They Can Do That? A Guest Post from the National Association of Professional Organizers

NAPO members discuss what consumers should ask when hiring a professional organizer in the Smead podcast series, “Keeping You Organized.” Click the image to watch.

When people think of the services professional organizers provide, de-cluttering closets, setting up filing systems, creating time management strategies, or designing custom garage storage systems typically come to mind. But professional organizers specialize in many different areas, and can help overcome a variety of organizing challenges faced at home or at work. Here is a list of some lesser-known services they offer:

  1. Specialty Moving & Relocation: Need help packing the kids up for summer camp or moving your college student into his or her dorm?  There’s an organizer for that! Hiring a pro lets parents stress less and spend more quality time with their kids before they go away, and helps college students get off to an organized start when living away from home for the first time.
  2. Organizing and Cataloging Collections: From photographs to memorabilia to wine, if you need to manage the items in your collection for insurance purposes, display, or simply for easy access, a professional organizer who specializes in collections can help you keep track of the items you have so carefully curated.
  3. Blending Households: A professional organizer can help preserve household harmony when new spouses, stepfamilies, roommates, or parents find themselves sharing living space, and need to find places for everyone’s stuff.
  4. EcoConscious Organizing: Everyone is more aware of humans’ effect on our environment, and for those consumers who actively try to reduce their overall impact, there are organizing professionals who specialize in sustainable ways to reduce clutter, organize and recycle unwanted items.
  5. Technology Organizing: Need someone to help set up your new smartphone?  Need help keeping track of documents and files on your home and work mobile devices? Need help figuring which apps to use to help you stay organized?  Tech-savvy professional organizers can help you get the most out of your electronic devices.
  6. Personal Assistant/Concierge Services: If staying organized means you need a helping hand running errands, scheduling appointments, or fulfilling other commitments, professional organizers who also provide assistant or concierge services will keep you in control of all the aspects of your busy life.
  7. Medical/Legal Office Organizing: Establishing effective filing systems, chain-of-custody protocols, and document retention policies is vital to successful case management and protecting sensitive and confidential information. A professional organizer experienced in medical or legal organizing can help improve office efficiency and maintain client privacy.
  8. Estate Sales: When a person passes away leaving behind a home full of possessions, sorting through a lifetime of memories may be too much for grieving loved ones to handle.  Professional organizers who offer estate sale services coordinate the sale or donation of unwanted items, taking the burden off family or friends at a difficult time.
  9. Working with People with ADHD or ADD: For people who struggle with attention-deficit disorders, routines and systems can dramatically help them maintain focus so they can be more productive at home, school, and work. Organizing experts who specialize in working with those living with ADHD or ADD understand their everyday challenges, and help them develop habits to minimize frustration and become more successful in all aspects of their lives.
  10. Emergency Preparedness: Disasters can strike home or work at any time, and a good emergency plan can keep you, your family, or your colleagues safe, and get you back on your feet sooner. Professional organizers can help you create a plan to keep your vital documents safe, create an emergency kit, put together disaster evacuation and communications plans, and develop recovery  procedures, so your life is disrupted as little as possible in the face of disaster.

These are just some of the specialized services that professional organizers can provide, so if you feel overwhelmed by an organizing dilemma, you don’t have to tackle it alone.

Need help getting organized? Visit NAPO’s Professional Organizer Directory to search for professional organizers in your area.

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Back-to-the-Basics with Back-to-School Organization

Although most of us are enjoying a relaxing summer break, the new school year is just around the corner. August is the time to get ready for back to school by preparing ourselves with the proper supplies and organizational techniques. Follow these suggestions to create a less stressful year and to avoid that last-minute scurry before the first day of school. Even if you don’t have children or aren’t attending school yourself, we can all benefit by using this time to readjust our schedules and routines.

1) Use Calendars – Prepare your calendar for the upcoming school year. Family members should have easy access to one central calendar at home. Keep one in your kitchen or den so everyone in your family can see what is on the agenda for the weeks ahead. Record important dates such as school closings, vacations, appointments or meetings. This will allow everyone to judge time accordingly for car scheduling and pick ups. Designate each family member a coloured marker to write activities to clearly see who has what coming up. In a backpack, keep a daily planner and carry it at all times. Jot down appointments or project deadlines right away before you forget. Don’t rely on memory – write it all down.

2) Only Buy What You Will Use – Organizing and prioritizing means making space in your room, home or office to store new school work and supplies. Don’t go overboard buying new supplies thinking this will help you be more organized. Rather, look at the basic items you use and only buy those. Make a list of the items you need and only purchase those items when shopping. By gathering your pre-existing supplies, you can judge more effectively what extra supplies you will need, and what has worked best for you in the past.

