Lisa Montanaro has been chosen, for the second year in a row, as the moderator of the Golden Circle Ask the Organizer Panel for the 2012 National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) Conference to be held in Baltimore, MD on March 23rd & 24th. Ms. Montanaro is the owner of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC out of Warwick NY, and is a Certified Professional Organizer, Business & Life Coach, Speaker & Author of the book, The Ultimate Life Organizer.

Golden Circle is the crème de la crème of the organizing industry of NAPO members that have been in business for 5 years or more. The Ask the Organizer Panel is made up of select leaders in the industry and questions are asked by any organizer regardless of level or years of expertise. The Golden Circle panel is made up only of Golden Circle members, and questions will only be permitted by other Golden Circle members, making it truly a panel of, and for, experienced professional organizers.

Ms. Montanaro, who was an Ask the Organizer panel member at the 2010 NAPO Conference is delighted to be back again as the moderator. “Moderating the panel at the 2011 NAPO Conference was an amazing experience,” says Ms. Montanaro. “I am delighted and honored to be selected again for what I consider to be one of the most important roles of the organizing industry.”

LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, established in 2002, is a professional services firm offering productivity consulting, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals, organizations, and corporations. Owner, Lisa Montanaro, is a Golden Circle member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), and an inaugural Certified Professional Organizer®. She is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life by Peter Pauper Press. For more information, contact Ms. Montanaro at (845) 988-0813 or by email at

Powerful smart phones, computers, tablets, websites, software, blogs and social media. There are so many technology tools and gadgets these days that it is hard to keep up! On the other end of the spectrum are people that are glued to their devices, addicted to their “Crackberry.” Indeed, for many people, technology has become the master. However, true technology was designed to be our servant. The following tools (some are “apps,” which is short for applications for those of you that have are not as familiar with smart phone lingo) will help you harness technology to boost your productivity. You may have heard of some, while others may be new “finds.” All of them are designed to assist you in being smarter, faster, and more productive, which is why technology was created in the first place.

Google Calendar – Need a calendar that can’t be lost, can be accessed from any device, and can be shared with others when you want to? GoogleCalendar to the rescue! Google Calendar is an Internet based calendar system that you can access from your desktop computer, laptop, smart phone or tablet — basically any device with Internet service. You can share events with family members and friends, making it perfect for families to use and even small businesses. And it is absolutely free! Your content is stored “in the cloud,” which means you can never lose it, a real bonus for those of you that sometimes misplace your smart phone or forget to charge it.

YouSendIt – Ever want to send a friend or work colleague a file but it is too large to send via your regular email system? Try YouSendIt next time. YouSendIt is secure online sharing software that allows you to easily send large files and email at tachments. It is free for the basic level, and if you need to send even larger files, you can upgrade to a paid version. I use YouSendIt often to email video files, slides shows, and other types of files that are larger than usual. It is quick and easy. All you need is the recipient’s email and, voila, away the file goes.

Dropbox – This tool is my favorite. Dropbox is a free service that let’s you store information from your computer, smart phone or tablet on the Internet, and then access it from anywhere you have service. You can also share it with others. Just upload files, videos or photos into your Dropbox account, and they are stored there until you need them. The basic level gives you 2GB for free. Any more than that, and you must buy a paid version. But 2GB is a lot of free online storage if you are only storing documents. If you need video a nd photo storage, you will be at a higher level. To me, the beauty of Dropbox is it’s portability. It is like having your files with you wherever you go!

Evernote – Need a place to jot down notes, ideas and lists that can be accessed from anywhere, and tagged and archived so that the information is easily retrievable? You will love Evernote. Evernote is a suite of software and services designed for note taking and archiving. It allows you to make notes and lists in a handy location (better than post-it notes scattered everywhere) using your computer, smart phone or tablet, and access them when you need them. Uses are endless — shopping lists, business ideas, snap a photo of something to remember it, clip webpages, class notes, recipes, travel itineraries, images of business cards, etc. Evernote has a bigger learning curve than the other tools list ed, but once mastered, it’s power is amazing.

