Thursday, October 31, 2013

One step at a time to organizing success!

I have a friend who was so enamored with Dancing with the Stars that she decided to take ballroom dancing lessons.  Lo and behold she discovered she has talent and because she has time and money she decided to compete on the local level. Her husband now jokingly complains that she has more time for her teacher than she does for him. When skill, time, money and devotion meet like this it can change a life.  Her children are grown, her business is thriving, her husband has his own passions and now my friend has an outlet for her creativity.

But not every story has smooth sailing to a happy end, does it?  Many of you get incredibly excited about the prospect of having an organized environment only to fall victim to over achieving, hitting a plateau or being done in by your family or co-workers. Take Schweitzer's words to heart. Every bump along the way teaches us something about ourselves, our goals and the journey.  Be open to constantly re-examining why you want to achieve this goal, what's really happening and what does the pause teach or offer you? Remember it's a pause on a long journey.  It's only The End if you declare it so and then chaos wins.  And I hate to see that!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Create a Sanctuary at Home

Having a place within your home that is special to you is important for your well being.  I view the home as a refuge from the world.  But let's face it the phone can ring with bad news, you might be driven up the wall by someone who shares your space or Social Media could turn you into an addict.  Within the four walls we call home it's lovely to have a sanctuary.  I chose the above photo from the Pier One on line catalogue.  I just moved and their store has been the perfect place to fill out the miscellaneous furniture needs that cropped up. But look at that comfy chair! I can see it as a landing spot to read a book or do some meditating. Here are some tips to help you create your sanctuary.

  1. What does sanctuary mean to you? In other words what activity will you want to perform there? The activity will dictate what the space needs to hold. An avid reader needs a chair, a book case, a good light and a small table to hold a beverage.  The meditator needs a comfortable chair and perhaps a place for an altar.  The crafty person (how could I resist?) needs a chair, table and some storage for the supplies her hobby demands like yarn, fabric or paper.
  2. Find the area in your home you can convert for your needs.  Depending on the size of the space and how many folks you share your life with you may have a dedicated spot or one that can convert to your needs in a flash.
  3. Do some on line window shopping for inspiration.  Pinterest is always high on the list as is Houzz.  But don't forget your favorite stores as you'll want any additional purchases to fit seamlessly into your decor.
  4. Make a list of what you need but before you hit 'click' be sure the purchase fits within your budget! Don't put items on your credit card that can't be paid for immediately.  The stress of your growing interest alone will rob you of the peace you wanted to create in your sanctuary.
My bedroom is my sanctuary and it was the first room that came together after the move. I feel my body relax the minute I open the door.  I'm always cold but I've learned to sleep with the window open in this room and enjoy the night air from under the covers.  And my dog appreciates a cooler room because let's face it he's always wearing a fur coat. Do you have a sanctuary?  What tips would you share with someone who is just getting ready to create such a space?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Team Work ~ a Caution

I love collaboration which is the essence of team work, isn't it?  Each person shares a common goal and brings specific gifts to the process. When an author writes a book for example it takes a village to get it to press.  You've got an editor, a production team including a copy editor, an artist to design the cover art and someone to write the blurbs for the back cover.  And then there's the PR and Marketing team.  You get the idea.

When I work with clients I very often bring one or two assistants.  I hand pick my team to match the personality and needs of my client. But not all teams work seamlessly, do they?  If you toil in a corporate situation you may find yourself working with folks who are jealous of you, impatient or not qualified.  Be very careful that the teams you put together are a great mix of people with the right attitude and the best talents for the project.

I'm specifically thinking about the times you seek out help to get organized.  You may not want to pay someone like me so you decide to ask an organized friend or relative.  Here's the one thing you need to be vigilant about: be sure that whoever is on your team is not only qualified but has your best interests at heart.  Aunt Sally may have the most organized home in the world but if she loves to belittle while she helps she should stay home.  If your best friend is a mini Martha but can't help asking how you live like this she should call Aunt Sally and meet for lunch.  They can eat at The Toxic Cafe.

You don't ask a baby to walk before it crawls.  And you don't belittle it's first awkward steps, do you? Be sure you are as kind to yourself as you would be to a baby in any arena that's tough for you to master.  We flower with support and we wither under a volley of harsh words.  If you hand pick a critical team you may find that deep down you don't want to succeed.  Do some more soul searching and begin when the time is right.  What did Victor Hugo say?  "All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come." Amen.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Seasonal Delight for Organizing Day

I grew up in New York City where everybody knows the famous Zabar's Deli on the upper West side of Manhattan. Today's recipe is from their newsletter and offers a delicious way to feed your brain and tempt your palette on organizing day.  You might also want to waft over to and sign up for their newsletter. They ship goodies all across the country so you can delight family and friends with thoughtful and unique gifts for the holidays.

