February, 2013

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A Place for Every Little Thing

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

When you think “organized” what comes to mind? Do you think of a Martha-Stewart-beautiful room from a magazine? Do you think of the perfect closet organizing system? I wouldn’t mind having either of these dream spaces in my home, but don’t want to set the bar so high I can’t achieve the goal.

Instead, I would rather go with this definition as my aim: “Being organized means being able to find what you need when you need it.” Take the 5 Minute Quiz to find out just how organized you are.

The Problem? As one client put it, “I can’t find anything because every cupboard and drawer is just a mish-mosh, with no rhyme or reason to what is where.”

The Solution The key to finding what you need is having a designated storage place for distinct categories of “stuff”. For example, always keep a first aid container in only one closet/cupboard. Then when you need a band-aid there is only one place to look!


Choose a specific category of “stuff” to sort, purge and contain each month. Remember to store each category in only one place as much as possible and close to where used. These are hints to get you started:

  • January - Have children? Donate old toys to make room for new. No children? Purge old linens and purchase new if needed while sales abound.
  • February - Pull together tax papers. Toss last year’s receipts once year-end statements arrive.
  • March - Clean out plastic ware in kitchen cupboards. Keep 10-12 tubs and lids. Donate rest to Goodwill for recycle.
  • April - Go through warm weather clothes. Toss, donate, repair. Purchase new to fill holes in wardrobe while best sales going on.
  • May - Air suitcases. Assemble trial containers of favorite toiletries for travel. Toss toiletries not used in last 12 months.
  • June - Evaluate beach gear. Downsize or bump up as needed. Pack a “pool” bag with towels, sunscreen, and goggles; keep ready to grab and go.
  • July - Gather all first aid supplies into one container. Dispose of old prescription according to FDA Guidelines. Make a list of anything else you need and complete your kit.
  • August - Get school supply lists early. Scavenge what is in your house before making list to buy. Check out sales flyers, then purchase all at once where “competitor prices honored”.
  • September - Purge kitchen of odd mugs, glasses, chipped plates, etc.
  • October - Look at cold weather clothing – coats, hats, gloves, scarves – toss ratty ones, buy needed items.
  • November - Cull pantry items and pull out serving dishes to get ready for holiday meals.
  • December – Purge and contain Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year décor.

Once you have chosen storage containers and designated places, always put the “stuff” back where it goes. Little by little, you will be able to find anything in 30 seconds or less!

Pile Smarter

Friday, February 15th, 2013

There is a reason many of us prefer piles over hidden storage. Personal characteristics for pilers include:

  • Visual orientation
  • Creative bent
  • Out of sight means out of mind

Even the office product manufacturers have recognized that many of their consumers want to have important papers front and center. These are a few products that are geared specifically to folks who want to see at a glance what they must keep on top of.


Pendaflex PileSmart® line

The idea behind these products is to allow piling, but keep papers contained by project/subject in an easy-to-view format.




Peter Walsh’s [In]Place™ System

This system offers flexibility and see-through containment.


Clear Document Wallet       

So, go ahead, pile to your heart’s content. Just be sure to contain like items so you can find what you need when you need it! Pile smarter so you don’t make life harder.

Piling: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Let’s face it, we all make piles. We get in a hurry and say we will take care of this or that “tomorrow”, as if secret admirers of Scarlet O’Hara’s delusional behavior.

The UGLY: You know you are in trouble when the piles start attacking you when you walk by. Books tumble onto your ankles. The breeze of your passing makes papers flutter and fall onto the walkway that you have so carefully maintained. You have to walk sideways or climb over your piles to get to the farthest corner of the room.





This is the ugly face of piling. The piles become mountains. You feel tired even looking at them, much less dealing with the delayed decisions
they represent. 
The GOOD: Believe it or not, there is a good side to piling. Often a pile starts as a specific category of things. Some examples are:
  • Bills to pay
  • Clothes to go to the dry cleaner
  • CD’s you love most right now
  • Birthday cards for this month
  • Supporting papers for taxes or home refinance
Creating piles for specific actions is a very good thing. The piles can be effective as a visual prod to action.



The BAD: The problem comes when the action attached to that pile is not completed (pay the bills, take clothes to dry cleaner, re-sleeve CD’s when new favorites emerge, etc.) and the pile is covered with the next layer of To Do’s. Over time, The BAD turns UGLY.
How can you and I use our tendency to pile constructively? Here are a few tips.


