The Blog

The ABC’s of Organizing: Simple But Not Easy

At one time or another, everyone will organize somethingIn theory, it sounds like a pretty simple thing to do.  But it’s actually not so easy, especially if your intentions are to restore order to a really disorganized space.

First, you must make the real distinction between merely “straightening up,” and the methodical process of emptying a space entirely.  Huge difference.  It’s far simpler a task to just skim the surface of a drawer or clear a section of the floor, than to thoroughly deconstruct a complete space and re-organize it. I’m talking about space-altering organization.  Yep, that kind of organizing is another animal indeed.

If you’ve reached that point that you can no longer find anything in your cluttered spaces, it might be time to consider a space make-over. But before you toy with the idea of being more organized, you might first consider these ABC’s prior to undertaking any of the spaces in your home.  This will help you put thought to action.

  • “A”-  Assess:  Take a look around and see if you can identify the trouble spots.  What is not working for you?  Where does the bulk of your clutter seem to land?  How long has it been like this?  Has any specific life event contributed to this neglected mess?


  •  “B”-  Be the Change:  Consider your options.  We can all agree that if you don’t change the way you think about things, then essential nothing will really ever change.  Implementing new organization to your life could be a game changer.  So ask yourself, are you ready to make significant changes in your life and what are the consequences of remaining disorganized?


  • “C”-  Commit:  Once you’ve decide to change your old habits, you must committo the actual process.  Junk in drawers, clothing piles in closets, paper towers on desktops, or cluttered counter tops are not going to miraculously vanish by themselves. You must do the work. In order to tackle the project, you must schedule it to happen. Think about how much time you will need to carve out of your day or weekend to begin the process. The challenge is, of course, to stay committed until the task is completed.


The next step is how to begin.  Where do you start? What to keep or toss? When do you pause? No matter which room or small space you choose, (or whether it be things or paper), the basic principles of organizing are the same.  They are easy to comprehend but are often difficult to execute by yourself.  Here’s the simplified and very abridged version.

  1. Bundle “like” items with “like” items to evaluate the inventory. Eliminate overabundance.
  2. Sort items you want to keep into categories.
  3. Toss the broken or unusable into trash or recycle.
  4. Donate those items that no longer serve a purpose in your life.
  5. Then and only then, decide how you want to store and containerize your wanted items for easier retrieval.


If you become overwhelmed with this method and get stuck in the decision-making process, you will most likely lose the drive to continue. Very often, because it is so difficult to measure what is too much, or discern how much sentimental clutter to let go of, you don’t let any of it go.

Don’t feel the need to go it alone.  Seek out a  Professional Organizer who has the expertise to guide and provide you with the strategies to help complete the process.  Trust in the organizing process because it works.  But don’t underestimate it either, it can be daunting.

So before you begin, get your ABC’s in place, and perhaps a trained professional can coach you the rest of the way through. A simple solution for a not so simple task. If only it could be as easy as 1-2-3.

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The Three Wise Monkeys That Might Be Hanging on Your Back

3-wise-monkeysWhat do you think I would say, or see, if I came over to your home right now? Don’t panic, I’m not heading over there just this minute, merely a conjecture. Indulge me if you will, and take a quick look around with me.  Do YOU see what I see?  If I’m a betting woman, I say emphatically, no.

Like the three wise monkeys who embody the principle, “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” I’m guessing that most of what I observe, YOU no longer see. After much time, things become invisible.  So often when I tour a client’s home and inquire about a particular pile or puddle of things, they respond with sheer bewilderment as if they’re looking at it for the very first time.  In fact, they have no rational defense for why those items are actually there.  For me, it clarifies how powerful the objective eye truly is, and how much value that brings to my role as a Professional Organizer.

While there are so many various interpretations of the pictorial maxim of the three wise monkeys, the concept can also have significant meaning to how you to choose to live an orderly life, or not.  I think it accurately depicts the person who turns a blind eye to a situation (sees no mess); refuses to acknowledge it (hears no nagging about the mess); who doesn’t want to be involved and who feigns ignorance (chooses not to speak of the mess).

How many of us look the other way when confronted with unpleasantness?  Isn’t it so much easier to close our eyes, cover our ears, and shut our mouths?

I’d like to think that there could  be a positive and useful reference to the three wise monkeys; one that infers being of good mind, considerate speech, and affirmative action. The challenge is in opening your eyes to reality, listening to what others have to say, and speaking with an open mind and heart.

How do you deal with your unsightly mess? What monkeys do you have on your back?

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The Forgotten Marriage Vow: “For Neat-er or Messy-er” til Death Do You Part?

I’m not sure this is always something you know before you marry, albeit prior even to living with someone.  Irregardless, sharing the same spaces with your beloved doesn’t always translate to blissful harmony.  It can be eye-opening at the very least, and disastrous if not acknowledged.

We are all on our best behavior at the beginning of our relationships, but eventually our true colors will expose themselves. I can recall that when I got married, my Mom warned me to be careful of enabling my husband  from day 1, fearful that once I started to clean up for him, I would be doomed to clean up after him for life.  Part true.  Be wary of negative patterns.

I did not pick up his befallen underwear or puddles of dirty socks, nor did I collect the damp shower towels left strewn on the bathroom floor (I just put hooks behind the door, lol).  But I did however, beat him to the punch in throwing out the garbage nightly (even though I had asked him to do earlier), prepare all meals from cook to cleanup, and micro-manage his belongings.

