Friday, August 23, 2013

Which hangar is right for you?

Clients ask me about hangars all the time and really there is only one hard and fast rule: don't use the wire hangar your dry cleaner sent home with you. She wants your items to get to their destination in the best condition possible but she doesn't expect you to use those hangars forever.  In fact most stores provide a small container that will catch them and when full you can return the stash to the store.  It's the ultimate recycling.

The hangars shown above are Huggables from The Container Store but you can find them or a version of them just about every place where closet supplies are sold.  The coating on the hangar prevents slipping and they are so thin they take up hardly any space.  You can't go wrong.  Personally I use wood because I find it to be the kindest to my clothing but I also have a large walk in closet with lots of space.

The first step is to clean out your closet and see how many items you realistically have to hang.  Do a literal count and then go to a store with a large selection of styles.  Decide which is best considering how many you need (price) and how much space you have (thin takes up less room than thick). You can swap out your hangers over time.  In fact it's a really exhausting job to do an entire wardrobe  in one sitting although I've certainly done it many times over the years.

You take great pains to decorate your home so that it reflects you, right? Why not choose a style and color hangar that repeats or enhances what you have created elsewhere in your home?  Just be sure your hangar will preserve those garments you have spent time and money collecting. Wire hastens them to the Goodwill graveyard!

For those who like to dive deep here's a hangar tutorial from my friends at the Container Store:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Decision Fatigue

My sweet boy Charlie is allowing me to share this photo of him zonked out after a good play session.  I told him he looked just like my clients after we finish an organizing project that involves a lot of intense decision making. I am not the person who invented the phrase 'decision fatigue' but over the past 22 years I have experienced it many times.  My clients are even more exhausted than I am because they are making decisions about things they have an emotional attachment to and this ups the ante. Know going into any organizing project that you will feel fatigued at the end and prepare for it. Get a good night's sleep the night before and have a healthy meal before you begin.  Drink lots of water, have healthy snacks handy and plan a reward.  Charlie's reward was a good, long belly rub! What will yours be?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Organized Finances Are a Must

    • Writer Paul Hechinger interviewed me and my One Year to an Organized Financial Life co-writeer and friend Russell Wild for a piece on the importance of organized finances. I wanted to share the results.  

      Helping Your Chaotic Clients Get Organized

      By Paul Hechinger August 20, 2013

      Of all the hurdles advisors must clear with new clients, disorganization is among the most common. Their financial statements and records are usually in such a state of chaos that they can’t answer the simplest questions.

      “Most people are disorganized,” says Nicole Middendorf, CEO of Prosperwell Financial, an RIA in Plymouth, Minn., with upwards of $100 million in assets under management. “It’s very rare that you find someone who knows what their net worth is, or even what the interest rate is on their mortgage, without having to dig for the information.

      In fact, sorting through boxes of randomly stacked documents is often one of an advisor’s first chores. The good news, says Regina Leeds, a professional organizer in Los Angeles and co-author of One Year to an Organized Financial Life, is that most clients are already motivated to get their act together. Just by virtue of taking the step of meeting with a financial advisor, “they’re light-years ahead of other people,” she says.

      Since the advice relationship often starts with the client filling out a general questionnaire, there’s momentum toward organization from the first meeting. Then advisors can help reinforce better habits by demonstrating that organization gives clients more control over their lives — the reason most people hire an advisor in the first place.

      Still, Leeds’s co-author, financial advisor Russell Wild, cautions that it’s not enough for clients in chaos to be motivated — they have to be self-aware as well. “There are two kinds of disorganized people: those who know they’re disorganized and those who don’t,” says Wild, whose fee-only firm, Allentown, Pa.-based Global Portfolios, has about $11 million in assets under management. “Those who know it, you can help. And those who don’t, you should drop as clients, because they’re going to drive you absolutely crazy.”