  1. Physically label the pile with a sticky note or 3×5 card on top with the category of thing and the action you want to take, and a deadline for getting it done.*
  2. *Give yourself a deadline of 1 week or less if possible. The longer you delay taking action, the less chance this task will be treated like a priority.
  3. Do not place anything on top that is unrelated to this category.
  4. For paper, vertical piles are best. Use colorful file folders labeled with action words: “PAY UP BEFORE THEY TURN THE LIGHTS OFF” or “TAKE THAT, STINKING IRS MONEYGRUBBERS!” in an inclined sorter. You will see at a glance what to work on next.
  5. If the pile is still there after the deadline,ask yourself if you really care. What’s the worst that will happen if you don’t get it done? Will you go to jail? Do you care enough to get the clothes dry cleaned, send the birthday cards, refinance? If not, chuck the pile. Donate usable items to someone who cares.
Note to SELF: Don’t try to do or be everything to everybody. Choose the best and let go of the rest.


Goodwill Spreading Good Will

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Every other month, central Ohio organizers meet for encouragement and to sharpen our craft. At our January NAPO-Ohio meeting, we invited Kat Ellery of Goodwill Columbus to tell us more about what her organization does with donated items.

I knew the gist of the mission was to help the disabled. Goodwill’s stated purpose is more profound:


“Building INDEPENDENCE, QUALITY of LIFE, and WORK opportunities for individuals with disabilities and other barriers.”


The latest stats point to Goodwill’s continued success. In 2011, 1241 individuals received job training, 543 were provided wage opportunities and 205 persons were placed in competitive employment.

In order to provide services, Goodwill receives donations to sell or recycle. In other words, this organization is a GREEN dream! The amount of raw goods recycled in 2011are staggering.

  • 997,184 lbs. of metal recycled
  • 889,000 lbs. of wood recycled
  • 347,517 lbs. of plastic recycled
Kat was rather surprised at our specific questions and comments. We organizers want to see the extra “stuff” our clients are willing to part with go to a good cause.

What I learned was that some of the “stuff” I had considered good only for the land fill would actually be stripped down and sent to recycling. These are a few examples:

  • Non-functioning strings of Christmas lights – the copper is reclaimed (and a job provided)
  • Broken furniture, small pieces of wood – wood recycled
  • Old cassette and VCR tapes – plastic recycled
  • Plastic hangers – plastic recycled
  • The wires you have no idea what they do to – copper reclaimed
  • Old computers – broken into component parts, partnering with Dell to recycle NO NEED TO SCRUB INFO.



In other words, if you don’t need it and you don’t think anyone else can use it – GIVE IT TO GOODWILL!





For larger items and pick up, Goodwill suggests these organizations in Franklin County:

Remodeling/Construction materials - Habitat for Humanity of Central Ohio, 614-RESTORE

Mattress/Box Spring - Salvation Army in Central Ohio614-221-4269

Food, personal care items - Mid-Ohio Food Bank614-274-7770

Large appiances – Mattress/Box spring - Furniture Bank614-272-9544

Large freezer/Refrigerator - AEP Ohio Recycling Program877-545-4112

I love it when a plan comes together and we all work together to help others, don’t you?

Why Can’t I Finish Anything?

Friday, February 1st, 2013


MARTHA: I asked my husband, Jeff, to lend a hand with this month’s newsletter. Jeff is a certified project manager and sees the world thru a PM’s eyes. Here are his thoughts on what can happen when you or I attempt an organizing project:

JEFF: Let’s say you want to do some housework, specifically dusting. You gather the dust rag and your favorite cleaner and start.

As you are working around the room, you notice that the floor needs vacuumed so when you finish dusting, you get out the sweeper and go at it.

You are tooling around the room cleaning the floor, when you become upset. You can see some spots on the baseboard that are quite unsightly and need to be touched up with paint. So, you finish sweeping and the break out the paint, paint brushes…

You can now see what is going on; your work is never going to end. Discouragement is just around the corner.

This is an example of “scope creep”. Your initial project scope (i.e. dust the room) has grown to include vacuuming and now painting!

When you start a project, make sure you identify the scope of the project. Define what you want to accomplish. Be sure it is realistic and attainable for the time and money you want to expend on it. And don’t let it grow!!

Almost always, if the scope of a project increases, then the time, money, and energy required to finish grow also. Plus you and your team members are in jeopardy of becoming discouraged. Good luck this month and watch for that scope creep!

NOTE: Jeff was kind. In his example, we finished the chore – the project – we initially intended to complete. Unfortunately, that is often not the case, especially when the project is not one we enjoy!



Jeff Clouse has been managing projects for over 20 years at Federal, State and local government levels. He is a certified ProjectManagement Professional (PMP) who lives very happily in Columbus, Ohio, with his lovely wife, Martha