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Tips & Tricks from the Experts in the Industry

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

  • 13 Dec 2016 11:55 AM | Deleted user

    What do I keep? How do I sort?

    There will come a time when you have to decide what of your memories, or your parents memories, to digitize or dispose of. As a general rule, my attitude is to digitize as much as you can. There are several reasons for this. First and foremost is that you need to keep the “long view.” Recognize that you can’t predict what will be interesting, important or meaningful to someone in your family one hundred, or two hundred years from now. But, it you make the effort to have your memories digitized, it is almost certain that someone in the future will, at least in their own mind, thank you for doing so,and implicitily or explicitly remember you. However, if you cannot resist the urge to purge, then follow two rules: 1: Eliminate duplicate or similar images. If you have three photos of Baby Jane in her high chair, taken at the same time with the same degree of cuteness, get rid of two. 2: Get rid of photos without people. All those photos of Mount Rushmore? Unless there is something significant about it, it can be pitched. You can find better photos of Mt. Rushmore on the Internet.

    Should I still have my stuff put onto DVD?

    More often these days, people want to know if they should put their stuff onto DVD, or some other form of digital media. There are two good reasons for still doing so. First, a DVD is still the cheapest and most permanent form on which to store your family memories. You can’t accidentally delete things off of a DVD. And with good labeling, no one will mistakenly throw your DVDs in the trash. DVD players will still be around for more than a few years, and even though your laptop may not have a DVD tray anymore, you can buy a good one for dirt cheap at most electronics stores. Second, for videos, the DVD format is still the easiest and most enjoyable form of a group experience. You can pop it in, watch it on your TV abd use a menu to navigate to the parts you want to enjoy. You can still do this with other media, but it is a bit more challenging, and no one wqnts to crowd around a computer screen. Other media–particularly external hard drives- are also recommended as storage devices. They serve other purposes better– mainly that you can easily copy files from it, and you can edit those files to make your own creations. But beware– external drive can break more easily, and if you are not careful, you can accidently delete a file that you only meant to copy. Solid state hard drive are coming down in price , and would eliminate most of the fear of drive failure. Still, for the tech savvy person, having your memories on an external hard drive is an absolute necessity. I recommend that you stay away from jump (for “flash”) drives, for one good reason– you can lose them easily.

    Why should I digitize my family’s memories?

    The answer is not always obvious to people. The simple answer is that once your memories are digitized, they can be shared more broadly. So if you have four brothers and sisters, you dont have to fight over who gets what. And neither do your children or your grandchildren. There is, however, a deeper reason. In this day and age when its hard to trust what you seen in the media or history books, isn;t it important to pass on to your progeny something that gives them an independent point of view? Something that shows them where they came from and what the journey of theiir family was like. This reason is more than mere entertainment. It is valuable, and it is necessary.

    Visit www.MyFamilyography.com for more information.

  • 08 Nov 2016 9:56 AM | Birdie Brennan, CPO®
    As we move further into Fall, here is a general checklist to help make your home and wardrobe Fall ready!

    Fit List for Fall:

    1. Get Filters for your furnace and schedule your annual maintenance, if you haven’t already
    2. Review coats for condition and fit. Send out for any mending and/or dry cleaning. Now is a great time to donate any coats that don’t fit.
    3. Do you change bedding for the seasons? Now is the time to launder or dry clean summer covers and trade them in for warmer comforters.
    4. Cozy throw blankets will be in heavy rotation soon. Launder or dry clean so they are fresh and ready for the task.
    5. They say our shoes should be waterproofed once a year. Check leather and suede shoes for dry brushing and apply waterproof spray.
    6. While the weather is still mild, it is a great time to wash window screens and put away. And a clean winter window will allow the warmth of the sun to come through. Good to prep and wash storm windows and doors.
    7. Make sure you have umbrellas that are functional and handy.
    8. Recycle all spring and summer magazines and catalogs.
    9. Gloves, hats, scarves, etc. will need a home or homes that are convenient. Consider creating a designated space near the coat closet or mudroom for each family member’s gear.
    10. We want this to be a no scraping season! Let’s plan on getting the car into the garage. Move summer yard tools to the back or to a shed. Regroup tools and supplies, and put bikes away.

