Decision Making: How to Become More Decisive


Youth Decision Making Concept, Top View

Have you ever stopped and thought about how many decisions take place during an organizing session? I would say hundreds even thousands of decisions are made in a matter of a session in one day. Either my customer is making the decisions if we are working on a project together or if my team is unpacking a whole house, we are making the decisions all day.

It goes to show that professional organizers need to be good decision makers and need to know how to lead someone into making decisions wisely and quickly. The clock is ticking when we decide to go through an entire master closet, so making decisions fast is a learned art and a valuable skill to have.

Of course there are decisions we make each and every day that have nothing to do with organizing. I was discussing this concept with a friend over coffee. How does one become a better decision maker? How does a person become more decisive?   I’ve been told I’m a fast decision maker and I’ve always thought of myself as being able to make decisions but recently this year I realized although I’m great at making decisions for work, I have neglected making personal decisions. Someone pointed this out to me and I was so shocked. They point blank said “You are not making decisions for yourself. “ I was convicted to start making decisions in my personal life instead of being paralyzed by loss and fear.

It got me thinking as to what prevents us from making decisions and I believe these are the top reasons So consider these thoughts. Can you identify? Which are your triggers in delaying decision making? The more we know about ourselves the greater opportunity we have to start working on these hang ups and start making decisions.

  1. Fear-  “What might happen if I choose ___________?

Most choices can result in several different outcomes so the fear that plagues us is the fear of the unknown. On very large decisions, I would agree that fear is a healthy trigger to stop us from doing something stupid.  On small matters, there shouldn’t be any fear.  Just in case the result isn’t what we wanted, we can always rectify the situation and change course. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst case scenario for an outcome if I make this decision?”  On small matters I’m confident the worst case scenario is always fixable. No big deal. Slow down for the huge, life altering decisions.

  1. Lack of Information– “ How can I make this decision if I don’t know______? “

You are absolutely right. Find information, research or read enough to help you make an educated decision. Now understand, do just enough. You don’t need to read books and volumes or spend gobs of time and energy doing this. Do your due diligence and limit your “research time”. Otherwise you’ll be bogged down and never make the decision.

  1. Lack of Confidence“ I always make the wrong choice.”

Not true. The more you practice making decisions and the more you change the lens how you look at making decisions the better you will become and you will start to believe in yourself. Avoid negative self-talk. Negativity is getting you nowhere fast. It’s actually hurting you in the long run.  Just because your parents, ex-spouse or cruel friend accuses you of it, doesn’t make it true and doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability to change.

  1. Others influence or opinion“ I can’t decide that because of ___________.”

This blank can be filled in with words such as my boss, spouse, sister, coworkers, and parents. Stop giving your power to other people. When I say power, I don’t mean you’re king or you’re the president. I mean you are capable of making your own decisions if the impact of that decision is first and foremost on yourself, go ahead and make the decision.  Clearly I don’t want you deciding to sell your home without consulting your wife, but on all matters for yourself decide to decide. You have the freedom to. Others don’t have a hold on you and should not have a hold on you. If they do, you have unhealthy boundaries with those around you and I would recommend reading the book “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud. My life changed after reading that book.

  1. Loss“I emotionally can’t handle making that decision right now. “

That is perfectly fine. It is perfectly acceptable to be grieving or mourning a loss that prevents you from making a decision. Should the loss paralyze you indefinitely? No, but there are times in life when you are thankful just to make it through one day to make it to the next day without forcing yourself to make a decision. When you are under that much grief, stress, or sadness no one should be making decisions that they will regret later. I think losing something in our life also helps us clarify what we really want and what we really value. Out of all that loss and grief comes clarity and purpose.

Amber Kostelny

Amber’s Organizing, LLC

7401 W. Howard St.

Chicago, IL 60631

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The Heart of Organizing



One thing I love about being an organizer is my clients that come across my path. All of their stories are different and all of their challenges resemble their stories. If I can bring hope, order, and a sense of peace into their home or business then I’ve done my job well.

All of these names are completely fake but the stories are real. I share them with you not to shame people or point fingers but to encourage those of us on the journey and those of us that need hope.

Charlie was a stroke victim forcing him to retire early. Without the mental capability to keep up with paperwork, piles began to grow and take over his home. My goal was to make as much of the paperwork automated and electronic to give him long term solutions with less paper coming in through the mail. At the end of several appointments, Charlie was set up for success relieving a lot of the concern, stress and shame he dealt with.

Thomas is a widower who lost his wife a year ago and is taking care of his three children. His new roles and responsibility with the home and children left him overwhelmed.  All of his late wife’s things needed to be gone through, sorted and donated. When it was too emotional for him to do this project, I was called in for help. What a privilege it was!

Sarah went through a messy divorce. Trying to manage being a single mom, running a household, and forced into getting a new job,  left her overwhelmed, drained and stressed out. Helping her get organized brought a new found confidence and strength to keep going. We squashed the lie that said she couldn’t take care of things and stay on top of things!

