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My Happiness Project: When Passion Meets Purpose

birthday boxesEvery January,  Professional Organizers around the globe are paying tribute to GO Month, (Get Organized month) by participating in some group effort to organize a non-profit organization of their choice.

GO Month is a national initiative in January created by the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) to educate individuals and businesses about the benefits of organization. We volunteer our time to make a difference. Organizations love having us and we love doing it. It’s a win-win.  Many of us work as sole proprietors, so this is not only a great opportunity to demonstrate our expertise but to work together as a team. 

Did you know that in 2011,  Mayor Bloomberg issued a Proclamation, officially declaring January as GO Month in NYC?  To date, we continue to make a positive impact on people, one charitable organization at a time.

This year, I was inspired by the Birthday Wishes of Long Island. This organization provides complete birthday parties for homeless children, including paper goods, favors, and gift for the birthday child (all delivered one large gift-wrapped box).  Servicing over 185 shelters, they believe that all children, regardless of their living situation, should celebrate their birthdays joyfully, surrounded by family, friends, and others who care.

This “birthday in a box” concept was so endearing,  I jumped on the opportunity to help manage their toys, gift wrap, party supplies, miscellaneous donations, and systematize inventory and birthday party packing.  What a happy project!  You know you’re in the right career when you can do what you love to do and work pro bono.

When purpose fulfills a passion, there is no amount of money to validate it. This kind of value is immeasurable.

Call to action.  POLI to the rescue. As project manager, I gathered the Professional Organizers of Long Island and my peeps were on board.  Scheduled two days and two teams and our GO month project was on its way.

As Professional Organizers, we all have different techniques and approaches to organizing, yet interestingly enough, once all together we move in a very synergetic way.  We met our goals and transformed the space in only 2 days.  Each and every one of us got immersed in our specific task with both intensity and laughter.  We had the best time!

We love what we do and these GO projects continue to validate that we are in the right profession.  But even more so, when the organization is so heartfelt and special, it is ever more gratifying to help.  Our hearts were filled with utter joy and happiness while sorting the minutia of party components in quantities beyond comprehension.

Job well done with a great team effort.  Happiness personified 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Life Savers: Vice or Virtue?

lifesavers_optLet’s face it, life can be stressful.  We may all have “stuff” to deal with, but we all have very different coping strategies to keep us afloat.

Honestly, I’m not counting your problems, I have my own, thank you. I wanted to share some of my life savers, hoping you’ll share yours.  I like to think that we all can learn and grow from each other.

For me, it’s all about discipline. Practicing this virtue can change a day’s outcome. Here’s some suggestions that have worked for me and may work for you;

  • Work.  Immersing yourself into work keeps your mind engaged and is a great distraction from personal distress.
  • Organizing.  Cleaning out a closet or drawer can be very therapeutic. When your big picture life feels out of control, reclaiming control over small spaces and things can be very empowering. Organizing is very liberating.
  • Exercise.  Whether it be the gym, meditation, Yoga, Pilates, or any physical activity, exercise is an imperative practice to relieve stress.  Life-balance requires it.
  • Solitude. Know when you need to impose a pause. Sometimes we just need to be alone and regroup. Stopping to take a “time out” can be the best medicine. There is peace in solitude. When we are alone with our thoughts, it’s honest, no pretense.  Embrace the quiet.  It’s a perfect setting to let go.
  • Relationships.  This is a biggie for me. Whether it’s a spouse, a sibling, a best friend, an accountability partner, or a professional expert, talking it out always helps.  Communicating may unburden you.
  • Writing. For me, this is a great source of comfort.  I’ve always been a pen to paper kind of gal, so jotting down thoughts is a very natural way to unload, both publicly and privately.
  • Vacation.  If getting away is a viable option, take it.  Relaxation and leisure time allows you to step away and detach from the overwhelm.  Breathe.  Reboot. Perhaps clarify.
  • Unplug.  Keeping up with social media can be interruptive and can rob you of the down time you may really need.

These are the positive strategies. Unfortunately too often when the “going gets tough, the tough get going” and default to guilty pleasures and indulge in their vices.

