Friday, December 05, 2008

Thrift Store Shopping

As the economy takes a spin around the drain, the idea of shopping at a thrift store might seem more appealing. I love the bargain hunting aspect of it and I rarely spend more than $20 when I visit one. (Unless I'm in there for furniture.) Thrift-store shopping is GREEN, too. Always has been!

As far as organizing goes--they are hit and miss for organizing items. They usually have a great selection of baskets and I always peruse that section for just the "right size" I need to contain something or use as a waste basket. And of course, these baskets are going to be between 50 cents and a couple dollars, so you will save scads of money as opposed to buying them new at an import or craft store. Vases are also wonderful organizing tools (and in plentiful supply). I use a little one with a wide mouth to hold my hair clips on my bathroom counter. Old plastic pitchers make great cat/dog food containers/pourers. Black plastic office stacking trays can usually be found for 25 cents or so.

A few caveats:

All will take cash, of course. Some take checks, others do not. Some take credit cards, others do not. Some are closed on Sundays. Many close early in the day or by 5 pm. (Since they are often staffed by volunteers, these folks are pretty good at shooing you out at closing time and locking those doors!) Worth it to call ahead if you plan to do any shopping on Sunday. Some might have "Half off days" each month or "Senior Discount Day" of the week.

They all tend to specialize in some areas. Some have a ton of furniture, others none. Some are well kept and well-lighted with clean items, others are quite dark and dirty. (Still might be some great bargains if you don't mind cleaning things.)

And of course their selections change daily.

And try this rule on for size...only shop in one if you are also bringing in at least one bag of stuff from your own house!

Resist buying stuff just because it is a great bargain. Know how you will use it and where it will go before you buy it. Clutter is still clutter whether you paid an arm and a leg or just a pinky!

Here is an annotated list of the stores I am familiar with. These are my own opinions and I'm sorry if I offend anybody! There are many more stores in the Sonoma County area, I just haven't been to all of them! (No, really, I haven't!)

Rohnert Park

The first two are on the frontage just west of the freeway.

Salvation Army-5701 Redwood Dr, (800) 728-7825
Update 5/09--Alas, this wonderful store is no more! One of my favorites–I can't imagine why they closed it.

St. Vincent De Paul Thrift Store
5671 Redwood Dr, Rohnert Park, CA 94928 (707) 584-1579
This one is not as nicely kept as the Salvation Army store. Darker, more "dank." They are just a couple of blocks from each other. Usually has some furniture. Worth a look, but Salvation Army is way better.

Goodwill Industries
4 Padre Pkwy, Rohnert Park, CA 94928 Map
This is over off Commerce by Rohnert Park Expressway. (East of the freeway)
Another big store. Usually some big furniture. Their little stuff is usually overpriced, but I've never really paid attention to the prices on the furniture. The store is not as "nice" but not dark and dreary either.

Hospice Foundation & VNA Thrift Store
6350 Commerce Blvd, Rohnert Park, CA 94928 Map * (707) 588-8015
Tiny little store next to Safeway. Not usually big furniture. Maybe one piece at a time. Some books.


Santa Rosa

Goodwill Industries of The Redwood Empire, Outlet store
651 Yolanda Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95404
This was a really yucky place the last time I was there. Major donation site. Very dirty and the "dregs" of stuff, I thought.

Goodwill Stores,
680 Sebastopol Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95407
This is way south in the "Roseland Area." In a distressed neighborhood, but this store is new, big, well-organized and well-kept. Great selection of clothes and household items. Furniture was so-so when I was there. But that might change day to day.

Forgotten Felines of Sonoma County
1701 Piner Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95403* (707) 570-2590
Nice medium sized store. Not usually much furniture (sometimes now and then). Great glassware and household. OK for clothes. Lots of books.

The Salvation Army
1050 3rd St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404 * (707) 544-6766 (near Brookwood and Third)
Medium to large size store. The parking lot is a nightmare to get in and out of. Lots of clothes, lots of glassware. Usually some furniture. A few books, but not well organized. Fairly clean and well-kept.

V NA & Hospice Foundation Thrift Store
748 Gravenstein Ave, Sebastopol, CA 95472 * (707) 824-4712
"My" thrift store! Some furniture. Well kept, well organized. Nice glassware (they clean it), clothes. Lots of books. They take checks and charge cards. Open on Sunday.

Take my own advice

I guess I should take my own advice and "Calendar in" my writing on this blog! I can't believe two months have gone by since my last post. No excuses. Although I'm sure I could come up with many!

Read the next post for some ideas on thrift store shopping in the Santa Rosa/Rohnert Park area.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Calendar in your self-care

I'm a part of a small coaching group--we are all in a class together and we practice on one another. Sometimes, even though it's your business to help people find solutions, the same solutions can work for you, too.

I was having trouble finding time to relax and just let my mind be creative. From past experience, I know that my "bath time" is my special time to do just that. Just a long hot soak, some candles and maybe some chocolate.

My coaching buddy made a simple remark--"Can you put that in your calendar?"

Uh, yes. I can. And I did.

As part of my meal-planning/grocery shopping system, I write down on the calendar what we are having for dinner each night--based in part on how busy the day is and how late the DH works.

Well, there it was yesterday! A very, very busy day ending with my own DD's bath and hairwashing and I'd almost forgotten that it was my "bath night." (Rest assured, I do take showers on the other days!)

As I checked to see what I had planned for dinner (actually dinner out at Taco Bell since the day was a late one), I saw "BATH."

Thank goodness! I remembered why it was so important to get the DD to bed on time that night.

If I hadn't written it down, I may have forgotten my original intention and "wasted" all that time watching TV or laboring on the computer.

Instead, I got my special self-care time. And some cookies and hot chocolate, too.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Hoarding and Cluttering Conference October 29 in SF


Date: Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Time: 9am-4pm
Location: The Westin San Francisco Market Street Hotel, 50 Third Street @ Market
Keynote Speaker: David Tolin, Ph.D.

