Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Enjoying the Season

For those of you that have been reading December's posts, we are now at 81 holiday cards sent, approximately 30 received. It's not necessary to do this, but I like to keep track of the cards our family sends and receives in a simple Excel spreadsheet. My Mom uses a spiral bound notebook.

We are now in the midst of Hanukkah and hope our Jewish clients are enjoying the season. Our Christian clients will celebrate the fourth Sunday of Advent in just a few days on Christmas Eve this year.

I am sure some of you are still scurrying around to take care of last minute holiday preparations, but we hope that most of you are able to take time to enjoy the season, friends and family.

In my family, we are expecting houseguests to arrive tomorrow evening. With the exception of a little cleaning and food preparation, we are ready for our visitors and are enjoying this holiday season. The only thing missing is a little snow to set the mood, but we will have to make do with our holiday decorations instead this year.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Spicy Holidays

In yesterday's post I was hoping for a windfall of holiday cards in my mailbox. That didn't happen. Today's count: 81 cards sent, 13 received. I did receive a card from my brother's family for the first time in 7 years. Perhaps my sister-in-law reads this blog?

If you plan to be baking or cooking this holiday season, I hope you will make it spicy. Nothing is worse than stale spices.

It came to my attention through fellow NAPO members that McCormick has some great guidelines of their website regarding the shelf life of spices. Of course, their intentions aren't all altruistic, but if you have McCormick cinnamon in a square box you had better toss it as it's at least 15 years old!

Those of you that know me know that I am not much of a cook, but our family's spices sure are organized. If you want to see for yourself click on the organizing page at Simply Organized Life.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Finding the Time

As of today the holiday card count at my house is 81 sent, 11 received (see yesterday's post). I am hoping for a windfall in today's mail.

Finding the time to write holiday cards, or take on any holiday project, doesn't need to be complicated. You do need to plan ahead.

Before our family writes a single card, I make sure we have all of the materials together in one place. This includes: pens, stamps, address labels, return address labels, our family photo and of course, the cards! Our "holiday card kit" is kept in the same place every year and I try to gather all the "pieces" prior to Thanksgiving. Then, whenever we get 10 or 15 minutes here and there, we can write a card or two.

Here's another example. If your holiday project is baking cookies, you would want to do the same by having all of the ingredients on hand before you pull out the mixing bowl. Use your calendar to remind you to check the pantry for ingredients a few weeks prior and add needed items to your regular shopping list. A little planning saves tons of time in the long run.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Holiday Cards

In our household we love to send holiday cards. We are traditionalists when it comes to these cards: no form letters and every card gets a handwritten note. As of yesterday, we have mailed 80 cards to friends and family in five countries. So far, we have only received 7 cards in return, so I hope at least some of our friends read this blog.

Now you may be wondering, "How in heaven's name does she find the time?" With planning and a simple system in place, it can be quite easy. I will share my secret in the days ahead.

Some years ago, I created created a template in Microsoft Word for Avery mailing labels. You can do this using the "mail merge" feature if you keep your addresses in Microsoft Office or type them in manually. The labels save tons of time in comparison to writing each address and you can print from the same template every year. Throughout the year, I make sure to update the list when someone moves. Prior to Thanksgiving our family reviews the list to determine who we will send cards to that year.

If you plan to send cards in time for Hanukkah, you might squeeze in under the wire. If you are sending Christmas cards, the US Postal Service recommends mailing first class letters by December 18, 2006. So, you still have time to get your card to us!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Holiday Tips

This blog was started in 2005 to share Simply Organized Life's 10 Tips for Stress Free Holidays (or at least holidays with less stress).

Here's a refresher on the 10 Tips:
1) Keep it Simple
2) Plan, Plan, Plan
3) Use a Calendar
4) Make a Financial Plan (and stick to it!)
5) Declutter your Space
6) Ask for What you Want (and ask others what they want)
7) Give Clutter Free Gifts
8) Accept Imperfection
9) Remember the Reason for the Season
10) Have Fun!

To learn more about each of the tips, please click on the archives for November 2005 and December 2005. Rather than repeat this in 2006, in the days ahead I will share other tips for stress free (or stress less) holidays.

Monday, December 04, 2006

December Newsletter

We hope all of you that are signed up to receive our monthly e-newsletter (to sign up click here) were able to receive the December edition of Your Simply Organized Life. We had some technical difficulties that should now be resolved.

We have one correction regarding Carolyn's mini-seminar on kitchen organization and the meal assembly session to be held at 7 p.m. on January 11, 2007 at Ann Arbor's Main Dish Kitchen. The minimum charge for the seminar and to assemble 6 meals is $120, while the charge for the seminar and 12 meals is $209. Each meal serves approximately 4~6 people, which is a bargain at about $5 per serving.

To see photos from our last meal assembly session at Ann Arbor's Main Dish Kitchen, click on the August 2006 archives at right.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ann Arbor District Library

This past Friday, November 10th I had the pleasure of speaking at the Ann Arbor District Library's All Staff Day. I was so impressed not just by the facilities at the downtown library, but also by the friendliness and professionalism of the staff (the lunch was great too). What a great group of people! Thank You!!!

Come to find out, I appeared on the Library's blog yesterday. Check out blogger "Sancho Panza's" comments from 11/14/06 under the title "Mission: Organization".