We are not perfect.  We are human.  When we reach overwhelm, we are in danger of losing our way. We cave into impulses, urges and desires.

Some of us resort to shopping, raiding the fridge, binging on sweets, or cracking open the bottle to unwind.  If these indulgences are occasional and not addictive, it’s what I call,  the “harmless”  vices we sometimes need. Seriously, who doesn’t love a Nestle’s crunch bar now and then?  Go harmless, not harmful.

So what saves you from unraveling? What are your “go to” life savers? Vice or virtue?

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Reflections of a Move

P7040047-300x225_optDon’t let anyone convince you otherwise, Moving is not fun.  For those of you who are about to experience a “move, ” it is undeniably a stressful process. I have proof.  Today, I share with you excerpts from my diary of my personal move three years ago.

FYI, as a Professional Organizer, the task was no less arduous. I don’t just talk the talk, I actually walked the walk.  I know my perspective will resonate with so many who have survived Moving Day and my lessons learned will surely be helpful. To read more entries, go to Home page and click About and click on Diary of a Move.


Day 30: (July 5, 2010) All this planning and organizing, and anticipating…Moving Day was finally here!  Two trucks, six men, and my family, all ready to start the marathon.  I was directing traffic at first, but within minutes, the men were dispersed all around the house, and all you could hear was the cacophony of shrink wrapping, boxes being assembled, and shouting commands from the head supervisor.  I thought I was in control, lol.

Things were happening so fast, I was amazed how quickly the men were prepping the furniture, dismantling my piano, building boxes in record speed, and loading the truck.  It was quite impressive, yet upsetting to see an entire home deconstruct. Watching my huge armoires and dressers come down the steps required all six men, and frankly, I needed to look away.  It seemed that everything that I had boxed and carefully labeled were being randomly loaded onto the truck, based upon the moving men’s organization of the interior of the truck .  Apparently, they had an agenda and it clearly wasn’t in sync with my plan.  I was getting increasingly anxious about the potential disorder of locating and unpacking my boxes.

When the trucks were finally loaded, off we went, and although I was feeling stressed, I was eager to get to the other side to begin organizing.

When the trucks were unloading, I was losing the control I thought I could maintain.  The wardrobe boxes were monopolizing the garage and the smaller boxes were getting lost in the mix.  The moving men’s goal was to deliver, unpack only things they wrapped, re-assemble the furniture and be done. My dot system was only working if I happen to be at the truck when they were unloading it.  I thought about posting signs over the doors of the rooms with the name and colored dots, but was beginning to realize the men just wanted to get the boxes off the truck and out-of-the-way, and move in the big pieces of furniture. Unfortunately, I was so busy surveying the rooms and trying to track my boxes, and as soon as I turned my head, boxes were being dropped off in the wrong rooms.

The boxes were coming off the truck so rapidly, it was difficult to make quick decisions. I ended up using the lowest level for most of the smaller boxes to be dealt with later. I was getting overwhelmed watching all the boxes that I had packed during a passage of time, all invading my space at the same time! The unloading on this end was hard to manage.  Everyone was asking me where everything went because, I knew.  I was in charge.  I planned and organized it all, but it was impossible to micro-manage it. When several lampshades were carried in without their corresponding bases, heavy mirrors and artwork arriving quicker than I could direct, I was losing it. I had realized for the very first time that I had to let go of perfection.  Reality had smacked me in the face, there was no such thing as the “perfect” move.

At the end of the day, the move went into overtime and the men were getting cranky.  It was the hottest day of the summer, and obviously with all doors open, it was hot as hell.  It didn’t help that I changed locations of furniture after they had already placed them, but hey…I was allowed to change my mind! Wasn’t it my prerogative? Don’t get me wrong, the moving company did a stellar job, but all moves are hectic and challenging.

When we eventually shut the doors in our new house, we were beyond exhausted.  Our legs felt like lead, and it was an effort to talk. The only thing I needed to do was make my bed.  I had moved my toiletries and personal items earlier, so it was awesome that I could easily access what I needed for first night’s sleep. The bed was what I needed.  Slept like a baby.

