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.


Our Top Three Tips Will Help With ALL of Your Resolutions!

January 19, 2015

Happy New Year!

Thanks for visiting our blog. We hope that our advice has helped you lead a more organized lifestyle. All of this advice is based upon our years of experience and the Top Ten Tips that we offer on our website. Now you can use them to help you with ALL (at least several) of your New Year’s Resolutions!

According to an article in Time, the top three New Year’s Resolutions are:

  • Losing weight
  • Getting organized
  • Spending less money

If you have made one of these Resolutions, then read on….. We want to let you know how our favorite Top Ten Organizing Tips can help you with all three.

Our favorite tip is to Start Small. Don’t think of organizing the entire kitchen or office. Rather, select a drawer, shelf or cupboard, and organize one area at a time. By the same token, don’t suddenly start a strict diet that is a radical change from your current habits; rather, try eliminating one unhealthy culprit at a time. To spend less money, you could gradually reduce the number of fancy coffees you purchase each week.

Our tip to Sort and Toss is obviously relevant to the organizing process. Get rid of that which you no longer need or enjoy. If you have duplicate or unused tools in the kitchen or office and donate those items, you will have an easier time finding what you need the next time you need it. Do you love to cook and want to create more healthy meals? Then sort through your recipes and toss any that are not consistent with your plans. Want to spend less at the grocery store? Then keep a running list of what you need, and remember to take it with you to the grocery. This will avoid purchasing unnecessary items and also return trips that waste time and gas.

When you Assign Things A Proper Home you will know where to look for something the next time you need it. This will also help you eliminate clutter because items will have homes to go to. In the kitchen, it is a good idea to store your spices close to the area where you do meal preparation. For the office, keep those files that are on your priority list close to where you will be using them. One cause of weight gain is the tendency to graze and eat mindlessly between meals. By determining eating times, and snack times, you will have more control over what you consume. Spend less money=saving more money. Keep track of your checking, savings and investments with an easy for you to use filing/storage system.

See if you can use these tips for some of your other Resolutions like being more efficient at work, spending more time with family and/or exercising more.

Good luck with your goals for 2015.

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

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.

Organizing Books and Magazines

January 12, 2015

books & magsHad we not started Organizing 4 U, JoEllen and I would have loved to own a bookstore.  We love to read!  And like you, we have many books, newspapers and magazines and now on-line favorites.  Figuring out where to keep all of this reading material can be challenging.

When we enter a new home or office, we tend to look up in every room.  So many of us fail to utilize our vertical space.  Adding bookcases or hanging bookshelves on the wall is often an easy solution to easing the clutter.  Once books are on the shelves, they can be further organized by type of book(fiction versus business, autobiography vs. historical, etc.), alphabetically, or by size.  Some people are very particular about their sorting while others are just happy to have them off the floor!  Whatever works for you and your family is just fine.

When you have outgrown all of the bookcases and shelves, it is time to part with some books.  We know how hard this can be, but the reality is we will never read most of our saved books a second or third time.  So share them with others by passing them on!  Some outlets include; donating books to Goodwill, schools, the library or the annual CWRU book sale (call 216-368-2090),  or sell them to Half-Price Books.  You can also call our friend Rodger Williams of Crestview Books (614-208-2698), as he often buys books and resells them.

Collecting newpaper articles is a favorite pastime for lots of people.  If you do save articles to read later, be sure to tear them out and put them aside in a folder or file that is near your favorite reading place.  Do not save the whole section of the paper because your stack will become enormous in no time.  If you save lots of articles, it might be best to separate them by subject – recipes, books to read, gardening ideas,etc.  Then you will know right where to go when looking for new design ideas for the garden or a new recipe for dinner.  Portable File ToteJoEllen likes to use a portable file tote like the one pictured here.  She can then sit in a comfy chair, sort the articles she wants to save, and they will be easy to file away into a new home later.

The same concept holds true for magazines which seem to multiply in the family room.  Cutting out an article or two and recycling the magazine is an excellent way to keep up with the volume of mail which comes in.  A specific basket or magazine holder is also a great way to limit what you keep – when the basket is full, it is time to make room for the new ones and dispose of the old!

Try a few of these tricks as part of your spring clean-up efforts and we are sure you will find they help control the clutter and help you to find things when you need them.

Happy Organizing,

                                  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.

A New Way of Counting

January 5, 2015

staplesA friend of ours recently forwarded an article from the New York Times that we would like to share with you. Perhaps it will be an inspiration as you try to become more organized in 2015.

In his essay Let Me Count the Days, James Collins performs some mathematical computations and realizes that he “owned more staples than I could possibly is in my lifetime, or several of my lifetimes.” He goes on to say that “Nothing says mortality like the realization that you will live only long enough to use up 3.2 percent of your office supplies.”
This post is not about life expectancy, but rather a different perspective on the amount of anything that you own or are thinking of owning. What has come to your mind as you read this?
• Is it your supply of staples or other office supplies? How many do you actually use in a week/month/year? Is buying in bulk really going to be less expensive if you only use half of what you have purchased? Plus, the added cost of storing (and finding) the extras?
• How many un-read books are on your night stand and/or book shelf? Like, Mr. Collins, perhaps you should think about how many books you actually read a month, and then be more selective in your purchases or requests from the library.
• Magazines? How many subscriptions do you receive vs the number of magazines that you really read? Is there some thinning out that can take place?
• What about all the bags you have been saving for another use? Whether they are paper, plastic or gift bags, think about how much of a supply you really need to keep on hand. You know that there will always be more coming into your home.
• Do you shop at place like Costco or Sam’s Club? Buying in bulk will save you money, but will you be able to eat what you have purchased before the expiration date?
These examples could go on and on, but we think that you probably get the picture. Remember, the more things you have the more things you need to care for: to dust, to store, to read, to use….to find….. Is any of that causing you stress? Like Mr. Collins, take out your calculator and do some math.

We hope we have inspired you with this perspective.

Happy New Year!!!!

JoEllen and Muffy

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

Holiday Storage Tips

January 3, 2015

holiday storageHappy New Year and Happy Get Organized Month!

As the holidays unwind, it is time to think about putting away all the holiday decorations, wrapping supplies and any gifts you wish to store for next year. Here are a few things we have learned over the years that may help!

• Most plastic storage items go on sale right after Christmas, especially the red and green ones. Check the discount stores for wreath boxes, ornament boxes and regular storage tubs. The beauty of tubs is they stack so nicely and are easy to label. Be sure to label them so you know at a glance what is stored in each box.

• Wrapping paper containers are wonderful because you can store the rolls using vertical space. The long under-the-bed storage tubs are great for wrapping paper as well.

• Saving gift bags? Choose one large one, keep it open, and put all the other gift bags inside – this will save space and keep them all together for easier wrapping next year.

• Keeping a few mailing boxes and bubble wrap or peanuts? Decide on a storage space and keep these mailing items together, making the next package shipment a breeze!

• If you bought a few extra gifts which you did not use this season, choose a place to have a gift center where you can go at a moment’s notice for a simple hostess gift or birthday gift.

When you go shopping for storage items, be sure to measure the space before you buy. It is annoying to find the product does not fit the space after you have filled it with decorations! Try to estimate how many boxes you might need, and keep your receipts in case you have bought more items than the job requires. Don’t feel rushed to put away all your decorations, but make sure your tree isn’t still up in July!

For more ideas and inspiration, be sure to visit our Holiday Organizing board on Pinterest.

Happy Organizing,

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.


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