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Tips & Tricks from the Experts in the Industry

This is the blog post from the home page of NAPO-Ohio.

  • 28 Mar 2018 12:49 PM | Birdie Brennan, CPO®

    No one enjoys the process of filing taxes. But for many, this time of year can be especially daunting if paper keeping is an issue in your home. Finding documents, gathering forms, and keeping records can be a terrible triple-whammy for the paper challenged.

    This is also true for digital records. Information, whether in paper or digital form, can be easily misplaced or saved in haphazard ways that create useless digital piles. 

    Well, we see this time of year as a great way to get focused on the paper that is important, remove what isn’t, and create a simple system that will keep you on track throughout the year.

    We start with a simple file very humbly named “Current Tax Year.” This file will be the gathering place for tax-related documents collected throughout the year, and can take digital or file folder form. Think of it as a simple drop system that you barely have to think about until the items need to be called upon.

    By the way, digital files will always be the recommended end home for your paper files. But throughout the year, there is nothing wrong with having a collection place for those hard copies.

    If you do not itemize, this is almost all you need. But for itemization, we take a few more steps to separate these basic tax categories:

    •  We like keeping receipts in envelopes separated by month to capture the everyday non-specific purchases.
    •  We create a file for each area of itemization. For example: auto expenses related to business, liability and other  business insurances, legal fees for business, marketing expenses, phone records, etc
    • For those whose healthcare expenses factor into filing, we separate these as well
    • For those who use accountants or CPAs throughout the year, we create a Tax Preparation file
    •  Investment files are necessary if you have retirement accounts and other assets with dividends
    •  It is also a good idea to keep a Banking and Credit Card file for those summaries that help show proof of itemized transactions

    There may be other categories, but these are the basics for most.

    This system is easy to implement for the new year, but if you are in the middle of paper stacks of every type, you need a clean-up plan too. We approach clean-up with a sorting strategy. First, have a receptacle for Recycling, have a plan for Shredding (either a receptacle or a shredder that is ready on site), and have a bag for Discards. You will find that most of your paper will fall into these categories. For the 10% or so that needs to be kept, you can make your own categories based on what remains. Then decide if you want to store your paper in digital or hardcopy form.

    There are so many great digital document systems, we hope that you might take a serious look at some of the products available. We have used Neat, ScanSnap and Evernote. And for cost tracking, there are any number apps and software for tracking spending and mileage that can keep your purchase records categorized paperlessly throughout the year—a real plus!

    So like the commercial says, don't just get your taxes done, get your paper work won! We are here to help make this year your best paper year yet.

  • 01 Mar 2018 8:43 PM | Ellen Limes, CPO® (Administrator)

    By now, many high school seniors have decided where they will attend college. If they haven’t, it will be decided soon. But before you start gathering the goods for the dorms, their family bedroom is something that should be processed. Countless clients have tried to downsize and move to only have their children not available or not have the time to clean out their bedroom. They may have graduated from college, moved into their own apartment and working full time. The last thing they want to do is process those things of youth.

    Before high school finals finalize and graduation passes by, mention to your child that this project is something that needs to be done. 30 minute spurts of time can accomplish quite a bit. You may consider working with them in order to keep them focused. Setting a timer helps with the focus and offers an end to what can be a stressful project.  The typical piles of KEEP, TOSS and DONATE need to be established. Do they really want the trophies from their 3rd grade sporting events? Are the paperback books as important anymore and what about the beading kits from the birthdays past? All these things have been found in clients’ children’s rooms.

    If there are special mementos they want to keep, by all means, let them keep them. The guideline is that by time they are thirty, they need to take it with them. At that point, they should have completed their education, be established in their career and maybe even have a home of their own. There are of course underlying circumstances that would prevent this, but use it as a guideline.

    The items that they want to keep should be boxed up in a box or tub that closes so the boxes can easily be stacked. If you are using plastic tubs, a 55qt. size is about the biggest you want to use. Anything larger gets too heavy and difficult to manage. Mark the box with their name and general items enclosed. This gives them a gauge on the amount of stuff they are keeping. They will thank you later when you move into your retirement condo and their things have already been presorted. 

  • 01 Feb 2018 8:24 PM | Julie Riber, CPO®

    Are you often so busy that you feel as if you are on a train and the landscape and attractions are going by so fast that you can't get off? You have so much to do that tasks keep coming in and there is no break.

    The feeling is described by many as overwhelmed, stressed, or defeated. These descriptions are also used by my clients when it comes to organizing. They feel so overwhelmed that they cannot get started and the train keeps putting the clutter into their space with no end in sight.

