Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The New Fridge and the New Habit

I am the proud new mama of a 4 door 21 cubic foot refrigerator! I fell in love with the idea of two freezer drawers on the bottom. I don't have to bend down far for most of my frozen stuff and I put the ice cream in the bottom drawer so I HAVE to work harder to get it!

I also fell in love with the idea of a counter-depth fridge since it is not as deep as most fridges. Yes, I lose some cubic feet, but in the end, I am only keeping cold (and can see and reach better) the items that are still fresh.

It took me a few days to slowly clean out my old fridge--and boy were there a lot of old science experiments hiding in the back!

My intention with this new fridge is to keep it clean, and filled with only EDIBLE items. What a concept!

I took a photo on its first day filled with fresh food and oh-so-clean.

I promise to post a photo of it (on or about) the first day of every month. You, my fans (fan?) can help me stay accountable to keeping this intention and the new habit of maintaining a clean fridge.

It's also my very first fridge that I have ever owned or lived with that has an ice maker (period) in the door and water in the door. Such a luxury this is!

Margaret Pearson Pinkham, CPO-CD®
Organize in Harmony

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Senior Organizer Book (Sale!!)

The nice folks at Delphi Health Products Inc. just informed me that they are having a 40% off sale (until December 31, 2009) on their products if purchased from their website. Visit their site here:
In their own words...  
"Delphi Health Products, Inc. products are aimed at the large, "graying" baby boomer market. Our initial line of BioBinder products provides groundbreaking simplicity in "organizing" and "immediate" access to life's vital information"

I am most familiar with their book The Senior Organizer. This is a workbook of sorts to fill out with all your (or the senior in your life) important information–like medications, legal info, financial information and locations of accounts, etc.

It's a well-organized book and can be filled out by the senior or with the help of an adult child if needed. It's all valuable information to have at your fingertips even just on a trip to the doctor's and especially in the event of an emergency. Just remember, you (or a loved one) might not be conscious during a health emergency or accident, and this will help everyone involved know critical information and understand what your wishes are.

Think about it...I know I have several credit cards, while I use only a few of them. I'm the bill-payer in my family and keep track of all that stuff myself. If I suddenly wound up incapacitated for a time, my husband would be thrilled to just take a look at this one book and know all of our accounts. And visa-versa–he keeps track of all our retirement information, and if it was all listed here, I wouldn't have to search through his desk and closet and wonder if I'd found all the paperwork.

This would make a nice present to give to a mom or dad–along with the promise to spend time with them to help them fill it out. (Word of advice–if your parents are anything like mine, make sure you do fill it out with them to make sure it gets done. My own dad had a little "My Memories" book I asked him to fill out years before he passed away. I found it afterward, and he had only filled out a few pages.)

In fact, one of the authors, professional organizer Dorothy Breininger, remarks that she wishes she had had this before her own dad passed away in order to make the ensuing time easier for everyone.

Once the book is purchased, they advise you to fill it out in pencil since information changes, copy the pages and put them in a binder or download the forms available on their website–all great bits that increase the usefulness of this book.

Product/Service Disclosure
(Delphi Health Products provided me with a free review copy of The Senior Organizer. I receive no compensation from Delphi or the authors for my reviews or recommendations.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

I Care Village

 I'll be posting more information in the next few days, but I am very excited to announce my affiliation and the launch of this new site dedicated to helping those who are caring for the elderly.

Visit now for a site preview! The site is up and running, and some links will become active later this week.


I am listed under the "Ask the Experts" tab under "Personal Organizing." I have written a number of articles for the site and will continue with fresh content, articles, reviews, videos and more. Launching soon is a new feature where you can set up an appointment with me (or one of the other experts) for a real-time consultation.

Let me know what you think!

Margaret Pearson Pinkham, CPO-CD®
Organize in Harmony

Sunday, November 08, 2009

I love my touchless soap dispenser!

I managed to find this dispenser at my local Ross for about $20. I just bought one to see how it would work. I love it! With cold season coming on and Swine Flu (H1N1) on everyone's lips (and hands), this is a nice little answer to having to touch something several times a day that everyone else in your family also touches. (Especially if one of your family members is an 8 year old.) And since I filled it with watered down dish soap, I can also quite easily get some soap into a dirty pan while holding the pan in one hand and the scrubber in the other.

This one from Simple Human retails for $40, but if you can find these puppies for less, I say they are a deal and an asset to your kitchen. I'll get a couple more--one for our guest bath and one for our own.

Product/Service Disclosure
(I paid for this item myself and receive no compensation from the maker.)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Come to the SFBA Regional Confernce on Saturday November 7!

If you are a professional organizer, you should be in San Rafael this weekend! You can still register for the NAPO-San Francisco Bay Area Regional Conference. Tell them Margaret sent you!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Organizing is like a bowl of oatmeal

This post is something akin to
"Life is like a box of chocolates."

Let me explain...

My husband eats a bowl of oatmeal almost every day. However, he rarely finishes it before he leaves for work and he finishes it on the way. That means the bowl sits in his car all day before he gets home and sets it in the sink.

You know what that bowl is like 10 hours later, right? The difference between dried oatmeal and superglue is minuscule at this point. That bowl has got to soak for hours in water before it can be cleaned (by hand). There's no point in putting it in the dishwasher, which seems to only multiply the superglue effect of dried oatmeal.

My point here around organizing is this: it's often much easier to get to (and complete) a project or task right away, rather than letting it "ripen."

Those bowls or any other dishes, when newly dirty, are often extremely easy to clean. A moment of swishing a bowl with water and a scrubber will clean them well enough to set in the dishwasher for a thorough cleaning and sterilizing.

However, if you let dishes sit to dry and harden, it not only takes time to let them soak, but then more water (a precious resource in in drought-prone California), more effort (elbow grease) and more time (scrubbing, soaking) to get an item clean. What might have taken seconds and very little water, is taking minutes and gallons of water and energy just because you didn't rinse an item right away.

Now, is this an essay about the rewards of doing your dishes right away? (Yes and no.) For some of my clients, creating a habit of cleaning the kitchen is something we work on together. But really, I'm looking at the bigger picture here.

What other tasks are you putting off that cost you more in time, effort, energy and possibly money (since time is money)?

I know I've got a couple of overdue library books racking up some fines. (Actual dollars there.)

If I let the laundry go too long, then I suddenly have several loads to wash, dry, fold and put away. (And in the same vein, if I let the laundry sit in the dryer too long, I then have a load of wrinkled clothes that will now cost me time (and electricity...$) to iron.

If I don't open my mail and put all the bills in the "bills to pay" folder, I might miss a bill, have to pay a late fee ($) and possibly harm my credit.

If you can nip anything in the bud, then you will keep it from overtaking you and putting you in "overwhelm." Often, "overwhelm" isn't because we have so many things coming at us (well, for some people it is), but it's because we've let so many things get away from us and they become wild and unruly like spoiled children. Kids don't come out of the birth canal spoiled. Parents that have neglected to set rules and boundaries create spoiled children. Omissions rather than an actual act of trying to spoil kids. A lot like our omissions of not getting to tasks.