Click here to see more information or copy and paste this address:

Compulsive hoarding and cluttering refers to the acquisition of and failure to discard a large number of possessions, which appear to be useless or of limited value, in an attempt to decrease stress and anxiety. This serious and prevalent problem can lead to eviction and homelessness. It is often a feature of several psychiatric disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder and major depression, and can be caused or aggravated by problems associated with increasing age or physical disabilities.

NOTE: I have attended this incredible conference in the past. It is open to anyone who is affected by these issues: persons with compulsive hoarding issues, friends and family members, professional organizers, therapists, social workers, health professionals, state and county service providers, etc.

Dr. David Tolin is one of the three co-authors of "Buried in Treasures-Help for Compulsive Hoarding and Acquiring" (See my 'Carousel of Books' below to order them from Amazon) and was the psychologist seen on the two-part Oprah Winfrey show helping the woman whose large house was full of stuff.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

ADHD Awareness Week

So, I've just become aware that this is ADHD Awareness Week!

You can attend a "virtual" conference, set for September 22-24 (next week). You still pay a conference fee, but you can attend via phone or listen to MP3 recordings of it! Since it's right before the NSGCD conference, I'm thinking about "attending" by downloading the recordings and listening to them later while I exercise. One of the many wonders I've discovered since joining the 21st Century and using an iPod. (Really, if I can do it, anyone can! I'm 47 and certainly not a techno geek. I typed--yes I said typed my college papers on a typewriter.)

Anyway, it's only $247 to attend (and there are a number of sessions, so by listening to the recordings, you can hear all of them.) If you want a CD as well as written and printed transcripts (they are covering all the modality bases), it's $100 more.

I encourage you all to learn about ADHD if you haven't already. And even if you don't attend this conference, try picking up a copy of "ADDitude" magazine--I saw it at Barnes and Noble yesterday, or looking at their website. There are usually some free downloadable tip sheets. ADHD is not just about kids--kids grow up to be adults with ADHD, and those are our co-workers/spouses/siblings/parents!

Another great resource is the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, the ADDA.

Wow! Just as I was typing this, I got an e-mail from the ADDA about two teleclasses this week--one tonight and one tomorrow. This week, they are free to members and non-members. What a great resource! (Yes, it's probably a symptom of ADHD that I would go and look at my incoming mail in the middle of writing this!)

Wednesday, September 17
Speaker: Nancy Ratey
Title: "The Disorganized Mind: Coaching Your ADHD Brain to Take Control of Your Time, Tasks, and Talents"
Time: 9:00 pm EST (That's 6 pm Pacific)

Thursday, September 18
Speaker: Dr. Stephen Hinshaw
Title: "Q and A - Everything You Wanted to Know about AD/HD - But Didn't Know to Ask!"
Time: 9:00 pm EST (That's 6 pm Pacific)

Go to to get the log-in info for these classes.

And, no, this was not a paid announcement for the ADDA or ADDitude Magazine. Just great resources!


Thursday, August 21, 2008

The AD/HD Breakfast Plan: Feeding the Brain

This post has been a Tip Sheet in my brain for a long time now.

While I am not a nutritionist, I certainly have done my reading and study about AD/HD and diet. And I think most doctors who are up on this will back me up. I'm open to your opinions and suggestions.

After suggesting to a client that getting protein with breakfast is really important for the AD/HD brain (and for that matter, all brains), and helping with focus, she commented "But I don't really know what other protein other than egg I could eat?"

The tips I'm about to give are geared toward people who don't have much time or have a hard time organizing their time, and therefore, often skip breakfast altogether or usually eat whatever sugary carbohydratey (is that really a word? I think not) item they can lay their hands on.

Since I'm a vegan, my first tips will all be vegan in nature. This is what I know best because I live it and try it out all the time. I will offer some non-vegan (I know I will rot in vegan hell for this) suggestions at the end. Keep in mind that not all veg'n (I"ll use veg'n to mean both vegetarian and vegan) items, like veg'n sausage are equivalent to the meat version since the meat version will have other health consequences like cholesterol and more fat.

OK, here are some protein sources. I'll give some ideas on how to use them after the list. Don't forget to think outside the "BOX" of American-type breakfast items. There's no law that says you can't eat a peanut butter sandwich at 6 am.

And don't forget to drink lots of water! The brain needs to be kept moist. A dry brain is not a happy brain. And a dry AD/HD brain is just trouble waiting to happen!

The Vegan List
  • Tofu (You knew that was coming, right?) See my recipe on my Vegan blog for tofu omelettes--not exactly a quick meal, but scrambling it would be easier.
  • Tempeh (I linked it so you could figure out what it was)
  • Nuts or nut butter (Please don't eat anything you are allergic to!)
    • walnuts
    • peanuts
    • cashews
    • almonds

The Non-Vegan List
  • Meat
    • Chicken
    • Turkey
    • Sausage
    • Red meat
    • Etc.
  • Eggs (scrambled, fried or hard-boiled)
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt

So here are some ideas on how to put these items together:

Breakfast Burrito-Throw some beans, scrambled tofu (or egg) and some taco sauce and you have a meal to run out the door with. If you can't sit and eat like a human, that is. Thought: make a big batch of scrambled tofu (tofu, onion, herbs, curry or turmeric) mix with a can of flavored beans and/or some taco sauce and freeze small bags of it. Get this out and microwave inside a tortilla, (or spread on toast). Or just buy healthy frozen ones and keep them in the fridge.

Smoothie: Any combination you like of milk or milk alternative, fresh or frozen fruits, nuts or nut butter, yogurt or protein powder. A little vanilla maybe, a little agave nectar and whir that all up in a blender. Leave the raw egg to Rocky, though, OK?

The mega bowl of cereal: Involves no cooking whatsoever. Buy some nice healthy tasty cereal (low or no sugar of course), throw in a couple tablespoons of nuts, cut up a piece of fruit add your milk or milk alternative or yogurt/alternative and you have quite a hearty meal. I know–I do it every morning. My favorite right now is Kashi's Autumn Wheats with some almond milk or 1/2 container plain or vanilla coconut yogurt mixed with a little water, 2 tablespoons walnuts and whatever fruit is ripe in my yard or I have gotten from the store. This month it's peaches and blackberries.

