The Blog

Having Company? Hosting a Holiday Dinner Sans the Hassle

dinner tableThanksgiving is almost here and you might be in sheer panic that you haven’t done a thing yet! For some of you, this could be your first holiday dinner. Perhaps you volunteered or maybe you got selected.  Either way, it’s time to get ready NOW.

If you follow this simple checklist you still have time to prepare and “shine” as the perfect host or hostess. Planning is essential for hassle-free entertaining.

  • Plan the menu.  Review your inventory to see what you already have. Make a detailed grocery list.  Check the liquor cabinet and be sure it’s stocked with the basic favorites.  Consider pairing red or white wine with your various courses.
  • Prepare the table. Setting the table the night before is a huge timesaver and can reduce some of the pressure of doing everything on the same day.  Select the plates, tablecloth, napkins, platters, and serving utensils you will need.  Have a seating plan in mind and have an accurate count of chairs to accommodate your guests. Have extra folding chairs on hand and be ready for that “surprise” visitor.  Just in case.
  • Organize the platters. To ensure that you have enough service for both the dinner and the appetizers,  use post-its or sticky notes to keep you organized and pre-label the platters for the nosh, main entrée, and for each side dish.  Match the appropriate utensils for each one.  This simple step can make it easier for eager helpers to lend a hand when food needs to be transferred from the oven and plated.  They can simply follow your plan.  It’s a seamless system.
  • Schedule the Prep.  Deconstruct the big picture and prep as much as you can the day before or morning of the dinner.  Chop and slice as many ingredients you can in advance to alleviate the overwhelm. Prepare ice and continue to bag and freeze.
  • Eliminate the last-minute.  I find that the most chaotic time of hosting is that 15 minute window right before the guests arrive. Light the candles. Turn on the music.  Prepare the bar accompaniments (shakers, wine openers, stirrers, etc).  Pre-slice lemons and limes. Fill the ice bucket.  Chill the wine. Have extra bowls and platters handy for guest gifts.  Anticipate. Be mindful that when the doorbell’s ringing, and your guests are flooding in, they’re likely to arrive with armfuls of delectable treats, pies, bottles of wine, flowers, and maybe even a hostess gift to open.  Trust me, at that hour you don’t want to be running around searching for the perfect sized cake plate, platter, nut bowl, or vase.
  • Keep notes.   Check off each task as it is completed and keep this as your automated checklist from now on. Create a “holiday” folder and jot down this year’s menu. Weigh in on what worked well, what was a huge hit, or not so much.  Write it all down.  Modify for next year. Eliminate having to remember it all for the next time you entertain.
  • Clear Spaces. Having company over is a great motivator to straighten up your home.  It’s  a great incentive to clean up some cluttered spaces that you would have otherwise avoided.  Remember to clear some additional space in the hall closet to accommodate your guest’s coats and jackets.

At the end of the day, of course you hope that all the food tasted great, but recognize that’s not why they came. Family and friends sharing good times together is far more memorable than any culinary faux pas.

Hosting a holiday can be hectic and sometimes stressful, but it doesn’t have to be.  You should enjoy it all too and be as happy as your guests!  It’s likely that a “happy” host/hostess is probably a prepared and organized one.  So are you getting ready?




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On Moving & Downsizing; Guest Expert Moreen Torpy

Family MovingI’m so excited to welcome Moreen Torpy today to talk about the essential tips to consider prior to moving, and some simple steps that can help reduce the overwhelming process. Moreen is the De-Clutter Coach, a trained Professional Organizer, Author, and Speaker and expert in Moving and Downsizing. For more info visit her website here,

Thanks Moreen for sharing your expertise with all my readers!


Moving Takes Planning and Preparation

When we think about moving, the first thing that comes to mind is the packing. Of course, there are plenty of other considerations as well. Here’s a handy list of 9 things to remember to cover as many areas as possible.

1. Allow plenty of time to move. If you can possibly allow eight weeks, you will be able to accomplish everything you need to do.

2. When will your new place be available? If you’re purchasing a home or condo, you can plan for the closing date. However if you’re moving into a care facility, you may have only a couple of days in which to get there or lose the placement.

3. Can you obtain the floor plan for your new place? Using this, plan furniture placement before moving so that the heavy pieces can be placed by the movers. This will eliminate your trying to lift heavy pieces and risk injury to yourself.