(In truth, a child does come out of the womb spoiled. They have had everything they have ever needed fed to them through a tube or encased around them. Heck, they haven't even had to chew and swallow. And I do believe we should "spoil" them for quite awhile after they enter the world with all that they need: food, sleep, clean clothes and diapers and love and attention. At some point, though, gentle boundaries are taught and they begin to assimilate into a world with other beings. But I think I have digressed a tad...)

All I am saying is this...the next time you are about to procrastinate on a task, think down the line a little. How long will it take right now versus how long it will take tomorrow or next week? Is there a price to pay? The price you pay may be in dollars, time, effort, another person's hurt feelings, your reputation or your credit score!

What's it worth?

Oh, and those oatmeal bowls? I think I'll encourage DH to eat toast...

Saturday, October 03, 2009

NSGCD Conference

Wow, what a great time I am having at the annual conference of the  National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization!

Some highlights
  • My Level III student, Janine Adams, received her CPO-CD® pin! Whoo-hoo! If you need a PO (professional organizer) in the St. Louis area, give her a call!

  • And since she earned her Level III, I earned my Level IV! (Thank you Janine for making it SO easy!) You can guess what Level is next, huh?

  • The NSGCD will be changing its name! The committee has been formed, but no new name yet. We've outgrown the name--we are international now (we just signed an agreement with both the Australasian Association Professional Organizers) and Nederlandse Beroepsvereniging van Professional Organizers (The Netherlands).  And we are no longer just a study group--we are doing some research...and we also have subscribers (fancy way of saying members) who are in related fields like psychology.

  • Dr. Daniel Amen spoke--always such great info on the brain. I've read a couple of his books as well as watched his PBS specials. Very entertaining and charming in person, too. He previewed for us his script of his next PBS special based on his next book Change Your Brain, Change Your Body, in which he related his research on the brain to different types of brains and what each person needs to do to help them lose (or gain if they need) weight. He's also doing a study on retired NFL players and dementia...hmmm...can't wait to see that one!

  • Getting to see all the friends I've made all around the country has been very exciting...and making new ones each day. That's called networking, right? But it feels really fun and this is a welcoming, warm, fun (and very smart) group of organizers.

  • Getting to spend time with a very good friend, Kim Anker-Paddon, who abandoned me in Sonoma County to come and live and work in LA, where she is closer to her daughters. She's an extraordinary organizer who specializes in clients with issues like ADD (ADHD), chronic disorganization, and compulsive hoarding. Please call her if you need any help in the LA area!

  • My hotel vegan dinner turned out to be a really lovely polenta (with about 10 cloves of garlic in it) on  a bed of mushrooms and al dente veggies. I was able to request a dessert of berries--raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and a blackberry (there's my brain food, Dr. Amen!) They didn't score so highly with me at lunch. Once again, they just took the chicken off the bed of pasta and gave it to me. At least there were veggies on the side!

Oh...there's so much more, but I've got to go get ready for an early 8 am breakfast. (They had soy milk at the buffet yesterday for the cereal...more vegan brownie points for the Omni Hotel!)

And please forgive my liberal use of exclamation points today...but I am having fun! (oops...)


Monday, September 21, 2009

It pays to purge your clothing closet! (Literally)

The closet was getting a little unmanageable. We'd been painting in the bathroom and "things" were piling up in the closet. I knew it was time for a purge...

Purging my closet is a never-ending activity. Well, I shouldn't say that...it's more like an evolving activity. Every six months or so I tell myself I am going to reduce my clothing by half. That's a little extreme, but it's what I go in with. And if I wasn't ready to let go of something six months before, I usually am ready now. Saying good-bye sometimes takes time.

And every six months or so I manage to purge just enough to get all my clothes on hangers and back up IN the closet or folded into a drawer.

I did it again over the weekend. I did use up every last one of my hangers, but I did empty my "seasonal" box and have nothing in it now! (We hardly have seasons here, anyway. It's cold enough most summer afternoons here that I need a jacket, and never so cold in the winter that I can't wear my tank tops under a shirt or jacket. There's very little in my closet that can't be worn all year.

Why do I own three pairs of brown cords? (Because I forgot I already owned two and bought one more.) When they are hanging up next to each other, then I can see how many I own of each type or color. That helps me to remember what I've got when I am out shopping.

Do I really need four pairs of jeans? Well, I decided I needed three. One pair of "grubbies" one pair of "OK to run to the store in" and one pair of "dress" jeans that I need to hem because they must assume all women wear 5-inch heels when they wear dress jeans. (I'm not even short! I'm quite average at 5'5"!) Now it's a little dangerous for me to keep clothing I think I need to alter, since I rarely do it. But these jeans are nice, and I'll give myself a time boundary around how long I keep them if I haven't hemmed them. (By the way, duct tape works in a pinch!)

My happiest moment in the closet this weekend? When I found a $20 bill in a pocket of a pair of pants. Whoo-hoo! Now, I'm thrilled with a $1 bill, ecstatic with a $5 or $10, and "through the roof silly" with a $20. DH was out of town, so Mom and I went to a movie (Julie and Julia) and I happily paid $5 for a bag of popcorn!

Now, aren't you ready to go see how much money is lurking in your closet?

(By the way, I bundled up four bags of clothing and two bags of shoes. I jotted down each item and its condition on a piece of paper that I will staple to the receipt I get at the thrift store. I'll be able to get the most value from my donation at tax time with an itemization like this. "It's Deductible" will help you keep track of it all year and can be imported right into TurboTax.)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A&E Hoarders Episode IV

A quick synopsis...

Jake is a young man (21) who is living with his alcoholic (and verbally abusive) father in an apartment. The father seems seriously depressed and a serious alcoholic who hasn't thrown away a wine bottle in 6 months. His space is almost literally covered in bottles. Jake is suicidal. He seems to have diagnosed OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and cannot throw out anything that ever comes, in, including trash. He fears he will shorten his dog's life if he throws out the fur she sheds. He is an emotional wreck, but has a supportive boyfriend. Therapist Tara Fields is working with him.

Shirley, 71, lives with her husband in squalor in their home. She thinks she has 21-25 cats. She had a stroke and is blind in one eye. Animal control is in on this one and has cited Shirley for having too many animals. There are dogs on the property, too, but it is hard to tell how many. In the end, they pull out over 70 animals, 43 of them live cats. Several must be put down right away due to their ill health and serious disease. A "hoarding specialist" comes in. This person seems to be a junk hauler rather than a trained organizer.

Just a quick comment on this right now.

First of all, these are both very serious situations that are beyond the training of even professional organizers like myself who have been trained by the NSGCD to help clients with hoarding issues.

Jake is a wonderful, intelligent young man with some very serious mental health issues. The fact that he speaks of killing himself numerous times is a giant red flag for me that this man needs a (very well qualified) therapist. He seems to have gotten that in the show. Dr. Fields was gentle and gave him control with gentle nudging and self-awareness of his anxiety levels. He is also living in a situation with his father that is very unhealthy not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. Jake made wonderful strides for letting go of the trash, and he will need long-term support from a professional for him to continue growing. Hopefully his relationships with his mom and boyfriend are healthy and supportive ones which will help him continue his growth and independence (from his stuff, his obsessions and his father).

