Emotions that Accompany Organizing

Laugh Cry Smile Keys Represent Different Emotions


Often professional organizers are quick to show before and after pictures of the spaces we organize. Photos flood professional organizing company websites as well as Instagram and Facebook pages. We want to show the beautiful results and the neat, tidy, clean spaces because order and calm is comfortable to us and it brings us a sense of satisfaction and completion. The opposite state of mind is going on inside my clients heads and hearts. Take away the outward, physical aspects of organizing and you are left with real, raw emotions that have to be taken into account. Organizing isn’t about just making everything look neat and tidy, it’s taking my clients from overwhelm to calm, from no hope and discouragement to a sense of accomplishment and achievement.  So here are emotions written down. No pictures, just emotions. These are all very normal and very typical.

Before Organizing:

Before getting organized a client mentions he or she is embarrassed to show me there space or home that needs to be organized. They might mention they were up all night worrying about our appointment or stressing out.  He or she might be ashamed they “let it go” this far. Now they feel defeated and overwhelmed. Where does one start? Some feel guilty and express they know better but just can’t seem to get it organized.  I am asked the following questions over and over again: “Amber, am I the worst you’ve seen? Tell me you’ve seen worse right?  Is this too hard to organize? Should I just give up? “

Organizing with a professional organizer and allowing a professional organizer into your space is super personal and vulnerable. It is showing your “not so good sides” instead of presenting your best self. It shows humility and that you’re willing to ask for help.

After Organizing:

I’m honored to be trusted with that vulnerability and relied on for answers, solutions, and help. I love coming to the organizing rescue to bring hope into dim situations and positive energy and outlook. I’ve been organizing almost twelve years now and I can’t think of a space that couldn’t be organized. I can think of people though that prevented the organization with emotions mentioned above. I completely understand everyone comes to the process at a different place of readiness.

When someone is ready and willing:

they can expect HOPE instead of guilt.

they can except RELIEF instead of defeat.

they can expect CLARITY instead of confusion.

They can expect me, cheering them on, putting their best interest first, and getting them to the end of their organizing project!

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How Sentimental Are You?


Depositphotos_2418089_xsClients often say, “You have nothing sentimental.  I bet you throw everything out.”  That’s not true.  I just choose what to be sentimental about.  I choose what will add value, joy, and positive memories instead of allowing “everything” to be a keepsake.  Everything can’t qualify as special and unique.

Every greeting card you’ve ever received from family and friends cannot be unbelievably great.  Some will just say, “love Aunt Sue”.  Some might just say, “thank you for the gift and your kindness towards are family.” The one I’d choose to keep would read, “Amber, I’m so proud of you for accomplishing that difficult challenge. You have exceeded my expectations in every way. I love you.” Do you see the difference?

Every picture taken or artwork drawn cannot be the most amazing piece of work.  For example, A hand drawn picture of your family and dog would be more important than a scribbled out name. I would toss the piano recital participation letter and keep “your child won first place at the science fair”. Again, do you see the difference?

Every lace doily and china cup from your mother or grandmother can’t be your absolute favorite.  If she had collections and used things daily that were special to her, doesn’t mean they have to be special to you. Your mother or grandmother is more than a doily or china cup. Just because you don’t keep everything doesn’t mean you’re throwing out your family member. Choose the one or two or three items that are beautiful to you that will trigger good memories with her.

You get the privilege, power and choice to surround yourself and keep only things you get absolutely jazzed about seeing.  Take that task seriously and up the ante about what you consider extra special. This might be harsh but I think it’s a cop out to just keep everything.  Keepsakes trigger memories; that’s why we hang onto them. A few keepsakes are all we need. Taking pictures of things and looking back at those pictures will trigger the same memory.

So what do I keep?  The teddy bear I slept with as a little girl, counseling notes and handouts that helped me through a very tough time ( I can see how I’ve grown), one letter from my grandma, two rocks that sit on my desk from a special northern Wisconsin lake I vacationed at, and one very special drawing my niece (it impacted me so much it brought me to tears.)

How about you? Are you ready to search for the extra special and let the rest go?