    So how do you get off the train or make it stop? As you can imagine it does take some changing of behaviors and habits. Learning to say no to additional tasks will help keep you on track to complete current tasks. Many of my overwhelmed clients have a very hard time saying no to a new task or project. They feel guilty if they say no, so the projects just pile up and none of them get completed.

    Asking for help is another habit to change as we feel weak if we need to ask for help for a task that seems like anyone can do it, such as organizing. As I tell my clients, we are gifted with a talent and organizing just happens to be mine, but art and singing are not talents I was gifted.

    When it comes to organizing, being overwhelmed is preventing you from moving forward so it continues to pile up. To get off that fast moving train you must say no to new tasks, give yourself permission to ask for help, and remember that getting organized is a process not an event. The train did not just start going fast, so it will take some time for it to stop.

  • 29 Jan 2018 5:04 PM | Birdie Brennan, CPO®
    We have all done it: we have something we like from our past or in our present that we don't necessarily need or know how we might use, but we don't feel right parting with it. So we put it in a box or storage bin for safe keeping or later decision making, and banish it to that storage area (usually a basement or attic) that we hardly ever visit. And that is it: we have kept something indefinitely--for better or for worse--and we feel comforted that we have done so.

    But why is this? What is it about having something in a box-that isn't easy to access and that likely will not be used-that makes us feel better? The truth is, no one enjoys the ritual of going to the basement to rifle through things. Most people find basement storage to be uncomfortable and frustrating. And yet there in the basement (or garage, or extra bedroom, etc) we create clutter stacks upon stacks which requires us to hover and sift and peruse our belongings, often without even finding the thing we are looking for.

    We see this especially with memorabilia keeping. A client of mine had found some wallpaper samples in a drawer that were from her childhood home. She loved seeing the colors and patterns and decided that she would put them in her memorabilia bin, which was labeled just that in the basement. This bin was on the bottom of a bin stack in a dark basement which was warm but older and rather dusty. So I asked her, "how often do you think you will want to visit this bin to see and enjoy those samples?" And she replied that she tries to limit her trips to the basement as much as possible, and she noted that the bin wasn't easy to get to.

    So the obvious question becomes, "why keep things in a box?" What value does the box bring to our things--real or perceived?

    I believe that putting something in a box accomplishes two things for the keeper: 1) it defers decision making to later and 2) reinforces the belief that safe keeping is good keeping. But I would like to challenge the notion of good keeping--in a box. Because when you limit access to things, you limit how useful or enjoyable something can be in your daily life, AND you've created a pile that diminishes in personal value over time. Hence the clutter stacks in our homes!

    So for example, in the case of the wall paper pattern, instead of asking if you want to keep it, I would ask how might you like to preserve the wall paper so it can be used or enjoyed? A number of simple ideas come to mind. The samples can be made into laminated book marks, or perhaps they can be put into a small framed collage for your desk, or maybe placed in a scrapbook, or you can snap a photo of the pattern and make it a screen saver...just to name a few ideas. The value of this paper suddenly seems to increase by volumes--outside of the box. This demonstrates keeping with a purpose.

    So the next time you find yourself thinking that you would like to store something long-term, make sure you aren't just keeping for keeping sake. In other words, don't just think "I want to hold on to that." Keep with a plan; a plan to use or enjoy the article in some fashion at some point in time. Identifying your intention should in theory make the storage needs temporary rather than indefinite and help reduce the overall amount of kept things.

    We hope this will help you look at your clutter stacks a little differently and assign better intentions to all those things that haven't seen the light of day. Good luck!
  • 31 Dec 2017 4:37 PM | Olive Wagar (Administrator)

    Celebrate every tiny victory!

    We live in a very competitive culture. We are surrounded by people who will do anything to be the best, to be the one on the top of the victory stand, to get the blue ribbon or the gold medal. Sometimes it seems that the message is that if you don’t finish on top, you really haven’t accomplished anything worthwhile.

    I am here to encourage you to celebrate every personal victory along the way to your personal goal. It really doesn’t matter about how your progress matches up to anyone else. When you are in the arena, “daring greatly” as Teddy Roosevelt would say, you are one step closer to your personal victory. And that is reason enough to celebrate.

    When we say goodbye to perfectionism,

    we open up the door to personal victory!

    When we give ourselves permission to be less than perfect, we take a big load off of our shoulders and an even bigger load of stress out of our lives.  It enables us to see that the mistakes we make can still be stepping stones to personal success. And you get to define your definition of success.

