Saturday, December 29, 2007

Tooting My Own Horn

Okay, it may not be polite to toot my own horn, but I was so excited when I noticed that this very blog was listed on Organize Magazine's Community Page AND the OrganizingLA website.

Organize Magazine is a new magazine dedicated solely to organizing topics. Admittedly, I am not currently a subscriber (although I can get a discount as a NAPO member), but I did purchase my first copy while at CVS in November. Even organizing consultants need to buy stuff once in a while.

John Trosko of OrganizingLA calls himself an "Organizing Evangelist" and has been featured on Daily Candy as well as with several LA media outposts. If you have lots of time and want to learn more about how "the other half" organizes out on the West Coast, be sure to check out the OrganizingLA blog. In the meantime, we will keep living our Simply Organized Life here in the Midwest.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Holiday Hubbub

The last few months have been extremely busy for myself and Simply Organized Life. Hence, it has been almost a month since updating this blog. Since we are now in the midst of all the "holiday hubbub" I thought I would give you all an update and some tips for staying grounded at this time of year.
In early November I attended the Professional Organizers of Canada (POC) annual conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (see photo at left). This was a great opportunity for me to take a step back and evaluate how I can better serve my clients.
Likewise, the holidays and the new year are great times to slow down (even just a little bit) and evaluate how you can better serve yourself, your family and your clients, if applicable. This holiday season I am taking some time off to spend with my family, tackle some household projects and maybe sneak in some time for the business as well.
The biggest challenge for me (and for many of you too!) will be not to over schedule myself so I have time to step back and reflect on the many blessings in my life. Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cost of Disorganization

It has been over a month since my last post, as things have been busy with Simply Organized Life. Most notably, in early November I attended the annual conference for Professional Organizers in Canada (POC) which was held this year in Vancouver. I look forward to sharing the new things I learned at the conference with all of you.

In the meantime, I came across an interesting internet resource that will help you calculate your cost of disorganization. Smead (the company that makes file folders) has a section on their website called "Organomics" which includes a calculator for the cost of disorganization.

The calculator is geared toward corporations, but if you want to calculate your individual cost of disorganization just type in 1 person, your hourly rate and the amount of time you think you waste daily due to disorganization.

Hint: Newsweek Magazine reported in 2004 that most Americans waste 55 minutes a day looking for things they know they own but cannot finds. So 1 hour is a good starting point for most people.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Green Organizing

If you are an avid reader of this blog and subscriber to Simply Organized Life's e-newsletter, you know that Carolyn is a huge fan of green organizing. Carolyn also is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers' (NAPO) special interest group for Simple and Sustainable Organizers.

A fellow member of the Simple and Sustainable group was recently interviewed by the Toronto, Canada's Vitality Magazine. In its October edition, Vitality featured a great article on "The Green Approach to Organizing and Decluttering." The article is well worth a read.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Children of Hoarders

The OCD Foundation of Michigan is sponsoring an event this Saturday, October 6, 2007 in Warren, Michigan featuring a speaker from the organization Children of Hoarders. For more information on how to register click here.

Until this week, I was unaware of the Children of Hoarders organization, but am happy that such resources exist. Occasionally, I will receive telephone calls from adult children of hoarders and unfortunately, I cannot help their parent(s) if the parent is unwilling to get help. In the most extreme cases it is imperative that the hoarder also be receiving the help of a qualified therapist.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Computer Back Up

It was about a year ago now that my computer crashed on me. I was fortunate that I didn't need to buy a new computer and am still using the same one that suits me fine (at least for the time being), but I spent hours on the telephone with someone in India reinstalling everything. It was a real waste of time.

I was also fortunate that all of my important files with the exception of a few e-mails were backed up. Funny thing is that I have referred to very few of those important files in the time since, which gets me thinking about how we hang onto things thinking that they will be useful in the future.

Experts in the organizing industry say we really only use 20% of the stuff we own 80% of the time. So rather than buying another bin or putting up an elaborate system to store the 80% that we don't use, perhaps we should take a cold hard look at that 80% and see what we can share with others less fortunate.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

We Caved!

Two weeks ago today I posted a short essay titled "Free from TV" and promised to let you all know how it goes. I even received a great comment from fellow Professional Organizer, Jeri Dansky, who incidentally posted an interesting essay on her blog yesterday about the various organizing shows on television.