Toodledo – Need a place to list all of your projects, tasks and to-do’s that is portable and allows you to access it from any device? Chuck the paper and check out Toodledo. It is an Internet based software that is a powerful task manager. You can organize tasks by category, place them into folders, track due dates and access the information from anywhere. If you need a calendar system also, Toodledo does have that option. You can tag tasks to easily search them later, add notes to them, and lots of other bells and whistles. Toodledo, like Evernote, allows you to dump your brain into an electronic format so that you don’t have to remember everything yourself!

Dragon – Dragon i s voice-to-text software that allows you to dictate to your smart phone, tablet or computer, and then converts the voice recording to text. Once in text format, you can email or text it to yourself, or anyone else for that matter. Uses for Dragon are endless — shopping lists, letters, quick emails, etc. It’s not only easy and fun to use, it’s also safer to speak into your phone than type when driving!

Coaching Challenge : Harness the power of technology! Choose at least one of the above tools and try it. Technology works best when you take the time to learn how to effectively use it and integrate it into your life. So be patient, take your time and discover what works best for you.

Unfortunately, summer will soon be coming to an end. I know, don’t rush it! Enjoy the last days of summer. Perhaps you have a vacation planned, or want to just stay at home and relax. But fall will be here before you know it. So, take some time now to plan your back to work strategy for fall now. Hopefully, the following tips will help get you started.

  • Get Through That Dreaded Email Inbox. I know that many of you still have tons of emails sitting in your inbox. Summer does not mean a hiatus on email. So take the time now to get through that inbox. Delete like crazy, move important or active emails into folders, and reply to those that you have left for far too long.
  • Sort Through Your Paper Inbox. You probably have a pile of paper on your desk that you call your “inbox.” Sort through it now so you can start the fall season seeing the bottom of it! If you don’t have an effective paper management system, get some stacking paper trays and label them with categories of paper that make sense to you. For example, Inbox/Unprocessed Paper, Action, File, Shred, Scan, Read. Use a desktop label maker or a portable one. I personally like the label makers by Dymo for the way they marry technology, design and functionality.
  • Sort Through Your Files. Go through your files quickly and efficiently, pulling out anything that is obsolete, can be scanned for future reference, belongs to someone else, etc. The less paper you have in your filing system, the more likely you are to file the new stuff coming in! So get to it.
  • Create Templates and Systems. On a going forward basis, create templates, systems, work flow charts and samples that will help streamline your office and work life. The more work you do up front to delegate to yourself (or better yet, to someone else), the more you will be able to reap the rewards of these systems long term, especially in the fall when everyone is so busy.

Follow through on these tips and you will be well on your way to a productive autumn season! Meanwhile, if you have a great office (home or work) productivity tip, email it to or share it on their Facebook page at for the chance to win a free Dymo label maker. The winner will be chosen randomly.

Full disclosure: This is sponsored content and I have been compensated to do this post. That being said, I do not blog about anything I do not believe in and Dymo did not edit this post or direct the content in any way.

Do you have what it takes to be a professional organizer?

Want to add organizing services to your existing service-based business? You can!

Join us for a Half-Day Live Workshop in Denver, Colorado

Professional Organizer Intensive: Become a Professional Organizer or Add Organizing Services to Your Business

Presented by Lisa Montanaro
Certified Professional Organizer®, Business & Life Coach,
Motivational Speaker, Author

Date: Saturday, June 18, 2011
Time: 1:00 – 4:30 pm
Location: Homewood Suites by Hilton, Littleton, Colorado (right outside Denver)
Investment: $159 (0r $299 for full day program, which includes Next Level Business Success: Ready, Set, Go from 8:30 am – 12:00 pm)
Details and Registration

Your investment includes:

  • A half day of education, interaction, and networking
  • Workshop handouts, including a customizable Action Plan that will help you implement what you learn
  • The DECIDE™to be Organized e-book
  • Subscription to the DECIDE®to be Organized and Next Level Business Success ezines
  • A follow-up group coaching call within 60 days of workshop completion
  • 30 minute laser coaching session with Lisa to be used within 6 months of workshop
  • Unlimited email access to Lisa after the workshop ends
  • Certificate of Attendance for continuing education credit