Peanut butter on toast: a classic. If you are too rushed, just grab a spoonful of peanut butter. For fruit add some sliced bananas.

Waffle treats: Frozen waffles are not half bad! Try a topping to bump up the protein: cream cheese, peanut butter or some fruit or yogurt.

Outside the "breakfast box" ideas: a hot dog, whole wheat pasta with a little olive oil/butter/butter alternative and cheese/alternative. It's so easy to cook up a whole bag or box of pasta and then keep in the fridge all week to heat up for quick snacks. If you can't do wheat, then Trader Joe's carries a nice brown rice pasta that's pretty good. Whole grain pastas will have some protein in them.

OK, enough for now....

If you'd like a tip sheet of this information (which will probably be in a more legible format) just e-mail me and ask for it.

Liability notice: Readers should see their doctors before making any major dietary changes in their lives. I am not a nutritionist.

All posts on this blog are Copyright of Margaret Pearson Pinkham and Organize in Harmony. Text may be used without permission only with attribution to Margaret Pearson Pinkham and Organize in Harmony and for informational purposes only, not monetary gain. Of course I'd like to know how and when you are using my work. If there is going to be monetary gain, I'd like to be in on it. I believe in Karma. If you misuse my stuff, it will come back to haunt you.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Chronic Disorganization, Weight Loss and Fitness Gaining

I've started a new exercise habit lately (playing tennis against a backboard--I always win), and it's been giving me time to think about new blog topics. They just seem to come to me while I'm chasing balls and fetching them out of the weeds on the other side of the fence! Must be the extra blood flow to the brain, I guess.

Anyway, today's special thought that arrived was about how trying to lose weight and trying to get organized are very similar endeavors.

I know I'm not the first person to think of this. (Peter Walsh, from TLC's "Clean Sweep" wrote a book called Does this Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat), but I think I have a different angle.

Living with clutter (or being a messie) and living with extra weight...

I should know, I have both these issues. I consider myself a "recovering messie." That's how I got into this business in the first place. I organized myself first, then realized I could help others. But I say "recovering" because it's a daily struggle still. Yes, I've made leaps and bounds in the past several years, but things start to creep up here and there....the laundry piles up, my child's artwork doesn't get dealt with, the cat thinks the dust bunnies are wonderful to play with--you know the stuff.

And while I haven't dealt with a weight issue my whole life, I do come from a family of hearty northern European stock who can get through harsh winters on bread and gruel. (This has not actually been tested in many a decade, but we all have a nice layer of fat that would most likely help us survive a plane crash in the Andes without resorting to consuming fellow passengers.) As a woman in her late forties, I am experiencing weight gain simply by existing, apparently. Either some really harsh winters are on the horizon or....

The connection between the two issues (and I know you've been patiently waiting) is make a difference or any kind of change, I have had to change my way of thinking, stop habits that did not serve me well, and add in new habits that do.

When I realized I no longer wanted to be a "messie," I had to re-examine my relationship to my stuff and how I thought about it. I started in my clothes closet. One tape that kept playing (probably even from Peter Walsh) was "Why are you holding on to things that no longer fit, will not be in style even if they do fit in the future and are taking up valuable space now? If it's wonderful memories you have--those are in your heart, they don't need to be hanging in your closet." My thinking changed, and I suddenly saw my stuff in a new light. (I say suddenly, but really it was a process over a year that I sorted and purged. I worked my way up to letting go of things I wasn't ready to let go of the first time I purged.)

Then came letting go of old habits that didn't serve me well: buying things without trying them on; tossing clothes onto a chair; keeping things without thinking about why.

And new habits that did serve me well: trying on clothes to make sure they fit well; hanging up all my clothes if still clean (which could only be accomplished after I had purged my closet and made room); presorting my laundry in the bedroom as they came off; reducing my overall "shopping" for stuff.

With the weight--well, I'm still a work in progress on that issue. This past month though, a few things have shifted mentally. Facing the fact that I am no longer 19, and that I seem to gain weight if I don't exercise each and every day, I have got to be more vigilant about the subject of my health as a matter of course, not just to diet to "lose 1o pounds."

I've also come to realize, that while my eating could always be "better" that it's not food that is my issue, it's exercise. (Or lack thereof.) I'm a vegan (am I the only overweight vegan on the planet?) for goodness sake and my diet is pretty darn good compared to the rest of the country. However, I do have a special fondness for Ruffles potato chips dipped in my Tofutti sour cream and onion dip.

So, my thinking had to change first. I have kept to a "clean eating" diet, not something that is a fad, but just a way of eating for life. For me, this is eating vegan (which means no meat or dairy), reducing the oils I cook with, drinking lots of water, and really really minimizing the sweets and fats I consume each day. I still have them, but keep them to once or twice in small amounts. (We're talking chocolate here.)

Then stop the habits that don't serve me: eating too much chocolate, snacking a bit much between meals...

Adding habits that do serve me: getting up early to go play tennis; having the right food in the house so each meal is easy and healthy; eating less at restaurants--planning to take half home or just order soup. I'm usually out with family or friends, so it's the company, the not the food that is primary.

So, actually, being organized has helped me with this latest endeavor. The more organized I am about shopping and meal planning, the better and easier it is for me to "eat clean." And I even plan for being a little unorganized by having easy but healthy frozen meals (thank you Amy's) ready for me and my family when creating a meal just seems too daunting.)

So it's a constant for me--both the staying free of chronic disorganization and keeping the extra weight at bay. I know I'm genetically predisposed to being both overweight and messy, but it's up to me now, not my genes, to keep my head above water. A change in habits, and a change it maintenance routines for both are keeping my house livable and helping me get my body fit to enter my fifties (still a couple years away.)

Now, excuse me I have some balls to chase....

Thursday, August 07, 2008

How a massage can help you get organized

Yes, I really do intend to prove to you that getting a massage can help you get and stay organized!

It's a simple premise, really. One that I often suggest to my clients: Schedule something in your home on a regular basis--like a party or tea with a friend--and you will find yourself "cleaning up" more on a regular basis, too! The threat, uh, I mean pleasure, of having someone over and in the house, is always wonderful motivation to clean.