Missy was a medical school student. She was never home and never had the time to get settled into her new apartment. Now she was about to get married and her fiance’ was to move in. She called in a panic. After one long grueling organizing session in several closets, she was set back up for success and wouldn’t stop texting me afterwards to express how grateful she was.

I could share ten more stories with you but I’ll stop here. Each customer has a need and each need lies deeper than surface clutter. I can’t fix the heart but I can help bring encouragement, relief and practical comfort in times of desperate need. If you’re struggling through something emotionally or mentally, your clutter or chaos just might be a symptom or struggle associated with it. Look at how it’s all related and start with one piece of the puzzle. If it’s organizing the physical, I’d love to help.

Amber Kostelny

Amber’s Organizing, LLC

7401 W. Howard St.

Chicago, IL 60631

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Are you organized?

Ten SModern living room with wood floortatements to Gauge Your Organization Factor

Ever wonder, am I really organized? Would someone say I’m organized? On occasion I show up to an organizing appointment and I walk in and after showing me their home, I’m wondering, “ Why did this family or individual hire me?  They’re organized.” Like I said, this doesn’t happy often but it always amuses me when it does. Our perception of organization is often different from those around us. We can look organized but really be a mess inside or we can be too hard on ourselves in not realizing we don’t give ourselves enough credit for the good systems and solutions we have in place.
As you seek to gain a better understanding of where you are on the organization scale, consider these positive statements that can reassure you, you are headed in the right direction.

You ARE organized IF ……..

  1. You can find what you need quickly (within minutes). Not hours and not weeks. My rule is five-ten minutes or less.
  2. You throw things out daily. Your garbage cans and recycling should be filling up at a regular pace. If you see all that comes into a home on a weekly basis, the same, if not more, should be leaving on a regular basis.
  3. You go through drawers and closets two to three times a year. This takes time and effort to make this a priority, but people that are organized really do clean out their closets and drawers on a regular basis. We aren’t just making that up. Just like maintaining your car, you need to maintain your drawers, closets and cabinets.
  4. You can arrive on time for an appointment. Being on time means planning ahead which means you’ve organized your day to be certain places at certain times. It is all about not committing to too much or too little. It’s about knowing what you can and can’t handle in a day and saying no when you’re running behind time. With GPS devices and mobile devices, we all can know in a split second how long it will take us to get somewhere.
  5. You look for things to get rid. This is a classic professional organizer move. When we don’t organize enough in a week, we go home and find something to throw out and organize. If you love looking for things to get rid of and love to organize and rearrange things at home, you are a gal or guy after my own heart.
  6. You arrive prepared with the paperwork or items you need. There’s nothing worse than arriving at an appointment unprepared. For those of you that have good systems to remember to bring items you’ll need, you are organized!
  7. You can have a stranger or friend stop by your home at a moment’s notice and not be embarrassed. This is hard one to accomplish but it is possible. The key here is good daily habits and systems for picking up and putting things away. If you are good at those two things you’re golden.
  8. You get rid of a pair of jeans if you buy a new pair of jeans. There’s really nothing more simpler than that principle—one thing in means one thing goes out.
  9. You rarely have to reset your passwords or usernames on website, because you have them recorded in one place.
  10. You make decisions easily and quickly. Organizing is all decision making. Deciding to put away. Deciding to toss something out. Deciding to keep it. Deciding to give it back to the friend you borrowed it from. Deciding to plan ahead and leave on time, etc.

If you would like to know more about Amber’s Organizing, LLC., Click here!

Amber’s Organizing LLC
7401 W. Howard St.
Chicago, IL. 60631



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Stuff or Systems: Which do you struggle with?



Suitcase and tourist stuff with inscription travel insurance on wooden background


The other day I was organizing a busy mom. Her kitchen, pantry and mudroom needed my help. As we were going through things she stopped and asked “ Amber, so is the problem too much stuff usually?” What she meant is, is everyone like me with too much stuff? Is that the professional organizers solve? I thought her question was smart and commonly asked. I responded to her that is it typically one of two things. Usually customers have too much stuff and they need help getting rid of things OR they have no good systems and structure set up which sets them up for failure. She laughed and said, “What if it’s both? “  I replied that sometimes it is and that’s okay too. I’m here to help out in either situation.

Whether it’s an excess of things that have accumulated or just not knowing how to organize and set up systems for long term success, both are valid reasons to call a professional organizer. Consider these questions to determine which camp or which boat you are in. Maybe you know already or maybe you don’t. Try stepping back to assess your home or office. What do you notice?

Too much Stuff??

  • Are your kitchen cabinets, dresser drawers and closets jammed packed? Is there room to add new things that come in or will the new things be left out to accumulate on counter tops or the floor of your bedroom because you can’t put them away?
  • Can you see to the back of your refrigerator and freezer? Or are there things in there that are 6-12 months old?
  • Are their multiples of the same item? You buy another bag of salt for the sidewalks when you couldn’t find the one from last year in the garage?
  • Are items expiring before you can use them up? Going bad and spoiling?
  • Do you have toys or clothes that your kids have outgrown years ago?
  • Are doors, windows, heating and air conditioning vents or other appliances in your home blocked because too much stuff is in the way?

