Sunday, December 14, 2008

Organized Gift Wrapping

This afternoon I took a few minutes to wrap two Christmas gifts (shown at right). These are the first of just a few gifts that I will purchase or assemble for the holiday.

I must be honest that I do not really enjoy wrapping gifts and am not particularly good at it, but I do think my tips can help the average person keep their wrapping supplies organized and at hand when they need them.

My strategy at Christmas (and for birthdays) is to buy one jumbo roll of a seasonal pattern that will work for just about everybody. This avoids the clutter of multiple rolls of leftover wrap for the remaining 11 months of the year. If this is too boring for you, you can purchase one pattern for each family member.

For all those odd ball shaped gifts (and for giving gifts while traveling), I use gift bags that I occasionally buy but in most cases I just reuse the ones I have received in good shape. The red bag in the photo contains my gift bags and tissue paper. I also like to reuse ribbons, bows and tissue paper. I keep those items in the tall bag, but as I use it up I will eliminate the tall bag and combine those items with the gift bags. All of my wrapping supplies are stored together in the corner of a closet.

If I lived closer to Royal Oak, Michigan (and if her services were affordable) I would probably give up the gift wrap altogether and use Lisa's Gift Wrappers. Lisa also has a blog with many for tips for gift wrapping.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Financial Organization

On Wednesday, December 10, 2008 I had the pleasure of presenting a joint seminar on financial organization at The University of Michigan's Center for Education of Women with my colleague, Rob Oliver, of Oliver Financial Planning. I am pictured above (in the middle) with Kirsten Elling, Managing Director of CEW and Rob Oliver. We had a great turnout for the seminar and would like to thank all of the attendees who braved the cold to learn more about planning for financial success.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Organizing Challenge--Make-up

Today's organizing challenge is to take a good look at your cosmetics. Toss out anything you no longer use and everything over one year old (some doctors even recommend shorter periods). If you are using some old products, this is the week to replace those products with new ones. That's what I did today.

I do not wear much make-up or buy many products, but recently realized that some of the stuff I have been putting on my face is quite old. Over the years I have downgraded to mostly drugstore brand cosmetics that I tend to buy at Target. I do use one item from Clinique that I am embarrassed to say was quite old. So today, I marched into Macy's with my old item in my bag and replaced it. I didn't wait for the free gift offer, which is probably a good thing seeing my item didn't cost that much. Besides, who really needs another cosmetic bag with a bunch of samples never to be used anyway.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reinhart Coat Drive

News of Reinhart Realtors' annual coat drive came to me twice in one week. This is a great opportunity to clean out your coat closet and help someone in need. During the month of November, you can drop off coats in good condition at any Reinhart sales office or Reinhart Sunday open house. All of the coats will be professionally cleaned and distributed locally. They especially need children's coats. Daytime temperatures have been in the 30s this week. Winter coat weather has officially arrived!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ann Arbor Job Opening

Okay, this probably doesn't fall under the usual stuff for my blog, but I figure it's my blog and I can write what I want. Besides this could really help someone in need of a job, not to mention my friend who is looking for an administrative assistant for her office downtown Ann Arbor. Here are the details:
  • Administrative Assistant for Downtown Insurance Office. 8-5 daily.
  • College educated, highly detailed oriented and computer skilled.
  • Challenging position in the financial services industry.
  • Multi-tasker with great accuracy and ability to follow up to completion on many different tasks every day.
  • Salary range is $10-12 per hour. No benefits . Bus Pass provided .

Thursday, October 23, 2008

On-line Productivity Seminar

I came accross this on-line seminar earlier this week in a random fashion. This seminar about time management and personal productivity runs for about 35 minutes. There are some great tips to make it worth your time. I particularly like what Eben Pagen has to say about multitasking.

Until last week I had never heard of this guy. It turns out he has made millions as some sort of dating guru. Not something I am particularly interested as a happily married mother, but the guy does know a thing or two about personal productivity. That being said, stick to his free videos and keep you hard earned dollars in your pocket.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Shopping at Target

Like many of you I shop at Target for household items. Ever since my child was born I find it difficult to get out of the store spending less than $100. This last shopping trip was no different. I did everything right....shopped with my electronic list (and didn't stray from it) and used about $5 worth of coupons. Upon closer inspection I found out diapers and Tide pushed me over the $100 mark. Maybe it's time to downgrade to store brand laundry detergent?

