Saturday, November 21, 2009


One key to good organization is to have all of your papers, documents, receipts and everything else filed and filed correctly.

How to set up a filing system is dependant on if you are setting one up for your own personal records, your home office or an offsite business. It varies on how complex you need or want it to be.

A filing system has to work for you and your personality. If it’s too complicated you will not use it or will not use it efficiently.

Start by making a list of things that you want / need to keep (filed).

One system is to set up and group things by categories.

For example: Household Expenses
* Gas
* Electric
* Water
* Cable
* Phone - home
* Phone – cell

Household Expenses would be the “main” category and all of the bills that fall under Household Expenses would be “sub-categories”. Use the Pendaflex tab for “Household Expenses” and the other categories would have manila folders.

Or you can file everything Alphabetically.

For example:
* Cable
* Electric
* Gas
* Phone – cell
* Phone - home
* Water

Everything would have its own Pendaflex file.

When working with clients there is no “one size fits all” answer. It all depends on how complex you want to get, how much information you have and how you are going to use that information.

Some other examples of categories are:

* Car
* House
* Life


Medical (you can break this down by person or just by medical / dental)

* General Information
* Report Cards
* Awards

Mortgage Information
* Monthly payment
* Taxes

Major Appliances
* Owners manual
* Expenses

Credit Cards
* Card information
* Bills

For Business:

Depending on the size of your business and if it’s home based or if you have an office outside of your home, there are a number of ways that you can organize your files.

If you have a fairly good sized business you could set up one drawer just for your clients and another drawer for your vendors. They would be filed alphabetically, with all invoices and payments in the appropriate files.

If you have a smaller client base that doesn’t take up an entire drawer or filing cabinet, you can create a main “category” called “clients” and have a manila folder for each client (with information about that client, including all invoices and copies of payments received).

Other categories:

Affiliations (business & networking groups)
Business entertainment
Business Forms
Computer hardware
Computer software
Marketing expenses
Mileage expenses

If you have employees, you will need to set up separate employee files for each employee. Having employees also creates another set of problems and requirements for your filing system. There are federal guidelines you have to follow and you will also need to limit access to employee files.

A good filing system is one that works for you and one that you will use. Spend some time thinking about how you will use your filing system and come up with a list of categories that you think you will need. Look over the amount of information that you have for each category and decide if you really need that category (based on the amount of information that category will hold).

You can create too many categories that you will never use….or….you might have too much information in a certain category that actually needs to be broken down further.

By first taking the time to look over how you’ve captured the information in the past and how much information you actually need, you can come up with a solution that works for you.

Organizational Consulting Services

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


It’s getting cold outside and with that comes snow !

So – are you prepared ?

Now, before you really need it, is the time to stock your car with winter essentials.

In your backseat:
* Snow brush
* Ice scraper (or two – various sizes)
* Blanket
* Gloves (keep extra’s in your car)
* Hat
* Scarf

In your glove compartment:

* Paper
* Pen
* Matches (in something waterproof)
* Candle (in a tin) – this can be used if your flashlight doesn’t work or for extra heat
* Tissues
* Hand wipes
* Snacks (if you are stuck at an accident for a long time….or if you have kids)
* Water
* Cell Phone Car Charger
* Flashlight (make sure the batteries are good – or get a windup one)

In your trunk:

* Salt or something to throw under your tires if you get stuck
* Extra Windshield Fluid
* Extra Antifreeze
* Spare Tire
* Shovel
* Jumper Cables
* First Aid Kit (basic)
* Towel (this can also be used as an extra blanket)
* Rope
* Bungee Cords
* Duct Tape (so many uses!)
* Tire Gauge
* Tire Repair kit
* Road Flares
* Fire Extinguisher (small one)
* Plastic Garbage Bags

Being prepared is always the best defense. Now relax and embrace the weather.

Organizational Consulting Services

Friday, November 13, 2009


There are a million different ways that you can be organized and more productive. Below are just a few. Not all of these tips will work for “you”. Each person has to find what works for “them” and what changes can enhance “their” life.

A Professional Organizer listens to you and gives you advice that is very specific for how you function. What works for one client doesn’t necessarily work for another.

So take what you can and try it for a while….. and see if it can make your life run smoother.

When are you most productive?:
One of the first things that a Professional Organizer will do is ask you about your work habits and go over your daily routine. One of the things they will learn from this is “when do you function your best?”.

