Keeping COOL Organizing Tips

July 19, 2016

Yes, the heat of summer is upon us, and even with air conditioning we all like to think of cooler places to spend our time.  Seldom do you think of tackling an organizing project at this time of year (after all, who has an air conditioned garage?), but this month we have a few suggestions on keeping cool and crossing some of those organizing tasks off your list at the same time!

Head to the basement.  The basements of our homes are always a cool place to be and you can escape the heat while making progress on a long over-due organizing project.

  • Do you have boxes stored in the basement from your latest move?  Now would be a good time to open them and think Christmas in July!” as you unwrap items you haven’t see for weeks, months or even years.  As you go through these items, contemplate how much you have, or have not, missed these items and question whether you really need to keep them.
  • Is there a craft area for the kids in the basement?  Now would be a good time to clear the clutter and determine if you need more supplies.  When everyone has had too much sun and heat this would be a good place to spend some creative time.
  • If the rec room or play area is downstairs, this is a time to involve the entire family to sort through items stored and used (or not used) there.  Challenge your children to donate items that they no longer need or enjoy, then enjoy your renewed space.
  • Storage areas in the basement are great places to keep seldom used items. However, sometimes those items are out of sight and also out of mind.  Take a quick inventory of what is there, determine the last time you really used an item and decide if it really needs to be kept.
  • The tool room is an ideal place to cool off as you return all items to their proper homes.  When everything is stored properly you will save valuable time the next time you need an item, and you will not be tempted to purchase duplicate items that you really don’t need.

The kitchen.  Yes, there are some cool places there, even when you are cooking dinner.

  • The freezer is a place to remind us of those cold winter days, and a quick way to cool off.  We do not recommend that you open the freezer door and organize it all at once, as this would not be energy efficient.  As an alternative, we suggest that you organize one shelf at a time.  Unload all of the items from one shelf and place them on a work surface.  Then review the expiration dates on each package to determine if it is still edible.  Perhaps you will even find some forgotten items that you can use to make dinner tonight.  When you return items to the shelves be sure to store like (or similar) things together.
  • Use the same steps to organize your refrigerator.  At the same time you may want to rearrange things so you will be better able to find what you are looking for in the future.  Are all of your condiments in one place?  Are fruits, vegatables and dairy products each stored in designated places?  Consider how you look for things and this will lead to how items  are stored.  If you create a new system, be sure to educate others in the family.

We hope these tips will keep you cool and open up some spaces that have been cluttered or ignored for too long,

JoEllen & Muffy

PS This post was taken from a recent Monthly Tips Newsletter; follow the link to have them delivered directly to your in-box.


Resolutions vs Microresolutions

January 11, 2016

small move big changeSo, how are those New Years Resolutions coming along?  Are you worried that failure is on the horizon? Perhaps it is because the resolution you made was too all encompassing, and therefore a recipe for failure.

As a Professional Organizer I see this a lot.  January is typically a fairly quiet month as most individuals have resolved to make changes and are all gung-ho to do it on their own.  The calls for help start arriving toward the end of the month when they find the organizing task is just too overwhelming.   But if you are interested in continuing to organize on your own, the best advice I can give is to START SMALL.  This and a couple of other tips are in a previous post, and may help you on your journey to a more organized life.

There are also many books out there to provide you with inspiration, advice for keeping on task, and strategies for every room in the home.  (Some of my favorites can be found in Organizing 4 U’s Amazon Bookstore.)  A winner for this time of year is Small Move, Big Change  Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently by Caroline L. Arnold.  It takes the START SMALL step a bit further and may prove to be the best $3.91 you have ever spent.

Ms Arnold, writing from personal experience, provides The Seven Rules of Microresolutions.  She then shows these rules in action in the following areas: sleep, fitness, diet & nutrition, clutter, relationships, spending, punctuality and organization.  WOW, this covers a lot of territory!  The author cautions, however, to take on only two microresolutions at a time.  “A new habit takes hold only through consistent repetition, and that takes concentration and effort.”

Overall, the guidance provided in this book is set up to help you form habits in the areas you wish to improve upon.  “Any system you create for yourself will be only as strong as the habits you build to support it, so start with a simple system and elaborate it as needed over time.”  Great advice!

All the best in 2016!  Let me know how you are succeeding with your MICRORESOLUTIONS.