4. Book the mover or recruit a team and van. At one point in life, we can’t do all the lifting and carrying ourselves. Get estimates from three companies and ensure they provide this in writing, addressing the same questions, so you can compare and select the one best suited to your situation. Also ensure the company you hire has insurance for any damage that may occur during the move caused by the movers. Get this in writing to protect yourself.

5. Purge anything you can before moving. This is your opportunity to pass along family heirlooms, downsize your wardrobe, sell furniture or household items that won’t be moving with you. Remember that movers charge by time, weight and distance. For a local move, the Time consideration is crucial. The longer it takes to load and unload anything you don’t need will increase your cost.

6. Assemble packing materials—boxes, paper, bubble wrap etc. If such a service exists in your area, rent moving boxes. These are plastic flip-top bins that are delivered to your home a few days before your moving date and picked up at the other end a few days later. Typically you pay for the number of days you have the bins in your possession. If you use cardboard boxes, either scrounge them from stores or purchase them. Stores have less incentive to give the boxes away these days as they can recoup some of their costs by selling them to recyclers. As for packing paper, use unprinted newsprint so the printing ink won’t get on your hands and precious possessions. This paper can be purchased from some moving companies and local newspaper offices (end rolls). The latter is much cheaper if you have access to it. Bubble wrap is great for delicate breakables. It’s available from moving companies and some stationery stores.

7. Use plenty of paper and bubble wrap to ensure nothing is broken. After packing only the most important of your possessions, you won’t want anything to arrive at destination in pieces. Wrap each item well and stuff the spaces between the items with extra paper to ensure nothing moves in the box.

8. Label boxes with large numbers and the room they are to go into. For safety reasons never write the box contents on the outside. Keep that information in a Moving Log where you list all the box numbers and their contents. At destination, when you need a particular item, check your list for its location and go directly to that box. With the room names on the boxes, they can be placed in the appropriate rooms and save you having to sort them yourself.

9. Unpack, recycle boxes and paper—give away or blue box. Start unpacking the boxes in the rooms you need to set up first—kitchen, bedrooms and bathroom(s). Then work your way through the rest as you prioritize.

Moving doesn’t need to be the worst experience of your life. With organization and advance planning it can simply be another day in your life. The next chapter in which you can make new memories and enjoy new experiences.

How will you deal with your next move? Will you do anything different from what you did last time? What would that be?


© 2013 Moreen Torpy We would be honored for you to reprint this article. If you do, please include the resource box below with the hyperlinks intact. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Moreen Torpy is the De-Clutter Coach, a Trained Professional Organizer, Author, and Speaker. Her new book is Going Forward: Downsizing, Moving and Settling In. See for more about the book including where to purchase it, and to learn about her organizing services and other books.


P.S. To purchase Going Forward: Downsizing, Moving and Settling In, visit one of the quality booksellers here:

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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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A Time-Managment Paradox: Why I Can Never Plan for a Nap

napping man_optAhh, how I long for the guilty pleasure of a really good nap. I think I’ve been waiting for this magical moment my whole life. Since I can remember, I’ve watched many men in my life, asleep on the sofa, casually napping (and snoring, I must add) in the middle of an ordinary day. Lights could be on, TV volume blasting, and lively chatter abound, but they nap like babies.  Frankly, I’m a little jealous that they have perfected the art. It can’t be just me. Honestly, I’ve never seen a women napping on a couch in the middle of the day, ever. Do you think that this is just a “man” thing?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my chances. There have been countless opportunities for me to plan for the nap, but it never happens.  How many dreary winter days did I devote to scheduling it to happen? But it never came, because I learned you can’t force it.  Napping is instantaneous.  For me, it’s less about having the time for it to happen, I think it’s more about my inability to relax; to be still enough to shut down all the programs running in my head.

This past weekend, on a most glorious sunny day, I took my Kindle, pen and paper in hand (I’m a little old school), and scheduled some “me” time.  To me, that means lounging in my backyard, reading for pleasure, and jotting down thoughts that may inspire a forthcoming blog. I was thoroughly enjoying my surroundings, and while my mind was engaged in reading, the natural and serene setting was slowly hypnotizing me. The day was so spectacular, one had to pay attention. I was more aware of the birds chirping, the wind chime blowing soft melodies in the wind, and captivated by the dance of butterfly. I was in my happy place.  I read for about an hour and paused every now and then when a new little creature interrupted me.  It was as if Mother Nature was flirting with me. So I stopped to embrace the moment (for literally a moment), then fought to finish the next chapter, but my eyes were getting heavy. I was so relaxed with both my body and mind, that I gave into the fatigue and relinquished control.  I closed both my Kindle and my eyes, and drifted off into stillness. I knew too well if I didn’t grab this chance, I would lose the moment forever. The last thing I recall thinking was, “COULD THIS BE THE PERFECT NAP I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR?”