If you are a morning person, that’s when you want to do most of your work. If afternoons work better for you then schedule most of your work in the afternoon. By scheduling your work around your most “productive” time you will obviously accomplish a lot more. Sounds simple, yet most people don’t follow this method.

Trying to start your day with a huge workload when you are definitely not a morning person will just make you miserable and you won’t get everything done anyway. By simply rearranging your day to best take advantage of your “optimum” work time you will not only accomplish your tasks but you will also be much happier!

Everything has a place:

Being organized means that everything has a place and everything has a function. Once you have established a place for everything you must then get into the habit of keeping it organized. Not an easy change for a lot of people. It takes weeks to change a habit.

Start with one thing and once it becomes second nature work on changing another habit. For example: designate a specific place for your purse, briefcase, keys, mail…

By having a designated spot for these items you will always know where they are and will always able to find them. No more wasted time searching for things.

Just fifteen (15) minutes a day:
Set aside just fifteen (15) minutes a day to clean / straighten up / organize one area in your home. It may not seem like a lot of time but if you do it every day you will see a dramatic change in your life. Set a timer so that you don’t need to be checking your watch every few minutes.

By setting aside just fifteen (15) minutes a day you will cut your cleaning / straightening up / organizing time significantly. Instead of dreading spending almost two (2) hours cleaning your house on a Saturday you might have more time to spend with your family doing something fun.

Try mopping the floors on Monday, dusting on Tuesday, vacuuming on Wednesday…and so on…. Whatever works for you.

In your office you can spend Monday paying bills, Tuesday updating your spreadsheets, Wednesday filing……

There are a lot of uses for those fifteen (15) minutes…..and once you get in the habit of using your time efficiently you will have more time for the things you like to do.

Efficient use of time:
With technology taking over we all seem to be tied to our computer, emails, phones…. Whenever we hear that “you got mail” sound we all jump to check our email or check voicemail….. But this is really not an efficient use of our time. If you stop what you are doing every time you get an email the project that you are working on gets behind. Then you have to remember where you left off on your project and get back up to speed. It wastes time.

Set aside blocks of time during the day when you read all of your email or check your voicemail messages. (Handling email efficiently is another topic).

Plan your outings:
With gas prices going up and the economy going down we need to look at the way we manage our time and our car usage. By planning your day and planning your outings you can save time and money. Instead of running up to the store to get milk in the morning and then running up to the store again later to get school supplies for your kids and then again later to go to your exercise class plan one car trip and do all of your errands at the same time.

The key is planning ahead. By jumping in your car every time you need something you are not only spending money on gas but also on the wear and tear of your car and the biggest part… are wasting your precious time. And if you have a family you are pulled in enough directions already and time is something you don’t have a lot of.

Plan ahead and save time and money.

Plan your meals:
Everyone knows that you never, ever go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. We’ve all done it. But what happens? We buy things we normally wouldn’t and don’t really need (both economically and on our waistline). By planning out your meals for the week ahead of time and having a list when you go to the grocery store you will save money. Make that list and stick to it.

Plan your organizing projects:
You’ve been inspired and now you want to organize your entire house in one day. There are dozens of projects that you have been ignoring and you want them all done at once. Well, that’s a nice thought, but not very practical.

Your house / office didn’t get cluttered and out of control in one day …so it’s going to take more than one day to get your clutter under control. You’ve wanted to paint the living room and dining room for the last few years and put all of your photos from the past ten years into albums and re-landscape the yard.

But unless you’ve taken a leave of absence from your job to get it all done or hired people to do it for you it’s going to take time. And if you try to do it all at once….you are going to be very tired and will probably never want to do it again.

Don’t over-do things. Start simply. Make a list of all the things you want to do. Then pick one project to start with. Get that done and feel proud of yourself. Take a rest before tackling another project.

Soon all of the projects will be checked off of your list.

If you are at the store and you have the sudden urge to buy something…force yourself to stop and ask yourself “do you really need this?”. Is there a place for this in my home?

For a lot of people shopping is therapy. It’s psychological. It makes you feel better. It’s also how some people get caught up in the “clutter cycle”.

If you don’t have a place for the item or if you already have a blender, do you really need another one? Yes, I know it makes great smoothies…but can’t your regular blender do that ?

Make a habit of “one in – one out”. You buy an item, you get rid of an item. You don’t need two blenders or three mixers or ten black dresses. Replace things when need but don’t buy things you don’t really need.

