Confessions of a Professional Organizer: Part 1

Filed under: Articles,Office,Uncategorized — Colleen at 9:25 am on Thursday, January 10, 2013

I’ve got a secret.  And it’s hiding in this LARGE bin.

As a professional organizer, I’m an advocate of minimizing clutter, of going through your papers, of making everything you own orderly so that you can put your hands on it right when you need it.

But this bin demonstrates that I, too, avoid certain projects.

Housed inside this huge tub is all the memorabilia I have saved from my kids.   Artwork from school.  Performance booklets.  Drawings.  Their first attempts at writing.  Certificates. Etc, etc, etc.   I think I keep telling myself, “One bin for 4 kids, that’s not too bad!”.  However, what really bugs me about the bin is that it houses all the things that I (at one point or another) thought was priceless.  Is this the way to store it?  All thrown in one bin?  Not even organized by child? (gasp)  Or by year? (double gasp)

I’ve been avoiding the task for a couple reasons.  The primary reason is that I’m a perfectionist.  You know, that “all or none” mentality.  “If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right!”.  And so it sits.  The emotional element also makes it challenging.   My babies (10, 8, 5, and 3) are growing up.  Yes, they are still young, but I know that looking at what my 10 year old made at age 3, will be a reminder at how fast my 3 year old will be 10!

So today is the day.  I’m embracing the attitude “Good and done is better than none! ” Today, I will confront this bin.  And I’ll post my progress as I go!

To aide in making this project successful, I’ve started by doing my normal morning routine, straightening the first floor.  I know that I will need a calm space to take breaks so I have a nice area to escape to that won’t distract me when I take breaks.   I’ve also set up a work space in my basement so I can have a flat surface to work on and so that I can be near my kids as they play.   I’ve set up oldest child who is home sick today, with TV, snacks, and drinks.

Oh, and I’ve got the coffee going!

Here goes nothing!

Conquering the paper monster…my progress

Filed under: Articles,Office,Uncategorized — Colleen at 5:05 pm on Monday, January 7, 2013

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found it hard to get started on this month’s mission. I’ve been on a different mission, “putting away Christmas”, purging some of my decorations, packing them up, and using the found space to rearrange my home.

As I rearrange things, I’ve been sorting and purging. I’ve really caught the organizing bug! (Yes, I know I’m a professional organizer, but I don’t always have the same excitement or energy to organize MY home as I do with a fresh space such as YOURS!)

Putting away the holiday decor and rearranging and getting my 4 kiddos back to the normal routine has occupied my time. However, today I did it. I started to slay the paper monster.

Papers took the back burner while Santa was burning the midnight oil, so today I pulled out my “active” papers and purged. There’s more I want to do, but my workspace is again clear. And that in itself is energizing me to get started on the next project!

I ended up digitalizing a lot of my important papers. I’ve been using Genius Scan on my IPhone for about a year now. With the snap of a button, it scans your papers. It really is a fantastic app. I use in a lot for my business. But now I’m starting to use it more to manage my household.

With 4 young kids, important papers tend to walk off. So today I quickly scanned those important documents. I saved each document by category or by child (whichever made the most sense). Now in each of my kid virtual files I have their class phone lists and activity schedules. Now as long as I have my phone (or access to a computer as the paid version allows you to save the information on cloud services such as Dropbox), I have access to all the key details of our crazy schedule as as family of 6.

I’ll be keeping the paper versions in the house for the kids to reference, but now if they walk off it will not inconvenience me.

I think that makes me the victor in Round 1 of Colleen vs. the Paper Monster.

As seen in Central Penn Parent Magazine!

Filed under: Articles,Uncategorized — Colleen at 2:36 pm on Saturday, January 5, 2013

I’m thrilled to be included in the month’s issues of Central Penn Parent Magazine.   January is a great time to get more organizing, so be sure to check it out!

Here’s the link to read more organizing tips from me and other experts.  It’s on pages 28-29.

Day 10: The 12 Days of Thanksgiving

Filed under: Articles,Holidays — Colleen at 7:36 am on Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Today we’re cleaning and clearing our bedrooms.  See how many donation you can come up with!

Here are organizing tips for this project.

If you are cooking today, remember to freeze a dish for December!

Happy Organizing!


Day 9: The 12 Days of Thanksgiving

Filed under: Articles,Holidays — Colleen at 3:41 am on Sunday, November 18, 2012

Prep the Outdoors

Today we are getting the outdoors ready for the holidays.

Step 1: Prioritize what outdoor decorations you want to use this year.
Step 2: Get out your outdoor decor and take an inventory of what you have. Untangle and test your lights. Make a list of what you need.
Step 3: Decorate. Ok, it may feel early because we haven’t celebrated Thanksgiving yet. However, you could put up the lights before it gets colder out and just not turn them on until you are ready to acknowledge the holidays. I’m planning on focusing on the lights and just staging my bows, garlands, and wreaths, so I can easily put them up when I get inspired post-Thanksgiving.
Step 4: Clean up your yard. If you haven’t put away your patio furniture or other season items, now is a good time to do it. Spend a little time giving your yard any attention it needs. Clean up your porches and entries to you home.