This blogger also recommends a new book by Martha Stewart that was published in October. As much as I like to make jokes about Martha, her books are generally quite informative (just tone down the recommendations to real life). I have yet to see her latest, but I will be sure to take a peek at my local public library. At $45 I recommend the library over purchasing the book.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Organizing on TV

While I find the various organizing shows on TV quite entertaining, this form of reality TV is far from reality in my opinion. I believe these shows set an unrealistic expectation of both the organizing process (or journey as I like to call it) and of working with a professional organizer or organizing consultant.

I recently learned from fellow NAPO members that an episode of HGTV's Mission Organization can take anywhere from 80 to 120 hours to complete. That is a far cry from the 30 minutes we see on television!

This morning I had the pleasure to speak to the Saline MOPS group, where I mentioned the above fact. One of the women in attendance has a family member that has appeared on an organizing show. She reported that through the "magic of TV" her family members were told to make their house look messier prior to the first filming. So much for reality!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

November Newsletter

Many of you may receive my monthly e-newsletter (to sign up click here).

The November edition was sent out this morning and included information on my upcoming seminars, tips for Thanksgiving planning and clutter-free gift ideas. I have a correction for November. I incorrectly stated that Thanksgiving is four weeks away, when actually it is three weeks away! Apologies for any confusion this might have caused.

In addition, my friend Carol Hoffer, shared with me some more tips on clutter-free gifts. Carol doesn't always recommend lotions or candles. Her daughter-in-law (a massage therapist) ended up with over 40 bottles of lotions as a result of gifts received!

Carol suggested books of stamps instead (my husband and I loved the PhotoStamps we made of our dog!). For those keeping Kosher Carol recommends Wolferman's English Muffins. Evidently, Ann Arbor's Zingerman's bread isn't Kosher.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

NAPO Treasurer Visits Michigan

Yesterday evening, National Association of Professional Organizers' (NAPO) National Treasurer, Val Sgro, was the guest of honor at our NAPO Southeast Michigan Chapter meeting. Val visited our chapter on behalf of the NAPO national board of directors. NAPO is a non-profit organization focused on the education of organizers and the general public regarding our industry.

The board of our chapter is pictured above with Val. From left to right: Carolyn Anderson-Fermann (me), Stacy Rafalko, Deb Stanley, Val Sgro, Betty Hutari, and Rita Wilhelm. Christina Moore is missing from the photo.

It was a pleasure to have Val join our chapter for one evening and educate our membership on the state of NAPO. Thank you, Val!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Preparedness: Your Computer

This last day of September, I realize that my blogs for National Preparedness Month have been few and far between. For that, I apologize. I do hope you have gained useful and timely information from the blogs that were posted.

One area of preparedness that we might neglect is our computers. We have become so dependent upon these machines that it is important to keep them "tuned up" much like we would a automobile.

A week ago today, my computer decided to have a total meltdown, or a total breakdown if I am to continue with the automotive metaphor. I had gotten a little lax about backing up my data, but anything important was saved and most of the pieces are back together again.

The lesson to be learned is to backup often, use proper security precautions and to keep software up to date. The other lesson to be learned is to let go of those things that were lost and keep on going. Nothing is forever.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


These days folks like to brag about how busy they are and how much they multitask. I am not a fan of multitasking. In my experience, multitasking is inefficient and just leads to doing several things poorly. I would rather take my time and excel at the task at hand.

Last week Jared Sandberg's Wall Street Journal column "Cubicle Culture" tackled the subject of multitasking. I really enjoyed reading his column and have referred it to several clients. To read it click on: and go to "Columnists" and "Cubicle Culture". The article is titled "Why Multitasking Doesn't Work."

Mr. Sandberg quoted scientific research that finds when multitasking the brain is slowed down and results suffer. There are some simple things that we can multitask at but more complex thinking requires our focus. So next time you think you need to multitask, take a deep breath, slow down and do one thing at a time.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

National AD/HD Awareness Day

It recently came to my attention that next Wednesday, September 20th is National AD/HD Awareness Day. If you or someone you love has AD/HD you might benefit from two free seminars in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Both are presented by Geri Markel, PhD, who has authored several books on the subject.

Defeating the Demons of Distraction will be presented in recognition of AD/HD Awareness Day on September 20th at 12 noon at The University of Michigan Union in the Pond Room. This talk is sponsored by the Office of Services for Disabilities.

Finding Your Focus: Navigating Adult ADHD will be presented at the Mallotts Creek Library on September 27 from 7 to 9 PM at 3090 E. Eisenhower Parkway, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Pens for African Children

I have never been to Africa, but know friends and family that have. One of the most surprising things they shared from their travels was that the children in Africa will beg tourists to give them pens. A friend that spent some time teaching in Africa explained to me that they just do not have pens. Poverty is severe there.

Upon her return to Michigan from Africa a woman by the name of Jeanne Bolhuis (who I know through her mother) decided to do something about this and founded Pens for African Children. She works with Father Evans Njogu in Kenya to distribute the pens to those children who need them the most.

If you would like to donate your excess pens in working order, please ship them to Father Evans at the address below:
Fr. Evanson Njogu
P.O. Box 15523
20100 NAKURU
I have been in contact with Father Evans via e-mail and I know he and the children will be thankful for your generosity. Please let him know I sent you!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day

At Simply Organized Life our mission is to provide our clients with more time and space for the things that really matter in life. On this Labor Day weekend, I hope you have been able to spend some time on the the things that really matter to you. I know I have.