This was proven to me once again, and with my own home. I've sort of relaxed my "maintenance," this summer shall I say, and had let my bedroom go a bit. Last year, after a minor neck injury, I had semi-regular massages by a wonderful massage therapist who came to my home. Now, professional organizers have a reputation to uphold, and I certainly wanted to continue the illusion that I keep my home perfectly neat at all times. She would set up her table in our bedroom, and yes, I found myself tidying up that room and our master bath before her visits. I really enjoyed having these rooms so nice and neat during this period.

However, since my neck has been feeling better, I hadn't had Kelly in for months! And it showed! Tasks in the bedroom were a tad behind--laundry, vacuuming, dusting, etc. All the things that my mind's eye had been blocking, came into focus as I looked at it with a fresh "eye" knowing someone was coming over and would be seeing it.

I tidied up and enjoyed the fruits of my labor--and a wonderful 1.5 hour massage.

That's how a massage can help you get organized!

I'm also sure there are other factors working here--namely, that when you indulge in self-care, you are a happier and healthier person who is better able to focus. And when better able to focus, organizing and tidying up are also much easier.

So, yes, while massage can be seen as an "expensive treat" (although well worth it), the idea that scheduling something once a month or maybe once a week that might motivate you to tidy up is a solid one and can be less expensive or even free.

Here are some other ideas and their approximate costs. They are sort of in descending order. You may want to try the last ones first and work your way up.

1. Hire a housekeeper once or twice a month to do just the floors and counters in the kitchen and bathrooms. Cost: $25-$100. (More if you have a really big kitchen or lots of bathrooms. Most housekeepers in this area charge about $25/hour.) The idea here is that you will motivate yourself to get all your stuff up off the floors and counters so the housekeeper doesn't waste her precious time (and your money) moving things off them or putting things away. You want her to do the stuff you don't want to. (Ok, this is the stuff I don't like to do--sweeping and mopping.) You get a nice clean "base" and if she's coming on a regular basis, you are motivated to do your part before she comes.

2. Plan a party once a month. Cost: $0-$??? Obviously, if you make this a potluck, you reduce your own costs, and if you serve Russian caviar and imported champagne, it will be pricier. But you'll get two things out of it: motivation to clean your house before guests arrive and a nice time with friends or family. (Even nicer if you have friends and family who will help you clean up after the party before they go home!)

3. Have just one or two friends over for something very simple like coffee or tea, a game night, or watching a movie. Cost: $0-$10. Simple things like this keep the kitchen from exploding into a mess. Serve a simple cake or cookies or make microwave popcorn. DVR a movie, watch a DVD you own or rent one. Close the doors on the rooms you haven't quite gotten to. If you have nosy friends, maybe post a sign on the door that says something like "Sammy the Snake's Room. Just ignore him, he likes to crawl on people but he doesn't usually bite.")

4. Invite one friend over to go for a walk. $0 (Unless you need to buy new walking shoes.) This one sounds like it wouldn't help, but really, it's a nice way to break yourself in if you haven't had friends over in the house in a while. You may only have to meet them at the front door (you only need to clean up what they can see from the front steps), or depending on your level of progress in the house, let them in a little farther each time. So, maybe just the front room has to be tidy, or if they might need to "use the facilities," tidy up only the rooms enroute to the facilities!

And if all of these seem out of your reach right now, then please, at least go out and get a massage at a spa. The whole part about being good to yourself, self-care and massage helping with focus still stands.

And in case you are ready right now for an in-home massage, and you live in the Sonoma County area, my massage therapist has recently "left her day job" as they say and is taking on new clients. Give her a call and you will thank yourself. (And maybe me!) I've always felt so wonderful after her work on me and she helped me keep working after a neck injury.

Kelly Nelson (based in Petaluma, CA)
Holistic Massage Therapist

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Rebel Without a Clock

Well, it was just so fortunate to find an image of a James Dean clock! Talk about synchronicity!

I'd like to take some time to talk about time...

For years, I was a rebel without a "Clock" or watch. Or really, without a routine. Clocks, watches, routines, all that stuff was just 'the 'man' keepin' me down." I'll show them. (I'm not sure who "them" is. Uh, who them are? Wow, that's a tricky one.)

I did feel that I was "rebelling" against something by not having routines. That I somehow was exerting my independence and freedom by doing this. Right...

Exerting my freedom to be always late for things...

Exerting my independence to make others wait for me...

Exerting my freedom and independence never to have enough time to do what I really wanted to do. Gee that's ironic. My rebellion against constructed time was keeping me from doing things?

Now, please remember, I am not perfect now. But I have changed some of my ways, my attitudes and my way of seeing things. My perceptions of time and routine. It's unfortunate that the word routine sounds so, well, routine. Like mundane.

A routine life does not sound like an exciting one.

But that's the thing. Life does not have to be routine or mundane. There are mundane things in life that need to be taken care of. And once they are....then let the excitement commence!

(And you can always interject some excitement even into the mundane, right? Try grocery shopping in a prom dress or watering the lawn in a ballet tutu. And of course you can always vacuum au natural--just keep the curtains closed or you might find getting thrown in the pokey part of your new routine!)

So, what are the mundane things in life?

Well, the usual suspects that keep us going: food and shelter. Grocery shopping, food preparation and keeping the housework up. (Keeping the housework up is not quite as important as feeding yourself, let's just get that straight. Food is first.)

Yes, you need to support your fun stuff by building a firm foundation. If you are fed, you have energy to do laundry. If you have clean clothes, you can get dressed and go to work to earn money to feed yourself. If you can earn money you can afford that roof over your head and the food in your tummy. Yes, it's quite the connected circle.

Now while I try, I know I can't solve all organizing issues in one blog. I just want to get you moving in a direction. Even if it's just to change your perception of something.

Let's take meal planning.

I have found that if some external structure is imposed on me, I do very well at meal planning and grocery shopping. If some scheduled activity lands me near the grocery store, then that's my day to do grocery shopping. When my DD was a just a toddler, the library held story-time on Wednesdays. Lovely, since the grocery store was just down the block. Wednesday became my grocery day. I cursed the library when they stopped story-time for the summer. (Damn those under-funded public institutions!) Yes, we did still manage to eat in the summer, but I had to look for another time structure.

