Tag Archives: professional organizer

Hiring An Organizer – Finding The Right Fit

Finding the right fit can take a little time, plan for that

You’ve finally decided to get some help tackling that closet or dealing with paper overwhelm.  How do you go about finding a Professional Organizer who will meet your needs?

Having been a part of an association of Professional Organizers for many years, both locally and nationally, we have met a lot of organizers.  We are struck by the wide range of differences between Organizers. There are varying levels of competencies, there is a tremendous amount of leeway in organizing styles and there are many different approaches to the work. Most important to realize is there really is no “right” way to be an Organizer; the perfect fit for a client comes from a mix of personality, skill sets, and process competency.

What Do You Need & Want?

The easy part is figuring out where in the home or office you need help. Closet design? Kitchen reorganization? Paperwork? Kid’s stuff? The harder part may be knowing who you’ll work best with. Organizing is such personal, sometimes intimate, work that it’s a good idea to spend some time thinking about what personality types and approaches may work best for you.

Would you like working with someone who:

  • Lets you take the lead or is more directive?
  • Is high energy or more mellow?
  • Has a deeper psychological perspective vs. a “let’s just do it” perspective?
  • Can work virtually as well as hands-on?
  • Does all the work themselves or has a team of organizers?

An organizer for your closet project may not be the right match for your home office project. An organizer with a background in corporate admin would come at a problem differently than someone who comes from an interior design or counseling background. And then there are differences in rates, policies, and availability to consider. Getting clear on your desires and needs will help to hone in on the right questions to find a good fit for your projects.

Experience Matters, and…

There certainly is value in working with an Organizer with many years of experience, but someone who is newer to the field may have a rich work history which lends itself to organizing. Most people come to this career after having had a significant work or life experience where they used or developed their organizing skills.  Just because someone is new doesn’t mean they won’t be capable of handling a project; ask about their work or personal background to determine their approach and skills if you can’t ask for client references.

As our industry has developed, more formal trainings and certifications have evolved.  Some Organizers have chosen to go through a professional certification process which requires they pass a test and have met a minimum number of organizing hours (1500 hours within past 3 years). To maintain their certification, they must complete continuing education. These organizers will have a CPO® designation after their name.

How Do I Find An Organizer?

As with most services, word of mouth is the best way to get a great referral in your area – post something on Facebook or NextDoor to ask your friends and neighbors if anyone has a recommendation. Or look for reviews of organizers on Yelp or NextDoor. The National Association of Productivity and Organizing professionals (NAPO) has a searchable database to find member organizers near your zip code: NAPO.net (national search) or NAPO-SFBA (SF Bay Area). NAPO also has a handy hiring guide on their website.

You’ll know you have a successful match when your Organizer’s style and experience blends well with your needs … and you work though projects efficiently and effectively. Remember, there’s no one “right” way to organize!

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Filed under Decluttering, Strategies, General Organizing, home organizing, professional organizer

Home Organizing for Couples

Work with your sweetie to get your home organized

Work with your sweetie to get your home organized

In our work with couples we have found that often they have different organizing styles, for example, one might be “the keeper” the other might be “the minimalist.”  It is our belief that couples come together to learn something from their partners.

We have put together a top ten-list of ways that couples can work together to have their house better organized, easier to navigate and set up with systems that make the household run smoothly for everyone.

1. Identify each partner’s strengths and weaknesses. While focusing on the positive, keep focused on your own particular problem areas. It’s pretty easy to fall into the trap of focusing what your partner can do to change.  Most of the time, both members of the team each have their own challenges.

2.  Make a list of the roles each of you play in the household.  Who is in charge of purchasing food?  Who buys the clothes for the kids or for each other?  Who cleans the kitchen?  Who keeps up the yard or front area?  Who is in charge of the information?  Is one of you the family archivist?  It’s important to value the different roles that each of you play.   The keeper of the family is often the one who is the heart of the family; and the minimalist will help keep stuff from taking over the house

3. Establish ground rules for what is acceptable behavior towards each other (i.e. no name calling, asking instead of accusing, etc., staying focused on your part of the problem)

4. Come to an agreement about doing the project together.  Don’t let one person take over the whole project…unless the partner is totally unwilling to participate…then the willing partner needs to start with their own space and their own stuff first.  This often inspires a recalcitrant partner to take care of their stuff…especially if they aren’t nagged about it.

