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  • 01/22/2013 9:28 AM | Anonymous

    by Nettie Owens of Sappari Solutions


    The holidays are past, the last of the gift wrapping paper just went out with the recycling this morning and you are feeling the effects of too much egg nog, fruit cake and Uncle Jim’s stuffing.  Today is the day you resolve to make a change in your life.  It’s a new year. What better time to reflect on the past and move forward with a plan? 

    According to a survey conducted by ISI Translation Services in November 2010, 66% of the people polled do not make New Year’s Resolutions[1].  However, goal setting has been proven to increase your ability to succeed at whatever you set out to do, dramatically.  Goal setting is so important that books, studies, and degrees have been dedicated to the study of setting goals.  Setting good goals is great, but even just setting goals is important.  “One study tracked the success of resolvers and nonresolvers, and found that the people who set New Year’s resolutions had a 46 percent success rate with their goals after six months, while those who set no goals had only a 4 percent success rate!” [2] That is a profound difference.

    What is a goal?  A goal is the end toward which effort is directed. [3]  Goals have many qualities. They can be short term, long term, overarching, financial, personal, physical, or spiritual.  Follow the steps below to create three goals to guide your life this year.

    Your goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Sensitive.  Take this example of a SMART goal: read Oprah Winfrey’s book club book by the end of the month.  It is specific: you are to read Oprah’s book club book. It is measurable: you can track your progress of reading the book as you go along.  It is attainable: if you have 30 days, this is probably an attainable goal, but being attainable is an individual value.  It is realistic: again this is an individual value; however your goals should be challenging and motivational.  Setting low goals decreases the value in achieving those goals.  Lastly it is time sensitive: you have one month to read the book.

    Beware of setting goals such as: Lose weight or earn more money.  These goals lack specificity, measurability, or timeliness. Better examples would be: lose five pounds in 30 days or increase income by 10% this year.  You may then take your goals and break down the steps needed to complete them.

    Lastly, write down your goals and share them with others.  Each of these steps will motivate you and increase your success rate.  Make 2013 the year you not only set New Year’s Resolutions, but also achieve them. 


    [1] Greenberg, Ken.  Yahoo! Finance.  “The Mind Matters – Americans Who Make New Year’s Resolutions Choose Academic Pursuits over Adventure and Arts, According to New Survey from ISI Translation Services“ December 9, 2010. (accessed 12/10/2010)

    [2] Miller, Caroline Adams and Dr. Michael B. Frisch.  Creating Your Best Life. New York: Sterling, 2009.  50.

    [3] Merriam Webster. “Goal”.  (accessed 12/10/10)


    © 2013 Nettie Owens, Sappari Solutions. All Rights Reserved.

    Nettie Owens is a professional organizer and owner of Sappari Solutions serving Harford & Cecil Counties. Since 2004, Sappari Solutions has provided residential and small business clients organizational solutions that fit their lifestyle, budget and schedule. Sappari Solutions is highly committed to protecting the environment and to sustainable business practices.

  • 01/07/2013 11:23 PM | Anonymous

    by Cheryl Osterhouse of In Order for Life, LLC


    A New Year, a new you and a new organized life. Does that sound like something you have been yearning for?  If so, you are not alone. Getting organized is consistently one of the top 5 New Year’s Resolutions of Americans.

    Why is that? Why do so many Americans feel out of order and unorganized? I believe the answer is two-fold. First, most of us live at such a fast pace that we are simply overwhelmed. We plan too much, try to accomplish too much, shop too much, and generally run ourselves ragged. Secondly, many of us simply haven’t learned basic organization skills. Or, we have gotten out of the habit of practicing those skills that we may have learned and practiced in the past. Life is constantly changing, and so must our organizational habits, if we are going to keep ourselves, and our lives, in order.