Oh yes, my friends, it was indeed. The joy of the power nap!  It didn’t make a difference whether it was an hour or a mere 15 minutes, the fact that I could drift off to an altered state of consciousness was the letting go I was yearning for.  It felt more like a daydream sleep.  When I awoke, I was startled and had to get my bearings.  What had happened? OMG, I napped!

As I came out of the slumber, I realized that I had used time as a “gift,” to myself. Artful Time-management is building in some time for just “being,” not filling every moment with “doing.” 

The nap is not always a time-waster, it’s an energy preserver. Time to recalculate the body, take a personal and physical “time-out.”  For me, it didn’t mean I necessarily shut down, rather I allowed my thoughts to flow freely.  Hence, this nap-inspired blog came to be!

Now I have a new and improved time-management theory;  A time to work.  A time to play.  Maybe time to take a nap?

Hey, some people can impose a nap on command, lucky for them. I for one, will never know if it will ever happen again.

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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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The Most Organized Holiday of the Year

Each Spring is punctuated with the joyful celebrations of both Easter and Passover. Granted, all holidays have beautiful traditions and rituals, but Passover in particular, is unique in its own fashion.  It is one of my favorite holidays, albeit extremely laborious (especially if you’re observant). It is rich in tradition, history, and customary laws and it requires a heightened sense of organization. Naturally, as a Professional Organizer by trade, and as a person who loves to pay attention to detail, this holiday speaks to my heart.

The very first Passover took place in Egypt thousands of years ago and many consider it to be the most beautiful of all holidays.  It is the oldest holiday on the Jewish calendar. The Passover Seder brings together families and friends who eat, drink, and sing together, while reciting the old-yet ever new-story of the Exodus from Egyptian slavery.

The level of observance may vary, as some must kosher their entire home and kitchen to invite the holiday in. Having a separate additional set of dishes, pots, pans, and utensils to clean, are often a part of this change-over process.  Many households consider this transition the opportunity for their grandiose Spring Cleaning. And yet there are others that simply prepare a festive meal without the need to make it such a labor intensive prep.  There is a wide range of observance, for sure.  But regardless of how you welcome Passover, it is safe to to assume that a typical Passover Seder always involves family gathering around a holiday table reciting from the traditional Haggadah and celebrating this festive holiday in very similar ways.

The Judaic translation of  Seder, means “order”, and so there are specific foods eaten at specific times prior to the main meal. There is a set order for everything that happens during this time.  The Seder Plate sits at the head of the table (generally in front of the Leader), displaying the five foods that all have a symbolic reference to the tale of the Jewish people’s freedom from Egyptian slavery.  Each guest has a copy of the Haggadah.  Supervised by the leader, all guests participate in responsive readings from the Haggadah and once reciting the prayers in unison, all eat the special traditional foods at the same time.  There is an obvious sense of an orderly agenda that is being methodically followed. “Haggadah” means to “to tell” and that is the purpose of the Seder; to tell the dramatic and exciting events that Passover recalls.  It is customary to re-tell the story of the Exodus of the Jewish people from slavery, and pass it on from generation to generation.

Make no mistake about it, the preparation for the Seder is extensive and detailed.  The duration of the ceremonial portion of the Seder meal may differ from family to family.  But regardless, the responsibility falls on the hostess, who is required to coordinate the entire schedule and manage the service of the meal. Timing is key. The matzah ball soup MUST be hot, the brisket should be carved ahead of time, and all the side dishes should be landing on designated platters, ready to go.  If you are not organized, this could go badly. Hopefully, there are happy helpers available to refill the wine glasses, clear and reset the table for each course.

From year to year, I save my notes on menu choice, recipes, guest lists, etc.  In this way, I can recall what worked and what did not, and make adjustments for the following year.  A good practice for any holiday planning.