5. Reframe the problem in financial terms.  Identify the cost of keeping the clutter.  Given their rent or mortgage, figure out the square footage that the clutter takes up, what are you paying to keep the stuff?  $2,000 per month for rent for 1,000 square feet of living space.  $2.00 per square foot.  Clutter takes up one 10 X 15 foot room.  That is 150 square feet times $2 per square foot = $300 per month which works out to $3,600 per year.  It gets easier to figure if you have a storage unit that is used to house items that you don’t need at home…The costs for a storage unit at $100 a month can really rack up.  It’s common for folks to have units for 5 years or more…is the stuff you’re storing in there really worth the $6,000 you’ve paid to hold it?

6. If one of you is resistant, try this game:  Pretend you are going to be traveling for 6 months.  Then, set aside what you would need if they were going to be away for that long, pack up what is left, put it in off-site storage for 3 months.  Notice what it feels like to live with less.  Notice what you miss, if anything.

7. Decluttering may upset the balance of the relationship.  Be gentle with each other.  You may also consider counseling to deal with the emotions and feelings that are bound to come up in the process of extensive decluttering.

8. If you as a couple cannot reach consensus on decisions, it is sometimes helpful to divvy up areas of the home.  One person gets to decide on the family room – the other gets the kitchen.

9. If your space allows for both — it’s better to share a bedroom than a home office.

10. Keep it light — decluttering almost always opens the door to a better sex life.

This article was co-written with Deborah Silberberg of www.ShipShape.com

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Filed under Bedroom, couples, Decluttering, General Organizing, Office, Perspective, Strategies

5 Ways to Manage Your Holidays

Pacing Yourself During the Holidays

If you regularly have a lot going on in life the added tasks of the holidays can wreak havoc on your time management. Shopping, hosting, holiday cards, parties, travel…where does the time come from to fit everything in?

Time Estimating

One of the biggest traps of time management is magical thinking around how long tasks will take. An easy rule of thumb is to estimate how long a task will take then double it! If you end up with time on your hands you’ll have no trouble filling it.

Be realistic about your schedule. Some things have to give to make room for the extra tasks of the holidays. Time isn’t going to magically appear in your calendar. Be vigilant about passing on opportunities that arise that don’t help your goal of having a wonderful holiday. That could mean saying “no” to the 7th Christmas party invitation!

Simplify Your Task List

There are many ways to enjoy your holidays and some are less time consuming than others. For example, if you realize it will take you 10 hours to put together holiday cards (including addressing, stamping and getting them to the mailbox) you may choose to do something simpler – or choose a different time of year to reach out and connect. Remember your original desire to make connections with family and friends. Realize there are many ways to do that.

Other time saving examples:

  • Store-bought food instead of homemade
  • Pot-luck instead of full hosting
  • E-cards instead of mailed cards
  • Gift bags and tissue instead of gift wrapping

Don’t Go It Alone

It’s easy to feel like we are solely responsible to make a memorable and magical experience for our loved ones. That can be pretty unrealistic and overwhelming. Have a look at your task list and see how you can share the load…where can the kids participate or invite a friend to work with you- baking or gift wrapping are examples. Is there cleaning or errands you delegate or actually hire out? Where possible, focus your time and energy on the tasks you really enjoy and figure out how to get help with the others.

Learn from holidays past

Think back on what worked before.  Was there a year where you breezed through the holiday with ease?  What worked?

If there was a December that went poorly, you felt more stressed, you didn’t enjoy the celebrations – ask yourself what could you do to avoid those pitfalls?

You could jot notes and track how long it actually took to: prepare for a party, to do the gift shopping, to pick out clothes to wear to the gala, to find the best gifts for your friends and family or to determine which character you’ll come as to the Dickens Faire.  These estimates could provide a template for happy holidays to come.

Balance

Holidays can be a time when life gets out of balance. In order to make more time in our schedules we often sacrifice personal time for exercise or re-charge. Make it a priority to plan in time for self-care so you can give the gift that really matters – yourself!