    Come along with us in 2013 as we offer some exciting, new, fun, learning opportunities for all who feel out of order. Come discover how to, slowly, but surely, clear the clutter, conquer the chaos, and learn simple organizing tips, tricks, habits, and strategies to get your home, your family, your business, and your life in order. Getting organized is a lifelong learning process that will simplify your time, and ultimately your life. It is a skill and a way of life that needs to be learned and re-learned, practiced and tweaked. So, come along with us, and take advantage of both local and national resources that are available to you, as you seek to Get Organized in 2013.

    January is “Go Month” (National Get Organized Month), and NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) members are qualified, equipped, and eager to assist you in your goals of organizing your time, homes, and offices. Visit the NAPO Baltimore website for a list of NAPO Baltimore members. You will have the ability to search the directory for a Professional Organizer by specialty, services, or geographic area. It's up to you to identify the best Professional Organizer for your needs. Our local Baltimore NAPO chapter was founded in 2008 as the premier resources in the greater Baltimore area for organizing and productivity professionals.

    Take advantage of the collective skill, wisdom, and resources of the NAPO Baltimore members. Check out our blog where you will find articles written by our Professional Organizers and Associate Members. Associate Members serve residential and corporate clients with services or products that are related to the organizing industry. Stay connected with us on Twitter (@NAPOBaltimore),Facebook, and LinkedIn. We will keep you up to date on the latest trends, products, news and events in the organizing community.

    All NAPO Baltimore members are also members of NAPO National. NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) is a not-for-profit association founded in 1985. NAPO is dedicated to serving its members through education, networking and industry resources. Their mission is to develop, lead, and promote Professional Organizers and the organizing industry. NAPO members have access to a vast array of educational opportunities and must adhere to a Code of Ethics ensuring professional conduct with clients, colleagues and the community.

    During GO Month, NAPO professional organizers and productivity specialists throughout the country are on hand to help individuals, businesses and schools bring time management, organization, storage solutions and productivity into their lives. Community events are held across the country by our members to help you start your year with the systems and solutions that will bring you long-term success.

    Let’s make 2013 our “Get Organized Year!” Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog, connect on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, where you will learn very simple and practical habits and strategies to GO (Get Organized)! Remember, getting organized is a skill and a way of life that needs to be learned and re-learned, practiced and tweaked. So, come along with us in 2013!

    Happy (and Organized) days!

    © 2013 Cheryl Osterhouse, In Order For Life, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Cheryl Osterhouse is a Professional Organizer and Owner/President of In Order for Life, LLC. For 5 years, Cheryl has been bringing order and simplicity to individuals, families and home businesses, one home at a time.

  • 12/17/2012 5:07 PM | Anonymous

    by Mary Landen of The Home Coach 

    Whenever I meet people who learn what I do for a living, they ask me, “How do you keep your home organized?” So I decided to capture my real-life tips here in hopes that they will help you, your family and your home get and stay on track – at holiday time or any time of the year. 

    Remove all items from shopping bags.

    When I return home from shopping, I empty all bags. Then I sort and store items based on where they belong BEFORE moving onto another activity. I apply this rule to all shopping trips, including groceries (and in my home, storing food on the kitchen counter, other than fruit in a bowl, is NOT considered an appropriate storage location!).

    Store all shopping bags.

    Plastic, paper or fabric market bags all have a neat home. Even dry cleaner bags. When I’ve accumulated too many, they get purged. I recycle plastic bags in the designated outdoor bin at my grocery store (yes, they will take them even if they are from another store). I put extra paper bags in my home recycle bin or use them or any extra fabric bags to collect items I’m purging around the house.

    Put paper in one of two designated areas only.

    All mail and other incoming papers are first deposited in my “inbox” on my kitchen counter where it is sorted into keep/recycle. The keep pile then goes into my office and is dealt with at a later date. This system keeps everything organized instead of scattered around the house.

    Finish what you start.