 Weeks later…

(July 23, 2010) After all is said and done, I’m now on the other side of the move, and feeling pretty settled.  To be quite honest, I am shockingly comfortable.  It is astounding to me that after, what seems to be a lifetime in one home, a new one can supersede the memory.  Surrounded by all my stuff, despite a new backdrop, it still feels like my home.  The stuff that mattered I took with me and the treasured memories of my home, I carry in my heart forever.

I realize now that the house was just a shell, and although my footprints were deeply rooted while I lived there, when we moved… so did our souls.  Now in my new home, everywhere I look, it’s familiar and in some cases, it’s even more cozy.  I am loving seeing and appreciating my old treasures in new places.  It kind of feels like decorating for the first time, yet I’m just re-circulating the favorites all around the new space.  If you are creative, re-purposing can be fun.  The creative juices are flowing and inspiring me to look at things I’ve had for over 30 years with a keener objective eye.

What a great opportunity to re-organize the things I’ve neglected, chosen to ignore, nor had the time to sort through the years.  Change can be scary, but sometimes it is good.

New chapter.  Time to turn the page.

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Mess and Stress Can Weigh Heavy: Shed the Clutter, Shed the Pounds

scaleLike the chicken and the egg dilemma, it’s difficult to determine what came first; the mess or the stress. Are you so stressed and time-challenged that you create the mess? Or is it that your natural messy style causes you to be in a constant state of stress?

The triple threat is that all too often mess and stress can exacerbate bad eating behavior. Research has shown that there is a strong connection between stress and over-eating. Each of us handle stress in a different manner and in order to cope, some of us resort to emotional eating. Food is commonly viewed as a comfort for combatting loneliness, depression, and a whole hosts of other emotional pain syndromes.

Recently, I have been witness to a fascinating discovery with regard to organizing and diet. Clearing and cleaning one’s spaces can have a significantly positive impact on a person’s physical state. Just like dieting, organizing can give you back the control you might have surrendered.  Both processes emit great results and provide huge measures of accomplishment.  The brain wakes up, will power is revitalized and ignites productive behavior.  This kind of “heathy thinking” spills into healthy eating.

So start simple and try this.  Clean out just one drawer and begin to toss some junk mail or unread magazines lying around.  Take a good look around and see if you can clear some more clutter you never noticed before. Baby steps. Get to a point that you feel you accomplished something and you feel good about it.  Give yourself a pat on the back. Maybe you will get bit by the bug and that sense of pride will fuel you to continue.  You might feel encouraged to lean out those paper files or get the courage to attack the closets!  Who knows?

One thing is for certain, shedding the clutter can often shed the pounds. It’s astonishing to see both the spatial transformation and the weight loss. I’ve noticed that once your spaces feel lighter, YOU will feel lighter as well.  Shedding the clutter will make you feel mentally unencumbered and that can have a powerful influence on the mind/body connection.

Are you ready for the ultimate diet? Organize. Don’t be surprised that it will re-shape your life… and your body too!

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Where Are Grandma’s Recipes? Legacies Lost?

cooking prep_optThe real truth is that my grandmother never followed a designated recipe when she cooked. Devoid of any particular method, she purely cooked by taste alone.  If something was too tart, she would simply add a little more sugar to cut the flavor; if something was too sweet, she would add salt or vinegar.  She had pot luck remedies to make everything taste good.  In fact, there was no respect to measuring either. If you asked her for instructions, it would go something like this; take a “pinch” of salt, a “dash” of sugar,” or a “handful” of any other additional ingredient needed.

Aside from the fact that few people had her “petite” hands, no one in the family could ever replicate her special delicacies.  Who could accurately measure a “pinch” or a “dash?” As a European immigrant, she was old world and old school, and never had time nor the inclination to share her unorthodox techniques.  So sadly, when she eventually passed, those special culinary secrets died along with her too.

