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NAPO-Ohio Blog

Tips & Tricks from the Experts in the Industry

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

  • 01 Nov 2015 6:08 PM | Julie Riber, CPO®

    As we are approaching the season of holidays and the weather is still relatively warm, it is easy to think we have more time than we actually do between now and the end of the year.

    It is a great time to look at the calendar and consider all the cherished and necessary activities we would like to accomplish to get the most out of the holidays. By the time this article is published, there will be barely 8 weeks remaining until the end of the year. Are you hosting a holiday party? Travelling out of town? Baking holiday cookies? Running in the annual Turkey Trot? Volunteering at a local food pantry? Plotting these activities on a calendar now will provide a realistic overview of your holiday timeline, so that you can accomplish your seasonal goals in a paced and enjoyable way. This type of planning is key to managing tasks and devoting your time to the people and traditions who help make the season meaningful.

    Here are 8 holiday helps---one for each week—from now until the end of the year to help keep your holiday household fluid and festive:

    • 1.     Stage your holidays. Find and sort through your holiday décor. Set aside the items that you want to use in one convenient place so they are available when ready to use or display. Donate any unwanted items.
    • 2.     Plan your giving. Set your budget, make your holiday list, plan a shopping/donation schedule.
    • 3.     Stock your pantry. If cooking and/or baking is a big part of your holidays, have the recipes needed handy. Look through your pantry; do you have what you need?
    • 4.     Retire any tired traditions. Which activities bring you and your family the most joy? Give those your full attention…and retire the rest! It may even require saying “no” to conflicting activities.
    • 5.     Update your list of contacts. Do you send gifts or holiday cards in the mail or via email? Review and update addresses in your favorite contact portfolio.
    • 6.     Book your travel. Whether you are ringing in the New Year in the big city, going to Grandma’s, or heading back home, the time is now to reserve flights, hotels, and rental cars! Don’t forget to review your perks programs to see how many points you can take advantage of this year.
    • 7.     Be ready for the weather. This may include preparing our vehicles for cold-weather care, packing some supplies in our travel vehicle, and reviewing coats/gloves/hats for condition. In addition, we may have fireplaces and furnaces that require maintenance.
    • 8.     Find an app or paperless note taking program on your favorite device where you can keep your holiday lists. Be sure to purge these when the season is over.

    Enjoying the holidays really is about being available to enjoy the everyday moments with cherished family and friends. The small things you do today will help you stay mindful and in the moment when it really matters. Happy Planning!

  • 01 Oct 2015 12:49 PM | Julie Riber, CPO®

    Cooler temperatures arrived and Halloween is on the horizon. If you have ever been to a haunted house you know the adrenalin rush that comes from fear and excitement. As you walk through, your brain tries to sort out what it sees in order to protect you from danger. The darkness and fog make it difficult to make out details as you struggle to find what you are looking for – the exit. Whether or not you enjoy haunted houses, your brain perceives them as stressful, no different than the feelings you get when surrounded by clutter. In addition to stress, effects of clutter include wasted time trying to locate things, wasted money from late fees or buying duplicates, and even missed opportunities. When you are dealing with significant stress, such as being in a haunted house or cluttered environment, your brain goes into fight, flight, or freeze mode. It is as if your brain is telling you “Danger! Get ready to fight for survival, run for your life, or stay still – maybe the danger will pass you by.” When you are in this mode your ability to think clearly is compromised, so that finding things, making decisions, planning, and prioritizing are nearly impossible. Unfortunately, these are the same skills you need to get out of the haunted house or change your cluttered environment.

    Fortunately, now that you know what is going on with your brain, you can do things that will make a difference. The most important thing is to be aware that you are in fight, flight, or freeze mode and get out of it. Deep breathing, exercise, picturing a relaxing scene, or listening to soothing music all help. If you are having trouble getting out of fight, flight, or freeze mode or getting the clutter to stop haunting your home, consider asking for help from family, friends, a therapist, or a professional organizer affiliated with NAPO or ICD.

  • 01 Sep 2015 9:10 PM | Julie Riber, CPO®

     NAPO Ohio teamed up to organize and de clutter the room the women of Amethyst call the clothes closet on Saturday, August 15, 2015. 

     5 members of the Ohio Chapter of National Association of Professional Organizers spent 6 hours with women in the Amethyst program helping to sort and purge clothes for the clothes closet.  Clothes kept in the closet are for the women every day and for business. The closet also has clothes for the children of the women.   The closet was just not set up to maximize the space.  The first step was to have Bob Tennant of Spectrum Handyman come and move a few shelving units all to one side of the space allowing more room for the clothes racks.  The next step of purging was needed so the women can view all the clothes available to them and their children.  There were so many that it was difficult to find the right size.  “The opportunity to help these women gain control of the area and understand how consistent purging will help maintain order was our goal,” said Julie Riber, member of NAPO Ohio Chapter.   Natalie Zimmerman with Amethyst said, “This was a learning moment where the women learn the value of organization and take ownership of the clothes closet.”

