Whether you are a hoarder, have hoarding tendencies, or are just cluttered, I recommend you watch an episode of the new show, Hoarders, on A&E.  

New episodes air on Monday evenings at 10 p.m., while repeat episodes air on weekend afternoons. Each episode features two separate hoarders, and gives them assistance via a professional organizer or a therapist that specializes in hoarding. The show provides an up close and personal snapshot into the world of hoarding — a world that has remained very much unseen and off limits to the general public in the past. 

The most famous example of hoarding is the Collyer brothers.  In fact, the brothers compulsive hoarding was so extreme that there is a syndrome named after them, ‘Collyer brothers syndrome,’ a fear of throwing anything away. The brothers were found dead in 1947 in their Harlem brownstone where they had lived as hermits, surrounded by over 130 tons of clutter that they had collected over several decades. Their clutter included newspapers, books, furniture, musical instruments, and many other items, with booby traps set up to protect against intruders. Experts  surmised that the brothers accidentally fell into their own booby traps, got trapped, and died. A very tragic example of what compulsive hoarding can do.

You will see this type of extreme hoarding on Hoarders. It can be very unsettling, and you may feel voyeuristic at times (I do not recommend watching this show while eating by the way!). Yes, it is reality TV and some of you may not be into that genre. But I still think you can benefit from watching. Here’s why.

You will hopefully come away with a better understanding of the extreme grip clutter can have on a person, and the effect of all of that clutter on his or her quality of life, space, health, and relationships. You may recognize yourself, realize that you are indeed a hoarder, and decide to get help (visit the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization). Or you may realize that someone you know is a hoarder and encourage him or her to get help.  At the very least, you will probably feel much better about yourself and your efforts to get organized and live a less cluttered life.

There’s still time to DECIDE to be Organized! The 6-week group coaching program starts tomorrow night, October 6th, and runs until November 10th.  I have a great group of participants already registered that are ready to work, share, and make changes to their homes, offices, and lives.  Come join us!

Why a Group ‘Coaching’ Program?

Coaching is designed to assist individuals in creating and implementing specific action plans. Coaches use advanced communication skills to help the client create a successful personal and professional life.

As a trained mediator, I guide clients to successful results through motivation and encouragement, without judgment. The focus is on asking skillful questions designed to help participants define and achieve their goals.

But don’t worry! I do more than ask questions. I will also have my certified professional organizer ‘expert’ hat on throughout the program, offering tried-and-true tools and tricks based on my 7 years of experience working with hundreds of clients to overcome their organizing issues.

Each week, you will get 90 minutes of information-packed instruction, along with Q&A. Participants can ask me their questions and get personalized, informative, and effective answers. During the teleclasses, you’ll get an energizing combination of practical tips and suggestions, plus techniques to deal with the emotional side of disorganization and clutter.

But don’t take my word for it! Here is a testimonial from a past workshop participant:

I cannot tell you how you have really changed my life. I know it sounds corny, but I was in such a bad place before your workshop. You got me thinking of how to use your methods for every aspect of my life and what a difference! I must say, your workshop really helped me put things into perspective and prioritize my activities. I don’t have to do it all at once. What a relief! It’s amazing how organizing your life gives such peace of mind!”  ~ Rosemary Reo, Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES, Yorktown Heights, NY

Are You Ready to DECIDE to be Organized?

There will be 6 (six) 90-minute calls in a row on Tuesday evenings from October 6 to November 10, 2009, each starting at 7:30pm EST. Registration is only $199! Enrolling is easy. Follow this link. 

You have nothing to lose — except maybe some clutter, overwhelm, and stress!

So many people share that their biggest organizing challenge is paper.  Earlier this year, I gave a teleclass called Record Retention 101: Organize Your Paperwork.  It was well attended and has been one of the most sought-after recordings.  If you are having problems with paper, read on for the details. 

You are not sure what to keep, so you keep, well . . . everything! This creates piles of paper and shoe boxes full of receipts. Does this sound familiar? There is a better way! 

In this 75 minute teleclass, Certified Professional Organizer Lisa Montanaro reveals the steps involved in setting up a Record Retention Policy for your home or home-based business. Discover what to keep and for how long, and learn paper management systems to store and retrieve documents for future use.  Get tips on what papers are needed to support tax deductions.  Whether you use an accountant, do your taxes yourself from scratch, or use tax preparation software, this teleclass will help you slay the paper beast for tax season and the whole year through.