In our busy lives these days, it is easy to get wrapped up in the daily to-do lists and forget the big picture goals. We often feel so bogged down by the "stuff" of life instead of the living. As someone who likes to get things done and check off the items on my to-do list (probably more than the next person) I too can get wrapped up in the day to day. But I also know when it is time to turn off the computer and the phone and the Pocket PC and tidy up my desk in preparation of the next day's work.

Being organized has helped me (and my clients) minimize the time spent on the "stuff" of life and maximize the time spent on living. For example, this weekend my husband and I met up with an old friend and her new fiance. The evening was relaxing and enjoyable. I was able to be in the moment because the business stuff was taken care of well-enough for me to pick up later, the laundry was done, the house was clean and most importantly, the dog had been walked. The mundane was taken care of so we could leave the house early in a peaceful state of mind. I wish the same for you.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

ADHD Conference

Those of you that receive my monthly newsletter (sign up) later this week will learn about two conferences on ADD and ADHD coming up in October.

I just registered to attend the Michael Golds Memorial ADHD Conference on October 6th. This day long conference will include a keynote speach by Chris Zeigler Dendy on "The Joys & Challenges of AD/HD." There are also three breakout sessions, including one by fellow NAPO Southeast Michigan Chapter member Deb Stanley called "Are You Sure You're Ready to Get Organized? How to Know When Change is Possible." The total cost, including lunch, is $50.

Along with attending NAPO's National Conference, serving on the NAPO Southeast Michigan Chapter Board and reading extensively on new organizing techniques; this is another way I continue my education to better serve my client base.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Preparedness: Insurance

This weekend's Wall Street Journal had an interesting article about house insurance. This is quite timely, as September is National Preparedness Month and a year ago today Hurricane Katrina was making its way toward the Gulf Coast (Katrina hit land on 8/29/05). If you had to evacuate your home, would you be able to find your home owners' insurance policy (and other important documents) quickly?

I often help clients set up files for various personal finance documents, including their home owners' insurance policy. No matter where you live it is important to make sure your home owners' policy is up to date in the event of an unforeseen emergency. The Wall Street Journal Reported that 58% of houses are undervalued for insurance purposes (according to a survey by Marshall & Swift/Boeckh LLC). The survey went on to state that of the 58% of undervalued homes, the homeowner typically only has enough coverage to rebuild about 80% of the home.

Here are my tips for organizing your insurance papers and making sure that you are adequately covered:
1) Have a safe place where you keep your homeowners (or renters) insurance policy. This can be a hanging file folder or three-ring binder, whatever works best for you.
2) File your policy immediately after paying the premium (annually for most people).
3) Keep an inventory of your personal property.
4) Review your policy annually with your agent to make sure you are appropriately covered. Be sure to bring your file from previous years.
5) Let your agent know if you have made improvements to your home.
6) Remember the insurance valuation is based on the cost to rebuild your home, not market value. When the cost of raw materials rises, so does the cost to rebuild your home.

If you do not know where to start when it comes to organizing your home owners' insurance, contact a reputable professional organizer or organizing consultant in your area. We serve Southeast Michigan, Northern Ohio and will travel further upon request.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mini-Seminar Photos

Yesterday evening Simply Organized Life offered a special mini-seminar on kitchen organization and meal assembly session at Ann Arbor's Main Dish Kitchen. Here are a few photos from that event.

Here I am with Margaret making the "Big House Burrito" dish.

Carol, owner of iSold It on eBay on Eisenhower in Ann Arbor, joined in to make meals for her busy family. Pictured in the back are seminar participants Melissa, Jen and Candace. My apologies to Tammi and Donna for not getting a good shot of them working!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Being Organized Makes It Easy

In my last corporate job my supervisor told me once that he "didn't have time to be organized." My reply was that I didn't have time NOT to be organized. Nearly every day I am reminded that being organized makes things easier. Sometimes it's a little thing, like clean socks right where you need them, and sometimes it's a big thing, like taxes (see January 2006 for tax tips). Today, it was a big thing that reminded me that life is easier when your organized.

If you work legally in the United States you should receive a statement once a year from the Social Security Administration. When working with clients on paper management we sometimes find these envelopes unopened, as people just do not know what to do with them. These statements should be opened and filed in a safe place. My statement came and income was missing from one of the years. This is a big thing, because it impacts the level of Social Security benefits I might receive in retirement.

Fixing the error was not a big thing, because I knew exactly where to go to find the past years tax returns and W2 statements. I was able to call the Social Security Administration and provide them with the paperwork they needed immediately. The whole thing (including calling in) took me less than 30 minutes to resolve. If you are not organized, it could take hours just to find the old paperwork.

Trust me, I do not spend hours on end organizing my files or my personal belongings. My systems are simple and cheap. The important thing is that I can find what I need when I need it. This eliminates stress. I hold the same goals when working with my own things or with a client.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

New Mini-Seminar

I am excited to announce that I will be offering a mini-seminar on kitchen organization at Ann Arbor's Main Dish Kitchen on Tuesday, August 22nd. At Simply Organized Life we are always looking for ways to simplify everyday life. This includes sitting down to a nice home cooked dinner!

