An Organized Approach Organizing the pieces of your life Thu, 07 Dec 2017 22:26:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What’s the Secret to Stress-Free Holiday Decorating? Thu, 07 Dec 2017 22:12:12 +0000 read more →]]> Winter Holiday DecoratingLike every holiday season, you have to dig through containers of jumbled decorations to find the ones you want. You search for holiday tableware in dining room drawers, kitchen cabinets and the basement, but never find all the things you know you have and put somewhere. Gift-wrap supplies are nowhere to be found so you buy new ones. Why go through that time-and-money-wasting, stress-producing chaos, year after year after year?

The good news? Your home looks lovely for the holidays. But every year you dread–more and more–the process of decorating.

What’s the secret to stress-free holiday decorating? Organization! While the holiday decorations you chose to display this season, others you didn’t use this time but may want to use in the future, and those you no longer want are fresh in mind, the perfect time to organize it all is at the end of this holiday season.

For decorations, tableware, gift-wrap supplies and the rest, the organizing process is basically the same. Here’s how.

  1. Pick a spot to work with enough space to spread out.
  2. Gather all items.
  3. Decide which favorites to keep, sort them into broad categories (decorations, tableware, bakeware) and set aside the ones you no longer want.
  4. With a large category like decorations, sort into smaller categories (candles, ornaments, lights).
  5. You can sort by holiday (Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s, Kwanzaa), room, inside/outside or any way you like.
  6. To store the items, use containers that are the correct size and shape for what is being contained.
  7. Label all containers.
  8. Try to keep all holiday items in one area, such as on basement shelves.
  9. Donate, recycle or toss the rest.

From now on, your favorite holiday décor will be super-easy to access and put away. It’s an investment of time you make now that will pay off for holiday seasons to come!

All my best wishes for a happy, healthy and organized holiday season and throughout 2018!

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Are Experiences Better Than Things? Thu, 09 Nov 2017 18:21:43 +0000 read more →]]> Memories, stories, historiesMillennials may be onto something. They prefer experiences over things. Why? Experiences not only are fun but they’re meant to be shared on social media.

Science supports their point of view. To do or to own. Material v. experiential purchases. The paradox of possessions assumes, wrongly, that happiness we gain from buying new things will last as long as the items. A 20-year study by Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a professor at Cornell University, concluded that we should not spend money on things. “One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation. We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”

He further posited that experiences are an ingrained part of us. They become stories to share. Experiences don’t last as long as things but they make us happier. Things lose their novelty. Memories last a lifetime.

The major gift-giving holidays will be here soon. The conundrum? What do we get for people on our gift lists if we don’t want to add to their stuff? We need to think differently.

Channel your inner millennial and gift experiences! To jump-start your creativity, here are some ideas.

  • Movie tickets
  • Theater tickets
  • Concert tickets
  • Sporting event
  • Restaurant gift card
  • Hire a personal chef
  • Overnight or weekend getaway
  • Zoo, aquarium or museum pass
  • Day trip
  • Adventure (white-water rafting)
  • Dinner cruise
  • DIY class (cooking, painting)
  • Travel
  • Gift of the month club (flowers, wine, fruit and more)
  • Bucket-list item
  • Round of golf
  • Spa treatment
  • Activity (snow- or water-skiing, tubing)

Options are only limited by your imagination. Be sure to post photos on social media to show others what you’ve done lately.

Despite Dr. Gilovich’s theory, if things do bring you happiness and you can’t quite make that leap, compromise: spend some money on experiences and some money on things.

As an organizing consultant, I think most of us older than millennials (myself included) have Too Much Stuff and we should consider limiting what comes into our homes. I have space for all my things but, over the years, I’ve realized that I no longer use, need or want a lot of it. If you can relate, it’s time to downsize.



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Is a Capsule Wardrobe Right for You? Thu, 26 Oct 2017 15:49:53 +0000 read more →]]> Capsule WardrobeIs rotating seasonal clothes on your to-do list? The change of seasons is a perfect time to get rid of everything that is outdated, stained, doesn’t fit or you just don’t wear.

A trend called capsule wardrobe considerably decreases the amount of your clothing. Coined in the 1970s by Susie Faux, a London boutique owner, this type of wardrobe consists of just a few essential, classic clothes that don’t go out of style. Later, capsule wardrobe came to mean interchangeable, color-coordinated pieces to maximize outfit combinations and make it simple to dress for any occasion.