Fast forward to when DD is in ballet class, held even closer to the grocery store, and she is now old enough to be left at class. Woo-hoo, a whole 45 minutes to run and do the grocery shopping! (Or nap in the car if really needed...)

What this structure does is remind me that, yes, I should do the meal planning the day or evening before, or at least while I am eating breakfast that morning. I sit with my giant family calendar and check our activities for each day that week and gauge my potential for crankiness each evening. (Should I have a frozen Amy's pizza at the ready or will I have the strength for a full-on stir-fry?) At my fingertips I have my grocery list ready as I mentally (or physically) check my pantry for the needed items. I use the "All Out Of" notepad from Knock Knock, which includes a section for vegetarian items. This is a great magnetic notepad I stick on the fridge. DH can check off things as he runs out (Yeah, it happens once in awhile. The theory is nice.) and I can too.
The wonderful thing about shopping once a week is that I am not tempted to shop more often and therefore waste more time and spend more money. If I know that I am shopping on Monday and we run out of peanut butter on Friday, then, heck, we just try and make it through the weekend without peanut butter, use up something else that is probably about to go bad in the fridge and spend that time doing something more fun. Like napping.

Summer always presents a problem since the lovely structure and routine of the school year is delightfully out of whack. I'm realizing (I am determined to not let summers get the best of me) that I need to re-evaluate the routine every week or every-other week.

Just a little forethought.

A little.

If I don't do a little forethought a week or two at a time, I have to think all the more each and every day and every hour of that silly day. But if the important stuff is planned and on the calendar, then I don't have too think so often. And that's the whole point. Not having to think so much about the mundane things. And having time (and brain power) to think about the fun or creative stuff.

Or take a nap.

That'll show them.

Watch for future blogs about the importance of getting enough sleep. :)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Just say "No!"

Well, actually, don't just say "No!" Say it with style...

Many of my clients have time management issues. Sometimes it's from difficulty with managing the concept of time, but often it's because they have filled their schedules by saying "yes" too many times to too many people.

ADDitude Magazine (a magazine devoted to adults and families living with AD/HD) recently ran a sidebar called "12 Clever Ways to Decline," written by Ramona Creel of I'll add my cleverness at the bottom.

12 Clever Ways to Decline

1. I'm in the middle of several projects.
2. I'm not comfortable with that.
3. I'm not taking on any new responsibilities.
4. I'm not the most qualified person for the job.
5. I do not enjoy that kind of work.
6. I do not have any more room in my calendar.
7. I hate to split my attention among projects.
8. I know you will do a wonderful job yourself.
9. I need to leave some free time for myself.
10. I would rather help out with another task.
11. I have no experience with that.
12. I have another commitment.

Personally, I'm a little leery of #10 and #11. Only use #10 if you really want another task, and you're not trying to get out of doing something. And with #11, the other person can too easily come back with "So this is how you would get some experience." That's been used on me! For me, #11 is only good for things like flying an airplane, surgery of any kind, higher math and giving hair cuts.

Here are my additions:

13. Let me check my calendar and get back with you.
This gives you time to decide which "no" you are going to use. You also get to confirm for yourself that your calendar is full. Make sure you have filled your calendar. You know you can fill your calendar with things like "Bubble bath: 6 pm," "Nap: 2-4 pm," "Wash the dog: 11-12 pm," "Play computer solitaire: 7 am -3 pm." I'm serious, be sure to schedule all the fun things you like to do. (Well maybe computer solitaire for 8 hours is a bit extreme.) But it helps you avoid the next excuse...

14. Oh, the last time I did that they had to call the fire department.
Now this is a very specific excuse. Feel free to substitute a more appropriate agency–paramedics, police, park rangers, health inspector, social services, the IRS, Coast Guard, National Guard, Marines etc. Yes, this one does border on the "little white lie." (I hope.) But it gets the other party to say no, not you!

So, if you think you would have trouble using any of these, I suggest practicing. Take the ones you like, put them in your own words, stand in front of a mirror and repeat them until they roll off your tongue. Call it a fire drill if you like. When the time comes to use one, it will be right there for you, sound natural (do give a short pause first and look like you are mentally checking your calendar) and get the job done. The job is to avoid a job you don't have time for or just don't want to do.

It's been nice "No-ing you!"

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Values Clarification

My local organizers group recently held a "mini-conference" and one of the session leaders was Life Coach Pam Austin.

She led us in an exercise that helped us realize our "Core Values" and how once these are clear to us, our priorities are more clear and all decisions we make or actions we take will be based on these, helping us to reach our goals in life. (Quite a condensation of a 2 1/2 hour-long session!)

I found this exercise useful for my very next client, and really, I can see its value for almost every client I come in contact with. It's really where it all starts with organizing or changing habits in order to change the mess or clutter that infiltrates your home or even your social or work calendar. (Remember, people can be clutter, too!) It's a nice reminder for us about what really important, and for some a real clarification we didn't even know we needed. But when you start living your values more intentionally, you start reaching your goals and feeling satisfied on a daily basis, instead of always "waiting" for things to happen or your goals to be met. (Yes, values, like goals can change over time.)

While doing some research on this topic, I found a website/blog that helps you do this on your own. (Of course, I'd recommend going to Pam if you are in the Sonoma County area. 707-544-2348)

But Steve Pavlina has a similar approach in an easy-to-follow method. Click here to begin "Living Your Values, Part I."

And yes, he has a Part II.

If you try it out, let me know how it worked for you and what you think of it.

Happy clarifying!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wrestling the paper tiger

It's everywhere. And they promised us a few years ago we would be a "paperless" society! Yeah right!

Here are a few quick tips about paper...

