04 Jan 2018

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2018! A fresh start. I’m sure like me many of you are setting goals and making a list of things you want to accomplish in the new year. I long ago gave up on making New Year’s Resolutions – I found doing so is an exercise in futility and nothing more than setting myself up for failure. Rather than wait until the start of a new year to make life or lifestyle changing decisions, I chose to set a series of goals and objectives for myself throughout the year. I’m learning to celebrate the individual successes and build on them to push me forward.

Every year at this time you can almost guarantee there will be people who say they are going to work out more, get organized and stick to a budget. No sooner than the last gift is open the ads are already appearing online and on the TV proclaiming that it’s not too late to get everything you wanted for Christmas. There are ads highlighting healthier eating. And, all the big box retailers put every bin of every size on sale.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – buying a bunch of bins and organizers isn’t going to instantly get you organized. There is a lot of work that goes into it – and stuffing it all in pretty containers isn’t going to magically solve that closet that you’re afraid to open.

My advice for the new year is to think about putting together a road map and a plan first and going from there. Start small – maybe it’s just one drawer or closet. When you start have a vision for what you want to accomplish. Are you simply wanting to clean up the space? Are you looking to give a room a new look and purpose? Are you wanting to integrate something new into an existing space? There is no correct answer. What you need to do is establish a clear expectation of what it is you want. If you don’t know where you are heading then how are you going to get there?

My advice to you as this new year gets started is to keep things simple, set goals that are measurable and achievable. Enlist the help and support of others and most importantly, if you really are stuck on where and how to begin – ask for help!

Here’s to a fantastic 2018 for us all!

30 Dec 2017

The Right Way to Pack Up The Holiday’s

Another holiday is behind us – the New Year is knocking at the door. I know people that take down their decorations the day after Christmas (that’s a whole other topic for me – Christmas lover that I am.) The majority of people will take them down on New Year’s Day – or within that first week of January. Whenever you chose to pack up the holiday’s, it’s an excellent time to make preparations now so that when you go to get the bins down from the attic or out of the basement next year things will be easier.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to put out a client’s decorations and spend a good portion of my time (time that I’m being paid for) to sort through bins full of items that are just haphazardly filled. I spend hours untangling lights and ornaments, changing burned out bulbs and all that fun stuff before I can even begin to decorate.

Putting things away in a neat and orderly fashion not only protects your gems it makes getting them out much less stressful.

Here are tips and tricks that I use when stowing away my Christmas trinkets (and remember I have five trees – so I have a lot of them!)

  • Banish the cardboard boxes – rather than a ragtag collection of boxes invest in some nice storage bins – many retailers put them on sale starting the day after Christmas. They are more durable than boxes and you can get them in uniform sizes.
  • Discard anything broken
  • If you don’t want it anymore donate it or give it to a friend or family member
  • Wind your lights – you can use pieces of cardboard, wooden paint sticks, or a storage bin made for lights. I typically wind them neatly around my hand and then connect the ends together.
  • Replace as many burnt out bulbs as you can when you take the lights off the tree or mantle. (spending a few minutes doing it now means you won’t have to do it when you go to put them up next year!)
  • Try to put things in bins as neatly and compactly as possible. I wrap a lot of my items in tissue or plain newsprint.
  • Be mindful of where you store your decorations. Best not to place items that are sensitive to warm or cold temperatures in bins if you store them in the garage.
  • To the extent I can I discard as much extraneous packaging as I can – unless of course it is an item of value or a collectors item that having the original package adds to its value!
  • Make a list of items that you know you will need next season when you bring the bins out – having this list is helpful if there are items you will be looking for in the off season – either at tag sales, thrift stores, antique stores, etc.
  • Take photographs of everything before you disassemble – I find this useful for when I’m particularly happy with how a display or arrangement looked and want to duplicate it the next year.

I do hope you find these tips helpful and that they not only help you put away your holiday items more efficiently – but that they save you unnecessary stress next season!

20 Dec 2017

Happy Holidays!

Okay, first of all my apologies for the lack of posts these last few weeks. It’s a busy time of year and the first thing I do when things get busy is set priorities. The Christmas holiday season is by far my most favorite time of the year. If you were to see my house right now you would understand! I’m not content to have one tree, or two. This year the house has five (yes five!) I told you it’s my favorite time of year.

Now I could speak to you about how you should keep things simple so as not to overwhelm yourself – but that wouldn’t be fair of me to do. (Besides, I’ll still be decorating when I’m 80 – may take me from Halloween to Thanksgiving to do it, but I love it so much!