    Happy Fall Transitions!

  • 28 Oct 2016 9:09 AM | Deleted user

    So you’re sick and tired of the mess that is your walk in closet. Whether you’re looking for clothes for work – or worse yet – that formal event where you’re trying valiantly to find those seldom used jewelry and accessories, getting ready to go in a disorganized closet can be a pain.

    The challenge is who do you call to rid yourself of this closet disaster. Who will not only “feel your pain” but is qualified to evaluate your storage needs and make recommendations to make your space work (and not make any “deadly” design mistakes you can’t fix later)? Since you can’t call “Ghost Busters” here’s 4 types of people who might be able to help: 

    • The local “handyman” – You could stop at your neighbor’s house who is using a local handyman (who hopefully hasn’t turned into “Eldon the Painter” from Murphy Brown fame). Maybe he can do the job….. but what does he really know about closets?
    • Put the project on your spouses “honey do list” – OK – the list is a mile long already…but maybe they’ll get to this one pretty soon….but what kind of product will they buy? Will the local home center have options which work effectively and efficiently in your space? Will there be a human being at the store that has any concept about closets to help pick out the right things?
    • A finished carpenter- There are finished carpenters who do beautiful woodwork. The challenge might be can you afford them? Are they really experts on how to design and plan a closet? Would a wood closet system be the best way to go?
    • A closet designer - They have the specific expertise in closet design – but will they have a system(s) to fit your budget?

    While you can call any of the 4 types above will they know how to design the space to not make mistakes (or deadly sins) which you can’t work around (or if you have to they will cost you money you shouldn’t have to spend if the design was correct in the first place)? The most likely type to get it right would be the closet designer since they focus on this product specifically.

    Knowing the 7 deadly sins can help you save money, improve functionality and increase enjoyment of using your closet. Let’s take a look at these 7 deadly sins.

    Deadly Sin #1 – I can’t open these closet drawers fully

    Adding pull out drawers and baskets to a custom closet design will dress up the space (and provide cool ways to compartmentalize your jewelry, socks, watches and clothing). Custom closets are the luxury features owners in Dublin, Worthington, Upper Arlington or any nice neighborhood in Columbus would love to have. With that being said if you put drawers in the wrong place it can be disastrous. According to custom closet designer Denise Butchko (a design expert with Butchko and Company in Chicago IL) it’s best to place your drawer’s front and center in the design. Center them on the door opening and design other hanging spaces or shelves around them. Whatever you do, don’t put them behind the closet door so the drawers and door bang into one another.

    Deadly Sin #2 – Not “accounting” for shoe location

    In many existing closets there is a rod along the top with a shelf above and shoes laying on the floor in a disorganized mess. Why do your shoes need to be buried on the “down low” – other than you don’t have a good system today to get them off the ground? Moving shoes up is ergonomically better and then you can visually see them. So don’t commit the deadly sins of burying your shoes. Consider using closet accessories like a shoe shelf or shoe cubby to keep everything available and visible.

    Here’s a bonus design tip accounting people might like. In accounting you talk about FIFO (first goods in, first good out). With shoe location use the same “accounting principle.” Place the shoe storage as the first area inside your closet - since you put on and take off your shoes as you enter your walk in closet (first shoes in, first shoes off).

    Deadly sin #3 – Failure to “space out” your dimensions – You’re not designing a hotel closet which is there for the use of many random people and is seldom used. Your closet is all about you (and your significant other) and the multitude of stuff you have. Think through how many shirts and blouses you want to hang. How many sweaters do you need to fit on these shelves? Allow about 1” for the shirts/blouses and 10 – 14” wide for the folded sweaters (depending on size). Taking the time to inventory what you need to store can guide the decision making process of how wide dimensionally you need to space apart the vertical sections of your closet to effectively utilize space. 

    Deadly Sin #4 – The “standard” closet system is in the middle of the air vent or access panel

    So your husband went out and bought one of those low-priced standardized closets from your local big box store (so far, so good). He started installing and figured out the supports go right through the middle of your access panel for your plumbing in the adjoining room. What do you do now? Effective closet design starts with a thoughtful game plan (and possibly different sized sections between shelves and the vertical panel supports). Don’t commit this closet design sin. Know where the obstructions are before you buy a system, or get a closet designer who will design around these hidden landmines.  