Main Dish Kitchen is one of several retail meal assembly locations that have popped up around the nation. They make it easy for you to get dinner on the table by planning meals and preparing all of the ingredients for you to assemble a “main dish” that can be frozen. On those busy days, you can simplify life (and save money) by utilizing one of the dishes you have prepared for your freezer.

On August 22nd Simply Organized Life is offering a special session at Main Dish Kitchen that includes a 30 minute seminar on kitchen organization. The attendees walk away with new found knowledge, a kitchen organizing tip sheet and 6 or 12 delicious meals for their family. Each meal, or dish, serves 4 to 8 people. In addition to the seminar, I will join the group in assembling the dishes and will be available to answer organizing questions in a casual setting.

Please go to our main webpage for more information! There is a minimum charge of $115 for this special seminar and session.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


It is HOT here in Michigan this week. Monday evening the air conditioner in our home stopped, along with the ceiling fans and everything else that requires electricity. The power went out in our neighborhood. We were out only 1 hour and 15 minutes, but it got me thinking about preparedness. Were we really prepared if this was another big blackout like the one that occurred three years ago?

As a professional organizer or organizing consultant, I am probably a little more prepared for an emergency than the average person, but I know there is plenty more I can do to make sure that we are prepared for the unexpected.

Those of you that have attended my seminars or have worked with me personally know that I am not a fan of stockpiling excess "inventory" in the home. That being said, in the event of an emergency, being organized and having enough non-perishable food on hand can make a huge difference in stress levels and survival.

September is National Preparedness Month, which is sponsored by The Department of Homeland Security. This year The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) has signed on as a national coalition member. Even if you are overwhelmed with the state your home or office is in right now, an organizer can help you be prepared for everyday life and an unexpected emergency.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Professional Organizers on CBS

This morning CBS News' Sunday Morning replayed a story titled Organizers to the Rescue about professional organizers. This story originally aired on March 26, 2006 the day after the National Association of Professional Organizers' (NAPO) conference. I had missed the story then, as I was traveling back from the conference, which was in Boston.

All in all the story provided a more balanced view of the organizing industry than most media outlets. However, the reporter said that you could hire an organizer "to do in a day, what you put off for years." While professional organizing consultants do help clients get long awaited projects off the to do list, it is important that clients understand that not all projects are created equally. Some organizing projects do only take a day, while others take several days or weeks.

In all cases, there is a lot of learning that takes place which the client may retain for months or years after the sessions are complete. This is the most important takeaway and how best to stay organized.

If you are interested in viewing the video on-line send me an e-mail and I will provide you with the link.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Summer Solstice

Tomorrow, June 21st, is the Summer Solstice. This is also known as the day in the Northern Hemisphere with the longest amount of daylight. With the warm weather finally upon us here in Michigan, this is the time of year that we spend more time outside and less inside. In particular, less time inside keeping our spaces organized and in order.

I am the same. These days I like to spend most evenings outside checking to see how all my flowers are coming along. The orange lilies in my garden (pictured above) are now in bloom. They are always the first to bloom, before the yellows and pinks and my favorite, the fragrant Star Gazers that the deer so like to eat.

Some things will fall by the wayside in summer, but in order to stay organized it is important to prioritize and schedule those tasks that are absolutely necessary. Tasks like this include bill paying, preparing meals and keeping the laundry in check. At this busy time of year, it is more important than ever to plan time for the necessesities. This will allow you time to "stop and smell the roses" (sometimes literally) for the rest of summer without stress.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Book Review

I recently finished reading Organizing for Your Brain Type by Lanna Nakone. At my first NAPO conference in San Diego in April 2005, I attended Lanna's conference session on corporate organizing and was very much impressed by her intelligence, confidence and professionalism that she brings to this industry.

Although I am not one to go up and talk to speakers after the session, I (among others) followed Lanna into the hall to speak with her in person. When I told her as an MBA I was surprised she didn't have an MBA herself (she has an MA in religious studies) she hugged me. Here is a bright, perhaps overconfident, woman who is also very approachable.

Organizing for Your Brain Type did not disappoint me. At roughly 200 pages, the book is full of practical information backed up by extensive research, something that is hard to find in most organizing books.

The thing is, Lanna gets it.

She says in the preface of her book, "Organizing is so much more than putting things into a box labeled 'Christmas Decorations'". So true.

In addition to the four unique styles of organizing that Lanna calls "Brain Styles" the book also talks about the overconsumption in American society today. She, like myself, is a true believer in the fact that you do not need to rush out and buy more stuff to get organized.

Organizing for Your Brain Type has helped me understand my organizing style and better help my clients too.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

NAPO President Visits Michigan

On Sunday, May 21st, the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) President, Barry Izsak (photo center), took time out of his busy schedule to visit the members of the NAPO Southeast Michigan Chapter (Michigan Professional Organizer). I had the honor of planning this event, which was held at Shiro Restaurant in Novi, Michigan. (I am the second blonde from the right in the photo.)

Barry's company, Arranging It All, is based out of Austin, Texas but he spends many days out of the year traveling as the National President of NAPO. At the NAPO Conference that I attended in March 2006 there were nearly 1,000 members in attendance which makes it difficult to speak one on one with Barry.

On Sunday evening, Barry tolerated our endless photos with ease and good humor. He was also able to answer our individual questions. The biggest takeaway from the evening for me was not to underestimate the value of our time and services as professional organizers or organizing consultants. Barry has been an important force in raising the level of professionalism in this industry.