Considering Pareto’s 80/20 principle (meaning we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time in this context), it makes some sense.

There are benefits:

  1. No more closet clutter.
  2. Small closets are not an issue.
  3. Everything coordinates.
  4. To be current each season, add trendy pieces.
  5. For new ideas for old standbys, Google “Ways to wear (a denim jacket).”
  6. Wear things in new ways (e.g., scarf worn as a belt).
  7. If you feel too restrained, treat yourself to some new pieces.
  8. You may see patterns emerging: a new favorite color or dislike for a once-liked style.
  9. Where seasons differ dramatically, have a capsule wardrobe for each season.
  10. Getting dressed is quick and easy.

You may have a framework already in place. We tend to have many pieces in a few favorite colors. Eliminate superfluous and unwanted items, then go from there.

Smart questions to consider when decluttering obstacles arise:

  1. Needs repair or alteration: Is it worth spending more money on it?
  2. Unsure if you like it: Would I buy it today?
  3. Undecided about letting go: Would I (honestly) miss it?
  4. Sentimental attachment: How can I lose the item but keep the memory?

Capsule wardrobes aren’t for everybody: those who are fashion-forward, love a wide variety of colors and styles, and want choices based on their mood.

If you’re tired of stressing out about your clothes, consider a capsule wardrobe. Or have a capsule wardrobe just for casual clothes. Or use the basic concept and indulge your creative side with some unique pieces. Applying this concept also to footwear and accessories makes getting dressed even easier. Contact me if you’d like help.



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When is Enough Stuff Enough? Tue, 12 Sep 2017 20:00:46 +0000 read more →]]> How much is enough

I had a life-changing epiphany. It was on May 27, 1978 in the wee hours following opening day of Atlantic City’s first casino, Resorts. My then-boyfriend and I were there until the casino closed (pre-24-hour operation). We drove around Atlantic City, just off the main roads. I was stunned and distressed to find deplorable living conditions — slums. I felt guilty about all I had and didn’t fully appreciate.

My epiphany? I would never again complain about things I didn’t have – I had everything I needed and much of what I wanted.

I’ve kept that promise. In fact, a few years ago I stopped buying stuff I didn’t need and avoided shopping centers. Maybe it was due to organizing and downsizing other people’s stuff, sometimes massive amounts. Or because I didn’t want more stuff. Probably both, plus Pareto’s 80/20 Rule: We use 20% of our things 80% of the time.

I don’t mean to sound like Scrooge. If you’re OK with your amount of stuff, have enough space, can afford and enjoy buying new things, and your life is not negatively impacted, that’s great!

But if you feel as I do, walk around your house, take a mental inventory and ponder these questions before buying more things.

  • Will you use it and, if so, often enough to justify its purchase?
  • Can you afford it?
  • Do you have a specific place to put it?
  • Will you take proper care of it?
  • Do you/your kids need it or want it?
  • Are you comfortable with the example you’re setting for your kids?
  • Will your partner be OK with it?
  • Do you shop to pass time?
  • Are you trying to fill an emotional void?
  • Do you place too much importance on things?
  • Do your things control you and how you live?

Now when I shop for something new (who doesn’t like new things?), I focus on my goal and try to avoid aimless browsing – you know, how guys shop. I discovered it’s liberating being free from societal and marketing pressures to buy more, or the latest whatever, to be happy. You too can buck the gotta-have-more, gotta-have-it-now mentality with a change in perspective. You can do it yourself or I can help you.

I am truly happy with the many beautiful things I own. I have more than some and less than others. But I have enough. I’ll never own an Aston Martin and I’m OK with that.






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13 Surefire Tips to Avoid Back-to-School Drama Thu, 10 Aug 2017 19:14:59 +0000 read more →]]> Back to schoolIs the morning of the first day of school a frenetic, crazy time at your house? How about the next few days? Whether your child is elementary- or high-school bound, it’s hard to get her up and moving in the morning and to bed at a reasonable time. Once she’s awake, then comes figuring out what to wear, a frantic search for the missing shoe because another pair isn’t acceptable, followed by general chaos that causes wasted time, drama and stress!

It doesn’t have to be this way. With some simple planning and organization, things can run smoothly. Whether your child is starting school for the first time or a returning student, these tips will ease the transition from summer to school.