It is with a little embarrassment that I post this message. After I cancelled my cable service the cable company contacted me with a new "offer" for really bare bones cable service. Basically, my husband and I caved in taking the cable company up on the offer for $5/month cable service that includes the basic local channels, PBS and a smattering of other channels. Interestingly enough this bare bones service still includes about 20 channels, which seems like a lot to me.

My reasoning for keeping the cable is that I still like to be able to check the local channels for weather (and somehow protect my family from Mother Nature?). Earlier this summer I heard the tornado warning sirens screaming from town and was able to see on the local channel exactly where the storm was, while didn't give me that type of up to date information.

My husband's reasoning is that he likes to keep up on football and catch the tail end of the golf tournaments on Sunday. I suppose I couldn't step on such manly pursuits.

In a nutshell, we are less than perfect beings that do like a few minutes of television now and again. I guess $5/month is the value that I put on that bit of leisure. And without HGTV or TLC, I am certainly watching a lot less TV.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Lead Paint in Toys

As a parent the recent repeated news of lead paint contamination in children's products terrifies me. As a consumer I wish I had more options to purchase safe products made domestically for my child. However, economic and social factors (namely our thirst for lots of cheap "stuff") have made that nearly impossible. So what is a parent to do?

In my opinion, the first thing to do is to consume consciously. Buy less and seek out products that promote high standards. My family has been blessed to have been given a few Haba wooden toys manufactured in Germany, which I hope has higher safety standards as a fully developed nation. These types of toys can be more difficult to find and more expensive; however, I am a firm believer in buying fewer higher quality items (this can be applied to almost any consumer good).

Even if you are already a conscience consumer, your child (like mine) probably has also been given many plastic or metal toys manufactured in China and other developing nations. For these toys, you can check the US Consumer Product Safety Commission's website at for recent recalls. You can also purchase an at home lead testing kit at your local hardware store or on-line. I have decided to try LeadCheck Swabs for their ease of use.

As for the contaminated toys, I am at a real loss as to what to do and would love to know of recycling options (please share your comments). I hate to see the toys end up in a landfill and donating them clearly is unethical.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Free from TV

I finally did it. I just called to cancel our cable television service. Over the years as our local cable company kept raising their monthly rates, I kept downgrading our channel lineup. Not once did we regret this decision.

After reading an article in The Wall Street Journal about the potential links between television viewing and autism in children (which the organization Autism Speaks disagrees with) my husband encouraged me to get rid of the cable service completely. In theory, I agreed and dreamed of an even more simplified life without television. However, I must admit that I enjoy watching television and was quite happy with our basic service at $22 a month.

Then last week when the cable company messed with our channel line-up and I found my beloved Home and Garden Television replaced with the Sci-fi channel, that was it. So, today I did it. On Friday, September 7th our cable will be disconnected and I will find out if life free from TV brings our family more simplicity. I will keep you posted.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

College Shopping

I happened to stop by the Target store in Ann Arbor, Michigan yesterday to pick up a few mundane things for our household (toilet paper, plastic wrap, that sort of stuff).

It hit me in the face that the University of Michigan students are back, along with their parents and the parents' wallets. It seems that this sort of shopping voyage is a part of going away to college these days. Target even had their own college marketing materials throughout the store.

When I ventured off to Michigan State University at the end of the '80s, I remember my mom purchasing some sheets and towels as they appeared on sale throughout the summer and then simply dropping me off at the dorm. There was no shopping trip to Target or any other store. Call me old fashioned.

The families I saw yesterday seemed to be in a buying frenzy purchasing things like hangers, electronics, hairdryers and let's not forget the containers to store all of this "stuff." What struck me as strange is that the type of items being purchased seemed to be things that any high school student would have. I wonder if the families checked their "inventories" at home before venturing out to Target.

I am not sure if it is the kids or the parents or the stores pushing this type of college consumerism, but what I know for sure is that if people continue to consume excessively, my job should be secure.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Organizing for Kids

Through one of the organizer list serves I belong to, I came across this article from the Washington Post regarding teens and clutter. I felt the article was well written and has some great expert quotes, particularly with regard to the excess amount of stuff that most teens have these days.