    Deadly Sin #5 – Cutting corners in closet structure and design

    In design and in structure cutting corners (while cheaper for the contractor or homeowner in the short run) can cost you the ability to have useable space or result in a system which wants to pull away from the wall. From a structure standpoint make sure if you use a wall hung system it is properly tied into the studs with the right anchors. For floor mounted cabinetry use cleats to tie in the vertical shelf support to the walls. From a design perspective if you have a “U shaped” design with shelving around the corners make sure they are 24” to 30” deep – otherwise it will be difficult to use this space for hanging or folded clothes in the corner.

    Deadly Sin #6 – Don’t plan as if you’re Gumby and can reach anywhere 

    If you’re old enough do you remember the green rubbery toy (which had its own show in the late 1950’s and 1960’s) which could stretch and reach anywhere? Well – while I wish I had the flexibility of Gumby (maybe I could get closer to this if I just attended those Yoga classes my wife has been trying to get me to go to), I don’t have a stretchable arm that can reach anywhere (and my guess you don’t either). Given this fact we need to design closets to be thoughtful about reaching the top shelf or top rod and storing the right items up there. For the top shelf it’s usually best to keep lighter things you don’t need to access often. If you’re vertically challenged (or need the assistance of a wheelchair) consider adding a pull down rod to bring clothes on upper rods down to meet you.

    Deadly Sin #7 – Trying to fit 5 lbs. of S*** into a 10 lb. bag. The overdone closet design

    When I was growing up my Dad used to say don’t try to fit 10 lbs. of S*** (fill in the expletive here) into a 5 lb. bag. Basically it’s possible to become so enamored with all the fun “bells and whistles” of a new closet design (adding doors, drawers, valet rods, jewelry boxes…the list can go on and on) you overdesign the space. A clean, organized and effective life is often simplicity in design (think about the IPhone and how easy it is to learn this unit “on the fly” is an example of design simplicity).

    To ensure a cleaner, minimalist design first take an inventory of all the items you have in your closet and determine what you’re not really using and can give away. If you’re in Columbus Dress for Success is a great organization that helps women who need clothing for work you could donate your seldom used things to. Pair down first, then think what storage components you need to keep things nice and tidy for your new custom closet design (note a Professional Organizer can also help you with this). After you’ve streamlined the closet (and thought of items you might like to add to the closet like jewelry or home office storage that’s in other rooms) then you’re ready to do your design (and not overdesign) your space.


    While these 7 deadly sins of closet design might be scary, it’s nice knowing you haven’t started your project yet.

    If you have questions, comments or need help with a Columbus custom closet call the numbers below or add your thoughts to this post.


    For help with a Columbus home organization project call Innovate Home Org in Columbus at 614-545-6888 or in Cleveland call 216-658-1290.

    Follow the author @Mike_Foti or our companies’ @InnovateBuild and @InnovateHomeOrg on Twitter.

  • 02 Oct 2016 5:16 PM | Olive Wagar (Administrator)



    When we really don’t want to do something, we tend to find a way to make it complicated. Then we have a good excuse for not doing it in the first place! We agonize over the cost of the supplies or how much time it will take. We over analyze the procedure and research way too many websites.

    How about a different approach?

    Start with SIMPLE!


    1. Decide to make your bed every morning.
    2. Decide to clean up the kitchen every night.
    3. Decide to wash/dry/and put away each load of laundry.
    4. Decide to sort your mail every day.
    5. Decide to immediately trash/recycle junk mail.
    6. Decide to create designated homes for items you use.
    7. Decide to put items away, not just anywhere, when finished using them.
    8. Decide to arrive 5 minutes early at your destinations.
    9. Decide to go to bed at the same time each night.
    10. Decide to get up at the same time each morning.


    1. Is this item beautiful?
    2. Is this item useful?
    3. Does this item make me smile?
    4. Does this item honor a loved one?
    5. How many do I have of this item?
    6. When did I last use this item?
    7. When exactly will I use this item again?
    8. Is this item broken, ruined, or obsolete?
    9. Would I pay to replace this item?
    10. Does someone else need this item more than I do?