What is important is to remember to celebrate the season as you move through it. Look at the shopping, baking and decorating as individual components – enjoy them. The Christmas holiday isn’t supposed to be about just one day – don’t stress yourself out and put huge expectations on that day. Take time to enjoy the traditions and most importantly your friends and family who are included along the way.

Use this time to reflect on all that you have achieved in the last year and what you want to strive for in the new year as you look to set new goals.

From our house to your’s, have a safe and joyful holiday – however you celebrate and with whoever you celebrate it with!

30 Oct 2017

The Secrets of Organization!

I’ll admit it – growing up with a mom who was very organized, and myself being what my friends often referred to as a “neat freak” I kind of took it for granted that everyone is as organized as I am. As a professional organizer my goal is to coach my clients to become better organizers. What I do isn’t rocket science – and truth be known while I do have my tips and tricks, there really isn’t a “secret formula”. To be better organized has nothing to do with natural ability – it’s about discipline and commitment.

Most of my clients admit that they have finally sought professional organizing help because they are too overwhelmed to tackle what they thought they could do themselves.

People who opt not to work with a professional often set out with the best of intentions. They dive into a project after seeing an idea on Facebook, in the latest magazine or on Pinterest (I’ve saved hundreds of ideas on Pinterest- and have executed very few. They head to the store seeking the latest and greatest gadget or gizmo to help them be better organized (most often having no idea of their needs or what the product is really suited to accomplish. They arrive home, ready to take on the challenge, only to have it quickly deteriorate into an overwhelming situation which leaves them once again discouraged.

If this sounds familiar here are some quick tips I’ve gleaned from other organizing pros!

Have a vision before you begin!

I can’t stress this point enough (which is why I often mention it in my blogs.) You won’t know where you are going if you don’t have a plan. If you don’t have a vision of what you want to accomplish how will you identify the steps to get you there? Set achievable goals. Be realistic.

Create your vision first, then organize. Visioning is a bit like planning. It’s when you take the time to think things through before you begin doing the work.

Plan what you want the space to be before you start. If you aren’t sure what your vision is then spend some time thinking of the space and ask yourself questions that will help solidify your vision.


For example, let’s look at organizing a closet. Here are the type of questions you would use to help you create that vision:

  • How do I want to use this space in my closet?
  • Will I store just this season’s clothes here, or just those that fit me currently? Or will I use half for clothing and half for memorabilia storage?
  • How’s the lighting?
  • Do I need a step stool to reach the shelves?
  • Do I want to keep my hamper in the closet or move it to the bathroom?

Once you have answered these questions (and I encourage you to take the time to write these questions and answers down as you will see the beginnings of your vision.) It’s not like you are writing a novel – so it doesn’t have to be complicated. After you have done this several times you will have it mastered and my find yourself applying this skill to other things in your life. Once you have your vision and have written it down, the next step is one of those “secrets” of the professionals – Share it with someone and ask them to help!

Human behavior studies show that when two people (rather than one) are working on a project it gets done faster — not just because of the extra pair of hands, but because of the synergy between the two people. You’ve heard the expression the sum is greater than the individual parts – this is exactly what happens. Having a helper is a catalyst for motivation.


Don’t get caught up in the gadgets and gizmos

Professional organizers know that getting organized doesn’t necessarily mean having custom shelves built to clear the over-cluttered corners. Nine times out of ten my clients have everything they need to be organized – it’s just that they lack a vision. I’m not saying you won’t benefit by having some fancy closet organizer built and perhaps having something stylish and nice will help motivate you – but before you go spend hundreds of dollars unnecessarily look for practical solutions first. It’s not necessary to answer the organizing dilemma with an expensive or time-consuming project.

Keep it simple

It’s called the “subtraction method.” You’ve heard of dividing your stuff into keep, sell, and giveaway bins or piles, but when the clutter seems overwhelming, I start with an easier approach – the this goes somewhere else or doesn’t belong here bin.

With your intention set toward subtracting items from a particular room, starting in one spot simply work your way through the room removing the items that you recognize as not belonging. Doing this as a first step really helps reduce clutter and make things seem less overwhelming. This is the point at which I often encourage clients to break things down into a series of smaller tasks that can be completed in 30 minutes or less. It’s a great way to begin organizing a specific area. You can set aside the box and return those items to the areas they belong once you’ve completed your primary tasks.