    Amethyst, Inc. is one of the only providers in the state to accept women and their children into long-term drug and alcohol treatment, and one of the few to provide intensive services for as long as the client needs them

    Clothes Closet Before 

    Clothes Closet After

    Clothes Closet After

  • 02 Aug 2015 2:24 PM | Julie Riber, CPO®

    Do you feel like you are swimming in papers when your kids go back to school?  You have school schedules with late day starts, early releases, teacher conferences, days off, sport schedules with practices and games.  All this can be overwhelming. 

    You can keep it organized and neat looking at the same time.  Whether you work full time outside the home or have the hardest job as stay at home mom, after school activities take up a good portion of your life. 

    Those first 2 weeks of school are critical with paperwork.  Teaching your children early that all the papers are to be taken out of their book bags as soon as they get home will help you avoid missing anything. 

    Gather all the items that need to be filled out each day and do it every evening after the kids are in bed.   If you fill them out as they come in you will be less likely to fall behind.    During the first couple weeks, most papers have a due date so make sure you do those that have more urgency first. 

    Have a specific spot where all papers from school are to go from your child.  Make sure the first few weeks of school you ask them about those papers so it will become a habit for them and you.  Developing those routines early will help them become better students and keep you organized and up to date with their activities. 

  • 01 Jul 2015 12:01 PM | Julie Riber, CPO®

    Happy 4th of July!  As we celebrate this mid-summer holiday, we reflect on the many freedoms we enjoy as Americans.  Independence takes on many different meanings depending on whom you talk with.  As a professional organizer, I would like to share one meaning of the word independence through the lens of my business.

    Often my clients reach out to me out of sheer frustration with their spaces.  It can be a home office, a kitchen or a basement.  Where the space is located doesn’t matter.  The frustration stems from an overwhelming amount of “stuff” that they have accumulated.  All of the emotions associated with this “stuff” can block one’s ability to take action and make decisions about the items.

    Our belongings serve us in many ways.  Some items are purely functional.  Other items nurture us by bringing beauty to our homes or inspiring us every day.  There often comes a tipping point when we have items in our homes or offices that do not serve us but rather they engulf us!  If you have had that sinking feeling when an item no longer brings you joy yet you feel compelled to keep it.  Don’t despair. 

    Get a new perspective on your belongings by slipping on a new set of glasses in which to objectively view your “stuff”.  If items are sitting in boxes unused, unloved and not needed…set them free.  That’s right, give them independence and a new purpose in life by donating or selling them so someone else may use and enjoy them.  View your belongings as objects that either add to your life or detract from your life.  I can guarantee that if you no longer want or use an item, there is someone out there who would be thrilled to liberate it from the back of your closet.  Many communities have freecycle sites that allow you to find a home for an item that no longer serves you.  Set it free.  By setting your items free, you are gaining more space.  With less items to store and clean and take care of, you are gaining more free time.  When viewing your items through an objective lens, you can empower yourself to make the decision to free an item.  Cheers to your independence from “stuff” that does not serve you well.


  • 01 Jun 2015 1:07 PM | Julie Riber, CPO®

    You have a mountain of books so what do you do with them?   There are many options and these are a few. 

    Discard:  Any books that have mold or mildew should be discarded. Old textbooks, old dictionaries, encyclopedias and most magazines should be recycled if possible. It is o.k. to discard them if the recycler will not accept them. Any books with missing pages should also be discarded.

    Donate or Giveaway:  Many charities and thrift stores accept book donations. This includes Goodwill, Volunteers of America, The Salvation Army, Library Thrift Stores (also known as Friends of the Library), and churches. These organizations will sell the books, usually for 25-cents to $2 each to raise money for their organization. If you want to receive a tax deduction for your donation, be sure you comply with the IRS rules for documenting charitable contributions. You may not deduct more than the Fair Market Value (FMV) of the books. Determining this value can be confusing and it is difficult to provide rock-solid evidence of their value.

    To avoid falling afoul of IRS regulations, I suggest a more creative approach. Sell as many of your books as you can to a book dealer and give the money you receive to the charity of your choice. This will allow you to raise money for ANY qualified charity, not just those that resell books. Furthermore, by giving a cash donation, you have a non-disputable record of your donation and you can fill out your tax forms with peace of mind.

    Most brick-and-mortar bookstores will require you to bring your books to their store in order for them to evaluate and purchase your collection. Most online booksellers such as Crestview Books (www.CrestviewBooks.com) will come to your home so that you don't have to load and tote heavy boxes of books. The offer from a reputable online dealer should be at least as much as that offered by a brick-and-mortar store. If you do not know the dealer, or if they are not recommended by a trusted friend or professional organizer, do not let them into your home unless you have someone with you.

