will reap the rewards this time next year and quite possibly sooner if you end up freeing up extra space in your storage area.  There are so many organizing items available now to help you with this project; containers especially made for storing string lights to keep them from breaking and getting tangled, boxes that have individual sections for ornaments, storage bags and boxes for large items, bins designed just for holding gift wrap and supplies and so much more!  Make sure you use a permanent marker or a label to write what the contents are for each container.  Wishing you a happy, organized holiday season! 

    Photo credit: Rubbermaid Products via photopin cc 

    © 2012 Valerie Lynn Cowan, DESTINATION ORGANIZED. All Rights Reserved.

    Valerie Lynn Cowan is a Professional Organizer and President of Destination Organized® Professional Organizing. Helping busy people with overloaded lives, reclaim their energy and time!

  • 11/15/2012 2:24 PM | Anonymous

    by Terry Cooch of TLC Home

    The holidays are the time to gather with friends and family. We enjoy conversation, laughter and togetherness. We reminisce about the past and reveal our plans for the future.  Being the one who brings this together offers great satisfaction and appreciation. Yet many of us hesitate to do so. Planning a party may seem too overwhelming, with too many hurdles to overcome. But once the desire to entertain is moved up the priority list, a strategy can be devised to achieve this goal.

    Set a realistic goal: Determine what you love about entertaining, what you enjoy and do well. Consider your time, budget and energy level. Design a party around all of these considerations. If you love a creative menu, but hate to cook, then get theme-y and get to a gourmet deli.  You’re a talented cook, but not into details? Then skip the flowers and feed your guests well - that is what they’ll enjoy and remember. If making your house look its best is important to you, then focus on decorations and lighting and keep the menu and bar simple.

    Develop a plan: Pick a date, make the guest list and send invitations, and decide on the mood and menu. If cooking, be sure to plan plenty of make-ahead recipes and keep to your comfort and talent level. Make beverage plans and prep the bar. Prepare the shopping list and schedule time to clean and decorate. Tip: guests have a great time when they feel they are being treated. Plan for one or two gourmet touches. Over-sized bowls of candy, special candles, or a glass of champagne are just the signal that your mission was to please.

    Do, Delegate or Drop: Manage your to-do list by first evaluating your plan.  Prioritize by importance -calligraphed place tags add an elegant touch, but the evening can go on without them. If the ice is never picked up, that could put a damper on the fun. Decide when, where, and how all of your to-do’s will be carried out. If this is your first party, allow twice as much time as you planned to complete your list. Most importantly, delegate what you can. Plan early and communicate the help you will need. Be specific when it matters.  Assume nothing. Don’t ask for red wine if you wanted a cabernet. If the list is still too long, consider hiring help or letting something go, keeping the focus on sharing your home.

    Short cuts are the new perfection: Gone are the days when perfection is expected. Knowing how to entertain simply is in. Having a friend that makes favors and place settings can set you free from doing it. It can be just as impressive to know where to buy something new and delicious as to prepare it yourself. Take advantage of that to enjoy the evening as much as your guests. Overlook what you missed, spilled, forgot or burned and everyone else will. 

    Do it again: Plan for the next party while executing this one. Keep a list on party day and while you are cleaning up of all the ideas that come to you. Jot down the problems you encountered and how you could simplify further.  What could make clean-up easier? How could I get the costs down?  Take note as to whether you would consider hiring serving or clean-up help, if you still felt stress during the party. Include notes on serve-ware to purchase or fussy recipes to drop.  Be sure to keep a copy of the menu and shopping list in a party notebook and re-use all of your successful plans for a different group.

    Hosting a successful party is enormously gratifying. It requires obtainable organizing skills to prepare for and carry out. Moderate goals and expectations and liberal use of list-making are instrumental in creating an atmosphere for all to enjoy.

    © 2012 Terry Cooch, TLC HOME LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Terry L. Cooch is a writer and blogger for Nesting Magazine, a professional organizer and owner of TLC Home LLC Professional Organizing Services.

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