An Easy Tree and An Easy Holiday Season

This Holiday Season, all my conversations related to prepping, hosting, decorating, cooking, planning, shopping, bringing-a-dish-for-sharing all started or ended with the same two, short sentences: “I’m remodeling. The house is under construction.” Poof! Those magic words made for the easiest holiday season I have had since I was a wondrous child and my job was to be good for Santa and receive gifts. Unless we consider construction dust a decoration my house was barren from the mass of once-a-year collectibles I have assembled over the decades. I felt a small sadness from saying “This is the first time in my life I will not have a Christmas Tree.” So, when I was at CVS one day, I spotted a boxed “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree” and knew it would fill that tiny sad little gap. It sits happily on the printer in my home office, on of the two rooms I am living in until the last minute when this and the bedroom need to be emptied too.  

In a conversation with the construction team before all this all began, the owner explained to me, somewhat hesitantly, that the house would not be completed by the holidays. He paused and waited for my reaction; most likely expecting me to postpone until after the season so as not to miss cooking a turkey and running around for the next four weeks. Instead I shouted, may a little too loudly, “Great!”. The team seemed surprised. I felt relieved.  A year off. Yes, I would welcome that.

Cards were sent. Pies were purchased. Gifts, bought on vacation in the fall, were gift bagged. Parties were attended with purchased hostess gifts. All I the things I did not do this year did not in any way take away from joy and fun of the season. My worry was more that I would disappoint others. But no, my concerns were unfounded. They were fine with it. And next year, with my new kitchen and renovated home of my dreams, I will no doubt take back the usual traditions of making homemade macaroni, wrapping gifts with pretty bows and ribbons, and making things nice for others as I like to do. But I will keep in mind a few refreshing insights of this gifted experience: that none of these to-dos are necessary to fully engage in the joyous holiday season, in its simplest form the holidays are about people and not things, and I can do less and enjoy more and no one seemed to mind.

Happy New Year! May all your organizing dreams come true in 2020!

Posted in attitudes, holidays

My Mother Made the Bed 55,438 Times!

“I have to make the beds,” my mom would say, before she could do things like go to the grocery store, work in the yard, or call her mother to say hello. In total, during her 55 years of marriage and raising three children, I calculate that she made a bed 55,438 times. What is also truly amazing is that each time was important to her. “Why?” you ask. Can each time really have equal value? Absolutely. It was her routine and she loved routine. This simple task has many levels that you may balk at or embrace. Here is a breakdown:

The word “routine”: Many of my clients don’t like this word. Fair enough. Use a different word. How about sequence, rhythm, method, process, ritual. Because having them in your life will give you freedom. Yes, freedom to get things done and off your list and have time to do things you enjoy. So often I see people stretch out the things they don’t like to do, which takes time away from life’s enjoyable activities.

Making the bed is instant gratification. Who doesn’t like that!? It instantly makes a disorganized room have some order. You have accomplished something you can see. It is calming to see immediate results. If only all of life could be that easy!

Simple, everyday things make a big difference – hanging up your coat when you come in the house, putting your keys in the same place every day, putting the “bills to pay” in one spot. These are things that literally take only seconds, but if you don’t do them, what is the cost? It can take a Saturday morning to clear the entryway of months’ worth of drop-and-run items, hours to find you keys, and money to pay for late fees and interest on your bills. What could you be doing with this extra time and money? Family? Friends? Hobbies? Rest?

Making the beds was part of my mom’s morning routine of “straightening out.” She found it comforting to accomplish these daily tasks. It gave her sense of order. Make it Zen. Now more than ever, the world out there is crazy. Make your home a sanctuary – a place you and your family are the happiest, most comfortable, feel at peace. Of course, your family dynamics is at the forefront for much of this. The house itself is the backdrop. Make your home an easy place for you to land. A place where you can sink into a cozy couch and be your truest self. Where laughter fills the air, not the stress of losing things; a place that supports you being on time instead of aiding in making you late; where you feel welcome when you open the door, not overwhelmed by a to-do pile.  

Timing – Just how long does it take to make the bed? I timed myself today. To make a queen-size bed with a comforter, two regular pillows, two shams and three decorative pillows, it took one minute and 46 seconds.