Investment: $25 – Bonus! Includes a comprehensive handout and a free subscription to the DECIDE to be Organized monthly ezine.

Click here to go to the order page!

Interested in hearing some great radio interviews on organizing? Click here to listen up.

I had the pleasure of going on air 4 times in the last few years with WTBQ, which streams out of Warwick, NY. Local radio personality, John Moultrie, interviewed me for the first 3, and the most recent interview was for the Frank Truatt show. All were great fun, delve into my path of becoming a professional organizer, offer organizing tips, and a dash of humor! And to boot — they’re free!

Enjoy listening!

Next Thursday and Friday, September 24 & 25, I will have the pleasure of presenting at the Interior Redesign and Industry Specialists Conference (IRIS) in Denver, CO. This will be my second year presenting at the IRIS Conference, and I am very much looking forward to sharing my expertise with such a great group of entrepreneurs.

I will be conducting two workshops – Branch Out: Grow and Expand Your Interior Redesign & Home Staging Business by Adding Organizing Services to the Mix, and 3 Steps to Next Level Business Success for Entrepreneurs. Full details of both presentations can be found on the IRIS Conference site.

If you are an interior redesigner, home stager, or professional organizer, or are thinking of starting a business encompassing any of those services, this conference would be a great fit for you! My “Branch Out” presentation is a good match for anyone interested in adding organizing services to his or her existing menu of services, whether an IRIS or NAPO member. My “Next Level Business Success” presentation covers how to juggle all of the hats of being a business owner, how to leverage your services, and many other tools and tips to help you take your business to the next level.

So, meet me in Denver! I look forward to seeing you there.

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Have you always wanted to get organized but can’t afford to hire a professional organizer on a one-on-one basis? Well, now is your chance!

Come join me for the DECIDE® to be Organized Online Group Coaching Program, a 6-week program designed to be comprehensive, but easy to digest. You’ll have time to work on your organizing projects — in fact, the whole goal of this program is for you to achieve results on an individual basis while working in a group environment! The program is a combination of information, exercises, and support. 

There will be 6 (six) 90-minute calls in a row on Tuesday evenings from October 6 to November 10, 2009, each starting at 7:30pm EST. (If you miss a class, no worries! All classes are recorded for your convenience.)

Due to the interactive and intimate nature of this program, space is limited! So, if you know this program is for you, act now. Registration is only $199 if you register before Tuesday, September 22nd. You have nothing to lose — except maybe some clutter, overwhelm, and stress! Click here for details and registration.

Who Is the Perfect Candidate for this Group Coaching Program?

  • Those that learn well in a group environment.  Participants will have the opportunity to interact with each other, realize they are not alone, and share challenges and solutions with the group.
  • Those outside of my geographical area that cannot work with me one-on-one.
  • Those that are on a budget and cannot afford one-on-one organizing services.
  • Those that need structure in order to reach their organizing goals. The program includes weekly homework assignments for those that want to work on their own between sessions.
  • Those that benefit from an accountability aspect. You have the opportunity to report your progress each week, as well as have access to me and other participants by email and social media.

Want to learn more about the DECIDE® process? Click here to listen to a 10 minute audio presentation about it!

So join me for DECIDE. I promise it will be the best decision you’ve made toward your goal of getting organized all year!

In honor of my friend’s surprise baby shower today (shhhhh!), I am sharing a great organizing product that I just love — the Baby Briefcase.

Baby_Briefcase2 

The Baby Briefcase was designed by a new mom who realized her baby’s paperwork weighed almost as much as her baby. Think about it – medical documents, birth certificate, social security forms, thank you notes, warranty information for all of that new baby gear, etc. The list goes on!

Instead of throwing all of those papers in a pile, and stressing about not being able to find them when you need them, you can store them all in one portable stylish location. It is a grab-and-go strategy that allows you to take all of baby’s documents with you when you need them, or to leave it at home in a filing drawer and just grab what you need from it. And at a time when sleep is a precious and rare commodity, the time saving features will be a real blessing!