I love it when I get the chance to work with school age kids from ages 6 or 7 all the way through college. The thing that excites me the most about working with children and young adults is the opportunity to teach organizing skills early on.

Many of the parents that hire me to work with their kids have struggled with organization nearly all of their lives. They invest in a professional organizer for themselves and their children because they fear their children will struggle as they have. What a wonderful and brave step to take!

We all want the best for our kids and if hiring an organizational consultant will make life just a little easier, it is well worth the investment.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Tiny Houses

I am a true believer in simplicity and limiting the amount of "stuff" in our lives, but this is a bit extreme even for me! The woman that lives in this 84 square foot home, intentionally limits herself to only 300 items!

There was a similar home shown recently on Oprah. Come to find out, you can purchase your very own tiny home through the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Home Based Business

In my practice as a professional organizing consultant, I often work with owners of home based businesses. I help them set up spaces that encourage efficiency and order. In the process, I hope that this also improves their bottom line.

On Tuesday, July 10, 2007 featured an interview with a successful home based business owner. Interestingly enough, one of her recommendations for success was to hire a professional organizer. See the bottom of the article for this tip.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Spiritual Organizing

At the 2006 NAPO Conference in Boston, I had the pleasure one evening to sit at the same table as California Organizer, Claire Josefine. Claire is the leader of the Simple and Sustainable Organizers e-mail group that I belong to and the author of The Spiritual Art of Being Organized. She had some great things to say about the topic in a recent internet radio interview.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Keeping Up

In my last post, written over two weeks ago, I wrote about my broken dishwasher and dryer. The dishwasher turned out to be a very small problem, but the circuit board on our dryer was literally fried by an electrical storm in our area during the last week of June. Just yesterday, the dryer was repaired and finally put back to use.

While my dryer was on the fritz, I kept up with the laundry by doing a load every day and hanging the items out to dry. I love the idea of saving all that energy, but must admit that I hate towels as scratchy as sandpaper. But had I not kept up on the laundry and exfoliated my skin with those sandpaper towels, I would have had mountains of laundry to catch up on this weekend.

Many of my clients have had what I like to call "organizing blitz weekends" where they spend their precious free time organizing their belongings only to see it all fall apart in a few days or weeks. One of the keys to staying organized is keeping up, which can be extremely difficult in our busy lives these days. However if we simplify our lives and do a little everyday (whatever that activity might be: laundry, e-mail, etc.) it can make a huge difference in staying organized or at least organized enough.

Friday, June 29, 2007

When Things Go Wrong

When things go wrong it's good to be organized. This week both our dryer and dishwasher broke. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but it has put a little kink in our normal household routine. Fortunately, we have repairs scheduled for tomorrow and we are organized.

Being organized kept us from piles of undone laundry. As the person in charge of laundry in our household, I try to keep on top of laundry. For me, it's easier to do one load every day or so, rather than trying to do it all in a weekend. In addition, we do not have that many clothes, so we need to keep them in circulation by doing laundry frequently.

My husband is the one in charge of cooking in our household, which I translate to all things kitchen. He's also great about keeping the dishes done and put away, so when the dishwasher went on the fritz we only had a few breakfast dishes to hand wash. In fact, thanks to my husband the rule is no dirty dishes left in the sink at our house.

This may all seem a little rigid, but it just takes a few minutes daily and now has become a habit.

Friday, June 08, 2007


826michigan is a non-profit tutoring and writing center for children in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This is a great organization that helps to promote writing and literacy in our community.

From July 20th to 22nd 826michigan will be having a rummage sale to raise funds for the organization. For more information or to donate, please go to the 826michigan website.

Thursday, May 31, 2007


The Summer Solstice officially arrives next month on June 21st, but with all the hot weather we have been having lately here in Michigan it makes me feel that summer has already arrived. Memorial Day passed us by on Monday and the kids will be getting out of school soon.

Summertime is a great time of the year to get organized and get your children involved in the process. By involving the whole family, you can teach your kids the life skill of organizing. If you do not know where to start, a professional organizer or organizing consultant can help. I often work with entire families to help them get organized.