      Incentive, Not Intimidation

      For the ones who aren’t beyond help, advisors can gracefully offer incentives to get organized. Wild, for instance, mentions that because he is paid by the hour, it’s in clients’ best interests to be as efficient as possible. “I’ll just let them know up front that if I need to pull it together, I’m going to have to charge them for doing that,” he says.

      Theresa Chen Wan, principal of TCW Financial Planning in Dumont, N.J., who also charges for her services by the hour, says she has occasionally told clients who gave her incomplete information that it limited what she could do for them. However, she will go the extra mile to get what she needs: In one case, she went to the home of an elderly widow to gather years’ worth of disorganized records.

      Like clients who have lost a spouse, clients in the midst of a marital breakup can find it particularly unnerving to tackle stacks of financial statements that may remind them of happier times. So Middendorf, who’s a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, tries to make the process of gathering information less intimidating for her overwhelmed clients. “I get it, I’m divorced myself,” she says. “The way I look at it, it’s our job to help you get you organized and to help make this not so difficult.”

      Wild thinks some of the blame for the chaos in his clients’ lives rests with financial institutions. In his opinion, many of them deliberately publish “obscure” statements, some in the form of lengthy booklets, “largely because they want to hide their fees and hide their performance figures.” One client with accounts at a wirehouse, he says, had no idea what portion of his assets were in risky allocations — despite the voluminous information he received from the institution.

      Leeds suggests reminding clients that having their documents in good order can help them reach their financial goals. She also tells a personal story: When her father died, he left a completely organized estate. “There was no mystery, no hunting for papers,” Leeds says. “That’s a wonderful gift to give your children.”

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hair Today and Hair Tomorrow ...

Whenever I organize a woman's hair products I am amazed by the number of tools the average woman needs.  There is always an array of dryers, stylers and gizmos I've never seen.  I'm not skilled in this area so I keep tools to a minimum.  But if you are the woman who struggles to keep your tools under control this handy 'Style Station' from The Container Store may just do the trick.  You can corral the everyday tools in one spot and if you wish leave them out on the bathroom counter.

Inevitably the total stash of tools include items for special occasion use.  Why sift through everything you own every morning when all you need is one dryer?  Keep the special occasion tools in something like a grid tote (shown above in clear but it comes in colors)  under the sink or in a deep drawer and take it out as needed.

If you struggle with a postage size bathroom with zero storage  keep your things divided into these types of containers and stash them in the nearest closet on a shelf.  Usually the master closet or the linen closet are nearby so you can take what you need with you in the morning and return it before you leave.  Even without truly adequate space in one area you can get creative and make what you do have work in a multi purpose way.  I first used a linen closet for hair care products when I organized a woman who lived near the beach.  In exchange for the view and the clean air she sacrificed storage space but in the end we made it all work.  And so can you!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

On a Personal Note ~

They say that love makes us crazy.

A few weeks ago I was doing volunteer work with a wonderful rescue here in Los Angeles called Lucky Puppy.  I was one of the volunteers asked to come and cuddle 23 sick puppies.  What dog lover wouldn't jump at the chance to be part of a 'puppy pile?' The first time I walked in a little white dog looked up at me and I swear I heard him say: "Hey! Hi! How are ya? What took you so long? I've been waitin' for ya!" He may have been sick but he seemed to smile with his entire being.  I was captivated and touched but I like BIG dogs.  I had hoped to find a Great Dane or pit bull not a puff ball.  

When I got on the floor to cuddle the puppies he sat on my lap as if to say he'd share me but I belonged to him.  When he went to the hospital to live in isolation while he participated in a new FDA soon to be approved drug protocol I visited him every day I wasn't working.  We'd play together in an exam room and I told him he was smart, handsome and healthy.  Words can heal and I wanted to build up his immune system. I agreed with Lucky Puppy that he was special and needed a person who would nurture and love him and protect his incredible spirit.  He turned 6 months recently and although his life has been about shelters, rescue and doctors offices, he continues to be loving and have very high self-esteem.  I remember the moment I realized I was his life partner.