    I make a conscious decision to complete whatever I am doing. For example, suppose I need to wrap a present. If I wasn’t using a gift bag, I would go to the drawer where I have wrapping paper, gift boxes, tissue, ribbon, tape and gift cards. Then I’d grab a pair of scissors and proceed to wrap the gift. Upon completion, I put back all the supplies – where I found them. Leaving any of these items out is the beginning of clutter and disorganization.

    Have a single place for everything.

    Except for scissors, tape and an extra stapler, I only keep one of everything or one set of everything – batteries, light bulbs, office supplies, cleaning supplies, etc. – in one designated place. That way I can keep a close eye on my inventory of these items and only buy and store what I truly need.

    Plan to purge.

    I go through a particular closet, chest of drawers or area of my home about twice a year. The point being – I don’t try and tackle the entire house in one day or weekend. When it comes to purging my own stuff, I can be just as challenged as anyone. That’s why I declutter in doable “chunks” so that I don’t get overwhelmed. And, I generally pick an area of my home that’s been “getting on my nerves.” Then when my schedule opens up, I know where to go first.

    Only buy new storage bins or organizational aids AFTER purging, not BEFORE!

    I made this rule primarily based on my experiences with so many of my clients! Many of us purchase storage bins, baskets, drawer units, etc. with little idea of what will be stored in them and where they will go. Do the cleanup first, see what’s left over and then purchase the organization aids – of the type, size and color – that you actually need in a particular space.

    Happy organizing this holiday season!

    © 2012 Mary Landen, The Home Coach. All Rights Reserved.

    Long-time Baltimore resident Mary Landen is The Home Coach. She helps busy homeowners organize, refresh, maintain and stage their living spaces. For more information on "Getting your house in tip-top shape!" visit her at

  • 12/04/2012 11:03 AM | Anonymous

    by Valerie Cowan of Destination Organized

    It’s that time of year!  You feel the excitement of the holiday season as you anxiously head to the storage area to get all of your holiday items out.  Your excitement sends you soaring when you get in there and see all those holiday boxes!  You grab the fragile boxes first so you can be sure they are not at risk of being damaged.  You pile the boxes according to content; a pile for the sets of ornaments, one for the family keepsake ornaments, one for the lights, stockings, candles, etc.  Isn’t it fun and reminiscent to see all of these items again?  It really gets you in the mood to get your gift and card lists started. 

    Doesn’t that sound wonderful?  Ok, but let’s be honest, is that really how it is for you?  Or, will your excitement bottom out when you go for your holiday items because of the chaos that is your storage area?  Not to mention, which box is which?  Are the boxes labeled?  Are they labeled correctly?  If a box takes a tumble, will you know at a glance if it contains breakable items?  Will you work your way through a pile just to pull a box out that is not even holiday items?  Now add this to the yearly shuffle of furniture that comes with finding room for it all!  Sounds stressful, I know.  And year after year, you may vow that “this will be the year that I get all my holiday stuff organized before I put it all back, so it’s easily stored and identified!”

    One way or another, the holiday items can end up causing you some stress each holiday season.  It can happen before or after, because with all this on top of the regular day-to-day things to do, it’s too easy to just throw all of the empty boxes back into storage with the intent to deal with it after the holidays.  Well, before you know it, the holiday season will come to an end and by the time you are ready to take all the decorations down, you will find that you either don’t have the time to deal with it or you don’t have the interest to deal with it because you will just want to get all that stuff out of your living room and put away so things can get back to normal!  Sound familiar?  Too often a saga that repeats year after year. 

    Make this the year that you make a plan and see it through!  You will reap the rewards this time next year and quite possibly sooner if you end up freeing up extra space in your storage area.  There are so many organizing items available now to help you with this project; containers especially made for storing string lights to keep them from breaking and getting tangled, boxes that have individual sections for ornaments, storage bags and boxes for large items, bins designed just for holding gift wrap and supplies and so much more!  Make sure you use a permanent marker or a label to write what the contents are for each container.  Wishing you a happy, organized holiday season! 