Remember, when you donate something be sure to log it into your donation spreadsheet. That way you can deduct it from your taxes.

Children and toys:
When your kids are small so are the toys. And they are usually everywhere. Your house can be organized even when you have children. Start by getting some containers for the toys. Have one box for books, one box for dolls & accessories, one box for cars & trucks, one box for puzzles….and so on.

When the children are as young as two you can start by having them help you put away their toys at the end of the day (or at the end of a play period). No, they are not too young. Believe me, if you start them young it will become a habit and your house will be clutter free. Two year olds might take a bit longer to put away their toys so you need to allow enough time for them to do it.

If you are of the mindset that it takes too long or you don’t have time for them to do it…and you don’t do it for them….toys will take over your house. And your children will learn that clutter is “normal and acceptable”.

Help your children develop good habits at an early age.

Children and mornings:

It seems that mornings are always chaotic. The kids oversleep and they can’t find their homework. They are late for the bus and they don’t have time to make their lunch.

Sound typical? Children do not understand (they choose not to) that if they go to bed at a decent hour they won’t be tired in the morning and they will wake up on time. They will have plenty of time for breakfast and time to make their lunch and time to find their homework. But that doesn’t always happen.

Figure out how long it takes your child to get up, dressed and ready for school and add 15 minutes to that time. Set their alarm (make sure it’s really loud!).

The night before have them make and pack their lunches. Don’t wait until morning. That’s just added stress for you. Even if the children are too young to make their own lunches include them in the decisions and reinforce good nutritional choices. If you only offer them food that is nutritious they will eat it. They won’t let themselves starve.

After their homework is done at night have them immediately put it into their backpack. That way they will always know where it is. Make it a habit. Ask them if their homework is done and if it’s been put into their backpack. By reinforcing this over and over again it will become a habit for them.

Have them set the table for breakfast before they go to bed. That way it’s one less thing to do in the morning.

By getting as much done the night before as you can, your mornings will be a bit more calm.

Being organized is a way of life. Start with small steps. Make it a habit.

Organizational Consulting Services

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Yes, “Organized“, “Stress Free” and “Thanksgiving” can be used in the same sentence.

It all starts with the word “organized”. Don’t let it scare you. Embrace it. By being organized and planning ahead you can actually enjoy a holiday.

Start by deciding on what you want your holiday to be like. Do you really want to serve a sit down dinner for twenty (20) people? Or would a buffet be acceptable for you? Would it be acceptable for your “family”?

The pressure of trying to please everyone, especially parents and doing things “exactly” like when you were little and everything was perfect is how the “stress” starts.

It’s your house and your dinner party. You can start new traditions. I didn’t say that it would be easy or that you wouldn’t get some flack, but all “traditions” started somewhere. Make your own. You deserve some happiness.

If you really want a fancy sit down dinner party but twenty (20) people is too much for you to handle then cut the guest list down.

If you really want all twenty (20) people there then maybe you should consider a buffet. It’s much easier and your family will eventually come to terms with the fact that maybe you aren’t serving a formal sit down dinner, but the food is just as good.

You can make Thanksgiving as simple or as complicated as you want….it all depends on how organized you are willing to be.

A good way to keep the stress levels down is to divide and conquer.

Enlist your family for help. Don’t take “no” for an answer. This is your holiday too and you have a right to enjoy it.

And we all know that old saying “if Mom isn’t happy, no one is happy”.

Start at least two (2) or three (3) weeks before Thanksgiving.

Decide on the type of gathering (formal or informal), the size of the guest list and the menu.

Don’t attempt to make something new for dinner or try out a new dessert that day. It could turn out to be a disaster and that would cause you more stress. If you really want to try a new dish….test it out prior to Thanksgiving.

Menu: Do you really want to serve cranberry relish and sweet potato’s even if you don’t like them and only serve them because “they are always served at Thanksgiving”?

Make up your own menu (yes, it is radical). Serve something different. Serve something you like!

If you are having a small Thanksgiving dinner don’t feel obligated to serve Turkey. I know, blasphemy! Last year I made stuffed Cornish Hen. It was wonderful and just as delicious as turkey. You can also stuff a small chicken or even a duck! Or be really different and have Ham! The possibilities are endless.

Start new traditions! It’s not easy to buck the system but once you make up your mind that you deserve to be happy and stress free on a Holiday you will wonder why you waited so long.