In reviewing my receipt I also noticed that Target is now categorizing items on its receipts. Of course, I love how organized this is and how it will save me time when categorizing my purchases. The categories on my receipt were: baby, cleaning supplies, grocery, health-beauty-cosmetics and home. This is a little more detailed than my normal categories, but it will be easy to combine categories which helps in day to day budgeting. Hopefully, on my next trip the bill will fall under $100.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Free Shredding Event

As a Washtenaw County Waste Knot Partner, I recently received notification of a free shredding event to be held next week in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Here are the details:

There is a FREE Paper Shredding Event taking place at the Drop-Off Station in Ann Arbor on October 17-18, 9:30AM-4:30PM. This event is open to all Washtenaw County residents AND businesses. There is a limit of 100 lbs per customer, but if you have more than this amount you may call the Drop-Off Station (734.971.7400) before the event to make special arrangements. Please see the attached press release for more information.

This event is sponsored by Recycle Ann Arbor.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Too Many Books?

I am a big fan of local consignment bookseller Books by Chance; however, they are currently at capacity and cannot take in any more books right now. That is why I was excited to hear about Page Avenue Books. Here's what Bob from PAB has to say:

"Page Avenue Books (PAB), an Ann Arbor-area online bookseller, is on the lookout for more used books to add to their inventory. If youʼre a book-hound tripping over boxes full of donʼt-wanters, or you just inherited your late auntʼs library and have no place to put it, send an e-mail to Page Avenue Books at PAB isnʼt a junk-removal service, but theyʼll quote you a modest per-box price for clean, undamaged books. PAB especially likes hardbound non-fiction, collectibles and estates, will consider others. Any books that PAB cannot sell are sent to the Ann Arbor ReUse Center or recycled."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Kids' Clothes

In the August edition of "Your Simply Organized Life" I wrote about organizing kids' clothes for back to school. My own child has very few clothes and I do laundry regularly. In my opinion this is the only way to go for kids and adults. The clean clothes stay organized and this forces mom (or whoever does the laundry) to keep on top of it (bonus: no mountains of wash to do).

The old adage "less is more" is so much a part of my daily life that I was particularly annoyed last week while shopping at GAP for socks for my child (their socks stay on the kid's foot!). Because I am organized, I knew that my child only needed two pairs to add to the collection of socks for fall.

The saleswoman at GAP was so pushy in insisting that I buy "5 for $10 for only $4 more". Of course I could have easily afforded the extra $4 for three more pairs of socks, but the woman didn't seem to get that I didn't NEED five pairs of socks. I only needed two.

My point is: it's not a bargain if you don't need it. Sometimes we forget this among the bright lights and pushy salespeople at the mall. Hold firm next time you're out shopping.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Travel Tip

My family and I just got back yesterday from a road trip to Atlanta, Georgia. We were there attending the wedding of the fine young man pictured at right, a cousin of mine. The gray haired man in the background happens to be my brother (I like to tease him about his gray hair).

Today's tip is intended to help you make the transition from a long vacation to "real life" easier. If at all possible, schedule an extra day at home following a vacation. This gives you time to unpack bags, readjust your body to your regular schedule and get back to your normal routines.

We love to travel, but even more, love coming home--especially after a 13 hour day in the car with a small child! Today's transition time has allowed me to throw in a load of laundry, readjust my child to being home and even download photos from the wedding!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

15 Minutes of Fame?

This is a quirky little snapshot of me (center) with Gail Nicklowitz (left) and Carol Kamm (right) at a Women Business Owners of Southeast Michigan meeting earlier this summer. I remember my colleague, Hillary Handwerger, taking this photo but was surprised when it appeared on the WBO website recently. It just goes to show that you never know where you will show up on the web these days.
I was also surprised yesterday while driving by the Photo Generations studio in downtown Dexter. Low and behold there was a big portrait in the window of my two children! Let me know if you are downtown Dexter and see the "boy and his dog photo" in the window. It's our little 15 minutes of fame!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Internet Secretary

Here's a new concept. Or at least new to me. "Sandy" is a internet based free secretary for daily reminders. You e-mail or text Sandy your requests for reminders and she will get back with you at the appropriate time.

On a totally unrelated note, some months ago I mentioned my friend, Laura Jannika, who is a Creative Memories Consultant. Laura has a new blog titled Power of Flower where she showcases her digital scrapbooking and flower photos. It's beautiful!

The photo above is from my garden and was taken by our friend, Michael, who visited us from Germany in early July.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Fancy Soaps

This morning I headed out to the Dexter Daze festival in Dexter, Michigan with my child. We had a great time chatting with the vendors, listening to live Caribbean music (who would have thought here in the Midwest?) and stopping at Bearclaw Coffee for our morning snack.