In addition to providing services to clients in their homes or offices, my consulting services are also available for product focus groups.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Travel Tips

I recently wrote some travel tips for the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) Southeast Michigan Chapter newsletter. I would like to share them in my blog too.

Having left a corporate career in sales and lived overseas, I have traveled a lot . My last trip as a corporate road warrior had me off to Japan with all of four days notice. When I showed up to the airport my male counterparts were amazed that my only luggage was an 18 inch Travelpro carry-on and a purse large enough to hold my computer.

With a little bit of organization, you too can be jetting off to far flung places at a moment's notice. Here are my tips for packing light and enjoying the ride!

1) Pick your bags---Try to limit yourself to one small sturdy bag per person. This can even save you money with the airlines’ nickeling and diming for overweight charges these days.

2) Pack your bags---Keep small sample sized toiletries in your travel bag at all times. This saves packing time and avoids forgotten items.

3) Start with your itinerary---For business or pleasure, you should have an idea of your daily travel plans. This will help you pick out the necessary clothes and shoes.

4) Get back to the basics---When traveling, stick to easy care mix and match separates or suits in the same color palette. I always try to limit myself to two pairs of shoes of the same color: one casual and one dressy.

5) Use every nook and cranny---Rolling knit items can save space. You can also pack socks and undergarments inside of your extra pair of shoes that are covered with plastic bags. Neatly folding dirty clothes inside of plastic bags saves space on the way home.

6) Relax---Don’t worry if you forget something. Unless you are traveling to a very remote part of the world, you can almost always buy what you need or wash clothes at your destination.

By the way, I challenge my readers to guess where I am in the photo!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Affordable Luxuries

It came to my attention this week, that Forbes Magazine has an ongoing lifestyle feature titled "Affordable Luxuries". Affordable is a subjective term, but Forbes defines their "Affordable Luxuries" at $200 or less. You can be the judge if that is affordable to you or not.

In March, Forbes did a great service to professional organizers by dispelling the myth that our services are for "only the idle rich". Thank you Forbes Magazine!

In fact, my clients come from all walks of life and varying financial means. The thing that is common to all of my clients is that they are smart people tired of living their lives with clutter. It is an honor for me to help them live their lives to the fullest. After all, my mantra is "Everyone deserves a Simply Organized Life!"

If you would like to read the article from the magazine, click on this link:
I should note that the rates quoted by Ms. Caron are rates typical of the East and West Coasts. Here in the Midwest $200 goes quite a bit further.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Waste Knot, Want Not

Simply Organized Life Recognized as Green

Those of you that are frequent visitors to Simply Organized Life's main website (link at right) will have noticed our press release from April 13, 2006.

Simply Organized Life is honored to now be a partner with the Washtenaw County Waste Knot Program. The photo above is from yesterday evening's Waste Knot Awards Ceremony. It was a great pleasure to be recognized as the first and only Organizing Consultant to be a Waste Knot Award Partner.

Eliminating waste and caring for our environment is important to me in how I run my business and how I work with my clients. I am so happy to be recognized publicly by my fellow Waste Knot Partners, businesses both small and large. To learn more about the Waste Knot Program click on the link at:

Friday, April 14, 2006

Volunteers Needed!

Ann Arbor Book Festival

This year I am the Volunteer Coordinator for the Ann Arbor Book Festival ( The Festival will be held from May 10th through 14th in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This is a volunteer position for me. I have estimated that the Festival will need nearly 90 volunteers to make this year's events a success!

For those of you that have already volunteered, I thank you (and request you let me know your T-shirt size ASAP!).

If you are reading this and are interested in volunteering, please e-mail me. We still need many volunteers for events on Thursday, May 11th; Friday, May 12th and Saturday, May 13th.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Business Tip #5

Outsource What You Don't Do Best

As small business owners (this includes me!) we often try to do everything ourselves. At a recent women business owners meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Nina Howard the Founder of Bellanina Spa and Institute ( called folks like us "Do it Alls". I think Nina knows, she's been there and done it all!

However, even "Do it Alls" sometimes need to limit their activities to what they do best and let the experts work for them. This is called outsourcing. It doesn't mean you are going to go to China to get the job done, but what it does mean is that there is someone out there (perhaps another small business owner) that can do what you are struggling with in less time for less money.

Remember! Your time is valuable. Pay the experts to help you when you need it!

This includes help organizing your time or your clutter!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Business Tip #4

Guard Your Time

In yesterday's post I wrote about the benefits of using only one calendar for business and personal scheduling. Today I want to teach you the benefits of using your calendar to carve out time for your business and yourself.

Only you can be in control of your time. Not your spouse, kids, clients or anyone else! It is up to you and only you to make sure you are maximizing your time to meet your business and personal goals. This may be a major paradigm shift for some of you, but once you make this shift life will become easier.

Your calendar is to be used not only for appointments with other people, but also for appointments with yourself. For example, if you are a business owner, you may need to set aside time at regular intervals for strategic planning. This is the type of stuff that usually falls through the cracks. What you need to do is schedule time in your calendar for these activities, such as strategic planning, and treat this scheduled time as you would a client appointment.

In the days ahead, watch for more information on Business Tip #5 "Outsource what you don't do best."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Business Tip #3

One Calendar is Easier than Two (or more!)