A place for everything…

I’m sure everyone has heard this expression and it’s VERY true in successful organization. It also makes it easier for you to establish routines or processes that help you maintain the order once you’ve created it! This is where the discipline, commitment and CONSISTENCY come into play.

Getting organized isn’t just about cleaning, sorting and labeling. The biggest takeaway here is that it’s about creating habits and routines that support you. If one of your biggest challenges maintaining order in a busy household is everything seems to land everywhere establish a system that will place them in the proper locations instead. Kids leave coats, shoes, toys, homework everywhere – there is no sense of order. How much time is wasted when an item is misplaced or can’t be found. The solution is simple – create homes for items and enforce routines. In my household when myself or my significant other arrive home we have a drop zone that we place things – from there the items are moved to where they belong. Things aren’t just randomly placed and dropped. Every member of your household should have his or her own drop zone. This is the technique I use for people who commonly misplace items (such as car keys.) The idea is to get them in the habit of putting their keys in the same place, so they are easily located when needed. Having drop zones keeps clutter from migrating all over the house. Give it a try! You’ll be surprised how easy it is! You can apply this tactic at home, work, your car, your briefcase, etc.

Distractions need to be eliminated

It’s a proven fact that multi-tasking is a myth – human beings aren’t designed to multi task – those who think they are expert multitaskers are only kidding themselves. Disorganization and the chaos it brings thrive on distractions. My role as a professional organizer is to help my clients stay focused. Clients typically tell me that having a professional help provides accountability and helps them to move forward. If you can learn to eliminate or ignore distractions, you are well on your way to making your organizing projects a much more enjoyable experience. Here are some basics to consider:

  • Ignore interruptions. Put your cell phone on silent or leave it in the other room. Ignore the dings and rings that alert you to text or voicemail messages. If necessary, close a door, alert staff you aren’t taking calls or won’t be checking email for a few hours.
  • Avoid diversions. This is a biggie – as you start sorting and discarding you are going to come across items that trigger memories, don’t get stuck on memory lane. Remind yourself what your purpose is and stick with it!
  • Discipline, Discipline, Discipline establish routines and stick with them.

23 Oct 2017

Preparing For The Holidays

I’m sure half of you read the headline and panicked. I did the other day when someone said there were only 10 Saturday’s until Christmas. But there are lots of things you can do now – that don’t take a lot of time and effort that will help you be ready for the season and let you enjoy it with less stress.

As we near the end of October it’s time to start wrapping up any projects you are working on – whether that means completing them or getting them to a point where you can put them on hold until January. This is not the time to take on a huge project or renovation with the expectation that you can get it all done before Thanksgiving. Remember any remodeling project usually takes twice as long as you anticipate and costs about 20 percent more. Don’t cause unnecessary stress during the holidays – put that project on hold until after the first of the year.

One of the easiest and most important things you can do is take stock of what you have – search all those cupboards and hiding places for items you’ve been stashing away throughout the year. (This might be a chance to evaluate whether you need to designate a specific area or a different area for gathering these items next year. How did things work this year? What items did you lose track?) By surveying what you have you know what items you still need to locate (and this can be used for gifts as well as decorations and other items.) Once you have surveyed everything make a list of the things you still need. I often make a list of what I have as well simply because I can’t always remember everything.) This step is particularly useful if you are one of those shoppers who shops for Christmas gifts throughout the year. For me it’s helpful if I’m planning something new and exciting with my decorating for the season. For example – this year I’m completely changing the color scheme for the tree and decorations. I’ve been acquiring items since the day after Christmas 2016. I’ve been picking things up at thrift stores, garage and tag sales, end of season clearance sales, sidewalk sales, etc. When you are collecting things over such a broad time frame, it’s easy to forget what you have acquired. Review what you have so that you don’t purchase duplicate items.

October and early November are when I do some deep cleaning around the house so that it will be ready for holiday decorating and entertaining. If you get the major cleaning out of the way you can focus on the creativity of decorating and simply do some light housekeeping as you go. Take the opportunity to go through closets to discard unwanted items. Make space for putting away everyday items that you store when the holiday decorations are put out.

Outside, I prepare as well. In anticipation of the outdoor decorations going up, I make sure that rain gutters and downspouts are unclogged and debris free. Does the lawn need one last mow and edge. Is all of the outdoor furniture stored. Do containers on the back deck or front porch need to be cleaned out or put in the garage? Depending on where you live you might still be able to get the windows washed and the blinds or draperies cleaned. (Living in the Pacific Northwest there are still a few fairly decent days to take care these things.)

