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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 Mar 2016 4:47 PM | Julie Riber, CPO®

    Recently, I worked with an elderly couple who had decades of things to clean out of their large home so they could move into a small apartment in a retirement village.  The couple had been married for 40+ years and had lived in several houses with their children and random pets.  Years ago they had retired and focused on enjoying their lives, traveling and nurturing relationships with friends and family.  They kept accumulating things without thinking much about how they were going to deal with it when the time came to downsize.  The wife, Mary, in an attempt to purge, had a few yard sales here and there but she mostly left her husband’s things out of it.   

    I received the call two short months before they were to move - a snug time frame by anyone’s standards, but even more so when dealing with a lifetime of things to go through, a major change in the size of their home, and more than their share of physical ailments.  Ed had a couple hard falls recently, as had Mary.  In addition, they suffered from other ‘normal’ ailments due to plain-old aging, including arthritis, memory loss, poor eyesight, and hearing difficulties.  The process was by nature going to be slow and difficult and it was my job to make it quick and easy. 

    In addition to time and physical restraints, I needed to assist the couple with uncovering what they wanted to take with them to their new home.  Ed was a book and records lover and Mary had memoirs, heirlooms and keepsakes that needed gone through.  The closest family member was amazing throughout the process, but she was an hour and a half away and could only come about once a month. Their other two sons, many miles away with full lives of their own, were not able to be of much assistance, nor did they want to absorb many of their parents’ treasures.   

    In the end, I’m proud to say that the job got done, but not without some major consequences.  Most of the items in the house had to be donated, a small percentage of the items were sold, and the garbage, recycling, and shredding bins filled up over and over and over again.  Ed was heartbroken through the process because of not being able to physically help more and because of having to donate most of his treasured books, records, and other items that he thought would be worth something when the time came.  Additionally, shortly after the move, they both ended up hospitalized.  This was not what either of them wanted in terms of the ending to so many happy years in their old house, or the beginning of a new life in their lovely new retirement village. 

    As much as I loved working with this couple, I was struck daily with the lesson - DO IT WHEN YOU CAN! 

    Now, that’s easy to say and yes, easy for me to do, but I get that it might not be for others.  The point is that the physical and emotional strain is much less if you do it bit by bit.  The whole ‘ripping a Band-Aid off quickly’ thing doesn’t work as well with organizing.  The important thing to always keep in mind, then, is that you can break it down into small, non-conventional chunks in whatever way suits you.  

    Here are some suggestions of the tiniest things that mostly anyone can do in less than 5 minutes: 

    • One drawer (desk, kitchen, garage, dresser, etc.)
    • One file folder in a filing cabinet
    • One shelf (kitchen, bookshelf, etc.)
    • Fill one bag of stuff from your car and make a decision on those items
    • Choose three pair of shoes and decide if you want them, where to put them, etc.
    • One foot of clothing hanging in your closet (get out your measuring tape - why not?)
    • Set a timer for four minutes and see what you can get done.  When the timer goes off, stop and treat yourself. 

    Come up with your own parameters and encourage those sharing your space to do the same - whatever you need to do to keep moving forward.  I’m currently working with another elderly woman and after our first session, her homework from me was to go through TWO pieces of paper daily.  That’s it - TWO.  She did it and was proud of her progress.

    Think outside of the box and allow yourself to do whatever you are capable of.  Rome was not built in a day, and Caesar did not clean out his throne room in a day, either.  


  • 01 Feb 2016 4:23 PM | Julie Riber, CPO®

    When helping clients sort and purge, organizers often come across a number of items clients have that they do not know they have such as shopping bags and delivery boxes stuffed with purchases the client may not remember acquiring.  Sometimes clients have items they intended to return but have not yet found the time to do so.  Many clients have gifts they purchased with someone particular in mind for a birthday or a holiday and that gift is hidden under the piles.  Organizing is often as much about learning to control the obtaining as well as parting with items.

    Many times the acquisition of things is more of a thrill than the item itself for people that struggle with disorganization.  People are drawn to an item priced at clearance 80% off, or the most clever hand mixer they have ever seen (even though they already own a hand, stand and stick mixer).  Many decide to shop for new clothes for a night out even though they already have a closet full.  Many clients see shopping as a stress relief or leisure activity, which is perfectly okay until they feel it is interfering with the life they want to lead or their vision of an organized home.