Shirley's is a case of animal hoarding, which is a completely different level of hoarding than "stuff" hoarding and I don't know if even the "experts" know how to deal with this yet. We saw a lot of denial from Shirley about the problems with the cats--she herself didn't realize how many she had and that so many had died or were sick. That is part of the illness of animal hoarding, is very poor insight into reality. I'm glad to see she wasn't charged or sent to jail. Yes, she neglected animals and kept them in poor conditions. But she wasn't intending to do that and I don't see how jail time would have actually helped her. People who hoard generally have poor insight into their situations, and even when they do realize a change must occur, often cannot make the change on their own--even with the threat of jail or children or spouses leaving or being taken away. It is bigger than they are. It doesn't excuse the situation. It just explains it.

I hope that more people will realize how complicated hoarding is. There are no easy answers. No one-size-fits-all solutions. When I was a park ranger in Yosemite, visitors would often say "Just don't let cars in the Valley, that will solve the over-crowding." Another no-easy-answers problem that (literally) fills volumes with idea for potential solutions.

Watch for more from me in the next few days about the larger problems around finding solutions around hoarding.

And, yes, if you have any ideas, send them my way!

What do YOU think?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Is A&E setting up hoarders for failure?

I'm sure that A&E isn't trying to set up its featured subjects in the Hoarders series for failure.

But they are doing their darndest to make that happen.

Here's what's wrong. (See what's right in my next post.)

1. The subjects don't seem to be getting therapy while they are getting organizing help.
This is necessary for any real change in a person's saving or acquiring habits. Not to mention emotional help with the trauma of loss and the difficulty of change, or any other mental health (or even physical health)conditions they might have.

2. They seem to be only getting help over the course of two days.
This is not how long it takes for real clearing to happen, even with a team. Maybe a bunch of guys with shovels could do it, but that would just be junk-hauling, not helping human beings.

3. They have a "team" of people there ready to help.
The "team" is a bunch of hired hands ready to do manual labor. The team is going to be of no use unless the organizer or therapist has arranged pre-sorted piles for the client to look through and make decisions about. A real team would be a team of professional organizers led by one leader organizer and the client.

4. Family members do not seem to have been briefed on how the process is going to go or what to expect.
The family members just seem to be set up for high expectations and the frustration that ensues is just good camera fodder.

Granted, I have no behind-the-scenes knowledge, so I don't know what is edited out or edited for effect. I can only hope some of these other things are happening, but what I do know is that the whole picture of hoarding is not getting out to the public, nor some of the resources, like the NSGCD, where some of the organizers got their training.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A&E Hoarders Episode III

The third installment in the A&E series Hoarders was a doozey. But oh, so real.

One story featured Betty, a woman whose elderly mentally ill husband cannot return to the home (social services has intervened) until she cleans up the house and yard. Her mentally ill adult daughter also lives with them. They are staying in a motel and money is running out. Professional organizer Dorothy Breininger is there to help.

The other story is about Tara, a 50ish woman who lives alone in a rental and is about to be evicted because of the clutter. The professional organizer helping her is Brendan McDaniel.

This was a study in contrasts, for sure. Each woman came to the "cleaning weekend" with a different attitude.

Betty was defiant. Not at all ready to "let go" of anything, and very upset that this was being "forced" on her. She still enjoyed shopping and collecting, and said it was her only joy and she wasn't going to stop.

Tara, on the other hand, was speaking hopefully about clearing up her situation and having a nice home again.

Both women had well-trained, experienced (with hoarding) professional organizers there to help them. Both Dorothy and Brendan are members of the NSGCD (National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization) which provides organizers with classes and certification programs for dealing with special issues like hoarding. This is where I attained my "CPO-CD®" (Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization) in a mentored and peer-reviewed 18-month program.

As I watched this episode, I could see where this was going. I could be pretty sure that Betty wasn't going to make much progress, and anything that might be accomplished would not be "lasting." She just wasn't ready or willing. Tara, on the other hand, was "ready" in her heart and mind, but I know from experience that that often is not enough for the actual purging to happen.

In fact, Betty fought her organizer and her family the whole way. Dorothy did a wonderful job of letting her know that decisions were "in her hands" and that she wasn't there to fight with her. But poor Betty dug her heels in. Betty's case is a prime example of someone who needs not just an expert-with-hoarding organizer, but an expert therapist to be helping her along the way. Betty's problems run deep, and frankly, if I were her, I could see putting up a wall of junk to keep from having to deal with my reality–a schizophrenic aged husband that had been drunk for most of the marriage, a schizophrenic adult daughter who still lives me and sets fire to the house from her cigarettes (that's how social services got involved), one daughter fighting leukemia, and another daughter about to wash her hands of the whole situation. At present, her only "joy" is acquiring. I can see that only time with a skilled therapist could turn her life around a little to figure out how else to find "joy" and to possibly get relief from living in the same household with two schizophrenic adults. And that's just the surface.

Tara jumped into the process with great hope and a great attitude. The reality, however, seemed to set in quite quickly. She got a migraine. She couldn't focus. She had forgotten to take her medicine and hadn't eaten. She was getting dizzy. She started doing what is called "churning." Looking through one pile of stuff and just setting all the things in a different pile or piles. Very little was "let go." Much was presents for other people. (I find this a common theme.) Often those who hoard have these wonderful big hearts and are always thinking of other people and buying or saving things to give to them. But rarely does the stuff get into the hands of the intended. It is usually piled up and lost, uncovered years later, too ruined to be given or no longer appropriate for the person.

Even Tara had melt-downs when she believed her friend and the organizer had thrown out some comics that she wanted to save. This one action caused her to temporarily lose faith and trust in the organizer. This is why you never throw out anything unless the client has told you to do so! (In this case, I think the organizer and friend thought they DID have permission to throw these out.) Once a client is suspicious of your actions, it's very difficult to regain trust.

Brendan did regain her trust and they did manage to clear an area in her living room.

Betty, under duress the entire time, did get one room cleaned and the yard mostly cleared. I believe a lot of it was thrown out without her specific permission, since her daughter was shown throwing things out in a fit. This won't be a lasting victory.

I hold out hope for Tara. She had genuine hope for herself to change, and wanted to change. The actual change will be harder. She, too will need therapeutic help in order to understand her behaviors and be able to change them, not just in clearing clutter, but in stopping the acquiring.

Betty is in a much worse "place." She has a more difficult family situation and absolutely no desire to change.

Hoarding is a sad and debilitating illness. There can be hopeful outcomes, and with shows like these, even if flawed, more people will have more knowledge about and possibly some people will be helped.

In my next posts, I will explore my thoughts around how A&E has set up these scenarios and what helps and what doesn't.

If you need help with a hoarding situation, or would just like to learn more about the topic, please visit the NSGCD website. www.nsgcd.org

Margaret Pearson Pinkham, CPO-CD®
Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization
Organize in Harmony
(707) 823-3479

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Who wants to be called a "hoarder?"


It's just not a nice word. Even one of the clients in the new A&E Hoarders series mentioned how she didn't like the word.

It sounds awful. And it sounds a lot like another word that is spelled differently but sounds the same. I have learned to enunciate clearly and make sure the person I'm speaking to is paying attention otherwise they think I've just called someone a very bad name.