But dogs aren't allowed in my building and so the young man whose name is now Charlie is living with one of my best friends while I get ready to move to our new home on September 14th.  I'm downsizing to half the space and a lot of things I thought would be with me forever are now finding new homes or the trash bin. It's exhausting but freeing and when I feel overwhelmed I remember how it feels to have Charlie in my arms and no price is too high.

I may not be able to blog every day until October 1st when I know we'll be totally unpacked and have a routine.  Charlie also needs to go to school to learn perfect manners.  He's intelligent, loving, eager to please and a joy to be around.  I want everyone to feel that way about him.  If I'm not as active as usual in Social Media please know I'm reorganizing my physical world.  All this upheaval for the love of one 10 pound Havanese who stole my heart the second we met. May your journey be sweet while Charlie and I get through this time of transition.

Sock Wars!

In just about every home I enter I find a huge, overflowing tangle of white sports socks.  They threaten to take over multiple drawers in a dresser.  They take over space that's needed for other items.  What's a person to do?  If there's space in the closet I get a pretty container like the one above and toss those socks into it with wild abandon.  They are now contained in one place and stored near the sport shoes.  And those dresser drawers are free to hold more traditional items.  

Dress socks of course get folded neatly and stored in color order in drawer containers made expressly for this purpose. You save time because you don't have to go on a quest for a particular pair and you save money because you always know how many of a particular color you actually have.  These containers come in expensive and attractive containers.  I prefer the simple plastic fold together ones.  After all my sock drawers aren't ever on public display are they?  I need can spend my organizing tool budget elsewhere.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

File Creation, Day 4 of 4

I have a friend who can fix anything.  He's just one of those guys.  He credits his skill to two things: his father who taught him everything he knows and his collection of tools.  Tony always assures me that the right tool makes any job easier.  I may not be able to fix anything but I do know something about organizing tools.  The four items shown above are must have tools if you want to create a file system that's fun to use.  
  1. You need a label maker.  Period. End of story.  I don't care which company you support or which product line floats your boat.  Get a label maker.  If anyone else looks at your files they will be so grateful they don't have to deal with your hand written file tabs. 
  2. Get a package of the extra long file tabs.  The ones that come with your hanging file folders don't allow for any creativity.  Recycle or donate them.
  3. Box bottom hanging file folders allow you to group related files in one literal, physical spot.  You save space in the drawer and time when you need to research material for a project whether that's a home remodel, a school report or a project at work. Integrate them into your file system where appropriate.
  4. Manila folders are great for every day business but have a little fun with special projects.  There are all kinds of fun designs and colors.  I had a client who used her file system because the files were scenes of Paris and I have many clients who choose colored files according to their Feng Shui meaning.
In every book in the One Year to ... series my editor laughed that the chapters on office organization were the longest.  I've tossed out tips and tricks all this week in honor of school starting and the busy Fall season being on the horizon.  If you really want to master file creation and organize your office space read one of my books and spend some time creating systems that will support and nurture you.  Why waste time looking for things when you could spend that time being creative and having fun?

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June 2009, in China

June 2009, in China
At the Summer Palace outside Beijing

About Me

My photo

I will always be grateful I grew up in Brooklyn, New York.  It was a rich atmosphere that introduced me to different races, creeds and professions.  It seemed that anything was possible if you were willing to work hard to achieve your goals.

I'm a yogi which means that my spiritual path is that of yoga principles that have been handed down for over 5000 years. Yoga is an ancient philosophy based on the Gita, the sutras of Patanjali and yes, the Bible. The postures are a key element as is meditation. We honor all paths.

I got my first dog when I was 6 years old after a full year of begging.  She was a collie and her name was Queenie.  As an adult I've had 2 golden retrievers.  A female named Miss Katie who came into my life when she was 3 months old and an ancient male golden who came to me when he was 15.  I'd like to have a Great Dane next but we'll see what the universe has in store.

I've been organizing clients for over 24 years and writing about it for over ten.