Here are a few areas that are great summertime organizing projects:
  • Kids Artwork: Sit down with your children individually to pick out favorite works of art from the previous school year. The "keepers" can be stored in a decorative box.
  • The Basement: On the hottest days, it's great to work in a cool basement. I recommend working on your own in blocks of 1 hour or less. You can work longer if you have the guidance of a professional organizer or organizing consultant.
  • The Garage: Summer is the best time to organize the garage because it is warm and it is the time you are using tools stored here. This will make it easy to get rid of all those things that collecting dust unused. I will be teaching a new class with Ann Arbor Rec & Ed this summer called "Get the Garage in Order".

For more tips on summer organizing, please feel free to sign up on our website for Simply Organized Life's free e-newsletter sent out on the first of every month.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Cleaning Products

When helping clients organize their homes, I often find that homeowners have enough cleaning products to fill a toxic landfill. Due to disorganization (or perhaps warehouse club memberships) homeowners do not realize what they have on hand and end of buying more cleaning products that add clutter under every sink in the home.

In my own home, I try to limit the purchase and use of heavy duty chemical cleaners when possible. One great way to do this is to use good old fashioned vinegar and baking soda. The website has some great uses for these old standards.

To avoid cleaning product clutter, buy only what you need when you need it. Not only will you conquer the clutter, but you will save money too!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Dexter Quilt Show

If you are a quilter, or just have an appreciation for the art, you might be interested in attending the annual quilt show at St. Andrew's United Church of Christ in Dexter, Michigan on Saturday, May 5th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

There will be 100 quilts, demonstrators and vendors related to the fiber arts. This year's raffle quilt is a queen size quilt made from Grandmother's Flower Garden pieces. Admission is $4.00 and lunch (available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) is $4.00 also.

Quilting is a wonderful hobby that takes a lot of talent and a little organization.

Often clients ask me what to do with old baby clothing or other fabric memorabilia. Fortunately, those of us that do not have the talent for quilting can outsource the work to company's like Ticche and Bea out of Chicago or perhaps you can find a quilter at the Dexter Show that hires out.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Clean Car

Did you know that April is National Car Care Month? Neither did I. I must admit that over the winter I neglected the cleanliness of my car a bit. This is particularly embarrassing for me as I come from a long line of clean car fanatics.

Just in time for National Car Care Month, yesterday I spent a little time to get my car back in order and I am much happier for it. As an organizer, my car is rarely cluttered, but it did smell of my 70 pound dog and there were remnants of winter salt on the mats.

Here are a simple few tips for keeping your car clean and organized:
  1. Your car should not be used as a storage facility. Not only is it uncomfortable for passengers, but it can be very dangerous if you are in an accident.
  2. Every time you fill up with gas, take a minute to toss out any garbage such as food wrappers.
  3. At the end of every day bring in any items that do not belong in the car.
  4. Schedule time in your calendar to vacuum out your car 15 minutes at a time. A little bit of cleaning at a time does wonders!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Money Savers

One of my passions as a professional organizer and consultant is to help families save money. I truly believe that living a Simply Organized Life can help families in so many ways, one of the most important being financial management.

In this month's Parenting Magazine there is a great little article titled, "Instant Money Savers." I was so happy to finally read a magazine that linked the correlation between being organized and saving money! I know that my simple organizing strategies have helped my family and my clients' families save tons of money!

Read the article, take what applies to you and watch your bank account grow!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Novi Event

The Novi Chamber of Commerce is hosting their 8th annual "Threads of Power Breakfast" on March 23, 2007 at 8 a.m. at the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Novi, Michigan.

This year's slogan is "clean your closet for a cause." Attendees to this event are asked to bring gently-used business attire (clean and on hangers) to donate to local organizations. What a great way to organize your closet and bless others on their professional journeys!

The cost for this event is $15 and reservations are required by March 20, 2007.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


In this month's on-line version of Reader's Digest, there is an article about hoarding as a clinical obsessive compulsive disorder. To read the article, click here.

If you believe that you or someone you know suffers from hoarding as a clinical obsessive compulsive disorder, it is important that they get help from an experienced social worker, clinical psychologist or other licensed professional with a specialty in this area.

As an organizing consultant and a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), I am happy to state that most people that have clutter are not hoarders. However, those that are hoarders deserve the best possible help to overcome the disorder when they are ready.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Wedding Registry

It's that time of year again! Wedding season!