Don't let it in the house.
  • If you see a flyer for something while you are out, ask yourself if you really need the information or if you can look at it online later.
  • If you pick up your mail at the post office, take one minute to sort, purge and recycle it right there. Even all the envelopes. They usually have a recycle bin. Ask them to get one if they don't.
Recycle right away at home.
  • Have your recycle bin convenient to where you walk into the house with the mail. Stand (or sit) there and go through it right away, getting rid of all the junk and envelopes.
  • Have a bin or basket to then put all your mail in if you are not able to sort right away. Let everyone in the house know this is where to put the mail. (Fewer lost bills this way.)
More later on how to sort all the stuff and then take action on what needs action. (At the very least, have one folder that says "bills" and throw them in there.)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Days of Weeds and Roses

The Roses of Success (from Chitty Chitty Bang! Bang!)

Every bursted bubble has a glory!
Each abysmal failure makes a point!

Every glowing path that goes astray,

Shows you how to find a better way.

So every time you stumble never grumble.

Next time you'll bumble even less!

For up from the ashes,
up from the ashes, grow the roses of success!

Grow the roses!

Grow the roses!

From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success!

Spring has come and gone in my neck of the woods. The plum trees are sprouting green plums and the weeds are cropping up in the decomposed granite pathway we put in last summer. (The one I was guaranteed could not be penetrated if weedcloth was underlain—it was—and could not germinate a newly fallen seed.)

As I weeded this path and the beds around it, I began to think of the similarities between gardening and organizing. (And by the way, gardening is a wonderful activity to help you restore focus and increase the capacity of your pre-frontal cortex, helping you to make decisions.)

I thought about last spring when I was hand-pulling weeds from a dense patch in our backyard. California poppies and Miner’s Lettuce (aka Indian Lettuce) were sprouting up between the weeds. Miner’s Lettuce is a lovely native spring salad green that pops up for free in my yard. I wished to save both these species and rid myself of all the other nasty things.

I kept thinking about how this was so much like helping a client wade through mountains of “stuff,” carefully separating treasures from the junk—the weeds from the wildflowers. And how even the wildflowers were creating shelter from the sun (giving comfort to the enemy in my view) for the evil weeds underneath. I had to be extra-careful in my weeding.

This is often true in a client’s home. All the “good stuff” is just creating more hiding spaces for junk, creating more surfaces for dust, and creating shelter for spiders and other crawlies as well. Just as my lovely poppies and lettuce were growing tall, the untended growth beneath of burr clover and other nasties were taking hold, shielded from the hot sun and given a few extra drops of water from their taller, unwitting benefactors. And now and then, I have to sacrifice a "treasure" (a poppy or Miner's Lettuce) in order to get to the "trash" and keep the work going.

We call this section of our yard “The back 40,” not because it is 40 acres, it’s just the last bit we’re trying to landscape ourselves and it seems like 40 acres. It feels overwhelming at times, and the weeds grow back every year. True, there are fewer and fewer each year since we get a little more covered by weed cloth and bark or pathway. But there’s always more. Yet, I know that if I take it on a little at a time—even just get to a few feet of path, I will make headway. And when the weather turns too warm, I will adjust my weeding to the morning hours before the sun beats upon me and wilts me more quickly than the lettuce.

This is the same advice I give clients—if it all seems overwhelming, just take your time and do a little bit every day, even if it just a square foot. Work when you are at your best—be it in the morning or midnight. Know yourself and your own peak times...before you wilt, too.

Garden of Intention
Right now, I am still reacting to what my garden brings me—namely, weeds in new places. I haven’t planted much, i.e. not much has been intentional. Well, we have had some work done, and we accomplished a few projects last summer, but we are still “reacting” to the weeds, and having to re-work areas that if we had finished sooner, we wouldn’t have to deal with weeds (or as many) this year. But again, bit by bit. Little by little. Patience and more “intention” to what we do in the garden. “Own” more if it rather than it owning us. Still allowing for nature’s surprises here and there.

Now go grow your roses!

Friday, April 25, 2008

When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) 2008 conference...

Veggie Food at/during conference...

Veggie Food at hotel...
Very bad

Veggie Food at The Pneumatic Diner in Reno...

Having a conference in a casino...
Worst idea since ... gee, I can't think of what was worse!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hundred acre wood a-ha moment!

I proved one of my own points last week.

While in the midst of a full-on Disneyland-induced ADD moment, I was surprised by a moment of peace, sanity and clarity.

We had taken our young daughter for a two-day visit to the realm of Mickey, princesses, and churro-laced mania. (By the way, the churros are really good.)

It was the morning of day two, and we had already decided that the line for the Nemo submarine ride was too long and we would head straight over to "Critter Country" to see the Winnie the Pooh area and ride. (Good idea–it was the only ride we were able to hop right on.)

Thank goodness we did.

As soon as we got there, I felt a wonderful sensation come over me. I felt calmer, more focused and less frenzied. I took a look around and figured out why.

Critter Country was filled with large green trees (most of them real), lots of wooden structures (most of them not real), and lovely wooden benches to sit on. It was the closest thing to real nature I was going to get in this land of fakery.

The point I proved is this: the natural world can help you focus and calm your mind. It's the basis for my Organize in Harmony offspring: Organized by Nature.

I'll be bringing this aspect to my regular practice more and more in the coming months: using Mother Nature to help us calm our minds and bring focus to what we are doing with our organizing projects. Something about green trees that lets our pre-frontal cortex do a RAM-dump and start with a clean disk.

It can be as easy as sitting in your backyard for 5 minutes or taking a walk in your neighborhood and observing the trees and flowers. Or maybe getting in the car and visiting a city, county or state park and immersing yourself for an hour or two. Or a national park and immersing yourself for a day or two (a week or two?). Or even just a little meditation at your cubicle while listening to a nature sounds CD.

Just don't think you have to go to Critter Country.

(But the churros are really good....)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Persimmon Tree, Very Pretty

The garden metaphors for organizing just keep coming at me. Not that I'm really doing much gardening, although I'm thinking about it. Besides, it's raining now, so I CAN'T go out and garden...

As it is softly misting in my back yard, I can see that our little persimmon tree is beginning to leaf out. (Yes, this is California and we've been having a beautiful–and early–Spring.)

This tree is a survivor like no other. When we bought this house about 3 years ago, it was quite tall and even had some persimmons on it. But it was misshapen and a very sad thing to look at. It is near our back fence, which had a huge growth of blackberries on the other side. These things are prehistoric remnants that I know will cover the earth someday if we ever do have a cataclysmic event. They and the cockroaches will rule. But I digress....