This year there was a new vendor by the name of Paper Street Soap. The folks from Paper Street out of Dundee, Michigan (famous for Michigan's Cabela's location--this is the Midwest, after all) had beautiful wonderful smelling soaps.

The thing is that I am a pretty frugal person (okay, I did spurge on a cup of joe, but packed our snacks) and $7 seems like a lot to spend on one bar of soap, especially when Ivory serves me just fine at about $1.50 for three bars! I wish the folks at Paper Street success in their new business and hope they find lots of customers who, unlike me, are willing to splurge on soap.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Clutter for Charity

In speaking with a friend of mine today, I learned of a wonderful organization based out of Rochester Hills, Michigan called Project12Baskets. This organization takes the excess (a.k.a. clutter) of donors, donates or auctions the items off on eBay or live and the auction proceeds go to your charity of choice. Businessman, Barry Olson, founded the company leveraging his supply chain management experience to find a new way to raise funds for charity.

The for-profit organization will even take care of entire estates, by coming in with their team, emptying out the home and sending 70% of the proceeds from the items sold to the charity of your choice. Project12Baskets earns their 30% fee only after items are sold. Heirs to an estate need not be bothered with emptying a home and have the satisfaction of knowing loved ones belongings will benefit others. A great solution for busy people.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Community Shred in Ypsi

This is quite short notice, but I just saw an ad in The Ann Arbor News for a community shred day tomorrow (July 26, 2008 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) at the Ypsilanti Area Federal Credit Union. This might be of interest to my readers. For more information click here.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer Solstice

It's that time of year again where everything seems to be in bloom, including this rose from my garden. Being organized should give all of us time to stop and smell the roses.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Virtual Assistants

Yesterday I wrote about my colleague, Laura Jannika, who appeared in Scrap and Stamp Arts Magazine. I don't know how Laura got the magazine to me so quickly, but it arrived in my mailbox yesterday afternoon.

It is quite a nice article and in it she mentions using a professional secretary or virtual assistance for some transcription work. I happen to know Bonnie Myhrum, who was mentioned in the article and has a real eye for detail.

Virtual assistants, or VAs, as they are sometimes referred to can be a great asset for all kinds of projects that you cannot find to do yourself, particularly if you are self employed. To find out more check out the International Virtual Assistants Association.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Things have sure been busy with Simply Organized Life lately! If your life is anything like mine, you probably think you are too busy to stop and scrapbook. I know I feel that way, but do take 10~15 minutes now and again to put photos in super simple scrapbooks. It's easy to set up and clean up with just a few supplies in one place.

My colleague, Laura Jannika, who is a Creative Memories Consultant might find my scrapbooks quite bland and boring, especially with her recent appearance in Scrap and Stamp Arts Magazine. I have yet to see a copy of the magazine, but am really proud of Laura. She is a wonderful business owner, artist, mom and gardener!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Michigan Organizers

I am a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and also NAPO's Southeast Michigan Chapter. If you are looking for a Professional Organizer or an Organizing Consultant, such as myself, be sure they are a member of NAPO and have attended annual conferences for continuing eduation. I always enjoy these events and for the last three years have attended conferences in San Diego, Boston and Vancouver.

Outside of annual conferences, organizers that belong to a local chapter get together for education and networking. On May 8th, I was honored at a luncheon at Andiamo Novi for my past service as Director of Professional Development for the Southeast Michigan Chapter of NAPO. I am pictured above on the left along with fellow Michigan Organizers: Karen DeClark, Debbie Tebbie, Carol Seneker and Carrie Vance.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Why Organize?

Yesterday, I attended the Ann Arbor Book Festival's day long writer's conference. Some of the sessions were so-so, while others were really great. The best, in my opinion, was Lisa Garrigues' "Writing Motherhood" session, which takes a pragmatic approach to writing for busy mothers like myself. Ms. Garrigues also had great handouts and was well prepared, so it is no wonder her books sold out at the hallway table.

Another great session was on blogging. It was more of a Q&A session with Ron Hogan and Claudia Mair Francis Burney. I must admit that I am not really very literary. I love to read, but find time mainly for non-fiction, so I had never heard of either blogger. Interestingly enough, Mr. Hogan did a great interview with Peter Walsh of TLC's Clean Sweep and more recently, Oprah, fame. Mr. Walsh is so right when he says that organizing is "never about the stuff" and "you're organized because it makes your life easier." I couldn't have said it better.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Antique Appraisals

I have no clue how I got on their list, but I have been receiving e-mails lately from Brighton, Michigan based Insights Group, which to my understanding is a business networking group. At any rate, Insights Group is holding an antique appraisal fair in Brighton on Saturday, June 14th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is a great opportunity for those of you that have some antiques that you need appraised for resale or insurance purposes.

