I had the chance to hang out with Smead and two of my fabulous organizing/productivity colleagues a few weeks ago. We did a video chat using Google Hangout and answered questions submitted all about organizing and productivity around the general theme of Spring Cleaning. It was a lot of fun! And we shared lots of great information to help you be more productive this spring in your home, office and life. Get the 411 here!


Back in January, I assisted a client with organizing her home office and setting herself up for a productive new year. When she mentioned that she is an extremely visual learner and would love a large wall calendar to plan out her entire year, I knew just the thing for her! I gifted her with a complimentary NeuYear calendar, which was sent to me by the makers of NeuYear to share with a few select clients and get their feedback. Here is what my client wrote in her own words. Clearly, it was a hit! 🙂

If you are interested in purchasing a NeuYear Calendar, check out their site at http://www.neuyear.net/.

I love my NeuYear productivity calendar! I chose to mount my calendar on foam board for sturdiness and hang it horizontally to fit my space perfectly. I love having Saturday & Sunday aligned in one weekend column for easy planning. Being able to see the whole year in one glance has helped me plan further ahead then I would normally. Since the board is not eraseable, I chose to use colored sticky notes for major events that may change in the future. Sticky notes also allow me to color code my events and I don’t have to re-write if I decide to change the event. Thanks for a great product!

~ Femi

Creating an Organized Home for Your Prized Possessions

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add,
but when there is nothing left to take away.”

~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

When conducting an organizing presentation or teleclass, I often mention the idea of creating a Memory Box for each family member.  Many participants share that the Memory Box tip is their favorite, and one they cannot wait to act on. (See, for example, this blog post by June Bisel of BusinessCardContacts.com).

A Memory Box is a container in which each family member can store his or her most treasured possessions. The size should be big enough to fit the prized possessions, but small enough to grab and carry out of the house, in case of an emergency. The actual container can be a no-nonsense functional type, like a plastic bin, or it can be a lovely decorated stylish box, bin, or basket. My personal Memory Box is an old trunk that has handles on the side to carry it in the event of an emergency evacuation.

The location for storing the Memory Box is also a personal decision. Often, because of the confidential or personal nature of the items in the box, it makes the most sense to store each person’s Memory Box in his or her room, at the top or bottom of a closet, under the bed, etc. But some choose to store all of the Memory Boxes for the family in a basement or attic, so that they do not take up precious space in the living areas of the home, and can be grabbed easily in one fell swoop if need be.

I would not recommend storing vital documents such as your will, birth certificate, etc. in the Memory Box. Those items should either be stored in a safe deposit box at the bank, or at home in a fire resistant box (remember, there is no such thing as a fireproof box for the home!). Some people store their vital documents in a regular file folder in their filing cabinet, and keep copies (or the originals) in a separate location. In the event that an emergency causes a very quick evacuation, the people and pets go out first, followed by the vital documents, and then the Memory Boxes.

What goes in a Memory Box? Well, that is up to you, of course. But here are some ideas.

  • Start a Memory Box for your children’s prized artwork, sentimental childhood possessions, schoolwork, etc.  They can decide, with you, what goes in it.  You can have a master Memory Box, and one for the current school year.  At the end of the school year, your child, with your help, can revisit the year, purging any items that are not vital enough to go in the master Memory Box.
  • If you have a few sentimental favorite articles of clothing that you just can’t part with, but don’t wear, store them in your Memory Box.
  • Want to revisit your love life? Store old love letters, poems, your corsage or boutonniere from your high school prom, a playbill from the first date with your spouse, etc.
  • If you plan to store documents or photographs in your Memory Box, consider getting an archival quality document or photo box to insert the paper and photos in, and then store the document or photo box inside the larger Memory Box. This will ensure paper and photos do not get destroyed over time.
  • If an item is much too large to fit into the Memory Box, and you can bear to part with it, take a photo of the item, and store the photo with a description of the item in the box. This works well for items that you are merely keeping out of obligation. For example, that hideous painting your aunt made for you that you will never hang up! Take a photo, write a note saying, “Aunt Gertrude meant well” and donate the painting to someone who will appreciate its unrecognized beauty.