If you keep all of your appointments in one calendar you can really save time. When people use two or more calendars they waste time tracking things in two places and double checking to make sure they have not missed anything.

I realize this is a bit of a contradiction from Business Tip #1 (Keep the Business Stuff Separate) but when it comes to keeping track of your time you want to have everything in one place. Once the time is gone, it's gone forever!

Personally, I use an electronic calendar on my computer that synchronizes with a hand held device. I like this because my schedule varies and I can use different colors to indicate if an appointment is personal or business related. Furthermore, I am never without my calendar!

Electronic calendars are great time savers, but they are not for everyone. I recommend that many of my clients stick to the paper calendars that they are familiar with. If you are using a paper calendar it is wise to have one that is large enough to write both personal and business appointments, while at the same time being small enough to take with you.

In Business Tip #4 we will talk more about time use!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Business Tip #2

Focus on One Thing at a Time

As easy as it seems this can be a difficult task, especially in this day and age of instant messaging and BlackBerry users. In our modern day culture "multitasking" is seen as the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Let me tell you...Multitasking is not always good! In many cases focusing on one thing at a time can actually be more productive.

My clients are intellegent, hardworking, driven people with all kinds of great ideas and mental to-do lists running around in their heads. Often times folks nowadays just do not know how to slow down and focus on one thing at a time.

When I am feeling overwhelmed with all I have to do, I use three simple and inexpensive tools to prioritize the tasks at hand.
1) A Piece of Paper
2) A Pen
3) A Timer

You can do this too!

Using the paper and pen, just write down everything you have to do on a piece of paper. I call this the "brain dump" (I think I originally heard this from my friend and time management consultant, Randy Dean). Then ask yourself: "What is the best use of my time now?" Set your timer and focus in on that one thing that is the best use of your time. That task will be off your to-do list in no time!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Business Tip #1

Keep the Business Stuff Separate

This is particularly important if you have a home based business, but also applies to people who have businesses outside of the home.

It is really important to have a separate space for business related materials, both physical materials and electronic materials.

Storing physical materials can be as simple as a separate file drawer only for business materials or a kitchen corner reserved only for business use. For those of you that work from home, you want to avoid keeping business materials in shared areas of the home. By this I mean: do not use the kitchen table, dining room table, coffee table or any other shared flat surface in the home to store your business materials!

For electronic materials, you want to make sure business data is stored separately from personal data. If you do not have two computers (one for home use and one for business use) you can simply make electronic file folders to separate business files from personal files.

Watch for tips #2 through #5 in the days ahead!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A Simply Organized Business SM

This evening I had a great opportunity to speak to a women business owners group that I belong to. I always learn something new at each meeting. This time it was my turn to speak about my business and share my five tips for A Simply Organized Business SM.
1) Keep the Business Stuff Separate
2) Focus on One Thing at a Time
3) One Calendar is Easier than Two (or more!)
4) Guard Your Time
5) Outsource What You Don't Do Best

In the next few days I will explain the thought process behind each of these tips and how they can help women (and men) business owners be more effective AND efficient.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Organizers Gone Wild?

Just yesterday I returned from the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) Conference in Boston. Professional Organizers are a serious bunch (check out the photo of me at right from the closing keynote address).

All clowning around aside, it was an honor to be one of the few NAPO members from Michigan to attend. I was further honored to attend the invitation only leadership forum on Thursday. Through this forum I was able to meet other Professional Development Directors from NAPO Chapters throughout the United States and Canada. In addition, I volunteered as a room host for the session on eBay selling and learned great new skills that I am excited to share with my clients.

So what's with the red nose? The closing keynote speaker, Stuart Ellis-Myers, lead nearly 900 Professional Organizers from around the world through some crazy (and fun) exercises. To learn more about this dynamic speaker check out his website at:

Keep watching this blog....I have some really exciting announcements to make in the days and weeks ahead!

Monday, March 20, 2006


My clients always tell me how much happier they feel after we have worked together. This in turn makes me happy both as an individual and as a business owner. It also is of great interest to me to learn what exactly it is that makes them happier. For some clients it is having more control over their space and time. For others it is being able to have friends and family visit once again. The reasons are as varied as the individuals that I work with.

Saturday's Wall Street Journal (3/18/06) had an interesting article on the study of happiness and how marketers are using it to get people to buy their stuff. I was intrigued by the findings of Stanford University Professor Brian Knutson. According to the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Knutson's has found that "people get more satisfaction and happiness from the anticipation of a purchase than from taking ownership of the item itself." This is very interesting to me, as I can see how it directly relates to many of my clients. In my words, it's not the stuff itself that makes you happy, but the idea of having the stuff.

Another professor at State University of New York, Dr. Michael Guiry, studies "recreational shoppers" or those who shop as a way to find self affirmation. I also believe that shopping is just something to do for entertainment in our culture. In Dr. Guiry's studies, he finds that people who shop mainly for necessities only tend to have higher self-esteem than those who buy things they do not need. This makes a lot of sense to me.

What does all this academic talk mean to me and my clients? In helping my clients improve their spaces, I utimately want to help them improve their lives too. This type of information can help me understand my clients better and maybe help you understand yourself better too!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Catalog Clutter

Today I received four catalogs in the mail and two were from the same company! If this pace continued every day, I would recieve 24 catalogs in a week and 1,248 catalogs in a year! So, something has to give!