I always recommend my clients work with non-dealer appraisers to avoid a conflict of interest. A great way to find an appraiser in your area is through the Appraisers Association of America.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tax Records

Hands down, the number one question I hear from seminar attendees is "What paperwork can I keep and what can I throw away?" I am always very reluctant to answer this question, as it really varies on the individual's situation. In addition, I am not a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) or an attorney.

Ann Arbor based CPA, Ms. Holly Hall Polopolos, addressed the issue of tax records in her April 2008 e-newsletter. I hope my readers will find her information useful.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Shred Day in Ann Arbor

I was sorting out my junk mail yesterday, when I noticed something interesting. United Bank & Trust, a small regional bank, is hosting a shred day at their Ann Arbor (Scio Village) and Tecumseh (West Chicago) bank branches. This is a clever marketing technique and a way to help the public with their excess shredding, something that I wrote about in my March and April 2008 newsletters.

Both events will be held on Friday, May 16, 2008 from 3 to 7 p.m. You can bring up to three banker-type boxes of personal documents that will be shredded for free while you watch. You will also be provided a certificate of destruction. Please post a comment if you are able to attend this event.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Electronics Recycling

News of this Ann Arbor, Michigan event just came through to me from fellow organizer, Michael Ann Rose. Apple is sponsoring a public event to recycle electronic items such as computers, televisions, monitors and related equipment.

On Saturday, May 10th from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. you can bring your old electronics to Ann Arbor's Pioneer High School parking lot. Last year, they had 700 cars and are looking to beat that record. You do not have to be an Ann Arbor resident to attend. For more information contact John McMahon of Apple, Inc. directly at 734-389-5525.

It is important that these items are recycled appropriately to keep harmful substances out of landfills.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ann Arbor Book Fesitval

For two years, I served on the Ann Arbor Book Festival's planning committee as Volunteer Coordinator. I stepped down last fall to focus more time on my family and my business, but am happy to announce that Lucy White is doing a great job as this year's Volunteer Coordinator.
If you will be in Ann Arbor, Michigan from Thursday, May 15th to Saturday, May 17th be sure to check out the festival and maybe even volunteer. If you would like to volunteer send an email to: or call 734-369-3366.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Kosher Kitchens

I love to read, but due to limited time I am quite selective about what I spend my time reading. Just yesterday I recently finished reading a mini-book (24 pages) titled "How to Organize the Kosher Kitchen" by California based organizer, Lisa Mark.

Lisa's guide is great for professional organizers of any faith, for Jewish people who keep Kosher or for folks who just want to learn more about Kosher Kitchens. I particularly liked her personal story at the end of how she went from being a non-practicing Jew to spending hours preparing her Kosher kitchen. Lisa also lists a great resource for color coded labels and utensils. Something that seems essential if you want to keep Kosher in a small space.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Garage Sale Season

If you read my post from last week, you know we are still waiting for spring here in Michigan. When the warm weather comes, garage sale season also begins. While I do not recommend my clients hold garage sales themselves (it just doesn't pay off for most people), I am a fan of donating good used items to local charities for annual rummage sales in the community. For most folks the tax deduction is well worth it.

At the end of this week, the Dexter, Michigan Knights of Columbus will be gathering good used clothing and household items for their annual rummage sale to be held April 10~12. They are not accepting any furniture, computers or exercise equipment. If you live in the area and have such items to donate, the Knights of Columbus will be accepting donations April 3rd through 6th. Check out their website at for more information.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Waiting for Spring

I am probably one of those rare folks that actually enjoys winter. that the first day of spring and Easter have passed, not to mention that it is late March, I feel like telling Mother Nature "enough already". Here in Michigan, we still have a few piles of snow on the ground.

However, weather is an unpredictable thing, so I am hoping for winter to pass and preparing for spring. Here are five things to do now to get organized for spring:

  1. If you have a lawn mower, tune it up now or hire someone to do it for you.
  2. If you have a lawn service provider, contact them for the upcoming season.
  3. On those warm days spend 15 minutes or so removing the dried remains from last year's flowers. Warm is relative, so my neighbors have seen me out with my trusty pruners in hand on a few 45 degree F days.
  4. Spend 5 or 10 minutes to sweep off the salt and other "gunk" that fell of your car in the winter.
  5. Wash the windows in your home one room at a time.

When the warm weather does come, hopefully you will have accomplished a few jobs that will allow you the time to just sit and soak up the warmth. In the meantime, I will enjoy my garden photos from last summer (the flower above is a peony, one of my favorites).

