Confessions of a Professional Organizer: Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 4:21 pm on Monday, January 14, 2013

Three days ago, I confessed that I had a HUGE bin of clutter.  Not large.  HUGE.


Scary, huh?

It was even scarier when I opened it.

Now can you understand why I’ve been avoiding it?

The good news was that this houses all the kids’ memorabilia—there aren’t more piles squirreled away.  It was pretty full so I was forced to make sorting the memorabilia a priority because starting a second bin was not an option.   Just this one bin drained me whenever I saw it.  It just felt like a huge emotionally heavy task I had to deal with.  And I was never quite sure how I wanted to deal with it, so I just kept collecting sweet thing from the kids.

With a sick kid home Thursday and an expected stretch of time available I faced this monster.  And I’m happy to say that 3 days later.  It is done!  I’m also happy to say, that while it took me 3 days, it really only took 5-6 hours to do.  It just took me 3 days to find 6 hours in which the kids were content so I could focus on it!

So here’s what I did….

First I came up with a plan.  I loved this idea I had found from Pinterest.

With a sick kid home, I couldn’t run out a get all the recommended supplies- the pretty matching hanging files, the manilla folders, or the printable file tabs/stickers.  Instead, I made do with what I had.  I’m not a huge fan of putting manilla folders inside hanging folders.  It just gets too bulky.  (I would rather get to hang on to an extra special keepsake or 2!).  So I printed the labels using heavy photo paper and used my paper cutter to cut them down to size to use them in my file tabs.   I also skipped the pretty cover sheet for the school photos.  Maybe I’ll add that someday, but right now photos were not my concern.

Next, I did a rough sort, sorting the keepsakes by child and pitching duplicates and less meaningful memorabilia as I went.  I was happy to discover that I had actually had a great deal of the papers organized in folders and boxes by child and some by grade.  This made made sorting pretty easy.  After 30 minutes I was finished!  My 10 year old and my 8 year old each had a laundry basket full of papers.  My 5 year old and 3 year old each had a small box.

Here’s what it looked like after 30 minutes:

Using the files I created from the Pinterest link above, I filed the papers by grade.  The file tabs began with pre-K, so I made each child a label with their name and wrote the ages 0-4 so I had a place for their early drawings and early letters.  Sometimes it was hard to remember when something was made.  The kids were helpful at times and other times I just followed my gut.  Somethings may be off by a year.  (Perfectionist that I am, it was hard to guesstimate at first, but as I saw myself making progress it got easier.  My goal was to be able to find the treasures, not to have everything in chronological order!)

I kept most of my favorites…. handprints, journals, and “firsts”.   For other papers that just captured their personalities or were bulky I took pictures of them with my phone and saved them to the app, Artkive .  The app allows you to save the images to the cloud (for free) or you can purchase them in a book format.  It organizes the pictures by child and by grade.  And it’s much faster than traditional scanning.

In about 3 hours, I had filed and Artkived all the papers of 3 of my children.  It felt fantastic.  But those kids were home with me that day and nd needed my attention.  So I had to put my daughter’s papers aside.

It took a couple days, but I got back to the project today.  Today’s task was easier because I already had a plan of attack.  However, it was harder because my daughter loves to draw and to write so there was so much more to sort through.   The Justin Beiber years resulted in notebooks full of songs she wrote.  How can I part with that?  (I didn’t).

Due to some time constraints, I focused today on purging the pile, scanning the bulky items, and filing the rest.   Her files are a bit thicker, but I now can grab one at a time, review them, and scan more when I have more time.

After about 5- 6 hours of hand-on time, the contents of my huge scary bin now fit in 1 file cabinet drawer, and in a huge box of recycling.  I may purge more, but right now I have 26 years (10 + 8 + 5+ 3)  of my kids memorabilia housed in just one file drawer and my phone.  I’m content for now!

Happy Organizing!


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!

Revamping your New Year’s resolutions

Filed under: Uncategorized — Colleen at 8:21 pm on Tuesday, January 8, 2013

We are 8 days into the New Year!  How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions?

Has the dust even settled enough from the Holidays to even think about resolutions?

Getting more organized is a popular resolution.    But it is also lofty.  How does one get “organized” or “more organized”.  When do you know that you’ve actually met your goal?

A good resolution, like any goal, needs to be measurable.  Take some time to think about areas of your life that you want to be more organized.  Reflect on why it is important to you.  How does disorder impact your life?  Are you late for work?  Are you unable to entertain or to allow your kids to have friends over?  Do you feel stressed in your environment and are taking it out on others?  Does it impact your ability to focus and accomplish your goals?  Is it preventing you from making positive changes in your life?

Now that you know your motivation, think of some specific, measurable goals that you help you achieve your vision for a simplified life.

Here are some suggestions:

1.  Start a load of wash everyday when I make the coffee.

2.  Do the dishes every night before bed.

3.  Put the laundry away as soon as it is folded.

4.  File papers once a week.

5.  Purge cluttered areas for 15 minutes a day.

6.  Get rid of 2 items in your home every time you purchase 1 new item.

Focus on just one or two measurable goals and as they become part of your new habit, you can add more.  (But first celebrate that you ARE getting more organized!)

Wishing you much success in your organizing goals in 2013!


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.