Lacking Good Systems??

  • Do you get frustrated with the same obstacle each day? For example, coats or shoes landing in a certain place that drive you nuts? Orr walking across the kitchen to unload the dishwasher? Or fighting to find a beauty product under your sink?
  • You manage to get through the mail and toss the junk mail but you’re still stuck with the important paperwork that you’ve kept?
  • Is it getting annoying to reach for something you need every day because it’s in the wrong place or located in an improper position?
  • Do you dread certain tasks because you haven’t taken the time to catch up and simplify that part of the house?

If any of the above rings true for you, which category  were you answering ‘yes’ to more often? Hopefully it gives you perspective about both categories. Both are equally important and if you have one without the other it doesn’t really help. If you purge a ton but still have poor systems you will still be frustrated. And likewise, you can all the best systems and organizing solution under the sun, but if you have too much, you’re still sunk.

Call or text me if you need help with either. 708-925-7574. I’d love to help!

If you would like to know more about Amber’s Organizing, LLC., Click here!

Amber’s Organizing LLC
7401 W. Howard St.
Chicago, IL. 60631





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Get Organized Before Hiring Your Handyman

Hiring a Handyman? Get organized first!

Detail of classic leather tool belt wearing by handyman isolated

One of the most requested service people I get asked about from my clients is a good handyman. Getting organized unearths several undone projects around a condo or house. Little things here and there pop up that we normally forget, but remember when we are meticulously going through rooms and spaces organizing. Then all the broken or undone projects come to the surface and it’s a perfect idea to have the handyman out after organizing. I’ll often find parts and pieces in boxes ready to be installed and will say, “Put it on the list for the handyman.”So naturally after getting organized and creating a “to do” pile, we need to get a hold of a handyman. So here are some ideas to get you started out. You’ll want to be prepared before you call to make the appointment to tell them what you’d like done and also want to be ready for the appointment.

Start a list of different projects around your home you’d like the handyman to tackle. Being prepared and ready to get a quote and appointment will make sure you don’t miss anything!
2. If you have picked out specific fixtures or items for the handyman to install, shop in advance so you have all you need before he or she arrives. In fact, don’t schedule the appointment till you have all the parts and pieces.
3. Prioritize what is on your list in case you run out of time or money. Make sure you get done what is absolutely necessary by putting it at the top of the list.
4. Clear the space of anything that would get in the way while completing the project. For example, move a piece of furniture, laundry basket, or stack of books and toys out of the way.
5. Collect all the things the handyman needs to tackle in one spot. For example, if you have a light fixture, curtain rod and a broken furniture piece, stage them all in one room or spot.
6. Don’t start other projects you may come up against once you’re in the middle of getting the list completed by the handyman. Often we bite off too much and then the whole house is torn apart and we can’t get it back together because we run out of time and energy. Stays focused on the items only on your list and avoid getting sidetracked.

So maybe you’re still wondering, who I recommend to my clients. My default quick answer to their question is most often, Handyman Matters. They have it dialed in as a franchise that provides good service throughout the country that is backed by insurance and a good reputation. They can’t sneak away, not doing what they promised because they are established businesses with credentials.

“We started Handyman Matters 18 years ago because, to be blunt about it, the home maintenance and remodeling industries consistently lacked ethics.  We wanted to change that and redefine what is expected from a home-improvement partner in terms of both quality of work and integrity in doing the job right.  We strive to be your primary resource, and we earn your trust through our work.” –– Andy Bell, Founder of Handyman Matters. Read more here 

If you would like to know more about Amber’s Organizing, LLC., Click here!

Amber’s Organizing LLC
7401 W. Howard St.
Chicago, IL. 60631


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7 Questions to Ask Before Black Friday

Black friday


Black Friday is for some, a tradition, religion, habit and a no brain brainer… why wouldn’t someone want amazing deals and sales? As a professional organizer, I cringe. If I could shut down all the stores for Thanksgiving and Black Friday I would. I would teach our country we don’t need more stuff and increasing stuff in our homes always comes with a cost.  Before you jump on the band wagon or before you head out again this year, ask yourself these questions first:

  1. Will my purchases be meaningful and purposeful OR just another dust collector?
  2. Can I afford to pay for my purchases in cash OR will I increase my credit card debt?
  3. Am I content with who I am and what I have OR am I shopping to fill a loss, fight sadness or boredom?
  4. Have I made a specific list of what I want to shop for OR am I going wing it?
  5. What could I do instead with the time I’m spending in long traffic lines, parking lot lines and checkout lines?
  6. Have I gone through my current stash of gifts before I shop for more? (most clients of mine never give the gifts they intended to give… shop first in your “gift closet” at home.)
  7. How can I take responsibility for the current stuff in my house instead of adding more?

Cheap doesn’t always mean better. Shop wisely. Stay home. Organize what you DO have.


Amber Kostelny, Certified Professional Organizer

Amber’s Organizing LLC

7401 W Howard St, Chicago, IL 60631-4412

(773) 628-7404



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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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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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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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