  1. Create a schedule to complete any unfinished summer assignments.
  2. Review your child’s clothes and shoes, fill in as needed and donate what no longer fits.
  3. Do the same for school supplies.
  4. Schedule medical and dental appointments.
  5. Schedule a haircut.
  6. Start your child’s school routine one to two weeks ahead. Establish regular meal times and school bedtime. Set the alarm to wake up, dressed and fed on time.
  7. Start limiting TV watching and time on devices.
  8. Except for the very young ones, have your child lay out clothes the night before.
  9. Make lunch the evening before.
  10. Create a laminated ID card with your child’s name, address and phone number, parents’ names and contact info, and important medical and other information, and secure it in the backpack.
  11. Have a system for papers coming from and going to school. It can be as simple as two labeled folders: To Home and To School.
  12. Set up a dedicated spot for homework, ideally a desk with supplies within reach.
  13. For the first few days before school starts, add a half-hour to whatever time you think you’ll need for the morning routine. It’ll make the back-to-school transition much easier, especially for you!

Being organized makes life so much easier. As one of my favorite clients said upon completing his project, “Peace through organization.”


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From Dorm to Apartment—10 Essential Tips Mon, 24 Jul 2017 20:37:04 +0000 read more →]]> Moving to apartmentGuest post by Lisa S. Griffith, CPO

[Here are] some hard-learned lessons from parents who have moved our millennial kids from dorms to apartments multiple times (to date: 2 kids/7 apartments over the past 6 years). And yes, when I say “moved,” I mean rented the truck and physically moved the stuff. I know you’re probably looking for organizing tips, but we found this stuff to be incredibly important and often overlooked in our journey. This is the kind of stuff college kids who’ve lived in dorms for their college careers don’t know, and sometimes parents find out the hard way.

  1. Take time-stamped pictures (video too) of EVERY aspect of the condition of the apartment (inside fridge, inside cabinets, under the kitchen sink, in the shower/tub, etc.) when they move in –- while it’s empty. Document what isn’t working properly.
  2. Take time-stamped pictures and video of EVERY aspect of the condition of the apartment when they move out, when it’s empty and cleaned. Document everything.
  3. NEVER assume that any apartment roommate will leave the apartment clean, undamaged or turn in the keys on time if they are the last person out. Go back and check yourself (see above).
  4. Get a written lease. (I know, sounds basic, but you’d be amazed at who will rent what to whom with no legal documentation, only to be disputed later. And the kid is almost always on the losing end.) Make sure the renter understands how much notice must be given when they want to move out, and how much notice the landlord must give them if the landlord wants them out.
  5. Find out ahead of time when trash and recycling are collected, where and when they should be left, and what the city/town will take and what they won’t (really important for unpacking at move-in time and discarding at move-out time).
  6. Ikea stuff can be your best and worst friend. It’s cheap and serves multiple functions. It also comes into the space in boxes but usually can’t leave the same way. And those boxes of processed particle board are incredibly heavy to carry up and down the stairs, way heavier than most regular furniture, especially in the kind of apartment buildings that most new college grads can afford (read: no elevator, lots of rickety stairs.) It’s almost impossible to take apart without damaging it and making it useful in another space (unless it’s the really higher-end product).
  7. Pay careful attention to how high/wide the stairways are and how wide/high the doorways are to the apartment. Even full-sized box springs and a small loveseat can be a challenge to get up to the 4th floor walk-up of the winding stairway of an old building.
  8. Many college campuses have list-serves/online clearing houses for outgoing students to sell furniture cheap or give it away free to current students. It’s a great way for them to save money, get rid of stuff they won’t need and re-purpose stuff so they don’t have to buy new (and easier than dealing with Craig’s List).
  9. Don’t buy cheap pots and pans. Buy the better stuff and buy less. They usually only use one pot and one skillet. Max. Period.
  10. Knives – see above. One paring knife and one larger knife. Period.

Using Lisa’s awesome tips not only will save you money and time, but also help you avoid many potential problems. Many thanks to Lisa for her contribution!