In addition to our organizing services, Simply Organized Life also provides event planning services for weddings and other festivities. I do recommend that brides and grooms register with a favorite store for items that they both want and need. This also helps them to avoid clutter down the road of marriage.

A friend of mine, who incidentally will be a June bride, brought to my attention the I Do Foundation. This organization partners with retailers to donate a portion of the registry sales to a charitable organization selected by the bride and groom. What a wonderful way to celebrate a marriage and give back to society!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Clutter and Oprah

Earlier this week, Wednesday, February 7th to be exact, Peter Walsh of TLC's Clean Sweep appeared on the Oprah show. On Friday, I was able to watch a recording of the show with five other experienced professional organizers.

In the hour long show Peter Walsh was able to transform a young family's home from chaos to something that looked like the Pottery Barn catalog. However, I worry that the general public was given an unrealistic view of how organizers really work with clients.

First of all, I felt that Oprah and at times, Peter Walsh, were insensitive to the negative feelings that the family (particularly the mother) had surrounding their clutter. As an organizing consultant, it is not my job to judge clients nor their clutter. Peter Walsh went so far at one point to basically tell the woman that she was a bad mother because her house was cluttered. I felt that this was unnecessary and demeaning.

The other complaint that I have with the Oprah show--and basically all television organizing shows--is that it all happens so quickly with so much additional consumption of bins, boxes, etc. The mother of the cluttered family on the show actually worked at The Container Store, which is proof that containers do not organize people, but rather good habits organize people.

On a positive note, Peter Walsh was right on when he said that clutter "robs you psychologically" and one cannot be a peace while living with clutter. I find that once my clients can get rid of the clutter, their lives are opened up to many more blessings.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Auction Event

From time to time, Simply Organized Life donates services to local charity auctions. This is the second year in a row that we have donated a non-transferable gift certificate to the Performance Network Gala Auction. The Gala will be held on February 16, 2007.

In addition to supporting the auction, I have a few raffle tickets to sell for the Gala. The grand prize is a pair of diamond earrings valued at $3,500 from Schlanderer and Sons in Ann Arbor. Please contact me if you are interested in purchasing one ticket for $20 or three for $50.

We believe in giving back to our community!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Time to Read

In working full time with the clients of Simply Organized Life over the last two years, I have met some wonderfully interesting intelligent people. One of the common threads among my clients is that they seem to have a thirst for knowledge, particularly the written word. Everyone wants to know how they can find more time to read the books, magazines and newspapers piled up around their house.

At the core of my organizing philosophy is the belief that if we are able to organize the more mundane details of life (laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc.) we will have time for the things we love, such as reading. That being said, in 2007 there is way more information to read than any of us have the time to keep up with. So we have to be a bit selective in choosing (and keeping) our reading material.

Here are some tips:

  1. An old newspaper is like a used Kleenex. Recycle newspapers more than a couple of days old.
  2. Limit the number of magazines by using a container, such as a basket to store them in one place.
  3. Practice the one in, one out rule for books. If you buy a new book, donate or sell an old one.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Preparing for the Inevitable

Most of us probably do not want to think about, let alone prepare for, our inevitable deaths. Admitedly, on our organizing journeys this is probably one of the later things we will spend time on. However, it is an important gift that we can provide to our families and our heirs.

My colleague, Shannon Ronald, who I met at the 2006 NAPO Conference in Boston recently appeared on internet radio. Shannon, who is both a professional organizer and a life coach discusses the need to speak openly with our family members about our inevitable deaths. Click here to listen to the 10 minute segment with Shannon.

As with any other task on our organizing journeys, preparing for death can take many forms. One element is physical (i.e. your "stuff") while other elements include paperwork, financial documents and other wishes after death. By decluttering throughout the stages of our life and organizing our paperwork, we can eliminate stress for our loved ones after we are gone.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year 2007!

Simply Organized Life is entering its second year in business full time. We would like to thank all of our clients, blog readers, seminar attendees and others that have helped make this business a success.

A New Year is a time that offers us a fresh start and new hope on our personal and professional journeys. We look forward to helping new and old friends on their organizational journeys in 2007.

Now is the time to bring out the new calendars and set goals for the New Year. What opportunity a New Year and a blank calendar brings!