My own history with bed-making did not always have the consistency it has now. When I lived in a one-level house, I found it more important to do this every day as I saw the bedroom all the time. When I lived in a house where the bedrooms were upstairs, I became a weekend bed-maker. It was only when I put that house on the market to sell and needed the house to be “show ready” when I left in the morning that I became hooked on making the bed daily. Now, even while recovering from foot surgery, I figured out a way to make the bed every day while wearing a surgical boot and using a knee scooter! 

And just why did she make so many beds when she had three kids who were certainly capable, you ask. She did not like us to do a lot of work around the house. Her philosophy was that we were kids and she wanted us to play and have fun when we were small. When she was growing up, she had many chores that took a good part of her after-school time and weekends. She did not want that for her kids. Since we did not establish these habits as young kids, it fell off our radar as teens and young adults.

Keep in mind that for much of her bed making years my mom did not have modern comforters with decorative pillows but old fashioned, fussy bedspreads. (Remember chenille? Let’s all have mercy and forget.) This entailed smoothing the bed, as every wrinkle in the sheets or blankets showed through the spread on top. Some women, not my mother, went so far as to use a wire hanger to get out every wrinkle! The only pillows on the bed were used for sleep. The bed-making process included using the bedspread to cover them. First you laid the pillows down at the head of the bed and made them as flat as possible, then you folded over the top of the spread to cover the pillows. If you did not have enough material to do this, you had to redo the whole thing to make it work. No wonder some brilliant decorator gave us the modern comforters with decorative pillows. It is so much easier, has a relaxed look, and is quite forgiving of imperfections underneath.

U.S. Navy Admiral William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, speaking at the university-wide commencement at The University of Texas at Austin, had this to say about changing the world:

            “If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”

I hope Admiral McRaven and especially my mom and I have shown you the benefits of doing this small daily task! Happy bed-making!

Note: If you are looking for inspiration on how to get hooked on bed-making, read the story in my new book Happily Organized: Little Stories About My Mom, the Most Organized Person in the World, entitled “It All Starts With Making the Bed.”

Posted in attitudes, organizing, time management

These Minimal Quest Meetings Are Working! and Holiday Reflections

Happy New Year organizing community!

Since the spring of last year, the FOCUS Organizers (three professional organizers including myself) have held six Minimal Quest Discussion Group meetings. Topics have included organized holidays, the cost of clutter, growing up disorganized and retailer tricks to make us buy more. I am happy to report it is having quite a positive impact! I have observed a few things from attendee feedback and myself:

  • It is easy to ignore clutter if it is organized and it fits the space.
  • Organizing is fast, it is being neat that slows down the process.
  • Once decision fatigue sets in stop decluttering. Resume the next day.
  • Clutter drains the energy. Even small organizing spurts makes us feels better immediately.

As we talk about themes at each monthly meeting, I find I am looking at my stuff with a minimalist eye. I found clutter in the smallest of places: a wad of promo pens, house warming cards from five years ago, dried up shoe polish. I lightened my keychain, gym bag and pocketbook. I paid special attention to how I felt about an item. Gone is the border line stuff like those never made puzzles and the curtain rods from the old house. The result was a car load full of consignment, donation and dump items that are now out of the house.

I carefully looked at the knickknack situation. There are lots of smalls: little things gathered and given along the way. Now I would rather have less items that make a bigger impact. It creates a simpler and more spacious look. Nothing new was purchased for this redesigning moment, but instead purged and rearranged. The new look brings fresh energy to the space.

As I packed up my Christmas ornaments, anything that did not make it on the tree this year went in the donation bag. On the tree are my favorites collected over a life time of travels, shopping and gifts from friends current and past. Gone is the ornament purchased on the only bad vacation I ever had and the one that broke two years ago but it was too bothersome to glue back together. In prior homes I was able to have bigger trees then this house so there were just too many ornaments. Ornament collecting has long since stopped and the smaller trees are here to stay.

This year I asked my hard-to-find-gifts-for-folks what they wanted. As they opened their presents, I felt their delight was genuine because they got what they asked for (and because I was meticulous with gift receipts). I was also gently vocal about what was on my wish list. This year there were no returns! No exchanges! And no gift certificates from places I don’t shop! This asking and suggesting for birthdays and other gift giving events will continue throughout the year.

My goal is not to be a minimalist but instead to minimize. Buzz words are less, simpler, easier, and spacious. Net result is more time, less stress, less on the to-do list. Instead the plan is to spend the time with family, friends, personal interests, volunteering, trying new things.