    Using this sell-and-donate strategy is a win-win-win! You win because you have evidence of your donation. Your charity wins because they get money they can use right away without having to use valuable time cleaning, storing and sorting them for sale. The small business book dealer wins by obtaining needed inventory to keep the business running.

    Sell: Sell them yourself at a garage sale or online at a website such as eBay. For your garage sale you should price your books at or below what they would bring at a thrift store. Selling your books online will probably give you the largest amount of money but it is not quick and easy.

    If you have a book that you believe may be of significant value, contact an established dealer or auction house for an opinion before you let go of a real treasure!

  • 03 May 2015 9:47 AM | Julie Riber, CPO®


    Spring is a long-awaited season for gardeners.  Watching life return after the long winter brings joy and lots of work!  There are certain fundamental spring tasks for both gardeners and organizers - here are a few worth mentioning:

    • 1.      Weeding – although weeding is often a season-long task for the gardener, an early assault on weeds right now as they are emerging can pay dividends later.  If your garden contains perennials, you are noticing that they are making their appearance after months of dormancy – now is the time to weed around them, to clear our these undesirable invaders while your perennials are still small and you can work in close quarters with them.  Later on, as they are larger and in various stages of bloom, the weeds are more well-established and more difficult to eradicate, and at the same time, it can be more difficult to see into all the places within your perennial plant.  In the organizing landscape, the same principle applies – it is never too early to weed your own collections; clearing away those items that are undesirable while a space is not overloaded can prevent bigger problems down the road. This is also a year- long task.
    • 2.      Pruning – Certain plants/shrubs and especially roses benefit from an annual pruning process.  This is more than just cutting away dead wood from the previous growing season; this is about shaping your plants now, at the beginning of the growing season, to promote the plant’s healthy development and to provide maximum flowers.  I’ll focus on roses for the moment – by this time in the year they will be starting to leaf out – always a welcome sign that fragrant blooms are only a month or so away. But new shoots will develop all around the rose canes, and if left untended will lead to the new canes growing in a haphazard fashion. Could this also happen in your closet? Multiple canes might look great now when you are happy for any signs of new life, but proper pruning of these canes to promote healthy growth to the outside, away from the center of the bush is the pathway to long-term plant health and great blooms.  In the same spirit, prune your possessions now to promote future growth – get rid of items that don’t function anymore, or are outdated and unlikely to be worn or used again.  Clothes may be in fine shape, but if you haven’t worn them in a year, move them on through donation or discard to make room for new growth.  Have you held on to old toys and hobbies?  Phases of interest that didn’t catch your attention for very long?  Prune them out of your life now and plan for new directions. Buy something new and then donate or toss something old. Prune your belongings for quality.
    • 3.      Improve your soil – Many gardeners pass the long winter months reviewing spring catalogs, filled with wonderful pictures of new plants as well as old trusted favorites, all bringing hopes of a successful coming growing season.  When planting those new plants, make sure to take a few minutes to improve your soil in the area where you are planting.  Just digging a hole and plopping a new plant in the ground may work in the short run, but improving the soil with peat moss and new topsoil will pay dividends for years to come.  In your own home, as you break out your spring and summer clothes, add a few new accessories to add life and longevity to your wardrobe.  Perhaps just a refresh is needed instead of a buying spree. You’ll find having a few quality pieces rather than overwhelming quantity can often bring crispness to your look – as well as providing flexibility for next year’s new catalog offerings.

    Happy Gardening! Happy Organizing

  • 07 Apr 2015 6:27 AM | Julie Riber, CPO®

    1.   Find ways to declutter "responsibly" -- Look for shred days and e-recycling events so the items you are getting rid of can be either recycled or disposed of properly.

    2.  Look for cleaning products and/or items that can multi-task -- Rather than a different cleaner for each different task, look for multi-tasking items.  Simplify the clutter under your sink.  Machines like this steamer (http://www.amazon.com/Shark-Deluxe-Portable-Pocket-SC650/dp/B00HZCY26O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426884091&sr=8-1&keywords=portable+shark+steam+cleaner) can do a variety of household cleaning and only use steam.  Or these Norwex cloths can (http://www.norwex.biz/pws/home2999999/tabs/shop-online---top-10-products.aspx#) can be used wet or dry for dusting, cleaning and array of cleaning only using water.

    3.  Save time by scheduling a donation pick up -- Don't tote your donations all over town, see if there is a Goodwill, VOA, Kidney Foundation that have regular pick ups in your neighborhood or that can schedule a pick up for your items.  This also gives you a deadline and will hopefully motivate you to get stuff together before they come.