If time allows, now is an excellent time to sort through closets to get rid of items you no longer use and make way for new items that may arrive. It also means you’ve made that last push to get things donated before the end of the year so that you are prepared for your 2017 taxes.

Bottom line is this is the time to take care of the things that you really don’t want to be doing during the holidays and by getting them done early you won’t need to stress out over them.

The biggest and most important tip I can offer is remember that you don’t have to do it all and it doesn’t have to be “perfect” in order to enjoy the season. Remember to enjoy the process (whether it’s trimming the tree, baking holiday goodies, or planning for the holiday meal.) Expect the unexpected, write things down, don’t set unrealistic expectations and make your lists and stick to them!’Tis the Season!

16 Oct 2017

Time is money – do you need to multiply your time?

I can do it all!

As a small business owner, you likely started your business for the flexibility and freedoms it offers you. Most importantly you probably do a lot of things because you have the time – or the control when you do them. The problem is if you are spending adequate time on the important aspects of your business you suddenly find there is little time left for the mundane, repetitive tasks. You fall into that trap where you tell yourself if I work hard enough and fast enough, I can get it all done, or that no one can get it done better or faster than I can!

Typically, you find yourself at a bottleneck (self-imposed) that is preventing your business from moving forward. The little voice in your head starts nagging at you that you need to relieve the bottleneck if your business is to prosper. You are also starting to realize this bottleneck has a huge impact on your health and the health of your business. It can become a vicious cycle.

Are you an admin or an executive?

How much of your day do you spend dealing with emails, phone calls, expense reports, invoicing, travel arrangements, scheduling, data entry, client prospecting, and other routine administrative tasks yourself?

If the answer is more than you wish you were or you wish you were focusing your time on the things that grow and drive your business perhaps you really do need to think about a virtual assistant.

Doing so is inherently growth-oriented, the old adage is “time is money” think about what you are spending your time doing and what that translates into when you calculate your hourly rate. If you are spending the majority of your time doing repetitive tasks how do you hope to grow your business? The best and brightest minds in business report that eighty percent of your time should be spent on high-value tasks that will help grow your business.

No rest for the wicked…

Do you regularly work 50 to 80 hours a week in an effort to keep up? Yet, you are still falling behind? Do you regularly work weekends and nights? Do you long for less stress and that illusive work/life balance?

If you answered yes to any of these – there really is little explanation needed as to why you might seriously need to look at some administrative assistance. You probably have figured out reading just this far (or you knew it even before you started reading) that the key to growing your business and having it prosper is devoting your time and energy to those tasks that promote growth – rather than the routine mundane stuff that is getting you nowhere.

I’ll start that project tomorrow…

If you are spending most of your time on daily busy work rather than those great ideas how will you prosper? Don’t put off projects that could dramatically impact your business because you’re overwhelmed by administrative tasks.

What ever happened to that exciting new project or that big idea you were so excited about several months ago? Has that month stretched into a year?

Revenue is flat

It’s a terrible feeling to know that you are missing out on prospective customer because your database for tracking customers isn’t up-to-date.

Data entry is a painstaking task, so many of us “accidentally” keep forgetting to sit down and do it – it’s the chicken or the egg argument – if you spend your time doing the data entry you don’t have time to sell yourself or your business to potential customers. But if you don’t do it – you won’t have prospects to target. Perhaps it’s time to admit you need help!

Make your budget go further!

You likely don’t have as much mundane and routine work as you think – but by outsourcing it you are strategically allocating resources and giving yourself the most important resource for you to grow your business – time! Hiring a virtual assistant beats hiring an in-house administrative assistant when you’re on a small budget, because it is more cost effective!

There’s no (or low) overhead associated with hiring a virtual assistant due to the fact that there’s no need to provide them with employer wage deductions, vacation pay, health insurance, office space, furnishings, or equipment. Those savings alone are incredibly appealing. What’s more, you won’t need to deal with daunting HR paperwork or training and management.

Most small businesses can’t afford to pay the necessary costs associated with hiring an in-house administrative assistant. If you live in a metropolitan area you’ll quickly find that virtual assistants cost significantly less than a regular employee. Plus, it can be very difficult to find an in-house assistant who can afford to work just a few hours a day for you.

What are you waiting for?

So how many of these things have resonated with you?

Instead of asking yourself why you should hire a virtual assistant, perhaps the better question is why haven’t you hired a virtual assistant?”