Personal Reflections of A Professional Organizer

September 18, 2017

All of my training and expertise as a professional organizer came to a head this summer after the unexpected passing of my mother.  She was my father’s caretaker, too, so the family went into crisis management at the same time we were supposed to be grieving.  Dad moved to assisted living and the house is almost emptied now, but it has taken so much effort and coordination.  While I do this for a living for others, it is so much harder when it is your own parent’s belongings.  Here are some tips I would like to share to make this easier for others…

1)  Have an action plan.  The first priority for us was moving my father to an assisted living apartment – we had to pick out what belongings he could take, what would fit, and hire a mover, all in the space of two weeks.  Then we determined a realistic time frame for what needed to happen next in order to move out of their 2,000 square foot home as soon as possible.

2)  Set up a process for reviewing items.  The first place we started was dividing all of the furniture between the family members and identifing what could be sold, and lastly what would be donated.  We put sticky notes with names on all of the furniture and artwork.  We determined what charities would be receiving items from the home and how we would get them delivered or picked up.  We identified what needs to be stored elsewhere for a period of time.  Staging for donations and sale items took place in the garage ( after we had done the sorting in there first!).  In our situation, we decided most of the clothing would be taken to Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity will pick up other household items.  Having this plan in place has been crucial.

3)  Get help!  When friends and relatives offer their assistance, take it!  Figure our small ways in which people can help you in this overwhelming process.  Even I, as a professional organizer who does this all the time, felt very overwhelmed and stressed out!  I asked a couple of neighbors to help out when I could not be at the house for service providers, and all of the grandchildren have helped out when they could.  I leaned on JoEllen for a lot of physical and emotional support in this process – she asked me the tough questions we ask our customers when making decisions!

4)  Start thinning out before you need to!  My mother intended to go through all of the memorabilia left by her parents, and that she had saved herself, but caring for my father left her exhausted.  I wish we had done some of the review together when we could have had a lot of fun doing it!  We suggest to our clients to always have donation bag and box going in your home.  When you walk by an item you rarely use, think about sharing it with others who might actually need it.  Starting to thin out before you have to move is always easier…Trust me, I now know from personal experience.

Organizing 4 U is entering its’ 15th year in business!!!  JoEllen and I want to thank all of our wonderful customers and supporters!


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


National Simplify Your Life Week

August 9, 2017

WOW it’s already August!  Are you wondering when those lazy days of summer are supposed to happen?  If you have not yet found them, this month we will give you some tips on (as our tag line suggests) …..making life simple.  The first week of August is National Simplify Your Life Week, and if you take this first week of the month to start the simplifying, pretty soon you will be learning new habits to continue on throughout the year, so your life will always be simplified.

Over the past 14 years, we have helped hundreds of individuals in their homes and businesses to make life simple.  All of these individuals have had a vision of what that simplified life would look like.  We suggest that you also create that picture in your mind, as you read our tips, for three areas that we have seen contribute to an unsimplified life.

First, and what most people think of when they hear about organizing,  is stuff.…all of our belongings that give us comfort, or at least that is what we believe.  Think about all those things and consider what items you do not need or use or love.  If you parted with some of those would your life be simpler?  If you had fewer clothes in the drawers would it be easier to find the item you really want to wear?  If there were fewer clothes in your closet would the process of deciding what to wear each day be less stressful?  If you had fewer books and/or knick-knacks on your shelves would it be easier for you to dust and care for them?  If you had fewer utensils in the kitchen drawers, would it be easier to find the one that you truly need?

Secondly, consider paper.  We do not yet have a paperless world, but you can reduce the amount of paper coming into your home by going to The National Do Not Mail List or Opt Out Prescreen.  To stop unwanted catalogs, go to Catalog Choice.  You will not see the effect immediately, but if you act now there will be a lot less in your mail box before the onslaught during the holiday shopping season.  Consider going paperless for your bills, and you will no longer need to file all those receipts that are probably never viewed again.  If you want to stay with a paper filing system, then we suggest that you keep the system as simple as possible.  For example, instead of having a file for each utility and credit card, create a file that is Paid Bills.  If you always file the receipt in the front or in the rear of the file, you will be able to find it easily if you actually need it again.

Finally, think of ways they your can simplify your time.  Is your To-Do list too long?  Think about what is really important in terms of your daily and weekly priorities, then schedule time on your calendar to get those most important things done.  Is there someone else in your office that can help you out on a project or some filing?  At home, consider enlisting other able bodied family members to help with meals, cleaning, laundry and yard work.  You might even consider hiring someone to help out when everything is just too overwhelming.  The reward will be having more time to spend doing more enjoyable things in life.

We hope these tips will help!  What are you going to do with all the time you have saved by living a more simplified life?

Enjoy these summer days,

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.

What To Do With Messy Co-Worker?

March 6, 2017


Your Office Coach, Marie G. McIntyre of Tribune News Service responded to a question about an individual with a messy office.  In Otherwise excellent co-worker is too messy appearing yesterday in The Cleveland Plain Dealer, there are actually two questions.

Responding to the first one: there are other options available rather than a group intervention with “Mark”….something that could actually do more harm than good (see second question in this article).  There could be many reasons that “Mark’s” office is messy: perhaps he is overwhelmed with work, perhaps no one ever taught him organizing skills, perhaps the company has not been clear on retention policies, etc.  The first step for the supervisor is to find the reason, and the next step would be to plan how to make improvements.

As Professional Organizers we have helped many individuals in similar situations.  One such person said “”I was chronically disorganized, and it had an adverse affect on my work. After spending a day with Organizing 4 U, I am much more productive, and I proudly leave the office every day with a clean desktop. No more piles!”.