Roasted Squash with Wild Rice
by Andrew Regnier, Zabar's Executive Chef
 Serves 6 – 8 people, 6 total squash halves

1 ½ cup wild rice
2/3 carrot (shreded on cheese grater)
1 medium yellow onion (diced small)
1 red bell pepper (diced small)
1 cup corn, frozen or fresh
½ cup dried cranberries
1 bunch baby spinach (cleaned)
3 cups vegetable stock or water
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons Olive oil or melted butter
½ Tablespoon brown sugar
Optional: 1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
3 small acorn squash or small pie pumpkins, sweet dumpling squash or carnival squash (at the store we use any of the above)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cut the squash in half length wise and clean out the cavity of seeds and fibers. Coat the inside with olive oil or butter, a ½ teaspoon salt and brown sugar. Place the squash cut side up on a backing sheet or Pyrex dish and bake approximately 25 minutes until just soft, then turn over to drain any liquid.
To cook the wild rice: Use 1½ cup of uncooked wild rice with 3 cups of vegetable stock and simmer slowly until the rice begins to pop open, about 30-40 minutes.
In a sauce pan sauté the onion, bell pepper, carrot and corn. When the rice is ready combine the rice, sautéed vegetables, baby spinach, remaining ½ teaspoon salt and dried cranberries.

Stuff the squash with the entire mixture and reheat in a 350 degree oven before serving.

Mirror! Mirror! On the Wall! Who's the Worst Gift Wrapper of All?

There is no question the Mirror would be shouting my name to the Heavens.  I am hopeless.  And because I believe the Universe has a sense of humor during my organizing career I have organized boat loads of women who excel at the 'art of the gift wrap.' Here are some things I've learned from them to comfort those as untalented as I am:

  1. Don't think of it as a chore.  Consider gift wrapping packages an expression of your creativity. It's got to be on display somewhere in your life.  This will be a new avenue.
  2. Buy good quality items on sale and over time build up a quality stash.
  3. Organize your supplies so everything is easy to find and have a space you can either devote to the practice or clear in a few minutes.
  4. Look at examples on sites like Pinterest so you can be inspired.  You don't have to dream up every style yourself! The above image came up in seconds for me.
  5. Consider using unusual items like maps or newspaper to surprise the recipient.  This makes the box part of the gift.
  6. Be patient.  Remember this is a skill and like all skills no one succeeds in a day.
My good friends at The Container Store have a series of videos you can watch. I'll never tell that's where and how you learned the art of gift wrapping. I'll be home practicing myself! Let me know how you're doing or better yet upload some examples. Here's the link:|Brand|Exact|Desktop&gclid=CM7rh7qxsLoCFex7QgodTFUAhw

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Protein power house for organizing day!

Behold the mighty chickpea!  Most of us think of it smashed into hummus but it also makes great burgers.  Here's a recipe from Forks Over Knives a great web site promoting cruelty free healthy living. Be sure and click on the link Plant Powered 15 to meet the master chef behind this wonderful concoction.  She's promoting this recipe for kids but I say feed your brain on organizing day and banish 'decision fatigue!'

Sneaky Chickpea Burgers
From Plant-Powered 15
Makes 7-8 Patties
  • 1 cup carrot, cut in discs
  • ½ cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 medium-large clove garlic
  • 2 cans (14-ounces each) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (can substitute natural ketchup)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
  • freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or rosemary leaves
  • 1 cup rolled oats
In a food processor, first add carrots, bell pepper, and garlic, pulse until finely chopped.  Add remaining ingredients except rolled oats and process through. Stop processor a few times and scrape down, and continue to process until smooth. Then add rolled oats and pulse through. Remove bowl and place in fridge to chill mixture, for about a ½ hour. When ready to shape patties, take out scoops of mixture and form burgers in your hands. To cook, place patties on a non-stick skillet over medium/medium-high heat. Let cook on one side for 7-8 minutes, or until golden brown. Then flip, and let cook for another 5-7 minutes on the other side. Alternatively, these patties can be baked at 400°F for about 20 minutes, flipping half way through, however I prefer the sear and texture that pan-cooking offers. Serve on buns, or in tortillas or pitas with fixings of choice!
Kiddo Note: Although most children do not like dijon mustard, garlic, or some fresh herbs, they will likely not notice these ingredients at all! Our daughters devour these burgers without ever noticing the seasonings (or the veggies)!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The glory of an old dog!