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10 “Not So Obvious” Organizing Tips for the Kitchen


organized kitchen

  1. If your utensil drawers are too crowded, start counting what you have. The other day we found three ice cream scoopers. Chances are you don’t scoop two different ice-creams at the same exact time. We gained drawer space by keeping just one.
  2. Stop holding onto chipped and cracked dishes. You’re more likely not to reach for these or use them. Just let them go.
  3. Too much bar ware and drink ware taking up room in your china buffet, bar or sidebar? Match up sets. Ditch any stray pieces that are not part of a set and odd or small number sets. For example, if you have a set of eight wine glasses, get rid of the set of three wine glasses that have lost their mates over the years.
  4. Table linens and dishes are often passed down to us by in-laws, grandparents and our mothers. Be picky about what you keep. Just because they passed it onto you doesn’t mean you like the pattern, color or style. Choose to keep something else that is small and takes up less room to remember your family members. Don’t let guilt dictate what you keep.
  5. Store holiday dishes somewhere else. If you are short of space and can move Christmas dishes or special holiday serving platters elsewhere, do it. Pack them up into your current holiday bins in storage or create a shelf or closet somewhere else in the house to store holiday dishes.
  6. Focus on what you prepare and cook often. Think through your cooking and eating lifestyles to help layout your kitchen. If you don’t bake often, baking items should be few, not bought in bulk and not stored front and center. If you pack a lot of lunches, bring lunch prep items and snacks forward in convenient drawers and hip height shelves. If you cook fresh each night, chopping boards, measuring cups and strainers would make sense up close and near the sink.
  7. Yes, spices, tea and vitamins do have expiration dates. They don’t last forever and are last to be checked and discarded in a kitchen. Check these regularly and keep them updated to make space for new ones.
  8. Store heavy things low, and light things high. If space allows, don’t place your crockpot and Kitchen Aid mixer, or heavy serving platters above your head. Switch things around to accommodate retrieving different items.
  9. If you have gathered a lot of things to donate to a local Goodwill, don’t waste time and energy packing up simple glasses or vases. Recycle anything glass that isn’t worth much. It’s more likely to break on the trip over and takes too much time to wrap everything individually.
  10. Don’t store plastic grocery bags under the kitchen sink. They somehow accumulate way too fast and don’t get used up quick enough. Recycle them or store them elsewhere.

Photo © iriana88w / depositphotos

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Marriage and Mail

couple holding hands


One of the first things I do while assessing a homeowners’ paper situation and mail processing is to ask the roles each partner plays in the marriage. It’s important for me to know who opens the mail, who processes the mail, how comfortable the couple is opening each other’s personal mail, and how comfortable each spouse is throwing out mail on behalf of the other spouse. It can get very complicated OR be very simple. I can tell a lot about a marriage with how much the spouses trust each other.

The biggest piece of advice I give couples is to allow the person who is naturally more organized and enjoys dealing with paper to take over and have full control. If your weakness is paper processing and bill paying, let your partner do it. Just let it go. That doesn’t mean you need to live in complete darkness about what’s going on with your family’s finances or paperwork, but you can trust your spouse to get it done and get it done right. Focus on your strengths in a different part of your marriage.

The more hands in the pot or the more cooks in the kitchen, the worse off you’ll be. Take time to sit down and discuss with your spouse strengths and weaknesses in this arena and work as a team to problem solve.

Recently I was called in by a wife to work on paperwork, mail and files in the home office. After assessing the situation and spaces where mail was landing, I found out her husband was in charge of all bill paying and filing in the office. She did school correspondence for the kids and kept the family calendar. Soon, my client’s husband arrived home. To my surprise, he didn’t get involved in our organizing and he completely trusted his wife and I to organize every aspect of the home office. We accumulated five bags of recycling and four bags of shredding. The husband sat within an ear shot of us working and not once did he get defensive or anxious. I was so blown away and super impressed, that I had to share this couple’s example with all of you readers. He was getting his part done in the paper process and trusted his wife and I to get the files caught up and cleaned out. We refined her action tasks and her calendar keeping and the couple was off running smoothly again. It was so freeing for them and so refreshing for me to work with them.