I wanted to start the New Year with two clean slates:

  1. Get to the bottom of the reading pile. Though it was not huge, it did contain “sinkers.” Stuff that stayed on the bottom of the pile which I knew was there but never seem to read. Some was read, others filed for reference, the rest recycled. The new reading pile is right around the corner of course, but each item will have this year’s date.
  2. I wanted to start the year with a clean e-mail in-box. This one is still a work in progress. There are 18 items from last year. Each requires a bit of work or a decision. My plan is to deal with the new emails each day and chip away at the 18 oldies.

As we begin this new year filled with possibilities there are so many options to make life a little better by making the smallest change:

  • Work to do one thing differently: Open mail near a recycle container.
  • Make small adjustments: Drink one less cup of coffee a day (vs. giving up caffeine).
  • Seek improvement: If you don’t want to give up coffee, then drink more water (balance).
  • Have one new focus: Like better skin care or taking vitamins.
  • Have a one-word theme: Simplicity, less, ease.
  • Focus on forward motion: Every movement must advance the task or project.
  • If you don’t want to change your behavior then change your attitude. Let it be ok for now, don’t use negative self-talk, no self-judgement, no self-criticizing.

We hope you will join us as we start a new year of topics for our Minimal Quest Discussion Group. All are welcome! Please call or email if you have any questions.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2019 – Minimalist Resolutions

Tuesday, February 19, 2019 – When Empty is Golden

Tuesday, March 19, 2019 – Minimalist Paperwork

Our lively discussions give us all ideas on how to get
more organized and move closer to a life without excess stuff.

Recap last month’s goals
Discussion topic: Minimalist Resolutions
Goal setting

Meeting includes:
1. A drink and snacks
2. A chance to hear professional organizers give
guidance and facilitate discussion on minimalism
3. The opportunity to share your own concerns
with the group and gain tactical ideas
4. Access to a group who will hold you
accountable to reach monthly goals

Date & Time:
Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019
5:30 to 6:30 PM

The Goose Restaurant
972 Boston Post Road
Darien, CT 06820
Plenty of free parking in the back.

Come to a meet-up with other folks who share your frustration with
too much stuff and not enough time to enjoy what matters most.

FOCUS organizers will be facilitating discussion of
cutting edge concepts in the minimalist movement.

Sign up info:
Registration is $25
Sign up at today!
Includes one beverage and a light snack.
Nonrefundable. If unable to attend your payment
will be credited toward a future meeting. 

Future meetings & topics:
Tuesday, February 19, 2019 – When Empty is Golden
Tuesday, March 19, 2019 – Minimalist Paperwork
Posted in attitudes, minimalism, organizing

Minimalist Holidays

This time of year, it is easy to get caught in up in the craziness and frenzied pace of the holiday season. But what if there was another way to deal with the holiday season this year? How about if this is the year we break from that pattern? We discussed this at our last Minimal Quest meeting.

For an easier read this blog is in bulletpoint instead of paragraph format. Let me know if you need clarification onanything. And most importantly note the section on one of my favorite causes, The 350Project.

Main theme of the holidays: joy and people


  • What do you find joyful?
  • The process or task
  • Doing for others
  • The season /excitement


  • Make the holiday nice for them (what about us?)         
  • Creates memories
  • Time with family &friends

Not the theme:      

          Things and doing

How did it get so crazy?

  • Builds each year
  •  Kids
  • Parents get older, we take on more
  • Media
  •  Already so busy – squeeze this in

Extracting yourself from the whirlwind

  • Avoid door busters, high pressure sales
  • Instead support local businesses in your community
  • The 350 Project
For every $100 spent:
$68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other
expenditures if  spent in locally owned independent stores
$43 returns to the community if spent in national chain stores
$0 returns to the community if spent online!

Deeper meaning, lighter load

  • Gifts are not about the items, it’s about the love between the gift giver and gift receiver
  • No gift follow-up.
  • Gift cards– American Express can be used anywhere. Amazon is an easy choice for many.Only give if you are 100% sure it someplace they frequent or want to in the future.
  • Give experiences – Go with them, plan in advance
  • Give them something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. And for children give them toys. Children more then want toys they need them for growth, development and joy.
  • Plan to volunteer together
  • Ask for what you want
  • Gifts should not add to the receiver’s to-do list! Examples: Assembly required gifts, battery gifts.

Can I keep my traditions?

Yes, but look for ways to make it easier.

Make a holiday to-do list. Next to each item select one option from the options list.