As everyone familiar with this blog knows I just adopted a puppy.  Charlie was 9 months on the 19th and as adorable as he is I have to say adopting an older dog means someone else has had to teach a baby everything he needs to know like when to bark, where to potty and how to walk on a leash.  Puppies are exhausting so if you are in the market for a new family member don't go to a rescue with the idea that only a baby will do.

The product I'm sharing is just one of many that can make life for your older dog easier.  If he's a senior he might need help getting onto the bed, the couch or into the car (there are ramps for that). I once adopted a 15 year old Golden who stayed with me till he was 17 1/2 and until the last week of his life he was never sick once. Don't assume an old dog will come with huge medical bills!  A dog is a member of the family and you'll have a lot of fun integrating him or her into your home and lifestyle. If you're open to learning some dog psychology try any of Cesar Millan's books or DVD's.  And if you're in the Los Angeles area and need a trainer contact me because I've got a gem.

I've noticed that dogs are happier in organized spaces.  When I start a project in someone's home the dogs are very often a bit agitated.  They have no idea that the mess I am making is temporary.  And they really don't want to relinquish all that floor space to me. It's funny to watch them get a bit upset and then look ever so satisfied when it's all in place and they realize I gave them the gift of space and a happier master.

Create a folder for your dog in your file system and keep his medical records and any other important papers relating to his health and well being together for ease of retrieval. You'll want to make a special place in the kitchen for his food and treats.  Don't forget to microchip him so that in the event you are separated a reunion will be easier for the folks who find him.  There is some initial expense to be sure but after the first volley of bills you can sit back and enjoy the kind of best friend you've always wanted.  And he'll be so grateful you have his life organized!

Small efforts pay off big in the world of organizing!

I love this quote because it reminds us of the power of small gestures.  They are certainly powerful in the world of getting organized. Take a look around your home and if you are dismayed to find pockets of chaos everywhere don't give into recriminations and self destructive mental chatter.  Rather devote your time and attention selecting seemingly small yet specific steps you can take toward change. 

Many years ago I was the resident organizing expert at an on line site that addresses women's interests.  When I was asked to lead a 6 week 'challenge' to get the community organized I began the first week with a request to make small changes. I remember a near revolt!  I asked the ladies to trust me.  I wanted them to concentrate on small actions that would have big results in the way the home ran and touch the lives of everyone sharing the space. Let's just say the changes were near miraculous.  Many of the participants told me that husbands were helping out for the first time .. without being asked!  In addition small consistent steps in an arena that has stymied you will increase your self esteem and build your confidence as an organizer.

When the 'energy' shifts in the home everyone feels it and it's a great way to get the entire family on board for change.  Why does it work?  Because everyone is being invited to something that works rather than being brow beaten or belittled into participating.  Those tactics never yield lasting results. All of the books in my One Year to ... series are filled with positive habits for you to cultivate that will influence your family members, room mates or pets! (Dogs and cats don't like clutter any more than humans do).  

Here are my all time favorites:

  1. Put your keys in the same spot every single time you enter your home.
  2. Don't allow dirty dishes to languish in the sink.
  3. Put clean dishes away whether they have dried in a dishwasher or on the counter.
  4. Check trash cans every day and empty when full.
  5. Put your mail in the same spot when you enter your home and then deal with it at the same time each day.  
  6. Get rid of junk mail instantly.  A small cross cut shredder is a great first line of defense in the war on identity theft so pop your junk mail in and be done with it. If you work from home you might be able to deduct the price of the shredder.
  7. Put magazines and catalogues in containers designed to hold these items.  When a new catalogue arrives toss the old issue and don't keep magazines longer than 2 months. If you haven't made time to enjoy it by then chances are slim to non it's going to be enjoyed.  It will just become out dated clutter over time. Desperate to read a particular article?  Clip it and file it in a To Read folder.
You can pick and choose the habits you'd like to cultivate from the above and check out my books for more ideas.  It doesn't matter where you begin.  Just (as the Nike slogan suggests) do it! Soon you'll see the power of small gestures in the world of getting organized.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bad habits die hard

A huge surprise in the organizing process can be how tenacious old habits are. They may not serve us or propel us forward but oh how comforting they are! Expect a bit of struggle and be patient and kind with yourself. The person who succeeds is the one who is tenacious.  Those 'bad' habits got ingrained because you worked on making them an intrinsic part of your life.  Yeah, I know, it wasn't conscious but still you were relentless and devoted.  Shift your time, energy and intention to the new habits that will help make your life and environment better.  It's a matter of choice, practice and desire. One day those new and improved habits will be an ingrained part of your being.  

Here a few tips to help ease the journey:

  1. Be specific about the habit(s) you want to cultivate.  Know why they appeal to you.
  2. Don't take on more than 2 at a time.  Build on small successes rather than overwhelming yourself with a bevy of new and improved habits. 
  3. It takes 21 consecutive days to ingrain a new habit so mark off the days on a calendar and start over as many times as it may take.  
  4. Plan a reward!

When I come home I have a choice to fling my keys into the space and create a big problem when I need to leave or I can place then carefully in one designated spot each time.  One action is not more complicated or time consuming than the other.  But the results are remarkably different, aren't they? I think you'll find it to be so with all of your 'bad' habits. Be as generous with your praise and patience as you would with a child.  Perspective is everything in life.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Give procrastination the boot!

I was trolling through Pinterest looking for images to accompany a new project that launches soon and found this delightful cartoon.  There are any number of reasons we humans are so good at pushing things to the last minute.  We might be afraid of success! If you do a big project at work and it's cheered by all as a great success a part of you may fear an increase in projects coming your way.  Conversely you might fear you will fail and then have to live with shame in front of your colleagues. Or perhaps you grew up with parents who did everything at the last minute and that sick to the stomach race to the finish line is mother's milk to you. 

Books have been written about procrastination and my thoughts here can only open the door a crack for you to consider 'Why?' How about this for motivation? You'll have more time for what pleases you if you get the hard stuff out of the way.  This ironically was my mother's philosophy.  I was never allowed to put any project off to the last minute. There are so many things my mother taught me that I now teach my clients.  I was being prepared for a profession that didn't yet exist.  Thanks, Mom!  Give it a try because what do you have to lose except the same old, same old guilt, fear and self recrimination?

No projects begging for your time?  What about getting organized so that when they do come calling you'll be ready to face them down.  Guess what?  The holidays are around the corner and they always require a bit of extra effort.  A project doesn't have to be a report for work or school, it can be Thanksgiving dinner.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Dancing with Chaos ~

We all have guilty pleasures and one of mine is watching Dancing with the Stars. From the time the cast is announced we're pretty certain who the good dancers are and who will exit early with our respect for their courage to try something for which they clearly have no natural aptitude. It doesn't matter, does it?  What matters is that they show up for practice and do their best.  Many of us wince in understanding because we know in our heart of hearts we wouldn't do any better.  Oh to have such courage!

If organizing isn't your strong suit why compare yourself to those who have a natural aptitude? Why waste time belaboring your past unsuccessful achievements?  Why not throw yourself into the experience with your whole heart with the only objective being that you will do your best, celebrate whatever you achieve and enjoy the journey. And above all else why not secure the services of a professional organizer? The show reminds us how far a great teacher can take us.

See? Guilty pleasures sometimes yield golden insights!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A New Chapter Begins ~

About a month ago I moved into my new apartment and two weeks later my boy Charlie joined me.  He's still a puppy (just 9 months today!) so I wanted all the boxes and packing materials cleared out before he arrived. Even with an organized, clutter free environment I find myself correcting him 100 times a day.  Charlie can find things to chew faster than I can scream: "No!" But then he looks at me with that smiling, innocent face and I remember that he's going to be a baby for a long time and I need to be patient. I downsized from 1200 sq ft to 700, gave away furniture and other items I loved and moved to a completely different part of the city just so we could be together.  I said 'yes' to this journey.  I better enjoy every minute of it!

As of tonight I plan to return to daily blog posts with Friday devoted to animal products and Saturdays to healthy recipes.  Moving is traumatic and even an organized person can be done in by the demands.  Eating well, getting exercise and a good night's sleep are always your allies in the 'War on Chaos' but when you're moving they are truly your lifelines.  I'm delighted to say I followed my own advice and can assure you from personal experience that these seemingly random activities will indeed help you enormously.

I wish to give a shout out to my wonderful friends who all helped in one way or another to make this transition a reality.  You know who are and you know how grateful I am.  I am equally grateful to my readers who have patiently waited for me to return.  We may grouse about some task or project but when your life is in boxes you realize what a privilege taking care of the details of life really is. Faced with a seas of boxes to unpack I would have given anything for a simple afternoon of paper work!

It's late on a Saturday night and Charlie is asking for last spin around the block.  His puppy heart is full of love and he lives to find people and pups on whom he can shower his affection.  Charlie is sometimes corrected by bigger or older dogs who don't want to enjoy his love explosion.  He has been to the emergency room and started life with distemper.  Remarkably he lives completely and totally invested in the present moment willing to let it go when the experience ends absolutely certain that the next minute is going to be the best.  Charlie is unencumbered by the past.  May we all live like Charlie!

What type of information would you most like to find here?

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.