3) Get Rid of the Old to Make Room for the New – Get rid of old books and papers that you no longer use. When you do come across important papers, have a specific place to store them. A filing cabinet would be a great investment, and it keeps stacks of papers out of sight. Outdated magazines should be donated or recycled. If there are articles you like or don’t have time to read, tear them out and keep them in a binder or file them by subject. This way you have all the articles that you enjoy together and can take it along with you while waiting for appointments or in between classes.

4) Keep All School Supplies in One Area – Designate one spot in your home for all your school supplies. Spend 15 minutes each night tidying up this area. This will save time in the morning and avoid the panic of looking for misplaced items. Always have your backpack ready and your homework finished the night before. Keep lunches prepared in the fridge and ready to grab.

5) Donate Old Clothes – Everyone wants to have a few new items of clothing for the first day of school. Before you go shopping, look at the clothes you already own to see how they will work for the fall season. Go through your closet and get rid of outdated clothes and those that don’t fit. If you haven’t worn items in months or years, chances are you do not need them. Getting rid of these articles of clothing will make way for your new fall wardrobe.

6) Do it Now – Start shopping early for back-to-school clothes and supplies. Don’t wait until the weekend before school starts. The stores will be crowded which may cause unnecessary stress. Make shopping a leisurely and enjoyable experience with your children or friends.

Back-to-school can mean a fresh start for your organizing routine. Prepare now to ensure you start the new school year on the right track.

If you enjoyed this article, please pass it along to others who would find it useful and sign up for our Organize Anything newsletter on our homepage at http://www.organizeanything.com

© 2006 Colette Robicheau
The Organizing Coach
Organize Anything
Phone: (902) 233-1577 Fax: (902) 455-0553
http://www.organizeanything.com
Permission to reuse or redistribute these materials is hereby granted provided they are reproduced or redistributed in their entirety with full attribution.

How to Make it Easier to Get Kids Back to School


Professional Organizer Colette Robicheau shares the best tips for getting ready to go back to school.

She talks about how to make the yearly return to school a smooth transition and how to prepare your youngest for their first time to school.

Smooth Transition from Summer to School

>Many children, especially in the lower grades, find it hard to make the switch from the lazy days of summer (going to the beach, playing soccer, visiting amusement parks) to the school year (early mornings, routines, homework). Come to think of it, it’s not easy for parents, either. But there are ways to smooth the transition:

1. Read, read, read: Make reading an integral part of your summer. Libraries often have incentive programs for the summer months; take advantage of them. Read to your child, have 29them read to you, and read together. Read menus, books, comics, read everything and anything.
2. Buy supplies: If you have your child’s class list of supplies, keep an eye out for bargains and stock up. Some schools get parents to pay a flat rate and the teachers buy the supplies in bulk and to their own specifications. It’s a great time-saver for parents, and the teachers know each child will have the exact supplies he or she needs.
3. Take inventory: Go through your child’s closet and donate clothes that no longer fit. Throw out any that are beyond repair. Make a list of what items are needed (indoor sneakers, outdoor sneakers, backpack, etc.) and go shopping. Don’t forget second-hand stores.
4. Call the school: A day or two before school starts, call the school and find out what class your child is in and if there’s anything you or your child needs to know before Day 1.
5. Know the route: How is your child getting to school: walking, by bus, by car, from the sitter’s? Is there a change from last year? Try out the route with your child to see how long it takes. A route that takes you five minutes to walk, for instance, could take a child up to 10 minutes.
6. Ease back into routine: A few weeks before the first day, start regulating bedtimes and rising times to be closer to the school-year routine. How long does it take everyone to get ready in the morning?
7. Build excitement: Most children are excited about the return to school, at least for a week or two after it starts. Even if you’re dreading the return to hectic mornings and evenings supervising homework, control your negativity, which can be contagious. Plan some fun outings during the first few weekends, and sign your child up for some favorite extra-curricular activities.
8. Visit the school: A nice tradition is going with your child on the first day back, not just for Grade Primary. It will ease some jitters and make your child feel valued.
Helping your child transition from summer mode to school mode will make them feel prepared to take on the school year and give them a smooth start. A smooth start can give a child the confidence boost he needs to do well all year.

If you enjoyed this article, please pass it along to others who would find it useful and sign up for our Organize Anything newsletter on our homepage at http://www.organizeanything.com
© 2010 Colette Robicheau
The Organizing Coach
Organize Anything
Phone: (902) 233-1577 Fax: (902) 455-0553

Permission to reuse or redistribute these materials is hereby granted provided they are reproduced or redistributed in their entirety with full attribution.