Taking this time to practice time management can help you in the rest of your life!

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Filed under General Organizing, Holidays, Strategies, Time Management

Couples and Clutter – Conquering Criticism

birds-communicating

As Valentine’s Day approaches we are reminded of the challenges couples face managing clutter in a shared space. “Clutter” is incredibly subjective. One person’s state of chaos is another’s state of total harmony. Do a quick Google search on “couples and clutter” and dozens of articles and statistics come up. You’re not alone if you’re feeling frustrated.

What to do when your styles and thresholds for clutter don’t match up?

Relationship researcher and expert John Gottman identified 4 key behaviors that undermine relationships and are barriers to communication: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Each has an antidote. In our next 4 posts we are going to illustrate how each one can show up when navigating clutter between couples. First up…Criticism.

Expressing a legitimate complaint is different than launching into a criticism. Criticism uses blame which can backfire and hinder communication. Talk about your feelings using I statements and then express a positive need. What do you feel? What do you need?

The antidote to criticizing is to state your complaint in a gentler way. A complaint focuses on a specific behavior, while a criticism attacks the character of the person. The antidote for criticism is to complain without blame.

Example: Messy Bedroom

Criticism: You never put your clothes away. Why are you so lazy and messy?

Complaint: The laundry on floor is making it hard for me to move through room. You said you would put them away today – what happened?

Example: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Criticism: Who told you you could move my stuff without asking me? You’re such a neat-freak!

Complaint: I’m having trouble finding things after you clean up. I was late today because I couldn’t find my work bag. I want to be part of the process for deciding where my things live. Can we choose a dedicated spot for my things?

Example: Paper Issues

Criticism: PG&E is going to shut off our electricity! Are you so busy that you don’t have time to take care of this simple task?

Complaint: We just got a late notice from PG&E. You are in charge of the bills and this isn’t the first time they didn’t get paid. Can we talk about how to resolve this?

Relationship conflict is natural and has functional, positive aspects. Successful couples learn how to manage and live with differences by honoring and respecting each other.

Our next post is about Conquering Contempt.

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Filed under Bedroom, Decluttering, General Organizing, Office, Perspective, Strategies

Organize Your Passwords-Revisited

password-post-it

With all the cyber security breaches these days prudent password management is vital. Here is a refresh of a previous post about passwords.

Does keeping track of your online passwords make you want to pull your hair out? Having an organized system for password management reduces that frustration.

Just as people have to choose between digital and paper calendars these days, there are both digital and paper ways to manage your password information. Different methods have different advantages.

Digital

Managing your passwords digitally offers many conveniences but introduces security risks. While not nearly a comprehensive list – and not a specific endorsement — here are some options:

  • Maintain a list or spreadsheet on your computer…not named “passwords.” File could be stored in the cloud (Evernote, DropBox, Google Drive) to access across devices. You can password protect this document for an added layer of security.
  • Use Facebook, twitter or Google to log in
  • Use password management software such as 1Password, LastPass or KeePass. These typically work by storing all your individual logins under one main “master” password.
  • If you use a Mac, you’re most likely familiar with Keychain, which comes with OSX. Basically, it’s a password manager that uses your OSX admin password as the master password.

Paper

Some people don’t want their passwords stored anywhere in their computer. Storing them on paper prevents electronic hacking but it also limits your access to them when you are not home near the list. You also need to think about how to keep the list secure at home.

There are many options for managing passwords in paper form:

  • A small address book is an easy way to list passwords alphabetically by site name. Small address books are also easily hidden.
  • Some people keep a paper file in their file cabinet labeled “password”… you could make it a bit more secure by naming that file something random but unique to you like “junkdrawer” or “Rumpelstiltskin.”
  • An alphabetized index card box or business card box makes a handy place to drop in the post-its and scraps of paper you write passwords on.
  • To keep lists more secure, rather than writing down the actual password your list can be prompts that only you know. For example, if your password is some non sequitur like bootPolandgelato5, your prompt may be “footwear – country – food – number”. Or “147Guccigreen3970” could be prompted with “childhood address – favorite designer –color – past phone number.”