You see, I was always a neat freak and so I was only too happy to straighten up and manage our home on a daily basis.  I never allowed it to get to the point where our home got unruly. It was in my DNA.  In retrospect, I realize now that I never waited long enough to determine if my husband was even neat or sloppy.

In fact, I claimed the role as organizer long before I made it an actual career.  It was a natural instinct for me to clear a table, load the dishwasher, or put away the laundry, all without ever asking for help. I managed the children’s carpools and activities, family schedules, and our social calendar.  A true enabler indeed, present and accountable.  In my defense,  life was different back then and perhaps I was just young and foolish.

But nonetheless, that was our “dance” for over 33 years, and although that arrangement has worked thus far, I have since changed and so have the rules. Heed this lesson, it is never too late for change. Through recent years, we have grown to share many more responsibilities.

Today, both women and men have choices to work in or out of the home, and must learn to share responsibilities to balance their household.  As a Professional Organizer, I have the opportunity to work within the homes of my clients, and I have observed that so many of their spousal conflicts are rooted with their contrasting organizing styles.

The disparity is often huge but the arguments are the same.  Typically, one blames the other for the mess. This is what I’ve learned about couples;

Neat + Neat= Neat (always)

Neat + Messy= Challenging but manageable (professional help advised)

Messy+ Messy= Chaotic nightmare (professional help an imperative)

While I am not a marriage counselor,  I recommend these three solutions;

    • Communicate:  Communication is always the number problem prior, during, or after any organizing session.  Too often, the husband and wife are not on the same page with how they want to manage or utilize their shared spaces. I propose they state their needs and clarify.
    • Negotiate:  Compromising is essential in every marriage, so working out a system that they both can live with is a productive conversation. Living together in harmony is the point.
    • Resolute:  Strive to resolve your conflicts and have the solution be the goal. Don’t get caught up in right or wrong, the blame game is futile.  Just aim for happy.


So if you are not lucky enough to have exclusive spaces, understand that this means sharing common areas with consideration. Address your organizing styles.  Are they compatible?

Felix Unger and Oscar Madison may have been best friends but certainly not the best of roommates.  Take a closer look in your home and identify what’s working and what is not, and ask yourself, are you an Odd Couple?  Do the work.  Your marriage may depend on it.


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The Impossible Dream: Perfectionism

Well, you heard it here first… straight from the horse’s mouth. Even Professional Organizers are not perfect.   It is far too high a standard for any person to aspire to be and yet so many of us have an that insatiable desire to still get there.  Indeed, a common, but unrealizitic expectation that we all struggle with.  It’s so hard to get to “perfect”, because nothing, and noone, actually is.

I generally advise my overwhelmed clients to get to “good enough”, and in most cases, that’s a productive middle ground that provides them with a healthy life-balance. But each of us have our own scale of how we measure perfection. One person’s “good” can be another person’s “great.”

Honestly, I try to practice what I preach, but I admittedly do get caught up in dotting the I’s, and crossing T’s syndrome, (I’m not perfect, remember?) But this holiday season provided me with a teachable moment I’d like to share.

I recently blogged about the enormous amount of preparation involved in organizing a Passover Seder. Sometimes it seems like it takes a village to prepare, but that’s before I realized that I could recruit my family as eager volunteers. To really know me is to know that during this holiday, I run the kitchen fastidiously, like I’m some fancy sous chef (which I am clearly not), checking off notes, re-writing lists, all while delegating jobs out to my happy helping hands.  At least, they start out being happy and enthusiastic, until I start micro-managing each of their tasks, as my inner drill sergeant kicks in.  Relinquishing control is not my strong suit, but I realize that I can’t possibly chop, slice, bake, boil, stir, marinate, set the table and babysit the brisket and chicken in the oven, all by myself.  So I focused on completion more than perfection.  That was the plan.

What I did not plan on was my husband getting bitten by a neighbor’s dog, two hours before the Seder.  When we realized the bite had broken his skin, we knew he needed immediate medical care. Our tasks quickly changed from chopping onions to frantically calling local emergency medi-centers that could squeeze him in.  After a long wait, he returned with bandaged leg, tetnis shot, and a script for antibiotics.  Some family members were due to arrive by train and so I detoured to the pharmacy en route to the train station, leaving my stand-in kitchen patrol at bay.

The Seder eventually got started, but not without consequences.  My signature brisket didn’t live up to its infallible reputation, the neglected veggies were not as firm as preferred, and the sauteed onions might have been a bit too well-done.  Don’t get me wrong, everything was still delicious…it just wasn’t perfect.  At the end of the day, I was surrounded by my beautiful loving family, singing and laughing as we recalled the drama of the day. The actual food paled in comparison to the intimate and special celebration of the evening.  We went for “good enough” and it felt just like “perfect.”

How do you measure perfectionism? What does ideal perfect mean to you?

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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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New Press Release

FYI, “Networking” is named accurately because, guess what? …..It works !!! I did a spotlight presentation about my organizing business and services, and a DJ from IRadio of Hauppague wrote a very complimentary and informational commentary of my presentation. It was published in the Long Island Small Business Owner Magazine. I am eternally grateful for his support. I have since gotten many referrals. Click on this link to read more. The title of the article is “Hey you, Move the Mess”.

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