Regretfully, her children (my Mom and her 3 sisters) never wrote anything down, so all we have now are just the savory memories. We all especially miss her kufteles, a mysterious cold chopmeat patty, and her kreut strudel, some kind of garlic and cabbage treat that we all fought over.  I’m saddened about the legacies lost, a missed opportunity to pass on to the next generation. Of course, we can always try to hunt them down through a myriad of cookbooks, but I’m confident that our family favorites surely won’t be there. Or we could google a close facsimile, but even if a mouth-watering, delectable photograph pops up,  I know it won’t be grandma’s version.

Like photos, recipes bridge generations together and help tell our life stories. The sense of smell is very powerful, and they act as strong triggers to rekindle moments.  Close your eyes, and I bet you can recall a pleasant childhood memory of a family dinner and connect it with a particular scent or favorite food.  A kitchen filled with familiar aromas can be very comforting. It is the very heart of our home.  So if you are a foodie, and love your mom, grandma, aunt’s, or any family member’s special recipes, take the time to document the classics.  Organize your family recipes so that the savory memories can endure.  Write it down somewhere so you can retrieve it. Or better yet, teach your children how to cook, engage them by involving them in the process.

My beloved mother-in-law (who has since passed) was famous for her homemade gefilte fish, her signature dish.  Having only sons, her old-fashion values excluded them from the kitchen so they never paid much attention to how long she labored in this process. As daughter-in-laws, we should have.  One time, we did ask her to write it down, but it was written in the same obscure and vague way that my grandmother described, so we laughed and let it go. It was something we grew to expect at every holiday dinner and delighted in its delicious flavor.  Moreover, we were thrilled that we didn’t have to make it . Years later, when we started making our own holiday dinners, we all yearned for the revered gefilte fish. But it was too late.  Her Alzheimer’s disease had robbed her of memory to even recall who we were, albeit her favorite recipe. Now, when a holiday comes around, it pains us that we must resolve to buy gefilte fish in bottle. Shame on us.

I have a friend Candi, who is as passionate about cooking, as I am about organizing. She has an active blog; cookingwithcandi, where she shares “tried and true” recipes with friends, family, and avid followers. One of the reasons she decided to launch this site was because she wanted a place for her daughters to glean all her culinary artistry in one organized place, one stop shop, forever!  Kudos to her…now her recipes can be passed down from generation to generation for all to enjoy. Candi’s post are timely for each season, holiday, and all the days in between.  She inspire her readers to punctuate their life events with tasty food, because she understands it not only adds to the “happy,” it makes the moments memorable.  Using cooking as a fun bonding tool, you can often find Candi cooking with her grandchildren, not for them. Teachable moments at their core.

For me, huge lesson learned.  During my mom’s recent visit this past Passover holiday, I was intent on learning how to make her special chopped liver (best above the rest).  Usually, we are together side by side in the kitchen, but we are micromanaging different food preps.  But this time, I was determined to glean her masterful craft. She’s getting older and it occurred to me that the long process was getting harder for her. Back in the day, she used the old-fashioned grinder that bolted to the countertop. Having tossed that years ago, she has resorted to the painstakingly task of using my hand-held grater.  So in attempt to minimize the efforts and maximize the results, I surprised her with an electric meat grinder this year.


OMG, this mean machine was game changer, big time.  Under her tutelage, we cut down the process by hours. It yielded way more liver, eliminated the grizzle, and the interior parts cleaned like a dream.  FYI, we also decided to break it down into more manageable steps in 2 days, (we sautéed the onions and boiled the eggs the day before) so the kitchen clean-up was minimal. The experience was great; we laughed so much, made a few bloopers, and I made sure my notes would be foolproof for next year.

As for my grandmother’s special kufteles, my mother-in-law’s gefilte fish and kreplach, they are tragically a lost art we can never recover.  But at least, we shall always have chopped liver.

Have you organized your family recipes to be legacies?

Some food for thought, lol: With smart technology,  you can opt for filming “live” cooking sessions and video the recipes! Easy to follow, interactive, and personal recipes beat a store-bought cookbook any day of the week.  Would make a fabulous gift too!