    Photo credit: Rubbermaid Products via photopin cc 

    © 2012 Valerie Lynn Cowan, DESTINATION ORGANIZED. All Rights Reserved.

    Valerie Lynn Cowan is a Professional Organizer and President of Destination Organized® Professional Organizing. Helping busy people with overloaded lives, reclaim their energy and time!

  • 11/15/2012 2:24 PM | Anonymous

    by Terry Cooch of TLC Home

    The holidays are the time to gather with friends and family. We enjoy conversation, laughter and togetherness. We reminisce about the past and reveal our plans for the future.  Being the one who brings this together offers great satisfaction and appreciation. Yet many of us hesitate to do so. Planning a party may seem too overwhelming, with too many hurdles to overcome. But once the desire to entertain is moved up the priority list, a strategy can be devised to achieve this goal.

    Set a realistic goal: Determine what you love about entertaining, what you enjoy and do well. Consider your time, budget and energy level. Design a party around all of these considerations. If you love a creative menu, but hate to cook, then get theme-y and get to a gourmet deli.  You’re a talented cook, but not into details? Then skip the flowers and feed your guests well - that is what they’ll enjoy and remember. If making your house look its best is important to you, then focus on decorations and lighting and keep the menu and bar simple.

    Develop a plan: Pick a date, make the guest list and send invitations, and decide on the mood and menu. If cooking, be sure to plan plenty of make-ahead recipes and keep to your comfort and talent level. Make beverage plans and prep the bar. Prepare the shopping list and schedule time to clean and decorate. Tip: guests have a great time when they feel they are being treated. Plan for one or two gourmet touches. Over-sized bowls of candy, special candles, or a glass of champagne are just the signal that your mission was to please.

    Do, Delegate or Drop: Manage your to-do list by first evaluating your plan.  Prioritize by importance -calligraphed place tags add an elegant touch, but the evening can go on without them. If the ice is never picked up, that could put a damper on the fun. Decide when, where, and how all of your to-do’s will be carried out. If this is your first party, allow twice as much time as you planned to complete your list. Most importantly, delegate what you can. Plan early and communicate the help you will need. Be specific when it matters.  Assume nothing. Don’t ask for red wine if you wanted a cabernet. If the list is still too long, consider hiring help or letting something go, keeping the focus on sharing your home.

    Short cuts are the new perfection: Gone are the days when perfection is expected. Knowing how to entertain simply is in. Having a friend that makes favors and place settings can set you free from doing it. It can be just as impressive to know where to buy something new and delicious as to prepare it yourself. Take advantage of that to enjoy the evening as much as your guests. Overlook what you missed, spilled, forgot or burned and everyone else will. 

    Do it again: Plan for the next party while executing this one. Keep a list on party day and while you are cleaning up of all the ideas that come to you. Jot down the problems you encountered and how you could simplify further.  What could make clean-up easier? How could I get the costs down?  Take note as to whether you would consider hiring serving or clean-up help, if you still felt stress during the party. Include notes on serve-ware to purchase or fussy recipes to drop.  Be sure to keep a copy of the menu and shopping list in a party notebook and re-use all of your successful plans for a different group.

    Hosting a successful party is enormously gratifying. It requires obtainable organizing skills to prepare for and carry out. Moderate goals and expectations and liberal use of list-making are instrumental in creating an atmosphere for all to enjoy.

    © 2012 Terry Cooch, TLC HOME LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Terry L. Cooch is a writer and blogger for Nesting Magazine, a professional organizer and owner of TLC Home LLC Professional Organizing Services.

  • 11/07/2012 4:01 PM | Anonymous

    by Mary Cate Claudias of Charm City Organizers 

    Not trying to be a Grinch – just lookin’ out for the bottom of your closet and your budget.