    Imposing a designated waiting period like 24 or 48 hours before making purchases large or small can help dilute the desire to acquire and that instant gratification they need.  People with acquisition issues often find when they walk away from an item for a period of time, the want of that item diminishes.  That time away from the item can help the person evaluate their need versus their want. 

    Others struggle with impulse control as part of their executive function in the brain.  In these cases, professional organizers work in tangent with counselors to develop an action plan to address the client’s issues with shopping and/or acquisition. The plan may include various therapy exercises and in some cases medication which helps the client with impulse control. 

    Regardless of how or why people have developed issues with purchasing or acquiring items, there are many professionals such as professional organizers and therapists who can help re-train those habits and rituals.  The professionals with National Association of Professional Organizers are a great jumping off point for those looking to work on their shopping habits and bring order to items in their home.

    Christy Lingo, Professional Organizer, Simple Solutions Design  

  • 05 Jan 2016 3:26 PM | Julie Riber, CPO®

    Welcome to a new year, a fresh page, a new start! Do you anticipate with excitement the adventures of a new year…or do you dread a rerun of past failures and disappointments? Take advantage of this new year by resolving to organize your life.

    What does it mean to resolve? According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, it means:

    • ·        “to deal with successfully”
    • ·        “to reach a firm decision about”

    I like the optimistic spirit of those definitions! When I resolve, I make a conscious choice. I do not just wait to see what will happen in my life. I do not let my emotions distract me from the important goals of my life. I choose to decide what I want my life to look like. For example,

    • ·        If I resolve to have a clean kitchen, I wash the dishes every night.
    • ·        If I resolve to pay my bills on time, I schedule a bill paying time every Monday.
    • ·        If I resolve to have less clutter, I put the newspaper in the recycle bin each night.
    • ·        If I resolve to get up earlier, I go to bed at a consistent time each night.
    • ·        If I resolve to get out of debt, I only use cash when I am shopping.
    • ·        If I resolve to have a clean house, I do one household chore every day.
    • ·        If I resolve to have a tidy closet, I donate clothes I don’t like or don’t wear.

    Resolutions without specific actions are useless. Resolutions with actions are powerful!

    It is possible to make too many resolutions! It is much better to focus on just one thing at a time. Give yourself 4 to 6 weeks to consistently practice that one thing. When you focus, you finish! Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, says it this way:

    “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”

    Change just one habit. Do it today. Then do it tomorrow. Keep repeating until it becomes a new part of your daily routine. If you mess up one day, just start again the next day. In a recent newsletter, NAPO member Donna Smallin shared this appropriate quote from John Maxwell:

    “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.

     The secret to success is found in your daily routine.”

    So start small, but dream big! Envision your success, one day at a time.

    Resolve to have an organized 2016!

    Check out the NAPO-OH directory to find a professional organizer near you.

  • 02 Dec 2015 4:03 PM | Julie Riber, CPO®

    Anyone who has ever faced a closet full of out-of-season or too-small clothes, a playroom full of unused kids’ toys, or a basement full of unwanted belongings knows that purging can be a frustrating and exhausting job. It’s overwhelming to make decisions about so much stuff!

    What happens when we re-think the job at hand? Instead of seeing your clean-up efforts as an irritating and time consuming job, think of those clothes, toys and random belongings as gifts or work opportunities for others who are less fortunate.

    Consider these options:

    Professional clothing, shoes and work appropriate accessories (such as briefcases, planners, jewelry, etc.) can help build confidence and encourage individuals seek to reenter the workforce.

    Toys that are gently used, cleaned, and include all their parts can help a struggling family enjoy a bountiful holiday season.

    Your donated electronic equipment (working or not) can provide employment for disabled workers at Goodwill Industries facilities across the country.

    The home décor items that you are tired of, may be the perfect low-priced gift for someone’s dear friend, co-worker or relative.

    What do you need to get rid of? Who can benefit from these items?

    One year, our family rounded up many years’ worth of leftover craft supplies … really, just a bit of this and that!  With cute recycled baskets and containers, cello wrap and ribbon, we created 10 “Craft Buckets” and donated them to a toy drive that benefits struggling families in our community. Because I have 4 daughters who loved to craft when they were younger, I know that 10 little girls were very happy and creative that Christmas! It made me happy, too … knowing that all those odds-and-ends would be put to good use!

    During this season of giving, consider your unwanted clothing, electronics, toys and décor … how can your purged items be a gift to someone in your community?   

  • 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!

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