In fact, I try not to use the word "hoarder" anymore at all. Instead of "I work with hoarders" I'll say "I work with clients who have compulsive hoarding issues." Instead of "She's becoming a hoarder" I'll say, "She has some compulsive hoarding tendencies." You get the idea.

It's like in the health profession or mental health profession. Calling someone by the name of their illness degrades a person, make them the illness, no longer a person with an illness. "She's a person with bipolar disorder" rather than "She's a bipolar." I don't work in hospitals (but I've watched hospital shows), and we've heard doctors refer to "the brain cancer in Room 5" when they should have said "the patient in Room 5 with brain cancer."

Hoarding is an illness. A compulsion. A sad and uncomfortable place to be.

It's unfortunate that A&E names their series "Hoarders," but I suppose that's a whole lot catchier than "People with Compulsive Hoarding Issues."

My clients are people. Most often, they are fun, creative, interesting, intelligent, talkative, warm and caring people.

And some of them have compulsive hoarding issues.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A&E Hoarders Episode II

I have a few thoughts about the second episode of A&E's new series called "Hoarders."

This episode featured two stories–Linda who needed to sell her house after her divorce, but needed to clear it and repair it before it could be put up for sale. She worked with a therapist who stood with her during the purging.

The second story featured Steven, who had filled his very small studio apartment with garbage. He worked with (the infamous in organizing circles) professional organizer, Dorothy Breininger.

Linda was shown shopping at a thrift store before her clearing began. I heard her delight in finding interesting things (a purse in the shape of an armadillo, for example), the pride in finding something that was a "bargain" and when at the grocery store, the excitement in finding a new type of energy bar. They said she shops at the thrift store several times a week and can spend $100-$200 at a time there. Now, since I am quite familiar with thrift stores, I know that that much money buys quite a lot. And that much stuff will take up a lot of space in the home!

I don't know the therapist who worked with Linda, and I don't know how much work they did together in the office before they got to the house. It seems like that for the sake of the filming, a crew was provided, but there wasn't much the crew could do since the therapist didn't set up the day in a way that a crew could really do anything. She did put Linda "in charge" of decisions about what was to be let go of (the only way to do it), but had she used an organizer too, they might have been able to get more done by doing some agreed upon pre-organizing into piles for her to look at. Instead, they worked as I do when I am one-on-one with a client--slowly, one box or pile at a time. They worked 10 hours on one day (usually far too much for one person to handle) and then again probably several hours the next day. It seemed to end with Linda overwhelmed and her son very frustrated with the lack of "progress." The end-titles told us that Linda gave up on cleaning the house, wasn't able to secure a loan for repairs and moved out. It wasn't clear what work she and the therapist had done or were continuing to do in reducing the acquiring Linda does.

In Steven's case, Dorothy Breininger (an NSGCD member, I might add) made good use of the crew by setting up numerous categories, and had the crew stack things in those areas for Steven to look through. Now, this was a very small apartment, but they were able to clear it out in the two days and set it up very simply for Steven to live in again. Dorothy talked about how they had already had some conversations around what his goals were, and asking himself "Does keeping this get me closer to this goal or farther?" I liked Dorothy's attitude toward Steven, reminding him often (and reinforcing the idea numerous times) that he was in charge of what stayed and what left, and reminding him of his end goals of writing a book and having a more spiritual life.

If anything in these shows seems too familiar to you, and you are currently experiencing distress about your the condition of your home, please give me a call or send me an e-mail. I'm happy to talk to you about the issue of compulsive hoarding and where you might find some help.

You are worth it. You deserve it. And you can do it. The first step is asking for help.

Margaret Pearson Pinkham, CPO-CD®
(707) 823-3479

If you are not in my area (Sonoma County in Northern CA), please visit the NSGCD (National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization) website to find a professional organizer trained in these special issues.

A great little book to read is Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving and Hoarding by David Tolin, Randy Frost and Gail Skeketee. It speaks to both the person with the hoarding issues and has sidebars written to family members or loved ones who are trying to help or understand. Great primer for "do's and don'ts" when helping a person to clean their home.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

When will I take on a client with Compulsive Hoarding issues?

I work with clients who have compulsive hoarding issues.

The clients with the highest probability of changing their situation will be doing these things...

1. It will be their idea to ask for help.
When they are ready, they will call me. It doesn't work well if they are forced to call me by a well-meaning family member. "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't him drink."

2. They are in some sort of therapy or counseling.
It's best if they are in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) at the same time I am working with them. With their permission, I can work in a collaborative arrangement with the therapist to help move things along in the home while the client and therapist work on issues in the office. I am not a therapist, and I am well-aware of my boundaries when it comes to this issue.

3. The client has family or friends in the area who are supportive and encourage their efforts to clean up.
This isn't an "absolute" of mine, but again, the chances for change are much, much better if the client has a support team. A therapist or other professional can also be a part of that supportive group.

If you are looking for an organizer in your area, please contact the NSGCD (National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization) and look at their website for a qualified professional with training around compulsive hoarding.

Watch this blog for more posts about compulsive hoarding and what to expect from a trained professional organizer if you are a person with compulsive hoarding issues.

There's help...there really is. It's not easy and it's not cheap. But it's life changing and it's worth it.

Are you ready for a different life?

Monday, August 17, 2009

A&E Compulsive Hoarding Series

A&E is running a new series about compulsive hoarding, which premiered Monday, August 17.

You can read more about it and find the schedule here. It will be shown on Monday nights, and according to my Comcast schedule, each episode will be shown a number of times each week.

I just watched the first show and am left with mixed impressions of their portrayal of the topic and their subjects.

I know a couple of the Professional Organizers who worked with the people, and have heard Dr. David Tolin (the psychologist featured in one segment) speak at an NSGCD (National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization) conference.

The reactions of the people that were being helped were typical of those with compulsive hoarding issues. Aware of their situation, yet seemingly blind to the piles around them. Intelligent, creative and caring people. People concerned with not wasting things, yet in that very concern gone haywire, they have wasted and ruined almost everything they have "saved" for use in the future. It all seems logical to them.

Even the threat of eviction or losing a spouse or custody of their children often does not prompt them to change their ways. They seem to be at the mercy of this cruel condition.

So very complicated.

And heartbreaking for their families.

For the most part, the organizers and Dr. Tolin treated these clients with respect and patience. There might have been a few times where I might have said something differently or tried a different tactic. But I know these people to be trained and educated around the issue of compulsive hoarding. Dr. Tolin is one of three researchers conducting research into this condition, and has co-written a book intended for those with the problem of hoarding and their families--Buried in Treasures. (See this book on my Amazon carousel at the bottom of this page.)

Keep in mind that this was a one-hour television show that condensed many, many hours of actual work. We don't know what went on at other times, or what was cut here and there.

I did read some comments on the A&E website about how so much was just "thrown out." Please keep in mind that when most professional organizers work with clients (myself included) we try to donate, recycle or repurpose whatever we can. We don't want to waste anything, either.

But the big issue with things that come from a house filled with hoarded items....they are probably toxic with mold or are impregnated with the smell from the home--again, mold, mildew and dust. Most items really cannot be saved, and should not be dumped on some unsuspecting thrift store and possibly contaminate someone else's home.