    1. I never liked the ugly mess of internet cords on my kitchen shelf. How delighted I was to find a small crate to hide that mess and yet not interfere with my internet wireless service!
      20160811_085953 20160811_090109
    2. I’ve been looking for new bedroom curtains for several weeks. With 2 simple stitching lines, I can transform a pretty lace tablecloth into a pretty curtain panel!
    3. I wanted one place to track my monthly income and expenses. I created a simple one page Word chart that is concise, handy, and easy to use. The charts for the year all fit into a small binder with room for receipts and statements.
    4. I wanted my pantry to be useful and stocked with foods I really eat. I emptied all the shelves, sorted all the items, and only put back what I really use. I lined up the items like in a grocery store so I can quickly see what is available or needs replaced. I eliminated random specialty items for forgotten recipes! Other items were donated to a food drive.
    5. I wanted my kitchen cabinets to be easier to use. I emptied all the shelves, sorted all the items, and only kept what I really need and use for this season of my life. It is easier to find a particular dish and easier to put clean dishes away. And I even had room on the top shelf for some pretty “special occasion” dishes that I can now easily use every day!
    6. I wanted to expand the size of my flower beds. I bought one specially designed garden tool, “the garden weasel”, and managed to do the job myself on all 4 sides of my house!
    7. I like having a clean and tidy car. Every time I get out of the car, I collect up trash, papers, coupons, and cups. I keep a package of wet cleaning wipes under the front seat and quickly wipe up any spills. I store first aid supplies, personal supplies, treats, maps, and coupons in zippered pouches in the glove compartment or door pockets. I go to the  $5 car wash every month.
    8. This simple clip for my keys is actually quite useful and has saved me tons of time (slight exaggeration)! It easily slips on my purse handle, belt loop, or wall hook. Quite a deal for $1 or sometimes free at trade shows!



    Start with Simple: Simple decisions. Simple questions. Simple solutions.


    What is your favorite way to start with simple?

    Please read my weekly blog at www.organizedbyolive.com!

  • 15 Aug 2016 7:35 PM | Deleted user

    There is often fear and uncertainly that goes with the decision to hire a professional organizer. In the years I’ve been helping people get organized, I’ve heard many reasons why it takes someone so long to pick up the phone and call for help.

    Embarrassment. You don’t want anyone to see all your clutter.

    Organizers are professionals that are there to solve a problem, not pass judgment. They are compassionate and understand how someone can fall into the traps of disorganization.  In fact, it’s very important you don’t clean up before your organizer arrives so they can see exactly where your trouble spots are. I often tell people, “I’m not coming as your guest, so don’t rush around and hide things to make your home look neat.”

    Shame. You feel badly because you should know how to organize on your own.

    When clients bring this one up I tell them, “Organizing is not taught in school. Unless you had a very good role model along the way, it can be hard to know how to organize.”  This is especially true if you are more of a right-brain, creative type personality or have ADHD. It often doesn’t come naturally for you to categorize, which is an important skill when organizing.  The good news is organizing is a learned skill. An organizer can help you create systems, making it easy for you to find things.

    Fear. You’re afraid an organizer is going to make you throw everything away.

    Organizers do help you make tough decisions, but they can’t make you do anything.  As an organizer, I like to find out three things about my client so I can better serve them. I ask, “Who do you want to spend time with, what’s on your bucket list and what makes you happy?”  Once I know this, it’s my job to help you decide which items will help you reach your goals. Everything else you own will keep you from living the life you planned.

    Confidentiality. You’re worried because an organizer will know your personal matters.

    Organizing is about relationships. Just as therapists wouldn’t have a good business if they gossiped about their clientele, neither would an organizer.  Don’t know where to start. Just as you would rely on your surgeon to know how to carry out your operation, organizers know the process of getting organized. Once we find out your goals and tour your home or office, we’ll know where to start and will guide you through the process.

    Too expensive to hire someone. What is disorganization costing you, physically, emotionally and financially?