Remember, the whole point of a Holiday is family and friends and spending “quality” time together. Everything does not have to be perfect. Be thankful for what you have and not for what you don’t.

A great piece of advice: don’t attempt to clean your oven Thanksgiving morning before you put in the turkey. I did that once, years ago. I then found out that after the oven is cleaned it needs to cool down and the oven will stay locked for another hour or so after it’s done. And you can’t open it! It certainly put a dent into my dinner timetable!

By starting early and making lists and getting as much done ahead of time as possible you will avoid a lot of stress.

Once you have your menu planned work backwards and make up a timetable to what needs to be done. For example: if you want your dinner to be served at 6 p.m., what time do you have to put the turkey into the oven? What time do the potato’s and vegetables need to be started? Just make a list and put it on your refrigerator door so that you don’t have to second guess yourself and aren’t panicking at the last minute.

When your family or guests start to arrive your mind and attention will be elsewhere….so a list can help you stay on track. Don’t leave anything to chance.

A few days before Thanksgiving:
* Shop for all of the essentials, including as much of the food as can be purchased ahead of time
* Make sure that you have enough spices and things that you will need for the food (and rarely buy)
* Do any of the baking or make any desserts that can be made ahead of time
* Thaw the turkey (the size will determine how many days it takes to thaw in the refrigerator)
* Buy the wine or any beverages

The day before Thanksgiving:
* Buy any last minute items at the grocery store
* Chop anything that can be chopped ahead of time (vegetables, bread for stuff…but do not stuff the turkey ahead of time) and put them in plastic bags so that you will be all ready to go the next day
* Make sure you have enough ice
* Prepare any of the food items that can be made ahead of time
* Make your family aware of exactly what you need them to help you with on Thanksgiving.
* Having assigned tasks for your kids and spouse ahead of time takes away some of the stress of what’s expected of them the next day.

The night before Thanksgiving:
* Set the table and get out all of your platters and serving dishes.
* Make sure that you have enough dishes and silverware. If you don’t, now is the time to call one of your guests and ask to borrow something. Don’t wait until the last minute to find out that you broke the gravy boat last Thanksgiving and never replaced it.

When I entertain I love to use all of my special platters and dishes. I love to fuss over my family and I love to set a very special table. I don’t consider it extra work or a hardship or stressful. It’s my way of telling my family and friends just how special they are.

But again…..the Holiday and family and friends are what’s important….not the china or the food. So if you aren’t the type of person to pull off a sit down dinner with all the decorations don’t beat yourself up. There are only so many Martha Stewarts around. And she has a staff to help her!

Thanksgiving Day:
* Wake up early so that you can have some “you” time to have coffee and relax before
the day starts (it will get stressful enough later, so the morning might be the
only time you have)
* Read over your lists and timetable
* Gather all of your food and cooking utensils, pots and pans ....
* Measure out everything that you can ahead of time and set it aside
* Follow your time table and start making the food according to the schedule
* Once the food comes out of the oven let it rest a while (you can cover it with
* Start cutting the meat and plating the food
* Have family members start their assigned tasks (setting out and serving food,
pouring the drinks…)

ENJOY your meal…… sit and talk…..

After the meal:

Have a plan in place to clear the table. Since I always make a ton of extra food so that my guests can take home leftovers I start with portioning the leftovers into plastic containers and putting each family’s containers into a plastic bag and setting it near the door so that they don’t forget them.

Once I have the leftovers divided up and mine put away in the refrigerator and freezer I then start to collect the rest of the dishes and put them into the dishwasher. I don’t start the dishwasher until after they leave so that we won’t be bothered with the noise.

Again, this is where your family members can jump in and help clear and stack dishes. It makes quick work of things when you have other people help.

I need to have as many things cleared up and put away as possible before I start serving dessert. This also gives everyone time to rest and relax before they start eating again.

Some people like to leave the dishes and the mess until the next day. And sometimes I wish I could too, but its worse the next day when you get up and walk into a mess. I’d rather get it done and over with.

Make quick work of it (or as much as will fit into the dishwasher) and then sit and relax and spend time with your family.

Remember, a Holiday is supposed to be enjoyable. If it’s not, figure out why it isn’t and change it. Skip the big complicated meal, the fancy desserts and the good china and make it as simple as you are able to handle.

Start your own tradition….and make it about family!

Happy Holiday !

Organizational Consulting Services