    With Halloween, the presidential election and a growing number of children’s school events teaming up on your schedule, you probably haven’t given Thanksgiving a whole lot of thought.  But it’s right around the corner and I’m not going to advise on cleaning and getting ready for family.  Instead I’d like to take a moment to focus on the day after this food-filled holiday: Black Friday.  Not that I don’t agree with boosting our economy - and by all means, if you’re gonna shop, shop local - but do we really need to fill our closets and cupboards with more stuff right now?

    Deals are great and it's nice that you want to buy gifts for friends and family (and maybe just that one shirt for you because it’s SUCH a great deal!) but take a second to consider the aftermath.  The credit card bills in January, the guilt, and the question we as professional organizers encourage you to ask yourself: where will all that stuff go?

    Tips for organizing BEFORE the holidays: 

    Purge now!  Don’t wait to make it a New Year’s Resolution.  Think of all the families you can help by donating good items before the shopping frenzies begin.  This is a popular time of year for shopping, and not only for the major department stores!  Your local charity will thank you!

    Since you’ve now done a great job getting rid of some things in order to make space for others, truly consider if you need this new item, not if you WANT it.  Same goes for kids.  Capitalize on little kids’ short attention spans when they’re little!  As they lose interest in a toy and stop playing with it soon after the new year, put it away and wrap it for Christmas next year.  They might like it better this time and if not, the donation center will!

    Dial in to your creative side.  My favorite gifts over the last few Christmases have come from a good friend and former roommate who continues to make the coolest stuff on a budget.  Thoughtful, functional and they take up hardly any space!  Her home-made magnets are still on my fridge but I can’t say I remember wearing that scarf from Aunt Sarah often.

    Don’t knock gift cards.  P.S. – they’re no longer tacky, folks.  Just plain functional and always welcome.

    So with these small tidbits and reminders, go into this holiday season feeling confident in your savings knowledge, strong in your good senses and extraordinary in your giving capacity without overdoing it.  It is possible!  And I’ll bet that as the week between Christmas and New Year’s approaches this year, you’ll feel pretty awesome instead of overindulged.

    © 2011-2012 Mary Cate Claudias, Charm City Organizers. All Rights Reserved.

    Mary Cate Claudias is a Professional Organizer and owner of Charm City Organizers, LLC in Baltimore City, Maryland.  Drawing on her experiences in teaching, coaching and non-profit management, she helps home owners and small businesses live less stressful and more productive lives.  Mary Cate is currently the Marketing Director for NAPO Baltimore.

  • 10/17/2012 3:29 PM | Anonymous

    by Sherri Fabic of FRAMEWORK Organizing & Design


    There are multiple types of disorganization: regular disorganization, chronic disorganization, and hoarding. Regular disorganization, which everyone experiences from time to time, is characterized by disorganization that is temporary and is not expected to persist into the future. It's a sort of "fix it and forget it" disorganization. The degree and longevity of the disorganization are what separate regular disorganization from chronic disorganization.

    Hoarding is different from chronic disorganization in that it is a compulsive behavior which includes acquiring and saving of possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value, living spaces that are so cluttered that they are unusable, and significant distress or impairment caused by the clutter. 

    The Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) states that :

    "Chronic Disorganization (CD) is characterized by disorganization that has persisted for a long period of time, has a negative impact on daily quality of life, has not responded to repeated self-help attempts, and is expected to continue into the future." 

    Let's look at these characteristics of Chronic Disorganization:

    • Persisting for a long period means that it has been present at some level for years, often since adolescence or childhood.
    • A negative quality of life implies daily effects on social, personal and work activities such as paying bills, showing up on time, personal care and turning in assignments.
    • Repeated self-help attempts such as 'how to' books and programs have met with little or no success.
    • Expectation of future disorganization is based on past experience with the failed attempts and the long period of living under these conditions.

    Furthermore, there are three underlying components that affect chronic disorganization.