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Baby and Toddler Stuff

My general philosophy toward "stuff" of any kind is less is more. This is especially true when it comes to baby and toddler stuff (how come such little people "need" so much stuff?!). As a parent, I try to practice what I preach by buying clothing for my child only when needed and only what will fit into a small dresser. The other household rule is to only purchase toys for birthdays or special holidays. My husband likes to break this rule occationally and we have also been blessed with a lot of great hand me downs from friends, family and neighbors.

For my household the whole idea is fewer, higher quality items. That being said, I always like to find a good bargain, especially for truely needed items. So, this morning we went to our first "Mom to Mom Sale" at the St. Joseph's Parish in Dexter. My husband convinced me to buy 2 books and 2 toys (including a loud police car toy that I think he really wanted for himself!). I found 5 clothing items that our child can use. All together, we spent a little more than $10 including $1 per person entry fee. It was also a nice little outing for us (we really do not get out much!).

Come to find out, almost every weekend you can find these mom's sales all throughout the Detroit area and Southeast Michigan. There is even a website called that compiles all of the local sales, which are usually organized by churches, like St. Joes, or parent groups. If you need stuff, or more likely, need to get rid of stuff this can be a great way to recycle your abundance.

Friday, February 01, 2008

No Water! (Storing Manuals)

My family and I live in a semi-rural community and we depend upon our own well for water. This morning while I was taking a shower, I noticed that the water pressure was not at its usual level. Then, after a bit, it just stopped. There was no more water.

I called my husband (who already had his shower!) and he checked our tank in the basement. The pressure gauge showed zero (not that I needed confirmation). We had no water.

Fortunately, by 10 a.m. this morning Cribley Drilling came to the rescue. Unfortunately, we needed a new pump and tank ($$$!). The guys from Cribley installed the new equipment and after writing a large check, we now have water again.

I was also left with the manual for the pump, which is outside in the ground, in our well. Being a professional organizing consultant, I do have a file for manuals, but know that if the water ever goes out again we would first go to the basement (not to my office) and if we ever moved the manual should stay with the house.

My solution was to put the manual for the pump in a plastic sleeve, use packaging tape and tape it to the basement wall near the water tank. Now it is there for me if I ever need it. I also wrote the date, company name and years of warranty on the manual for future reference.

Now, I just need to get back to my normal routine for the day!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Carlos Ghosn's Calendar

The Wall Street Journal has an occasional feature called "Boss Talk" where they typically interview CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Today's Journal featured an interview with Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan and Renault. This article was of interest to me having spent nearly 10 years working in the automotive industry and nearly all of my life in Michigan, where our economy has been hit hard due to our strong ties to this industry.

What I didn't expect to find in this article is confirmation of something I often teach in my seminars. The "5 Tips from Carlos Ghosn on Managing a Global Workforce" included using one calendar (or time manager) for keeping track of all appointments. My seminar attendees as well as my clients often hear that one calendar is better than two. If this tip is good enough for a CEO that splits his time between Tokyo and Paris, it should be one that the rest of us can follow as well.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Packing Decorations

In the January 2008 edition of "Your Simply Organized Life" I answered a reader's question regarding packing holiday decorations.

Since quite a lot of you probably still have your holiday decorations up (over the last few years as a professional organizer I have seen quite a lot of holiday decorations well into February and March) I thought I would revisit the packing of holiday items here.
In the e-newsletter I recommended using 66 qt. or smaller totes for storing holiday decorations. The photo above shows the totes I use for my own holiday decorations. They are labeled on the ends and stack nicely on my basement shelves.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sane Living

Chris Wucherer, a colleague of mine in Ann Arbor, Michigan just started a new blog called "A Woman's Guide to Saner Living." Since most of my clients are busy, high achieving women---with a bit of disorganization---I thought this new blog would be of interest to all of you.

In addition to my life as a professional organizing consultant and business owner; I also have one small child, one large dog, one great husband and a household to manage. As a result, my life isn't always sane or "perfectly" organized. My life is organized well enough for us to live a healthy well balanced life (and invite unexpected visitors in), but I am sure I can learn a few things from Chris.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Organizing for Health

A friend of mine send me a link to a great article in The New York Times on clutter and health. Click here to read it. It is written by Tara Parker-Pope, who recently left The Wall Street Journal. I often enjoyed reading her health column in The Journal. This article and a related blog entry also on January 1, 2008 is valuable as it focuses on changing habits (not bins and boxes) as a way to get organized. The researchers mentioned have been studying the links between being organized and healthy living.