Bonus: Networking lunch served from 12:00-1:00 prior to workshop (exclusively for those that register for full day program, which includes Next Level Business Success from 8:30 am – 12:00 pm)

Topics Covered: This interactive, entertaining, and intensive workshop will cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Getting started as a professional organizer
  • The professional organizing industry
  • Working with clients
  • Choosing your target market and service offerings
  • Marketing your organizing services
  • Organizing methodology
  • Basic principles of organizing
  • Tried-and-true organizing systems
  • Concrete solutions to room-by-room organizing challenges
  • Tips and tools of the trade
  • Valuable lessons learned based on years of experience in the field

Who Should Attend: Organizing is a growing industry! To combat the recession, many people are becoming self-employed. Come find out if you have what it takes to succeed as a professional organizer.

Whether you’re totally new to the field of professional organizing, are a budding organizer in the beginning stages of your career, or have an existing service-based business and want to add organizing services to the mix, this workshop will equip you with the content and insights you need to succeed.

Some business owners are adding new offerings that are natural extensions of their existing services. Increasing your service offerings is an effective way to add multiple streams of income. For example, organizing is a natural complement to interior design or redesign/staging services. Help clients clear the clutter before you work your magic. Teach clients how to maintain organizing systems so that their homes stay beautiful long after you leave.

You will come away with an action plan for becoming a professional organizer, or adding organizing services to your existing menu of services. You will leave the workshop motivated and prepared to act. If you’ve never seen Lisa in action, come join us for a workshop that promises to deliver great results!

See the details and register.

Unsure if you are getting the most out of your business?

Unclear as to whether your business is going in the right direction?

Feeling like you could use a business plan revamp?

Then get ready to take your business to the Next Level!

Join us for a Half-Day Live Workshop in Denver, Colorado

Next Level Business Success: Ready, Set, Go!

Presented by Lisa Montanaro
Certified Professional Organizer®, Business & Life Coach,
Motivational Speaker, Author

Your investment includes:

  • A half day of education, interaction, and networking
  • Workshop handouts, including a customizable Action Plan that will help you implement what you learn
  • A resource guide filled with business/legal/entrepreneur articles written by Lisa
  • Subscription to the Next Level Business Success ezine
  • A follow-up group coaching call within 60 days of workshop completion
  • 30 minute laser coaching session with Lisa to be used within 6 months of workshop
  • Unlimited email access to Lisa after the workshop ends
  • Certificate of Attendance for continuing education credit

Bonus: Networking lunch served from 12:00-1:00 pm after workshop (exclusively for those that register for full day program, which includes Branch Out workshop from 1:00-4:30 p.m.)

Topics Covered: The workshop will help you create a plan designed to implement business growth by focusing on three phases: Ready (assess), Set (strategize and plan), Go (take action). We will examine where your business is now, where you want to take it, and how you will get it there. This interactive, entertaining, and intensive workshop will cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your business
  • Active business planning strategies
  • Best practices for business owners
  • Marketing/Unique Selling Proposition
  • Ideal Client/Target Market
  • Business models
  • Business Systems/Operations Manual
  • Create a strategic plan for growing operations
  • Start preparing for your exit strategy
  • Delegating and outsourcing
  • Hiring employees or subcontractors
  • Creating multiple streams of income/leverage your content
  • Establishing a Board of Advisors
  • Accountability checks/tools
  • Focusing on your unique areas of brilliance within your business
  • Learn how to work on your business, not just in it
  • Hear valuable lessons learned based on the presenter’s years of experience as a successful business owner

Who Should Attend: Are you a solopreneur and often find it lonely? Maybe you are you a small business owner with employees or subcontractors, but find yourself wanting to brainstorm with like-minded business owners, while learning from a business coach, lawyer and trainer of entrepreneurs? Perhaps you are at a pivotal point in your business, and need to make some tough decisions.

Regardless of the level your business is ready to move to, this workshop will help you get there. If you are in the beginning stages of business, this workshop will help you start off on the right foot. If you are in business for years, this workshop will help you figure out what’s next and give you a customizable Action Plan to get there.

You will leave the workshop motivated and prepared to act. If you’ve never seen Lisa in action, come join us for a workshop that promises to deliver great results!