I’d encourage spouses to lean on each other to help stay on top of the mail. Allow your spouse to triage your mail and toss as much as possible, only keeping the important stuff. It can take the time off your plate that it takes to sift through mail your spouse could have already tossed on your behalf. Agree to what should be kept and what you’d like to review. If you don’t communicate what mail is important to you and what can be tossed, then absolutely everything has to be kept for both spouses to review. That is super laborious and such a waste of time. Think of your talented spouse as your administrative assistant. He or she can weed out the time wasters and help you focus on the important stuff. When spouses work together and divide roles and tasks, any marriage can work like a well-oiled machine. Say goodbye to the mail and paper piles and hello to more time spent together.

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Arriving on Time

on time

Whether you struggle with arriving on time for work, a doctor’s appointment, a church service or even a date, I thought you might like to know how an organizer thinks. The other day as I was figuring out a busy day and walking through my process to make sure I would be on time for every appointment. It dawned on me that my process might be helpful for you. Different cultures place different values and priorities on being punctual and timeliness so I want to be clear, I’m not writing to convince you to be on time. I want to address the notion that if you’d like to be on time and more punctual, it’s possible.

First step is to notice how long it takes to get certain things done. For example: how long does it take you to make and eat breakfast, walk the dog, take a shower and get ready, pack a lunch, pack a gym bag, check emails, scroll Facebook, get out of work and walk to the train. All of these tasks are common and typical during our days. I know there will always be crises or unusual events that happen. I understand we can’t predict and perform each day perfectly, however I do believe we can get it right eighty percent of the time, if we take the right steps and plan ahead.

Once you take note of the menial tasks that you perform on a daily basis you’re ready to adjust your time frames to be punctual and on time. I figure this all out in my head but if you need to you could write it down.

So here’s an example of how I plan my day. In bed, the night before I’m thinking through all of this to set my alarm. I always start my planning with the time I need to arrive somewhere and work backwards.

  • 9:30am Client Start in a Chicago suburb

Next step is I figure how long it will take me to get there. Let’s say for this example it’s 30 minutes.

  • 8:25/9:00am I know I must leave the house to be on time.

Next step is I figure how long for making my espresso, eating breakfast and packing my lunch

  • I should be in the kitchen by 7:50/8am at the latest.

I know it takes me 45 minutes to shower, dress, dry my hair and do my makeup.

  • My alarm has to go off no later than 7:15….

If I’m ambitious and want to leave time for emails or a quick Facebook check a safe bet would be 7am!

Now let’s go to the end of my day. Again, start with your deadline or time to be punctual.

  1. 6:30pm should be my arrival time. To be on time tonight I have to arrive at that time and traffic will likely be bad.
  2. So I have to leave the gym by 5:45pm
  3. I know want to ride the bike at the gym for 45 minutes and I know it takes me 20 minutes to freshen up and get out of the gym. So I have to climb off the bike at 5:25pm
  4. Which means I have to get on the bike no later than 4:40/4:45pm
  5. So I’m leaving my home office to drive to the gym by 4:30pm.

It may sound super detailed and stressful and too much work, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be very freeing and helpful and once you know how long things take you, you can adjust the time accordingly. If you know you like to shoot the breeze with the people at the gym add in ten minutes. If you need to go through a drive thru for dinner, add in another ten minutes. When we don’t plan ahead and don’t watch the time as we go about our day, that’s what makes us late.

Photo © dorian2013 depositphotos

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Counting Steps While Organizing

counting steps


Part of my job as a professional organizer is paying attention to detail. That detail includes what current organizing systems and steps clients use before I change things or suggest new and different organizing systems. So to start it’s my job to get to know your current patterns and how you organize. Never “clean up” for an organizer. We need to see reality and every day habits.

Counting steps comes into play when I notice too many steps. Let’s talk literal steps and sequential steps in performing a task.

For literal walking steps, take the example of where mail lands versus where your home office is located. Another example would be where you enter the house versus where you hang up your coat, purse, and place your shoes. It is also important to count steps in the habits you’re asking your kids to participate in. If the table they do arts and crafts on is far from their stash of supplies, rethink the location of things. Items and gadgets used most often keep close and easy to access. Tasks and chores you perform daily should be the easiest patterns and include the least amount of steps.

