Thursday, August 17, 2017

How do you want that? Fast, budget friendly, or perfect?


Sometimes I receive a phone call from someone needing an organizing job done and it needs to be done before the end of the month - usually for a move. Great! I'll put together a team......."but I can't afford a team".......Then, we'll do what we can with a rough sort, getting rid of what is obviously trash and then just boxing up the rest by categories.... "but I don't want to move what I don't need and some of this paper I'll need at my fingertips during this process."

Sigh! I am not the organization fairy who can wave a magic wand and make all of this happen. Here are some pointers on what to expect on your project:
  • Fast - You will need a team or just have me move in with you. Teams are usually not more expensive in the overall  picture, in fact, they can really cost you less, but you do need the money now, not spread out over a year.

  • Budget Friendly - This works best when you have a lot of time and can do work by yourself in between each visit. The benefit of this plan is that you learn more organizing techniques and are more in control of the process.

  • Perfect - This plan works for the person who wants a project done that looks like a magazine shoot when we finish. You will want a team with organizer that specialize in skills like redesign, placing art, and closet design. This will be more expensive than the usual team that only has one or two experienced organizers and the remaining organizers that are newer to the profession but great at following directions. This plan will need almost all seasoned organizers and will probably also use some of our organization's associate members.
When you contact a professional organizer to work with you on a project, know what is important to you and communicate that with the organizer during the intake process. That will make the project more successful and more pleasant for everyone involved.

Happy organizing!

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Organizing the Garage

Now that the weather is cooling down a bit, it's a great time to organize your garage.

Before pulling out all that stuff onto the driveway, take a good look at what is in your garage now. Why is it there? How did it get there? Do you still need it?

Decide on the functions of your garage. Is one of the functions to park your cars? 82% of homes have two-car garages or larger, but only 15% use them to park the car inside.

Do you keep your lawnmower and gardening supplies in the garage? What about bikes and sports equipment? Do you have a workshop area with tools? Do you keep your recycling bins here? What about a shelf or tow that stores all those extra packages of paper towels or packages of soft drinks? Do you still have boxes of stuff from your last move that have never been unpacked because you have no room in the house?

Once you have decided how you plan on using your garage, divide it into zones. Items that you frequently use outside like yard and garden tools are best stored near the garage door. Items used frequently like recycling bins or overflow storage of house supplies should be stored near the door to the house.

Decide on how much space you can devote to each zone and still have plenty of room to navigate and use each zone. Now you are ready to start pulling things out.

Pick one zone area. Pull everything out of that area and sweep it out. Put back what belongs in that zone and leave anything else on the driveway (or if you are only doing one zone at a time, put the rest near the zone area planned for it). As you put items back, make sure you still need them. Do you really need two hedge clippers? Why are you still holding on to that broken weed eater?

Continue going from zone to zone. Look at the shelving and storage options you have at hand. Is there a better way to store items in the zone? Shelving makes it a lot easier to get to boxes and containers. Using clear containers to keep like items together makes finding them, using them, and putting them away much easier. If it is difficult to get  to an item that you need, the likelihood of getting it put back away is slim to none. If you can't easily see what is in containers, label them.

Once you have completed this task, hopefully you will have room to park at least one car. Your future you (the one coming out to the car on an icy morning) will thank you for taking the time to do this chore now.


Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Organize Your Laundry Zone

Once a year I really spend time organizing and decluttering my laundry zone. In the past I have found that in August many people return from vacations and the laundry zone gets out of control with backed up piles of laundry. Kids are getting ready to start back to school and have school and sports clothing that need washing. Now is the time to make the laundry zone orderly and efficient.

Laundry zones can be large (a big area in the basement) or small (fold-out doors covering a washer/dryer combo in a closet size area) or somewhere in-between. Depending on the size of the laundry zone this area may have other functions besides doing the wash. If there is room, it makes sense to store ironing supplies in this location. My area is large enough to store pet supplies, recycling bins, cleaning supplies, and some over sized or underused party supplies. All that works for me.

The first step in organizing this zone is to develop your vision. How do you want to use this area? How do you want it to look? How do you want to feel when you are in this zone? Get rid of anything that is now in that zone that does not support the vision. Because my zone is roomy and near the back entry, it is easy to just drop something in there "just for now" because I don't want to take time to put the item where it really belongs. Now is the time to gather up all those items and get them out of this zone.

Cleaning and laundry products can multiply in this space. Products that sounded so promising (will get rid of any stain) or "green" (got rid of no stains) or products that just have a nasty chemical smell or items that got shoved way in the back of the shelf or cupboard that you for got about and then bought another bottle of the little used product are now all taking up precious space and adding to the clutter. Get rid of all of these items and take the ones that are left and group them according to function.