    I happen to like a colorful checkmark or cheerful happy face to acknowledge a job well done. J I also like to celebrate with a delicious treat. Sitting down with a cup of tea to savor the memory of a tiny victory works too.

    After an introduction at a recent speaking engagement, the host said, “Let’s

    welcome Olive with some applause!” And to my surprise, I said, “Yes, everyone likes a bit of applause—it makes everyone smile!” as I applauded for the attendees in the audience.

    A distinctive part of every Toastmaster meeting is enthusiastically applauding every member for their contributions to the meeting. The applause acknowledges a willingness to be more than a spectator.  It helps to cultivate an awareness of small steps of achievement.  Celebrating those tiny victories creates momentum for taking another small step.

    So here we are at the start of a new year.

    Set a goal to accomplish something that is meaningful to you.

    Then figure out your own way to celebrate your personal accomplishments.

    Savor the victory with joy and excitement.

    Then take one more step each day toward your goal.

    2018 is a fresh start, a blank canvas. What masterpiece will you create?

    When life is sweet, say thank you & celebrate.

    When life is bitter, say thank you & grow.

    Olive Wagar is owner of Organized by Olive LLC. She helps overwhelmed people discover the less cluttered side of life. She offers residential organizing and unpacking services.  She lives in Troy and serves clients in Miami County, Shelby County, Darke County, and Montgomery County.  She is Secretary for NAPO-Ohio and Toastmasters Area 5 Director. She is a Star Blogger for Professional Organizers Blog Carnival. She enjoys offering workshops and speaking presentations. She recently was a featured speaker at TEDx-Dayton 2017. She loves being Grammy to 2 sweetie pies in Tennessee.

  • 11 Dec 2017 7:15 AM | Deleted user

    It isn’t a new notion that the holidays are stressful.  And the recent rise of social media has added to our holiday strain by creating a perception of Pinterest perfection and pitting mom against mom (whether intentionally or not) to one up each other to make their families’ holiday the happiest and most magical. 

    Now don’t get me wrong, I love me some holiday magic…but at what point does it become more about me, my expectations, my stress, my disappointment and less about enjoying the time with my family and creating lasting memories.  How can I channel my excitement and passion for the holidays into a few carefully curated activities and gifts that will create lasting memories without those memories including me crying or screaming?

    By having a clear focus for your holiday energy, you are more likely to make those experiences truly special…because when we do everything all the time, it is no longer special.  It is now our normal.  So let’s make the holidays special again!


    What are your holiday must-dos?  One way to help curb the stress of meeting those holiday expectations is to have a clear view of what is important to you and your family.  Is it spending time with extended family and friends?  Seeing as many Santas as possible?  Having a beautifully decorated home?  Making exquisitely wrapped handmade gifts?  There is no wrong answer for what your holiday priorities SHOULD be.  The issue comes when all activities are given equal weight and importance.  Then, as the month goes by and tasks are not completed, the stress and anxiety sets in. 

    Expectations versus Realities

    It is easy to say “lower your expectations”, but how?  I mean, once that holiday rat race starts, it plows forward, full speed ahead through New Year’s with few stops along the way.  One way is to choose a few specific holiday activities and tasks that are really a priority for your and your family. Focus on doing those things that really matter well rather than “all the things” just ok.


    You may be thinking “yeah, right? Limit my holiday activities. Not a chance!” Ok.  What about paring back the scope of your activity or asking/hiring someone to do it for you?  Chances are there is someone in your community who would love to help you with these tasks.  And delegating doesn’t have to mean hiring someone to do all your work…it could mean spreading the work around.  One of my favorite holiday traditions is my Cookie Exchange.  Baking and seeing my friends are 2 of my holiday priorities.  By hosting this one event, I can fellowship with friends and get a ton of yummy treats for my family and neighbors.

    Let’s take back the holidays and refocus our energy into the activities that bring us the most joy, let’s emphasize quality experiences over quantity.  Because it truly is possible to have an amazing holiday season without needing to have it all.

    Christy Lingo is a mother of 2 boys, Professional Organizer and owner of Simple Solutions Organizing serving Columbus, Ohio and the surrounding Central Ohio area.  She is the oldest of five children whose ages span 14 years with a mother whose motto was "Be organized or be lost."  Upon leaving home, she spent 14 years honing her organizing skills by moving more than 15 times and living in an average of 700 sq. foot, most times with minimal closet space and limited storage. You can find Christy on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and her webpage.