Don’t forget to fill a bag to donate and make a dish for your freezer!

Happy Organizing!


Day 7: The 12 Days of Thanksgiving

Filed under: Articles,Holidays,Uncategorized — Colleen at 8:26 am on Saturday, November 17, 2012

Today we are getting ready for the holidays by making a gift wrapping station.

Gather all your holiday wrapping paper.   Inventory your supplies.  Do you have gift bags, tissue paper, wrapping paper, gift tags, scissors,  tape, and an assortment of boxes?  If not, make a list of what you need.  (And don’t forget the list when we do our shopping day tomorrow!)

Decide where a good place would be to wrap your gifts.  If you have a spare bedroom, you may be able to set up a temporary table to wrap gifts.  If you are short on space, consider using an under the bed storage bin to house all your supplies.  You can then easily pull it all out when you need it.  If you have room under a couch, you may also be able to slide your supplies under there.

Don’t forget that kids remember wrapping paper!  If there are believers in your house, be sure to have a different wrapping paper for Santa to use.  And find a good hiding place!

Don’t forget to fill a bag for donations today and freeze a meal if you are cooking!

Happy Organizing!


Day 8: The 12 Days of Thanksgiving

Filed under: Articles,Holidays — Colleen at 2:39 am on Saturday, November 17, 2012

Shopping Day

You’ve made your list of who you’re buying for this year. Now it’s time to brainstorm some ideas of what to get them and start shopping!

I completed this task on Monday. My husband doesn’t have to work on Veteran’s Day, but my kids have school. So we’ve made it our tradition to do Santa’s shopping that day. I tried the “Better Christmas List” app that I shared earlier in the week, and our shopping has never gone so smoothly. All of the money we spent was easily tracked and organized!

Another app I love is Amazon Price check. If you aren’t sure if an item is a good price, you just scan the barcode and it gives you the item’s prices at other retailers. I have an Amazon Prime account which gives me free shipping on most items at Amazon, so whenever I find an item on my list that is cheaper at Amazon, I just put it in my virtual cart.

While you are out shopping, pick up a couple generic gifts to keep on hand in case you forgot to add someone to your list or if you need a last minute hostess gift.

Have fun! And enjoy that there should be ample parking and minimal lines. Think of all the time and stress you are saving yourself!

Happy Organizing!


Day 2: The 12 Days of Thanksgiving

Filed under: Articles,Holidays — Colleen at 8:17 am on Monday, November 12, 2012

If you are just joining us, read the overview here.

Part of the fun of the holiday season is the slew of mail you receive from near and far. I love receiving Christmas cards! And I also like to send them….that is, once they are sent! I do not enjoy the process of gathering the addresses.

Each year I plan on updating my mail merge file so I can just click “print” and have sheets of mailing labels ready to go. But each year, this task gets placed on the back burner as the days approaching Christmas get more and more hectic. Letters get sent out piecemeal, and I inevitably get confused as to whom I’ve sent out cards!

Not this year.

Today’s task is to gather your addresses now! Whether you are simply updating your address book with all those addresses you’ve been clipping from the letters received throughout the year(s), or updating a computer file so you can easily print labels, today’s the day to do it!

I just discovered a great app from Avery that allows you to take the addresses from your IPhone contacts and making mailing labels. It stores your project on the cloud, so you don’t need an air printer to print it. After saving your project, just log onto Avery’s website and you can open your project and print. How easy is that? The bonus is that my IPhone contacts will now be updated today too!

Don’t forget to fill and bag and the freezer! Find a bag of items to bless someone else with this Thanksgiving. And if you cook today, double a dish to enjoy in the hectic month of December.

Post your progress at

I’ll post the Avery app on my Pinterest board!

Happy Organizing!

(photo courtesy of

Day 1: The 12 Days of Thanksgiving

Filed under: Articles,Holidays — Colleen at 10:40 am on Sunday, November 11, 2012

Welcome to the 12 Days of Thanksgiving.  If you are just joining us, be sure to read The 12 Days of Thanksgiving overview.

Today we have 4 goals:

1.  Reflect on our vision for the holidays.

2.  Begin to create your December calendar or Advent calender.

3.  Purge the toys in your home! (Or if you don’t have kids, purge a problem area! )

4.  Fill a bag & fill the freezer!

1.  Your Vision

Now is the perfect time to reflect on your vision for your holiday season before you get pulled into the the madness.  Decide now what is important to you and what activities you want to avoid.  If you decide to make some changes in your traditions, now is the time to have these discussions with your family.

Here are some great links to help you get started.

Holiday Values Worksheet Complete this worksheet to help you bring the the season into focus.

Simplify the Holidays This free publication is from the Center for a New American Dream.  It has fantastic ideas to help you shift from a consumerist holiday to a more meaningful one.