    1. Beliefs about Self and Possessions. These are based on the relationship between one's identity and one's possessions.

    2. Brain Based Conditions. These are conditions that occur due to neurological or neurochemical factors, such as AD/HD, OCD, or Parkinson's. The individual may not even know if they are affected by one.

    3. Situational Factors. This is the condition or "state of affairs" in which the individual finds him or herself.

    Within these 3 components, many factors are associated with chronic disorganization. Factors such as learning differences, information-processing deficits, perfectionism, mental health issues, aging issues, physical challenges, life crises and systemic problems are just a few.

    There are some traits among chronically disorganized individuals that will vary from person to person, but these are quite common:

    • Accumulations of objects and/or papers beyond apparent necessity or pleasure
    • Cluttered spaces
    • Having difficulty letting go of things
    • Many uncompleted projects
    • Difficulty completing common household tasks
    • Missed deadlines
    • Weak time management skills
    • No (or multiple) calendar in use
    • Frequently misplaced documents or files
    • No (or multiple) filing systems in use
    • Tend to be easily distracted
    • Often have difficulty making decisions
    • Stressful household and/or work environment

    Traditional organizing methods seldom meet with success because they do not address the underlying factors that led to the disorganization in the first place.  So, how does a professional organizer work with a CD client? The professional organizer partners with the client in a collaborative relationship where they provide and maintain objectivity to help the client reduce overwhelm and gain a fresh perspective. They transfer skills and strategies that support the client's organizing goals. They focus on the client's strengths and successes and understanding of underlying factors to help them maintain motivation and get "unstuck".  They may facilitate cognitive and technical skills training and recommend outside resources when appropriate. They may also work in collaboration with the client's other physical and mental health providers and councilors.

    If you believe you have been challenged by chronic disorganization, you can find help through the NAPO Baltimore Chapter or the Institute for Challenging Disorganization.


    © 2012 Sherri Fabic, FRAMEWORK Organizing & Design.  All Rights Reserved.

    Sherri Fabic is the Owner of FRAMEWORK Organizing & Design, which specializes in working with the Chronically Disorganized population. Sherri is a member of National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), NAPO-Baltimore, the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) and of Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (CHADD).

  • 10/02/2012 2:34 PM | Anonymous

    by Kathleen Durham of KD SpaceLifts


    In the past year, almost 1 million people have joined the ranks of ‘independent workers’ in the US, bringing the tally to 17 million, according to Virginia-based business consulting firm MBO Partners. Their second annual “State of Independence” career study, released last month, indicates that the solo entrepreneur, or solopreneur, career path is a growing trend despite economic uncertainties. 

    Who are these independent workers?  They are people who work 15 or more hours a week in non-traditional, full or part-time employment.  They identify themselves as consultants, freelancers, contractors, self-employed or on-call workers.  The gender makeup is almost evenly split between men and women, and crosses the age spectrum from Generation Y (ages 21-32), Generation X (33-49), and Baby Boomers (50-66).  Solopreneurs are represented in almost every business field. 

    The success of a solopreneur depends on hard work as well as the ability to connect and close a deal.  Every aspect of the business falls upon the shoulders of one person, who performs the duties of an administrative assistant, bookkeeper, marketing department and sales force.  To survive, an independent worker must be thorough, efficient and totally mobile.

    Achieving these goals can be a challenge when the office is a kitchen table or coffee shop.  While the client might not care whether you have a conference room or a coffee nook, he does care about quality of work and professional image.  Organization and presentation are key components in maintaining a successful solopreneur business.  In working with solopreneurs, I recommend a focus on several key areas:

    Separation of Business & Personal

    Even though most independent workers put in far more than the usual 40 hours a week, business life should not engulf your entire life.  Start with a physical separation of work space, even if it is as simple as a dedicated portion of counter space.  Just as you carefully plan your business day, set aside time when you will NOT work and dedicate those hours to family or personal relationships.  Establishing boundaries and balance will reduce stress and boost morale.