  • 26 Nov 2017 8:32 PM | Birdie Brennan, CPO®

    The Set-Up for Success

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    For even the most novice cooks, between now and the end of the year, many kitchens are about to get a workout. We may be hosting parties, holiday meals, trying a new recipe or two, participating in pot lucks, or baking with friends and family. Wouldn't it be great if everything we need is at our fingertips--clean and functional for when we need it?

    So often the tools and items we rely on at this time of year are somewhere in the back of cupboards, sideboards, or stored on basement shelving. I recommend gathering, cleaning, and staging the items you know will be needed in the coming weeks. In last week's post ( https://www.getorganizedcolumbus.com/the-ready-made-pantry ) we talked about a well-stocked pantry for the holiday season; for now, let's focus on the items we will likely need in the kitchen and dining areas.

    Let's Talk Tools
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    It is not just about having the tools, it is about cleaning them and testing them to make sure they are functional with no surprises. It is worth noting that many of these items are occasional-use items and can be removed from your immediate cooking area once the holidays are over to save space.

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    1. Meat thermometer
    2. Turkey Baster
    3. Full set of measuring cups and spoons
    4. Food Processor and all needed extension parts
    5. Emersion Blender and/or mixer
    6. Counter top roaster or sous vide
    7. Mixing Bowls
    8. Sharpened Knives
    9. Electric carving knife
    10. Peelers and Garlic Press
    11. Zester and juicer
    12. Baking pans
    13. Dough roller
    14. Those pesky holiday cookie cutters
    15. Baking racks
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    And don't forget the specialty cookware like Belgian waffle makers and panini presses, which may finally get the chance to earn their shelf space when hosting guests.

    Kitchen Staples

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    1. Aluminum Foil
    2. Wax Paper
    3. For extra convenience--oven liners can come in handy this time of year
    4. Twine
    5. Roasting Bags and plastic wrap
    6. Sil Pats/Baking Liners
    7. Toothpicks
    8. Food saver containers--especially those which guests can take with them
    9. Cherished recipes--I suggest locating and scanning them to have available digitally. I really like that you can have on record which recipes were used by year; it's fun to look back on and review.

    Let's Set the Holiday Table

    So many times we store away pretty dishes and service items, and holiday plates and mugs, only to forget them when guests appear. We can avoid forgetting our cherished holiday keepsakes by reviewing and cleaning inventory to have ready for guests. This is also a good time to remove any items that you are no longer interested in using.

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    1. Dishes, chargers, and paper plates--We can finally use the holiday pattern! 
    2. Silverware and extra cutlery--Hate to say it, but if you use real silver, now is the time to polish
    3. Stemware
    4. Service Ware
    5. Platters and gravy boats
    6. Hors D'oeuvre plates or extra small plates
    7. Napkins--cloth ones may need washed and pressed
    8. Tablecloths and Placemats--may also need laundered
    9. Centerpieces--you may not have these stored, but it is still a good time to plan for them
    10. Candles and candle holders
    11. Punch Bowls
    12. Cheese cutters and condiment knives
    13. Pitchers
    14. Extra salt and pepper shakers
    15. Trivets

      For Good Measure:
    1. This may be the time to clean the oven and microwave
    2. Make sure your large cutting boards are sanitized


    And don't forget, the most important thing to have in your kitchen might be an extra ounce of patience and presence of mind to enjoy being in the moment with family and friends. Now that you have a list, don't be afraid to get everyone involved and delegate tasks. The more we are engaged in the process, the more invested we are in the joy.

    Cheers to you and yours!

  • 14 Nov 2017 4:51 PM | Anonymous

    They've already begun... Black Friday ads, urging us to bust out of our turkey comas during the wee hours the Friday after Thanksgiving (or even Thursday night, before the pumpkin pie has settled in), open our wallets, and buy... lots of stuff.

    The problem is, most of us don't need anything that's for sale on Black Friday (or Cyber Monday, it's more comfortable, order-from-your-couch cousin). Buying things just because they are "on sale" is a recipe for bringing anxiety-inducing clutter into our homes, going into debt, and eventually harming our environment as landfill waste.

    (My only caveat to the anti-Black Friday movement: If you actually need to buy something that's on sale on Black Friday, by all means, go for it! Two years ago I bought my son Reese an electric scooter--his #1 Christmas present request--on Black Friday. I couldn't have justified the cost of this item if it hadn't been on sale. So there, I've shopped on Black Friday and I liked it! Perhaps I should stop writing this post right now...)

    But I would argue that there is a difference between shopping for a specific item and shopping to shop. I urge you: ignore the latter.