Rave Reviews from Past Attendees of Lisa’s Workshops:

“You are very well-spoken and a wonderful presenter. You did a great job providing so much relevant content and without giving us that feeling of info-overload.”

“I went to your workshop at the NAPO Conference and just wanted to tell you how impressed I was. You are such a knowledgeable and good speaker. I have already implemented so many of your suggestions. Yours was the only CD I purchased from conference. I am sure your session will benefit me for years to come.”

“The level of energy and enthusiasm you bring into the training environment is truly admirable and your organizational skills certainly show proof of the amount of effort and thought you place in preparing for your workshops.”

“Your workshop at the NAPO National Conference was alone worth my entire investment (registration, hotel, transportation, food, etc.). Thank you so much!”

About the Presenter:
Lisa Montanaro is an inaugural Certified Professional Organizer, Business & Life Coach, Motivational Speaker, and Author. Lisa founded LM Organizing Solutions, LLC in 2002, and has helped thousands of people and organizations live better lives and operate better businesses. A sought-after business expert due to her background as an attorney, mediator, and trainer of entrepreneurs, Lisa offers business coaching to professional organizers, and other entrepreneurs and small business owners. Part consultant, part coach — Lisa gives expert advice, while also guiding clients to the answers they seek. Lisa presents at national conferences, has been interviewed by television and radio hosts, is a frequent guest expert for national teleclasses and webinars, and has been widely published on the web and in print.

Recently, one of my clients posed this question to me about using online images. It made me realize that many business owners and entrepreneurs may struggle with this issue. If you’ve ever wondered about using images online and how that use impacts copyright law, then you owe it to yourself to take a peek at my answer. It is better to be educated (and safe) than ignorant (and potentially, sorry)!


Many people are confused about using images in ezines, products or on their website that are captured from the web. I purchase most of my images from IStock, or other resources, but what are the clear cut rules?

I know Constant Contact offers free images as well as Microsoft clipart. And when writing about a product or resource (basically promoting them), is it safe to use a picture of the product or company logo? I’ve done this before.

You can get yourself into trouble by using images, can’t you? Even if you don’t see a “copyright” on them?  I would assume that you can ask for permission and cite the image source. Could you could give advice to all those building their business about this? Thank you.


Great question! I have a colleague that just got into trouble with this exact scenario for using an image without permission for her ezine that was copyrighted by a photographer.

Copyright protection begins the moment an original work is created and lasts for the creator’s life plus 70 years. Copyright protection extends to literature, music, plays, choreography, pictures, graphics, sculptures, architecture, movies, audiovisuals and recordings. So you are correct that images and photos are included and given copyright protection.

Copyright infringement is using someone else’s creative work without authorization or compensation, if compensation is appropriate. So, what we are dealing with here is a potential copyright infringement of someone else’s photo or image. (It may also be a trademark infringement if the image or logo is trademarked.)

The owner of the copyrighted material controls whether others can reproduce the work, prepare derivative work, distribute copies or display it. Using it without permission, even if you credit the creator, is not acceptable. Neither is copying others’ original work that does not carry a copyright symbol.

However, there are exceptions. One is “public domain.” But, don’t misinterpret the term “public domain.” Just because it is on the internet, does not mean it is public domain! Once a copyright expires, it enters the public domain. Public domain comprises all works that are no longer protected or never were, including works created prior to 1923, and works created between 1923 and 1963 on which copyright registrations were not renewed.  Works created since 1989 are presumptively protected, and all government material, such as statutes and laws.

There is also a Fair Use Exception to copyright infringement that allows the limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holder. It is permitted for literary criticism, comment, news, reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. The courts use a four-factor balancing test to determine if fair use exception applies: 1) Purpose and character of use, 2) nature of use, 3) amount and substantiality of work used, and 4) effect on market value of work. Some people believe there is a 5th factor too that depends on the type of infringer (non-profit or for-profit) and its intentions and track record (a repeat offender or an unknowing and unintentional infringer).

The easiest way to avoid copyright infringement is to only use images from sources that specifically grant permission, some of which you listed, such as IStock. There is also a non-profit organization called Creative Commons that grants copyright permissions through a tiered approach ranging from selective protection to unlimited grant of permission. You can learn more at Be sure to look for a Creative Commons License on a website to see if the owner has specified which rights he or she is retaining, and which rights he or she is willing to release.