When I work with residential clients we often find tons and tons of catalogs for the recycle bin. I imagine that you too might have catalog clutter, especially if you purchase a lot of items on the internet or by mail order. Here are three simple steps to keep catalogs from taking over your home:

1) Have a container such as a basket or bin specifically for catalogs---Mine holds about 20 catalogs and when it starts to overflow I know I need to weed some out.
2) Sort the catalogs from the mail and place in the container daily---This way you know where to find them if you need to order something or just want to look at them later when you have time.
3) Request to be removed from the mailing list of catalogs you don't use---This takes only a minute and the companies are happy to save money by not sending you a catalog. In addition, this works great for duplicates like the ones I received today.

With these three simple steps you can keep catalog clutter at bay! Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Spring Cleaning

It is still cold here in Michigan, but we have had some lovely sunny days lately. It is just enough to get me thinking about spring. With spring, comes another opportunity for renewal and improvement.

Over the last few days I have spent some time spring cleaning in my home. In theory, I am not real crazy about spring cleaning because I believe in doing a little at a time all the time. But there are always those extra things that need to be done around a home that do not easily fit into a normal cleaning routine. For me, spring time (or the hope of spring) puts me in the mood to take care of those extra things.

Picking an area to organize is a great spring cleaning project. It can even help eliminate some of the work in a normal cleaning routine. According to the National Soap and Detergent Association (who knew such an organization existed?) "getting rid of excess clutter would eliminate 40% of the housework in the average home."

Here are some tips for organizing this spring:
  • *Pick a defined area such as a cupboard or closet (NOT the whole house!)
  • *Set a time on your calendar and use a timer
  • *Involve a clutter buddy or professional organizing consultant to keep on task
  • *Work uninterrupted by letting calls go to voicemail
  • *Reward yourself when the job is done

Keep checking back for more organizing and spring cleaning tips!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Read This--Save Money

There was an article by David Kocieniewski in the on-line version of The New York Times last Monday titled "After $12,000, There's Even Room to Park the Car". While this article was an interesting read for me as an Organizing Consultant, I could not help but think there are a lot of people out there that might be contemplating spending thousands of dollars to get their garages in order.

Once again, I must say that it is not necessary to buy more "stuff" in order to get organized. This is merely treating the symptoms of a problem and not addressing the root causes.

According to the article, in 2005 $800 Million (yes, Million!) was spent on garage organizing products. This is double the amount spent in the year 2000 and is expected to rise by 10%/year for the next decade!

Organizing products can be good tools but without an understanding of the root causes of disorganization, purchasing these products can be a waste of money. A good professional organizer or organizing consultant (that is not affiliated with any product lines) can help you get to the root cause of your disorganization and maybe save you thousands of dollars in the process.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Old Paint

I recently met with a client that had a lot of old paint in her basement and wanted to know how to get rid of it. This is very common. Every house I have ever lived in has had paint cans in the basement, many left from a previous owner.

If you do not plan on using extra paint around your space, please be sure to dispose of it properly to protect our environment. Check the label on the can to see if the paint you want to get rid of is latex or oil/solvent based.

A lot of the household paint used these days is latex based. If you have latex based paint that you want to get rid of you can let the remainder dry up by leaving the lid off (away from pets or children) or you can add kitty litter to the can. The kitty litter will soak up the remaining paint and turn into a yucky hard glob. Once the latex paint is dry you can dispose of it with your household trash.

However, if you have oil or solvent based paint, stain or other household toxins, you will need to dispose of these properly at a collection site in your community. In Washtenaw County, Michigan, there is a collection site for residents only on Zeeb Road just north of I94. This time of year you need to make an appointment to drop off household toxins during the week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. You just need to call 222-6874. When I called today, Joanna was very helpful in answering all of my questions.

If you have other common household items that you need to get rid of but don't know what to do with, please contact Simply Organized Life and we will try to help!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Share Your Blog!

The Simply Organized Life blog is my first. Having started this in November 2005, I am a newbie to blogging. I do not know that many bloggers, but I thought it would be fun to share the blogs of friends, family or others that read this blog.

Please feel free to add comments with your blog or favorite blog's address. Remember to please keep it clean. This is a family show.

Through the Yahoo Group for my MBA class, it came to my attention that Shawn, a fellow Michigan State MBA, has started a blog on Logistics in Asia. While a little high brow (if I may say so) it is a good read for anyone interested in Northeast Asia or Supply Chain Management. Check it out at:

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day!

It's that time of year again where cards and candies are adorned with hearts. We at Simply Organized Life know that many of you may be scurrying around today to make those last minute purchases for your Valentine. If you do not have a Valentine this year, treat yourself to some fresh flowers or chocolate tomorrow when they are marked down!

Last week, I went to my favorite Hallmark store (the one closest to my house) and picked out a Valentine's card for my husband along with some birthday cards for February/March. It was late afternoon and there were a few other women in there picking out cards. I quipped with the cashier that on February 14th the store would probably be full of male last minute shoppers. However, we all know that last minute holiday shopping isn't just for men. Women too, often find themselves shopping at the last minute for that "perfect gift"!

I have been there too from time to time: frantically running from store to store at the mall or around town looking for the perfect thing for a family member or friend. However, with just a little planning you too can avoid the stress and the rush of last minute shopping.