Holiday To-Do List:                   Options:     

– Cards                                            A. Complete early

– Shopping                                      B. Simplify

– Decorating                                    C. Share

– Wrapping                                      D. Do less

– Entertaining                                  E. Let go of

– Parties                                           F.Rotation

– Baking

– Cooking

– Travel

– Cleaning

– Organizing

If you make a change – manage expectations.

Its about time management.

Review calendar. Write in all important dates.

Card list. Get that out of the way early. Look thru photos. Order online. Get list in order. Database. Keep stamps from last year. Save stamps from year to year.

Shopping – make lists / templates you can reuse next year:

  • Gift giving list
  • Hostess gifts
  • Teacher gifts
  • Service providers – mail person, paper delivery
  • Theme – Bombas socks, chocolate popcorn, consumable gifts
  • Shopping while traveling and on day trips.


  • Gifts
  • Wrapping supplies
  •  Baking supplies

Organize the entertainment areas: Living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom

Happy Holidays and Happy Organizing,


Posted in attitudes, holidays, organizing, time management, Uncategorized

How Can I Be A Minimalist When I Have Shopping To Do?

We had a great Minimal Quest meeting mid-summer at the Goose Restaurant in Darien. Fabulous conversation with appetizers and drinks and a group of men and women interested in simplifying their lives. Our topic was shopping! Some love it, some loathe it, but all of us need to shop for ourselves, our families and maybe for our professional life. The average American shops 281 hours each year which equals 12 full days! That’s a lot of time. We know the stores study our habits for hits on how to increase our spending habits. Here are the top “10 Subliminal Tricks Retailers Use” from Money Magazine.

  1. They make you nostalgic. Families, puppies, childhood. Recent research shows nostalgia makes people value money less and feel willing to pay more for purchases.
  1. They sic rude salespeople on you. People who shop at high end stores want to belong and be part of that crowd. They are willing to withstand rudeness if they can obtain the object.
  1. Smaller packaging. Cute and mini makes us consume and buy more.
  1. They get you lost and confused. It’s not an accident that grocery stores are often laid out unintuitively.
  1. They mimic your gestures—and get women to touch you. A woman’s touch—but not a man’s—makes people of either sex looser with their money, so when that saleswoman touches your shoulder, you may unwittingly end up spending more.
  1. They get you to handle the merchandise. Research shows your willingness to pay more increases as you spend more time looking at and holding objects. This is why the display item is the best seller.
  1. They create the illusion of bulk bargains. Researcher Lindstrom found that adding the sentence “maximum 8 cans per customer” to the price tag of soup cans caused sales to jump, even if no true discount was offered, because it gave the illusion of one.
  1. They give you free treats. Consuming even one free chocolate increased shoppers’ desire for nonfood luxuries—including expensive watches, dressy designer shirts, and Mac laptops—right after eating it, according to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
  1. They drop the dollar sign. If you think the plain old “28” rather than “$28” on the menu of your favorite fancy restaurant is simply designed to look chic and minimalist, think again. A Cornell study found that a format that leaves off dollar signs and even the word dollar gets people to spend 8% more at restaurants.
  1. They carefully engineer store ambiance. Ambient sounds and smells can make you less careful with your cash. In an appliance store, researcher Lindstrom pumped in the smell of an apple pie, and the sales of ovens and fridges went up 23%. He also found that alternating German and French music in a wine shop influenced which bottles customers purchased.

This I can’t source as I learned it a long time ago but it always stuck with me. Retailers try to control the rate at which we blink! Yes blink! Why? Because our blink rate indicates how relaxed we are. The more relaxed the less we blink the longer we stay in the store and the more we spend. So, retailers want us to blink slower while shopping. Music, stores without windows, interesting displays all are part of this game.

Shopping sounds simple but look at what we are up against! Don’t get me wrong. I love marketing and advertising. The commercials are often more interesting then the shows. I don’t necessarily want it to work on me though. It is the creativity that sparks me, not so much the product.

It’s them and their research against little ole us. What chance do we have? Our discussion group of Professional Organizers and attendees came up with these ideas:

  • Don’t succumb to “amygdala high jacking.” This term is from the Emotional Intelligence guru Daniel Golemman. It is when your logical brain is overpowered by your emotions. Don’t let your emotions take charge of the shopping trip. If you have limitations of space, time, and funds then logic needs to take the lead.
  • Not buying more then you need. Don’t fall for the 8 for a $10 if you only need 2.
  • Don’t let coupons draw you into a store. Kohl’s Cash and the CVS coupons were mentioned.
  • Limit your shopping time. Set an alarm on your phone. Don’t linger.
  • Shopping and therapy are not the same. The average American polled spends a whopping $1,652 per year on purchases just to cheer themselves up. Find other ways to self soothe.
  • Make a list and stick to it.