2.  December Calendar/Advent Calendar

Now that you’ve reflected on the holiday, start making a list of what you love about the the holiday season.  Start by answering the question “It’s not Christmas (or insert holiday that you celebrate) without…”   The answers are usually simple:  baking, drinking hot chocolate, driving to see Christmas lights, watching a Christmas movie, listening to Christmas music.  If you have children, list all the things you want them to remember about the holiday and the things you want to experience.  Include parties and activities you already plan on attending. You’ll want to come up with 25 of them.  Keep a running list during the next 12 days.  On the last day, we’ll make an Advent Calendar (or you can call it a December Calendar, if you don’t celebrate Christmas), assigning each activity to a specific day.  I’ve been doing this with my kids the last several years and this is their FAVORITE family tradition.  Every day they come downstairs and pick that days envelope to find out what activity we’ll be doing that day.    I have found that the Advent Calender is an excellent time management tool.  You get to enter Christmas week knowing that your holiday season was much richer than the hustle and bustle (and stress!) of shopping and spending!  Making memories and traditions is priceless!  If you don’t have children, just list those things that YOU love about the holidays so that you can be sure to take the time to enjoy the simple, joyful activities of the season.

Here’s some inspiration:  Click here

My Advent calendar looks like this:

Each activity is in an envelope that I’ve placed in a “wreath” around a mirror.

Toy Purge

Out with the old to make room for the new!  Spend some time today purging the toys in your home.  If you don’t have kids, purge your hobby area, your “collections”, or another area that needs help.

Here are some past post to help inspire you!

Sort Your Games and Toys!

Pre-Holiday Decluttering Tips: Children’s Toys

Fill a bag and Fill your Freezer

1.  If you were successful with your toy purge, you should have at least 1 bag of donations!  Post a picture or share your progress on

2.  If you are cooking dinner tonight, double one of your dishes and send it to your freezer so you can have an easy meal in December!

Happy Organizing!

I’ll be adding some of these links to a Pinterest board called SMF 12 Days of Thanksgiving.  I included a weekly planner to help you figure out when you can squeeze in some organizing time!  Check it out!


The 12 Days of Thanksgiving

Filed under: Articles,Holidays — Colleen at 12:22 am on Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s a time for families to gather, share great food, and count their blessings. There are very few obligations or expectations attached to the day. It’s simple. Eat. Relax. Enjoy each other.

Christmas, however, is not so simple. Gifts must be bought and paid for. Cards must be addressed and mailed. And every group that you are a part of tends to have a party….which requires more gifts to be bought or side dishes to be prepared. Did you ever pause in the chaos and ask yourself “Am I enjoying all of this?”

What if it could be simpler?

This year I am asking my readers to participate in the “12 Days of Thanksgiving” challenge. In the next 12 days, we will reflect on what is important for your holiday season. We will prioritize organizing projects in our homes. Will will tackle some of the dreaded holiday tasks (if you even choose to do them at all this year!). We will try to weed out the “should’s” and the “ought’s” of the season, and shape our holidays into what is truly important to us.

Each day I will post a task to complete. Try to devote 1-2 hours a day to the task. Yes, that may mean less TV time, less Facebook time, or less sleep. It is hard to find extra time when your schedule may already be full. I encourage you to delegate some of the tasks to your family members. The next 12 days may feel a bit like a marathon, but imagine how good your Thanksgiving dinner is going to taste knowing that hard work of Christmas is already done!

As part of the Thanksgiving challenge, I want each of you to reflect n the abundance of STUFF in your lives. We will be spending some of our time clearing our clutter and sharing our abundance with others. Each day, you will be asked to gather one bag of items for donation so that by the end of the challenge, you should have 12 bags leaving your home!

I also suggest that each time you cook dinner during these 12 days, that you double it and throw a meal in the freezer, so your freezer is stocked with some easy meals to make December even easier!

Make a commitment to do this challenge for yourself. Strive to complete each challenge. However, try to avoid an “all or none” approach. If you only have 15 minutes one day, just do 1 5 minutes. Usually the hardest part of a dreaded task is getting started! I would a rather you make a dent in your projects than make no progress at all!

I ask that you share you accomplishments and your challenges on my Facebook page ( so that you can motive and support each other. Post pictures, share what you found to donate, or share tips that helped you!

Here’s a sneak peak at what we will be doing:

November 10: Start planning December Calendar & purge toys
November 11: Gather your addresses
November 12: Create your gift lists
November 13: Clean & Clear your living spaces
November 14: Purge clothes
November 15: Clean & Clear your kitchen
November 16: Create a gift wrapping station
November 17: Shop!
November 18: Prep the outdoors!
November 19: Clean & Clear your bedrooms
November 20: Plan your holiday menus and pull your recipes
November 21: Clean & Clear your bathrooms and finish your December calendar
November 22: Eat, Relax, Enjoy each other!

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