Another way to avoid copyright infringement is to ask to use the work. Sending a simple email request to use an image takes just a few minutes, and can save you a lot of turmoil (and potential legal fees!) in the long run. Approach people online on sites like Flickr. Let them know you’d like to use one of their images, which one, for what purpose, and offer to give them credit. Also, check Stock Exchange and Wiki Commons. Read through the restrictions and rights. Artists will usually list whether a photo may be used, for what purpose, and what type of credit must be given.

Despite all of the above, if you are using an official image of a product to promote it, the assumption is usually that the owner of that product is happy to have you assist in their marketing efforts. It has become common practice to use an image of a product when reviewing it, sharing it with your readers, and promoting it for people to purchase. Most companies that put a photo of their products on the internet are thrilled if you take that image and tell the world about that product. It is like having a global sales team! Indeed, if you are an affiliate of a product, there is an implied agreement for you to be able to use the images of that product in order to fully promote it as an affiliate. I often review products on my blog, and the companies that I do so for are only too happy to provide me with images.

The bottom line: When in doubt, use images that specifically grant permission. If you are unsure, do not use the image! Seek permission first or find a different image that is clearly permissible to use.

In honor of spring, I am re-posting one of my favorite articles/posts. Enjoy!

Spring marks the transition from winter into summer. It is a time that most of us equate with renewal, increasing day length, and a symbolic changing of the seasons. Spring is seen as a time of growth, when new life (both plant and animal) are born. The term is also used more generally as a metaphor for the start of better times. For many, it is also a time for cleaning and organizing – i.e., the Spring Fling!

During the winter, we tend to stockpile. It is in our nature. Chances are you’ve got some clutter left over at work, at home, in your car, on your computer, and in your head. This is an ideal time to do some eliminating. The old adage, “Out with the old, in with the new” definitely applies this season. To help you with your Spring Fling, the following are some tips for clearing the clutter.

  • Purge Your Paper Inbox – When is the last time you’ve seen the bottom of your paper inbox at work and at home? Make it a goal this spring. Develop a paper management system to try to keep it that way.
  • Overflowing inbox

  • Eliminate Email Clutter – Schedule some time to clear your email inbox. Delete unnecessary emails, capture contact information, delegate tasks that can be done by someone else, send those “replies” finally, and set up filters and folders to avoid back-log in the future. Once you get your email inbox down to one page (where you can see all emails without having to scroll down), try to maintain it.
  • Go on a Calendar Diet – Take a look at your busy calendar and try to clear 2-3 social or work obligations that you said “yes” to that you now realize you should not have. We all do it (yes, even the professional organizer/time management expert!). Time is limited and precious, so think carefully about what you want to fill it with.
  • Switch Clothes – If you have not already done so, this is the perfect time to switch your clothes from the cold weather items to the warm weather ones. Make 4 categories:
    1. Clean your closetPurge (damaged clothes)
    2. Donate (clothes that do not fit, you do not like, or that are out of style, but can be worn by those in need)
    3. Keep (clothes that fit, that you love and wear often)
    4. Dry Cleaning/Tailoring (clothes that need to be professionally dry cleaned or mended).
  • Retire the Christmas Decorations – You think I am kidding on this one. I am not. You know who you are. If the Christmas decorations are still up outside or inside your home, it is high time you put them away. Go do it, now. Your neighbors will thank you.
  • Take Care of Your Taxes – Yes, the official tax-filing deadline for personal income taxes is April 15th (or April 18th this year!). However, many people take an extension, which means they will be filing this summer. Stop procrastinating! Gather the documents to get those taxes done. And for those of you that already filed, purge old tax records that no longer need to be saved (check with your accountant, but generally, the average person needs to maintain 7 years of tax records in case of an audit claiming fraud). Don’t forget to shred!
  • Clean your carDeclutter the Car – You will be passing many car washes held by various charities this time of year. You’d like to get your car cleaned, but you don’t want anyone to see the inside! Sound familiar? Clear that car clutter. Empty out the garbage that has accumulated, bring in items that you purchased that are sitting in bags in the trunk, and return all sorts of “stuff” to its place in the home or office that found its way into your car. Ah, now go get that car wash or, better yet, treat yourself to a full car detailing.
  • Organize Outlying Areas – Clear clutter in the garage and shed so that you can find the things you need this spring and summer. Take out the patio furniture and grill, dust off the bikes, and put away the snow blower. If you can’t reach the lawnmower, chances are you will not use it as much. You may have put the Christmas decorations away, but with that jungle you call a yard, your neighbors will still not like you very much.
  • Mend the Medicine Cabinet – Clear out any winter medications that you stockpiled, such as cough medicine and cough drops that have expired. Ditto for prescription medications that have expired. Buy yourself some new sunscreen, as that also has a limited shelf life.
  • Makeup Makeover – Makeup attracts bacteria. Therefore, purge any makeup that is “old.” While there is no exact life span for makeup, if you haven’t used it in a year, it is time to go. For more exacting makeup safety guidelines, visit
  • Overhaul Your Toothbrush – You should replace your toothbrush every 3 months. Period. Get a new one. It feels great!