    Hiring an organizer is an investment. Organizers will teach you life-long skills so you can continue to organize long after they have gone.  Most organizers offer a free phone consultation. If you’re feeling overwhelmed in your home or office, call an organizer, share your fears and be ready to roll up your sleeves and get started.

    Lori Firsdon owns Forte Organizers in Centerville. She does onsite organizing and speaking engagements. For more organizing tips, visit www.ForteOrganizers.com.


    Lori Firsdon will teach an organizing class Saturday, January 23, from 10:30-Noon at the Jamestown Library, 86 Seaman Dr. Jamestown 45335. It’s titled “Super Systems: Organizing for a Stress-Free Life.” For information, call 937-352- 4005.

  • 01 Jul 2016 2:12 PM | Deleted user

    Overwhelm – it’s the number one reason for why my phone rings. Potential and current clients call, telling me that they don't know where to start. They have so much going on in their lives and all of the gear that goes with it. My answer? Don’t start – finish!  Let me explain…

    Two of my clients, Jane and Angela, have daughters who are in the elementary and high school plays, both of which occur in the spring.  The moms, artistic and theatrical by nature, volunteer to help each and every year.  They have craft rooms in their homes and love the creative process.

    The elementary school play goes first, so the ladies and their children get wrapped up with costume and set design, learning lines, and, keeping up with the usual onslaught of homework, other children’s activities, their own jobs, and life as they know it. It’s crazy in the beginning, but doable.  By the time the elementary play is over, though, both women and their families are well under-way with the high school play, going through the same preparations.  There is no visible breathing room between the plays, so once they’re in the thick of it, time is mostly spent putting out fires and getting immediate needs, costumes, sets, and activities taken care of.  It’s at this point that they start to yearn for the final curtain call.

    With the last bows finally taken, my clients, their children, and the rest of the family are resting peacefully with the satisfaction of an excellent job done, right? Nope - by the time the high school play is over, each of their craft rooms look like a Michael’s store exploded! There are sewing machines, fabric scraps, thread, paint, cardboard cutouts, beads, sequins, paper, glue, and any other crafting supply you can imagine on the floors, surfaces and walls, much of it spilling out into the dining room and any other surface that happened to be empty at the time. 

    Months later, around October, is when I get the first call.  “Ugh - the plays were finished months ago and my craft room looks like they haven’t even started!” says Jane.  Upon visiting, I see that she is, indeed, right.  There are supplies everywhere from both plays, along with other creative whims from the past decade or so.  We sit down, discuss how it got to this point, and determine – light bulb moment - they have so much crammed into each day and they don’t take the time to actually finish one thing before moving onto another.

    What I suggest to each of these ladies is to schedule a half hour within a day or two of the end of the elementary school play to clean up everything related to that specific play.  Ideally, they’ll involve the kids as a way of showing them the commitment they’ve signed up for and to teach them first-hand what an entire project looks like from true start to true finish. Once every scrap is put away and dealt with, they can officially call the first play over.  The room and all of their efforts are now officially dedicated to the second play.  Once the high school play is over, they need to schedule another half hour segment with the child involved, give that play the ‘done’ stamp, and the craft room can be used for new projects.

    The key in doing all of this is to define what ‘finished’ looks like to each of us.  If you’re a visual person, then close your eyes and get a good image going.  If you’re more of a tactile person, then draw it out.  If you’re a verbal learner, then describe it out loud to yourself and/or those involved.  Whichever style works best for you, remember it and strive for it.

    My kids, for example, know that we cannot eat dinner until they’ve ‘finished’ their homework, which means that books, pencils, and backpacks must be put away and the kitchen table cleared off.  Otherwise, we’re looking at double work - tossing things out of the way so we can eat and then going through it all again in the precious hour or so between dinner and bedtime.

    Because overwhelm is universal, this shift in thinking can be used in any situation, big or small. Write out your grocery list – put the pen away!  Get a bill in the mail – write the check and put it in the mailbox!  Finish writing a blog – put the laptop away!  One of my favorite bloggers, Glennon Doyle Melton, says that when you’re not sure what to do, ‘just do the next right thing.’  When you’re done with that ‘next right thing,’ then remind yourself that you just finished one WHOLE to-do – congratulate yourself!  This feeling of accomplishment will catapult you to the next right thing and the next and the next…

    Happy organizing everyone! 