Password Strength

Regardless of what organizing tool you use to keep track of passwords, if you aren’t relying on software to generate secure passwords for you here are some tips for creating strong passwords:

  • Ideally use a mix letters, characters, numbers, and capitals
  • String together words to make a phrase. For example “I love ice cream” could become 1L0v31c3Cr3@m if you replace all the vowels with numbers or characters and capitalize the first letter of each word.
  • String together unrelated words as in the example of Boot, Poland, Gelato, and 5 becoming “bootPolandgelato5”

There isn’t one right solution or answer; ultimately it’s a personal style and risk management choice we all have to make. Whatever system you choose, pick one and stick to it.

What one smart step can you take to make your digital life more convenient AND secure?

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Filed under Decluttering, Office, Paper, Strategies, Technology

Assess Your Home for a Fresh Perspective

Getting Perspective - 1

Get a Fresh Perspective on Your Clutter

Clients call, ready to make some changes in their home and excited about the process – “Let’s get started!” Before diving right in, it can be helpful to spend some time making a plan of attack. To create lasting solutions, you have to know what problems you’re trying to solve and why they are happening in the first place.

Assessment Goals

  • Identify what’s not working. One person’s idea of chaos is another’s idea of serenity.
  • What are we aiming for? What is the vision you have for your space? Understanding a person’s goal for how the space would ideally look and function helps define the work to be done.
  • What’s most urgent? Understanding how the problem areas relate to each other (or don’t), and how each affects daily living helps set priorities for the hands-on work.
  • What is causing the clutter? Understanding the cause helps guide the appropriate solution.

Organizing Concepts

Often, clutter begins because one of the following concepts isn’t being used:

Friends with Friends. Keep “like” items together.

Real Estate Value. Don’t let low-use items clog up prime real estate; make conscious choices about where things live.

Container As Limiter. Consciously limiting a collection to its container prevents overflow.

Habits vs. Systems. Sometimes items that are sitting out and creating clutter actually do have homes. An assessment will identify the routines that need to be implemented.

Function & Feel. How does the space function? Can the furniture be arranged to allow for more flow? Is there enough light in the space? Is the space conducive to focused work or free form play? Can décor provide a draw to a certain area?

Assessment Benefits

  • You get a sense of the scope of your project … and help setting priorities
  • You get an objective perspective of your space…seeing it through another’s eyes
  • You get trained in the basic organizing principles
  • You get creative options that you may not have thought of on your own
  • You’ll find out that you’re not alone in the struggle to get and stay organized…and you’ll get the benefits of other clients who have come before

Because everything changes over time, organizing is a life-long process. For the most part, your project will have a beginning and an end but don’t forget you’ll need to occasionally re-assess in order to keep your systems current with your life. Give your self the gift of an assessment.  It could change your perspective for life!

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, home organizing, organizing, Perspective, professional organizer, Strategies

Living With A Cluttered Valentine

courtesy of Donna Smallin Cooper of Organized Greetings

Cartoon courtesy of Donna Smallin Kuper of Organized Greetings

Do you and your sweetheart have wildly different ideas about what clutter is? Do you find yourself fed-up and frustrated by their organizing “style”? Do you feel like they’re trying to take over the world one surface at a time or leave things out just to piss you off?

Stress between couples over clutter is very common. Here are a few Valentine’s Day tips to manage the stress with your loved one.

What doesn’t work:

  • Purging behind their back
  • Nagging
  • Storing empty boxes on surfaces to prevent their things from landing there
  • Surprising them with a gift certificate from Crime Scene Cleaners
  • Deciding that if they can be cluttered, you do them one better and be messy yourself

What does work:

  • Realize that it’s not about right vs. wrong… it’s about compromising BOTH your styles because you’ve chosen to share space together.
  • Agree to de-clutter together. Set a shared goal that you both agree will improve the quality of the home. Make a game plan and work together to implement it.
  • Give each person a dedicated space (a room or a portion of a room) that they can control completely.
  • Take responsibility for managing your own clutter before trying to “fix” your partner.
  • Get objective outside help: use an organizing book, online resources, a couples therapist or a professional organizer.

What easy-to-tackle project could you and your Valentine take on that would create a little more space at home?

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Filed under Bedroom, Decluttering, General Organizing, Holidays, home organizing, middle-age, Perspective, Strategies