Here are a few brief tips:

1) Birthdays---Write all important birthdays of loved ones in your calendar. This can be done once a year if you purchase paper calendars. If you use an electronic calendar this only needs to be done once. Set a time once a month to shop for cards or gifts.

2) Weddings/Showers/Etc.---When you receive the invitation, take a moment to mark your calendar and RSVP. While you have your calendar handy, set a time to shop on-line or in store for a gift. For best selection on gift registries, shop soon after you receive the invitation.

3) Major Holidays (Christmas/Hanukkah/Etc.)---Shopping year round can be a great way to reduce stress and spread out the expense, but only if you keep the items in one place AND keep a detailed record of what you purchase for whom. I have worked with many clients that forgot about their year round purchases and ended up shopping at the last minute anyway.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

It is the last day of January and Get Organized Month has flown by! You may also be wondering where the time went if you made a New Year's Resolution 31 days ago.

If you resolved to get organized in 2006 and still have not started, don't worry, the calendar doesn't have to read January 1st for you to have a fresh start! Anytime is good for setting new personal goals.

It has been said that many people cannot keep their New Year's Resolutions because they are too broad and do not have specific goals. I often see this too with my clients that have tried time and again to "get organized" on their own. They know they want their home or office to look organized but do not know how to break the work down into specific steps and goals. Or perhaps it all seems too overwhelming.

It is okay! Simply Organized Life is here to help you know where to start and set realistic goals when it comes to your organizing journey. Remember, getting and staying organized is a process, not an event!

If you can, take a little time today to evaluate where you are in the process of meeting your New Year's Resolutions. Start small and set obtainable goals for yourself with realistic deadlines.

If it still seems overwhelming, feel free to post or e-mail us your questions regarding reaching your goals in getting organized! We are here to help you!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Organizing Products

In my first post for Get Organized Month, I promised to share my thoughts on some popular organizing products.

Those of you that have worked with me professionally or inquired about my services know that I recommend organizing products sparingly and am not currently affiliated with any product line. While there are so many great tools (and pretty things!) out on the market these days, I find that when I work with my clients, roughly 90% of them do not need to buy any physical products to get organized.

While my opinions may not make me popular with the $4.36 billion home storage products industry (Newsweek, June 7, 2004), I firmly believe that getting (and staying) organizing is more than just buying the right products.

That being said, in this post I will recommend one tool that can really help you out in your organizing journey.

If there is one product that I recommend frequently to both residential and commercial clients, it is the shredder. A shredder is a wonderful tool for getting rid of unwanted papers and protecting your privacy. There are shredders on the market at various price points, so that nearly everyone can find one in their price range.

Take some time during Get Organized Month to use your shredder and get rid of unnecessary papers!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Organized Tax Time!

Believe it or not, it is tax time again! Why wait until April, when Get Organized Month is here now! Even if you do wait until April to file your taxes, I have some simple organizing tips that will help you in the months ahead.

2005 Taxes
Employers and financial institutions (such as banks and mortgage lenders) are required by law to mail you the appropriate 2005 tax forms by January 31, 2006. This includes W2s and 1099s to name a couple of the forms. You may have already received one of these forms in the mail.

Make sure you have a special place to put these forms where they will not get mixed up with other household paperwork, used as drawing paper by your child, or God forbid, eaten by the dog! Hanging file folders work great. You can also use any sort of folder or envelope. If you feel compelled to use a shoebox, go ahead! The important thing is to keep all of your tax paperwork in one easy to find location.

Now is also the time to spend a few moments gathering up other tax related papers, such as receipts or cancelled checks from donations. If you work with a tax professional, such as a CPA, request a worksheet or list of documents that you need for your appointment (many CPAs will send this automatically). If you prepare your taxes yourself, be sure to pick up the appropriate forms at the post office or library before they are gone.

2006 Taxes
In my last post, I wrote about decluttering my basement and coming up with a few donations. If you decide to declutter during Get Organized Month, remember to request receipts for your donations. However, you will not be able to deduct the value of your donations until 2007 when you file your 2006 taxes.

Just as I mentioned above, make sure you have a special place to keep your 2006 tax related paperwork that is separate from your 2005 tax return paperwork. You will need these papers a year from now!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Get Organized Month!

Simply Organized Life is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers ( NAPO has designated January as Get Organized or GO Month! Throughout the month of January I will be sharing lots of free tips to help you on your organizing journey this month.

I always say to my clients that getting (or being) organized is a process, not an event. Even Professional Organizers need to declutter from time to time. That is exactly what my husband and I did yesterday in our basement in honor of GO Month.

Given my profession, we probably have less "stuff" in our basement than "most people" but that doesn't mean that there isn't room for improvement or a need to pare down a bit from time to time. Over time we all have a tendency to accumulate "stuff" and I am no exception.

Our goal yesterday was to make room for some new holiday decorations without buying additional shelving or storage products (I will let you know what I think about some popular organizing products in another essay later).

We tend to forget about those things in our basement. You know, out of sight, out of mind. It was amazing what my husband I found that we could release to be donated, recycled, or sold on eBay. These things are no longer serving their purpose for us, but we know that there is someone out there that can use these things now!

When you take on your GO Month project be sure to keep in mind that items you may be saving to be used "someday" might be better put to use by someone else "right away"!