People are often surprised to hear that I have a Memory Box. “You, a professional organizer?” Yes! Organizing is about decluttering your life of the stuff that does not serve your goals, and letting the cream rise to the top. It is about giving your favorite possessions a place of value in your home and life. My personal Memory Box includes select sentimental items, including my handwritten journals, my baton (yes, I was a baton twirler – don’t laugh!), my middle school graduation dress (loved it!), love letters from my husband from before we were married, letters and cards from friends and family members that are precious to me, and poems that I wrote growing up.

Ms. Bisel shares that her new Memory Box will contain her kid’s baby books, drawings from elementary school, some treasured photos, and other memories from her kids’ childhood. She says that her kids love looking through the stuff, and it would be great to have it all in one place. Before she attended my workshop, the items were scattered around the house, and now they will be stored conveniently together, in a place of distinction.

So, what’s in your Memory Box?

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

By Guest Blogger, Tim Eyre

After years of struggling to find the time to get organized, I finally decided to make it part of my normal routine.  Along with regular meetings and appointments penciled in on my calendar, I now schedule organizational sessions to help keep my household in order.  The following is a description of my basic strategy, which can easily be customized for any lifestyle.

First Day of Each Month.  The first day of each month is an ideal time to conduct a survey of perishable items in your kitchen.  I know way too many people who procrastinate in disposing of expired foods.  First, tackle the refrigerator.  Go shelf by shelf, looking at expiration dates on packaged foods and dispose of anything that’s already out of date.  Also, inspect other food items and get rid of anything that’s moldy or smelly.  Even if rotting food appears to be safely stored in containers, you don’t want those things sitting next to the food that you and your family plan to eat.

Next, focus your attention on the kitchen pantry, using the same basic strategy.  Pre-packaged foods should be discarded if the expiration date has passed (or, if you don’t anticipate using an item anytime soon, purge it if the expiration date is approaching).

After disposing of food items in the refrigerator and pantry, it’s time to carefully clean those spaces.  Wipe down shelves and organize the food in a logical manner so it’s easy to locate in order to minimize waste.

Anniversary of Move-in Date.  I always recommend that people identify a particular day or week during the year to concentrate on some heavy duty cleaning and organization.  “Spring cleaning” seems to be the approach many families take, but I think using the anniversary of the day you moved in your home is a great substitute.  First, it’s a date that most people can easily remember and it will also get you on a regular schedule that you can follow for years to come.

Around the anniversary of your move-in date, closets are a good place to start.  A common rule of thumb is to remove clothing from your closet if you haven’t worn it in the last year.  Special garments may merit exceptions to that rule, but the goal is to eliminate clutter caused by clothing doesn’t get worn.  After working through your own closet, move on to the closets in the kids’ rooms.  A thorough sweep through children’s closets is particularly important, as they tend to grow out of clothing rapidly.  Items that no longer fit should be removed and stored away if they can be passed down to younger siblings or gathered together for donation to a charitable organization.  And don’t forget the coat closets.  Outerwear often gets overlooked, leading to jam-packed conditions in coat closets.

Five Year Anniversary of Move-in Date.  Every fifth year on the anniversary of your move-in date, it’s time to address areas of the house that don’t warrant as much attention as the kitchen and closets.  For example, comb through the tools and other items stored in the garage and remove things that don’t work or that don’t get used anymore.  Although “organization” isn’t a term commonly associated with attics or basements, if you can’t easily locate the items stored in those areas, you’re not doing yourself any favors.  Therefore, going through those spaces about every five years and donating items that you don’t anticipate using again will help reduce clutter and keep things organized.

Major Holidays.  Following major holidays, assessing your stock of festive décor is important.  I’ve seen families lease separate storage units just to hold Christmas decorations.  Unless you have a sprawling estate that can handle that amount of holiday cheer, chances are it’s time to conduct a major organizational overhaul of these seasonal decorations.  As with closets, a common rule of thumb is to purge ornaments or decorations that haven’t been used in one or two years.