Thanks for reading,


Welcome to 2016: Your Most Organized Year Ever!

January 5, 2016


We wish you a Happy, Healthy and Organized New Year!

Many of you have made a New Year’s Resolution to GET ORGANIZED in 2016, and we are here to help you achieve your goals.  The path to being more organized is achievable if you follow just 3 simple steps.

Start Small  This is our favorite tip to help you get organized.  So often those organizing projects are just so overwhelming that it is hard to see progress, but if you make slow steady progress, you will see improvements and not get so easily discouraged.  Want to organize the kitchen?  Consider one shelf, one cupboard or one drawer at a time.  Ready to tackle the basement?  Dedicate some time and focus on one area—15, 30 or 60 minutes on a regular basis will help you bring you closer and closer to your goal.  The same with all of that paper that is cluttering up the desk or dining room table.  Don’t try to get it all done at once—just schedule some time every day until you reach your goal.

Store Like With Like  So much of the clutter that is in our lives is there because we cannot think of where to store an item.  We see this all the time.  The Christmas decor is scattered throughout the house, important documents are in every drawer, and clothes are stored on the treadmill for easy access.  You will have an easier time finding something you need the next time you need it if it is stored with similar items in a place that makes sense to you.

Store Items Close to Where You Will Use Them  For most of us, the goal of GETTING ORGANIZED is to be able to find something quickly the next time we need it.  Who wants to waste valuable time looking for that bill that needs to be paid, the perfect scarf or tie, or that special spice?  Save time and steps by considering where you will be using an item, and then create a home for it there.

The above tips are the basics which we hope will guide you to your more organized life.  For additional tips, we invite you to download our Top Ten Organizing Tips, Ten Tips to A More Efficient Work Day, and (if you are planning a move this year) Preparing Your Home for A Quicker Sale.

Our New Year’s Resolution

is to keep you inspired and on the path to GETTING ORGANIZED through regular updates via Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Of course (if you live in the Cleveland, Ohio area), we are also available for some ‘hands-on’ assistance.  Feel free to call Muffy @ 216.321.6126 or JoEllen @ 440.498.1930 to see how we can help you reach your goals more quickly.  Or request a free consultation, and we can set up a time to meet.

Happy Get Organized Month,

JoEllen & Muffy

PS This post was taken from a recent Monthly Tips Newsletter; follow the link to have them delivered directly to your in-box.

10 Things You Can DELEGATE Now to Create A Less Stressful Holiday

December 21, 2015



Only a few more days until Christmas and many of you are feeling stressed for a variety of reasons….Company arriving soon, still need to work this week, and/or once again you have procrastinated with all the things you have left to do on your list.

One recommendation is to DELEGATE as many things as possible, so that you too will be able to enjoy the holiday with friends and family without feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and panicked.

Here is a list of 10 things that you can assign to others to make your life a little easier.

  1. Ask your guests to bring some food.  Just because you are hosting, does not mean that you need to cook and prepare everything.  Most people enjoy a potluck and have a special dish they enjoy bringing to share with others.
  2. Reduce the amount of cookies or other baked goods you make, or purchase some from your favorite bakery.  No one is going to complain about a few less sweets.  You know there is already more than is needed, and much gets tossed rather than eaten.
  3. Let someone else wrap the gifts.  This always seems to take more time than we realize to cut the paper, wrap and put on the labels and ribbon.  You could also consider using gift bags instead of wrapping.
  4. Delay sending the holiday cards.  If you still have not sent out your holiday cards, do not despair….better late than never, and the recipient will not complain.  You can also save time, and reduce the cramped hand, by printing address labels instead of hand writing all of them.
  5. Enlist others to decorate the tree.  Most of us enjoy this activity so ask for some help and reminisce about all the memories that the various ornaments evoke for you and your family.  NOTE:  Enlist those same people to help you un-decorate when it’s time.
  6. Assign cleaning tasks to other members of your household.  Each family member should also be responsible for clearing away any clutter they have created and that needs to be cleared before the guests arrive.
  7. Ask others to wash the dishes while you are baking, cooking and after the meals.  You want to sit and visit with everyone too!  Ask your guests to help by clearing the table, loading the dishwasher and drying the dishes.
  8. Have someone else do the laundry.  If you are particular about how some items are cleaned, there are still things that someone else can do like sorting, clearing out the dryer or folding clothes.
  9. Prepare the guest room.  Is the guest room free of clutter?  Is the bed made?  Are there clean towels available for your overnight guests?  Enlist others in your household by assigning tasks.
  10. Grocery shopping.  As much as you may plan ahead for everything, there will always be some last minute food items you will need from the grocery.   Consider using the shopping services that most large chains now offer—–have someone else pick out your items and all you will have to do is drive up and have them placed in your car.  Then send a family member to do that!