    If you cannot access your files when you are away from your home computer, you are cheating your business.  There are many tools and applications available on the electronic market that will allow you to synchronize your phone, iPad, Mac or PC.  These will allow you to easily share data, photos or videos with a client.

    Workable Workflow

    Solopreneurs must establish a framework for incoming jobs.  How does the work come to you?  What steps do you take after first contact with a client? Once you get the job, how does the work progress and what are your standards for client communication?

    Despite the challenging road a solopreneur travels on the way to business success, the “State of Independence” report found that 71 percent of independent workers had a high level of satisfaction with their work lifestyle, proving what many have always suspected: being your own boss IS a good thing.

    © 2012 Kathleen Durham, KD Space Lifts. All Rights Reserved. 

    Kathleen ("KD") Durham is owner of KD SpaceLifts; dedicated to helping businesses improve efficiency and productivity through the organization of intangible spaces (workflow, systems, processes and procedures) as well as tangible spaces such as the physical workspace.

  • 09/04/2012 11:24 PM | Anonymous

    by Amy Rehkemper of Simplify Organizing

    Class work, homework, permission slips … OH MY

    Medical forms, event reminders, class schedules … OH MY

    PTA letters, progress reports, artwork … OH MY

    Toto, we aren’t on summer break anymore; it’s BACK-TO-SCHOOL! 

    If you are the parent of a school-aged child, you are probably not surprised by the truckload of paper that is systematically dumped on your kitchen counter every Monday-Friday via your child’s backpack. However, this year you are going to be armed and ready when it comes. Here are some back-to-school tips to help parents tame the paper beast!  


    One of the best routines that you can establish with your child is to sit down with them for just 2-5 minutes every single school day and empty the contents of their backpack. Ideally this would be done immediately upon their returning home from school, or for working parents, schedule this meeting directly after dinner. For kids who resist the idea, or just have trouble sitting still, couple this “parent pow-wow” with their after-school snack time. If you are a working parent, schedule this over dessert. 

    So what happens at this Mommy meeting (or Daddy date)? Decide which papers need your attention, what’s due tomorrow, and what to do with all the artwork and/or completed class work. By tackling the avalanche of paper each and every day, clutter doesn’t build and important papers don’t go MIA. A surprise perk to this meeting is the opportunity to sneak in some questions about their day and to stay abreast of what’s happening for them emotionally and socially, as well as academically.


    Do you want a STAR STUDENT? Well then, use the STAR Method for de-cluttering the myriad of paper that comes home from school. You can find solace in the fact that there are actually only FOUR possibilities for what to do with school paper:


    S - Save It

    For the items kept purely for the sentimental value, know your end goal. If a specific purpose is not known, couldn’t everything that comes home be deemed worthy of saving? Ask yourself, will you be creating a scrapbook for every grade completed, or combining all their elementary best into a K-5 memory book, or maybe you only plan to keep one art portfolio for all their greatest academic achievements.  By knowing your end goal, it is easier to make a decision about what papers should be saved and the best method for storing them.   

    Many parents of preschool through elementary-aged children love using their refrigerator, or a large bulletin board to temporarily display art work and A+ papers.  However, I recommend what I believe is a far better-looking and space-saving way to display your children’s masterpieces: make a wall of fame with frames!

    Image courtesy

    Check out the Lil Davinci® Art Cabinet from Dynamic Frames. This is such a clever and useful product.  It looks like an ordinary frame, but wait… the front is on a hinge, so you can effortlessly open it to display your child’s works of art. The art can be changed daily, weekly, seasonally, whatever you and your child decide. This product can also STORE up to 50 pages!  So, not only is it a way to show-off your child’s masterpieces, all of it can LIVE inside the frame too; no filing or piling needed.

    At the end of every school year, clear out everything in the frame. Conveniently, it will already be in reverse chronological order. You can then pare it down to the 5, 10 or 20 items that best reflect your child for that grade.