Lisa Griffith

Lisa Griffith is a certified professional organizer and member of the National Association of Professional Organizers who resides in Providence, RI. Her specialties are home office and small business office organizing, time management coaching and household paper management. Her contact info is:,




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17 Clever Uses For Ziploc Bags Mon, 26 Jun 2017 20:02:22 +0000 read more →]]> Goldfish and senior coupleWhen I was a new professional organizer in 2000 in a new industry (National Association of Professional Organizers started in 1985; a name change is about to become public), there were challenges. Lots of them. The main one? No one ever heard of professional organizer — or knew anything about how I improve peoples’ lives by teaching how to get organized at work and home.

Along the way, I learned things from my clients. I discovered they used some everyday products in unexpected ways. For example, Ziploc bags were used to organize papers, coins, makeup, crayons, pens and much more. Genius! And to think I just used Ziplocs for food storage.

To honor my creative clients, here are 17 clever uses for Ziploc bags (other than food storage):

  1. Snip a corner, fill with frosting and squeeze to decorate a cake.
  2. Pound chicken breasts to the desired thickness, then toss the bag.
  3. Turn graham crackers into pie-crust crumbs using a rolling pin.
  4. Corral game pieces, crayons, stickers, craft supplies.
  5. Contain messy or sticky products.
  6. Fill with ice cubes to make quick ice packs.
  7. Make a first-aid kit containing bandages (various sizes), antiseptic, pain relievers, wipes and hand sanitizer to keep in the car.
  8. Sort daily outfits for children when traveling.
  9. Keep a moist washcloth in the car for quick cleanups.
  10. Separate Legos and Matchbox cars.
  11. Clean a showerhead: fill a bag with enough vinegar to cover it, attach with a twist tie to the shower arm, leave until residue is gone and rinse.
  12. Store manuals together by category, such as electronics and major appliances.
  13. Marinate meat, chicken, fish.
  14. Protect your tablet or phone when following a recipe while cooking.
  15. Hold a wet bathing suit and towel.
  16. Store dirty jumper cables in the trunk of the car.
  17. If you must stop while painting, put the brush in a bag and close it—the paint will stay fresh.

And, of course, Ziplocs can be used to transport goldfish!

There are several size options: Common ones are snack, sandwich, XL sandwich, quart, gallon and two-gallon. Specialty sizes are available too. Just select the right size for your needs.

Did you know Ziplocs also come in large, heavy-duty plastic bags called Big Bags (large 15”x15”, extra-large 24”x20”, and jumbo 24”x32”), and rectangular Flexible Totes (extra-large 16”x13”x10.9”, and jumbo 26”x16”x12”)? Sometimes they can fit in spaces better than hard plastic or cardboard boxes. They hold things like sports gear, linens and clothing. For information on Ziploc products, go to

What are other clever uses for Ziplocs? What other products do you use in innovative ways?





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Planning on Having an Accident? Wed, 17 May 2017 17:32:56 +0000 read more →]]> Be Prepared

Of course not, but…

You’re driving to the grocery store, a trip you’ve made a thousand times. Out of nowhere comes a car running the red light at the intersection you’re crossing – heading straight toward you! Crash!! You’re hurt, stunned and quite possibly in shock.

The police and ambulance arrive. First they ask questions about the accident, most of which you can answer. Then they ask about medications you take, allergies and an emergency contact’s phone number. Your mind goes blank. You are taken to the hospital but you’re unable to give the ER doctors any information that could help them treat you.

Accidents can happen anywhere, anytime to anyone, especially as we’re getting into the busy travel season. What can you do?

Create an Emergency Card containing your critical information to keep with you at all times. Organize it in an easy-to-read format. My Emergency Card is set up in a multi-column format. I recommend it be typed using a plain font and printed on heavy paper or card stock.

However you organize your Emergency Card, start with Emergency Info For. Under that, put your full name and address.

Suggested column headings are:

  1. Emergency Contact with full name, address and phone number
  2. Date of birth
  3. Meds
  4. Vitamins
  5. Allergies
  6. Major illnesses/operations
  7. Primary doctor
  8. Hospital
  9. Pharmacy
  10. Blood type (if you don’t know, find out)

For 3-6, make a list. For 7-9, include full name, phone number and address.

Add any information you think is important.

Make the card small enough to keep in your wallet with your health insurance ID card, driver’s license and car registration. If you plan to be an organ donor, be sure it’s noted on your driver’s license or have a signed Organ Donor Card. Don’t keep the information in your phone if your phone is locked because it cannot be accessed. However, if your phone is unlocked, put the info in Contacts labeled ICE (in case of emergency). First-responders should know to go to your wallet or phone for this information.