    4.  Remember the less you have, the less you have to clean -- Rather than storing away a bunch of winter clothes you didn't wear, or cleaning off bookshelves full of books you'll never read again, why not donate them now so you don't have to clean them next year.


    5. Make lists to track your progress – spring-cleaning the entire house can be overwhelming, so use lists to manage things. Have a list of all the rooms you want to organize, and then specific lists of what you want to do in each room. Here is an example of a kitchen list: pare down the pantry, clean out fridge and freezer, sort and organize all cabinets and drawers, wipe appliances and surfaces.


    6. Set up a time line: Decide what order your going to clean in, and set up a calendar with goals. Setting a deadline for yourself of when you’ll have each task done with help you stay on track and keep momentum. For example, have a chart with your list of tasks and a column for “estimated time” and “date/week” to schedule when you’ll do it.


    7. Create a system to maintain – spring-cleaning is very satisfying, but only if the changes you make stay that way! Make sure your hard work doesn’t go to waste: establish a home for all things, use clear bins and labels, and commit to a daily clutter clean sweep. This way you won’t have to repeat spring-cleaning every season!


    8. Just get started! – This may be the best advice of all: just get going! Spring-cleaning may seem like a daunting, too-big-for-you task, but if you follow these steps and pace yourself it is absolutely doable. You can start small, just start somewhere and get organized.

  • 01 Mar 2015 6:02 PM | Julie Riber, CPO®

    The clutter in your home or office affects more than just your belongings.  It robs you of your time, your mental health and your money.  But never fear, there are bright, shiny rewards in store for all your organizing hard work.

    Less Time Spent Looking for Items

    Have you ever actually timed how long it takes you to find your keys or cell phone on your way out the door?  Or your remote when you want to relax and watch TV?  Getting organized is more than matching boxes with labels.  It starts by giving items a home and returning those items to their homes when you’re finished using them.  In his book, When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box, John Ortberg states that American’s spend 16 minutes a day looking for lost things.  That equals nearly one year of your life!  It’s time to dedicate those 16 minutes to something you want to do like a hobby or spending time with your loved ones.

    Less Stress

    Are the piles on your kitchen counter or dining room table impacting more than just the space they take up?  Experts agree that clutter has a significant impact on your mental health.   A 2012 article by psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter in Psychology Todaydiscusses the mental cost of clutter.   Dr. Carter states stress occurs because the excess stimulus (clutter) causes your senses to work overtime.  Additionally, you may experience feelings of guilt or embarrassment when friends or family members are in your home, frustration finding items that you know you’ve purchased and general anxiety from piles or bins that indicate work to do or work that’s been avoided.  The good news is you can change this and you will feel a marked improvement in your mental health when you start the process of clearing the clutter and arranging your life.

    Less Money Spent on Replacements or Late Fees

    How much is your clutter costing you financially?  Whether it’s clutter on your schedule or physical items in your home, disorganization can take a toll on your bank account.  There’s the cost of late fees for missed payments, storage facilities to store things you don’t have room for or replacing items you know you own but cannot find.  Clutter can also cost you if you consistently run late for work or missing appointments because you cannot find things or need to work on managing your time.  Little by little, the more you can address your clutter and take back control of your house and finances, the less your disorganized lifestyle will cost you. 

    You may think you don’t have the time or money to get organized but do you really have the time or money not to?  Reward yourself today with less stress and more down time by sliding down your clutter rainbow into a pot of organizing gold.  If it’s too overwhelming to do yourself, check out the fantastic organizing leprechauns of NAPO Ohio who can help you on your way.

  • 01 Feb 2015 7:27 PM | Julie Riber, CPO®

    Everyone experiences and deals with stress in different ways.   If you are stressed all the time because you consistently feel like you are running and getting nowhere and you still have a hundred things to do at the end of the day, then you need some time management.  Stress may affect behaviors and factors that increase heart disease risk: high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, smoking, physical inactivity and overeating according to Ernesto L. Schiffrin, M.D., Ph.D., physician-in-chief at Sir Mortimer B. Davis-Jewish General Hospital, and professor and vice chair of research for the Department of Medicine at McGill University in Montreal.   Time management can reduce stress and in return your heart will thank you. 

    The definition of time management is the analysis of how working or daily hours are spent and the prioritization of tasks in order to maximize personal efficiency.   Take time each week to schedule your week and leave time each day for surprise changes because we know they happen frequently.  If your work week is Monday-Friday, take some time on Saturday or Sunday to plan the week.  Schedule the activities you complete daily such as wake time, bedtime, dinner, lunch, and work.  Once you have your consistent daily activities, schedule those activities that have already been scheduled for the week.  As you look at your week, note the days you have some time because those times might be what you will need for the emergencies that arise.  As far as your heart, schedule time for yourself and remember exercise as this will help reduce your stress.   

    For more information contact julie@transformareorganizing.com

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