There is something beautiful to be said about that wherever you are in the world, those observing this holiday are all following the same order of practice.  There is little deviating. The Seder Plate is prepared with the same components throughout the world.  This Jewish holiday unites people in a way that no other does, because it is organized in the exactly the same manner.  This dinner is like no other ordinary dinner.  There is a definite pace that is controlled by the ritualistic practices and the re-telling of the Passover story. The customs are abided by in the same order. And no matter how the menu varies, you can be guaranteed to find a box of matzah set on every table.  Everywhere, families are singing “Dayenu” in the same tune, one voice. It is essentially the same in any country you travel; consistent and repetitive. It’s something to look forward to each and every year.

No matter your religion, adhering to certain rules and customs may seem confining but I believe it connects humanity. We all need structure and parameters.  During this holiday, we are restricted with our diet, and are forbidden to eat leavened bread.  Like anything else, once deprived, we learn to appreciate our freedom more deeply.  We are grateful to be free from tyranny and we are happy to return back to normalcy at the end of the holiday.

One of my favorite Passover delicacies is the “Charoset,” which is a mixture of nuts, apples, wine, and cinnamon.  During the ceremonial portion of the seder, we dip this with a leaf of  bitter romaine lettuce. What we glean from this is this…life is bitter-sweet .  The sweet and pleasant taste of the harvest impresses upon us that, no matter how bitter and dark the present appears, we should hopefully look forward to better days.

Nice take-away.  Do you have a favorite holiday that aligns you?   Do you prepare and plan for it?

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2 Power Tools You Need to Help Manage the Stress of a Busy Day

I have yet to meet a person that does not complain about how busy they are.  It’s seems to be the new standard reply to “how are you?” No more “I’m fine”, just “busy.” The truth is, it is indeed the sign of the times.  We are all guilty of immersing ourselves into over-scheduled days, action packed with juggling commitments, meeting deadlines, racing to appointments, and circuitous car pool runs.  Mornings are hectic, work days grow longer, and conventional mealtimes have become more spontaneous than scheduled.

Don’t fool yourself; as a result of this daily chaos, we all suffer.  We are all overextended, overbooked, at high speed overload doomed to crash and burn.

Being busy can be challenging but doable, but being too busy is arguably dangerous.  Mistakes are inevitable, and if you have not planned well, important dates, commitments, possessions, etc. can be overlooked, lost, or forgotten.  Is your busy schedule robbing you of things that matter to you? Are you lacking balance in your life?

What if I told you that if you stopped being so busy for a hot minute and relinquished a bit more more time to organize your lifestyle better, you’d actually have MORE time?

As to not unravel, I suggest two imperative tools to balance your life.  Meet ORGANIZE and EXERCISE.  They go hand in hand because they work in the same way for your mind, body, and soul. Hopefully most of us take to the gym to work out the stress we lug around,  and strive to keep our bodies healthy and fit.  Physical exercise is an excellent outlet to relieve our stress and provide the balance we require to function.  Just as exercising targets specific muscle groups, mental organizing can target specific tasks and accelerate productivity.  Take time out and focus on what matters to you.

EXERCISE your brain and ORGANIZE your priorities.

WARM-UP: Consider preparedness as your warm-up before a busy stressful day.  It could prevent you from spiraling out of control.  Consider your day at a glance, and make adjustments if your schedule looks too full.  Paradoxically, if your life’s treadmill is running too fast, slow down and customize the speed that works for you.

STRETCH: Use bits of time that you can carve out as as an opportunity to stretch your potential and make positive changes in your harried schedule.

TRAIN: Train your mind to stay on task.  Be aware of your actions and deliberate.  Time is invaluable, don’t waste it, get a value from it.

ALIGN: Organizing your daily plan will keep you in alignment. Be clear and realistic about your daily goals.

BREATHE: Adhering to an agenda that is not abusive will enable you to pause and breathe. It’s important to catch a breath during a hectic day.  Build in some wiggle room into your schedule, allowing for the unforeseen and unexpected.

Manage your settings; modify both your workout or work ethic. Take back the control. Being ORGANIZED, like EXERCISE, means having a routine, a plan, and a system.

Exercising daily is empowering and feeds your productivity.  Active planning and organizing will do the same.  In both scenarios, if you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen.  Make time-management just another EXERCISE of your day.

ORGANIZE and EXERCISE are powerful tools to manage and balance our lifestyles and can help us live our best life. Make them part of  your daily routine. Careers, marriages, relationships depend on it. 

Are you too busy?




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