And this session was just store shopping. We will discuss online and TV shopping some time in the future. Stay tuned.

What the attendees learned about the Professional Organizers:

We are human too! While this set of Professional Organizers are an organized bunch (note that not all PO’s are!), we have areas of struggle too (shoes and office supplies to name a few.) Organizing takes time for us too. We need to focus on this just as you do.

Future Minimal Quest meetings and topics: 

Please check the Events page on my website.

Posted in attitudes, decluttering, time management, Uncategorized

Do You Have a Wardrobe or a Floordrobe?

Recently I heard a celeb on TV saying they did not have a wardrobe. They had a floordrobe. After 18 years of professional organizing, I could easily envision this. The hanging part of the closet is packed. With nowhere else to go, the overflow clothing is on the floor. When an item is needed, the owner selects an outfit from the heap on the floor of the closet. In my experience, often the hanging clothes are pretty much unused. They are the old, out-of-style, sized-out, never-felt-right garments that get the prime real estate. The favorites, wear-all-the-time and new stuff gets the floor.

There are other variations of this that I have seen:

          The doordrobe – This can be hooks attached to the back of the door or the fancier over-the-door rack that extends out 12 inches or so. The latter holds dozens of items and can often get quite heavy. Sometimes the weight can unhinge the door, or make it crooked and hard to close.

          The chairdrobe – Chairs are dangerous when organizing. It is tempting, even to the most organized person, to just throw the day’s outfit onto the chair at the end of a long one. “I’ll put it away later,” we say. This could mean later in the evening (are you less tired by then?), the end of the workweek (if you do this every day, now there are five days’ worth of clothes on the chair), or possibly, they just live there.

          The still-in-the-bagdrobe – You go shopping and buy some fabulous new stuff. You get home and want to put it away, but the closet and drawers are full. So, you leave it in the bag, usually on the floor. When you are ready to wear the hot new buy, you dig it out of the bag. Or maybe not. It might be forgotten and get buried under other bags. You stumble upon it at some point – when it might be a wonderful surprise, or the wrong season, or its usefulness has timed out.

          The plastic boxdrobe – Recently someone told me that a lot of her clothes were kept in plastic boxes. “I like to layer,” she said. That means summer sleeveless tops can be used year-round and are never put away with the off-season wardrobe. Since the dresser and the closet are full, the clothes’ permanent home is a plastic box on the floor.

          The closet pole – I am a big fan of the closet pole. If ironing is not your thing but you don’t like the wrinkled look, then the closet pole is your new best friend. Plus, for visual folks, like most people are including me, it is a great eye-level experience. If it is in a drawer, I don’t’ see it. I only wear what I can see in my closet. The only thing in my drawers are undergarments.  Everything else in on a hanger.

How do you get your clothes organized if you want to utilize the all-important closet? Here are some guidelines:

First, go through your closet and take out all the empty hangers. It is amazing how much room they take up.

Next, start from one end of the closet pole and work your way to the other end. Always organize / declutter in one direction. Purge anything that:

          Does not fit – This is hard for women, like myself, with the fluctuating size syndrome. Keep one size smaller and one size larger but not in the closet you dress from every day. If it fits you today, it belongs in your today closet. Other sizes can be packed away (by size) or placed in a spare closet.

          Is out of style – It will come back someday certainly, but it won’t be exactly the same. Besides, unless you are in your 20’s or 30’s, dressing retro makes you look like you saved it for 20 years. Which you did. But don’t wear it. When older folks dress retro, we look old and out of style. Sorry.

          It is faded and worn and not wearable in public – Do remember Rit dye? Me either. No one dyes their faded clothes anymore to get more life out of them. Keep it and wear it around the house if it’s your favorite.

          Needs alterations, frayed, damaged beyond repair – They can be repaired, of course, either by you or a tailor. Decide today to do it or get rid of them, but don’t let those clothes take up precious closet space one more minute. Some items may be too far gone. Let them go.

          Never fit right in the first place – But you paid good money for it and never got your money’s worth. And you never will. Having it hang in the closet longer does not change this fact. The sooner you get rid of it, the sooner someone else can use it. Donate, consign, or give it to someone who will love it and use it.