Make the Most of Your Media Interview

Red faces, stuttering, the shakes. Everyone gets nervous before they have to go on camera or do an interview with the press, whether they have done it a thousand times before or never at all. Being interviewed doesn’t just mean answering a reporter’s questions; it is an opportunity for you to get your message out there. Being prepared for an interview will make you less nervous and more confident, and with confidence comes increased credibility. Follow these tips to seem like an interview pro.

  1. Practice: If possible, ask the interviewer for the questions ahead of time so that you can prepare answers. Get a friend or a colleague to ask you these questions- and any other questions you feel the reporter may ask. This allows you to get over any rough patches or places you may stumble in your answers.
  2. Be honest: If you don’t believe in what you are saying, why should you expect others to? “I don’t know” is an Video camera viewfinderacceptable answer. Be sure to tell the reporter the steps that you are taking to get the answer. Don’t be afraid to ask if what you are saying is clear.
  3. Don’t assume: Don’t assume that the reporter knows what you are talking about and avoid jargon. Sometimes terms we use every day at work are lost on the general public. This can lead to misinterpreting and things being taken out of context.
  4. Get your message out there: The interview is about you. Make sure that your messages are clear, quotable and of interest to the reporter. Just because something is important to you, doesn’t mean that the reporter – or public – will care.
  5. So you are going to be on camera: Check your appearance right before you go on. Wear solid colours, but not black or white because you will look like you are disappearing – a navy suit is always a good option. While being interviewed, relax and smile – people can tell if you are uptight and nervous. Don’t rock back and forth or shift the weight of your legs.
  6. Interviews by phone: Use a landline; cell phones are more likely to cut out. Eliminate all distractions – turn off the TV and Computer and put a Do Not Disturb sign on your door. Keep your notes nearby and organized so that you aren’t shuffling for answers. If on the radio, remember to smile – people can hear it in your voice!

Remember, this is your interview. You may not be able to control the questions, but you can control how they are answered. Being prepared can make interviews seem a lot less daunting.

STAGING – Flaunt Your Best Assets

Highlight and draw attention to elements in the home, such as a great view, architectural details, even repairs, renovations or equipment upgrades. Your kitchen and bathroom are prime selling opportunities, so pay special attention to these areas. For example, keep your kitchen counters clear of any knickknacks and small appliances, and remove any magnets or personal items from your fridge. Remove as many personal items as you can from the bathroom so it looks pristine and that there is lots of counter space available. Replace leaking or worn faucets to give a new look to the room. Make sure to clean under the sinks. Potential homeowners will be checking out all the details. If there are any leaks, fix them. Then clean up the damage using contact paper or paint. Spending a little extra time to fix up the existing items in the home is an inexpensive way to make great changes, therefore increasing the selling value and decreasing the time it will be on the market.

living room

How to Recover Your Bedroom From Clutter

We spend roughly one-third of our day in our bedrooms, most of it sleeping.  Little wonder it can be difficult to keep a bedroom tidy and clutter-free.  Following these easy-to-remember steps will help you keep things in order—maybe even get a good night’s sleep.

Make your bed first thing in the morning. It makes the room look tidier and will motivate you to keep it that way. cluttered-room

Keep a laundry basket handy for dirty laundry to avoid creating piles of clothes on the floor.

Add hooks to your closets for belts, scarves, and accessories to keep them organized and prevent them from being misplaced.  You should also consider attaching a tie or shoe rack inside your closet doors. 

Arrange your dresser so you have one drawer for underwear and one for socks or stockings. Consider sorting through your dresser drawers every two months to discard items that have holes or mismatched socks. 

Place your purses on a shelf, or hang them on a coat rack.  This will free up space and allow you to easily access and change purses for any event or season.

Sort your clothing seasonally.  Place all clothing items that are not in season in plastic containers, and place them in a storage closet or in the bottom of your clothes closet.

At the beginning of each season, hang all of your clothing hangers backwards.  After you wear and wash an item, return it to your closet and set the hanger straight.  At the end of the season, anything that is still hung backwards should be donated since you didn’t wear it for six months.

bedroomFeb09Can’t accommodate a large jewelry box?  There are attractive, multi-compartment containers available that allow you to arrange your necklaces, rings, earrings, and bracelets.  

Get your shoes off the floor and onto a shoe rack, on shelves, or even in a shoe bag. 

Don’t have a separate linen closet?  Fold and place linen on top of a closet or dresser, if easily accessible.