There you have it — the Spring Fling checklist. Take your time, and work through it. I guarantee you will feel a sense of renewal, while clearing the way for a productive and pleasant summer season.

Boy, gathering the collective wisdom of organizers turns out awesome results! Check out my contribution to 6 Tips to Save You Time and Wasted Effort (it’s #3). Stephanie Calahan collected advice from her colleagues on new ways to preserve your precious time.

My favorite tip (#3) is about Changing Your Relationship with Time. Check it out here, along with 5 other great email tips.

Check out my contribution to 19 Tips for Managing Your Email Even When You Don’t Want To (it’s #16). Stephanie Calahan collected email tips from her colleagues on how to keep control of the “electronic monster”.

My favorite tip (#16) is about the Clever Use of Filters and Folders. Check it out here, along with 15 other great email tips.

Recently, I was coaching a business client, and we were having a conversation about business success. I asked her to share with me her definition of business success. After a pregnant pause, she admitted that she didn’t really know her definition of business success. Therein lies her problem — and maybe yours as well. No matter what stage your business is in, it is important to define success for yourself.

Not knowing your definition of business success is like driving at night without your headlights on! You and your business may reach your destination, but it makes it a whole lot harder to navigate, find your way, and get there with the least amount of bumps and bruises. You also may arrive in an entirely different place than the one you wanted to reach. Therefore, think of knowing your definition of success as having your high beams on at all times. It helps guide you in the right direction, and assures that you will get there safely, quickly, and in the most direct way possible.

The new year is a perfect time to reflect on your definition for success for your business. As you take the time to reflect and ponder what new experiences you want to create for your business this year, ask yourself some key questions:

  • How do you define success?
  • What is it that is propelling you forward in your business?
  • What drives you?
  • What rewards have you set up for yourself along the way as you meet business milestones?
  • What is the mission of your business?

Far too often, business owners get caught up in someone else’s definition of success. The problem with that is you can waste an awful lot of time being confused, feeling overwhelmed and hesitant about your next step or path. You also may lose faith in building a business that serves you and your unique goals.

All of the above questions are vital and should be given considerable thought. But the most important one by far is, What is the mission of your business? By mission, I don’t mean the Mission Statement that you post on your website for clients and all of the world to see. I mean the internal one that is the driving force behind your business.

For example, my mission is to marry my passions with my profits. In my opinion (and experience), the greatest businesses are created out of passion and knowledge packaged together in a way that others see it as a value. Therefore, I’ve made a conscious choice to step into a bigger purpose to help people around the country and world through my organizing, coaching, speaking and writing. Success to me means taking my business to the next level to reach a wider audience, establish a strong online presence, and to do it without any full time employees.

You can make your business be whatever you want it to be. But first, you have to know what it is you want, how you define success, and what steps you need to take to achieve that success. I challenge you to create a definition of success that truly works for you. And when you do, be sure to share it with someone that will hold you to it, and serve as a powerful accountability partner. You can email me if you’d like. I’d love to see what you come up with.