In the next few days, I'll write more posts about compulsive hoarding.

In the meantime, check out my links listed on this blog and check out my credentials for working with people who have severe clutter or compulsive hoarding issues.

Please contact me by phone or e-mail if you have any questions or concerns about your own issues or a loved-ones.

Margaret Pearson Pinkham

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A walk in the woods can help you focus

Never underestimate the power of nature!

That can be true for hurricanes as well as a simple walk in the woods.

My advice today is simple--take a walk. Even if you can't get out to a park and go on a hike, just take a walk down your street--hopefully it has some green trees and fresh air.

Walking in the natural world uses a different part of our brain than the part we use at work or in school. It lets those parts rest, and when you need to get back to work or school or simply to that cluttered closet, you will truly be "of a different mind" when when you get back.

Have a nice walk!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

2009 NSGCD Annual Conference

I'll be attending this wonderful conference put on by the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization for Professional Organizers and related professionals (therapists, coaches, etc.).

Learn more about the conference at the NSGCD website.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

2009 Annual Conference on Hoarding and Cluttering

This is a wonderful conference open to everyone: those who have hoarding issues, people who work with them (organizers, therapists, social workers, government officials, etc.) and even friends and family members.

Please think about attending this conference in San Francisco if there is anyone in your life living with this problem. Sometimes there aren't answers, but there is understanding.

Mental Health Association of San Francisco

2009 Annual Conference on Hoarding and Cluttering

Save the Date! November 5, 2009.

  • This year's conference features Tamara Hartl, Ph.D. as keynote speaker.
  • Online registration opens August 1st, 2009.

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.

MHA-SF holds an annual conference for more than 400 social service providers, medical professionals, landlords and property managers, researchers, family and friends, and people who hoard and clutter.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Putting Your Affairs in Order

There was a column in today's paper about being "ready" when you go, especially if you go suddenly and unexpectedly, as Michael Jackson did.

An organizer/author friend of mine, Maggie Watson, has written a book that helps you do just that--be ready, that is!

A Graceful Farewell:Putting Your Affairs in Order is a wonderful workbook that you can help someone (a parent?) fill out so that everyone knows where everything is.

It even contains a CD in the back of all the forms so you can fill this out on your computer or print extra pages if you have more information.

I'll write a fuller review of it in the coming weeks...but hey, why not go out and get it right now and start filling it out? Your kids will thank you...and if you are helping your parents do it, you will thank yourself for saving yourself energy and grief at a time when you will need all your energy to help you get through the period of grief!

Product Disclosure
I received a free copy of this book from the author who is also a friend and colleague. I receive no compensation for this or any other review.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Summer Special on Phone Coaching

Summer Special through the end of August!

Sign up for two hours of phone coaching and get one hour free.

(Mention this blog. Offer good for sessions scheduled
through the end of August)

PayPal Accepted Now!

Since clients have been asking if they can pay by credit card, I have now set up a PayPal account! This is a safe and secure way to use your credit card and make payments using your credit card via the PayPal website.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Completion is in the eye of the beholder.

While I might have several "to do's" on my list each day, I try to remind myself that I accomplish much more than those items on a daily basis.

If you've been feeling like you never seem to finish anything, I suggest you redefine "finished."

My dishwasher is a perfect example.

I could look at cleaning my kitchen as one big "To Do." But if I am telling myself that it's not "finished" until it's perfectly clean and all the dishes are put away and the floors are mopped...then I know I will never truly be finished. (Chances are good someone will dirty a dish while I am mopping the floor, and there you have it, the cycle starts all over!)

But what if I break it down into much smaller steps, and pat myself on the back as I complete each one? Won't I get more of that "Completion Chemistry" going, feel encouraged and not overwhelmed?

So here are some examples of big "to do's" and smaller alternatives.

Instead of "I'm going to clean the whole kitchen" how about "I'll just empty the dishwasher." (Or even--"I'll just empty the top rack." On a tough day I'll break that down to "I'll use a clean glass out of the dishwasher instead of one in the cabinet and I'll call it starting to empty the dishwasher."

Instead of "I'm going to do the laundry," how about "I'll fold the tea towels and put them away."

Instead of "I need to mow the lawn," how about "I'm going to see if the lawn mower has gas in it."

Instead of "I'm going to sort and purge my whole wardrobe," how about "I'm going to sort and purge my sock drawer."

Instead of "I'm going to run in a marathon,"" how about "I think I'll see if I can walk to the end of the block."

I think you get the idea.

Granted, it will take you many of these little steps to get the larger task done, but it is those little steps that get you started. And for many of us, it is just starting those little steps that seem to get in our way.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

All I Need To Know About Life I Learned From Star Trek

As promised....(no it doesn't have much to do with organizing, but I love it!)

  • Seek out new life and new civilizations.
  • Non-interference is the Prime Directive.
  • Keep your phaser set on stun.
  • Humans are highly illogical.
  • There's no such thing as a Vulcan death grip.
  • Live long and prosper.
  • Having is not so pleasing a thing as wanting; it is not logical but it is often true.
  • Infinite diversity in infinite combinations (IDIC).
  • Tribbles hate Klingons (and Klingons hate Tribbles).
  • Enemies are often invisible - like Klingons, they can be cloaked.
  • Don't put all your ranking officers in one shuttle craft.
  • When your logic fails, trust a hunch.
  • Insufficient data does not compute.
  • If it can't be fixed, just ask Scotty.
  • Even in our own world, sometimes we are aliens.
  • When going out into the Universe, remember: "Boldly go where no man has gone before!"

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that I am not the original creator of this list. I haven't been able to find the origins--I had a poster of this for years, and I found it again on another person's website, un-credited.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Beware of cloaking devices!

In honor of the new Star Trek Movie that opened last week, I thought I'd use a Trek theme for my posts this week! Yes, I was a Trekkie (fan of the original series) and a Trekker (fan of the Next Generation series). For a special treat on Friday, I'll post the "All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned on Star Trek" wisdom!

Today however, I'd like to talk about plastic bags. Those nasty white things they foist upon you at the grocery store (or department store) when you have forgotten your eco-canvas bags.

Beware of them...for more than ecological reasons!!!!! They all contain the Klingon Cloaking Device and anything you put in them (or decide to leave in them) will be invisible to you forever. The bags themselves will become invisible to you.

To update your Trek knowledge for a moment here, let me explain the Klingon Cloaking Device. We first came upon it in the original series. The Klingons were a race of people who were, shall we say, just plain nasty. Like they all were having a bad-hair-day every day. Warrior types that went out looking for a fight. Somehow, even though they had not evolved like the logical and peaceable Vulcans, they had not only developed the technology for space flight, but were the only ones in the universe to have developed a way to make their ships invisible. The "cloaking device" (Such an archaic term for such a futuristic technology, huh?) used a lot of energy, and they couldn't fire their weapons with it on, so they had to use it judiciously. But it meant they could sit in the middle of space and wait for another ship to come by to pounce on when there was no planet to crouch behind.

Anyway, back to present time. I was reminded last night just how plastic bags can render anything invisible when I went looking for some soda that I thought my DH had put away. I checked the counters, I checked the fridge...no soda and I was hot and needed a caffeine fix.