Ten Year Wedding Anniversary.  From household appliances to fancy dinnerware, the amount of “stuff” many couples amass through wedding and shower gifts is mind-blowing.  However, some couples find that those items they thought would be treasured keepsakes actually have little utility.  And others realize that the elegant dinner party they envisioned probably will never happen, making cabinets full of silver and crystal useless.  While there’s nothing wrong with holding on to sentimental items like these, I know some couples who decided to sell such items to make some extra cash and make more room for useful household storage.

Graduation.  Once children reach a certain age, it’s time to start parting with those stuffed animals we couldn’t let go of years ago and those boxes full of juvenile artistic artwork.  There’s no rule that you have to purge all your children’s memories, but you should expect for them to take some role in storing and organizing their own things.  Upon graduation from high school or college, or whenever your children start moving away from home, you can send some of these things with them.

In his role in the self storage industry, Tim Eyre helps customers care for their cherished belongings that must be put in storage. Tim regularly visits facilities including a self storage facility in Peoria. He was also recently meeting customers and staff at the Chicago self storage center.

What is Clutter?

What is clutter? The answer depends on whom you ask. For many disorganized people, nothing is clutter (a definition that often leads in the extreme to hoarding). For others, clutter is anything that piles up above and beyond their normal possessions. I like to say that clutter is like a weed in a garden. It is something that doesn’t belong. Either you did not plant it, it got carried along to a new location where it shouldn’t be, or it has outgrown its space. It can even be a plant or flower that you planted and loved at one time, but now decide no longer belongs. In other words, clutter is anything that you don’t love, want, need or use.

Regardless of whether the clutter is physical or mental, it is caused by a combination of forces that creates disorganization. Your role is to assess why the clutter is in your home, office and life and then get ready to get rid of it. Th e best motivation for clearing clutter is not to focus on the time and energy needed to sort out your stuff, but to ask yourself, “What am I creating space for?”

The only way you can effectively declutter is to eliminate the constant chorus of “But I might need that someday.” Ask yourself what’s the worst thing that can happen if you donate, recycle or toss the item. If you can live with the answer, get rid of it!

The key to dealing with clutter is being able to assess your needs and motivation in order to find out why you are keeping your clutter. Once you understand your motivations, you can eliminate clutter for good — and greatly improve your sense of inner well-being.

By Guest Blogger, Jared Heath

Everyone has pencil drawers and filing systems that we fondly refer to as “organized chaos.” But sometimes you have more to organize than five years of tax returns and insurance policies. If you’re anything like me, you love your motorcycle, the entertainment center you built for your wife, and that hideous couch-and-chair combo you bought before you got married. And if you’re still like me, you need to find a place to put all of it before your wife auctions it off on Craig’s List.

Fellas, I know you love your garage, but it just isn’t that big. In fact, home sizes have been shrinking according to this USA Today article, presumably to accommodate the new “slim-but-not-so-sleek” look of the average American’s wallet since 2008. So what do you do with all your stuff without all your space?

Storage units. You start by biting the bullet and selling the nasty couch, and then you take those valuable and seasonal possessions and put them away for the time being. As Lisa Montanaro recommends, getting rid of the clutter saves time and money. Some things, however, don’t fall into the “clutter” category, though it doesn’t quite qualify as junk, either.

Here’s the principle in action: my wife and I got married eight months ago, and we started collecting furniture before we had a place to live. Paying rent in the LA area is a beast as it is, and paying a few months’ rent before the wedding while still paying for our personal apartments was not going to happen. That’s when I discovered that Los Angeles storage units were far more affordable than Los Angeles apartments as my wife and I got our lives put together.

Everything needs it place, and your basement and garage are not as bottomless as you had hoped. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to sell absolutely everything with which you can’t bear to part. Downsize your house, downsize your life, and get a storage unit for a few bucks a month to keep things organized.

Jared Heath is a freelance writer whose passions are his family, writing, and motorcycles. After reading Lisa’s blog on putting every aspect of life in its place, Jared offered his own ways to keep order in life and peace with his wife. Jared and his family now live in Utah.

I am thrilled to share this great piece written by local reporter, Roger Gavan, about the launch of my new book, The Ultimate Life Organizer. Roger has been following my business since I started years ago, and is always generous in his coverage, and a great writer (and photographer to boot!).