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The Key to Smart Holiday Shopping

So much to do with so little time? On a limited budget with an endless gift list? Regardless of income, purchasing holiday gifts can be doable and less stressful if you exercise effective time-management.  Things change from year to year, but the one thing that should remain as a standard imperative is organizing your holiday goals.

Whether it be party planningor gift shopping, making lists and committing to them is still one of the best ways to focus during a harried holiday season.   Don’t leave home without it!

Shopping any retail store at this time of year can be overwhelming. The sensory overload sucks you in; the twinkling lights, ringing bells, and piped in Xmas songs resounding everywhere are intoxicating.  This is designed to overwhelm you and divert you away from any real focus.  Intentional for the unprepared consumer.

At first, the holiday music does exude a certain welcomed measure of glee. I admit that it puts me in a good mood, but after continuous weeks of shopping, the incessant melodies can become unnerving. (It’s not just me, I hear this from the salespeople that have to endure it all day!) But it works like magic. It lures the crowds and feeds the frenzy.

Warning: If you have don’t have a specific person in mind on a list, you will find yourself roaming aimlessly for hours and most probably exit, confused, distraught, and empty-handed.

Go home, make a list. Jot down the friends, family, etc. for whom you need to buy gifts for, estimate how much you’re going to spend for each, and carry it with you so you can refer to it while shopping.  Have an agenda and destination in mind (on paper, or on a smart phone) before you go shopping.

This may sound unnecessarily elementary, but without a list, you can get easily distracted and side-tracked and perhaps be in danger of buying something you don’t need. If you stay on task, you won’t be shocked when the credit card bills arrive because YOU managed it.

Being prepared and organized will guide you and prevent you from getting in over your head. This ought to be a joyful time, so do your best to make it so. Make it a joy, not a job. Be merry, not stressed.

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Be The Hostess with the Most-ess!

Now that the Thanksgiving holiday is upon us, and we are entering the season of a variety of holiday parties, it’s a good time to share some helpful organizing tips for home-entertaining. Whether it’s a cocktail party or a sit- down plated dinner, planning  is still essential.

With readiness in mind, you should plan the menu ahead of time, review your inventory, make a detailed grocery list, and be sure to check that the liquor cabinet is updated and stocked with the basic alcoholic favorites (hey, it’s party time and you gotta be ready!).  This way if you don’t have what you need, you will have the time to run a quick errand.

Setting the table the night or day before can eliminate a lot of stress.  Select the tablecloths, napkins, platters, and serving utensils that you will need to set the dinner table. Have a seating plan in mind and an accurate count of chairs to accommodate your guests.

One of the best ways to stay ahead of the chaos is to organize the platters for each course by placing labeled post-it notes for every side dish and match an appropriate serving piece. This makes it easier for any eager helper to lend a hand when food needs to be transferred from the oven, because they can follow your plan. It’s a seamless system.

This is not such a big deal, really.  But what I find to be the most chaotic time of hosting a dinner is the last 15 minutes before the guests arrive. It is likely to become a small frenzy. Does this sound like you?  You are babysitting the food in the oven while searching the cabinets for the perfect serving tray for the varied assortment of appetizers that need to be micro-manged (so they stay hot when served), preparing the ice bucket (but not too early), slicing limes and lemons for the bar, getting just the right music on, lighting some candles, maybe even getting dressed, and what happens next? …

The doorbell is ringing, the guests seem to be flooding in all at the same time, and you are secretly questioning yourself whether you are ready.  And if that is not hectic enough, they arrive with armfuls of delectable treats, pies, bottles of wine, flowers, and hostess gifts to open.  While this is thoughtful and very much appreciated , that just beings you back to the kitchen searching for another platter, cake plate, or nut bowl, or vase. Everyone is insisting on helping and before long, you have more people in the kitchen than you do in your living room.

All in all, when dinner is finally served, nothing else really matters but the gathering of family and close friends. The only thing to hope for is that after all that preparation, the food tastes good. If not, whatever didn’t work out so well, take notes and just modify for the next time you entertain.

Hosting a party can be stressful but it doesn’t have to be.  The “Hostess with the Most-ess” is fundamentally a prepared one! Being the perfect hostess is not as important as being a happy one.  You want to enjoy your own party,  don’t you agree?