Now consider smaller steps, steps that would be taken to perform a smaller task like filing paper. Here’s the best example to demonstrate this. Pulling open a filing cabinet drawer and dropping in a piece of paper takes two steps. Here’s the alternative with an accordion portable filing pocket. Unlatch the clasp, pry open the pockets, place the paper inside and close the latch. That took four steps. Imagine cutting down several steps on several tasks throughout your day and week. In the end you will be left with simplified living, more time, and ease of maintenance. Always choose the simple route and efficiency will prevail.

Photo © Elmur_ / depositphotos

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My Theory on Condo Living

Residential building facade

I always eagerly await the answer when I ask “Which apartment number?” or “Which condo number? “ For some reason, most of my condo and apartment clients always live high up in their condo or apartment buildings. Nine times out of ten, they answer the third floor or higher. I never ever get someone in the first floor apartment. I see the trend and am convinced stairs have everything to do with my theory. Think about the implications. It takes more effort to take out the garbage and recycling. It’s harder to carry out returns to ship back at the post office or give items back to friends. It takes more time and planning to get rid of a piece of furniture or donations. It’s easier to bring things home then to remove things.

You may think or guess that having an elevator would dash my theory. Surprisingly, having an elevator doesn’t matter. Of course, I’m thrilled if there’s an elevator but I sympathize. Living high up and trekking all that way gets old. It directly effects the motivation to haul and lug stuff up and down.

So, what is the solution? How does a homeowner not fall prey to accumulating too much?

  • For starters, resist online shopping. Think twice before you shop till your heart is content. Shipping to the front door is the easy part. Returning it is the hard part.
  • Don’t buy in bulk. Just buy what you need when you need it.
  • Carry something small every day. Take a little amount of garbage down daily and a small bag for Goodwill weekly or monthly. Don’t let large amounts accumulate.
  • Notice what type of bag or purse you carry for work. Consider something that will be easier carrying up and down stairs.
  • Be grateful. You probably have toned legs and working your heart more than your neighbors. Look at the positive side.

Photo © jbd30 / depositphotos

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7 Ways to Create Extra Time to Exercise


  1. exercisePrep lunch food on Sundays for the week, so assembling lunches during the week takes less than a minute. Create an organized lunch shelf in your pantry and your refrigerator so it’s grab and go during the week.
  2. Lay out your outfit the night before, so you save minutes in the morning getting ready. Simply check the weather on your phone the night before and pick out your clothes before heading to bed.
  3. Pick a gym in a location close to work or home. There’s nothing worse than spending 20-30 minutes driving to do a workout. If the gym isn’t within 10 minutes from your house or work, you’re at the wrong gym.
  4. If you’re working out at the end of a work day, don’t un-silence your phone until after you’ve hit the gym. Return personal calls or texts after the gym. Sometimes we never make it to the gym after work because we are putting out fires from messages or texts coming in all day. Reward yourself by “getting your phone back” after you work out.
  5. Limit errands to one night a week after work. This will help create time and ease guilt for the rest of the weeknights.
  6. If you’re on the fence to skip the gym or go workout, ask yourself if your “to do” or errands can wait. If they are not hundred percent crucial and viable and time sensitive, prioritize your workout first.
  7. Pick a gym that has kids programs so you can work out while your kids are taken care of. If you make the trip to the gym a family event, you will be sure to make your cardio session at least once or twice a week. You are also being an example to your children, teaching them that you as a mom or dad or family want to be a healthy family.

 Photo © fotomirceadepositphotos

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Classic Landing Spots for Clutter


landing spotCar

If you work out of your car, commute long distances or your kids are in a lot of activities and sports, your car or minivan is bound to reflect it. Some of us feel like we spend more time in our car than our home. Books, water bottles, leftover wrappers, toys, things to return to stores, paper, coins, and other random stuff accumulates on the floor when we are driving from one activity or appointment to the next. The best organizing advice I can give you is only one piece of advice. Every time you get out of your car, whether you’re entering a store, work, the gym or your home, check the front or back seat by glancing if there’s anything you should be taking with you. If it’s a piece of garbage throw it out. If it belongs in the house, carry it in. If it doesn’t permanently live in the car, keep taking random things with you as you get out of the car all day long, and put the things back where they belong. Do this on a regular basis and your car should never get way out of control.