Lost and Found: Keep Tabs on Your Loved Ones

Group Safety Tips for Crowds 

Summer is upon us and it’s time to soak in the sun, see the sights and enjoy everything summer has to offer – like concerts, street fairs, festivals and more. However taking in the local culture can turn into a stressful time when corralling the family and traveling in a group. Whether it’s your two-year-old wandering off in a crowd, or your husband of 20 years, it’s important to have a plan in case you’re separated.

Organize Anything has put together six great tips to help you stay connected with your group as you enjoy summer activities.

1. Colour Coordinate. Taking the kids to the fair, or attending this summer’s “must-see” concert? Consider colour-coordinating your t-shirts, or dressing the little ones in bright colours so they’re easy to spot in a crowd. This tip is popular at large amusement parks like Disneyworld where you’ll often see whole families decked out in neon.

2. ICE it. Traveling with a group of friends to see a concert or enjoying a festival? Make sure everyone’s got everyone else’s cell phone numbers programmed into their phones. Label the numbers with “ICE” which stands for In Case of Emergencies.  Taking smaller children out to enjoy performance? Safety pin your cell phone number, home phone number and address to the inside of a pocket or coat so they have it case of emergencies. Remember at large events you can’t always hear the phone ringing vibrate may help.

3. Plan ahead. In the event you do get separated from your group, you should have a plan in place of where you’ll meet them. Before leaving the house or when you have arrived at the venue, decide on a spot where everyone will meet at the end of the day if you get separated. Everyone knowing the plan will save you headaches and heartaches later.

4. Talk it out. When travelling with small children, be sure to tell them early and often how important it is to stick together. Cover the ground rules before leaving the house in the morning and then review them on the ride there and before you get out of the car. Make a game out of remembering the information.

5. Get Technical. For grownups, there are apps for your smart phone that let you share your location via GPS with friends. Perfect for that crowded concert, group members can go for snacks and bathroom breaks without losing you in the crowd. For younger children you can purchase small GPS trackers that tie onto shoe laces or backpacks. At the press of a button the tracker will start to chirp, alerting parents to their child’s location.

6. Light it Up. Heading out to watch the fireworks? Go to the Dollar Store and grab coordinated glow sticks or funky flashing lights to pass out to the family. Turn them on when the sun goes down so you can track the members of your party.

Armed with this handy information, you and your family and friends are ready to hit the streets and the beach this summer worry free. A little planning for safety can ensure lots of fun at any gathering this summer.

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STAGING – Make It Pretty

Dirt, dust, fingerprints and cobwebs all detract from the appeal of your house. Be sure to clean thoroughly in every nook and cranny, and empty all wastebaskets, for enhanced appeal. You should also consider updating the look of your house by removing dated items.

Replace these with a few well-chosen accessories, fresh flowers or lighter drapes that brighten up your house. By simply changing the hardware on kitchen and bathroom cabinets this cost-effective upgrade will take years off the look of dated cabinets.bright-bedroom-design-ideas-6

STAGING – Context Is Key

People aren’t buying houses, they are buying homes. Most potential home buyers want to see where they can fit in that home. Without being able to see furniture in the rooms, it just looks like a big empty space and potential buyers will find it hard to visualize themselves in the space.

Here are some reasons why you should never try to sell your home empty:

It is hard to tell the size of a room when there is no reference point.  Furniture will allow the buyer to see the scale of the room and sometimes even make it look larger then if it were empty. A small empty bedroom can leave one wondering if a bed even fits. Most potential buyers do not have a sense of size from reading numbers on a promotional sheet. They need some sort of reference point to make the connection to their own stuff.

Potential buyers will focus on negatives in the home rather then looking at the overall picture.  Maybe there is a scratch in the flooring, a light switch in an inconvenient spot or a bar missing from the closet. All of these negatives are easier to spot in an empty room. Instead of looking at the overall flow, the buyer is concentrating on what needs to be fixed or critiquing furnishings like light fixtures, woodwork, countertops.

Marble Hall and Staircase

Empty rooms can distract buyers from the home. They may be focusing more on why the home is empty rather then deciding if it is the right home for them. Did they get a divorce? Have they moved away? Are they trying to sell fast because there are too many problems? These are questions they may be asking because the home is so empty and nothing is catching their eye. They may even be asking themselves maybe they are desperate and I can make a low offer?

So be sure to stage each room with items to help the potential buyers see the purpose and potential layout of the room.  Even if the house is not fully furnished it is important to at least paint the picture of what could go on in each particular room for potential buyers. A vacant house is depressing, show the cheerful side of your house.

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