Not only had the blackberry vines entwined themselves into this tree, but a climbing rose had also declared the persimmon its habitat. It was a tall tree, but it really only had about a fourth of its crown that it should have had. The blackberries and roses had overtaken the tree on the back side and it was only a persimmon tree in the front.

I made the heart-wrenching decision to let the gardener cut it down, thinking I would soon plant one or two redwoods in its place, to complete a row (and privacy to our yard) of three others.

Well, procrastination does have its place now and then, (don't tell anyone I said this), and the next summer, a beautiful, healthy straight shoot came out of the little stump. Since the blackberries and rose had been cut back, it now had all the light and room it needed.

It did branch and leaf out last summer, although it did not bear fruit. It is now entering its second season of its second life, and it is a (shorter) but very beautiful and symmetric tree.

My connection with this tree to organizing? Yes, I'm getting to that.

Think about the clutter you may have in your home or life. Is it choking out the life in you, creating a lopsided version of you because it overshadows who you really are? If you cut it all out, would you then be able to grow straight and tall (so to speak), basking (basquing if you are Portuguese) in the sunlight now available to you? Able to bloom and fruit to your full extent instead of just a small percentage?

Yes, keeping the "blackberries" at bay will be a constant chore, but I can keep up with it a little at a time, especially since I can see how "happy" my persimmon tree is now. And now that I can see its full beauty.

How is your persimmon tree?

Are you ready for a new season with a new life?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Compulsive Hoarding, Part I

I just attended a day-long seminar put on by the Institute on Aging in San Francisco, called Clutter Addiction and Hoarding. This was a completely separate event from the Mental Health Association's annual Conference on Hoarding and Cluttering.

There were at least 200-300 people in attendance. That was the part that astounded me.

I'll be writing more in the next few weeks about the complex issue of Compulsive Hoarding and all the attention it's gotten in the last several months–special episodes on Oprah, Dr. Phil and all those organizing shows, some of which touch on the most severe cases only occasionally.

This issue has finally come "out of the closet" so to speak. Well it had to because the closet was full.

I had never known about hoarding personally while growing up, although my parents did help "clean" a friend's house after she had broken her wrist and ankle. They had described to me what they found. (Absolutely all the earmarks of a hoarder, as I now know.) Little trails through the house–the only place you could walk. Piles of papers and stuff. Present after present that had never been given away. Just another crazy social worker, I thought.

I've been studying the issue of hoarding ever since I joined the NSGCD (National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization) in 2005. It was fascinating. I wanted to know more and certainly be "prepared" for when I might have a client in this situation. What have I learned? Oh, so much. And that it's hard to be truly prepared.

What I have learned is this: compulsive hoarding is as much a disease as alcoholism is. It's hard to understand, difficult to live with (or impossible) and there's no easy cure. That's what researchers are looking at now--how can people who have this issue be helped? What really is the problem? Is it in the brain? In the mind? In the heart? A combination of all these? I think yes.

What has become clear to me is not the answers, but the questions that now must be asked.

How do we help?

How do we fund this help?

How can we remain compassionate while looking for the answers and trying to help?

How do we get communities involved?

Since this is such a closeted illness, researchers are hard-pressed to give accurate numbers as to how many among us might have hoarding issues. One or two percent? Possibly 5%. That means in every large church group of 500 or more, there are 5 to 25 people who are living with this illness and maybe many more who are affected–children, relatives, friends, even pets.

In the next few installments, I will define Compulsive Hoarding, talk about the "what-not-to-dos" that well-meaning friends or loved ones might think is right. As well as give some resources for help. And probably come up with a few more questions. Maybe someone out there has some answers.

If you want more information right away, read "Buried in Treasures" (in the book list at the bottom) or visit the following websites. They have a tremendous amount of information about what this condition is, information to help you help yourself or a loved one, and links to more resources.

This is one iceberg that is just beginning to melt and we are feeling the affects of the flood.

Children of Hoarders
Squalor Survivors
Obsessive Compulsive Foundation Hoarding Website
National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Kilroy was here.

I think I have discovered something in Chronic Disorganization I will call the
“Kilroy Was Here Syndrome.”

Discovered in myself first, quite by chance, I think it can only happen if you live in a house with other people, but I might be mistaken, since I’ve never lived in a house without other people.

Let me tell you my story.

I came out one morning to our nice clean kitchen. (I’d like you to believe it is that way every morning, but alas, the kitchen is one of my own personal issues.) I was happy that the Messy Fairies had left it alone overnight. I was the first one up, and I had used a water glass. As I was about to go through my self-questioning (Do I leave it out? Do I put it in the dishwasher right now?), I was thinking that if I put it in the dishwasher (as my Organizer Fairy was urging me to do), wouldn’t my spouse be proud of how conscientious I had been by putting it away right then?

And then another, more sinister thought (must have been from the Messy Fairy) entered my head. “If I put this glass away, he will not notice that I have put it away. He will not realize that I was even in the room. He will only notice that I have been in the room if I leave the glass out!

For a moment, I almost decided to leave the glass out! (I didn’t—I put it in the dishwasher.)

But it made me wonder about myself and my clients. Are we sometimes messy because we subconsciously (or unconsciously—I’m never sure which) want someone, anyone, to know that we have been there? Our own little “Kilroy Was Here” graffiti that confirms our existence to others.

It was a surprising thought, true at least for me.

When I see a mess my precious daughter has left behind, I try not to get angry, but remember that it is because we have a child (something we had really, really wanted), that we now have a mess in the house, or a toy tossed here or there. Shall I choose to look at it as another mess to clean up left by my ungrateful daughter? A task to remind my child about when she gets home? Or simply a token of her existence for which I am grateful every day, and I can easily and quickly swoop it up and put it where it needs to go? (With a smile on my face thinking about the day she was born, or the wonderful drawings she’s always making for us.)

The same can be said for things a spouse leaves behind—socks here and there, a towel on the floor, a dish out of place. I am often reminded of letters to Dear Abby and Ann Landers from widows who would give anything to have these messes back in the house if only their husbands were still there, too.