If you use some or all of these suggestions you will be freeing up more time for yourself which will lead to less stress and a more relaxed time with family and friends.  Of course, things might not be done exactly the way you would be doing them, but oh well, they will be done.

Happy Holidays!


Professional Organizer Finds Inspiration from Customers

September 4, 2015

KonMari MethodIt is so rewarding to Muffy and me to see our customers become inspired!  Of course, we like to take some credit for that, but this week two of our customers were inspired by a popular new book with a different approach to organizing.

Those of you who are familiar with our style of organizing know that we like to empty a space, sort through the contents and then decide what to keep, what belongs elsewhere, and what doesn’t belong at all.  A new book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kono presents a different approach that has transformed the lives of many.

Ms. Kondo suggests that “tidying is just a tool, not the final destination.  The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order…. by successfully concluding this once-in-a-lifetime task, you will gain the lifestyle you aspire to and enjoy a clean and orderly space of your choosing.”

By selecting one category at a time she advises to keep only items that fall into one of three categories:

  • currently in use
  • needed for a limited period of time
  • must be kept indefinitely

Having trouble deciding?  Then consider her overall theme:  Does the item bring you joy?  Going through each of the recommended categories may seem somewhat overwhelming, but it will allow you to see what you really own.

The first project is clothes.  Take all the clothes from everywhere in your home and put them into a pile.  This means everything!  Take out all of the clothes in your closets, drawers, hanging on the treadmill, in the mending pile, etc.  Be sure to include all of your coats, hats, gloves, and shoes.  Handle each piece and decide what you want to keep.  Is it currently in use? If so, then it will be kept.  Do you need it for a limited period of time—-for example, is it needed for a different season?  OK to keep.  What about items that must be kept indefinitely—a cocktail dress that you can still fit into?  Also OK to keep.  While going through each item, Kondo suggests keep only those items that will bring you joy.  I may like a particular blouse, but if I try it on and do not feel good (and joyful) wearing it, then it is being donated.

The next category is books.  So many of us like to keep shelves full of books that we have either read or intend to read some day.  The same technique applies:  put all of your books in one place and begin the process again.  And utilize the same criteria.  Are you currently reading the book?  Is it a book that you need while investigating something like your next vacation or gardening plans?  Is it something that you want to keep indefinitely like a photo book you made from a special vacation?  Again the overall theme is:  Does it bring you joy?  I have a lot of art books that I inherited, and like to keep for inspiration in the various creative outlets that I pursue.  However, I find that I dust them more often than I look at them.  Perhaps if there were fewer of them on my shelves, they would actually be viewed, so I will keep only those select few that I really enjoy.

Miscellany seems to cover (almost) everything else in your home: items in the kitchen, bathrooms, craft areas, CDs, etc that do not fit into the previous two categories.  By now you should have the system down pat, and can move forward about deciding on objects that “I might need someday!”  These first three categories are the easiest and you are probably inspired by seeing all of the major changes in your closets, cupboards, drawers and shelves.

Now it is time for the most difficult category: mementos.  Ms Kondo suggests that “by handling each sentimental item and deciding what to discard, you process your past.  If you just stow these things away in a drawer or cardboard box, before you realize it, your past will become a weight that holds you back and keeps you from living in the here and now.  To put your things in order means to put your past in order, too.  It’s like resetting your life and settling your accounts so that you can take the next step forward.”  I have one closet that holds my memorabilia—I refer to it as “my anxiety closet,”  because each time I open the door I have anxiety——because it is the most disorganized area of my home.  It always seems to be the last thing on my to-do list as I see all the layers of things I need to do, and then just walk away.  I jokingly say that this will be my retirement project.  When I do go through it, I think I will now have a different perspective.  Do the items bring me joy?  Am I holding on to items to give to my daughters someday?  Will they even want these items?  Or will they be stored in a box in their homes and rarely viewed again?