When I asked him, he simply said, "It's in the fridge."

"I looked in the fridge. I didn't see it."

"Oh, I just put them in there in the plastic bag."

"Oh...that's why I didn't see them...."

Sure enough, I went back and found them. Now, I don't normally put ANYTHING in the fridge IN a bag, so the bag itself should have stood out to me. But no. These bags have special powers.

Why oh why am I going on and on about these bags?

Because I see them all the time in my clients' homes. (OK, so I must have special powers only when I wear my "CPO-CD" pin, I guess–it renders their powers useless!)

Time after time, while sorting and purging, we will come across many, many of these bags, open them and my client will exclaim "Wow, so that's where that is! I remember buying that (last week, last month, last year, when my married daughter was in diapers...) and I haven't seen it since!"

These bags can pile up so easily, hide food, crafts, clothing, gifts meant for loved ones...their power to conceal is endless.

My only advice is this: when you bring something home in a plastic bag, take it out of the bag, and set the item(s) on the counter (or wherever they need to go) and put that bag in another bag to recycle it at the grocery store when you have a collection of them!

This simple act will defeat the Klingon Cloaking Device without a single shot fired!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Organizing acronym fun! (OAF!)

Here are a few acronyms that popped into my head for possible presentations to special interest groups:

OY! (Organize Yourself!)
Jewish Community Center

OM.... (Organize Mindfully)
World Meditation Society

OB-GYN! (Oh Boy-Get Yourself Neat!)
County Obstetricians

CONCH! (Create Organized, Neat Coastal Homes)
Bay Area Homeowners

I'll add to this list as I think of them...and I invite you to tell me yours!

The S-P-O-R-T of downsizing

Whatever your reason for downsizing right now (the economy, a senior moving to a smaller home, or just too much clutter, etc.), the benefits may surprise you–saved money in storage fees, more room in your house due to less "stuff," or even more room in your life due to the extra space you have created! Whether you believe in Feng Shui or not, I do believe that when you create open areas in your living space, you invite a new energy and vitality to come and reside with you, too!

Here's a positive spin I call the "S-P-O-R-T" technique! (Think about if you want this to be an individual or "team" sport. Having a friend to be accountable to while doing this makes it easier and can make the time fly!)

R–Relax and Reward

Sort your stuff so you know what you have! You can approach this in a number of ways, whether you are looking at a storage unit or an entire house. Start slow, one step at a time, so it doesn't overwhelm you.

Sorting can mean putting like things with like. For example, gather all your bathroom items in one pile, pull all your towels out of the linen closet, or look at all your mixing bowls and baking items at once. Often, my clients will see just how many items they have of one thing, and the next step (purging) becomes so much easier. "Wow, I didn't realize I owned 15 flashlights!" (Or 42 bath towels or 21 bottles of shampoo–you get the idea!)

Another way to sort is room by room, cabinet by cabinet or even drawer by drawer, making an assumption that you have already "sorted" the things in your house to a degree. This is a good technique if you are easily overwhelmed by the idea of sorting everything you own. Just think of it in 15-30 minute segments–one drawer, one cabinet. See what's in there and "define the space." "This is my baking cabinet." "This drawer is for large utensils." Again, you'll see the wisdom here in the next step.

It isn't the prettiest word in our language, but at least it rhymes with "urge." I like to repeat to myself in an upbeat manner "I've got the urge to purge, I've got the urge to purge." Remember Flip Wilson's "Here come da judge, here come da judge"? Kind of like that! In fact, you are the judge! (See a Laugh-in clip with Sammy Davis, Jr. as the judge here.) So repeat after me, "Here come da judge and I got the urge to purge! Here come da judge and I got the urge to purge!"

So now the pile of bath towels is in front of you. How many do you really need? Too many means more work and less space–more laundry, more folding, more putting away, less room in the linen closet to store other things. How many people live with you? Figure on at least 2 towels per person, then just keep a few extra for guests. Purge out the old, ratty stained and torn ones. The same rule of thumb can be applied to sheets (and nearly everything else) as well. Two sets for each bed in your house. (Maybe a few extra if you have a child in the midst of potty training!)

Do you really need 21 bottles of shampoo? Throw out the old stuff, keep a few good ones and remember not to buy shampoo for awhile. Staring at your makeup drawer? Good chance you can just throw it all out. Most makeup should be replaced every few months to reduce the chance of it spoiling and causing you eye or skin problems. Another great reason to only buy the bare minimum, date it when you open it and throw it out when time is up.

Eighteen mixing bowls you say? Hmmm–reconsider how much baking you really do. Again, bring it down to your minimums. Keep 2-3 bowls of different sizes, especially ones that do double duty. A nice mixing bowl can also be a salad bowl. A mixing bowl with a lid can be a storage container.

If you are using the "cabinet by cabinet" technique and you have defined the cabinet ("Baking items"), and you come across odd things that don't belong (a tennis ball, a toy, etc.)–just pull them out and put them in a box marked "Belongs elsewhere." If you can't make a purge right then, leave it in the box for when you do come across where it really belongs and then make the decision once you see its "cabinet-mates."

And of course, keep a few bins or bags handy for trash, recycling and give-away.

This is the fun part! You've already done the hard stuff. And if you've done it well, you have less stuff to organize. That's the real trick here. For most of my clients who think they have trouble organizing, it's really that they just had too much stuff. Of course it was impossible to organize! But once they see what's left–the good stuff they really love–it's no longer overwhelming, and they seem to click right into organizing mode!

You have already sorted, so like is with like. (Yes, that is actually organizing right there!)

Now think about how and when you are going to use it. Box it and store it? (Yes? Then think again about keeping it unless you know you will be using it in the future.) Keep it handy in a "prime real estate" spot? Use it once or twice a month and shove it back into a corner? Something to look at and admire daily in a special place of honor?

R–Relax and Reward
Take a break and do something nice for yourself. Every time you complete the "completion chemistry" cycle, bask in the accomplishment, even if you've just done a little drawer or one square foot of space. You signal your brain that this is a good thing. And your brain will get used to it, like it and want to do it again!

Thinking ahead about your reward is also wonderful motivation. Hmmm, a long soak in the tub? A cup of coffee? A walk around the block? Watching one favorite TV show? A piece of chocolate? Ten minutes reading that new novel? A phone call to a friend? Internet surfing? You get the idea.

Set yourself up. Reward yourself. Reap what you sow.

Treasure yourself. Treasure the moment, treasure your accomplishment, treasure your treasures that you've chosen to keep.

Treasure the fact that this process helps you realize what is truly important to you and what is just stuff.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The $40 Shopping Trip

I began a personal experiment several weeks ago--attempting to do my grocery shopping on $80 a week. (We are a family of two adults and one 7 year-old.)

I learned a number of things, some of which surprised me and led me to realize it was a grand experiment, even on the "organizing level" which I had not intended.

It began as a way to curb our budget–we're all trying to tighten the purse strings these days and I know that while we do not go overboard in the food department, I knew we could reign things in a little. Sometimes produce goes to waste in our fridge or leftovers don't get eaten in time.

My original thought was to try to spend only $100 a week at the grocery store, but I wanted that amount to include the lunches my DH buys during the workweek. So I have him $20 of that (telling him I would make his lunch twice a week.)