Now, that's not to say that I'm not teaching my daughter to clean up after herself (she's only in first grade, we have years left to work on it!) or that I'll excuse my spouse's messiness every time. But it does mean I'll try to lighten up on myself and the tapes I play in my head when I confront a mess--mine or theirs. I can also choose to still be conscientious about cleaning up after myself and still find ways to leave my mark. Cutesy things are fun and easy--a note in the lunch box, or the bathroom mirror. Or just a hug when they get home and an easy, "I love you, and I'm so glad to see you."

I can remember which "mark" I want them to see and how they might be thinking of me when they see it. Just as easily as I can choose which thoughts I will think when I see their "marks."

Have a great week!

Margaret was here.

(Clink the links on either today's title or the graphic to learn more about the original "Kilroy Was Here" drawing. He was quite popular during WWII and there are a number of legends, myths and information about how he came to be.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Prozac Nation?

When helping to organize a client's house, we often come across old medicines. What to do with them? The old answer used to be to flush them down the toilet or simply put them in the trash.

Please don't do either of these things!

These chemicals are finding their way into our water sources and then of course into our bodies. Municipal filtration systems do not keep them out. The result, of course is that we all have traces of drugs (ones not prescribed for us) in our systems. This means that even nursing mothers are passing this stuff onto their precious babies. It certainly gives a new meaning to the phrase "Prozac Nation!" Let's keep our children and ourselves safe and dispose of old medications properly.

In my neck of the woods, local pharmacies are participating in a pilot program collecting old pills. I've listed these in this blog, but if you don't live in Sonoma County, California, please contact your local Waste Management agency or your local pharmacy and ask about what's available for you. If there is nothing---please start bugging your local government to start doing something!

(Be sure to remove labels before you recycle the bottles. This will help protect your identity and medical information.)

Santa Rosa:
Creekside Rx
Dollar Drug
Longs-4th St., Mendocino and Stony Point
The Medicine Shoppe
Rite-Aid-Farmers Lane
Tuttle's Hoen and Doyle Park Rx's
Walgreen's --All Santa Rosa Stores


Rohnert Park:
Longs on Commerce

Walgreens-Old Redwood Highway

Program guidelines:
  1. No lotions or creams.
  2. Some pharmacies recycle the bottles with labels removed. Others ask you to take them home and recycle them.
  3. This is a pilot program running from February thru July.
You can also take meds to the Sonoma County Waste Management Facility. The Household Toxics Facility is open every week for free drop-off of toxics from Sonoma County residents.

Call 543-4200 or visit for more info.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Margaret's 4 Basic Organizing Tips

If you do nothing else in your life, do these 4 things to get organized.

1. Hang your purse and keys on a hook by the door.

2. Purge your clothing. Then again. Then 6 months later, again.

3. Use a day planner--and keep it with you. At the most, use only 1 more calendar in the house at your desk or on a wall for the family to see. Keep them both updated.

4. Practice this phrase "Let me check my calendar and get back to you." Then be sure to use it before you say yes to anything or anyone!

Do these 4 things, and I promise that you will see a change in your life!


Monday, February 18, 2008

'Ware oh 'wear has all my clutter gone? Oh 'Ware, oh 'wear can it be?
(Two easy steps to reducing dirty piles.)

No, those are not typos. (Or "typoes" if you are Dan Quayle.)

In one of my tip sheets entitled "Riding the Laundry Cycle," I make mention of purging your clothing in order to simply have less of it around to wash. It's a simple idea, really and I'm going to take it a step further to help you build the habit of doing the laundry on a routine schedule.

Certainly, if you have less laundry, you will have fewer clothes that must be washed--you will be forced to do laundry much sooner if you don't have 365 outfits and try to do 52 loads of laundry on New Year's Eve. But I can help you get to the washer much sooner.

What usually makes you start a load?

Underwear? Yep, that's most people's answer. And how many pairs (lets just count the "shorts" for men and "panties" for the ladies) do you own? If it's more than 8, you could be in trouble.

In college, I had the unfortunate luck to overhear another student say she owned 30 pairs, and therefore only had to to laundry once a month. I thought that was a grand idea. (Kind of OK for a college student, but it wasn't working for me 15 years later.)

Why not limit yourself to 7 or 8 pairs? Having eight lets you do laundry once a week while still wearing one pair. (Nice, especially if you use a laundromat.) A client kindly pointed out that you would need to have an equal number of light/white and dark pairs for this to work should you decide to do laundry more than once a week and presort (as I suggest) the lights from the darks. Or have 8 that are all light or all dark.

Yes, (talking mostly to the ladies here) you can still have some of those "special" (read "pretty but not so comfortable") sets, but you must promise not to wear them once your "everyday" stuff is dirty or you'll be back to where you started. With too many loads to wash in your one or two precious days off.

So, that's the "Wear." Now what about the "Ware" you ask?
Tell me now about another area of the house where stuff stacks up to be washed....

Yep, the kitchen. We're talking about dinnerWARE and silverWARE now. The same rule applies here.

Limit how many of these things you have in your kitchen and can use before you are forced to load up (or eek, wash by hand) the dishwasher and run it. One summer I worked in Yosemite and had a tiny little space to myself and no dishwasher. I took with me only 2 plates, 2 glasses and 2 sets of silverware. If company was coming, heck, they were told to bring their own. (Having more than 2 people in this "space" was hard enough anyway!) It was so easy to just get in the habit of cleaning my ware right after using it. And of course, putting it all away was a breeze, too!

Now, I'm not saying you must limit yourself to 2 items, but do think about limiting what you keep on hand what you might use at one meal, or maybe in one day if there are only one or two people in your household. You don't have to toss your other dishes or silverware, but put them away in an inconvenient place so you will only get them out when company is coming. But if you have 89 spoons and tend to use them all before you do the dishes, then you are surely in need of a sort and purge day.

So, just limit your Wares/Wears and you will be on the road to starting new habits that reduce the messy-dirty-giant-pile/stack-needs-to-be-washed clutter in your home.