Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wishing you and yours a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING !

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday Cards - Start Now

It's not even Thanksgiving but already the stores are primed for Christmas.  Sales and Santa's are everywhere.

You can't get away from it. It's sad. Thanksgiving is over before it even gets here and commercialism has taken over.

It's hard to enjoy one holiday at a time when they all seem to run together. But this is the time to remember your family and friends and reach out to people, your friends and family, that you have neglected over the past year. It's not entirely your fault. We are inundated with so many obligations that we can barely keep up with all of the kids activities that friends sometimes go by the wayside.

So instead of sending Christmas cards where you barely sign your name to the card - write a short note that really means something.  Not a "form letter" that you send to every person in your address book. Write something special and meaningful to each person individually. A few sentences mean a lot.

Start now. A few cards every day so that you are not overwhelmed. Make it personal.

With email and texting, cards and real letters seem to have gone by the wayside. But getting a piece of real mail means something. Something special.

So start now - one card at a time. And before you know it you will be done.

Happy Holidays!

Organizational Consulting Services

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Organizing Your Events - When To Let Go

Special events - such as weddings, anniversaries, birthdays - are - special. And you want them to be perfect. And they should be. Even if they are bigger than your normal events and even if you are planning them yourselves and doing all of the work - either because you want to or for financial reasons.

But sometimes the added stress and chaos that follows is not worth the "savings" that you think you are getting.

If you are the "center of attention" - the bride, anniversary couple or birthday gal - it pays to let go. You probably don't want to - either because you are a perfectionist, need that control or you think you can do it less expensively.

But when things start going wrong - and they will - even if you planned every detail - you will start to experience a lot of stress and emotions that you never thought you were capable of.

And emotions lead to rash decisions or lashing out at everyone around you.

In organizing big events you can't do it all alone. You first need to have a team of people in place that can help you and that you can count on to handle the disasters that may occur. These people will need to be able to adjust and change gears quickly and not get flustered - because if everyone falls apart at the same time then disaster will strike.

And having everyone tell you that "everything will be o.k." - doesn't really help - especially when you are in an emotional crisis because the occasion you are planning is important to you.

So let go ..... be the center of attention and let someone else handle all of those details on your very important day. You will be glad you did.

Organizational Consulting Services

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hoarding - the Aftermath

Hoarding is a very serious and devastating situation. It is emotionally draining. For the Professional Organizers that work with Hoarding clients it is unlike what you see on the T.V. shows. It is much more personal and more devastating.

Sometimes clients come into your life and make an impact that you never expected. One such client of mine was a hoarder.  As with most hoarders Professional Organizers usually know to expect the worst. My client was a wonderful, highly educated woman with a problem. A problem that I always suspected would eventually lead to her death.

But - she was lucky. As I had anticipated a fire did break out in her home but she was pulled out of her house by some neighbors and she survived. Not without extensive physical damage. But she survived.

The fire did finally force her out of her home and she is now living in a nursing home where she is getting the treatment she deserves.

Not everyone is so lucky.

Hoarding is a serious problem.

Read some of the stories from the past:

Langley Collyer

He lived with his brother, Homer, who was blind and paralyzed, in a three story mansion in New York.

It was filled from floor to ceiling with newspapers, boxes, barrels, crates and 10 grand pianos.

On March 21, 1947, the New York police received a tip that there was a dead body in the house. They broke down the front door but couldn’t get in because of all of the stuff.

They climbed in through a second story window and found Homer, dead. He had died of a heart attack.

The house was a maze of nests & tunnels and was booby trapped. There were trip wires that would bring down debris on any intruders.

Workers cut through the roof and lifted out 136 tons of junk.

After 18 days they found the body of Langley Collyer who had been dead for weeks.

It appeared that he had been crawling through a tunnel to deliver dinner to his brother when he triggered one of his own booby traps and suffocated. Homer had then starved to death.

What was salvageable from the tons of junk that had been collected, sold for less than $ 2,000 at auction. The house, condemned as a health and fire hazard, was razed. Today it is a parking lot.

Grey Gardens

In the early 1970s, two women related to Jackie Onassis were the subjects of the critically acclaimed documentary, Grey Gardens, about eccentric behavior. The women, Edith Bouvier Beale and her mother, Edith Ewing Bouvier, were former New York socialites who spent their days holed up in a decrepit East Hampton mansion.

When the Suffolk County Board of Health raided their house, they found piles upon piles of garbage amid human and animal waste. It was said that only three of the mansion’s 28 rooms were used, while the others were occupied by hundreds of cats, possums and raccoons.

When word of the deplorable conditions got o Jackie-O, she and her then-husband Aristotle Onassis paid $32,000 to clean the house, install a new furnace and plumbing system, and cart away 1,000 bags of garbage.

Organizational Consulting Services

Monday, November 4, 2013

Thanksgiving is getting closer....start getting ready now!

The decorations and cooking supplies are already out in the stores. The holidays will be starting soon.  There are a lot of things to think about and a lot of things to get organized. 

Here's an article that was written some years back - it's time to read it again:


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