  • 24 May 2016 7:10 PM | Deleted user

    It came home in backpacks, tote bags, and grocery bags the last week of school.  No need to let it marinade all summer in the back hall.

    Let’s sort it and the children and teens can help.  Set all the paper aside for the minute, and let’s get the low hanging fruit. Let’s pull out what can be salvaged for next year’s back to school--the scissors, the glue, pens, protractors, calculators and bag them up for August.  The worn crayons and pencils can be poured into the house stock for homework next year or bagged for summer trips.  Ready to deal with the papers?  Recycle any worksheets like fill-in-the-blank and multiplication tables right away.  Consider artwork, handprints, and essays for archiving. Finally, note any dates or events from school newsletters and recycle.  Feels good right? Enjoy the summer!

  • 03 May 2016 2:03 PM | Cathy Van Volkenburg CPO®

    Quick Tips for Transitioning in May

    By Cathy Van Volkenburg CPO®

    Certified Professional Organizer

    Owner of Accent on Organizing

    May is one of the busiest months of the year second only to December and the holiday rush. School ends and vacations begin. Graduations, showers and weddings are on everyone’s calendar. Ready for some quick tips to survive this month of spring flowers and major transitions?

    End of School:

    • Box up clothing and uniforms that can be worn next season – LABEL and MOVE to a basement or other storage area to free up space for summer items

    • Donate clothing that no longer fits

    • Box up school supplies that can be used in the fall – LABEL and MOVE out of the main area of the house

    • Review all of those art projects that have accumulated all year. KEEP 1 or 2 favorites.   Let the rest go after you have taken a picture and put them in a digital file with the child’s name and grade

    Invitation Overload

    • Immediately RSVP to the event! Enter the pertinent information on your calendar.

    • Go online and order a registry gift now – before the inventory is depleted and nothing is left to buy!  Save time and have the store wrap and ship the gift.

    • Come up with a signature gift. For baby showers, I always give the parents-to-be a combination of storage supplies to keep the many sizes of clothing in order. Get creative and include baby hangers, clothing rod size tags and pretty labels for the bins holding clothing the baby won’t fit into for months.

    Use my tips to save time, reduce stress and enjoy the spring!

    Happy Organized May!

  • 31 Mar 2016 10:21 PM | Ellen Limes, CPO® (Administrator)

    The kids are grown, the cavernous rooms echo, the toys in the basement haven’t been touched in years, so you think you should probably downsize and move.  Wait! What about the 45 years of accumulation of stuff??

    Fear not!  It didn’t accumulate overnight, so it’s not going to be emptied overnight.  But you can move with a plan in mind.  Before you have your realtor walk through, do some counter and cabinet clearing.  You are in your kitchen for hours each day.  You know the things you use. Look closely at the things you don’t use daily. Are you really going to use those things?  And there is a good chance the kids don’t want them either.  You can ask, but don’t be offended when they say no. Pull those items out and put them in a box to donate. But leave room in the box so you can close it.  It’s much easier to haul boxes and stack them in your car when they are closed and stackable.  You have to organize your discards as well!

    Every nook and cranny and drawer and cabinet needs to be addressed.  Whether you pack yourself or hire someone to pack, it is a lot easier if the junk of the junk drawers is sorted with like things.  It also is incredibly smoother on the other end when it comes time to unpack.  I have unpacked garbage cans and junk drawers that were just dumped onto packing paper and wrapped.  I don’t think you want to open a box with a mess in it and have to think about sorting it before you can find a home for it in your new home.

    You know there are certain areas of your home that you have been avoiding because you don’t know where to begin processing the things of yesteryear.  For those areas, I’d say get some help.  A Professional Organizer can help you make decisions and process the years of accumulation amazingly fast.  While you stare at the pile in dismay, they will help you work through the pile and move it on to another home or concur with your decision to purge the pile.

    An unbiased third party can help you process the things of life a lot quicker than you.   Consider the value of hiring a Professional Organizer before you move to save your sanity and expedite your move.

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