After you’ve decluttered, it is time to organize. Here are some tips:

          Keep like things together. Pants, skirts, dresses, tops, camisoles, etc. Once this is done, you may be surprised to learn just how many pairs of black pants you own.


          Organize by outfit. If you are one who does not like to mix and match in the moment, set up your closet so this is done in advance. When you pull from the closet to get dressed, an outfit will be all ready for you. Combine the pants, top, and jacket you would wear together and hang them together in the closet.

          Invest in some good hangers. This can be costly, so you can do this slowly over time. Or do what I do: I ask the store if I can keep the hanger if I like it. Many stores use the same type of hangers, so I don’t end up with a hodgepodge. I use a combination of those hard-plastic hangers for sweaters and clear plastic for blouses, and I fold pants over hangers from the dry cleaner. My least favorite are the wire hangers (not the best for keeping clothes in good shape, especially sweaters); wood hangers (they take up too much room for everyday clothes but are great for heavy coats); and the new velvet-coated hangers (a struggle to get your clothes off them. Who wants to fight with their hanger? I do like them for pants and hanging large scarfs, ponchos, and the like though.)

          Hang up your clothes every day. How long does this take? Seconds! Blouse, pants, jacket. Invest seconds every day and save hours later. Plus, there is the instant gratification aspect. It is an immediate organizing accomplishment.

How long will it take to complete this project, you ask? Depends on how many clothes you have and if you are a fast or slow decision maker. Keep in mind that the more decisions you make, the faster a decision maker you become. You will pick up speed as you go along. You can work on this project 15 minutes a day or block out a 3-hour window and really dig in and make big progress. Experience tells me that three hours is usually enough to purge the closest pole and hang up the clothes on the floor. Start today and you will feel better today!


Note: If you are looking for inspiration on how to get let go of clothes, read the story in my new book Happily Organized Little Stories About My Mom, the Most Organized Person in the World, entitled “The Puppy Skirt.” Learn how my mom taught me this important lesson when I was a little girl. It has served me well as an adult. Purchase on and

Posted in clothes, decluttering, organizing, time management

Coming Home From Vacation and My Purging Spurt!

Within eight hours of coming home from a much needed vacation, I had filled one bag with items for donation (the “Goodwill Bag”), maxed out the recycle bin, and half-filled the garbage can. Though I was still on my vacation time zone, which meant it was five hours later in the day after a long day of travel, I had a purging spurt as I unpacked and put items away from so many different areas of my home. Clothes, shoes, toiletries, cosmetics, reading material, electronic charges, sunglasses, contact lenses stuff, camera equipment. And then there was the stuff I bought while traveling (I do lots of my birthday gift and holiday shopping while traveling as I love to give distinct presents and shop while I have more time). It seemed I touched every room in the house while unpacking all I brought with me to keep me comfortable in various weather conditions when I had no access to laundry. When we fit our whole world into one suitcase it is revealing about what is essential. I kept thinking that as long as I had my contact lenses supplies, a credit card, my passport and driver’s license all else could be purchased within relative ease.

But back to my purging spurt. What caused this? Where did I even get the energy since this went on until 10:00 PM our time which meant 3:00 AM in my vacation time zone? The words I keep coming back to are simplicity and necessity. As I opened closets, drawers, and cabinets putting away large and small items, I noticed things I no longer wanted, needed or used. Things that were taking up space in my home but more importantly in my head and heart. The more I dropped items into the “Goodwill Bag” the more I wanted to add to the bag.

The big question for me on vacation was would I be able to relax. Life is busy and fast and I needed to take a deep breath and slowdown. I was wound so tight before I left I wondered if I could go from what seemed like 100 miles an hour to…what? What is the average speed of vacation? Is there no speed (maybe if it is a lying-on-the-beach event which I have never been able to manage).  I prefer sightseeing vacations when I can spend much of the day walking and discovering. I can’t attach a miles per hour statistic to that but will label it as strolling vs. running and that is good.

Yes, I was able to slow down and I felt quite relaxed the minute we left for the airport. An instant separation took place from my everyday world as I shifted into my vacation mind frame. I let it all go: the to-do list, the errands list, the work on my desk. I successfully detached. And now that I am back I want that vacation feeling to linger. How to make that happen? Ease. I am easing back into my life and taking lessons from my ten day hiatus. Lots of things did not get done while away, things that would have been labeled urgent or important if I had been home. And yet life went on! How’s that for perspective!