Kitchen Table and Kitchen Countertops

These places are pretty synonymous. The kitchen is the main hub in the home so everyone’s things accumulate here. Your family is no different than the rest of the families on your block. The kitchen is a problem area for all of us. We spend the most time in the kitchen area whether it is cooking, using laptops, opening or leaving mail, or your kids doing homework or craft projects here. Designate one time of day when you’ll sift through the things and clear off these surfaces. It could be before dinner or each morning after breakfast. Enlist family members for help. Assign them baskets or bins on a nearby shelf to collect their knick knacks or return their things to bedrooms to dump there instead of the kitchen. Designate a basket to collect unopened mail instead of it collecting all over the first floor. Empty or go through the basket at least weekly, if not daily.


This is a common catch all. If we don’t know where to keep it, the answer is often “Just put it in the basement.”….. I loathe those words. I’m a bit joking but mostly serious. The more you put in the basement the more readily stuff is forgotten, piles up and takes up space. Then organizing the basement is a huge undertaking on a future date because a third of its contents shouldn’t be there. Be selective what you store down there. As you put things down in the basement consider if their use or length of usable time will expire. Also consider how heavy and cumbersome the item is. Do you want to have to move it twice or three times?

Tops of Dressers

The surfaces of bedroom dressers always take a beating with everything we dump out onto them. From Pokémon cards, trophies, piggy banks to business cards, coins, perfume, golf tees, everything in our pockets or things we love land here. As kids, we display our prized possessions and everything is usually important if it’s on the top of the dresser. As adults it is where we empty our pockets or set things down. Rarely are these surfaces defined. I’d encourage you to create specific places to catch items such as a business card or receipt collector. Have an intentional coin dumping spot. Get rid of old, expired perfumes or smelly lotions that really don’t smell good anymore and are just getting a layer of dust on them. Put pens and pencils in a pencil cup, mug or vase. Be intentional about the small things and it will be able to be maintained. Another option is to display beautiful things or decorative items so it prevents you from dumping on the surface. For our kids, limit what they can display and use narrow shelves instead to display things higher up on walls. Everything doesn’t have to take up space on the dresser. Create hair and jewelry stations if you have girls and Legos, playing cards and gadgets stations if you have boys. Containerize and group as much as possible.

Photo © whitelook / depositphotos

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Delegating Wisely


DelegatingAs a business owner, a large part of organizing is learning how to delegate tasks and recognizing when to delegate tasks. I strongly believe those two elements are crucial to running a successful small business. I have helped several business owners dig through inventory, go through old files, sort through their desk, organize their storefront and discuss their time management. A common theme that runs through most business owners is the mentality that they are trying to do everything on their own and wasting their unique talent that makes them money.

If you’re a business owner reading this blog, stop for a minute and take note of what you’re brilliant at. What do you do so well? Is it interacting with clients? Is it selling your product or service? Is it running your business behind the scenes? Is it designing or creating new ideas, themes, products, etc.? The biggest advice I could give you is…. Do what you DO BEST. Don’t waste your time on bookkeeping if you can’t stand it and it takes you forever. Don’t bother running your social media campaigns if that doesn’t come naturally to you. If you are great at selling your product or service, then don’t work in the business…. sell the business. Once you know what you’re great at doing, delegate ALL the rest. Yes, delegate.   If you continue to juggle ten balls in the air and try to do every role and task on your own, you are bound to burn out, lose customers, or remain small and not grow.

Sit down and write what type of people would be helpful to assist you running your business. Then start to add them slowly over time. Don’t settle for just anyone. Hire the best. My hiring decisions aren’t based on cost; they are based on “who is the best person to do this task at a top notch capacity?” In my business I have:

  • A graphic designer
  • A webhost and web designer
  • A social media person
  • A small business attorney
  • A small business coach
  • A team of eleven organizers

I wouldn’t have the business I have today without all of their help. I love to sell, build my business, work with clients directly, and enjoy bookkeeping. I could delegate bookkeeping, but I’m good at it, enjoy it, and have time to do it. So I’ll keep that task on my plate…..for now.

Photo © olechowskidepositphotos

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