Check out this latest article he did about my new book, which will be ready for purchase in less than a week so stay tuned. If you are not yet on the Red Carpet List to be notified of the official launch, visit www.TheUltimateLifeOrganizer.com to get on the list!

The last in a series of spring-related re-posts of articles to help you make the transition into warmer weather. Enjoy!

I have found that among its other benefits, giving
liberates the soul of the giver.”
~ Maya Angelou

This time of year, many people are switching their clothes to prepare for the new season.  Most people do not have enough room in their everyday closet for two seasons’ worth of clothes.  So the big switch begins!  Out with the summer clothes here in the Northeast and in with the fall/winter ones.

Transition times are perfect for donating.  As you put away and take out each article of clothing, think about whether it fits, is a great style for you, needs tailoring, etc.  If you decide to donate, there are many worthy charities and organizations ready and able to take those clothes off of your hands and get them into the hands of those who need them.  Here are some choices:

Help the children of KenyaThe Help Kenya Project

This is a Westchester County, NY based charity that focuses on helping the children of Kenya. They collect donations of used computers, books, clothing, sports equipment, and other supplies and ship them to Kenyan schools and libraries. In return, they ask that the recipients plant trees to combat deforestation and provide children with a place to rest and play out of the sun.

It’s incredible how valuable the book or computer you might be throwing out is to a Kenyan child. By providing Kenya’s students with science, English, and computer skills, they give them a much better chance of finding good jobs later in life. It breaks the cycle of poverty by helping Kenyans to help themselves. This is a charity that truly leaves a lasting impact.

Vietnam Veterans of America
VVA accepts donations of household goods and clothing in 30 states in the continental United States. To make a donation, please refer to the state map. Identify your area and call the phone number referenced.

see the difference your donated goods can make in the worldTangible Karma is a donation tracking service that gives you a chance to see the difference your donated goods can make in the world.  At Tangible Karma their mission is to inspire and motivate you, to transform items that are hindering your life into valuable gifts that could make a meaningful difference in the life of another.

In addition to the above organizations, don’t forget Dress for Success, Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, American Red Cross, St. Vincent DePaul Society, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, domestic violence and homeless shelters, places of worship, educational institutions, animal shelters, hospitals, nursing homes, and libraries.  I am sure you can think of even more in your area!

Adopt an organization and make it a point to get a wish list from them so that you can fill it with the items you no longer love, use often, or need.  Then sit back and experience the satisfaction of knowing that your cast-offs are becoming someone else’s needed treasures.

Spring is the perfect time to switch your cold weather clothes for your warm weather ones. Here is some guidance on how to do this big overhaul for those closets!

The Clothes Closet Overhaul

  • Remove everything from your closet.
  • Create four piles: Keep, Donate, Toss, Tailor/Clean.  If you haven’t worn it in a few seasons, get rid of it!
  • Try on everything in your keep pile and decide item by item if it is really a keeper.  If you are unsure, try it on and look in a mirror.  Or better yet, ask a kind but honest friend to come over and give you his/her opinion as you conduct a mini fashion show.  The ultimate – get a pro and hire an image or wardrobe consultant to help you.
  • If you have a few sentimental favorites you can’t part with but won’t wear, store them in your Memory Box or out of season storage area.
  • Once you’ve pared down, give your closet an orderly flow.  Organize by garment type (shirts, pants, dresses, suits), season (current in most accessible location), color (only if that appeals to you), use (work versus casual), size (good for babies and little kids who grow out of sizes easily) — whatever makes the most sense for your lifestyle.
  • Consider storing your off-season clothing in separate location if it takes up too much room.  Dress clothes/evening wear used occasionally can also go elsewhere.
  • Use wooden hangers for suits and slacks, clear plastic swivel hangers for shirts, and padded hangers for lingerie and delicate items.
  • Be ruthless about weeding out your clothes on a regular basis, at least whenever there is a change of seasons.  Place a donate bin, box, or bag at the bottom of your closet as a constant reminder! Donate any items not used in the last few seasons, that don’t fit (yes, even your “fat” or “skinny” clothes — it is bad energy to have clothes that don’t fit you hanging around!), or that are out of style.  Remember to keep track of what you donate and get a receipt for a tax deduction if you donate to a tax-exempt charity!