Curious about where I went? Like my Facebook page for upcoming posts about my travels.

Posted in attitudes, decluttering, organizing, Uncategorized, vacations

The Organized Dollhouse

Wow! Look at these beautifully organized toys! Who did this? A mom organizing her kid’s playroom? A store getting ready for a big sale? A photographer prepping for a photo shoot? A stager readying a home for an open house? No! It was done by three-year-old Ashley! Incredible!

“She has been organizing since she could walk,” states her mom. “Ashley loves to organize. Not only does she organize all her toys but also her twin sister’s clothes, the DVD collections, and the family snack drawer.”

What can we learn from the skills of this gifted three-year-old? Here is how I would describe the strategies Ashley uses:

Like things together – This is one of the cornerstones of organizing. Notice how all the toys are grouped together by size, height, and type on the top and middle shelves (smaller ponies, large ponies, dolls).

The quantity fits the space – Observe how nicely each type of toy fits in the space with room to spare. Nothing is crowded or jammed. Ashley can easily access any toy without disturbing the organization. See in the middle left cube how the taller dolls are in the back. She can reach in and take the doll of her choice to play with because they are all easily accessible.

Group one-off items together – The bottom two shelves are filled with a variety of stuffed animals of different sizes and shapes as opposed to the other shelves that have like items. Think of your kitchen drawers with one-off cooking supplies: turkey baster, icing spatula, ice cream scoop. Pick a right-sized container and keep these odds and ends all together.

Container Size – The height of the dollhouse is just the right size for Ashley. She can access each shelf without reaching. In your own home, place frequently used items within arm’s reach and less used objects higher or lower.

Open shelving – If these toys were in drawers, they would not be so organizationally pleasing to look at. Open shelves (think linen closets and kitchen cabinets) will keep all your items visible and make it easier to find what you are looking for.

I hope Ashley has inspired you to work on your organizing projects. Maybe Ashley will be a Professional Organizer someday!


Happy Organizing,

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Born Organized

People often ask me if I was born organized. No, I was not; I was born to an organized mother.

From the moment I arrived, she was ready: bottles in place, diapers folded with the pins nearby, onesies in every size for the first six months. As I grew up, her organized ways encompassed every area of our lives, from making dinner to helping us with our homework to decorating for the holidays. She was organized every day. Like all children, I watched her closely, even though I did not necessarily realize I was doing that. Her ways became my ways. We are both organized, but my mom was far more organized then I am. Actually, she is the most organized person I have ever met. She is the most organized person in the world.

Last year I spent weeks at home rehabbing from foot surgery. I must admit I do love being home. It reminds me of when I was a little girl living in the big pink house in Port Chester, New York. I remember early mornings as a preschooler when all the men would leave for work, the older kids would go to school, and I would be home with my mom, my grandmother downstairs and my aunt upstairs. I clearly recall a sunny morning in September, standing on the front porch with my mom and Nana, waving goodbye as my older brother went to school. We three girls turned and went in the house to start our day. When I was home last year, I still got that same feeling after my boyfriend left in the morning and I was home alone. It was quiet and peaceful and comforting. I could feel my mom and Nana standing beside me in those moments.

I actually looked forward to my rehab time at home as an opportunity to catch up on some everyday things and larger projects. First on my list was to “get the book out.” I wrote a book about my organized mom called Happily Organized: Little Stories About My Mom, the Most Organized Person in the World. Writing the book was such a pleasure. However, getting the book from my notebook into a format for others to read has been a much longer journey then the actual writing. It is a whole new world for me, with many stumbling blocks and a wide learning curve. But finally it is completed.

In this book, I would like to introduce you to my mother, Marian Julia Lovallo Arbusto. She is quirky, funny, and incredibly organized. I’ll tell you little stories about her everyday organizing ways. My goal is for you to learn how to get organized through storytelling. There are lots of step-by-step, how-to organizing books to choose from. While they are certainly valuable, this book of genuine, personal stories offers another avenue to learn about organizing, a way that is more natural and easy to read. Please join me as I relive sweet memories of being raised by the most organized person in the world.


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So Much of Life Is About Filing Your Jacket

Call it what you will, filing has many names: filing paperwork, filing emails, putting things away, straightening out, tidying up, hanging up your coat, placing your shoes in the closet Read more ›

Posted in decluttering, organizing, time management Tagged with: , ,
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