Baby Briefcase is a wonderfully designed, charming little organizer. Did I mention it is also adorable? It’s a great gift for a new parent, which is why I am wrapping it for this afternoon’s baby shower.

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“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 boutineer 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?

backtoschool1It is that time of year again when summer is coming to an end, and the kids are getting ready to go back to school. Start the year off the organized way! Register for Back to School the Organized Way: 10 Tips to Keep Your Child Organized This School Year, a teleclass designed to help you take control this year!

In this teleclass, I will draw upon my years of experience as a Certified Professional Organizer (and former special education instructor) to share the steps involved in getting your K-12 child organized for the school year:

• Learn organizing tips for setting up a launching and landing pad, family scheduling and calendars, evening & morning routines, organizing-friendly school supplies, family communication center, study centers, etc.
• Develop a system for tackling all of the papers that come home from school!
• Discover what your child’s unique organizing style is, and how to customize a system that works for him or her.
• Empower your children by establishing organizing and time management systems that they can maintain.
• Discover how to avoid clutter, set goals, and stay on an organized path to success.

Organized students are better prepared to learn at school, complete homework assignments in less time, and experience less stress (and so do their families). Children who develop and maintain good organizational skills will not only be prepared for today’s academic challenges but to excel in tomorrow’s world.

Come learn tips that will help your child, and you, get and stay organized the whole year through!

Thursday, August 27th
Time: 7:30 – 9:00 pm (Eastern Standard Time)
Investment: $25

Can’t make the live call? No need to worry. All teleclasses are recorded and the audio is usually posted within 48 hours. You can either listen to the call on the special web page sent to you after the call (by clicking the link provided), or you can download the MP3 file to listen to on your computer, iPod, or other MP3 player at your leisure.

Join me on August 27th by registering here.

Hope to “see” you there!

I am a big fan of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. I have read all seven of them, and each time a new movie version premieres, I make it a point to re-read that book before seeing the accompanying movie. Therefore, at this time, I am re-reading the sixth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which is currently showing in theaters. In Half-Blood Prince, the sixth-year students at Hogwarts are taking lessons in apparition. Apparition is a magical form of teleportation, through which a witch or wizard can disappear (“disapparate”) from one location and reappear (“apparate”) in another. During the lessons, the instructor outlines the 3 D’s of apparition: Destination, Determination, Deliberation. When I read the 3 D’s of apparition, I couldn’t help but think that there is a strong parallel to the principles of organizing. Let me demonstrate.

If you are about to embark on an organizing project, you need to first think about your organizing goals, i.e., your Destination. If a physical organizing project, you can do this by visualizing what the space will look like after you have organized it. Visualize your home or office without the piles of clutter. If your organizing project is not physical, then you can envision what you will feel like once the project is accomplished. Visualize your calendar with less tasks in it. Hold onto that visualization in your mind. Thinking about your Destination is a powerful motivator to help get you there. In my 6-step organizing approach, DECIDE™, the first step is Discover. Like Destination, it is the stage when you think about what you want in your home, work, and life, and how being better organized will serve you and your goals.

In order to succeed with your organizing projects, you need to practice Determination. When you are determined, you are more likely to prepare for success. What type of Determination do you have? Have you created an accountability partnership? Have you hired a professional organizer to assist you? Are you willing to make the time and exert the effort that it takes to make organization a reality? With Determination, you will make time in your schedule to organize, and will break down the organizing project into small manageable portions in order to stay focused and motivated. In my DECIDE® process, the 5th step is Dedicate. Just like with Determination, you must dedicate yourself to becoming organized, and staying that way once you have achieved your desired goal.

Lastly, you must act with Deliberation when you want to get organized. To be deliberate when organizing means that slow and steady wins the race. You need to take each action with an eye toward whether it makes sense for you. In the DECIDE® process, the 4th step is Implement, during which you design organizing systems to match your habits, needs, work, and lifestyle. You need to carefully consider each step along the way, and be deliberate so that the system can be maintained for the long haul. If the system is deliberately tailored to you, you will be more likely to maintain it.

So when organizing, think of the 3 D’s of apparition from Harry Potter: Destination, Determination, and Deliberation. They are useful tools for accomplishing your organizing projects. And, of course, if all else fails, you can always try to “disapparate” your clutter!