Professional Organizers organize much more than closets.  I hope that “Mark’s” co-workers will be able to offer alternative solutions.

Thanks for reading,


It’s Almost Tax Time

February 14, 2017

tax-fileIt’s time to organize your paperwork for taxes. Do you have a separate file for this yet? If not, collect all of the tax forms which have arrived in the mail so far, and put them in one file. Check against last year’s file to see if you have received everything you need. Many institutions now put their forms on-line and you need to download them, so do review exactly what you have in hand. Put into this file your charitable donation receipts as well. Have a business with expenses? Be sure to include those and documentation on any other deductions you are permitted to take. Good prep work will make the tax season less stressful!

Muffy and JoEllen

2017 Will Be THE Year!

January 27, 2017


Can you feel it?  2017 has arrived and this will be the year that you will get yourself organized!!!!

If you are one of the thousands (millions?) of individuals who have made a New Year’s Resolution to GET ORGANIZED this year, we want to tell you that we are here to help.

What has held you back from your organizing goals in the past?

What tips and strategies will help you this year?

What are some resources that will keep you on the path to success?

Our New Year’s Resolution is to give you tips every month that will help you achieve your New Year’s Resolution to GET ORGANIZED.

The tips this month are based upon a question from one of our many readers.

So let us know your questions, and we will answer them in an upcoming newsletter.

We find that one of the things that holds people back from getting rid of items, is that they do not know what to do with those items once they have made the decision to no  longer keep them.  Here are several resources for you.  Each organization has a different mission, and they will also differ in the types of donations they will accept.  Many will have pick up services and/or drop off locations.  Follow the links to find out the best fit for you and the items you wish to donate.









Did you do a lot of shopping at Amazon this year?  Amazon has partnered with Goodwill Industries using your Amazon boxes.  Fill them with donatable items, print a free shipping label, then drop them off at a local UPS or Post Office and they will be shipped, for free, to a local Goodwill Industries center.

In addition to accepting books for the Friends of the Library, most libraries have a drop-off box to donate glasses that are no longer your current prescription.

Depending upon what you wish to donate, you can also consider local women’s shelters, churches, pre-schools, day-care centers, senior centers and nursing homes. If you wish to claim a tax deduction, then be sure to secure a receipt and save it in a file marked 2017 Taxes.

Sometimes, you may want to sell an item you no longer need, and most people think of ebay, and craigslist.  However, there is a time commitment involved and it is not always worth the effort.  As an alternative, consider consignment stores and other types of resale shops and on-line auctions where someone else will do the work.  Yes, they will take a commission, but you do not have to do anything but collect the proceeds.

Is that still too much of a hassle?  Then donate your items, collect a donation receipt and take a tax deduction, which we see is often higher than the payment you would receive.

Now that you have all of these resources, you can corral all of your items, put them in your car or schedule a pickup, and let those items find a new home.

What will help you get organized?  Send us your questions…..

We hope you have a Happy, Healthy and Organized New Year,

JoEllen & Muffy


To Keep Or Not To Keep?

January 19, 2017

“JoEllen & Muffy changed my life!”

Wow, I really like this article, and think it is an important read for anyone getting started on an organizing project in the New Year.  In Life Simplified: Expert Advice on Getting Organized, the author, Ann Trainum interviews Professional Organizer Laurie Martin of Simplicity Organizers, who succinctly shares her advice on areas in which we find many of our customers are stuck.

Laurie’s definition of clutter pretty much sums it up:

Clutter is anything that is unused or unloved, anything that exceeds your storage capacity, and anything that if tossed, can be easily and inexpensively replaced should the need arise.

This is just so simple!  Anytime you are working on an organizing project, and need to decide on what to keep or not to keep, just ask yourself these important questions :

  • Do I use this?  Remember, this is not the possibility of…… it is actually do you use it?
  • Do I love it?  This is not, “Am I keeping this because someone gave it to me and I would feel guilty if I parted with it.”  It is also not “because I paid good money for it.”
  • Do I have room to store it?  That’s pretty much what leads to most of the clutter I see.  No room to store it, or don’t know where to store it.  When this happens, it goes anywhere, and can never be found when needed again.
  • Can it be inexpensively replaced?  Or, does the cost of storing the stuff, actually cost more than replacing the stuff?  Or could you find it again easily on the internet?

Ponder these questions as you tackle that area that is bothering you the most.  Start small, and you will be inspired to do more!

We recently worked with someone as she moved into a new home.  We asked similar questions of her as she sorted through all the items she had paid to have someone move, and were then donated.  It completely changed her life, as she wrote to us:

Thank you again for the wonderful and tireless work you both put into helping me make my new home, “a home.” But not only that, you have helped me beyond words because I see an improvement in my physical and emotional health as well because my stress has significantly decreased and my motivation as significantly increased. I didn’t really realize how an unorganized space connected to our health until now. It truly was worth a million dollars and I wish I had it to give to you 🙂

As a result, I am looking forward to my future in that home and pursuit of my other personal goals.

Try the questions and let me know what works for you.

Thanks for reading,



Single or Multi Tasker?

October 3, 2016

paper pileAre you a multi-tasker?

Think you operate more efficiently this way?

Guess what…the research shows otherwise.

A University of Michigan study shows that people who multi-task decrease their productivity by 20-40% and are less efficient than those who focus on one project at a time.  And the time spent switching between the tasks actually makes the task more difficult.

So do yourself a favor, and try to focus on one thing at a time and monitor the results.  We bet you are more productive not trying to multi-task throughout your day.

Muffy & JoEllen