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A Taste of Stardom is Tasty :)

I’m so flattered, humbled and honored, really.  It’s official…I’ve been named “Professional Organizers Blog Carnival Star Blogger!” Granted, it’s not an Oscar award, and I’m far from a celebrity, but it’s nice to be recognized just the same.

Janet Barclay at organizedassistant  has collaborated with Professional Organizers to create a a blog carnival that brings readers a wealth of information on different organizing topics each month.

I’m honored to stand amongst my colleagues and be a part of this wonderful collaborative effort.  It’s such a great opportunity to share our experiences and wisdom to visiting readers that can really benefit from the work that we do.  We are connected by our passion. We invite you to stop by and read.  Be inspired.  Be the change. Be the best YOU and you can be star too!

Don’t miss out on this extraordinary compilation of helpful tips from the experts.  You can read this month’s “Top Ten Lists” here; Come and join the fun.  Make some popcorn.  Who doesn’t love a carnival?


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Fall Wake-Up Call: “Fall” May Be Back, But Don’t “Fall Back!” Here’s How….

OK, so September is shockingly here, or as most of us refer to it as, transition.  Apart from not knowing how we are suppose to dress or what kind of shoes to wear, (I’m already missing my flip flops) what does it really mean? Generally, it means we are morphing into a new season and each of us have our own way to adjust to the change.  For some of us, it might mean nothing more than merely throwing on a light jacket or a familiar sweatshirt.   But for some others,  it could be a wake-up call to start organizing the stuff we put off all summer.  The season is changing and perhaps, so should we.

The change in season is a natural motivator for evaluating what changes you might want to make in your daily life; what’s working for you and what is not.

Here’s just a couple ways to inspire:  How about putting away, (or throw away) the summer clothing you know you won’t need or wear until next summer? Take the time to store  the tanning lotions or throw away the ones that barely have anything left  in the tube.  Don’t just shove everything in a drawer.  Use a Ziploc and label so you can find them when you are looking for them next year, or for your next vacation.  Be ready, be smart.

Now is a great time to take a quick tour of your closet and evaluate what you wear and what you never will. Take an inventory of your stuff. That Fall sweater you saved from last year might look a little more ratty than you remembered.  Organize your closet by categories, so that you can see what you are missing.  Then, you can go shopping to add to your wardrobe without duplicating something you already have . Ditto to the shoes and boots.  If they can be salvaged, bring them to the shoe repair now, and not wait for the day you want and need  to wear them, and then freak out. Organizing also means preparedness for next season.

So, transition should not mean procrastinate until the snow day.  Make it an opportunity to take stock of yourself and your things.  It should  mean get going, get with the change, proceed forward, and MOVE THE MESS now!

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Back To School Mania

Chances are if you are a student, or a parent of one, this is the time that you are probably making multiple runs to Staples; Bed, Bath and Beyond;  Target; and the like.  Although the summer is not over, it’s time to think about  organizing for back to school and college prep.

I, for one, am no longer either, but I am still a lover of office supplies, sharpened new pencils, and creating new file folders. I happened to be in Staples this week scoping out the latest and greatest new products, and noticed a line way too long, with unhappy children and overwhelmed mothers bewildered with the mandatory school supply list.  By the way, I was impressed that the generic marble notebook has morphed into great new design covers.

At Bed, Bath, and Beyond, it was a similar vibe only it was Mothers with their college age children, and I felt both the friction and the frenzy.  Been there, done that.

The good thing is that everybody seems to be organizing!  No need to stress, this doesn’t mean the summer is over, it’s just the little voice in your head that is alerting you that a new season is upon us.  Still time to play in the sun, just be ready to get your mojo on to start addressing those neglected projects!  Stay tuned for some organizing tips for getting back into a productive rhythm for September.

But as for now, staying in the moment… the crowds are mounting and it is becoming abundantly clear that I’d better get to Staples tomorrow to pick up more computer paper and printer ink cartridges before the crazies fill the store!

As for the towels I need at Bed and Bath, they can wait.

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