While organizing for others I find many, many organizing books, and I believe that the time spent reading these books (if they were even read at all) would have been better spent doing the actual organizing.  That said, upon reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up I believed the KonMari method could provide that motivation that so many seek.  This past week proved it!   Our customers did not follow the KonMari method to the letter, but kept the mantra of Does the item bring you joy? as they moved through their homes.  But beyond that, seeing the joy on our customers faces has inspired me to face some of the stuff that has been weighing me down.  There is already a large pile for donation…..

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this book,


Are Your Taxes Complete Yet?

April 14, 2015

dollar signBelieve it or not, the taxes are due tomorrow! We hope you have incorporated some of our tips throughout the year into your daily processes, all of which should have helped make it easier to gather the information for your tax return. With fresh memories of filing for 2014, you will know what worked for you this year, as well as what caused you the most headaches.

It’s not too late to start getting your tax documents in shape for next year. Here are a few tips which we find useful.

1) Create a tax folder for 2105 if you have not done so already. All tax forms you have received, or will receive in the next few weeks, should go into that file.

2) Collect all receipts for tax deductions you are allowed to take on your return. These would include both cash and physical donations to charitable organizations, receipts for medical items (if you qualify), and receipts for business related expenses such as mileage and supplies. Make sure you have received the tax form for your mortgage interest – a common deduction.

3) Gather investment statements which you will need to refer to for capital gains, interest, and puchases and sales which must be reported.

4) Gather your bank statements and confirm that you have received a 1099 form for any interest you received on those accounts.

5) Confirm you have received a W2 from your employer which reflects your earnings for the year.

6) Do you have students for whom you are paying college tuition? You should receive a tax form for that amount as well.

7) If you are retired and receive Social Security, have distributions from an IRA, penion or 401(k), be sure you have that information in the file.

8) Have a home office which you use for a deduction? Collect any relevant bills for that deduction so you are ready to pro-rate them on the return.

By having all of this information in the tax folder, when you begin to prepare the return, or take the information to a preparer, you will have everything you need all in one place. Review your tax forms to make sure they are complete, and call the providers if you are missing any. Being proactive will save you time, stress and money (fewer calls from the accountant and a reduced chance of missing a deduction)! If you set up this file now, you are even better equipped for the challenge when you file for 2015!

Thanks, for reading,

Muffy and JoEllen

PS This post was taken from a recent Monthly Tips Newsletter; follow the link to have them delivered directly to your in-box.

Storing Like with Like

March 9, 2015

snow sceneAnother snowy day in Northeast Ohio causes some doubt that Spring is almost here. But it really is March and it is good to know that things will be warming up soon. This month we will answer a question we frequently receive about storing like with like when deciding on homes for things. We will take this concept a bit further, and say:

“Store like things together close to where you will be using them.”

In the kitchen we suggest that you store all of your spices in one cupboard close to where you will be preparing your food. Additionnally, store your everyday dishes and utensils close to the dishwasher &/or the eating area. These suggestions may only save you a couple of steps here and there, but they really do add up; our goal is “…making life simple.” As with any rule, there are always exceptions, and this holds especially true if you have limited space in your kitchen. If you have a large appliance or cookware that is used only occassionally, there is no need to take up valuable space in your cupboards. These items can be stored in a nearby closet or on a shelf in the basement.

In the office we suggest that you store all the files and supplies that you use most frequently close to where you will be sitting to do your work. This can be with a desk-top system, or the more traditional file drawer. Conversely, those files and documents that you need to keep, but rarely refer to, should be stored further away. Past taxes and old investment papers can be put into envelopes or banker’s boxes and stored elsewhere .

We always say that organizing your time is just like organizing your stuff, and the concept of storing like with like holds true with time management as well. When planning your day, group similar activities in specific blocks of time. Instead of checking your email every time you think about it, set aside specific times of day to read and attend to the emails you receive; this will be less distracting. Have some telephone calls to make? The same holds true. When is your best time to be creative, or the time you know you will have a more difficult time concentrating? Group the various tasks on your to-do list accordingly.

With examples in these three areas, we hope you will more easily be able to find homes for those items you want to store. Have any other questions on organizing your home, office or time? Do not hesitate to ask by sending us an email:

Think Spring!!!
JoEllen & Muffy

PS This post was taken from a recent Monthly Tips Newsletter; follow the link to have them delivered directly to your in-box.



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