Having an Emergency Card could be a life-saver.










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Is Your Kitchen Making You Fat? Thu, 13 Apr 2017 15:55:47 +0000 read more →]]> Kitchen Meal Prep

Spring started March 20. Ahhh, the glorious colors and delightful smells of spring flowers. This time of year, thoughts turn to warm-weather activities, which then may turn to extra pounds gained over the winter. Maybe it’s because we’re indoors without enough exercise, bored or wearing clothes that mask weight gain.

Another reason that isn’t given much, if any, thought? A cluttered kitchen.

From, “While testing the idea that cluttered and chaotic environments stress us out, prompting us to reach for the junk food, researchers from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab recently found that clutter in the kitchen led people to consume more calories—and, conversely, a clean kitchen environment cut calories.” (

Another busy day. You come home tired and hungry. Dinner needs preparing. But trying to find a pot, pasta and sauce in jam-packed cabinets is too hard. Take-out is easy. While waiting for delivery, you munch from a bag of chips on the counter.

Rooms, especially kitchens, should be simple to navigate. Begin by eliminating clutter.

An easy place to start is with food storage containers. Take out all pieces, match lids and bottoms, recycle or toss any with missing parts, keep a reasonable number and donate, recycle or toss the rest.

Another easy one to conquer is coffee mugs. We tend to have many, probably due to giveaways. Take them all out, keep what you need and eliminate the rest.

Clear counter space, leaving only what you regularly use and store the rest. Clear counters provide meal-preparation space and have a calming effect too.

Follow this process until the kitchen is clutter-free.

This is de-cluttering, not organizing. You organize what’s left, in a way that makes sense to you. Put Italian food items like pasta, tomato sauce and tomato paste together? Or put pasta with rice and noodles?

Keep a pretty bowl of fresh fruit on the table. Keep carrots and other veggies in the fridge for healthy snacks. Fattening snacks go in hard-to-reach spaces. You know they’re there but you have to work to get them.

Make health a top priority. Getting your kitchen – and you — healthy is something you may want to do yourself or with a professional organizer by your side.


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Get Happy: Organize a Closet Tue, 14 Mar 2017 18:56:53 +0000 read more →]]> “I feel happier, lighter, less stressed and more in control,” my clients exclaim after we organize a space. They have a sense of accomplishing something important. I literally see relief in their faces as we make progress.

Spring starts on March 20. Spring cleaning may come to mind. But I’m not thinking about dusting tops of ceiling fans. As a professional organizer, I’m thinking about cleaning out and organizing spaces.

Let’s organize your bedroom closet. Before we start: specify your goal, be rested and well fed, wear comfy clothes, label four bins Donate, Recycle, Elsewhere and Repair, and have large Hefty bags for trash.

Some organizing experts advise emptying the closet and dumping everything on the bed. I am NOT a fan of this approach. What happens if you don’t finish that day? You’re left with a huge mess! My approach works if it takes one day or one week.

Begin with hanging clothes. Start at the beginning of a rod. Without skipping around, leave hanging what you want to keep. Remove what doesn’t fit, you no longer like, or is outdated, torn or stained. Place those items in the corresponding bin. Things that do not belong in the closet go in the Elsewhere bin to distribute later. Group remaining hanging clothes by category (tops, slacks, suits and so on). Repeat for the shelves, drawers and floor. If short on space, use over-the-door organizers for shoes, sweaters or other items. Put donations right in your car and drop them off. Act on things in the other bins. It doesn’t all have to be done at once.

Having a hard time letting things go? Someone gave you something you don’t like? Donate it and make someone else happy. Things were expensive? Forget what you paid – that money is long gone and you’re wasting space. Some things sentimental? Put adorable baby outfits in an archival box and store elsewhere. Have commemorative t-shirts made into quilts. Check out Remember your goal.

You now have homes for everything in your newly organized closet. Clothes will be super-easy to find and put away so maintenance is simple and quick.

Fun fact: We wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. Curious to know which hanging clothes you actually wear? Turn hangers backward so hooks point toward you. When you wear something, turn the hanger the normal way. Do this for one year and see how many hangers face the normal way. You may be surprised! Donate what you no longer wear.

I guarantee you’ll feel happy after you organize the closet. Being organized makes life so much easier. Find out for yourself!


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