    For some people, Black Friday shopping is akin to family bonding. I get it. I've been there. If you have a family shopping tradition, consider a different type of bonding activity this year. Some ideas:

    • have a board game marathon
    • binge-watch a favorite TV series
    • hike a local nature trail
    • bake cookies
    • visit an art museum
    • put up holiday decorations
    • make a craft
    • create an obstacle course in the backyard
    • volunteer to clean up an elderly neighbor's yard
    • lend a collective hand at your local homeless shelter or other charity

    There are truly limitless ways to bond with the fam that don't involve running up credit card debt and adding clutter to your home!

    Another idea: if you want to shop, buy toiletries, socks, underwear, towels, linens, hats, gloves, and winter coats to donate to a local homeless shelter. These are high-need items at all shelters, and this type of shopping adds untold goodness to the world.

    One last type of Thanksgiving weekend shopping that's Rose-approved: Small Business Saturday. Money spent at local mom-and-pop shops stays in local economies, which is good for all of us. It's hard to overspend at these types of shops, as the items are usually more expensive (AKA not made in sweatshops). Plus, you'll find truly unique gifts.

    So, I urge you: let's make Black Friday a little better this year. Find a way to bond with your family that doesn't involve trawling the mall, and if you do shop, shop smart by using your dollars to provide relief to our neediest citizens or to support local businesses.

    If you'd like more tips on how minimalism can add more "thanks" and "giving" into Thanksgiving, watch my recent news segment for Good Day Columbus. 

    I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving with your loved ones!

    Rose Lounsbury is a minimalism coach, speaker, and author of the Amazon bestseller “Less: Minimalism for Real. After blogging about her own journey toward a minimalist lifestyle, Rose was inspired to start Less, a minimalism coaching company. Rose spends her days writing, helping clients clear their clutter, and soaking up the moments with her husband and their wild triplets. Rose is a member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals and has been featured on Fox News Good Day Columbus and WDTN Living Dayton. She calls lovely Dayton, Ohio home.  If you’d like to contact Rose for a speaking engagement or help with a minimizing project, you can email her at Rose@RoseLounsbury.com or visit her online at RoseLounsbury.com.

  • 03 Oct 2017 12:50 PM | Janet Jackson


    Does anyone remember the Seinfeld episode when Jerry talks about a rental car company “taking reservations” but not “holding reservations”? That scene is playing in my head as I write this article.

    We all attend meetings. We show up with paper and pen (or tablet and stylus). We listen. We contribute. We even take notes. But then what? What I see so often is that when the meeting ends, so do the thoughts and even worse, any action. Things get written down but may or may not get done. It seems that we “take” notes but we don’t “hold” (or process) our notes. Let me share this profound notion:

    If you take notes and don’t process your notes, there was likely no point in taking them.

    When you return from a meeting, instead of setting those meeting notes aside, take a few minutes to process them. Move any key information or decisions into the best location for recall. Do any quick tasks that might be required of you. Move any action items that require more effort (or your delegated items) to your To Do System. This will ensure you (or your assignee) stays mindful of the assigned items and Things. Get. Done.

    May you have blessings and balance,

    Janet Jackson

    PS If the concept of a single To Do System is foreign to you, send me an email. We need to talk. J

  • 09 Aug 2017 1:10 PM | Janet Jackson

    Things have been a little crazy around here, thus the delay in sending this newsletter. In the last few months, we’ve overhauled my general business site (check it out! www.OrganizationSolutionsLLC.com), continued our monthly Express Trainings, recorded many eLearning sessions, and migrated to this newsletter tool, while also continuing to serve clients and businesses via consulting, training, and speaking.

    And on Thursday, I ran out of gas.

    So, Friday morning, I took some time to pause and reflect: Was I/Organization Solutions, LLC still even heading in the right direction? It is way too easy to get sucked into the demands of it all and keep driving (fast) without looking at the map, watching for the right exit. (That sentence literally occurred to me during my morning of reflection. I knew right then it was going to be my next newsletter.)

    So my question for you: When is the last time you made a pit stop, personally or professionally? When is the last time you paused to reflect if all that you were doing was even what you wanted to be doing? Was all the driving taking you to your desired destination? Or further away from it? For that matter, do you even know your destination? If it’s been awhile, I encourage you to carve out an hour or two and have that internal conversation. (I recommend a journal…you’ll look less crazy.) It might take longer than just one morning; so, do be patient with the process.

    For me, it turns out that I am still headed in the right direction. I just needed to refuel. Whew!

    May you have blessings and balance,

    Janet Jackson



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