    T - Toss It

    It is an important life-lesson for your child to learn that not every single thing they do needs to be kept.  The most important part of their school work was their experience creating it, not the experience of watching it collect dust. 

    Hold your “Backpack Attack” meeting next to a recycling can to ease the act of purging paper.  If too much paper is kept, you will dilute the enjoyment and appreciation of the truly superior accomplishments.  Plus, you are already honoring your child’s finest work (by placing it in an art portfolio, frame or scrapbook). By highlighting the BEST, it’s easier to eliminate the REST!

    A- Act On It

    1. DEAL WITH ACTION PAPERS ASAP!  I always say, “Do it now… or suffer later.” The longer you wait to complete a task, the harder it will become and the more you will procrastinate. Don’t chance losing the item, or forgetting the details involved in the task, carve out 15 minutes/day to complete school-related action items.
    2. KEEP ACTION PAPERS SEPARATE. Think of action items as the top dog of the pack.  They should never mingle or intermix with reference paper or memorabilia. Keep them separate from everything else and be sure it is given a special, consistent home. You might designate a wall pocket, inbox tray, or bulletin board exclusively dedicated to items that require action. The only rule is that you must check these action bins daily to make sure nothing is over-looked.

    R- Refer To It Later

    Kids (mostly upper grades) will need a place to put non-action papers deemed useful for later reference. Set-up a student archive file! Place colorful hanging files in a file crate or conveniently-located file drawer, assigning one file for each class or subject, and then label the tabs accordingly.  Place any class work that could be used for test review and you have a convenient “go-to” for study time.


    Moral of the story? Don’t let a day pass by without a stealthy attack on the backpack! If you use the STAR method of de-cluttering school papers, you and your child will be sure to have a more organized, stress-free and successful school year.

    © 2012 Amy Rehkemper, CPO® Simplify Organizing®, LLC. All Rights Reserved. 

    Amy is the owner of Simplify Organizing, LLC®, a mother of two, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education. She was in the inaugural class of Certified Professional Organizers® and twice featured on HGTV’s “Mission: Organization.”  Since 1999, she has offered residential de-cluttering and organizing services to create stress-free spaces for busy families. 

  • 08/16/2012 4:56 PM | Anonymous

    by Terry Cooch of TLC Home


    Can your teen be organized? Well, sure... but it's going to cost you. It will go something like this:

    Set Example. Your teen can become organized, but it starts with you. Eliminate your own chaos. Be organized and be on time. Learn to prioritize. Know how to work well and how to relax.

    KISS and Make Up. "Keep it Simple Sweetie" is the right approach to organizing, but so is forgiveness. Forget who is to blame for the messy path your child has taken, forgive yourselves the past, and start fresh with a positive, can-do attitude.

    Give Warning. Do NOT wake your son on Saturday morning and ask which of his preschool art he would like to keep. DO inform him that, "On Saturday morning at 11:00 we'll be working together to reorganize some of your belongings. Eat breakfast first."

    Reality Check. Determine what is working and what is not, establish motivation, examine time management and create a goals list. Remember, organizing is about his priorities, not yours.

    Reality Attack. Teach the 4 C's: Classify, Clear out, Control, and Continue. Save only what is useful and appreciated, find what remains easily accessible homes in established zones. Together, create a realistic maintenance plan.

    Repeat Yourself. Periodic reminders are necessary. Lower the annoyance factor by coming to an agreement with your child as to how often (or under what conditions) he is to be reminded. Pleasant tone, please.

    Communicate Expectations. Assume nothing. Everything is in its place and a plan has been established, so we're all good? Not really. Let him know where you've placed the bar and your confidence in his ability to achieve it. Then be patient. Change takes time, diligence, and consistency. 

    © 2012 Terry Cooch. All Rights Reserved.

    Terry L. Cooch, owner of TLC Home Complete Home Management Services, is a mother of six and a  professional organizer.

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