One of my goals in the laundry zone is to keep the laundry moving. I don't want to walk over mounds of laundry. Only bring to the zone the laundry you intend to wash that day. The rest stays in the dirty clothes hampers until you plan on washing them. Get the clothes from the washer to dryer or drying rack as quickly as possible. As soon as clothes are dry, get them back to their "home". Having a different colored basket for each member of the family is helpful. As you pull clothes out of the dryer, put them into the correct basket and take them to the proper room. Have family members put the items away. If an item needs repair or ironing, have a designated place to store those items and then schedule a time to do that task. You should not have your Christmas table cloth in the ironing bin in August.

Keeping up with the laundry is less of a chore with a well organized space and a plan for keeping on top of the mountain of laundry. It helps to have designated times schedule to do laundry instead of waiting until an item is needed (Mom, where are my soccer shorts?). An added bonus is that having a well organized laundry space makes it easier for family members to participate in doing laundry.

See picture of one of my family helping out.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Back to School Basics









It just doesn't seem possible that the new school year is already here. However, like it or not, school is about to begin again. Everyone wants this new year to be as good of an experience as possible.

Here are some tips to make this vision happen:
  1. Set the stage for a great experience.
  • Watch your attitude. As parents you have a strong influence on how your child views the upcoming year. Don't express doubts or worries you might have (I know that 3rd grade is tough.) but instead play up the positives (I understand there is a unit on dinosaurs this year.).
  • Take away the fear of the unknown. Visit the school together before school starts, talk about the schedule and the teacher in positive terms.
  • Provide a good example. Let your student see you enjoy reading or studying. Take trips together to a museum or science center.
  • Allow time for morning routines. Give extra time in the mornings to get ready. This is easier if bedtime is also earlier.
  • Teach your child to be self-sufficient. Have him do chores at home, develop checklists, have him lay out clothes and pack up for school the night before.
2. Develop good study habits.
  • Know peak work times and use them when scheduling homework.
  • Set up a calendar showing the study schedule.
  • Chunk up big projects so that the projects are not so overwhelming and so that your student can say "done" more often.
  • Use the calendar to show all commitments so you child is aware when he has after school activities, doctor appointments, music lessons and can then plan his studies and projects without setbacks.
3. Organize school materials.
  • Obtain and use a planner.  The planner should be checked every morning and evening.
  • Synch the planner with the calendar.
  • Organize notebooks, folders, and binders so that they are easy to use and find. Color coding for different subjects helps.
  • Organize and minimize study supplies so that they are easy to carry to school and to use at home. Check with the school supply list. Avoid buying "fun" items that are a distraction to learning.
  • Choose the best backpack for you child. Check to see if the school has any restrictions before purchasing.
  • Set up a file at home for all returned and graded school papers. Keep all papers until grades come out. If the grade lines up with what you have, then purge most of them only keeping the ones that show growth and creativity.
5. Individualize study to suit your child.
  • Know your child's learning style. Is he a visual, auditory, tactile, or kinesthetic learner? Use his strengths to  help him learn new material.
  • Make learning real. Use new skills in real life settings. Use math to shop or cook. Use reading to follow directions or enjoy a funny story. Use writing to make lists or write a letter.
  • Set up the best study environment for your child. Discover if he works best alone and with quiet or in the hubbub of the kitchen area where others are present.
For fun, start a "back to school" family tradition. Have a cookout before the first day of school or take a trip to a favorite place to eat where the children can order what they want. Talk about the joys and excitement of the upcoming school year. Have a surprise wrapped up for the children to open when they come home from school after the first day.

Let this be the best year ever!

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Backward Planning for Stress Free Projects

I frequently use and recommend backward planning as a time management tool when working on any project. Backward planning works equally well on smaller projects like planning a party or preparing a presentation, or on larger projects like moving or house renovation. Once you have developed your plan, you just follow the plan and relax knowing that everything is covered.

It works like this:
  • Start with the end in mind. What does the end product look like and how are you going to feel? Using a party as an example, I would envision that my home is filled with friends, there is an abundance of good food, and that I am enjoying this party as well as my guests.
  • Plan an end date. When does all this have to come together? When is the party? When is the move?
  • Do a brain dump of all the things that must happen in order for your vision of a perfect project to come true. For the party some items on my list are: make up a guest list, decide on a theme, send out save the date emails, choose invitations to mail, plan a menu, schedule extra yard maintenance, schedule extra house cleaning, decide what foods I am going to order and what ones I plan on preparing, make shopping lists, prepare the food, and set up seating areas.
  • Put your "do" list in a sequential order. For the party I started with who I was going to invite and ended with lighting candles and making cozy seating areas.
  • Give each item on the list a "do it" date. Several items can be done on one day but make sure each item has a time attached to it. Allow some wiggle room. Sometimes things happen so you can't do an item on your intended date so have a fall back time available. Also, start early. For a party I start the process two months out.
  • Now, just follow your plan.
The real advantage of using this system is that you won't have all these thoughts about the project squirreling around in your head and you won't worry about how you will get this accomplished. You just make your plan and then work your plan.


Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Open Your Mail!

Seriously, open your mail daily or at least weekly. Unless the envelope reads "to current resident" or it is very obviously an ad or plea for money, just open the envelope and see what is inside.

As a professional organizer I often help people sort paper and old mail. Here are some of the things I have come across.
  • Old checks made out to the recipient - sometimes 10 years old
  • A final notice that since the speeding ticket had not been paid (notices in other envelopes not yet opened) the drivers license was being revoked - right before a big road trip for this lady
  • Gift cards
  • Thanks for donations form letters - that should have gone into the tax folder
  • The car title of a car that the owner now wants to sell but she had not opened this envelope and gone to DMV to get the title in her name
  • Credit cards and debit cards that have not been activated - sometime duplicates sent at different times
  • Invitations to parties or weddings long past
  • Recall notices on items purchased
  • Warnings that utilities will be turned off if the bill is not paid because old bill were not opened and paid
Have a landing pad for all incoming mail. Immediately discard ads, catalogs, and any other obvious trash. Then open that mail daily or weekly and put the items in action folders or baskets so that all bills are in one place, all items to file are in one place, and any mail that requires an other action is in one place. Schedule a time at least once a week to deal with it. Then the mail never becomes overwhelming or fearful.




Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Fear of Filing

I had a client this week meet me at the door with Judith Kolberg's book ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life and the words, "I want to find out why I have a fear of filing".

I knew from working with this client before in other areas of her home that she definitely suffers from the "out of sight, out of mind" syndrome. She is afraid that if she puts something away in a file, she might as well just trash it because she will never think of it again. So she has stacks of papers on the coffee table, on her desk, on her office table, and randomly elsewhere. The clutter bothers her and the fact that when she finds something (ex. papers about her father's health plan) it is usually just a part of what she needs to start her research and make calls so she just postpones the task. This worries her as some of the tasks are time sensitive.

Sooo....What to do?
  1. First we gathered all of her papers and put them in one spot.
  2. Then we used the "verb" system to do a rough sort. I would ask her, "What is the first thing you need to do with this information? Is there an action required or do you just need this paper for reference?" While going through all of the papers she found a significant amount that she could now just let go to the recycle bin. She had a reason in the past to  keep them but not so much now. The categories she came up with for her stacks were:
  • Do this task this week
  • Do it when I can
  • Wait for the right time or someone else's response
  • Read
  • File
  • Ask my husband about these papers
3. We then looked at what papers did not really fit into any of those categories and we found:
  • Coupons
  • Current information about her clean streams work
  • A project she was working on for her dad
  • Memorabilia
  • Directions and warranties for items in the house
4. We found homes for all of these categories. Normally when I make desktop or action folders I like  to use a cascading vertical file holder. We had tried this system earlier in her office downstairs. It obviously was not working.  She had recently purchased an attractive file folder with a lid that clasped and had a handle. This has a much better chance of working because it can stay by the coffee table in her living room and this is where she sorts her mail and does many of her projects. The handle allows her to lift it up on the coffee table or couch when she is working. We relabeled the tabs with all her "verb" categories and the one on streams. Coupons were housed in the kitchen. Memorabilia was put into a memorabilia box. A project box was found for her dad's project. Warranties and directions already had a file elsewhere but she put the directions for the TV in the cabinet below the screen and the directions for her heart monitor in the box it came in as she accesses these frequently.

5. Since we had a lot to file, we used her existing systems to file those items now. Moving forward she can put items in her file section of her folder until it gets too bulky.

6. Last we did the most important task to make this work. She scheduled on her calendar times to look in this folder. I encouraged her to make it the same day every week so that it would eventually become a habit. Ideally this would be every week but some weeks she is gone so we just skipped those weeks and scheduled the next good time after she returned home.

As we finished up our session, she was really pleased with the results. But she held one small set of papers in her hand. "I really need to do this today," she said. "Do I need to put it into this file?" That's when we talked about Judith's "Hot Spot". She designated a place on her coffee table for any paper task that needed to happen immediately.

I think her fear of filing might be gone!


Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer