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For the third post highlighting this year’s NAPO Conference, I’m pleased to introduce Diana Duran Wettling of Practical Arrangements in Austin, Texas. As someone who is committed to an eco-friendly lifestyle, Diana attended a session on Environmentally Conscious Organizing, and is here to share some of the valuable tips she picked up.


Environmental ConceptsAfter attending the NAPO 2013 conference in New Orleans, I wanted to share learnings from a session that really struck a chord with me – the Environmentally Conscious Organizing session. It was facilitated by Debra Baida, Eileen Koff, CPO and Megan Spears, CPO. These ladies did an excellent job of educating and encouraging their participants. The organizers I spoke to while walking out of the session were ready to update business plans!

Yes – I recycle, I compost, I buy from local farmers and I make environmentally friendly decisions as much as I can. Environmentally Conscious Organizing was a session I was super excited to attend and I was not disappointed. Not only was attending a workshop with like-minded organizers very motivating, but I also learned how to incorporate “being green” in my business. I was enlightened when I understood that as organizers we can make a direct impact on client’s choices AND our environment.

Why be environmentally conscious?

There are tons of reasons! For blogging sake, I’ll just stick to landfills today. We are all super busy and make purchases that make things convenient, such as disposable toothbrushes, water bottles and small packaged snacks. We buy things and use them for a couple seconds then trash them and never think about it again. That package that took us a couple seconds to use can take weeks or sometimes years to decompose in a landfill. Oh! And you know those packages that say compostable? I seriously thought that they would be okay in landfills since they decompose. WRONG, there’s no oxygen. Waste is compacted so much that compostable containers and even grass trimmings are buried in the landfill along with the other trash – not decomposing.

So, how do you become more environmentally conscious?

  • Think about what you are buying, using and doing. Minimize your purchases, purchase things with less packaging and purchase things that last longer.
  • Educate yourself on the variety of eco labels. Read the eco labels on the products you are purchasing to become more familiar with them. Do a little research online to get even more details.
  • Include recycling resources on your website. When you hear about an event from someone, on the news or on the radio post it on your website to let more people know.
  • Find out what can and cannot be recycled in your area. Visit your local utilities website for the information specific to your area.
  • Let them know (and feel!) that you are not judging them. Commend your client for any recycling they are already doing.
  • Help your client set up a recycling system. Find an easy to access spot in the kitchen that fits two bins – one for trash and one for recycling.
  • Present an environmentally friendly option when a client’s need arises. When new purchases are necessary, let your client know about eco-friendly products.
  • Introduce a new concept when it comes up during an organizing session. If working in the kitchen, talk about reducing their trash consumption by composting.
  • Include environmentally friendly tips that will save your clients money on your next blog post or newsletter.
  • Be specific when taking donations. Let your client know who will benefit from their donations.
  • Share local recycling programs or events on social media.

How do you get your clients on the environmentally friendly track?

Together, professional organizers can really make a difference – even if it’s a little step at a time. The next time you are working with a client, share at least one new concept with them!

 

Some of My Favorite Green Products Shared in the Session:Environmental Concepts

  • Ditto hangers – they are 100% recyclable!
  • New Leaf Paper – eco paper in cute notebooks!
  • Necklace made out of recycled magazines – Love it!

 

Resources:
http://www.benefits-of-recycling.com/interestingrecyclingfacts/

 


Diane Duran WettlingDiana Duran Wettling is a professional organizer and owner of Practical Arrangements. Diana helps busy people get organized and be happy! She helps homeowners and business owners purge, sort and organize their belongings so that they can have more time to do things they love. When she is not organizing, Diana makes time to garden, craft and read. To find out more about Diana and her services, check out her website.

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Grocery ShoppingImagine for a moment your last grocery trip. Was it laser-focused in food gathering, or did your stomach and eyes get the better of impulse shopping? For most of us, grocery shopping is the most time consuming and last place we want to be errand, and what worse, it’s the time of the year when things become more difficult in food planning and preparation. We are getting into the “just dropped by” and family gatherings that stockpile our pantries and refrigerators. Keeping the essentials becomes a marathon. Shopping my be unavoidable, but by keeping a few simple tips on how to better plan the upcoming season, we may just make that living simply mantra something that is put into practice this year. OH… there is always hope!

Measure twice, cut once.
In other words, plan and prepare wisely. Begin the season planning what was successful in last year’s repertory and what new recipes you want to try this year. Measure twice…really plan with a realistic eye what is truly needed and don’t get caught up in the perfection mood. Keep a grocery list in view and train yourself to use it as one item goes out, it gets written on the list. That’s a great way to avoid the last minute rush for more milk.

Organize your list by aisle.
Face it, Madison Avenue knows us better than we do. They know where to place foods that cost more and to get you to buy more. Don’t succumb to this trick. Put a little energy into finding out how your store is laid out and this can save you a ton of time and money.

Think week not day.
Figure out the week’s worth of menus and begin your buying of nonperishable foods for the whole week, then buy a few days worth of perishable items. Fresh is always best, but going to the store everyday is unnecessary and a big time and wallet waster. Keep you menus simple and save new recipes for the weekend when other members can join in.

Call ahead.
Some stores deli departments will put your order together before you arrive. OK now your talking 15-20 minutes of free time. Need I say more?

Time is not on your side.
Know when to shop. Early riser and late night shoppers are rewarded with smaller crowds and shorter checkout lines. Weekdays between 5-7PM are max-capacity times.

Check it out!
It does matter how you unload. Empty your cart either from heaviest to lightest items or from indestructible to fragile. You or your packer will have a better shot of getting your items home in good condition if loaded this way. Try to keep all perishable or refrigerated items in one bag or two. Unload these items first. The obvious is not always so.

Last but most importantly…go it alone!
If at all possible, don’t bring the kids. They keep us distracted, have wish lists a big as they are, and complicate all the unloading and getting in and out. If you MUST bring them, give specific tasks such as choosing that night’s vegetable etc.

High tech tools to make this even better!
Try a free Smartphone app called Grocery iQ to manage your list. You can even take a picture of the bar code with your camera and instantly add the item to your list. The app stores previously purchased items to help you make the next list. You can create different lists for different stores. Visit www.groceryiq.com

Many grocery stores are now using Twitter and Facebook to alert customers to specials and discounts. They may also offer specialized apps to help make shopping and saving easier. Check the stores home page for starters.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving…shopping stress free!
Eileen Koff CPO

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Child PlayroomLast year, I got a call from Dawn, who said in a frantic voice: “Eileen, I need your help, I must get my child’s playroom in order. I am expecting in 3 months and I cannot live with the condition of this room any longer.” I could certainly understand her frustration, but there is more here than just the wave of the magic wand and organizational heaven. Her daughter, not quite four years old could not possibly be expected to keep her room in order when neither Mom nor Dad had a system set up to keep it well organized.

My first question to Dawn was, “What does Anne love to play with? Dawn’s answer gave me an idea of the real issues going on. “Oh, Anne loves EVERYTHING!” My first lesson to clients is that if EVERYTHING is important, then NOTHING is important. Getting Dawn to prioritize Anne’s play likes and dislikes would only take her a few minutes of observation. Drowning in a room filled with stuff sends the opposite message to what we should be teaching our children.

In a world where “more” is better, we soon learn that when it comes to children’s toys, the opposite is true. Teaching children as young as two the value of purging can help to SIMPLIFY and allow them to really enjoy their surroundings. Getting the family together each week and teaching a child to purge can be a new and fun family activity.

Following are a few lessons they will learn:

  • There are only a limited amount of items that should go or even fit in an area.
  • They are responsible for the care of their toys.
  • They can bless others with something they are no longer using.

Following are some suggestions to help them simplify their spaces:

TOYS AND CLOTHING - Most children today have many more toys than they need. They get over-stimulated, and often stop playing with them. Help your children as you edit their toys, by getting them to identify those they don’t like or are no longer interested in.

SKIP THE TOY BOX - Toy boxes are a guaranteed way for kids not to play with all their toys. They become a dumping ground, usually full of broken bits and lost pieces; and children won’t hesitate to dump everything out to find what they want. Instead, build shelves and invest in bins. (clear bins are always a great way to go) Just make sure the shelves are low enough for younger children to reach.

BIG PURGE - Set aside one hour at a time to purge outgrown toys and clothes. Listen to your children and let them tell you what to give away. Don’t stop them from giving something away just because it is a gift or expensive toy, no matter where it came from or how much it cost. If the child doesn’t play with a toy or won’t wear a certain item, then it is clutter. If the unwanted item is a keepsake, then as a family create a keepsake bin and keep it in a special place. Honor and respect what is in your home.

CONTINUOUS CLEANING OUT - Create a give-away box. Decide how full the bin needs to be before you donate these items. Come up with a list of places looking for used items, and give your child a say in where they will go. Review which toys are still favorites and say bye-bye to toys that have lost their appeal.

HOMELESS ITEMS - Every few weeks, collect homeless pieces and get those odds-and-ends pieces together again.

ROTATE TOYS - Remember the old 80/20 rule? Kids play 80% of the time with only 20% of their toys. Children are just like us…they love to play the same games over and over and over again. To make toys and books seem new again, store some away. A few months later, rotate the ones from storage. Just remember to mark your calendar.

LABEL WITH PICTURES - Labeling storage containers is always a good idea, but what if your kids are too young to read? Use clip art to include a picture with the word. You can print the labels on address label stickers or on plain paper that you stick to the container using clear packing tape. Or ask your organizer to recommend specialty pre-made labels.

ARTWORK - Everything your child draws and creates may seem like a masterpiece; but if you save it all, your child will never learn how to value what’s important. Designate a holding bin for the creations your little artist makes. Four times a year, especially over winter and summer breaks, go through them together and pick out 5 to 10 items to save for the future. Be sure your child includes some of his or her favorites, even if they’re not yours. Move the chosen items to a portfolio or keeper bin. Or get even simpler: take a digital picture or scan all of the artwork and save it on compact disc. Then choose one special art project, have it framed or shadowboxed, and display it in the child’s room or in your family room for EVERYONE to see. This not only creates personality in a room, it lets the artist know their work is valued.

A SEASONAL CLEAN-OUT - Purge children’s closets every 3 to 6 months. They grow out clothing faster than the blink of an eye.

PREVENTING THE PILES IN THE FIRST PLACE - When the time comes that people ask you for ideas what to give your kids, suggest gifts like memberships to the zoo or museum, tickets to a show, books and music, contributions to a college fund, donation to charity, etc. Older children will particularly enjoy movie passes and gift cards. Give with meaning and intention, rather than easy and fast.

When a room is organized from a child’s perspective, they will soon love both the play and the organizing. And you will soon see: it is possible to do both!
In just a few weeks, the Christmas season will be upon us, and now is the perfect time to really observe what your child’s favorites are and what can be given to another needy child. A wonderful way to instill the gift of giving is to have your child help you take their toys to a shelter or other child friendly program so that they can witness first hand how giving is more meaningful than receiving.

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blog setting prioritiesOne of the most important questions I continually hear parents ask is “How can I manage all the demands of my time, now that my family is growing and life is overly complex? There never seems to be time to fit everything in, and by the end of the week, tempers flare and everyone is just worn out”.  The following story was first published in a book titled First Things First by Stephen R. Covey in the early ’90s.  I think it can be helpful to anyone at any stage of life.

Big Rocks

One day, an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget.  As he stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers he said, "Okay, time for a quiz" and he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouth mason jar and set it on the table in front of him.

He also produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?"

Everyone in the class yelled, "Yes."  The time management expert replied, "Really?"  He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. He then asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?"

By this time the class was on to him.  "Probably not," one of them answered. "Good!" he replied.  He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand.  He started dumping the sand in the jar and it went into all of the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jars full?"

"No!" the class shouted.  Once again he said, "Good."  Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?"

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in it!"  "No," the speaker replied, "that's not the point.

The truth this illustration teaches us is:

If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all."

What are the 'big rocks' in your life, time with your loved ones, your faith, your education, your dreams, a worthy cause, teaching or mentoring others?  Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you'll never get them in at all.

So, tonight, or in the morning, when you are reflecting on this short story, ask yourself this question: What are the 'big rocks' in my life?

Then, put those in your jar first.

My three boys are all men now …time flies… much too fast, especially when we are not paying attention. Take the time to slow down, look and be mindful of the love surrounding you. There are no guarantees life will remain constant. I sincerely hope that my organizing articles have helped in some small way to build a stronger family connection.

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Got Photos…Get Organized

Do your photographs overwhelm you? 



If there were a fire in your home, what would you grab first?

Some say the kids, others the pet; but after our loved ones … photos are given top priority. That’s because they document our lives. They are a testament to how we have lived and the memories we cherish. However, I’m always amazed how people treat these treasures.  Most are stored in horrid plastic containers, relegated to the basement or attic and rarely seen.  No thought has been given to honoring them in picture frames, or even storing on a cloud server for future projects.

Do any of these statements sound familiar?

  • You’ve got years and years’ worth of photos that have never even made it out of the film developers’ envelopes.

  • Worse yet, You’ve got rolls and rolls of film that haven’t even been developed.

  • You’re up to your eyeballs in boxes and stashes of photos that are a jumbled mess.

  • You’re wondering how you’ll ever manage to organize the old photos you’ve inherited when you’re already frazzled by your own collection.

  • You rummage through your piles in search of a special photograph, only to come up empty handed.

  • You’ve slowed down or even stopped taking pictures because you just don't know where you'd put any more photos.

  • You’re simply fed up with feeling overwhelmed.

 

While raising our families is a full time job, letting those precious memories escape us is a terrible thing to waste. I learned very quickly that helping my clients organize their photos brought a great deal of joy and satisfaction to their families. Our photos are our legacy, and treating them well preserves our stories for future generations. The following are a few tips to help you get started. Remember, like any other organizing process, this takes time, dedication and commitment. Scheduling just a few minutes a day, or a block of time on the weekend, when everyone can help, will bring many joys to your family. 

Let’s get started!

How to Organize Photos of Any Kind

Time and Place - Set aside time when you can sit uninterrupted. Your mounds of photos will take time to organize so don’t rush, but plan time each week to walk down your memory lane. Ideally, the place where you begin this process should have adequate lighting and enough privacy so that you can work uninterrupted.  Make sure you have enough room to spread out and divide your photos.

Gather - Collect all of your photos from everywhere in the house.  That means every closet, nook, and table where they have been accumulating. Don't forget the portrait extras and smaller photos from holidays or school pictures.

Sort - The possibilities are endless.  Do you like the idea of seeing life unfold through each year? (Chronological) Or want to showcase the growth of Michael’s baseball league? (Child) Sort through all the special holidays? (Events) If you do not have the date placed on the photo make your best estimation. It is better to give a rough estimate now then try to guess 10 years from now when the pictures were taken.

There is no right or wrong way to sort.

Categories - This is an alternate way to organize photos. Simply divide them into categories appropriate for your family. Some examples may be friends, family, vacations, school, kids, grandchildren, graduations, holidays, birthdays, or religious events.

Label - As you go through each envelope and picture, label the back.  Be sure to include the names of the people in the picture (including last names - years later, it will be easier for others to identify them), the date and the location. Use a special archival pen made for this purpose. Do not use a regular pen, as it will make an indention on the front of the photo.

Delete - Remember you don't have to keep every photo that you take.  Don't feel guilty. Throw away duplicates that no longer have a use, as well as blurry or simply bad shots. This often cuts down considerably on the pile you have and make your task easier.

My favorite tip is to start somewhere - When I contemplated conquering my own photos, I had so many envelopes, boxes and albums I didn’t know where to start. So I chose a birthday. Or you can choose the current year, and work backwards when you have extra time. The key to success is to take baby steps.  For every half hour you put into it, you’ll begin to feel a great sense of relief.

Because of the ease of digital cameras, we all take more photos.  Another great starting point is beginning with the physical pictures stuffed in boxes as they take up a lot of space. They will also lose their vibrancy if not properly stored and cared for.

Here are some typical organizing steps that may actually do more harm that good:

  • Storing photos in manila envelopes or unsafe photo boxes.

  • Using plastic Baggies, or standard index cards to separate photographs.

  • Keeping track of memories by using self-stick notes on the face of the photograph.

  • Using a ballpoint pen (rather than an archival pen) to write dates and information on the back of your photograph.

  • Storing your photographs in their original photo-developing envelopes.

I recently got a call from Margaret. Her sentiments are typical. “I’ve got at least five years of memories are stuffed into a giant box that sits on the floor of my home office. It is filled with overwhelming piles of photos that I'm truly terrified to tackle. I need a professional to get me started and to outline the tasks step-by-step.”

Getting these precious memories into a safe yet accessible place is not impossible, however, it didn’t get into this pile over night and it won’t go away with a wave of a magic wand. It will take many 30-minute segments and a few weekends to conquer and recapture the meaning behind “why we keep what we keep”. The good news is that with a professional photo organizer beside you, the work will get done. The best part? You don’t have to wait till you’re a grandparent to do it!

 

 

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"We wanted to build a fire like when we were young, roasting marshmallows and enjoy s’mores and sitting around and playing games…this holiday season our parents surprised us and had the house organized, so it was all possible! Sure they take the credit, but we know that Eileen was the reason it all came together! Eileen had a knack for giving our whole family the confidence to live how we really want to—as an organized but still spontaneous bunch. And it’s a great bonus as three sisters to have awesome rooms now that we can leave messy but still know where things are to un-clutter our minds—Thank you Eileen!"

- The Gardner Girls