That left me with $80. I was afraid that if I spent that all at once, I would have forgotten something important, and then blow my budget. So, I cut it down to $40, knowing that, even though I abhor grocery shopping more than once a week (once a month would be super if the produce would only stay fresh!), I would go twice.

Of course the first and best tool in this project is a planned week of menus (I had already been doing that–mostly) and a grocery list. I didn't think $40 was going to leave me any room for impulse purchases, and I was right. I also planned to take $40 in cash with me, not write a check as I usually do. This meant even more organization on my part, having to go the the bank and withdraw cash for the week.

Here's what I thought would happen and did:
1. The very first time I tried this (taking a calculator with me and adding as I shopped), I spent $40 exactly. Exactly! Forty dollars and no cents. $40.00 Even including the tax on one or two items, and having produce which of course could vary a lot. I saw it as a sign from the gods that I was meant to continue doing this. (Even the cashier was pretty astounded, even more so when I told him I had intended to spend only that amount.)

2. I made no frivolous purchases. I picked up two chocolate bars at the end (I consider those staples) and even put back another snack food to afford the second bar.

3. I only bought what I thought we would need in the next few days, not the whole week or for the next week.

If we had one block of tofu already in the fridge, I didn't buy another, knowing that was enough protein for a couple days. I bought just a few yogurts for DD and just one or two for me, since I only use a half of one each morning.

It made me more aware of what I had in the pantry or fridge already, and not overbuy. Which in turn kept some of that fresh produce from spoiling because I knew I needed to use it up. I stopped preparing only our favorite foods and used up the other stuff (perfectly fine and tasty) we already had. I even discovered that my DD will eat what we call "Beanie Weanies" and loves them. (Baked beans with cut up Smart Dogs.) And I can make cornbread in a flash if I have at least 20 minutes.

4. By limiting myself to the cash in my wallet, and to the $40 limit, I really did stick close to $40. When I know I have that "open checkbook" I tend to spend three times that amount.

What I hadn't expected:
1. Shopping was a whole lot quicker! You have your list, you fill it (and you know that $40 goes fast!) and you get out! Time and aggravation saved!

2. Healthier foods. Again, since $40 isn't much, there's no room for a lot of processed or prepared foods. You've got to buy the "cheap" stuff that you are going to process yourself at home. Of course this translates into a healthier diet. I found my cart loaded with fresh fruits and veggies, a couple veggie proteins, a few cans of beans or tomato sauce, soy milk, yogurt and a loaf of bread. I also found that I saved time since I wasn't stopping to inspect labels of any new items. The few processed things I did get were familiar and I'd inspected them in the past.

3. Easier. Forty dollars generally only gets you two bags of groceries. (At Whole Foods, anyway.) Two bags of groceries means: Only one trip up the stairs in the garage into the kitchen instead of three or four. Only a couple minutes putting groceries away in the kitchen instead of 15 or 20. (Or letting them sit on the floor for days because I was too tired after trudging up the stairs three times.)

4. Less wasted. We often don't even eat all the food I planned for the 3 days, and it is still in the fridge. I had learned this a few years ago when I started doing weekly menu planning. I would rarely use up all the groceries I had bought for the week and much was there (and some of it going bad) the next week. But this held true for menu planning/shopping for just a few days at a time. (I do plan the whole week's menus, but just shop for a few days.) So, we eat even less than I thought we did.

What didn't quite work on $40 a trip:
Once you start running out of non-food items, your bill goes up dramatically. I needed to readjust the budget to include the reality of the expenses of toilet paper, tissues (we have hay fever), paper towels (even though we use these sparingly), shampoo/conditioner (long hair takes a lot of shampoo), deodorant, razor blades, dishwasher detergent, dishwashing liquid, clothes washing detergent, feminine hygiene products, etc. We did our best to root out these things that might be hiding somewhere in the house–using up all those tiny little hair products from previous hotel stays, for instance. That would stretch the budget a week or so.

My take-aways:
1. Coaching metaphor. A very surprising take-away came in the form of a coaching metaphor, which I will explain in a future blog post. But it has to do with the idea of having only $40 worth of time vs. that open checkbook.

2. Food waste. I am much more careful about using up leftovers and not letting food rot in the fridge. I'm not perfect and it still happens, but I feel I am much more aware of what I am putting in my cart and the likelihood of it getting eaten.

3. I tend to "hoard" less. Similar to #2 above. I let go of the feeling that I need to buy several of each item (maybe it's on sale), when in reality, it's like borrowing money from myself. Why let my money sit on my shelf as a tenth can of beans when it could have gone to pay down a real debt? (I'll be blogging this summer about a project my local organizers' group is doing around disaster preparedness. That may also alleviate my hoarding tendency by knowing I have my "disaster hoard" already completed.)

4. High cost of non-food items. I'm more careful about non-food products since I now realize just how expensive they are--or rather, what a large percentage of our "grocery" budget they are. I've switched to a cheaper shampoo/conditioner that still meets my "natural" requirements. I've toyed with the idea of cutting my hair short again, but since short cuts need to be kept up more often I think the savings is in having fewer hair cuts. (And, no I won't switch to a $15 cut!) I have begun to just not wash my hair now and then, if I can get away with it. That's probably even better for my hair and certainly saves me time. And, no, I'm not ready to give up deodorant!

5. Shopping at two stores. Since I like two stores in town, and each carries a few things the other doesn't, I know I'll be getting to each of them in the week.

I'm still trying to shop with only $40 at a time. I've fallen off the wagon a few times, hard. Trader Joe's is a third store I like to shop at, but ours are in the next town, about 30-45 minutes away. The hoarding tendency takes over knowing I might not get back there for awhile and I'll easily spend $150. My stomach turns when I do that. So, I'm still working that out.

Costco is another issue. I don't really buy much food there, although on the last few trips I have found some good deals on fruit, which my daughter loves, and I try to eat more of. Other than fruit and juice boxes, I find myself buying non-food items like TP, tissues, batteries, printer paper and printing ink.

I think this experiment is a lot like diets I've been on. Over the last 20 years, I've tried different "diets" and come away with a new knowledge base, and I think I'm healthier for it. On McDougall I learned where the fats are in my food, on the Atkin's diet I learned where all the carbs were and where the protein was, on the Fiber diet, I learned, you guessed it, where all the fiber is. And lately, with the "UltraMind Diet" I am much more aware of wheat and sugar in my diet and how it affects me.

In other words, I have become more aware. I don't try to stick with just one of those diets--but it was like a decades long nutrition course that has helped me form choices about what I put into my mouth, and be very aware of when I stray from my good choices.

This budget experiment has made me very aware of the foods (and non-foods) I put in my cart, and how much they cost me financially as well as in time, potential aggravation and waste.

I think I'll keep to the $40/trip, knowing that there may be one or two extra trips each month when I have to stock up on items that last more than a few days but are essential to our lives.

When I see a $5 magazine at the check out (or any other frivolous item), I tend to think of it now in terms of how many cartons of blueberries it would buy. (When I was a kid, and bubble gum was a penny, I often looked at things as "How many pieces of bubble gum would that buy?)

Blueberries are expensive, but nutritionally very valuable and my DD loves them. That helps me make the choice.

Monday, March 09, 2009

AlphaSmart Neo

Recently, a client of mine proudly showed off a new device she had purchased that is helping her with her writing tasks. It's called the AlphaSmart Neo keyboard. It's basically a portable digital typewriter. When you are ready to download your text into a word processing program, you just plug it into your computer where you can do your formal editing and formatting. Or you can print directly from the Neo to your printer.

Apparently it is quite popular in the schools for teaching kids keyboarding and writing, and has a "cult" following among journalists and NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) novelists. (The AlphaSmart makers have donated loaner Neos to NaNoWriMo organization.)

At first thought, one would think, "Well, why not just buy a laptop?"

Well, on second thought, there a number of reasons why this little device is so much better than a laptop...

1. It's a whole lot cheaper than a laptop. Around or under $200. Way less on e-bay. Drop it and break it and you are not out next month's rent or mortgage payment. (And many users remark at how durable it is.)

2. It's distraction-free. I think this is one of its biggest plusses. No internet connection. No other programs. No checking e-mail. No games. If you have writing to do, that's all you can do. Many of my clients have ADHD and anything can distract them from a task at hand. If you've taken your little AlphaSmart Neo onto the back deck to get the next chapter of your book written, chances are good you'll do that. (Unless there happen to be a lot of pretty butterflies flitting around!)

3. It will last for 700 hours on 3 AA batteries! Whoo-doggies that's exciting to me! I'm lucky to get 4 hours on my brand-new rechargeable laptop battery before having to plug in again. I can't go cross-country on one charge. But with a little Neo in your bag, no excuses for not writing the whole way OVER to the other coast AND back! (Even if you're on a car-trip!)

4. Gets your thoughts down easily and quickly without having to retype in your handwritten notes. Plug in, hit a key and your text is in the mothership.

5. It's quite light at just two pounds. Even a Macbook Air is three pounds. So think two cans of beans. Or peas. Or pineapple slices--whatever your favorite canned food is!

One word of warning, though. AlphaSmart also sells the "Dana" model which has Palm OS app capability and internet. As one blog commenter said "any on-ramp to the web is a gateway to sloth."

Monday, March 02, 2009

Current Monthly Offer


If you are Irish or know
someone who is...

You qualify for the March Special!

Purchase 5 hours &
get the 6th for free!
(for new and returning clients)

Good for in-home or in-office sessions as well
as phone coaching or "Virtual Organizing"

Workshops and talks

Workshops and talks available to
clients, organizers, clubs or organizations
  • "Adult ADD: How a Walk in the Woods Can Help You Focus"
  • "Nature AND Nurture: It all A.D.D.'s Up" (co-presented with Kim Anker-Paddon, CPO-CD)
  • "Present Yourself Professionally: Transforming Your Image without Spending a Fortune"
  • "The Head, Heart and Soul of Organizing"
  • "Oh Look, a Butterfly! Staying on Top of Work When Working From Home Isn't Working"
  • "How to Keep All the Pots on the Stove from Boiling Over without Losing Your Cool"
  • "Recognizing the Hoarding Client"
  • "Using the NSGCD Clutter-Hoarding Scale"
Scheduled Workshops and Talks
 Thursday March 31, 2011
 "Is this hoarding and what can I do about it?" Presentation for the public through the Russian River Empowerment Center in Guerneville, CA.

Tuesday May 15, 2011
"Motivational Interviewing for the Professional Organizer" Presentation to members of the NBOC a the Spring Educational Seminar, Sonoma County, CA.

Date TBA, 2011
"Recognizing Hoarding Disorder"for West County Services

Some of my previous presentation experience:
  • Teleclasses for the NSGCD (2009, 2010)
  • Retreat/conference sessions for the NBOC (2006, 2008)
  • Conference sessions at NAPO-SFBA annual conference (2006, 2007)
  • Talks for local organizations and clubs
  • National Park Service (Numerous walks, talks, campfire programs in Yosemite and Point Reyes on natural and cultural history topics. Those were my park ranger days!)

Certification, Education and Experience

Professional Memberships 
  • National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO)
    • Golden Circle Member
  • National Association of Professional Organizers-San Francisco Bay Area (NAPO-SFBA)
  • National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD)
  • North Bay Organizers and Coaches (NBOC)
    • Membership Coordinator
  • Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA)

Certification, Education and Experience
  • Level V Master Trainer in CD and Organization (NSGCD, 8/10)
    • "The purpose of the Master Trainer certificate is to acknowledge leadership, publication, training, coaching service and commitment to the field of study and exploration of Chronic Disorganization and organization. This is the NSGCD certificate and certification program highest level of achievement."
  •  Level IV Training Program Coach (NSGCD, 10/09)
    • "The objective and purpose of the NSGCD Training Program Coach, level IV, is to develop an organizer's skills and knowledge in the area of training, coaching, motivating, and communications."
  • CPO-CD® (NSGCD, 9/07)

    • I am the only Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization in California north of San Francisco.
    • 18-month mentored and peer reviewed certification program
  • Specialist Certificates (NSGCD)
    • Chronic Disorganization
      • 25 hours of study and General Exam
    • Attention Deficit Disorder

      • 65 hours of study ADD Exam
  • Certificates of Study (NSGCD)

    • Chronic Disorganization
    • Basic ADD Issues with the CD Client
    • CD Client Administration
    • Understanding the Needs of the Elderly CD Client
    • Basic Physical Conditions Affecting the CD Client
    • Learning Styles and Modalities
    • Basic Hoarding Issues with the CD Client
    • Understanding the Needs of the Student CD Client
    • Basic Mental Health Conditions and Challenges Affecting the CD Client
    • Life Transitions
  • Coach Approach for Organizers Graduate (2006)
  • Completed one-year Organizer Coach program (2009)
  • Environmental Education, 12 years (Naturalist and National Park Ranger at Point Reyes National Seashore and Yosemite. Field Seminars Director, Point Reyes National Seashore Association)
  • Free-lance photojournalist 
  • B.S. Journalism, University of Kansas (1983)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Contact me

  1. E-mail: Margaret@OrganizeInHarmony.com

  2. Office Phone: 707-823-3479

  3. LinkedIn Page: http://www.linkedin.com/in/margaretpearsonpinkham
  4. Facebook Business page (stop by and "like" me!): http://www.facebook.com/OrganizeInHarmony

Friday, February 27, 2009

ADHD and Me, by Blake Taylor

Today at the Jackson Theater at Sonoma Country Day School

Blake Taylor "Growing up with ADHD"
Time: 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM

In his book, ADHD and Me, Blake Taylor gives us an inside look at what it's like to grow up with the condition known as ADHD. Blake is currently a sophomore at UC Berkeley but wrote ADHD and Me during his last two years of high school. Parents, faculty and counselors know how tough it is to deal with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but they don't know what it's like to grow up with it. "I have something to say that no adult can say," comments the nineteen year old author, Blake Taylor.

This complimentary event is geared to counselors, educators and parents and is a offered by Sonoma Country Day School in partnership with Sonoma County School Counseling Association.

Visit Blake Taylor online at www.youngwithadhd.com

Click here for directions to the school, or cut and paste: http://www.scds.org/inside/contact/